At the Edge of the Ocean

The ocean is a whole new world for our family. It’s beautiful and mysterious, vast and wild, incredibly fascinating and a little terrifying. It actually boggles my mind to think about the depth and breadth of it, and the unknown quantities of hidden creatures it contains. I have taken the kayak out on a couple sheltered bays, but I think it will be a while before we’re brave enough to venture out into the big water on our own. The unpredictability of the wind and the waves and the hazards of fluctuating tides, rocks and shoals are daunting to say the least.

One thing we have wholeheartedly embraced, though, is the adventure of beach combing. It feels like a safe way to experience the ocean. We get to feel the spray, smell the saltwater, even get our feet wet—but without much risk. Because of the tide fluctuation the shoreline is a moody, ever changing, wonderfully unpredictable landscape and you never know what you will find. Every time we go, there is something new to discover.

An abalone shell.

A sea urchin.

Purple starfish.

A nudibranch.

Sea anemone waving their arms in shallow tidal pools.

Far out, an orca blowing.

Crabs scuttling along rocky bottoms.

A mink, fishing for his seafood breakfast.

We have seen and learned so many new things in the last few months, and I know we’ve barely scratched the surface of what there is to discover!

“O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.” (Psalm 104:24-25)

Autumn Hike at Balls Lake

On a gorgeous day in October, we took an autumn hike as a family around Balls Lake, which is about twenty miles west of us on the island.

“It’s only a mile or so around the lake,” someone had estimated to us.

Haha.

Lesson learned: don’t trust estimates. It was more like 2.5 miles, a slight discrepancy that didn’t bother the adults as much as the short-legged two-year-old in the family. He was a real trooper though, and walked a good two-thirds of the distance before he had to be carried!

We found lingonberries along the trail, spotted sockeye salmon in a creek, and played with the most beautiful echoes. The sun played hide and seek with us, so the jackets came on and off. We came out muddy and famished after our longer-than-expected hike, ready to inhale a very belated picnic lunch.

It’s interesting to observe the differences and similarities of the changing seasons here on Prince of Wales Island as compared to where we came from in northern Minnesota. Fall is more subtle here with most of the trees being conifers, yet the season is still distinctly evident in the frosty mornings, falling alder leaves, roadside and shoreline grasses turning from green to beautiful pale gold, and the turning of the leaves closer to the forest floor like the bunchberries, devil’s club and ferns you see pictured here. This hike finally gave us the opportunity to get up close and immerse ourselves in the autumnal forest, and I’m happy to report that it was beautiful.

“The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love…” (Psalm 119:64)

North-West to Alaska: Glacier National Park

We drove toward the sun for 1600 miles. At about the 800 mile mark, the pale hazy blue forms of the Rocky Mountains first materialized from the horizon and it was an epic moment for all of us. It was the first time our older three children had seen snowcapped mountains, and listening to their gasps of wonder and awe brought me back to my own first time view of the mountains like it was yesterday.

We had decided in advance to take a day of rest from our cross-country journey at Glacier National Park. Not only was it almost exactly the halfway point, but Zach and I have both been here with our parents years ago, and we knew we couldn’t drive so close to a place so beautiful without showing it to our kids. We figured that after two days cooped up in the car, four little people were going to be pretty ready to take a break from travel and stretch their legs.

Turns out, dad and mom were pretty ready for a break, too!

In the one full day we had to enjoy the park, we had lunch at the historic Many Glacier chalet, spent time splashing in the St. Mary River and hiked up beautiful Logan Pass. We got very close to mountain sheep and marmots, walked through glacial snow in July, and chased the setting sun down the breathtaking curves of Going-to-the-Sun Road. And we spent two nights in the coziest little cabin under the stars, a welcome break from hotel life (and cheaper, too!).

That last paragraph sums our visit to Glacier neatly in a nutshell, but doesn’t really capture the aura of the place. I wish I could write something that would make you feel the way I felt there, like the moment when we drove around a sharp curve to see layers upon layers of mountains receding down the valley into the seemingly infinite distance, the jagged teeth of pine-studded slopes perfectly silhouetted one against the other, and there, at the edge of the precipice, a lone mountain sheep running wild and free, all wrapped in the pure golden haze of the setting sun.

It was as pastoral, romantic and full of idealistic glow as a painting straight from the Hudson River School (here’s a link to the sort of painting I’m referring to if you’re not familiar with the style), except it was alive and breathing and we were right at the edge of it looking in. It’s the sort of moment that leaves you without words, and with a little bit of an ache in your soul, and, just maybe when no one’s looking, tears in your eyes.

Your loving devotion, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,

Your faithfulness to the clouds.

Your righteousness is like the highest mountains…” (Psalm 36:5-6)

P.S. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get pictures up! I’ve had a bit of trouble figuring out my new camera and editing software situation, but I’ve finally worked through all that and I’m back up to speed! I have hundreds of pictures and so much to share, so thanks for your patience and stay tuned for more soon!