Project 52 #41: The Journey

Well, they just sent you around the world, didn’t they?” the airport employee commented as she scanned my travel itinerary. Ketchikan, Seattle, Minneapolis, Charlotte, Houston, Seattle, Ketchikan. I didn’t tell her that there would also be a 3 hour ferry ride to an island before I was actually on home ground again. One big giant coast-to-coast oblong sort of circle over the United States. It’s what you do when you’re trying to use your airline miles to a particular destination within a certain time frame, and it was a wonderful adventure.

I enjoyed experiencing new food. Shopping an ultra-gourmet convenience store at 1 AM in the morning and walking out with pot de creme and pita with tzaziki. A build-your-own doughnut shop. Visiting a patisserie for bites of the most wonderful mont blanc (see the first photo below if you, like me, had never heard of that before) with a real maple syrup and cinnamon latte. North Carolina roadside stand delicacies like apple cider slushies and apple pie ice cream sandwiched between slightly warm snickerdoodle cookies. A birthday dinner on a patio one lovely fall evening, featuring a Mediterranean quinoa bowl with grilled chicken, olive tapanede and crispy chickpeas, and a surprisingly good green smoothie. An almond croissant. An excellent bowl of seafood chowder, properly heavy on the seafood. Cute little bags of airplane pretzels on repeat (okay, so that was sarcastic).

I enjoyed experiencing new places. Spending a 7-hour overnight layover riding the airport metro the full length of the Houston airport and exploring every terminal thoroughly. Trying my hand at the Seattle bus system (stressful, to be honest, but certainly a cultural experience!). The fabulous views of so many beautiful things from the air, like autumn aspens carpeting the Colorado Rockies in gold, the moon rising in a pastel pink sky over Mount Rainier, or the glimmering turquoise of high glacial British Columbia mountain lakes surrounded in snow.

I enjoyed meeting new people. The young man exuberantly enthusiastic for his big plans to solo kayak the Inside Passage for a week. A woman who spoke Norwegian, on her way to Norway. A man who has a youth ministry in Belize and invited me to bring my husband there and “come see what God is doing”. The tiny red-headed girl who wanted to share her Cabbage Patch doll with me, and ended up half sprawled on me for a nap during a 4-hour flight. The lovely older lady who offered me strawberry starts when we both returned to our shared island home. The kind man God mercifully sent to help me carry my over-ambitious shopping tote from the bus to the airport. The lady buying honey bee souvenirs to cheer up a friend undergoing cancer treatments.

One cannot extol the virtues of travel while glossing over the reality of trying to sleep in an airport with loudspeakers going off every ten minutes, lugging the one-too-many bags you wish you hadn’t chosen to carry on, and desperately wishing for a shower after 20+ hours within the airline system. Yet these were minor trials, entirely worth surmounting, in my opinion, for the richness of experience. The world is fallen, cursed; yet the world is still full of beauty, echoes of what once was and what is to come, created things reflecting, unconsciously or consciously, their Creator. It is a gift to see, smell, taste, touch, and listen, catching glimpses of the glory that is to come.

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” (1 Corinthians 10:26)

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:18-23)

“But in keeping with God’s promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:15)

North-West to Alaska: Pacific Northwest

After Glacier National Park, we drove for the first time through country that we had never seen before! There were no side trips and very few stops, since we were on a time frame to reach Seattle by a certain time, but we still enjoyed the new sights along the way.

We traveled the length of the panhandle of Idaho, which was a beautiful continuation of the Montana Rockies, skies unfortunately heavy with smoke haze. We bought fresh cherries at a roadside stand, and watched whitewater rafters floating down mountain rivers. In one brief moment of excitement, the side door on our trailer flew open while driving down a freeway, but miraculously not one thing fell out!

Washington State had more high desert and plains than I expected, and the wheat fields were pure gold. In the Columbia River valley, we recorded 101 degrees on our truck thermometer, and saw multiple other vehicles overheat along the freeway. Gratefully, God spared our hardworking truck this calamity. We spotted the iconic form of Mount Rainier, and cooled off with guava popsicles at the top of breathtaking Snoqualmie Pass.

It’s strange to say it, but when we found ourselves descending into the metropolis of Seattle-Tacoma, the realization that the driving segment of our journey was over was bittersweet to me. Sweet, because there would be no more worries about tires and transmissions surviving the summer heat and steep mountain passes; bitter, because I had truly enjoyed the experience. I felt like I had finally gained true empathy for the pioneers, having successfully crossed miles of plains, two mountain ranges, and arrived within sight of the Pacific Ocean with all our earthly possessions still in tow. God had answered many gracious prayers on our behalf and granted us safety. The days of travel had flown by smoothly, and it had never seemed too long.

Now it was time for the final exciting segment of our journey, in which we committed our truck and trailer to the care of a barge company, and left solid ground for the skies and the sea. But that’s a story for another day.

“Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.” (Exodus 23:20)

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!