Paradise

Aloha!

We returned from our 5th Annual Summer Road Trip Vacation last week and now that I’ve had a few days to get the lawn under control and shuffle through a heaping pile of mail and email, I just wanted to write a quick bit about the land of Hawaii before it’s lost to me in a sea of memories tethered only by the photographs.  Yes, our National Park project finally brought us to nani Hawai’i – a combination of our family summer vacation and our 15th Wedding Anniversary celebration.  It was a special one this year, and it took us a long time to get here, but I think that’s ok.  Great even.  Sometimes it takes a long time to know that nothing that comes at us in the future could be harder than our past, and that we really are in it together, forever.

Andy, I’m so glad it was you.

DSCN2631edit
Anniversary in Hawaii, 2013.

I don’t think anything in my future could ever match the… spectrum of the last fifteen years, and I found those contrasts paralleled in Hawaii.  Please forgive the repetition for those well-versed Hawaiian travelers, but this was my first time to the islands and it obviously made an impact.  Though we only checked off four more National Parks on our countdown this summer (two in Hawaii and our last two in California), they were big ones, and worth every penny and every effort of getting there.

Hawaii is a land of contrasts:  her newest and blackest shores are birthed in the East each day from Pele’s fiery belly, while her oldest, reddest, westernmost soils rust away under the constant barrage of wind and rain and sun.  In between, she takes the shape of sharp pumice stone and delicate orchid petals, of craggy, soaring peaks and submerged coral reefs, of lush rainforests in the North and arid deserts in the South.  Her colors range from the darkest of grays to the brightest imaginable spectrum of the rainbow.  Her highest summits break even through the clouds and stand sentinel over the ocean waves crashing the beach below.  A sun-kissed man with a flowered shirt and deep creases about his eyes weaves baskets from palm leaves and speaks of ancient legends to the throng of tourists sporting Nikon cameras and Patagonia garb.  Her deceptively small islands of Paradise above the surface hide her source of great power beneath the sea, power that can not only withstand the immeasurable weight of the whole Pacific Ocean bearing down on her, but grow beneath it and produce the great web of life.

Hawaii is a land of rhythms:  an accelerated cycle of birth and death as her isles stretch desperately above the sea for nothing more than a moment before steadily sinking back beneath the waves from which they were born.  The steady beat of gourd drums echo your footsteps among her isles, usher in the sunrise and mark its set with a few moments of nothing but sound and light, between which their sound reverberates in the steady and ceaseless pounding of waves and the rhythmic stories of the hula dancers.  The wind stirs the lanai every evening.  The rain feeds the land every morning.  The tide goes out, the tide goes in, the moon chases the sun over the open sky every day, and the drums beat out the balanced dance of dark and light.  Her song becomes a part of your own rhythm, unnoticed until you cross the ocean and realize you left the rhythm of the rain and the light and the waves and the tide and the drums and the dancing women behind you, because they stay in Paradise.

Still, maybe Paradise isn’t entirely bordered by water.  Coming home to the mountains and pine trees, to our lovely parks and charming downtown, to the comforting smells of an approaching Autumn, and children anxious to go back to school was another sort of Paradise to me.  Especially with the candle burning on my desk from which I can breathe in the scent of the Hawaiian Breeze these last few days of summer.

Aloha and Mahalo.
~Cassie

sUNSET
Sunset in my Paradise – Bend, OR, August 24, 2013.

Itinerary #2 is Published!

I’m excited to be publishing my 1oth post!  This website has been up for almost 2 months and I really want to thank all of you who have encouraged me on this project, helped me get more exposure for the blog, and especially those 20 people who have become official followers!

Today I’m publishing the itinerary for our Northwest Road Trip, which was a truly amazing family adventure.  It is one of our all-time favorite vacations and even inspired our move to the Pacific Northwest.  We saw  6 National Parks, 2 National Historic Parks, 5 State parks, and plenty of volcanoes, mountains, glaciers, forests, rivers, lakes, oceans, beaches, islands, and even a rainforest.  I will get the background and science advice to go with it posted as soon as possible.  For now, just take a look and perhaps even generate some ideas for your next big family adventure.  You can find Itinerary #2 posted here, towards the bottom of the Itineraries Page.

Hope everyone had a great Independence Day and is enjoying a beautiful summer!

Happy Trails!
~Cassie

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

~John Muir

13.106
Mt. Rainier National Park, 2010 – Finishing another great hike!

Death Valley

Don’t skip a visit to Death Valley National Park.  It’s not a desert wasteland, and it’s not boring or unimportant.  The thing is, when you strip away all the conventional notions of what is beautiful, like trees for example, or flowers or other plant and wildlife, you are left with the backbone of the Earth.  Rock. Dirt. Salt. Air. Light.   It’s like stripping away a person’s hair, clothes, shape, and belongings, and just looking at their raw material:  intention, purpose, and perspective.  It’s like looking at their soul.  That’s what Death Valley shows you, the soul of the Earth.  No fluff, no showing off, no fancy ponderings of “look what I can do.”  It’s the raw material.  The great forces that shape our world are exposed.  Rock has been uplifted, torn apart, and stretched down the middle.  The exposed crust is baked and cracked in the relentless and unforgiving gaze of the sun.  Every drop of water is threatened by the salt that lies just beneath the surface.  But despite all of this, the valley is peaceful. It simply exists.   The intensity of the light, the framing of the bare mountains, the shading of the colors all make you want to somehow capture it forever, and take it home to remind you what the Earth is capable of, what it started with.  The soul knows itself, and it beckons you to stop by and take a look.

DSC_0037Death Valley National Park, 2012 – Our Thinker