Someone stole our spot! We ventured up Mountain Loop Highway a little further, looking for a shallow day spot on the river to picnic and play.
“Tell me if you see a spot,” Chris said. I craned my neck and scanned outside my window. Surprisingly, other people had the same idea on this sunny May day, and had already pitched tents and hammocks along the river banks. Also surprisingly, Mountain Loop Highway had not yet re-opened fully following the winter closure. This limited our options, but we optimistically continued scouting our perfect location.
Pulling over, Chris pointed, “Let’s check out down there.” One-by-one, the kids lowered themselves down the boulders to the river rocks below. A series of streams converged into the rushing white-capped and rolling blue river. Immediately, the oldest two began working together to build a path over one stream to the other side, hoisting large rocks and downed limbs into a line. Chris opted to walk through the water, carrying the two youngest across.
Kid #4 filled her adventure pouch in no time, asking me to carry her two largest, smoothest rocks.
“Polka-dotty rocks are my favorite. And rainbow rocks,” she said.
Soon after, we found a relaxing place to play, away from the river currents, at the base of an uprooted old-growth tree and three streams surrounded by a mix of sandy and rocky shores, and surrounded by the lush, green forest and snowy Cascade mountain peaks. It was a place we could let the kids play without worry and picnic in peace.
Chris helped our seven-year-old build a boat with nature found around us. It caught on, and soon we all scoured the land for boat parts: dry driftwood, bark, reeds, sticks, moss, grass, leaves, seed pods, flowers, and even two rusty beer caps. I built two underwhelming, tipsy boats, and then opted to try a third time with a new design: the Insane Boat Plane, a cross-shaped wooden “speedboat” I formed with driftwood, woven bark, and a solitary hot pink flower.
Chris built The Sleeper, a tiny bark boat with moss and found Corona caps; Kid #1 built The Battle Bus, Kid #2 made Flower Forest, and Kid #3 sailed Searching For Sun Boat, adorned with our promo sticker as its sail. Kid #4 made “cakes” in the sand, content and talking to herself as she placed flowers and rocks in the sand mounds she’d formed.
Our “race course” had been dammed by prior visitors, and we moved the rocks to line the stream, re-opening it to join the eddy, stream and river below. Race ready, we congregated at the starting line. Knowing not all the boats would fit side-by-side at the curved channel downstream, whoever got out fastest would have the advantage. The Battle Bus took an early lead, and the rest of us clogged the channel, our boat pieces tangled and intermingled. Naturally, The Sleeper crept by, dodging under a branch, into the whooshing current, and won the race.
We enjoyed a post-race lunch from the mini-cooler, collected a few more rocks, and then headed back up the boulders toward our van. We had a cave to explore next, just minutes away, and the kids could hardly stand the wait. Want to hear all about it? Check back soon for the next post!
Meanwhile, go outside and play. And then tell us all about it!
~Angela and Chris
**Note: No litter was left behind as a result of this post or our video. We actually forgot (gasp!) the Searching For Sun sticker (after our daughter placed her “boat” under a bush), realized it 15 minutes down the road, turned around, drove back, ran down and got it. Crazy, but true. #LeaveNoTrace 🙂