Tag Archives: adventure

The Redwoods Expedition (Part 2)

(Read part 1 here)

I woke up to the sun streaming through the windows of Elaine’s van, shining on the orange pillows and vintage suitcases.

“Yes! Maybe it will finally warm up in here,” I thought, curling deeper into my sleeping bag. It had been a rather cold night.

I heard a rustle of tent and a rattle of pans. Sitting up, I saw Ashlie and Laurel walking around the campsite doing useful things like boiling water. I assumed Elaine was still asleep, because the blue sleeping bag at my feet had a large lump in it. I’d hoped the sun would warm the inside of the van like an oven, but that wasn’t happening. Oh well. If I was going to be cold anyway, I might as well get up.

Surprisingly, it was warmer outside than in the van. Which was great because we didn’t have much firewood.


Photo Credit: Elaine Stoltzfus

It was so interesting to me how, with so little communication beforehand, we ended up with everything we needed. Ashlie brought an aeropress, Laurel brought a propane camp stove, I brought mugs, Elaine brought a pan, and we all brought tea bags. I was so proud that I’d remembered to bring camp chairs, until I opened them up and discovered that two of them were child sized.

“Don’t worry, they fit me perfectly,” said Elaine, plopping down in one. She was much smaller in person than I’d imagined she’d be.

We ate yogurt with granola and fruit, then shoved our motley crew of coolers and food boxes back into my car. We pulled out the maps of hiking trails that we’d procured, and tried to decide between the myriad of hikes available.

Photo Credit: Ashlie DeHart

“How far is it to the beach?” asked Elaine.

“Like, four miles,” Laurel decided, examining the map scale.

“So an eight mile hike, all together,” said Ashlie.

We decided to take a shorter hike of maybe three miles or so, come back to camp for lunch, and then drive to the beach. “This one looks nice,” said Elaine, pointing to the map. Cathedral trees trail.

And it was really just breathtaking.

We hopped off the trails to walk along fallen logs or climb into hollow trees. We felt like elves. Hobbits. Little ants, sometimes.

Photo Credit: Ashlie DeHart

“You can’t instagram this kind of life!” gushed Elaine.

Which was kinda true, because all our phones died. Except Ashlie’s. We all stole her photos later.

We had to pay eight bucks for beach access, which made us Oregon girls mutter under our breath about those Californians. “It’s not even that great of a beach,” said Laurel, who lives in Bandon and is an expert on these things.

Still, the beach is the beach.

Ashlie and I dozed in the warm sand. Laurel wandered around, exploring, avoiding the water because she’d only brought one pair of pants. Elaine cartwheeled into the waves.

Photo Credit: Ashlie Dehart

Time didn’t matter.

I didn’t know when I’d gone to bed, gotten up, or eaten lunch. I didn’t know how long I’d hiked, or dozed on the beach. We had no cell phone service, and most of our phones had run out of battery anyway. Normally I live a life where I must be in class at precisely 10:00 a.m. and papers are due online at 11:59 p.m. on the dot, and it was really, really nice to get away from that for a while.

Still, the sun eventually sank towards the ocean. We gathered driftwood to supplement our dwindling firewood supply, and Elaine bundled it into her gypsy scarf and carried it to the car.

Photo Credit: Ashlie Dehart

“We know each other pretty well now,” said Elaine as we sat around our campfire that evening, cooking up an odd concoction of bacon, onions, and lentils. “So I have an idea. Let’s go around and say what kind of guy each of us needs.”

This made for an interesting discussion, but the impractical aspect was that none of us really knew anyone who fit the blissful descriptions we spit forth. “I know someone who would be perfect for Elaine, only he’s married,” said Ashlie.

Everyone who I get matched with is already married,” said Elaine bitterly.

“Oh! I know someone who’s perfect for you!” I said, suddenly inspired. “I don’t remember his name. I’ll look him up on Facebook when I get home!”

I did. He’s in a relationship with someone else. Blast.

That night Laurel slept in the back seat of my car and Ashlie, Elaine, and I crowded into Elaine’s van. We piled blankets on top of ourselves and put extra sleeping bags underneath us and made a pillow barrier between us and the cold wall of the van. “I feel like a stick shoved inside a marshmallow,” I thought, as I struggled to even turn over.

But I was warm. Gloriously warm, all night long.

The next morning we drank more tea and ate more yogurt, and then went on a shorter hike. Our era of blissful timelessness was ending, because we had to check out of the camp by noon.

We made a thousand plans for camping trips of the future, but flying by the seat of our pants as we do, none of them are set in stone. So we packed up our things. Hugged. Said “goodbye,” and “next time,” and “I’ll miss you.”

Elaine took her gypsy van and drove south, and Laurel, Ashlie and I climbed back in my car and drove north to Oregon and home again.



The Redwoods Expedition (Part 1)

I resented daylight savings when I got up early Monday morning to take my last final of the term, but as evening rolled around I was so thankful for it. “Maybe we’ll have just enough time to set up our tent before it gets dark,” said Ashlie, leaning over the seat. I held my phone upside down, because I heard somewhere that you get better service that way, and I still didn’t know where we were going to set up camp.

I was trying to get ahold of Elaine, who I knew from the internet but had never officially met. “I’m going to California for a wedding in March,” she’d told me weeks before. “Do you want to camp in Yosemite with me?”

“Yosemite is pretty far away. How about something close, like the southern Oregon coast, or the Redwoods?”

“REDWOODS!!!” she wrote back.

So we decided to go camping in the redwoods.

Photo Credit: Ashlie DeHart

I asked my friend Ashlie to come along, and she asked her friend Laurel. The three of us planned to drive south and meet Elaine in the redwoods early Monday evening. Which was great, except my nose was buried so deep in my finals that I didn’t quite hash out all the details, and we ended up on the road without any idea where exactly we were meeting Elaine.

“It’s okay,” I thought, “I’ll just call her on the drive down.”

Well. Apparently southern Oregon and northern California don’t have much in the way of cell phone service.

After several phone calls that got cut short when one or both of us moved out of service, we resorted to texting, hashing out whether we wanted to find a place to camp for free or pay California’s ridiculous campground fee. The sun sank lower and lower in the sky, and the evening fog rolled over the trees.

“Look, here’s a campground,” said Laurel. “Let’s just camp here.”

“Okay,” I said. “Let me text Elaine the name of it.”

We drove in circles for a bit trying to find service. “Here!” I said as one bar popped up on my screen. Laurel slammed on the breaks. I texted Elaine the name of the campground and the color of my car, but of course we didn’t know what campsite we were at yet.

Laurel, Ashley, and I set up that tent faster than I have ever set up a tent in my life. Just as we were about to drive back to the spot with service and text Elaine our campsite number, a white van pulled up.

The driver rolled their window down, but it was too dark to see who it was. “Are you Elaine?” I asked.

“Yes! I’m so glad I found you! It’s getting dark and scary!”

There was only a sliver of light left in the sky. Elaine built a campfire, and Laurel pulled out her 1-burner propane stove and boiled some water for tea.

“I’m so hungry! What should we make for supper?” I asked.

We’d all brought piles of random food, including lots of fruit and veggies that mercifully hadn’t been seized at the California border. We dumped my chicken, Ashlie’s cabbage, and Elaine’s wild rice into a frying pan to create a sort of stir fry. Huddled by the fire, we ate food and talked about everything.

The four of us barely knew each other before that night, but in the middle of the redwoods, we were exactly the same in all the ways that mattered.

It was perfect.

“It’s not even raining!” I said. “It’s been raining here for weeks. Rain was predicted for today, but I prayed that it would be dry.”

As the fire died down, we all got sleepy at the same time. We boxed up all the food and shoved it into my car so as not to attract bears. Ashlie and Laurel crawled into the tent, while Elaine and I climbed into the back of her amazing gypsy van. All the bench seats were removed, replaced with piles of pillows and blankets.

“I don’t like to get cold,” she explained.

I didn’t either. We piled blankets on ourselves and chatted idly about life until we drifted off to sleep.

(Read part 2 here)



Abandon me in Bandon


I will never get tired of the ocean. It gets me every time, like a whisper saying “you belong here.”


Of course I’ve been to the ocean many many times, but this weekend my youth group switched it up a bit and went camping in Bandon, further south than the beaches we normally visit.

It was spectacular.

Being further away from the most populated areas in Oregon, it had fewer tourists and a more hole-in-the-wall feel, and the beaches were full of breathtaking rock outcroppings.


Furthermore, my friend Kayla from Canada is visiting Oregon right now, and she came along. Such a party!

Kayla couldn’t remember if she’d ever seen the Oregon Coast before, and when we walked over the sand dune and saw it stretched out before us in its majestic glory, the foamy waves splashing up against the shore, she was delighted. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and I found myself appreciating the beauty all the more, even though I’ve seen the Pacific so many times.


We got to Bandon Friday evening, and spent most of Saturday frolicking about the beach. Someone had built a cool pavilion out of driftwood.


Abby chillin’ in the pavilion. She’s so swag. (Is that the correct way to use the word “swag?” or is it “SWAG?” I’m clueless. I should ask Jenny.)

Me: “Is it proper grammar to say ‘she’s so swag?'”

Jenny: “I don’t know if ‘swag’ ever is proper grammar.”

Okay then.


Apparently there are really cool caves in those rocks, but we never happened to be around them when it was both low tide and light outside. Bummer.

That night, though, we found a niche in the rock outcroppings and built a fire, and it felt like being in a cave, except there was no roof, and the brilliant stars shown down on us freely.


Hundreds of sand fleas began popping out of the sand and swarming towards the fire, mesmerized by the light. I tucked my leggings into my socks because I don’t like the thought of bugs crawling on my skin. But they didn’t crawl on me at all, just darted around my shoes and headed toward the fire, where the heat of the flames killed them.

“Didn’t Finley eat roasted sand fleas once?” I asked. Finley is the youth sponsors’ eight-year-old son.

“I think so,” said Sarah Beth. “He said they tasted like popcorn.”

“I’d really like to eat one,” I confessed. “But…I don’t know…I’m afraid of it tasting gross.” I’ve eaten bugs before by accident, and let me tell you, both crane flys and ants taste horrid.

“I’ll eat one,” said Abby. (Like I said, total swag.) She picked up a sand flea which the flames had roasted, and popped it into her mouth.

“What does it taste like?” I asked.

“Sort of like popcorn, and kind of like bacon, with a hint of seafood flavor.”

As those were all good flavors, I decided to eat one myself. I picked one up, my fingers nearly burning from the heat of the flames, and brushed the sand off of it.


“Just don’t think about the fact that it’s a bug.” I popped it into my mouth.

“Oh,” I said. “It’s good. It does taste like popcorn.”

And it did. It was salty, and the texture was nearly exactly that of a popcorn hull. It did have a very slight bacon/seafood taste, but if I hadn’t known it was a bug I would have found the whole experience relatively uninteresting.

By this time, a few others were beginning to notice that there were insect-eaters in our corner. “You ate a BUG?!?” One person gasped, while another person, intrigued, decided to try it themselves.

So it went, like a chain reaction. “You ate one too?” Someone would exclaim, while another person would say, “I want to try that.” And after a short while, the number of bug-eaters was greater than the number of shocked exclaimers.

I quietly ate another sand flea. They really were quite good, although the stray pieces of sand that stuck to it were unpleasant.

“You know,” Sarah Beth said to me as the evening waned and we headed back to camp. “I think this is the most adventurous our youth group has ever been.”

I agreed.

Sunday dawned, brimming with sunshine, and a few of us girls decided to go crabbing with Ben Swartzendruber, our youth sponsor, and his son Finley.


Kayla and I on the bay.

Now I’m not a huge fan of crabbing in and of itself, as I only moderately like crab meat, but I love being on the bay in a boat with my buddies. What a day it was! The bay was an absolutely brilliant shade of blue-green. The sun shone, and the wind whipped up little waves that jolted us about and kicked salt spray into our faces as we cut through the water.


Ben and Kayla pull up the crab rings. Just look at the color of that water though.

“I think I could live on the seashore forever and just eat crabs,” Kayla sighed, leaning back in the boat.

“I’ll come with you,” I said.

That afternoon we ate the crabs we’d caught, and then we packed our things, zipping up our backpacks and stacking them in the back of the van. We rolled out of Bandon clutching memories of crabbing and driftwood and bugs that tasted like popcorn. And we decided we would come back soon.


(Credit for all photos goes to Sarah Beth Wilcoxson. Yes, as usual, I had no camera and had to rely on others. I keep thinking I’ll buy one for myself, but I keep running into this pesky problem called “tuition.” Someday.)