I climbed out of the 60s aluminum row boat, the edge of my shorts dripping with water, a warm Washington sun shining in my eye.
“You looked like you were the king of the lake out there” Grandma exclaimed. I’d just finished, for the second time, an “exploration” of Lake Cushman, a recessed mountain lake at the edge of the Olympic National Park in Washington. Two days ago, Grandma and I had braved a full day of travel, poor rest, and the muckity muck that is airport travel. But that was all behind us. We were visiting Peggy and Marty, some good friends in Portland.
It was a bluebird day on Lake Cushman, and as flicked around a corner in that cranky rowboat, the monotone engine vibrating behind me, Mt. Ellinor came into view. That was yesterday’s adventure: 3 miles one way, 3,400 feet of elevation gain. Yikes. I considered it an even bigger achievement as an Ohioan. But my legs protested their success, I could barely walk. I remember hobbling around that day between the boat and Peggy’s cabin. Eating hamburgers, napping, reading on the dock, petting the dogs, and being unplugged. It was the first time this summer that I felt like I was really on vacation. Before that, I was taking biology summer class for six weeks, getting up early every morning and sitting in a way too cold concrete classroom while the day’s opportunities shriveled on the other side of the glass windows. But now, everything was alright.
Grandma and I achieved a lot in a relatively short amount of time - props to Peggy for that. She truly went above and beyond to make it possible to squeeze the life out of every minute in a day. Some highlights: hiking with Marty’s nephew up Multnomah Falls, then finding Vietnamese food in Portland and doing hipster thrift shopping while eating habanero jam ice cream, driving up and down twisty mountain roads in Peggy’s redHyundai Sonata with a bobble rooster affixed to the dash, eating cod for lunch at an upscale French restaurant, exploring the Portland streets on one of those electric scooter things, and sleeping next to grandma on the plane ride back. It was magical.
But there was more to the trip, a discreetly giddy reality that this, the Pacific Northwest could be my home for the next four or more years.
Mom and I visited a lot of schools out that way over Spring Break, and my top three picks are still all in that area. I think this second trip to Portland solidified and made clear my attraction to the mountains, trees, and community. The trip was made all the better with this lingering notion, the feeling that I might be getting a sneak-peek at what my future holds.