...with a husband and 5 sons, I am truly outnumbered....stories and thoughts on life from a mom in a houseful of little men!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Beer (?) in Beautiful British Columbia

I'm writing this beside the Sikanni River in beautiful British Columbia.  The sun has come out a bit, and a breeze too, providing welcomed relief from the mosquitoes!  The family is playing chess and reading, and we'll be heading out on day #9 within the hour.  It's hard to believe we set out on our travels over a week ago!

Yesterday we left Toad River, which will forever be to us "home of the amazing beef burger."  If you don't know what I'm talking about, you'll have to read the last post!

We planned to stop in Fort Nelson yesterday; however, we felt fresh enough after stopping for a round of frosty beers to continue on.

Even frosty beer loses its super power after awhile though, and so as the "pickies and whinies" began to surface, we pulled over to cook some stew on mashed potatoes.  That was shortly after stopping to see this guy.

For the last couple of days, I had really been hoping to see Stone Sheep.  Just outside Summit Lake area, we were blessed to see this guy!
Summit Lake was one of our stay-over points in 1998.  I remember being utterly astounded at the clarity and color of the water.  We pulled in to walk around, reminisce, and take a couple pictures.
It's still as beautiful as ever.  It's still as cold as ever, too!  I remember putting on every stitch of clothing we brought with us in 1998, and we still put in a restless, cold night in our tent.  Things are much different this time around, and I must admit that even with its challenges, RV traveling is pretty posh!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day #7, Toad River, British Columbia

Internet is quite sketchy in the Yukon and northern B.C., and this is the first reliable service we've had.  All the days are beginning to blur together already, so it feels great to catch-up on these posts.  We began our day with another good, long soak & swim at Liard Hotsprings.  Can't describe how much I love that place! 

After breaking camp, we took a shorter drive today through a part of B.C. that reminds us a lot of Hatcher Pass.  We saw one lone bison today, just out of Liard.  We also drove around gorgeous Muncho Lake.
Alek was so inspired by the beauty, he pulled out his pencils and nature journal

We've spent the later part of the afternoon and this evening here along Reflections Lake in Toad River.
 Interesting and quirky place, for sure!  One example would be about 800 hats tacked to the ceiling of the roadhouse.  But they can certainly rustle up an incredible burger.  We treated ourselves to burgers and shakes.  Cost $150, but they were INCREDIBLE. 

It's been a relax and reset type of evening, with getting a load of laundry done, having a campfire, watching the moose across the lake, downloading photos, and writing.  It's dark now, and  5/7 of us are sleeping soundly.  I think I'll join them.  Farewell from Toad River, British Columbia.

Bears and Bison and Hotsprings, Oh My!

Cute li'l tot with a White Spruce.  The boys have been so fascinated with the different flora!
We left our campsite on day #6 with plans to find our signs in the signpost forest in Watson Lake.  For those unfamiliar, in 1942 an Army Private put up a directional sign to his hometown.  It began a tradition of folks leaving signs from all over the world.  There are over 77,000 at present. 

Tony and I left 2 license plates in 1998, and we thought it would be fun to find them.  The short of it is, we didn't find them.  :)  This particular day held temps in the (gasp!) 70s and full sun, and the larger half of our crowd thought they were going to melt into a puddle of displaced Alaskans.  This, along with how the signpost forest has grown since 1998, led us not to find them.  However, I did find this little gem:
Back on the road, and boy did we get a show today!  
It was so amazing to run into bear after bear after bear.  They were so content and peaceful to just munch their wildflowers beside the road.  We would stop and watch them for long stretches...take potty breaks...make lunch...all the while watch the bears and then sometimes there would be another to slowly drive ahead to.
Baby's first drive down the Al-Can
The total for the day was eight black bears, 3 single bison, a herd of 30+ bison (including teeny-weenie baby...awwww!) and a pair of Trumpeters.  Beautiful, beautiful country.  Have I mentioned I love Canada?
Then as if the day couldn't get any better, we stayed at Liard Hotsprings this particular night.  Ahhh.  That place is definitely a little taste of Heaven.
Heading to the pools...looking for hotwater fish
Once again, you'll find Mama in the hot pool
We had ourselves a good, long swim/soak Friday night....and did it all over again Saturday morning.  I cannot tell you how much I love this place.

O Canada!

I love Canada.  Day #4 found us waking on lovely Kluane Lake in the Yukon, sunshine glittering on its waters.  The mountains were crystal clear with every rock and cranny visible.  I really didn't want to leave!  But despite the beauty, it was cold--very cold--and this is Operation Sunshine afterall!  So we headed off toward Whitehorse to warm up at Takhini Hotsprings Campground.
"Hot pool" says Little Brother

You'll find Mama in the warmest pool
Takhini was the first experience of an outdoor pool that any of the boys remember.  Praise the Lord there will be a lot more of these in our future!
Campsite at Takhini Hotsprings
Day #5 and we loaded up for Watson Lake.  Saw a big mama Black Bear with an older cub and also a moose trotting alongside the highway during our drive.  We stayed at a campground outside of Watson Lake, actually, and apparently they'd been having a lot of bear trouble.  We decided to play it safe and keep Chuggie in for the night.

Cool historic bridge along the way

We'd been bracing ourselves for Watson Lake, because when we stayed there in 1998, the mosquitoes were gigantic and nearly sucked us dry.  We tent camped during that trip, and after having snuggled in with the kitty that night, we heard the dogs rustling around and even yelping.  We unzipped the tent to see a large, black mass of mosquitoes hanging on the end of one of the dog's noses as he whined and pawed at his face and had diarrhea from the stress out the other end.  I cupped my hands around his muzzle and my hands became a bloody mess.  Tony wound up sleeping in the car that night with the dogs (the dogs would chew the seats if unattended.)  Ahh memories of the Al-Can!  It's a dream-come-true to be doing this trip again, and with our sons.  I'm happy to report that our stay in Watson Lake was not anything like our previous!  O Canada!

Glenallen to Tok to Kluane, Day #2 and Day #3

Camping in Glenallen was sort of uneventful.  It was gray and it rained.  The campground was typical and we were still just trying to get our groove on.  We did see a mammoth Black Bear on the way there, though, and that is always fun.

Day #2 found us on our way to Tok.  The drive was stunning, and we saw loads of Trumpeter Swans, including a pair with cygnets.  We took care of some essentials and vehicle maintenance in Tok, since this would be our last reliable services for awhile.

Our stay in Tok was fabulous.  We were all beginning to come down from all the emotions and stress.  The sun was shining and we were camped in a wooded area with a soft bed of spruce needles.  It was like being in a giant sandbox for the boys, so out came the bucket of trucks and army men!

We also had a special blessing in Tok--my buddy Rose and her brood stopped in for a visit!  It was so great to catch up a bit on the McQuillin news while the children ran and played with familiar friends.  Such an evening really makes this mama's heart happy.
Tuesday was a long, amazing day.  We drove our last leg of Alaska highway to the Border.  We crossed with no problems, and just like that, our boys became International travelers.  :)  The ride from Tok, AK to our destination of Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory was "rough seas" to say the least.  The road conditions were terrible, wrought with frost heaves, broken pavement, gravel roads, and construction.  We bumped along and laughed most of the way, as we experienced the strange sensation of being a ship tossed at sea, despite driving laboriously slowly. At points I believed we were going to go airborne.

"STOP Cap'n Tony!" (rear cabinet flung open again)  "We've lost the kidney beans and the Bush's are hanging half out!"  (child sees bear along highway"  "STOP Cap'n Daddy!  ANOTHER Grizzly!"

This sort of swaying and bumping and stopping thing went on for hours.  One highlight of the day was seeing a mama Black Bear with three teeny weenie cubs.  They were so adorable!  Mama was teaching them to rummage under rocks for vittles.  However, they were not as agile as mama, and kept slipping and sliding along the slope!  On this day we also saw two separate grizzly bears, both peacefully munching wildflowers beside the road.  We stopped to watch both of them for a long time, which was such a treat.  On the way up the Al-Can in 1998, Tony and I only saw one grizzly, and it turned tail and ran off moments after we stopped to see it. 

Our long and funny voyage was rewarded with an overnight on beautiful Kluane Lake.  We camped lakeside and could hear the waves lapping in at the shore all night long.  The boys were in their glory, throwing rocks and playing boats in the water.

Even our old man Chuggie got to dip his furry toes into the water.

So We Move, But Still Stand Solid

All the planning and preparations and selling-off and good-byes and see-you-soons--they've come and gone.  Last Sunday found us ready to launch.  It felt surreal.  It felt exhilarating.  It felt sad, too.  With all the uprootedness, there has still been a firm, solid place to stand. 

With that sure footing, and after saying the hardest of "see you soons," we loaded up our little house on wheels, and headed out to grab coffees and Italian sodas for the last time at our favorite drive-through coffee shop.  Because, you know, even with sure footing on the Immoveable Rock, one gets thirsty.
We just couldn't leave Alaska without one last romp in my favorite place in the world.  So we took our drinks and trucked off to Hatcher Pass.  Like one last, fantastic parting gift, the skies opened and we enjoyed blue sky and sunshine in the most magnificent of places.

And when we were through, we traveled through Palmer and took a last, left-hand turn onto the Glenn Highway.  Off to Glenallen.  Day #1.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Letting Go

Finally.....a moment.

We've been so busy--sorting, packing, selling, sending, opening the clenched-tight fists, letting go.  We've been so busy doing, there's been no time to process.  No time to think things through.

No time to simply. just. be.

Days have been filled from early morning until late evening.  We've been shaken, uprooted, displaced.  It feels uncertain.  Hazy.  Yet all the while, regardless of how we feel, He is there.

                                         photo by Pyrah's Pioneer Peak Farm

He makes it abundantly clear that He is here, and I'm so grateful.  And although He towers above us so much greater than His creation, He also makes clear that He cares about all our details.  He cared about orchestration of our mammoth packing-up and selling process. 
 He cared about sending a kind family to live in our old home, who will love it and be good neighbors to our dear friends.  He cared about creating relationships while providing transportation for our household effects. Goodness, He cared about providing the three sizes and flavors of pizzas we wanted for moving day, from the pizza shop we wanted, 1 ½ hours before it opened for the day!  He has shown us over and over again, that if we trust Him and act accordingly, He will take care of all.

This process of transplanting has been more difficult than I ever thought it would be.  Of course there has been a gigantic, on-going, must-do list, and all the fatigue to accompany it.  That's been the "easy" part.  It's the other stuff that has been agonizing at times...the emotions and saying good-bye over and over again.  Helping our sons navigate through these changes, with the highs and lows.  That's the stuff that's not so easily done and then crossed off neatly with a pen.  

We've been maneuvering through day after week after month of letting go.  God keeps reminding that we need to open up the hands to receive what He has next for us.  When you open those fists, you have to let go of what they're holding onto.  That takes courage, and quite frankly, some days I don't have enough.  Years of following after Him has shown me I can trust Him...but it's still hard. 
Sometimes, it hurts.  There have been days I've been filled with such grief it's been difficult to take a breath.  Pray?  There are no words.  Most, the vast majority in fact, of my prayers in this season have been on the tail-end of fatigued, emotionally-charged, anxious thoughts.  My prayers have been two words long: "Jesus Help."  You know what?  Those words have been enough. 

"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."  Romans 8:26

When I choose to look to God for my help, my perspective shifts, and hope enters my heart.  This season hasn't been all difficulties.  

There have also been unspeakable joys and hopes throughout this process:  New appreciation for people and for this magnificent place we've called home for over 16 years.  Recognition that this world is not our true home.  Areas where we've misplaced our trust in things.  New understanding of the depth of love we're blessed to have toward others.    Dreaming and anticipation over our future and the possibilities.  Looking ahead to unmatched quantity of non-fragmented family time.  All these things give us joy (!) but as we simultaneously grieve, it's hard to wrap our minds around those things which are coming.  Right now, we're just learning to trust...opening the clenched-fists...and letting go.