Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Alaska friends

I'm still reveling in memories of the last few weeks when we had the joy of hosting some friends we knew in Alaska. We hadn't seen Ryan since we moved away but at the end of June, he flew into Seattle, snagged Natasha (who lives there now) and caught a train down for a visit. My goal for their time here was to give them a glimpse of our lives in Oregon and to catch up on 10 years of stories. It's a good thing I didn't include "being well-rested" to that list, because somehow in a week and a half of visit, we managed to smash in a trip to the Columbia River Gorge, one to the beach, a day at the Aviation Museum, 4 days of sailing, a day enjoying Portland, church, 2 orthodontist appointments, a trip to the library, 3 hikes and lots and lots of good food. 

They met much of our family and many of our friends, and, despite the full schedule, we spent many hours just enjoying each other's company and remembering why we were friends in the first place. None of us had been particularly nervous about how we would relate, but it was delightful to slip back into old friendships with the same feelings of connection and affection we had 10 years ago. Of course, the girls are so much bigger now (Ryan had never even met Meira) and it was wonderful to see them interact with Ryan and Natasha with so much ease and joy. We all agree that 10 years is way too long to let pass before we see each other again! 

Feel free to skip ahead and just look at pictures if you want (necessary credit: they're all from Ryan's camera). I don't expect you to care nearly as much as I do about the minutiae of our time together, but if you have a few minutes, grab a cup of tea (with milk and sugar, British style) and read on.

The first day of the trip, Beth, (a mutual AK friend who lives in Portland now) was having a birthday party, so as soon as we picked Ryan and Natasha up from the train station, we drove up into the West Hills to see her. It seemed strange to see so many Alaska friends together in Portland, but it was great to see Beth and meet her new son.

Sunday, the girls and I helped lead worship in church, and then we spent the afternoon out at our CSA farm. Our farmers have recently added a significant amount of land to their property and it was fun to get a tour and hear their plans for the future.

Monday's weather predicted evening showers so we headed east to the Gorge in hopes of avoiding them. Our plan worked, and we spent the day hiking a 5.5 mi. loop from Multnomah Falls to Wahkeena Falls. Natasha was kind enough to hike at my pace (read: very slowly, with frequent breaks to ward of the peripheral warbling of an asthma-induced migraine) and Ryan took the girls ahead at his pace (read: very quickly with frequent stops for log/rock jumping and creek wading).

He and Hannah had been very close when he last saw her (at 16 months old) and it was fun to see the way they reconnected. He later said he had wondered a bit if they would want anything to do with him and we all laughed--that was not a problem!

On our way home, we stopped by Crown Point for some picture-taking and hand-rail acrobatics.

Tuesday, we'd expected rain, so despite the sunshine we got, we spent the day at the Evergreen Aviation Museum. Bryan's company has passes for 8, so we snagged Jenny and the kids and took them along too. The last time I was there, the Space portion of the museum wasn't open yet; it was fun to explore all the new exhibits. And we ended the day with a picnic at Chad and Jenny's, Bryan's cousins who live across Lafayette. Again, it was a joy to include Ryan and Natasha in a typical evening activity and to see people from our separate communities interact.

By Wednesday, Tuesday's rain was supposed to have passed through. But Tuesday's rain had held off, so it wasn't too much of a surprise to see rain clouds on our way to the beach. The forecast said "scattered showers" though, so we pushed ahead with our plans for a hike at Cascade Head. Soon the showers turned to steady rain with the occasional downpour and we resigned ourselves to a wet, muddy hike. Hannah and Ryan went on ahead and were rewarded by the sighting of a herd of elk in the mist.

Meira and Natasha and I made it to the lower viewpoint ( a misnomer on a day so misty we couldn't even see the surf below) and turned back to slog through the puddles back to the parking lot. Anyone who has ever spent a wet day at the beach can imagine our scramble for dry clothes and hot drinks, but the promise of a trip to the Tillamook Cheese Factory kept our spirits up. We watched the factory workers and the cheese parade, bought some fudge for Bryan (who stayed behind for that pesky job-thing) and headed home.

Thursday, we spent the morning getting the girls ready for cousin camp. Earlier in the spring, my parents had reserved the 4th of July weekend for my younger brother's daughters and our girls to get together. They had a full weekend planned, a trip to Tacoma's glass museum, Silver Creek Falls, and on the 4th, the Canby General Days celebration. 

We met Bryan at the Nike campus (where he's currently working) for lunch and a quick tour, then swung by the orthodontist's office before dropping the girls off in Canby and stopping to see my mother-in-law.

Are you ready for a break?

 Me too! But we had a weekend aboard planned; check back soon for sailing stories!