Like Rolling Stones – Feature Cover Story

Published In: Roads to Adventure Magazine  (Text-only, more readable version below.  At end of this text-only version is a Downloadable Published PDF version that includes photos, captions and all sidebars.)

Feature Article (Cover story):  Like Rolling StonesHow does it feel to be on your own. 
With no direction home. 
Like a complete unknown. 
Like a rolling stone. – Bob Dylan

Target Audience:  Baby Boomer Families who camp and RV

Journalistic Style:  Participatory – First person narrative of a single’s Mom’s adventurous first vacation in seven years with her two children. Tone: Conversational, humorous, emotionally moving,  informative

READ STORY BELOW: – Text-Only version  (Link to downloadable PDF published version at end of article)

Like Rolling Stones

“How does it feel to be on your own. 
With no direction home. 
Like a complete unknown. 
Like a rolling stone.” – Bob Dylan

Three fleeting seconds.  That was all the time I had to decide which way to turn my kayak before I hit the rapid that the locals call The Dragon’s Tooth.  My eyes searched frantically for the lead guide, but he had disappeared into the white water.  In a split-second decision, I turned my kayak to the right.  Suddenly I was hurled from the safety of my boat and sucked into the frothing mouth of the rapid’s crest. My limbs flailing, my breath knocked out of me, I could only pray that the swirling mass would not propel my body the other way—toward the jagged black rock that loomed before me.

Like a fighter pilot falling from the sky, I could not get my bearings.  Was the rock to the right or to the left?  Instantly I popped up to the surface and saw it. It was barely five feet from my head.  I knew if I did not pull away that instant, I wold be flung against the rock’s sharp surface like a rag doll. I heaved my body to the left; instantly I was pulled sideways from the rock and toward the riverbank on the other side.  I let out a holler, and then waves of uncontrollable laughter.  I had won: I was a warrior who had vanquished an unseen foe.  There would be no sacrifice to the river god today.

A week before we made our trek down the river wild, my children and I had packed our VW Eurovan/Winnebago camper and headed for our great adventure: a 2-1/2 week expedition to the Northwest from our home in Southern California.  This vacation, our first in seven years, was not so much intended to be a “getting away” as it was a “coming together.” While a change of venue from our harried day-to-day routine might provide temporary relief from the stress of single motherhood, escape—if that was the sole motive for our getaway—would only provide a temporary reprieve.  My goal was to find ways for us to unclutter our lives and learn to embrace the joy of simplicity; my hope was that, in doing so, we would begin to turn our hearts toward home, and ultimately, each other.

Our first challenge arose when we arrived at the Steep Ravine campground located at Mount Tampalais in Northern California. Perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this campsite was the ideal spot: relatively remote, yet close enough to other campers so as not to feel overly isolated.  Since it was already getting dark, we decided on our sleeping arrangements.  Amanda, age 14 and wanting her “space,” opted for the Eurovan, which although it slept four, was not always conducive to family togetherness; the quarters were just a little too tight. Hannah, my 10-year-old, and I decided to try the primitive camping experience and made the trek to our walk-in campsite.

The only hitch in getting settled was the proverbial pitching of the tent. Seems I had forgotten the instructions.  Also, because I had neglected to replace the metal stakes with plastic, the girls and I had to improvise by digging a deep hole for each stake and then keep them in place by using big rocks.  Later in the night, when the gentle ocean breeze turned into a blustery gale, all I could think of was being suffocated by a tent because of a plastic misunderstanding.  Eventually we did fall asleep, bug-free and completely happy in or consummate campsite-by-the-sea.

Next stop was Klamath River in Northern California, where we were scheduled to take a rafting/kayaking trip with Cutting Edge Adventures.  We spent the next three days camping beside the river—its rushing waters a constant reminder of the challenges that awaited us the next day when we would seek to maneuver the rapids without going into the drink.

After each day on the river, we enjoyed sumptuous meals cooked in a Dutch oven by Stephanie Abrishamian, Cutting Edge’s owner, chief guide and head chef.  You really haven’t lived until you’ve stuffed yourself with tortellini served in a savory sun-dried tomato sauce alongside charbroiled tri-trip. Each night, after our main course, I would meander slowly up to the coffee pot and pour myself a cup of chest-hair-raising cowboy coffee that was the perfect accouterment to Dutch-oven baked chocolate cake.

We enjoyed all this—and more—while sitting under a canopy of stars on a cool, clear evening, listening to Stephanie read us the story of “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” literary fare that evoked images a little too scary for anyone younger than 10.  I wasn’t worried about my youngest being frightened; she was lost in her own reverie, sprawled out unceremoniously in the dirt, sleeping next to Gus, the river dog. Oh yes, I thought to myself, living in unreality can be very appealing.

During the calmer portions of our river trip, Stephanie, Hannah and I would sing the lyrics to all the musicals ever made. Amanda begged the guide on her raft to stay as far as possible from ours, just in case anyone floating by might think we were related. I really couldn’t understand her embarrassment; I thought we were rather good.

Our next destination was the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington.  One memory that I could tuck myself in with at night was our two-day stay at a renovated light keeper’s house right next to the North Head Lighthouse at Fort Camby Park.  Built in 1898, this lighthouse, along with nearby Cape Disappointment lighthouse, was erected to turn the tide against the hundreds of ships that were being lost in the treacherous bar known as the salty swearing of a sailor right behind me.

We continued on our journey up the Long Beach Peninsula and into the Olympic Rain Forest. Twenty minutes west of the friendly town of Forks (where the waitresses call you “honey” and make you eat your vegetables) was La Push, a spectacular beach on Native American-owned land in the Olympic Peninsula.  You can get to La Push only by hiking through a rain forest. The contrast was amazing as we hiked by trees convoluted into shapes of mythical proportion, some looking like giant snails and others like wizened old men. Hannah and I took delight in discovering the hidden characteristics of each tree, feeling that at any moment a white rabbit would hurry by, stopping only briefly to look at his watch.

Once we were through the forest, the sky opened up and we were greeted by a sight of such incomparable beauty, that even my teenager was awed.  Later, as I watched here frolicking like a colt in the waves, her long legs spinning her around while here reddish-brown hair whipped against her face, I thought of the chubby little baby I had held in my arms 14 years ago.  She seemed so joyful and unselfconscious from the constraints of peer pressure and the accompanying mall mentality that I wanted to hold on to that moment forever.

Had I not over scheduled our trip (a classic mistake for those of us who manage, however subconsciously, to replicate the very lifestyle we seek to escape), we could have held onto La Push just a little bit longer.

Historic Fort Walden, a former military base located near the Victorian seaside community of Port Townsend, was our next stop and the place where I did the “hookup thing.” I finally cooked some meals in our cute little Eurovan kitchen, thereby earning the official title of “Rver.”

We left Port Townsend and the Birkenstock crowd via our first ferry ride on a boat that really should have been dubbed the S.S. Tinker Bell.  During this leg of our journey, we were serenaded by a local musician whose haunting Celtic melodies permeated the gray mist that fell like mystic shroud on the the islands that loomed before us. “Mommy,” Hannah whispered, enraptured by the lilting sounds of the harp, “I feel like we’re traveling to a magic land with fairies and dragons.” I smiled and drew my little munchkin closer to me, noticing that other mothers were doing the same thing.

There were other similar moments, quiet times when my daughters and I really enjoyed just being with each other, talking and listening to those nuances of the heart that often go undetected in a hurried world. This was especially true for my elder daughter. Since my divorce, I had, in many ways, become that mythical island I was always dreaming of—remote and inaccessible.  Amanda must have found it difficult to reach me, and I felt her moving farther away.  Ironically, it was on the road that she and I shared some of our closest times.  Traveling long distances on straight portions of the freeway where there is nothing to visually stimulate you can be a real proving ground for the quality of family relationships.

While Hannah slept In the back, Amanda and I giggled over silly signs, such as “Female Bulls  for  Sale,”  or pondered the  implications  of  restaurants  that  offered breakfast  “24  hours a day,” as we imagined what it would be like to eat waffles nonstop.

One Sunday afternoon after our return home, while grilling our dinner in the backyard, I was remembering our trip. We had  experienced the gamut: from whale­watching in Washington (we saw no whales, but Hannah got to steer the boat), to sharing the palatable sadness of an elderly caged gorilla at the Portland Zoo; from warily eyeing tobacco·chewing survivalists in a remote Northern California town to soaking in the splendor of pristine La Push beach.  Every experience taught us something, good or bad.

When Hannah was afraid to take on a rapid in the raft she pulled herself over to a rock and started crying,  feeling rejected . “You can’t have  it both ways,” I had told her. “When you make a decision you have to live with it, graciously.”  When Amanda grew tired of playing little mother to her sister, she said so, and I was duly chastised. And the day that Amanda spoke rudely to me in the middle of Seattle’s Pike Street Market,  she received her mother’s pent-up wrath, more exaggerated than the situation called for. But somewhere along our journey Amanda began to understand the emotional  and  financial load that Mom had to carry and her apology was sincere.

Vacations bring out the best and worst of us, but mostly, I would have to say, the best. There is nothing that can replace long mother-and-daughter talks while traveling along a spectacular coastline or playing Scrabble while snuggled together inside a tent.

And finally, there is nothing that can replace lost time. Time, like the river, moves  swiftly  and  purposely  toward  its end,  never  ceasing,  never  heeding  our lamenting our careless  words or  misplaced priorities. It carries us forward, prepared or not, and when we reach the end, we can only hope that we have prepared our children to meet the challenges of the journey  that  will  carry  them forward toward their own unique destiny. – jenni keast

Jenni Keast is an outdoor enthusiast who suffers from an incurable case of wanderlust. She lives with her two daughters in Southern California.

###

SIDEBAR #1

My View of the Trip – Hannah Urrego,  age 10

First, I’d like to say there was a lot of driving.  Also, I didn’t like sitting in the back seat all the time and the fact that my sister got to control the radio. I never got to choose any music. That wasn’t fair. My sister said that she couldn’t take turns sitting in the back because she would throw up if she sat back there.  Yeah, right.

One of my favorite places we went to see was a wild animal farm in Washington. The animal farm is a place where you can take your car and drive through and have all the different wild animals come up to your window. Most of these animals had acted in the movies, though it was hard to tell which one of them was which. A big buffalo almost stuck his hairy face in my Mom’s window and my Mom decided to leave. She said she was only worried about the buffalo scratching the paint on the van, but I think she was scared he would bite her or something.

My least-favorite place was this grungy old motel with green carpets and a grumpy guy who owned it. He did have a dog, though, so that made it OK.  I liked the campgrounds because there were a lot of families in RVs who had kids I could play with.

Seattle was my favorite city. It was really beautiful at night. I especially liked playing at Stephen Spielberg’s Gameworks, where I went up and down in a chair and shot at some space invaders. That was really cool. – Hannah Urrego, age 10.

SIDEBAR #2

Best Places to Camp  (See pdf version)

Personal Best:

Best Out-of-Dirty-Body Experiences: Strawberry Lodge, Mt. Shasta, CA. (916) 926-2052  (A MUST after three days rafting on the river)

Best Places to be Pampered:  Portland Marriott, Portland, OR (503) 226-7600

Best Place to Talk to Eleanor Roosevelt:  Quinault Lodge, Lake Quinault, Washington; (360) 288-2900   (Franklin once slept here)

Best Place to Have “Dutch Babies”: Williams House B&B, Seattle, Washington; (800) 880-0810

Best Place to Fall in Love With Yourself (for lack of a better alternative):  North Head light keeper’s house, Ft. Canby State Campground, Ilwaco, Washington; (360) 642-3078

ESSENTIAL READS:   (List of outdoor books – see PDF version)

OUTFITTERS: (List of outfitters -see PDF version)

DOWNLOAD PDF OF PUBLISHED VERSION (INCLUDES PHOTOS, CAPTIONS, SIDEBARS, ETC.  


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About seekandfind

I'm a strategic storyteller/copywriter who is divinely wired to be idea-driven, strategic minded & cause motivated.

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