We left from work on Friday afternoon, June 30th. It was the last day of school – my last day at Gleneagle after almost ten years – and the beginning of a new summer, a summer of transition.
It seemed only fitting to mark the onset of the season with an epic adventure with my partner in crime, Mrs. J.
In the fall I would be starting a new job with SFU, another with the University of Victoria (more on that later), and becoming an educator and professional that I
hadn’t haven’t yet been able to imagine. There was something invigorating about these new possibilities, but also something daunting, not least of which had been the emotional last month of celebrations and goodbyes I’d only concluded – in tears with many of my colleagues and friends in the exhausted glow of the last morning of school – the same morning we rolled out of town.
Along with the new work, we had bought our first home that spring, having only gotten the keys on the first of June and yet to share even a quiet weekend in our new digs. There was much in the way of conflicting emotion with the move as well: we had spent the better part of the last decade in our idyllic basement suite by the sea, enjoying campfires and setting our seasonal watches to the fluctuations of the tide in full view from our breakfast table. There were garden veggies, and the park, and our neighbours, not to mention our landlord, whose parents and siblings (and their children, too) had become a third set of in-laws to our orbit of local family, to say goodbye to, and a new home to establish on an opposite corner of the same forest bordering our old place.
Much had been or was about to be turned upside down, in so many words, and the call of southern highways and the American National Parks (For the Greatest Good) rang out as a chance to reconnect with things we might consider more permanent: ourselves and one another, as well as the wonders of the forests, oceans, craters, and dunes of Oregon and California.
I’d never arranged my school life to make it out of town on the very last day of school. There had always been weekend fun to follow that last week in June, to be sure, but I’d never started a trip on the same day I’d wrapped things up for the year, and I was excited to be capping this year with such an adventure. As it turned out I was even more appreciative to put my goodbyes and the school year in the rearview, as it had been an intense morning of farewells and appreciation for the world I’ve shared with many dear colleagues and friends at Gleneagle. With much looking back in the preceding months, I was eager to begin looking forward with vigour.
With warm but tearful thoughts about leaving my many “work moms” and “socials uncles”, and much gratitude for having been so cared for by them and many friends in between over the last decade, we crossed the border in the glowing fields of southern Surrey just after 8pm, and made a beeline for Portland, where we would take brief rest before continuing south. We visited Pre’s Rock and Hayward Field in Eugene, grabbed a host of groceries and refreshments at Whole Foods, and were set to camp just north of Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park by evening.
The green hills of the western slope of the Cascades and the Umpqua National Forest took us away from the coastal clouds and into the baking interior of the state. It was more than thirty degrees as we rolled into our campsite on the southern shore of Diamond Lake, and the shoulders of the highway were piled high with dusty pumice of dormant volcanos. We built a fire to fend off the first waves of mosquitos, and scouted the area maps for the next day’s potential hikes around Crater Lake.
In the next nine days we would swim in the crystalline waters of Crater Lake, traverse the Redwoods Highway into Northern California, rinse in the Smith River, and visit thousand year old trees. We would see the Roosevelt Elk, camp beneath the Gold Bluffs on the coast south of Crescent City, and drive agog at the gentle bends and staggering vistas along the Pacific Coast Highway.
To mark a year in which so much had become so far fleeting and free of foundations, we grounded ourselves in the wonders of the coast, connecting to the timelessness of geology, and forests, and the sea.