Late summer camping inspiration

We had two trips in late August, early September: one to Dosewallips State Park along the Hood Canal and the other at Lake Easton State Park, up in the Cascades.

It’s funny how things happen in your regular life that end up informing your writing life (though I must add that for this to happen, y’all need to pay attention!).

I’ve been writing some magical realism elements for my current novel-in-progress, Eminent Domain, and these elements contain negotations or communing with nature.

August at Dosewallips

Here, we had multiple moments for awe when it came to nature.

The resident Roosevelt elk herd that lives at the park, which we have not seen in all the times we’ve camped at this park, made multiple appearances.

One day, we walked up the river and accidentally flushed them from where they hid in the woods, so they lumbered their way down to the rocky river bar and ultimately crossed.

This was a hot-hot day, 90s-plus, land I have no doubt it felt good to sink their hooves into cool river water!

Below, clockwise from top left: Roosevelt Elk fording the Dosewallips River; park signage stewarding the safety of the elk in the park; seal escort from my kayak; one of my sunflowers at the campsite; a panorama of the rewilded old campground at Dosewallips State Park; the Roosevelt Elk herd we flushed from the woods (sorry!); swallows socializing on a Hood Canal driftwood snag near the Geoduck.

The herd also appeared numerous times at the lower campground, which the state park is currently rewilding (another element of my novel… thanks, universe!).

The rangers close the gates to the park when they arrive and put up this sign, which I think is amazing and awesome.

I was able to ride my bike the back way around the old campground and catch a closer look from the other side of the shelter. They are magnificent beasts.

If that wasn’t amazing enough, we took a paddle using the slough that fills in at the parking lot later in the day. This is part of the Hood Canal inlet you can see from the Geoduck roadhouse up along the highway.

We enjoyed watching the dozens of swallows frolicking over the waterways from the restaurant’s outside deck, then again while kayaking.

Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Commission

What we did not expect were the seals. Well, let me restate that. We always expect about three seals to follow us as we kayak around these parts.

This time, we were encircled by a couple dozen. They are curious and cute and many were sunning themselves on driftwood logs out in the shallows or along the spit. They do this by laying on their backs, then arching so their heads and tails curve upward. It seems utterly uncomfortable but they were having a ball in their funny sunbathing positions!

It’s a sight to see, but also a bit intimidating. They encircled our kayaks, heads popping up and down in a kind of aquatic Whack-a-Mole, which was fun, but from the nearby spit you could hear them arguing and barking and boy do they make a ruckus! And they have big teeth.

It was a great lesson in keeping one’s distance from nature because, at the end of the day, they’re wild ones! I needed that reminder as I write scenes in which beavers and mice and elk play starring roles in my novel.

Later, back at the Geoduck for burgers, we counted more than 50 of these seals lying, side by side, along the edge of the slough, getting ready for sleep. I’ve never seen anything like it and wish I could have taken a decent shot from my iPhone but they were too far off.

September at Lake Easton

Just a week after our return, we headed out to Lake Easton State Park for our last camping hurrah of the season. Our site was at the base of a hill and provided great shade for another stretch of 80s and 90s. Very dry hot weather, I must add.

Below, clockwise from top left: The view from the hill behind our campsite; the same hill, but seen from my kayak; Aries the dog with his eyes on a chipmunk; a paddler’s view of the bridges that cross the Yakima River system feeding into Lake Easton; Mike kayaking beneath one of the bridges.

We were able to enjoy some clear skies for the whole trip. Also, two of our neighbors were camping at the same time. This made for some wonderful experiences, including sitting around the (propane-fueled) campfire, learning cribbage, fishing (for Mike, anyway), and a 6.5-mile hike around the lake.

We also had a visit with our daughter and her pup, Aries, who learned how to swim in the lake and discovered the omnipresence of chipmunks at the park.

As we headed out, we could see the low blue haze that we now recognize as wildfire smoke seeping into the hills and valleys. We were lucky to have a clear week, because the air quality became dangerous the night we left.

It’s always sad to wrap up the trailer for the year, but we had some great new experiences in 2022.

I am always trying to maximize my time outdoors with adventures like these; living with multiple sclerosis means taking advantage of every day because you don’t know what tomorrow brings…

The price I pay for adventures…

Yes, it may look like things are smooth sailing for me, but the truth is, living with MS and arthritis means that these adventures always come at a price (and not the usual one we can blame on old age).

For instance, the heat pushed me into a pseudoflare at Dosewallips and has been dogging me ever since. Heat is not a friend to MS and can be blamed for leading to relapses if it’s ongoing.

As for all the added activity (kayaking, biking, hiking)… while it feels good to do in the moment, it can also lead to residual fatigue and pain in the days that follow.

So I’m not surprised by the symptoms and exhaustion, because that’s normal life for me now… play now, pay later.

I don’t say this because I want sympathy, but to help educate folks about living with chronic illness. Plenty of people in my situation just don’t do anything at all. I mean, I don’t blame them. It’s just easier to become a couch potato, avoid the pain and dysfunction that life brings.

Me, I resist giving in. Foolhardy? Maybe.

I just acknowledge the cost of living a full life and hope others understand later when I can’t be resuscitated from the deep fog and bout of pain that typically follows.

On top of all this, I’ve been in physical therapy for chronic hip pain since June. I also bruised my tailbone while riding my bike at Dosewallips (hence no bike riding at Lake Easton, which was a real disappointment because that’s a great place to two-wheel it).

I would be lying if I said I haven’t asked the universe more than once to cut me a break in the last month.

Now my left side is intermittently numb and I’ve had some other symptoms that suggest MS may be the culprit.

I’ve also had to nap a lot to recharge my brain in the last few weeks. The need to sleep to heal is compelling, undeniable. I hope that my upcoming MRI doesn’t show any new disease activity.

(Update: Some speech and vision issues related to reading comprehensive [both falling under the aegis of aphasia] have shut things down a bit more this week. I wrote and scheduled this post before that hit. Now I need to go and rest my brain, just from adding this update!)

Cross your fingers for me, would you?

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