Thursday, September 12, 2019


This photo is from my 2016 visit when we caught a rare break from 
the familiar grey marine layer and enjoyed skies that were dazzlingly blue. 

Walk toward the north end of Kalaloch Beach.

Scan the bluff  wall as you walk, and keep an eye out for the ever popular tree root cave.

Don't worry, you won't miss it. There's usually a buzz of visitors and plenty of camera activity to let you know you're in the right place. Plus there's a giant tree suspended in midair, and a big cave underneath the tree's highly visible roots. It's way cool.

After you've given yourself a proper cramp in your camera trigger finger, take a few steps farther to the north, and check out that bluff again.

Notice anything interesting?


Tiny pockets carved into the sand and stone wall of the bluff. 

Each one sporting a little tower of balanced rocks

Or two.

Now I've read that from nature's point of view, balanced rock towers are uncool. Every single rock on a beach could be a home to an insect or tiny creature, and disturbing even one could disrupt the delicately balanced ecosystem of the beach. Plus many consider them a messy human fingerprint on the natural landscape, a direct violation of the leave-no-trace philosophy to which most outdoors enthusiasts adhere.

And I respect that. 

What concerns me more are these windows carved into the bluff wall. People, I do not think this happened naturally. 

I can't imagine the bluff benefits from humans tunneling into the face of fragile sand and stone. Considering the forces of wind and water that work upon this surface every year, and the considerable tonnage of RVs that park up top, this seems like a science fair project calculated to accelerate erosion and create a landslide.

I'm pretty sure the National Park authorities are not down with this creative energy.

And to be honest, I felt a little guilty enjoying this little gallery of stones as I did. 

But I am a fool for art in nature, and the truth is that I simply can't help but smile at these happy rock towers in their windows looking out at the sea. 

* * * * *

My family and I go to Kalaloch a lot. Here are stories from our trips over the years:






Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The World Of Packet Dinners

It was after a week of middle school church camp that my youngest came home, sat me down, and introduced me to the glory of the Packet Dinner.

First we went into the dining hall, and made our packets. I took a big piece of aluminum foil, put ketchup on the bottom, then tater tots, then ground beef, then carrots and corn, and there were some other things that I didn't want. Then we folded up the Packets, put them in our backpacks, and hiked up to a place where there was a big camp fire. Then we cooked our Packets over the fire and ate them. They were so good! Do you think we could make something like that when we go camping?

The short answer: YES.

And so for the past decade and then some, our camping meals have featured the Packet Dinner. We've put some spin on the concept, developing other flavor profiles on the basic creation, and this year, we had a rousing success with the Taco Packet

We stuck close to the classic, tried-and-true construction technique. Salsa, rather than the usual ketchup, for the first layer, then the traditional tots and pre-cooked ground beef, this time seasoned with the flavors of Mexico. On top of that, we laid on some refried beans.

So far, so good.

And then, as the cherry on the top, we dabbled queso. And by 'dabbled,' I mean smothered the entire shebang.

^ Que bonita, right?

From there, we folded up the foil and popped our Packets onto the grill. 

^ This orderly cooking fire was built by my daughters, which accounts for its appropriately modest size. My fires generally produce flames shooting two or three feet above the grill, which is maybe a tad excessive for dinner prep. Better than my pyrotechnical skills wait for the after-dinner entertainment.

* * * * *

Over the years, we've perfected our Packet Dinner cooking technique.The secret to an evenly cooked, unscorched dinner is not just to spin the Packets, my friends, but to flip them. 

Yes! Find a good pair of long tongs with soft flipping edges. This feature is key to keeping your dinner safely wrapped up inside; one false move with a sharp pair of tongs will rip open the foil and  send your dinner spilling into the coals, which is a fate I wouldn't wish on anyone. 

So keep those Packets flipping from one side to the other and back again, so your dinner cooks evenly and stands the best chance of staying scorch-free.

* * * * *

How did our Taco Packets turn out? See for yourself:

^ Daughter Number Three reported small bits of scorching around the edges but warm throughout and ridiculously yummy. 

^ Daughter Number Four went salsa free and made up the difference in queso. Also delicious. 

^ I topped my creation with sour cream and green onion, and report that the explosion of Mexican flavors in my mouth that made all my Packet Dinner dreams come true. 

We all agreed that heating the queso made an unnecessary mess and wasted a good portion of the precious golden goodness. Next time, we will add it after cooking and waste nary a drop. 

Ah well, there's always something new to learn in the world of Packet Dinner. 

Which is just further proof of their inarguable glory.

* * * * *

My family and I go to Kalaloch a lot. Here are stories from our trips over the years:






Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Ways To Play

Besides being a breathtakingly beautiful beach and rugged stretch of prime Pacific Northwest landscape, Kalaloch is a perfect place to play.

Sure, you can always build a sand castle.

Or swim, although rare is the Kalalochian who actually dives out among the breakers; the North Pacific is a bit chilly for that.

But when it comes to options for playing at the beach, Kalaloch offers so much more.

^ Splash in the shallow waves that lap about your ankles. Jump the curving white edge of the incoming wavelets...or just stand there and let them lap over you, brisk and cool. 

^ Cruise along the edge of Kalaloch Creek where the freshwater is considerably warmer than the saltwater waves. 

^ Oh, what the heck. Just jump into that creek and wade straight through it. 

^ As the tides wane, water flows out of the creek, leaving spongy sand that is deliciously soft and cool under bare paws...

^ ...and bare human feet as well. 

^ If you're up to it, step a bit deeper into the swells. Jump some waves, dodge the big ones but be prepared to get wet, just the same. 

 ^ Or, maybe my favorite of all, walk along the wide strip of wet sand, glistening with water from the occasional surge, and reflecting blue sky and clouds for you to walk upon. 

* * * * *

And when your clothes are half-soaked, your legs covered with goose bumps, and your toes approaching frostbite, then it's the perfect time to head in past the high tide line and explore the beach logs. 

^ Step up onto the long and lean tree trunks that line the upper beach, tossed into heaps by fierce winter storms, tumbled this way and that across the sand. Most are stable, a few are not; challenge yourself to migrating along and across, over and under the tangle.. 

^ But not all beach logs are straight. Keep an eye out for an ancient giant, flipped on its side and half-buried in the sand. Climb it, build on it, and by all means, sit for a portrait in front of it. 

^ Here in the so-called lagoon, a huge log suspends itself across the creek. Scramble up top, walk to the far end, then settle yourself and celebrate your success. And when you're done, if your ankles can take it, jump off  into the soft sand below. 

^ While you can always build your own log cabin, why not move into an existing shelter? By the end of the summer, there are plenty of options built up along the beach, all worthy of a tour. 

 ^ And if you are very lucky, at the end of a long day spent exploring all the ways to play on Kalaloch Beach, you will find a shady spot tucked in among the logs that is just the perfect place for a well-deserved nap. 

* * * * *

My family and I go to Kalaloch a lot. Here are stories from our trips over the years:






Monday, September 9, 2019

Whale Bones

As we strolled north on Kalaloch Beach, Gracie slowed her pace to stop and sniff at a beach log lying silver and splintered near the high tide line, and that was my first clue that something very strange was going on.

Unlike my dogs Casey and Ranger before her, Gracie is not, under any circumstances, a beach log sniffer. She prefers dead birds or seagull poop.

So we stopped to investigate what had captured her curiosity and quickly made a fascinating discovery.

This was no beach log. It was a skull.

My fourth-born and I began to speculate, but it took us only a moment to draw an inescapable conclusion.

A whale skull.

As we stood over the bones, trying to wrap our heads around this amazing find, a man stopped by to chat. 

"Yeah, a group of pilot whales washed up here a couple years ago," he informed us.

Well. We can get LTE service on the beach nowadays so the moment he stepped away, we Googled.

Bless him, our informant was mostly wrong. 

This was in fact the skull of a malnourished, underweight grey whale who washed up here on Kalaloch Beach last May. 

Scientists have noticed an uptick in grey whale deaths along the West Coast this summer. Apparently, for reasons not yet clear, the dead whales are skinny and underfed, maybe because of problems with last year's food supply. 

Nearby, perched on an actual beach log, we found several sections of vertebrae. This one was about the size of my hand with fingers extended. 

To be this close to the bones of a giant beast was a thrill. We circled round and round, imagining where the eyes fit into the skull, where the baleen plates would hang from the jaws. 

We pondered how many sections of vertebrae would be required to build the spine of this 32 foot long animal. Our best answer: a lot. 

And then, just as our brains began to ache from all this imagining. Gracie decided it was time to go. 

And so we said goodbye to the whale bones, and set off down the beach, in search of our next big adventure.

* * * * *

My family and I go to Kalaloch a lot. Here are stories from our trips over the years:






Sunday, September 8, 2019

Wide Open Spaces

With the tent staked, the clothesline strung, and a proper makeshift kitchen set up, we officially kicked off this year's Kalaloch camping trip by heading down to the beach.

As we dropped down the steep path from the cliff-bound campground to the beach, Gracie all but hauling me headfirst, I bubbled over with anticipation. In all the twenty-five years I've been coming here, this magical place is always the same place but there's always something fresh, something different, something new with every visit.. I held my breath as I stepped out from the massive driftwood staircase to find...

^ ...wide open spaces.

^ Where in past years lay a tumble of massive beach logs - silver white trunks of trees stripped of bark and branches by the awesome power of crashing waves - so thick and wide that in order to get to the sane, we had to scramble hither and yon, working a maze from the bottom of the stairs to the open beach. But this year, at the end of the stairs lay nothing but a flat, wide expanse of glorious grey Pacific Northwest sand. 

^ Straight ahead, the Pacific Ocean towered over us, crashing waves that threatened to wash us away only to break themselves far from shore and harmlessly peter out around our ankles.

^ In the wide stretch of sand and shallow water, we found plenty of places to play. 

^ Gulls swooped around is in the clear blue sky, adding a third dimension to our sense of unbounded space. 

^ Where Kalaloch Creek flows down to the ocean, in a little corner we fancifully call the Lagoon, we felt the difference too.

Tumbled heaps of massive beach logs that had rested half-buried in the sand here for the better part of a decade had disappeared.

Huge fields of flat stones were mysteriously disappeared.

An enormous sand bunker on the far bank of the lagoon was gone, leaving exposed rock jutting out into the water. 

^ No longer pinned between the logs to its usual narrow banks, the creek flowed wide and shallow, soft with sand. Normally, my dogs take no more than a step or two into the lagoon as the sides drop off into a deep flowing channel. But this year Gracie could easily keep her belly dry as she pranced from one side to the other, and she did so many times over. 

^ Heading north from the lagoon, we see evidence that recent high tides have picked up and tossed around some low lying beach logs. Sure enough, later in the day, we saw some floaters and I had the educating experience of bumping into one. I learned that even a small log becomes a lethal weapon when tossing and turning unpredictably in the surf, and I was horrified to think how quickly one could mow down my dog. We steered well clear of the water until the tide turned and the water dropped away from the beached logs. 

^  Then we were once again free to walk along the sand, through the shallow waters, in the glistening sunshine under the crystal blue sky. 

^ And I fell in love with Kalaloch all over again, for her wonderful wide open spaces. 

* * * * *

My family and I go to Kalaloch a lot. Here are stories from our trips over the years:






Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The First One

Last summer, with little advance notice, my two elder daughters moved out of the house. 

And with my fourth born off in Asia visiting my globe-trotting third-born, I found myself, for at least a few weeks, sitting on an empty nest.

Now granted, I had no right to be shocked. My daughters had lived at home for far more years than most parents enjoy, and it was high time they were off on some new adventures. 

And my fourth born was just on vacation. Two weeks and she'd be right back.

But the effect was powerful. And much to my own surprise, I fell into an emotional tailspin. 

The epicenter of my malaise sat squarely in my older daughters' now-empty bedroom. As logic would dictate, they had taken all the life out of that room, and the best belongings to boot, and left behind a sad, stripped down, and worn out bedroom

After a few days of utter shock and deep sadness, I got busy. 

I corralled their cast off items into spare storage space in the garage, rearranged what was left of the furniture, and got busy filling in the empty places they had left behind. 


As I whipped up my to do lists and whistled around town, my mood improved and my heart soared. I was building a new room, a new place for them to come home to, and I felt much better.

And almost instantly, a series of paintings took shape in my brain. 

The images I saw were specific and clear. 

For several weeks, I thought about them, planning out the colors, shapes, lines. I did mathematical calculations, and drew them out on graph paper.

And then I began to paint. 

This is the first one. 

The Maple Bench Of My Dreams

Hey, remember when I had a dream last fall and ended up creating a miniature art gallery complete with a cute little bench in my bedroom?

If you like, you may refresh your memory here.

But if you're not in the mood to ricochet around the internet, I can catch you up. The art was made by me, and the bench a collaboration between

me (the visionary)
my husband (the tool guy)
a sweet slab of live edge maple and
four hairpin legs.

Together, we created the bench of my literal dream, and we were all very happy.

Then came the winter and our hardwood floor project. In order to clear the decks for the work team, we carted every stick of furniture out of every room on the first floor, and then three weeks later, had the fun of moving everything back in. 

I may have made a few small changes along the way, and we ended up with new, smaller desks in the library, which left a big open space in the middle of the room where the bigger tables used to be. And suddenly the couch in front of the window looked sad and forlorn all by itself over there on the opposite side of the room. 

In a flash of what I would call genius but my husband would call more work, I imagined my art gallery bench - which I must admit had become a bit of a drop zone for stray objects in my bedroom - as the perfect candidate for a slim new table in front of said lonely couch.

I believe it was around three a.m. when I carried her down the stairs for a trial run. Never too late to rearrange the furniture.


By daylight, anyone could see that the pairing is a match made in heaven and since that early morning in March, my maple bench has been a happy camper in her new home. 

Sadly, I must report that during all these months of its adventurous life, my maple bench has been roughing it.


Though the wood was fairly well pre-sanded when I bought it, I did not take it from good to great.

Bark crumbled from the live edge.
The wood was pale,
the grain lost to the low contrast.
And the top was, well, naked. Completely unfinished.

What she really needed was a thorough sanding and three coats of Varathane. But I was not up to woodworking in the cold garage.

I'll tackle that job next summer, I told myself for months on end.

But as the summer has come and almost gone, my poor maple table languished in the murky depths of my to-do list.

I am not proud to admit that.

But I'm glad to say that this story has a happy ending. 

Saturday, I awoke with a vengeance and in a fresh burst of affection for my maple table, I tackled her first thing. The project unfolded with little drama, and today my maple bench sits proudly in her spot in front of the couch, her rich grain gleaming under the shiny coats of satin finish, her live edge polished to beat the band. I'm so happy with how she turned out. 

 And though my maple table no longer lives in my miniature art gallery, where I originally dreamed in her into existence, she is making my dreams come true in new and surprising ways.

P.S. Though Gracie patiently dreams during my late night work sessions while draped across this very same couch in front of the maple bench, she was not impressed with my daytime photo shoot. It was high time for our walk, and she had already put up with a number of delays.

Poor Gracie. Her life is rough.