Our two-and-a-half-hour journey to Mt. Rainier was projected to begin at 2 o'clock . The night before, everybody had worked to pack and load up as much as possible so that we could get an early start in the morning. But it is a well known fact that the Spafford family can never keep to their appointed deadlines and by 2 o'clock, they were still working. There were all of those last minute responsibilities that had not made it onto the to-do list, but still needed doing.
Leisel and I found ourselves making a last minute run to the nearest gas station to refill our propane tank. When we got there, we found that they did not give propane refills, only exchanges; so we headed to the next station. They could fill our propane tank as long as the gas tanks were not being filled at the same time...Unfortunately, they were, and we were informed that it would be another 45 minutes before they were through filling them. It all ended up working out, and Leisel and I were back at the home by 4:30 (2 1/2 hours after our deadline for leaving:)
Finally, at 4:45, everybody was waiting out in a fully packed van sitting in the 80 degree heat. I was trying not to mind the tool box sitting directly underneath my feet; there was not a square inch in the van to put another thing. The trailer had been hitched up to the van and mom and dad were making sure that everything in the back was securely strapped down.
We pulled out onto the road at 5 o'clock. Not 15 minutes into our journey, a car pulls up right along next to us and the passenger starts pointing to our back trailer. We found a place to pull over and check the trailer. All that we could see was that one of the straps that held all of our camping gear down had come loose. We tightened it and then pulled back out onto the road.
We had gone just a little bit further when another car pulls up next to us and mouths the words, "your trailer" We were beginning to think that this trip was not meant to be. We found another exit and again tried to inspect the trailer. It wasn't long before we discovered that our trailer tire had been smoking....the exact tire that had the propane tank sitting right over it.
We knew how to fix the problem but we did not have the right tools to do so. A rather large semi pulls up beside us and the man ended up lending dad a vise grip. Soon though, the man had to be back on the road. Next, an SUV parks next to us. It just so happened that they too had a vise grip and we could borrow that as well. Finally, we were back on the road again, and hopefully, this time for good.
Everybody's taste buds had been set for chili and corn bread muffins for the last hour but we still had one more important stop to make before we made it to our campsite. In the little town of Packwood, we pulled over at the local General store and purchased three bundles of firewood.
We could already catch whiffs of campfire smoke and pine trees from where we were. The weather had dropped to 65 degrees....a cool change from the heat that we had been having.
Ohanapecosh came into view just as dusk began setting in. It was 8:30 when we finally arrived. As everybody piled out of the van they immediately rushed around trying to set up camp before it was dark. By the time the first tent was set up, the second one had to be figured out by lamplight. Mom was busy setting up the kitchen and heating up our chili. By 10 o'clock , Austin had a nice big fire going for everybody to sit around. He had come prepared this time with all of the needed survival equipment for starting fires: cotton balls and Vaseline.
That first morning, people began waking up around eight. Nothing quite compares to waking to the sound of rushing water below the campsite, Austin chopping firewood and the whistling of the tea kettle for making coffee.
A breakfast of buttermilk pancakes, turkey sausage and coffee awaited us. Coffee was a hot commodity, and one had to be up pretty early in the morning to grab the first pot.
Our hike for that day was to be the Lake Trails. Snacks were packed, the campgrounds was cleared of all food and everybody loaded up into the van by ten. Since we had never really been on this hike before, we stopped by the visitor's center for directions. Some in the Spafford household possess the horrible trait of disorientation. And it was that directionally-challenged hiker that led the way on our trail. We soon discovered that their in-built GPS had led us in the exact opposite direction that we were supposed to be headed in and we had to switch our trails.
Along the trail, we found that there were loads of wild blueberries that greatly impeded the progress of the hikers. A lovely view of the Mountain stretched out before us!
Near the end of the trail, their were a few stragglers that were beginning to loose their former enthusiasm. We kept them going reminding them what it would have been like climbing Curahee with a 50 pound sack on your back. The hike ended up being around 8 miles long.
In the evening, after a cool dip in the river, we warmed up around the camp fire.We ended the evening with hot cocoa and s'mores.
A sad discovery was made on the first day of our camping trip: mom and dad found that one of their tent zippers had broken. No amount of pushing or pulling could get the door to close. This was a bit of a problem as there was predicted rain for the next day. Austin came to the rescue with two safety pins that he had kept in his survival kit. But it was a poor excuse for a door. Later that night, a couple beach towels were added to provide extra protection.
My first thought when I heard the pitter-patter of rain on our tent roof that morning was that my shoes sitting on the outside of the door would be a sopping mess. I opened the flap only to see that all of our shoes had been neatly lined up under the canvas. Dad had apparently woken up at 2 AM when he first heard the rain and had moved all of our shoes to cover.
Immediately after Austin got up, he got started on a fire; but it did not look like we would be getting one that morning do to the rain fall. That was when Jonathon came up with the idea of starting a fire in one of our cast iron pans under our canvas. We were all feeling very thankful right then that Jonathon had purchased a canvas for our camping this year. We soon had a warm fire going. Everybody huddled around it with their plates of biscuits and gravy. There was not a dry chair to sit on.
A hike did not seem as appealing that day, but we headed up to sunrise anyway. After inquiring at the visitors's center for a good, SHORT hike, they gave us several options. We noticed the park rangers whispering, "But it's freezing!"
In the end, we opted to visit the warm little gift shop at Sunrise, and then head back to our campsite to take a short three-mile hike to Silver Falls. The Falls was beautiful. There was room to climb all around it.
When we arrived back, we were actually feeling a bit warm so we headed down to the river to rinse off. The snow melt felt so much colder on that rainy day.
Charae sat curled up by a roaring fire. She could hear below her the sounds of Jonathon and Dad making their first dips into the water.
When we were all considerably drenched, we raced to the tent to change into warm clothing and wrap our hands around a warm cup of tea.
We all gathered around the fire that night and roasted hamburgers and marshmallows over the fire.
Sunday morning, it was time to pack everything up and leave our little camp grounds at Ohanacaposh, or what Dad has traditionally nicknamed, "Oanchee Poanchee"...
We always have mixed feelings leaving the Mt. Rainier campgrounds. After three days of camping, everybody is ready for a warm shower and a root-free bed, but we are always sad to say goodbye to another camping trip. God was so gracious in protecting our family on numerous occasions as well as richly blessing our family time together. The Spaffords now have four camping trips under their belts and are praying that God blesses them with many more.