At this particular moment, I am an extraordinarily happy lady. I am sitting in a cottage, at a breakfast nook surrounded by windows, looking out onto the most picturesque backyard you can imagine. Yellow roses, deep blue hydrangeas, bunches of sweet smelling lavender, an arbor laden with tiny purple flowers, pink smiley-faced daisies, and in the back corner of the yard, a small waterfall flowing into a pool with lily pads drifting lazily on its surface. An apple tree, bearing its unripened green fruit stands guard over the whole scene. And what am I doing? I’m dressed for a romantic dinner with my husband, smelling a bunch of wildflowers that I plucked from a mountaintop a few hours ago.
We are on vacation/fellowship interview in Seattle, Washington...by ourselves! That's right, 5 days of just Jeremiah and me, exploring a new part of the country to see if we could potentially live here for a year. Right now, we are staying at some friends' home in Tacoma (just outside of Seattle), even though they are actually back in Birmingham visiting their family. It's amazing how much sweeter a person I become on vacation :) I can't stop flirting with my husband; I laugh about the least little funny, and I'm ready for any adventure (since I don't have to worry about it disturbing my babies' naps or mealtime).
We started the morning in what we have lovingly named "The Stang," (which is the silver/grey new Ford Mustang the car rental place graced us with) and drove to a quiet breakfast in a coffee shop overlooking downtown Tacoma and the harbor. We took our time, nibbling, sipping and pouring over different maps and brochures to decide what we wanted to explore for the day. After deciding that we couldn't stand the thought of leaving Seattle without seeing Mt. Rainer, we mapped out our course. We chose the "Sunrise" trail, which is the highest point you can drive to on Mt. Rainer and thought we would drive there and then begin our hike. This is us at the photo op at the top of the Sunrise trail. It makes me laugh SOOOO hard because 1) That's Mt. Rainer behind us, which we never saw because it was covered with snow clouds 2) You can see what Alabama idiots we looked like to everyone else out hiking in their long-sleeves, jackets and pants and most hilariously 3) The fact that I know that in the back seat of "The Stang" there are 2 SWIMSUITS that I so smartly recommended we not forget, so that we could take a dip at our hike's end. It was SNOWING people, and we brought our swimsuits. No matter how many times people recommend to you that you pack some jackets and pants for your trip, its hard to imagine, as you're dripping sweat in your tank-top and shorts in South Alabama, that you will need such wintry items.
It was fun to see the snow, but I'd be lying if I told you we weren't a bit disappointed about not seeing this beautiful mountain after our long drive.
But, we sucked it up and started our descent down the mountain, determined to find a trail head that wasn't covered in snow. We found one, parked and you can see how excited we were to finally be getting out of the car to start an adventure.
The hike was 3.5 miles up, so a round trip of 7 miles. Now, it was 1ish at this point, we hadn't eaten since our little coffee brunch, and I was under the impression that we would jog (Have I mentioned that we were planning on running the trail up the mountain? I am stupid.) for a little way in and then head back out. I forgot who I was married to. We started off, the happy little runners at the start of the trail as Jeremiah called out, "You know if we start this thing, we're going to finish it, right?" "Sounds good!" I called back, the happy vacationing wife who was ready for any adventure. About a 1/4 of a mile in I told Jeremiah it was too steep for me to run as we came across a group of hikers on their way down who told us there were bears in the meadow at the end of the trail. Bears! Real bears, not at the zoo in their safe little cages. However, my heart was even ready for this adventure as long as we could power walk instead of run.
The hike was absolutely gorgeous. I love the South and our pine trees, but as we passed under these gigantic, moss covered pines I felt like our trees are only a reflection of what they're meant to be. The trunks were 3 and 4 feet in diameter and looked as though they'd been planted before time began. The woods were more quiet and dark than ours, and it felt as though these gentle giants were allowing us safe passage in their midst. The mountain seemed to be bursting with water as we crossed stream after stream of cold, clear water. There was a deep, green velvet hue over every pebble and tree, and there was a part of me that wanted to rest my head on its downy softness. It all seemed...enchanted.
Now, I was feeling these things, but I'm not saying my mind didn't occasionally dart back to those bears that were waiting for us at the end of this hike. I asked Jeremiah if he was worried and, no joke, he said, "I've got a plan, and it ends with you taking a picture of me standing with one foot on that bear's head." "Ok," I said laughing. "Do you want to fill me in on the details or you just want to let it be a surprise?" Why do men live life with Braveheart playing in the back of their minds at all times? He says now that he was only kidding--that he wasn't really working out a plan for how he'd handle a wild bear that came upon us when we were unarmed, but I know that man. He was partly kidding, but I'd be willing to bet money he was fantasizing about fighting that bear.
We made it to the top, and this was the breathtaking view that was the reward for our efforts. A valley, carved out of the top of a mountain, filled with a profusion of wildflowers and Christmas trees. I caught my breath at the beauty in this dichotomy. Prickly evergreen fir trees, in their rightful home with temperatures around 35 degrees, but then popping out of the grasses at their feet, dainty wildflowers making their own mark on this paradise. Their colors made me think that God must have dipped his paint brush in every color on his palette and flicked his wrist to dash color all over. I just wanted to sit in their midst. I wanted to get lost in them...so I did. And as cheesy as this picture is, I'm going to share it with you.
I gathered a bouquet, striving to get a flower of each color and type. We walked on through the meadow and saw the lakes at its heart. We stayed there for a while...I couldn't even tell you how long, just soaking it all in (I was soaking it in, but I'm pretty sure Jeremiah was too busy hunting down those bears we never saw). Then, we ran back down the mountain. Really ran, fast, the cool air blowing in our faces, leaping over rocks, dodging branches, and clutching my bouquet the whole way down. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face and never slowed down for the whole 3 1/2 miles. "This is what heaven is going to be like!" I called out to Jeremiah, "Running without effort, filled with the beauty of God's creation, and a smile I can't seem to wipe off my face."