our summer road trip: part 2

Our family had the privilege of taking a road trip to Colorado this summer, and amidst many fun adventures (read about it here), our van broke. Descending down the mountain after our long hike to Calypso Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park, the brakes broke on the van.

It took a couple of days for Nathan to find the parts, get to town to pick them up, and repair the van brakes. The Lord kept us safe, and we were so grateful for a running vehicle to make the two-day trip back to Michigan.

While it was still so cold in the mountains (and five days without a van), doing laundry at the kitchen sink, reading picture books (which we brought with us from the library) by the fire, and playing board games filled our days.

Finally wrapped in sunshine, we spent the day at a nearby town picnicking, fishing, carousel riding, and visiting the obligatory ice cream shop. I almost forgot about the tiny homemade donuts we ate in a 19th century train car!

The whole family enjoyed the company of our cabin neighbors from down the hill for a few dinners and good games of cards. The big kids roused to the added competition. They have been family friends for three generations watching our family grow from trip to trip. They shared good stories and smoothly engaged the children in conversation.

As for wildlife, on this trip we saw many stellar’s jay, a magpie, wild turkeys, deer, and three male elk (bulls). I’m always very happy to not sight a bear : ).

When our cabin days were over, we began our descent through the St. Vrain canyon, rose skies ahead as we drove east. The older children took a melancholic glance saying “good morning” and “good-bye” and everything that goes in between.

 with love, Damaris

P.S. Both on the way out and on the way back, we stayed in Nebraska getting to attend church together and sharing much special cousin time with all of Nathan’s family. Fire works, fishing, building and shooting potato guns, swimming, target shooting, and a talent show made for a most memorable time.


our summer road trip: part 1

Family travel is such a privilege and a gift. This summer we enjoyed a trip west to Colorado. The blur of passing landscapes, munching messy sandwiches, and playing I-SPY until we had a headache, was all part of the whimsy and sense of adventure we experienced.

We welcomed the changing horizon through the different states with the excitement of spending almost two weeks at the family cabin in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

On the second day of driving, the mountains were lifting themselves up as if by magic out of the distance, small in the begining and growing bigger the closer we got.

The familiar cabin greeted all ten giddy vacationers, and the unloading took the rest of the first day. We slid a frozen pasta dish into the oven while we made beds, settled into our rooms, and filled the fridge and pantry with our groceries. For this long cabin stay, I like to have several meals prepared and frozen from home so kitchen prep is minimal allowing us more time to relax. You can read about one of the recent road trips here.

Summer was delayed this year. The air was sharp and supremely clear with even a little snow. On Sunday, we awoke while it was barely light to flurries. For lack of clean warm clothes, we relished our little family worship instead of walking to the village log church.

Nathan and I savored the empty mornings, when the sky was so blue, the floating piles of clouds so shimmering and pearly. We brewed full pots of coffee and swirled pancake batter in a bowl. Slowly, the children would make their way downstairs to the smell of breakfast. With their clean morning faces and bright eyes, each day looking ready for a new adventure.

We hiked as many mornings as we could (if it wasn’t too cold or raining) with the children scampering ahead of us like puppies. Pine needles crunched under our feet as we ascend to Big Rock. While mom frets over holding onto each kid and trying not to look over the edge of the rocks, Nathan and the children love to look for dark roofs of cabins that lay scattered and follow the ribbon of road.

The temperature rose enough that the pine needles smelled their nostalgic sunburnt scent, and we played many rounds of horseshoes.

The wildflowers all around us assumed their full glory. God’s design is perfect!

The only long hike this year was Calypso Cascades. The eight miles round trip were an adventure mostly of endurance. Even little Samuel hiked the whole way there, and Nathan carried him on the way back. We stopped several times on our hike to take in the air and the view. The scape far and wide was rocky and evergreen.

Driving back to the cabin, the van’s brakes broke.

That wraps up this first road trip post, but you can expect more about what happened to the big family van the rest of our trip experiences next week.

 with love, Damaris

Hiking Essentials

Treading Where There Is No Path

I grew up camping and spending lots of time outdoors in the summer. Although we lived in a 9th floor, four-bedroom flat in bustling Barcelona, we went north to the hilly country during the hot summer weeks. Nathan also grew up with a passion for the outdoors by taking many trips to the mountains in Colorado. It’s important to us to share the love for camping and hiking with our kids. We always find that it’s a wonderful time to connect, regroup, refocus, and recharge.

You may remember our trip west – the kids having the run of the mountain, everyday spent outside scrambling up boulders, and climbing the trails. We recall the details of it as if it was just a few weeks ago! While in the car road-tripping back to Michigan, we made a list of all our hiking essentials. It was all fresh on our minds, so we hope you find it to be very thorough. Just a couple of weeks ago, we enjoyed a short trip and lots if hiking at a state park, which, of course, did not require as many essentials as the compiled list below. During this last trip, we were always on the park’s trails and had a map of the miles between points. Hiking in the wilderness is the best, but requires a little more preparedness.

Our favorite days in the Rocky Mountains were spent in the wild. We left the cabin after breakfast with lunches packed and ready backpacks. Since are family grows by one more every other year (we love it!), we required two backpacks to fit all of the essentials. We have found that poor quality backpacks are not worth it. We go through them quickly (they get torn at the seams or zippers break), and they hurt one’s shoulders and back. Good backpacks are full of compartments and pockets and have a chest strap to help distribute the weight.

In this list I don’t mention the obvious such as water bottles and packed lunches/snacks. When we go on hikes, we always have with us:

  • bug spray (too many times stumbling into a swampy area has taught us a lesson!)
  • sunscreen (especially with babies that don’t keep their hat on)
  • first-aid (nicely compact)
  • survival kit
  • cigarette lighter
  • camera
  • watch
  • cellphone (even if there is no coverage, phones will call 9-1-1)
  • flashlight
  • compact knife
  • binoculars (if you would enjoy the view from the summit or side of a ridge)
  • high-calorie bars (we like these)
  • water shoes (unavoidably, there will be a spot for wading)
  • topographic map
  • hats
  • chap stick with sunscreen (this one worked great this year)
  • air-horn and bear spray (if you’re trekking in bear country)
  • a pack of tissues (runny noses or inevitable potty break)

When we arrive at the cabin, the children are all to wear a small whistle hanging around their necks. We also learn to watch for changes in the clouds and feel for the wind. Both of these could mean impending storms which are quickly upon you in the mountains.

So next time you’re headed out, I hope you’ll let us know what was indispensable on your hike!

with love. Damaris


Taking the Mountains with Us

photo credit: Nathan

Damaris has been sharing about our recent family journey out West. What was looked forward to as a long-awaited 2 weeks of adventure, relaxation, and quiet time has now been catalogued in our minds and filed along side so many other memories of such trips – a camping trip by the lake, family visits down south, road trips into Canada… We are blessed, and we’re not afraid of road trips, so the list goes on!

As we hauled the crew off the mountainside our last morning in the Rockies and I told everyone to “say goodbye to the mountain,” it wasn’t a cheerful “goodbye” from any of us. All the kiddos were sad to leave their cousins at the cabin without them, Damaris probably was sighing at the thought of leaving all the quiet solitude behind, and the boys especially were realizing that there were a lot of chores waiting for them at home! The magical, crisp, spiced air of the mountains was soon to be replaced by Interstate 80 (through beef country) for the next 1,000 miles…

photo credit: Nathan

To us flatlanders them-there-mountains were a big deal : )

However, a 20+ hour drive back to middle-America gave me enough time to ponder this and see a flaw in my/our thinking.

While we certainly don’t get to see the granite sentinels of the Rockies very often, there are mountains that we don’t have to ever leave behind. After two weeks of R&R in ponderosa paradise, I don’t have to tell my children to bid these mountains ‘farewell’. In fact the more I think of where God has brought Damaris and I and our little caravan of pioneers on this journey of family, the more I realize that we’ve been living amidst, clambering up, and erecting our own mountains this whole time.

photo credit: Nathan

Have you ever considered that God has a thing for mountains…and piles of stones? He’s strangely intentional with big rock formations which stick up from their surrounding terrain.

Just a few thoughts on this:

The word “mountain” appears around 175 times in Scripture. About 1/3 of these instances are in just two books – Exodus & Deuteronomy.

What’s God up to in these books? …well, mainly:

  • Revealing Himself to His people as the “I AM”…on a mountain.

  • Giving all mankind the LAW…on a mountain.

  • Giving the designs for the tabernacle and how He wants to be WORSHIPED…on a mountain.

As far as big piles of rocks…this is what God had the Israelites do over and over:

  • After crossing over the Jordan River on dry ground – pile up 12 large stones in the middle of the river.

  • Upon the finding of Achan’s sin of theft and lying – stone him and make a pile of stones heaped over his body.

  • After finally defeating the city of Ai in Canaan – pile up large stones (strategically on top of the defeated king) in the middle of city gate.

  • Joshua defeated the 5 kings of the Amorites – piled up large stones in the mouth of the cave where they were buried.

photo credit: Nathan

It’s No Big Secret – God made it clear what he was doing, in Joshua chapter 4 God says about the Jordan River pile of rocks: (21)”When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ (22) then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ (23) For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, (24) so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”

photo credit: Nathan

And here are OUR Mountains! God has used mountains and rock piles as markers and memorials of His works. As Parents we are called to do the same. Whether it is through purposeful vacations with our children to get away for focused time together and with God, or it’s through daily instruction and observation of God’s hand in our families – we are building granite sentinels, too. We are charged, and given every opportunity, to point to God’s workings and teach our children who God is and what He has done. Ultimately, as verse 24 says – that the whole world might know and reverence Him!

some thoughts. Nathan

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Entertaining Evenings and A Farewell (Trip Part 5)

Grandparents and cousins join our Rocky Mountain stay for the last few days of our trip! Cousins’ lining-up at the swing, playing make believe adventures, swinging at the pinata, playing in their forts, and roasting s’mores at the fire pit bring so much joy to all my children’s hearts! I pray that they tuck these moments in their minds for many years, and the memories become seeds of faith and happiness.

Now that we are all together, we hike the nearby old homestead and listen to the stories told and remembered for four generations.

photo credit: Nathan

The sun begins to sink below the ridge, and we all take in the pleasure of the gilded sunset, golden-rose flamed across the sky. Mount Meeker slowly and solemnly fades all shades of gray.

Restful afternoons make way for entertaining evenings spent mostly indoors. As we sit on the deck distracted by the busy hummingbirds, family dinners pass quickly! The children spot fifteen hyper hummers in these ponderosa pines! The rugged hundred-year-olds make a perfect sanctuary for them.

photo credit: Nathan

As dusk deepens, we clean up the meal and give little toes, ears, and faces a good scrub. Nora and Providence aren’t going to play any of the table games, but they linger awhile to sit on our laps with eyes as big as saucers! Evenings grow loud with exciting card or board games and popcorn by the fire.

We enjoy a sweet time of singing and Scripture reading; little prayers and big prayers are spoken at family worship just before bed. Then Grandma reminds us to bring the humming bird feeders in at night, because bears visit the cabin hoping for a taste of the sugar water – no bears, please!

It’s been sixteen years since I was first introduced to these mountains, and it only gets harder to leave. Our departure morning’s breakfast on the deck was the most memorable – the sudden appearance of a moose jumped us to our feet! A moose! Everyone was so thrilled they were speechless. Silently, the moose vanished just as he appeared. A couple more pictures, a couple more hugs to cousins, then in the sunshine and warm breeze, we load into the van and start our decent. Once down from the cabin, we pick up speed as we course alongside the winding St. Vrain river. Steadily the terrain turns from grand peaks and crests to deep gorges and boulders, to the rolling Front Range. Daddy tells everyone to say farewell to the mountains…we’re leaving the Rockies …but we’re leaving with more treasures than which we came – quartz stones, mica, some bones (?!), and plenty of gracious memories!

with love. Damaris


Afternoon Adventures (Trip Part 4)

photo credit: Nathan

It’s a steep path to the creek! We skirt elk droppings and follow the loud rushing of mountain water. The wild roses still in buds on the right and the late lupines on the left make this stroll one of the most pleasurable. Spending our afternoons playing in the snow-melt creek, splashing, wading, building dams washes away travel-weariness and deepens our appreciation of the unhurried moments. All too soon, we’ll be back at home in the routines of busy family life and schedules. But for now, it’s a time to bask in the respite and be thankful!

photo credit: Nathan

The ponderosa pines are home to stellar jays and gray squirrels that arrogantly help themselves to our leftovers from the back deck banister. Every time they pay a visit, searching for treats, the kids squeal like they are long awaited company! These wild afternoons are loud with birds that have no music lessons, but their melodious tunes praise an Infallible Composer.

photo credit: Nathan

Nathan’s great-great grandparents homesteaded in these mountains in the mid 1890s, so we talk about the simplicity and hardships of those days frequently. A few stories have made it down through the generations – mountain lions & outhouses, logging wagons toppling over, breadmaking in baby preparation….Every time I scrub fabric against fabric at the kitchen sink and hang Samuel’s now-clean tiny pants to dry on the thin log rail, I faintly channel a pioneer.

photo credit: Nathan

Windy afternoons turn to grumbling thunder and cool rain. Everybody’s back at the cabin requesting mugs full to the brim with hot chocolate! Just below the living room windows, we see elk trotting, weaving their way as the storm subsides! Sudden weather changes are not unusual in the mountains, and this rain will chill the heat of the day into a crisp and beautiful evening.

photo credit: Nathan

I have found a dream of beauty

at which one might look all one’s life and sigh.

– Isabella L. Bird, Adventures in the Rocky Mountains

with love. Damaris


Mountain Mornings (Trip Part 3)

Photo Credit: Nathan

The silver underside of the aspen shimmer with the slightest breeze, and I feel the sweet morning wind from the wide-open window. Mornings begin much earlier than at home. Partly because of time zones, and mostly because we can’t wait for a hearty breakfast! I sit to enjoy my coffee, and smile at the little chilled mornings faces and bright eyes. We enjoy baked oatmeal with cherries, and Daddy reads a portion of a chapter in the book of Proverbs.

We decide on a hike and pack lunches quickly. Alexander and William fill water bottles and load it all in backpacks. It’s a joy to start our trek in sweatshirts – in the end of June, but the day always warms up while we hike. The smell is unmistakable – a mix of ground granite and arid pine needles crushed under our feet. The chatter of squirrels’ quarrellings accompanies us always, and at the summit, the sun beats hard. I always fret about kids holding on and watching their step! On cue, Nathan begins instruction about keeping a low center of gravity and walking on the sides of our feet : )

Photo Credit: Nathan

Of all the children, invariably it’s William who finds our wilderness wonders – strange animal bones, remains of an old camp sight, quartz stones, and even antique engine parts!

Photo Credit: Nathan

After a picnic break, and as we make our way back to the cabin, we divide up some juicy apples to munch on the way. Now back at the cabin (a little sun-kissed and a lot tired), Baby Samuel goes down for a nap, and we breathe in the quiet afternoon.

Days unrushed, unplugged, and unexpected.

with love. Damaris


The Journey West (Trip Part 1)

Smooth shades of green lay on both sides of the road for miles. The sandhills of western Nebraska are beautiful! It’s definitely beef country, and the little girls love to call out all the cows they see! Daddy asks, “Who would like to have a ranch out here?” We see calves following their mamas, and some are black, camel-colored, and brown with a nose spot. The girls comment on the sheen of their hide and at how healthy the cows look as they make their way to the shade of a cloud.

Tumble weeds roll in these prairies and gets caught on wire fences. Not a tree in sight. The boys spot antelope on top of the knolls, and two stare at us driving by. Finally, still in Wyoming, the peaked clouds at the end of the road are still. The further we drive, the higher and wider they grow towards the sky. Then we realize that there before us, calling us, spread the Rockies.

Photo Credit: Nathan

As we get closer to the foothills, the snow makes Indian Chief’s face more pronounced than I remember. We make the obligatory last-ditch stop at the grocery store, then up the mountain we wind – through the Saint Vrain Canyon. It always takes my breath away – feeling so small in between these momentous rocks. We follow the Saint Vrain River, the road clinging to the side of the rocks, as we gain altitude and feel the temperature drop. Nathan rolls the windows down and tells everyone to breath deep….ahhh the mountain air!

Our first stop is Crystal Springs.

with love. Damaris