Thursday, July 23, 2015

Tripping on vacation

Took ourselves on a family trip to the mountains.
It was supposed to be a vacation.
Ended up being a trip instead.
What's the difference you ask??
A vacation is something that relaxes you...
You feel the cares of the world slip away
There is no plans.
A vacation replenishes a person-body & soul.
Not so much with a trip.

We drove 19 hours that first night and day.
Mapquest said it was a 12 hour drive.
I guess Mapquest doesn't factor in traveling
with 3 kids under 5 and potty breaks.
And stopping for gas. And snacks.
And walking around to ease the aches
in the back and legs of the adults.
And wind driven rain and flooded roads.
The first four hours we drove in rain and wind and on black shiny wet roads.
I thanked God when I saw dawn break over the Minnesota horizon.
It was an easy drive once the rain let up.
Minnesota and South Dakota are basically flat.
Except for the Black Hills.

Our cabin was nestled in the forest at the top
of one of those hills. Elevation 5600 feet.
It took 1 hour on switchback gravel roads
to get to it.
The actual driveway to the cabin was 11 miles long.
And once we got there I wanted off that mountain.
The air was too thin. I was filled with anxiety.
We were in such a remote spot. No people. No town.
And knowing that it would take an hour to get back down those twisting gravel roads to civilization made me panic.
The scenery was beautiful. The cabin was amazing.
And I wanted nothing more than to go home.

In the middle of the very first night I woke up short of breath.
Woke up my husband and said to him-
"You gotta get me off this mountain. I can't breath."
It was a full blown panic attack.
I don't know if it was from the long drive
or the switchback roads or the thin air.
He tried to calm me down by talking to me.
But it didn't help.
I was wringing my hands, my mind was whirling.
Our bedroom was so damn black. I felt disoriented.
I wanted someone to call a helicopter to come and
fly me off that mountain.
I couldn't imagine having to drive back down those roads.
Guess what? No cell service. No Wifi. No internet.
Not that I would have really called a helicopter.
But in the middle of a panic attack most people
aren't thinking rationally at all.

I tried praying but couldn't concentrate on the words.
I laid there on that unfamiliar bed made out of logs
with only one word swirling around my head....Jesus.

The last thought I remember having before I fell asleep was this-
"Ok GOD, You've got me on this mountain.
Now what do you want me to see?"

This was the view out my window at 5:30am.

I jumped in the shower, got dressed, grabbed a cup of coffee and my journal and went outside.

First thing I saw was all of the pine trees...
All of them reaching towards the heavens.
It looked to me like they were raising their hands in praise.

The very next thing I saw was a doe and 2 fawns walking up the gravel driveway.
One fawn was older than the other.
I imagined that the older one was like a 10 year old
sibling to its 5 year old brother.
The 10 year old was prancing sideways and skipping.
It leapt high in the air and kicked its hoofs out.
The doe kept eating the scrub grass and the 5 year old stayed right by her side.
But this older fawn just kept leaping and skipping and prancing.
It seemed to be filled with so much joy!
And I was too entranced to take a picture.

The next thing I noticed was the sound of the wind.
It seemed to pick up in intensity just as I started to notice it.
The leaves of the Quaking Aspen trees were fluttering
and the saplings started swaying.
I swear I heard whispering.
Put it together with the smell of Pine and the sounds
of birds and a clear blue sky and scurrying bunnies
and I could feel myself starting to relax a bit.
I kept walking and found wild flowers and swaying grasses
and so much purple clover.
At the end of the driveway on the left side
was a gurgling little creek filled with rocks.

Nice and quiet and tranquil, right?

We spent the next 4 days driving up and down those darn gravel roads.
Every touristy thing we wanted to do or see was at the bottom
of that switchback mountain road.
We were centrally located to all of the area attractions.
Which meant that once we got down to the bottom,
which took anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour,
then...THEN it was another 30  miles to our  destination.

We saw Mount Rushmore and Custer State park.

We saw Crazy Horse Monument and the town of Deadwood.
We saw Sturgis and the tiny mountain town of Rochford.

We saw Buffalo from this far away---
We saw Prairie Dogs and some sort of deer.

And finally on the last day of our vacation we saw The Badlands.
Simply stated they were stunning, beautiful, awe-inspiring.

Every day trip we took we saw something beautiful.
We let our 5 yr old grandson pan for gold.
We got all 3 grand kids ice cream and souvenirs.
Him and I got Harley shirts from Sturgis.
One day we let our grown kids sleep late and fed the grand kids breakfast.
All of us got irritated with each other and short tempered after so many days of close proximity in the car.
Our 1 year old grandson is a pincher and a hitter.
Our one son-in-law showered once in 5 days.
Our other son-in-law was mean and strict to his nephew and niece.
(our 5 yr old grandson & 2 yr old grandaughter)
I complained about the speed of the car as we careened down that mountain every day.
One daughter was sloppy. One was ultra neat.
My husband took around 800 pictures.
And walked much slower than the rest of us, so we were always waiting for him to catch up.

Honestly? I felt like I started to unclench my fists and my jaw on the way home.
I learned that vacation to me means The Ocean, not The Mountain.
I learned that both of my son-in-laws could be jerks.
I learned that altitude sickness causes anxiety.
I learned that I could drive on I-90 through 2 states and not be afraid of the Semi's.
(I usually don't drive at all on trips. This trip was a game changer for me.)

When we got home I looked up the meaning of those Quaking Aspen trees.
And here's what I learned:

Aspen: Tree of Loyalty and Harmony 
Symbolic of the "Voice of Spirit" 
The Aspen, considered part of the poplar family, has a habit of shimmering or quivering in the breeze making a distinctive rustling, whispering sound. 
In many cultures and religions the wind is associated with the "Voice of Spirit," and in the boughs and leaves of the Aspen, the wind finds a distinctive voice to inspire those who would listen with patience and sensitivity. The movement of the wind through the canopy and the sun dappling through the leaves can have a mesmerizing effect, encouraging a contemplative and meditative frame of mind.

The wind blows all around us as if it has a will of its own; we feel and hear it, but we do not understand where it has come from or where it will end up. Life in the Spirit is as if it were the wind of God.  John 3:8

I learned to appreciate the voice I heard in that wind.
It was telling me that everything was gonna be all right.
And indeed it was.
After 6 days together in a cabin in the woods at the top of a mountain,
After being aggravated and panicked and hot and tired,
After driving that long road back home,
Everything was indeed all right.


  1. When I get too far away from the ocean or the mountains I start to get panicked. I know it makes no sense but I just feel off kilter. The last time I was in Saskatchewan I started crying.

  2. Love how you wrap it all up in a pretty nice bow. Way to go my friend.