Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I hope every family has a special place near and dear to their hearts. My family has special memories of Door County, Wisconsin - my husband's family has been going to Kalaloch for longer then I've been alive.

Our family albums reveal photos of multiple generations - five counting our grands - gathering on the Washington coast - camping in a more primitive fashion then we are accustomed - on the same sites we've enjoyed ourselves in present day.

Our blended family has cherished memories of vacations spent at Kalaloch. Many of us are still able to return annually to reflect and relax.

After we married, my first experience at Kalaloch was when our daughter was 9 months old. Tent camping with a not-yet-walking child is a challenge but worth every moment. With sufficient preparation and a great deal of imagination everyone has fun. We cozied up, in a site my in-laws regularly occupied, with my brother-in-law's family, Mike's parents, a preteen and three children under the age of 3. We had a taste of smelt dipping and ocean sunsets.

For many years we returned to Kalaloch vicariously through my oldest stepson's shared family trips. We enjoyed seeing Adam and Andi waving to us in photos with their parents on the beach, or by the campfire. Their frequent visits brought us back to the ocean.

I had the opportunity to return to Kalaloch with all three of our children before our second tour of duty outside of the United States. Daddy, not able to join, was with us in thoughts and prayers. Erin shared her secret fear of the 'indidums' (indians) who might be hiding along the wooded trails. We all followed Papo along the beach searching the ground for 'egglets' (agates). It was a special one-on-one time for the kids to spend with Mike's parents.

It was the desire of my in-laws to have their cremains scattered on the beach at Kalaloch. When the opportunity arose after their deaths we drove cross-country from Wisconsin, meeting up with my stepdaughter Tonya and her family and caravaning to Washington to meet with stepson Michael. Rex & Debbie had other commitments but were with us in their hearts. We'd hoped to include my brother-in-law's family but their weren't able to join and later had a private moment to scatter Ric's cremains.

Kalaloch has several beach trails for accessing the beach from the road. Mike remembered visits to Beach 2 with his folks so that was where we headed. At the top of the trail we looked down the steep slope at the thick brush, logs and trickling water. I looked at our younger kids who were capable of the hike but I'm a mom so I had to fret... I looked at Danny and Tonya with 2 year old Caleb... and off we went. Over, under, through, around and into - we descended the trail to the beach below where we discovered the stump of a large tree which may have very well been present at the original family visit to Kalaloch. Years of salt surf and sun smoothed and bleached the surface. The fresh mountain stream water we followed down the hill passed along the side of the tree stump and further ran out into the vast ocean. My husband chose this spot to scatter his parent's cremains. We gathered together, shared memories and prayer while watching the last physical remains of Hap & Billie float out into the Pacific Ocean. We knew from that point on our visits would always include Mom and Dad one way or another.

Everyone took personal time to reflect. Our beach explorations wrapped up and we contemplated our return hike. Lo and behold some 30 feet from the spot where we emerged from the brush, was a wide groomed trail with perfect access to the beach... apparently we'd missed it at the top! Oh well! What family adventure is perfect - and none of us would trade our memories of the infamous hike down the 'original' path.

As fate would have it our family moved to our present location within a ten hour drive of Kalaloch. We reunited with our sister-in-law and her growing family. We began slow with our first return to Kalaloch. We laughed over our rain soaked site and the tarps we had covering our 'ceiling' to keep the rain out... until a gust of wind lifted everything and our efforts were all for not.

On one visit we saw a bald eagle flying over head while we combed the beach. We recalled Uncle Ric's love for the creature and found peace thinking of the bald eagle as a sign Ric was looking out over us. Another day we were visited by not one but three bald eagles each time we spent the day on one of the different beaches. Our thoughts went not only to Uncle Ric but to Nan and Papo too.

This past year we lost my stepson Rex. Our trip to Kalaloch this summer was just a day trip because the family was getting together to attend our grandson Adam's wedding to his bride Alexis. We shared the day on the beach with Jerry & Renee and their family from Texas.

It was a bittersweet visit knowing Rex would no longer be with us at Kalaloch. The day was cloudy. The air was cool. We built a fire on the beach to make lunch. As we sat in the sand, bundled in our blankets seeking the warmth of the fire, we heard a familiar screech above. Much to our amazement we saw not one, not three but four bald eagles circling above, finally resting in the trees just overhead. Eyes dampened and hearts soared. We were excited to see those majestic birds - perhaps the spirit of family members we were missing. We truly believe those four bald eagles were there to look out over us - and let us know we weren't alone.

Every year we've return to Kalaloch with our growing group. A new husband, a new wife, new babies, boyfriends, girlfriends. We do our best to get together. It's not always possible to stay the week. This year we are going to try a cabin in the Fall months when all of our immediate family is available. Whatever the reason, there is something magical drawing us back to Kalaloch like moths to a flame...

It's like a hug for the heart!