Leafy Aster Travelers
September 15, 2011 § 1 Comment
Just like the leafy aster that blooms as summer ends, mature travelers blossom when the kids go back to school. These determined travelers hit the road in whatever conveyance is at hand, assured of more space in campgrounds when families have gone back to their fall routines. On a recent trip around Washington’s Olympic National Park we joined these hardy campers in their exploration.
At the Heart O’ the Hills national forest campground on the way up to Hurricane Ridge we camped next to an elderly couple in a small camping van. A screened attachment gave them extra space in an outdoor room. The man was handicapped and used canes to move a few feet. His wife, who seemed to have left her upper plate home when she went on vacation, cheerfully looked after their aged dog that was moving as slowly as the man, and hauled her dishes to the single cold water pump to be washed before hauling out her e-reader. She was overheard saying, ” … I’m almost finished with this book and then you can have it.” The neighbors on the other side, about our age, slept in the back of their truck, and looked like experienced campers. The man stripped to the waist and washed up standing by his picnic table in the slanted sunlight struggling through the old growth forest.
Our next stop at the national forest service campground at Sol Duc Hotsprings introduced us to a former park ranger who was revisiting where he worked for years. He had met his wife at the campground, loved the rain forest and trails and was full of recommendations for even more remote places to camp. He now used a cane for walking stability and traveled in comfort with a gleaming trailer. Then there were the Russians, a large extended family group who had erected four tents, cheerfully spread their food and supplies out, and sat around a smoky fire when they weren’t in the mineral pools at the resort next door. Grandmothers and grandfathers, mothers and fathers, children and babies, they enjoyed each others’ company and soaked cheerfully for hours chattering away. We soaked to our necks among an eclectic mixture of young and old, Russians and Ukrainians, Canadians and Japanese. At times it felt like an eastern European destination resort on the Black Sea.
At Kalaloch on the Pacific we arrived on the first week it was possible to get a spot without a reservation as after September 5th it’s first come, first served. Young families and couples tented and huddled around fires to ward off the damp ocean fog. Older ones arrived in rigs that barely fit the cramped sites. When the sun came out elderly and young alike tramped the beaches. At Ruby Beach just north of the campground groups of traveling seniors helped each other across a driftwood bridge spanning a river. One woman said to me as I extended a hand, “My balance isn’t what it used to be.” I reached out my hand to Dave and said, “Mine either.” But, we were there, experiencing, walking, exploring, enjoying. Some couples brought hot drinks in thermoses and enjoyed a morning “mug up” before the rising tide forced their return across the driftwood bridge.
Sunsets in the mist and the midst were enjoyed by groups of two or three. A solo traveler, a woman about my age, said she had gotten out to the beach at 4 a.m. to see an incredible harvest moon set. We joined mature travelers on the trails, in the campgrounds, on the road. Leafy aster travelers, a sure sign of fall. The summers of our days are over, but the fall and approaching winter can be days of discovery, beauty and fulfillment. “Our times are in His hands.”
ⓒ Inger Logelin 2011