Highs in the Low 100’s

I spent a month of the summer after graduating high school in the panhandle of Texas volunteering for the Student Conservation Corps. We worked trail maintenance in an area of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park where flash floods breathed brief life into wildflowers and routinely obliterated the trail yielding frequent search and rescue missions. Scott Bates led our project, personally selecting us, six diverse teens from around the country. Daisy from Colorado, Spike from North Carolina, and I was Fern from Washington. Then there were the three boys whose trail names I forget: Vermont, inner city Chicago and New Jersey. Scott confessed he chose me for my Wilderness First Aid Mountaineers training; he wanted a medic on board in case something happened to him. Luckily there were no accidents, and I was glad for the opportunity to be on the crew. I parlayed that experience into future jobs with the National Forest Service and the National Park Service for many subsequent seasons.

Our crew stayed in the backcountry for 21 days straight, working a section of trail from near our camp to further up in the hills. Our job was to delineate the trail, proofing it against heavy rainfall erosion. We built up rocky tread and cairns, as well as countless water-bars and footbridges over dry creek beds. We worked out in the desert in full work clothes, leather work boots, leather gloves and helmets, with not a speck of shade around. To get an early start on the day, Scott would wake us early with flute playing and after breakfast we would march out the trail to where we had left off the afternoon prior. In the evening we would lie out on the rocks under a half-dome of stars so bright and so dense the Milky Way was nearly opaque. We would relax and watch for shooting stars that fell as thick as snowflakes. It felt like if we stuck our tongues out we might just catch one.

The National Park Service packer, who’s name I recall being Jack, visited us weekly to resupply our camp with water; he was on horseback accompanied by pack-mules. We used the water sparingly. I was the only one who bathed daily (via sponge bath), although none of us washed our hair ever. Midmorning every day we would interrupt our trailwork to gather around the radio at a designated time. To keep the lines of communication open Scott would radio dispatch. During this short exchange between Scott and dispatch we would receive the weather report. Every day it was the same: sunny, with highs in the low 100s. We found this hilarious standing there in our workgear drinking hot water from our canteens in the relentless heat: highs in the low 100s. The joke was on us! I cherish those memories, but I don’t mind trading desert for lake.

Her grumpy expression belies her enjoyment
Baba and Lake battling the heat

Today was another perfect day at Newman Lake with highs in the low 100’s. I’m so grateful to my parents for maintaining this lake cabin oasis—a slice of family history and my happy place. We hovered near the water all day as the thermometer rose, playing in the water and taking Lady Kitty in for frequent swims and dunks. We made banana ice cream (frozen bananas blended with a bit of soy milk). Nana, Lake and I went for a sunset moonlight canoe paddle after Lady Kitty went to bed. Then Lake and I finished the evening with a courageous (due to the proximity of coyotes per Lake) night swim.

Who’s having more fun? Nana or Lady Kitty?

Dear Reader, I hope you’re finding ways to beat the heat as well. Please let me know. I love hearing from you!

Marking Time

I took this photo in 2016. Two-months-old Lake and I were visiting NanaBaba. The place looks the same at first glance, belying impactful cabin restoration And a growing family. So much and so little has changed. Now Lake is 4 years and two months old, and instead of lying on the sofa wiggling and burbling, he’s jumping on the sofa and building sandcastles in the moonlight. Lady Kitty wasn’t even a glimmer in her mama’s eye four years ago. Now she’s smiling and kicking in the water. The cabin has undergone significant improvements thanks to the sweat equity of NanaBaba, notably: drilling a 400’ well; building a guest apartment; and retrofitting a foundation.

Here’s a catalogue of improvements for posterity’s record:

2006-2010 new roof; back stairs; front porch

2012 – attic insulation; foundation rehabilitation begins (109 x 60 pound bags of Sackrete (sand, gravel, cement); Reunion

2013- foundation rehab continues; upper and lower birth rebuilt (Rathdrum channel cedar siding); basement rewired

2014- new wood stove replaces the old Franklin; more foundation; rewiring; interior walls of lower berth (pinewood)

2015- septic system: drain field plus two 1000 gallon plastic holding tanks; framed kitchen, 3/4 bath, laundry alcove; Sheetrocked, muddied tapes and plastered; rewiring continues; rough-plumbed basement… = modern NEW KITCHEN with marble countertops, gorgeous INDOOR BATHROOM with SHOWER, flush toilets, and washing machine!

2016- foundation work continues under bedroom stack; interior siding and trim work; electric heater installed.

2017- installed pressurized water tank; wired three outdoor lights; laundry room shelving added; stained exterior; Reunion; basement sub panel added; 400’ well drilled to aquifer; parking lot gets electric power. = POTABLE WELL WATER PLUMBED INDOORS

2018- parking lot 3-way lights wired; basement bathroom framed, toilet installed, poured concrete floor.

2019- basement kitchenette built to completion; leveling tool shed; recoating porch deck, painting porch railing and basement concrete floor = LAKESIDE APARTMENT SUITE

2020- enjoy!

Whew! I’m worn out cataloging all the hard work of Lynn and Duane Murphy. Nearly a decade of improvements and now we are truly here with the fifth generation, living comfortably thanks to the myriad modernizations. Heartfelt gratitude! Another perfect day… I’m glad I spent it with you!

Where the Wilder Things Are

Lake put on his flowered headdress and he was a coyote. He jumped his wilder jumps and gnashed his wilder teeth. He simultaneously protected and terrorized mama and daddy’s blanket covered pile of “cats”. Luckily Missy was represented by a stuffy because “Missy” quickly became this coyote’s breakfast. If Lake were Max, he might have been sent to bed without any supper, except Lake was not Max. Lake was Lake the coyote and he caught and ate his own breakfast. He carried her around in his jaws, tail and paws dangling out of an oatmeal canister!

Such is lake life in the morning.

In the evening things are a tad less wild but no less hilarious.

At dinner Lake entertains us all with his whimsey. He says, “This soymilk makes my teeth damp! …This corn, when I bite into it, makes my teeth hurt. I need to sharpen my teeth again! …That bee is trying to make honey out of me!”

A perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you.

Camping at Mt. Rainier

It’s our tradition to go camping at Mt. Rainier for a modest long weekend at some point during the Summer. It’s also tradition to take our au pair along for the ride. We all cram into our trusty “Egg”, a ’98 Honda Civic 3-door, stuffed tightly with kids, food, and camping gear and go tour our local iconic National Park. This year we were waiting anxiously for the park to open for travellers before Vivien’s mid-July move to her extension family in Hawaii. Seizing an opportune weekend post Fourth of July, we nabbed a reservation at Silver Springs Campground and we were set to roll. We have had good luck making the Silver Springs Campground our home away from home while exploring the mountain. It’s nestled just outside the northeastern border of the Park, near Crystal Mountain Ski Resort, in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

With Vivien in tow, we made a grand tour from Seattle to Paradise to Silver Springs. Since the Stevens Canyong Road was still closed due to snow damage, it was a long day driving all the way around the Park through Packwood, but we absolutely didn’t want to miss showing her our beloved Paradise. We arrived at our campsite as dusk was descending into the forest. Michael and Vivien worked together to efficiently erect the tents, aided by headlamp at the tail end. Meanwhile I got the kids in their pajamas and ready for their sleeping bags. It was Lady Kitty’s first night spent in a tent. She didn’t miss a beat, sleeping soundly all night in her Moses basket and Baby Gap Bear Suit, just like at home.

One of our Thermarest sleeping pad was inadvertently left behind. We were short a pad and the ground was crushed gravel, not the softest combination. Michael graciously volunteered to forgo a sleeping pad, since he took responsibility for having miscounted as he was packing the car. I made a quick calculation and prudently elected Lake to give up his sleeping pad instead. I surreptitiously layered Lady Kitty’s cotton diapers under Lake’s sleeping bag, and Lake wasn’t the wiser. I didn’t think it was fair to Michael to be punished for having been the one to do the packing. Also, Michael surely would have felt every inch of the hard ground if he had been the one to sleep without an air mattress, whereas Lake didn’t even blink–he was having the time of his life!

We made a day excursion up to Sunrise, where we enjoyed the incredible panoramic views and played in snow. This day we learned of the passing of Michael’s uncle David Alan Ayres, age 66, fairly suddenly to pancreatic cancer. We spent much of the day reminiscing about the hiking and camping trips Michael had experienced with his father, three uncles (including Dave), and cousins growing up. He shared fond memories with us as we gazed out over the mountains and forested valleys reflecting on a life well lived and the power of family.

Overall, it was a mighty sucessful camping trip. Michael and I were pleased (and we think Vivien, Lake and Lady Kitty were too). We were spared rain or other inclimate weather, and the mountain cleared for one crucial photographic moment. On our last day we stopped to hike one short stretch on the Wonderland Trail through montane forests and gushing waterfalls before heading back to the city. We drove home happy and fulfilled, most of our food eaten, and a little more leg room and worldly experience gained. A perfect Mt. Rainier Motor Tour 2020–I’m glad I spent it with you!

Newman Lake Paradise

“Your kids are the shining light of my golden years,” my Dad said to me glibly this evening. I got the feeling he was kind of mocking the cliché, and at the same time, I knew he was being absolutely perfectly 100% honest. Lady Kitty is five months old. She just cut her first tooth (bottom right), but she has this huge gummy smile still and a newfound hearty belly laugh that comes out when Lake is horsing around with her. NanaBaba are working on both kids word nutrition. Lake is learning some new words: enthusiastic, for example. “Are you enthusiastic for me?” Lake asked Nana. “Yes”, was her resounding reply. “I can’t believe we get to stay here for nineteen days,” said Lake, bursting with good fortune. I agree; by my calculation it’s more like 70 days (Lake’s still working on his maths), but either way it’s paradise! These days with my kids and my parents at Newman Lake are truly golden, strung together day after precious day, like a string of pearls. I’m reliving my childhood summers spent here at the Point Petite cabin with my grandparents. “It’s different here,” Lake said to me as I gave him the extra final tuck-in after an hour and a half of devoted NanaBaba bedtime stories, songs and tuck-ins. Yes, Lake. It’s different. It’s paradise.

The Happy Film Company capturing the Newman Lake Family Paradise feeling at a different location.


Two nights ago Lake woke me up crying at 1am after having neatly vomited onto the edge of his bed. He’s such a well-mannered thoughtful kid, he even demonstrated how he leaned over so he wouldn’t get his pajamas dirty. Note to self— always turn the light on when woken in the night by a crying child in order to follow the cardinal rule for emergencies: survey the scene for safety! Half-asleep and alarmed by my shrieking son, I set my hand down right into the pile of vomitus, wet and chunky like Mr. Cat’s hairball. I ended up inadvertently smearing the vomitus further onto the carpet. The timing for our new flooring installation couldn’t be better: already scheduled for Monday. I was awake comforting Lake until 3am, wondering what it was he had eaten, as he had explosive diarrhea on the toilet. Was it something that spoiled on our recent camping adventure? Was it our beautiful home grown strawberries? I had let Lake eat the whole crop.

Well, it wasn’t the strawberries 🍓, because in the wee hours of this morning night I was struck with the food poisoning. I hadn’t eaten any strawberries 🍓. It must be something still in our fridge 😳…


Are we living in a post-truth society? A society filled with alternative facts, fake news, and conveniently absent denominators? It seems we’re more thirsty for truth now than ever before: reaching for our smart phones at every turn; then quenching our still-parched-throats with reality TV and memoir. Memoir, the art form of sifting through the mud of your life, looking for gold flakes, buried treasure, and the ultimate prize: veracity.

“My mama forgot to feed the cats!” Lake said, vetting his audience for their response to his mama’s cat-sitting shame. The shame of uncomfortable truths.

“The most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop.” ~Mark Twain

What happened in the intervening period from innocence to now? Are we so empty inside that we’re starved for approval? Are we so scared of rejection that we feel the need to lie? Perhaps there is an abundance of care and forgiveness available, after all. Perhaps we can be loved for our tired, poopy, messy selves. Perhaps people understand when we forget to feed the cats, even expect that we will sometimes forget to feed the cats. And then they love us anyway, in spite of this, because of this. They love us for our particular brand of forgetfulness, and the way in which we forgot. Maybe we can take children’s lead and simply blurt it out, like ripping off a Band-aid, exposing the truth to the open air so that we can heal.

Looking into a Lady Kitty’s trusting face–there is only truth. Lady Kitty is open, honest, and straightforward. She expresses her needs, her pleasures and her pains in no game of deceit, no conniving for power. And yet, her every wish is answered. She is loved unconditionally.

Lady Kitty (four months)

Honesty, how refreshingly simple. As fresh as a four year old, or a four-month-old-baby with a daisy.


Nana came to town and we’re so thrilled, especially Lake! They’re quite a pair. Nana commemorated our Greenlake walk this evening with a bunch of tree themed jokes. Nana is something else…endlessly creative! She made up these jokes on the spot for the occasion.

Which tree can you ride on? Horse chestnut

Which tree can you sit in? Cedar (seater)

Which tree is always sad? Weeping willow

Which tree has allergies? Cashew tree (a-choo!)

Which tree is not as healthy? Sycamore

And these jokes brought to mind in a flash the answer to a riddle crafted by Justin West that I’d been stumped on since the 30th of May:

What’s a contemplative tree? Ponderosa pine

And I cannot resist including Eve Bratman’s original tree themed joke:

What’s a mathematical tree? Trigonometry