Ben and I are not exactly “romantic”. We’ve never celebrated Valentine’s Day and rarely our anniversary. I’m guilty of often not remembering the year we got married (we got the house first, wedding after, it’s all confusing to me.)
The younger me, you know, when I skipped school with my best friend to watch Tom Cruise movies, and hoped someone would come to my window and play Peter Gabriel, would be shocked to hear this. But it turns out Ben didn’t grow up on chick flicks (can you imagine?!) and that I like Ben’s version of romantic better. Sometimes it’s spontaneous and surprising, or it’s elaborate and thoughtful. He set the bar high with his first ever Christmas present to me: a scavenger hunt around Portland, with hand-drawn clues and puzzles. And he gives me a foot massage every night. Way more up my alley.
So, we do do things for each other, but usually not on milestones or specific dates, because we’re both procrastinators and overachievers. Ben and I often can’t believe we found each other. We are not whom each of us imagined we’d be with — Ben is, ahem, white and I grew up on pop culture — yet, we are more similar than folks may know.
When Ben’s parents offered to watch the kids over Labor Day weekend so we could celebrate our 9th anniversary, we pounced on the opportunity to have a weekend away from kids. Poor Milo — he could sense our excitement whenever we’d talk about it. “Why do you want to leave your kids? Why don’t you want the whole family to be together?”
It took awhile to decide what to do. We had been traveling so much this summer (I know, we have no right to complain about a sabbatical) and had been looking forward to a staycation in Portland. But we both wanted something outdoorsy.
Our original plan was go climbing with TGS (Team Group Send) in Squamish, B.C. We even pretended to get in shape (not really, unless you count random pull ups on play structures). But the week of, we realized we wouldn’t actually get much time to climb, after factoring in all the driving; plus, the forecast was rain. We decided to go down south where it was dry.
After some internet research, we stumbled onto Newberry Calderra Volcanic National Park, just south of Bend. Supposedly, it was in the running to be Oregon’s National Park, but Crater Lake won. There were lots of trails to run on and things to see (a volcano, rocks, and lava caves!). The night before we left, we got the idea to hike up South Sister, the 3rd tallest peak in Oregon. It does not require any technical climbing equipment and was not too far away. We got really excited about this and kept our fingers crossed for good weather.
The original plan was to camp one night and stay two nights in a B&B nearby, but Ben’s parents wisely advised to just enjoy ourselves, and not deal with packing all the camping gear for one night. It was a smart choice. The temperatures were near freezing at night and instead, we got gourmet breakfast every morning.
The whole weekend was amazing. Traveling without kids is amazing. Though we missed them, noting parts they’d enjoy, we also noticed how easy everything was. I couldn’t get over the fact that we didn’t have to stick to a schedule. We stopped at the town Sisters on the drive down and shopped for several HOURS (we did find ourselves in several toy stores). We ate whenever we wanted, at the bar or waited for a table. We liked this Northern Thai restaurant, Wild Rose, so much we ate there twice. And we covered so much ground. We packed in the activities, with barely time to go back to the B&B midday, and were basically living and changing out of the trunk of our car. We tried to go to the Lava Caves one afternoon but they were at capacity, so we just did it Monday morning on our way back.
South Sister was definitely the romantic highlight of the weekend. Though I didn’t make it simple for us. Ever since I’ve become a parent, I have sort of an irrational fear to do things that put myself at risk, even though I’m fully aware that driving a car is the most risky. (Ben is currently on a backpacking trip with his dad which might be why I’m writing this post.) Anyway, I’m not my younger self, like when I ran the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim with no training on just water and gummy bears (What were we thinking? We were *those* people…)
Here is where Ben knows me full well. He knows not to pressure me, and quietly listens and nods in agreement, while I flip-flop back and forth — on whether we should do it, on what to bring and wear. He’d prefer to pack the bare minimum, but will gladly agree to carry way too much water and food. He would prefer to hike it slowly and take in the view, but keeps up with me as I charge up to make sure we can get to the top in time.
My jitters were gone as soon as we arrived and I realized that everyone else in town had the same idea. We were the last car in the parking lot (and there were cars on the road too) and passed hundreds of people on our way up. It was a little too crowded for our taste, but the views made up for it. It was a pretty steep climb (~5000 feet over 6 miles) and the end is deceiving with so many false summits. We made it up and down in decent time (5h30). Afterwards, we went straight to the McMenamin’s soaking pool. We dipped our whole body in the warm salt water, looked at each other lovingly, and thought, “So easy.”