Wednesday, August 7, 2019

A Pacific Northwest Family Reunion Story, Or, 7 Days of a Lot of Evanses

If you're in the Evans family and you're going on vacation for two weeks, one thing you need to do is return 100,000 books to the public library so they don't all go overdue while you're gone.

You think I'm exaggerating. Fools.

These bags went all the way around the carseat on the far end so this picture doesn't even show them all. 

The librarians know us and are used to us and our mondo stacks of books, but even this felt excessive. I was pretty embarrassed when we bottomed out the van and had to rent a U-Haul.

With the library books taken care of, it was off to the airport. We fly every couple of years and I feel like we're starting to arrive at a system that works for us. We don't check any luggage; everyone gets one carry-on and that's it.


We get a lot of looks with our 6 kids filing through the airport like a row of ducklings with roller-bags, but I take it as a compliment. Especially since a 3-year-old with a miniature Spiderman carry-on in tow is stinking adorable.

Watching the planes during a layover in Salt Lake City.

After two different planes and 7 hours of airtime, we didn't arrive in Portland until 2:30 AM in our home time zone, but the kids were troopers.

None of them really complained, aside from the end when the 3-year-old kept moaning he was "itchy" so he "couldn't walk."

I don't even know what that means.

Phillip rented a vehicle from a company called Turo, which is sort of like Airbnb for car rentals, but when I asked who we were renting from he just said (and this is a direct quote,) "I don't know, I just found some guy on the Internet."

So as we waited on the curb outside the airport in Portland at 11:30 at night for "some guy" to pick us up and take us to our rental, I was about 60% sure we were all going to be murdered.

But as luck would have it, he was actually a really nice guy who didn't appear to want to murder any of us, and I loved the Toyota Sienna.

It was a 8-seater minivan, unlike our 7-seater at home, meaning that we could all fit in a single car whenever we went anywhere during this trip!

We stayed at a weird Airbnb on the Oregon coast that appeared to once have been the community room of a condo building, but was converted into a sort-of apartment.

When you're looking for a place that sleeps 8 people, it's slim pickings.

The next morning, we met up with Phillip's family at Sweet Creek Falls. Well, almost all of them. Phillip has 6 siblings, and we were missing two brothers and three of their kids, but everyone else was there.

Adults: 11  Kids: 17 (not all pictured)


The hike along Sweet Creek was beautiful and introduced me to two facts:
  1. I thought I knew what green scenery was since we come from New England, but I know nothing. In the Pacific Northwest, there are plants popping out of every conceivable locations, moss on everything, trees growing on top of other trees... temperate rain forests are pretty insane.
  2. I'd be taking my kids to pee in the woods more on this trip than I have in my entire life. By the end of the week, my 5-year-old was irrigating the local flora so often he'd started pointing out good places to pee as we were hiking  not because he had to go, but just because "it would be a good spot for when I do."

Everyone climbed down to explore the falls but with my shaky sense of balance, walking downhill on wet, slippery rocks is the stuff of nightmares.

So I volunteered to stay up on the trail, watching everyone and having anxiety attacks over the kids potentially busting their heads open on a rock.

Cousins bonding over catching newts in a pool by the falls.


The next day we met up with all our extended family at a beach with a giant sand dune. 

Again, something that I hadn't realized about Oregon was that it even had sand dunes. 

But there were a lot. There were a bunch behind the Fred Meyer where we bought our groceries, even. Who knew?

Phillip and the 7-year-old heading up to the top.

We tried sandboarding, which is like snowboarding except you have to wax the bottom of your board between runs and there's no ski lift to take you back to the top afterward.

The only photo of my sandboarding adventure that didn't involve my butt making undignified contact with the ground.

With the possible exception of my sister-in-law who lost her smart watch in the lake, I think we all had a good time.

Especially the 5-year-old.

My mother-in-law bought a bucket full of plastic toys at Costco and he played with the little yellow boat for hours. He must have smuggled it out in his shorts afterward, because somehow it came home with us and even now it's the toy he and his younger brother fight over the most.

My 15- and 13-year-olds were complete lobsters after today, one having forgotten to put sunscreen on her shoulders and the other apparently not having used enough.

The sunscreen on Phillip's feet got rubbed off by the straps on the sandboard so they were fried, and I must not have rubbed mine clear up to my hairline so I had a funny red line at the top of my forhead.

My 3- and 5-year-old rubbed off random patches of sunscreen and had random pink dots on their faces, and my 7-year-old ran the sunscreen stick down the bridge of her nose but didn't rub it in or apply anywhere else on her face so that made for a humorous-looking sunburn for the next few days.

So... apparently the Evans family doesn't know how to beach.

Fun fact: Phillip has a sister named Jenny, so there are two Jenny Evanses in the family, making it all the more imperative to meticulously label cups at family cookouts.


When I first met Phillip, he and I were in high school and Jenny was 10 so for many years we were "Big Jenny" and "Little Jenny." But now that we're both adults, we're not sure what to do.

One brother-in-law still calls me by my maiden name, but Phillip's mom often calls me "Phillip's Jenny." I guess that works.

We went to the Hobbit Trail the next day. The fun name is because it's so densely packed with vegetation it's like a series of hobbit holes leading you around.

Entering hobbit hole number one.

After winding around Middle Earth for a while, the Hobbit Trail abruptly opened up on to this beautiful beach on the Pacific, where the cousins immediately scattered in search of interesting sea life and/or shells and driftwood.


My mother-in-law did a headcount and said "I can't find 5 of the kids!" to which I said she needed to be more positive and say: "I CAN find 12 of the kids!" (Success, after all, is mostly a matter of perspective.)

Eventually, the 15-year-old eventually reappeared with a handful of these nightmarish burrowing creatures, which give me both the willies and the heebie-jeebies:


The crew then headed to a second beach (LOTS of beaches this trip) to take a big group picture with these cute shirts my sister-in-law made for all the kids:


There were lots of interesting caves and also a river running into the ocean (lots of fun for the little kids to play in, without the riptides and sneaker waves to worry about.)



Our 11-year-old left his backpack at the beach, but by the time we went back to look for it I guess it had gone out with the tide and is now a part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 

I was pretty irritated but as my sister-in-law said, it's not vacation unless you lose something.

We went through this crazy tunnel chiseled out of the hillside several times on this trip, and every time someone yelled "It's the mines of Moria!" prompting Phillip to yell, "You shall not pass!"


That night, Phillip's parents got pizza for everyone and went to a public park to for dinner. One family had their dog with them and were concerned to see the "no pets allowed" sign on the right:


As long as we had the dog, I figured we should just break the rules thoroughly and do some golfing but none of us had any clubs in the trunk.

Oh, well.

In the morning we visited Cape Perpetua and hiked to a 600-year-old tree. It was so freaking enormous it didn't even look like a tree, and it was kind of hard to even get a picture of it.

The funny thing was, we'd gotten so used to seeing massive trees like the one in the picture below that once we actually got to the 600-year-old tree we were all like, *shrug* "Hm. Yeah, that's big. What's for lunch?"


After lunch and several pit stops for the 5-year-old (by now, we'd come to refer to him peeing on the side of a trail as "irrigating the local flora") we walked down to the rocky beach to see Thor's Well. Thor's Well is an enormous hole that fills up with water and it explodes over the top when there's an exceptionally big wave.

Number of kids who fell in: 0. This was a big accomplishment.

Then we just spent the next hour walking around on the rocks, exploring. Every tidepool I visit for the rest of my life will now be a dinky disappointment. This stretched on for-ev-er.

See those teeny people in the distance? This place was massive.

The place was packed with sea urchins and anemones, too. One rock was lined with about 50 starfish, including one that was eating a crab and gave my daughter a moral crisis: did she free the crab and starve the starfish, or let the starfish finish its meal and allow the crab to die?

The animal kingdom is a brutal place.


After a while my brain was actually getting tired from mapping a course over the rocky surface, so we rested for a short while on the beach and then picked up some raved-about clam chowder from a local place on our way home.

I wasn't impressed. Mine is better and I'm not even that great of a cook.

These 'tsunami hazard zone' signs were plastered all over the place, and it wasn't until about this point in the trip that we figured out why the 3-year-old kept periodically pointing out the window and asking, "Why are there feet?"

He was looking at the white space around the waves and thinking it looked like toes, you guys.

Caution: feet ahead.

That night we gathered at Phillip's parents' rented beach house for a family devotional. We talked about the gift of the Holy Spirit and as an object lesson, Phillip's dad handed out miniature sea lion figurines to the kids. To make the point that we should appreciate the gift of the Holy Ghost helping us know what to do in life, he asked, "What if I gave you this gift and you said, 'I don't need this'" and pantomimed chucking it into the bushes.

Right at that moment, my 3-year-old accidentally knocked his sea lion off the porch and I could not stop laughing.

After church the next morning, we drove up the coast to visit with a few extended family members in Vancouver. On the way, we stopped at a place called The Devil's Punchbowl, which was basically a bigger version of Thor's Well.

At low tide you can actually access it from a little-known beach and walk around inside, and we tried but the tide was still too high. So my kids had to entertain themselves by just throwing rocks in the ocean.


Oh, who am I kidding, the only thing they wanted to do on this whole trip was throw rocks in the ocean so they were thrilled.

Seriously, when it was time to leave a beach they little boys would start desperately throwing in every rock they could find, frantic to get it all done before we dragged them away.

Boys and rocks, man. Boys and rocks.

We spent the next day in Portland bopping around with Phillip's parents and a few of his sisters.

His dad loves bookstores so he took us to Powell's, which is hands-down the most awesome and enormous used bookstore I've ever been in, and treated each of the kids to a book of their choice.

My 7-year-old chose Evelyn the Mermicorn Fairy, which was especially funny because just before we left she was telling me, "There are Rainbow Magic fairies for everything. Give me a category and I'll tell you what the fairy's name is for that thing."

Evidently she wasn't kidding.

I didn't buy anything, but enjoyed browsing the collections and noted that clickbait-y titles seem to be in now. Ones that immediately come to memory are I Can't Date Jesus and Stay Sexy and Don't Get Murdered.

We went to a Vietnamese restaurant down the street for pho and out of everyone there, the 3- and 5-year-old enjoyed it the most. It was like a sensory playdate and a meal.

The 3-year-old kept saying he was "a baker" and took great pleasure in adding in the vegetables, squeezing in lime, then mixing it around with his chopsticks before attempting to eat with them. He would've happily stayed for another hour if we'd let him.

All the fun of the creative play area of a children's museum for only the cost of a bowl of pho.

Last stop in Portland was the rose garden where Phillip proposed in 2002. (Neither of us are from Oregon; it's a long story.)

By that time the 3-year-old hadn't had a nap in a week and was kind of done with the whole thing, and driving home in rush hour traffic afterward horrendous, but it was still fun walking through the roses telling the kids stories about when we were younger.

When we weren't telling stories, we were trying to give them subtle hints to stop staring at the crazy guy singing that they were not picking up on.


We followed Phillip's sister and her family home just over the Washington state line, and after taking a walk on the riverfront in downtown Vancouver we said goodbye to everyone and kept driving up the Washington coast to continue our vacation for another week.

To be continued...

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2 comments:

Ann-Marie Ulczynski said...

I love your recaps. Way to travel with that many people and not lose any!

AnneMarie said...

The library books! We just did a similar thing-we didn't have quite that many, but before heading out for a 9-day trip a few weeks ago, we took a bunch back and then I also renewed everything that I didn't take back at least once, just to ensure that nothing would be late. I'm glad that you guys had a good trip! This is so fun to read about. My parents are from Oregon, and I haven't been there in at least 12 years. So, we'd love to go back sometime in the near-ish future to visit my extended family. Sweet Creek Falls would be completely out of our way and we probably couldn't realistically make it work, but that looks AMAZING!