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August 23, 2006

The girls and I had an adventurous weekend. We drove 3.5 hours away to Brooks Memorial Environmental Learning Center in Washington. Brooks Memorial is a state park and the ELC is a retreat that groups can rent. It is a lodge with kitchen, ball field, basketball court, volleyball court, ping pong table, fire place, horseshoe pit, fire pit and stream access. It also has seven cabins and bathroom/shower facilities. We met up with six other families from our homeschool group and spent Saturday and Sunday night there. The kitchen was an industrial kitchen complete with a commercial grill, two pizza style ovens and a walk-in fridge! We were all surprised at the level of accomodations because we had only rudimentary information provided by the park service and the website only had one photo.

Isabel spent her days playing with a group of boys around her age and Maddy floated from group to group. We have a nice sized group of twelve and olders and a nice group of 4-5 year olds, but only one other boy that is Maddy’s age, so she felt some what left out. Luckily some of the parents gave her some special attention, guitar instructions and chatting and such and she didn’t feel as left out as she could have without that one-on-one.

We were scheduled to go the the Goldendale Observatory on Sunday night. The observatory has one of the largest amateur-built telescopes available to the public, in the U.S. Unfortunately for us, there are many fires burning in Oregon and Washington and the sky was very smokey and cloudy and we weren’t able to view anything, we did get to see the actual telescope and it was pretty impressive. The view from the hill on which the observatory sits was also spectacular.

The evening wasn’t ruined, however; we headed back to camp and started a fire in our little fire pit that somebody brought (we weren’t allowed to burn in the big fire pit because of fire restrictions). We had ice cream cones and then some of the kids made s’mores while the adults imbibed with some stronger treats and pulled out the guitars and jammed.

On our return trip we stopped at a Stonehenge replica which is a WWI war memorial. It was funded a few years after the end of WWI by a Quaker pacifist. He had learned, as was popular theory at that time, that Stonehenge was probably used for as a sacred site for human sacrifice. He decided to build a memorial to thirteen local young men who had died in WWI because he believed that we hadn’t learned anything in the centuries since Stonehenge was built and we were still sacrificing our young. Though we now believe that Stonehenge was built for astronomical purposes, the sentiment behind the memorial was really touching to me. The man’s tomb in 50 yards away from the memorial.

Lawrence wasn’t able to join us for our get-away because he has been crazy busy. We missed him and I know that he would have enjoyed himself and he could have used a little R&R. Hopefully he can come next time and most everyone agreed that we should have a next time up there. There was even talk of renting the place for Thanksgiving or Christmas. The kitchen would make an awesome festive dinner possible. It snows a lot up there, so a white Christmas would be almost a given and the lodge sits on a slight hill making it perfect for sledding. Spring would also be beautiful because of the abundance of wildflowers. Now, we just need to choose the season for our next excursion.

Incidentally, we decided that this must typically be used for youth camps due to the layout of the grounds. There are four cabins on the north side of the lodge with a women’s bathroom facility. There are three cabins on the south side of the lodge with a men’s bathroom facility. Also, all the cabins have single beds, enough to sleep ten to a cabin. Perfect for a summer camp, or even good for families if you push some of the singles together to create larger beds!

The exterior of our cabin.

The interior of our cabin.

The younger kids decided to disrobe and have a little fun in the sprinklers, sand and mud. Mudpies and mud body painting ensued.

The view of the town of Goldendale from the observatory. I was much more impressive in person. I forgot to get a pic of the actual observatory.

A picture of Isabel hanging with her boys in the volleyball court.

The view from the back deck of the lodge.

Stonehenge replica

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