The quiet roar of the Cle-Elum River and the trilling of birds welcomes me every summer when we return to my grandparents’ mountain cabin in Salmon-la-Sac, Washington. A mixed feeling of excitement and amazement fills me with delight as I inhale deeply, reveling in the mingled scent of dust and wood, warmed by the sun. “I’m really here again!” I whisper to myself, as I wander up the trail to the cabin. Even though my family and I often go to Salmon-la-Sac a few times every year, each visit still excites me. There, we can relax, explore, build, laugh, and create cherished memories.
The first thing we usually do is visit our old haunts. All of us have a favorite spot. The younger girls, Libby and Susannah, love to play by Heart Pond, catching frogs, insects, and other little creatures. Heart Pond, part of an old streambed in the forest, is surrounded by large, moss-covered rocks, trees, and dried-out logs. During the latter part of summer, the pond dries up, seemingly devoid of life, but in the early summer, it is a playground for water-skippers, frogs (both small and enormous!), small minnows, and of course, mosquitoes. The mosquitoes can be unbearable during the day and worse at night. All the same, Susannah and Libby would rather brave all those mosquitoes than stay away. The boys, however, are more interested in building forts. Even though building is not our expertise, my cousin Rosie and I have helped in the past, building Fortress Rock and Fort Ticonderoga. Maintaining these forts occupies much time, but the boys always manage to turn things into an adventure or imaginary battle. Rosie and I have our own favorite spot that we simply call, ‘our special place’. Located right next to the river, it is like a little cove, sheltered on one side by a high, rocky outcropping, and on the others by large trees. A large tree-root provides a somewhat comfortable seat for two, and the water ripples right up to our feet. As we sit there, we watch the cool morning sunlight glint off the river, and I feel safe and content, like a little deer peeking out from behind a screen of leaves.
For me, the Cle-Elum River holds a great deal of attraction and adventure. It is never quite the same; boulders dislodge themselves and tumble down stream, trees fall across pathways, and logs wash up onto the bank. At one time, a few of my cousins and I crossed over to the other side of the river, investigating how far we could travel upstream. It was amazing to see how different the other side looks when you are actually on it. Slipping and sliding down a steep dirt slope, scrambling over large boulders, leaping across wide gaps between rocks, and discovering new paths gave me a feeling of adventure, as if our journey was an unprecedented feat. During our hike, I could not help thinking of what an amazing Creator we have, who made such a beautiful river.
When I lie awake in the tent at night, the air around me is still warm from the sunshine, and I can hear the distant roar of the river in the background, and the sounds of crickets serenading us to sleep. I reflect on the day that I had just lived, reliving memories, laughing softly to myself at our family’s antics, and wondering at the beauty that continually surrounds me. In the early morning, the joyful song of thrushes and the frigid morning air rouse me from a sound sleep, coupled with the ever-present murmuring of the river. From morning until night, I am filled with the exhilarating sights, sounds, and experiences that Salmon-la-Sac radiates. It is not an adventure that I would miss for all the world.