Emboldened by our hiking adventures in Mount Rainier, we set off for a few days in the Northwest Corner of the Olympic Peninsula in Port Angeles and Forks, Washington Jeremy had spent months researching our route and choosing campsite locations, but when we rolled into Rainbows End RV Park my hubby was not a happy camper. The RV Park was small, and the most congested site we had stayed in with rows and rows of RV’s lined up like soldiers. By the time we pulled into our site, Jeremy had decided we would not be staying and tensions began to rise.
One of the things we have struggled with as a couple is how to navigate together during times of high stress and so part of our experiment is to determine if we could manage better, knowing that a challenge in radical living would be ripe with possible stressors. We didn’t want to set ourselves up to fail. But after the success in adapting to conditions over the weekend, it seemed that staying calm initially came a little easier, and we made a plan to use the hookups to what is called ‘pump and dump’ after three days of dry camping in the woods. Then, we would detach the car, and drive to another site 30 minutes away that Jeremy had tried to get us into that had been booked. Along the way, we came across a KOA site and while there was no vacancy, in terms of handling the stress, things were going well.
When we finally arrived at the Elwha Dam RV Park near 5:00 pm, nearly two hours after we had first pulled into the Rainbow Park, we were concerned it would be booked too. But when the camp hostess greeted us enthusiastically, our spirits lifted. The cabin-like office was tiny, filled with souvenirs and a wall lined with DVDS, including the entire Twilight Series. Behind her was a large print photograph of her family of seven, on horseback, surrounded by water. As we asked about availability we learned that she had raised her five children completely off the grid, and that they had recently purchased the RV park where some of them had stayed to work in what had become a new family business. She showed us a spot near a pond that was available, and while there was no electricity or water, we decided to stay, grateful for the pump and dump we had done earlier! We drove thirty minutes back and while we prepared to move again, we had yet another interesting conversation with what would have been our neighbors, a young couple in Coast Guard training who were living full time in a brand new travel trailer. We, checked out their new rig and then headed back to Elwha where we were greeted by a man making fresh bread in a lean-to, apparently a staple at the Park, and a group of RV’ers gathered to connect over portioned out pieces of bread. As we pulled in I noticed the vegetable garden the Host had mentioned where she had said we could pick fresh food,the sparkling clean bathrooms and the ‘Club Room,” which featured a TV and laundry. I felt my muscles ease as we pulled around the corner to our spot.
Through a narrow path, Jeremy maneuvered Baby into the spot. If we positioned the rig a certain way, it would be completely private, surrounded by the pond, trees, and blackberry bushes! Jeremy drove Baby into the space between a large tree with heavy, low branches and the water, a very uneven grassy area with tiny potholes. It was clear this spot was not ideal for a big rig. Jeremy and I barked at each other through walkie talkies as we tried to position and level Baby, me crouched down trying to see under the rig while Jeremy pulled up and back again and again trying to situate Baby just so. (If you don’t level it well, it feels like you are walking uphill inside!) We raised and lowered the levelers again and again, frustration growing as dark began to fall upon the park. It was now close to 8:30 pm which was when we decided, too frustrated to continue, that good enough would have to be great. We abandoned plans to cook dinner and headed to Port Angeles for a much needed dinner.
Over salmon and halibut we rehashed the day agreeing that we needed to establish a few new ground rules based on what we had learned. It was clear that while general bickering is not ideal, it can be part and parcel of being married. However, it can NOT work when you are being teammates in a challenge who are also married. Here are a few things we learned:
- There is a difference between being a couple, being partners and being teammates. We are creating a new identity as a couple and this is new for us.
- While I am typically clumsy in some ways, I am fully capable of doing some of the physical work required to operate the coach and that I need to be more confident. If I am not confident in myself, it is hard for Jeremy to trust me.
- Jeremy needs to ask for help, and be patient to let me actually help! I am slower, yes, but I can help and in most cases, my help is necessary to achieve the tasks we are trying to complete. We both are taking on roles and tasks we typically have not had to do before. It is going to be messy, and what we think is easy for ourselves, is challenging to the other person!
- We named this ‘pattern,’ so that when we feel it is happening, we can state it, take a breath, and remember what we have learned in this process so that we begin to break patterns and grow as a team and couple.
- A challenge is challenging, and that what we are learning about each other in this process is part of what is making it fulfilling.
At dinner we also learned a fun fact that while Port Angeles and Forks were where the Twilight movies are based, the movies were not filmed in these locations, and that they are still attracting tourists as a result of these films that were made more than a decade ago!
The next days were spent working, working out, and exploring which included a mystical experience in the Hoh Rainforest where we our ability tto adjust was put to the test again. Upon arriving after a 60 minute drive into the park, we realized we were waiting in a line that wasn’t moving, and after a little research, we learned the wait would be two hours long! We adapted more easily this time, discovering the nearby Hoh River fed by glaciers on Mount Olympus. The glaciers grind rock into a fine glacial flour which turns the Hoh River a milky slate blue color which was simply breathtaking. We sat on a shady rock overlooking the water, ate the lunches I had packed, and went for a very cold dip in the river in our underwear! After lunch we had time to visit Ruby Beach with it’s unique rock formations and swirling sun-bleached driftwood. We saw starfish, crabs, and other sea life among the tide pools and sea stacks. When we finally made our way back to the Hoh Rainforest at dusks we were overwhelmed by the palpable energy of the forest. Because the Hoh gets more than 14 feet of rain a year, it is one of the world’s lushest rainforest with a unique ecosystem that has remained unchanged for thousands of years.. Some of the Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock (Washington’s official state tree), were over 300 feet high and seven feet in diameter, covered with huge clumps of hanging moss and ferns everywhere.
In addition to the Rainforest, throughout the week we were able to hike at Hurricane Ridge with expansive views of the entire Olympic National Forest, including Mount Olympus, checked out the beach at La Push where Jeremy got in a very cold but exhilarating surf, and ate dinner at an amazing restaurant where the local very oversized cat mingled amongst the guests.
As with any couple going through a life-changing transformation, just like Edward and Bella when she first became a Vampire, there are going to be struggles along the way. And sometimes, even though you might think your partner is a pain in the neck, love triumphs in the end. 🙂
PS. I think we have developed a plan regarding the clutter. Stay tuned for the update soon!