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Cresting the Saint Anthony Sand Dunes

Even at 10:30 am, walking across the sand dunes in sandals was super painful. We had no idea the sand would get so hot so quickly! We had begun our sand dunes escapade an hour and a half earlier, packing the girls into the car, driving out to the dunes, unpacking the girls from the car and into their hiking backpacks, then heading up to the dunes.

From the moment she got into her pack, Mini started saying, "Get out." I didn't count, but I wouldn't be surprised if she said it 100 times! When our patient side was doing well we would tell her that she could get out when we got to the top of the dune. Little did we know what an adventure it would be to get there.

Our favorite sand dunes are the ones by the Egin Lake access. There are a series of small, shallow lakes with shady beach areas that are perfect for setting up camp for the day. This time, though, we bypassed the shade and went straight for the peak. Colter had Mini on his back, and Ema was strapped to my front. At this point I remember thinking what nice weather it was, and how wise we were to get out on the dunes early! Despite the (temporarily) good weather, the trek was full of "one step forward, half a step back" experiences. Even on a flat surface, sand is hard to walk in, and carrying the girls definitely made for some slow moving. (Especially me! I was carrying the lighter of the two girls and still consistently lagged behind Colter!)

As Colter's personal videographer (laughter inserted here... we are excited for the day we can hire a videographer who is really good at what they do!) I was trying to capture video of all the different scenery we walked through. Unfortunately, I had some extra help as Ema was also fascinated with the camera stick and kept bumping it around in her enthusiasm to be part of the project. It made for some really interesting video clips, but in retrospect, ones that definitely accurately depict the reality of our adventuring: Far from perfect, full of mishaps with kids, but rewarding anyway.

After trekking through sparse grassy areas, around a lake, and through some trees, we started walking uphill in the sand. It seems likely to me that you have experienced some extent of an uphill sand climb, so you know what I'm saying when I tell you that it was quite difficult! Colter and I are both consistent runners, and almost always feel up for a physical challenge, so we were surprised at how quickly we were out of breath. At some points of the ascent, especially when walking along the ridge toward the highest point of the sand dune, I found myself stopping every 5 or so steps to catch my breath! At a few points we were hiking through such steep sand that Ema could reach her hands down and brush the sand with her fingers. Whew! It was a workout!

Once we got to the top and told Mini that she could finally "get out" she was very hesitant. And I totally don't blame her! We were literally on a ledge of what looked like a steep, long drop down both sides. But we coaxed her out and showed her how to slowly slide down the dune, and she warmed up in no time. Before long she was sliding down and hiking back up the edge of the dune. She also dumped out our precious water, after which I had a not-so-good mom moment of telling her she wouldn't get any more until we were back at the lake. (How was I supposed to follow through with that?! I wasn't going to let her die of dehydration at the top of a sand dune. I've got to think better next time before coming up with a horrible consequence that I won't follow through with.)

Ema had just as much fun as Mini. Except instead of dumping water out she was happily eating the sand, despite my efforts to help her realize how disgusting it was. Along with eating the sand, she would try to slide head-first down the sand, and would lay her whole head down on the sand. (At this point I think the sand was really soft and just the right temperature to want to snuggle.) I don't know how she did it, but she never did cry about all the sand that was in her eyes and mouth. Every time Mini opened the water bottle, though, she was eager to have some, so I'm sure the sand wasn't helping with her satiation.

While the girls and I were playing, Colter was painting. He chose the highest spot on the sand dune, pulled out his tripod, Altoid container, three brushes, tiny board, and got to work. I have learned that painting is all about being able to see, and then being able to make decisions to help you portray what you see in a way that communicates a specific message.

That is part of why we are trying to do this adventure art series. As a family we want to be able to see the process as a central part of the outcome. Sometimes we can only see the end goal, end product, or dream as having value. We feel so far away from reaching those outcomes right now, but we still want to be able to see the goodness our life has to offer. We are in the middle of the journey and want to be able to find joy in it. So, adventure art is one way that we are trying to do this. The end product is nothing spectacular, but the experiences that go into it can and will shape our personal and family lives for a very long time, and hopefully get us to the dreams that we have.

After about a half our of painting, Colter was putting on the final touches. Every time I look at a painting he has done, it is easy to see the beauty in it. I love noticing the colors in the painting that my eye doesn't pick out in the actual landscape until after I have seen it in the painting. I feel like I am able to see the world more colorfully after I've seen it through the lens of one of Colter's paintings.

But he sees them very differently. When I asked his opinion of the painting, he responded that the dunes were too yellow and the sky was too saturated. The value pattern was way off and the whole thing needed to be reworked. But despite all of those things, the time spent in painting it was valuable because it added to his reservoir of experience as a painter. I think this is such an important perspective as an artist, a parent, or for any meaningful life endeavor. Masterpieces are not going to happen every day, but as we keep "adding drops to the bucket," (as Colter and I often remind each other) we will get to the point where those small moments all combined together create the perfect backdrop for something amazing to happen. We totally believe this and are happy for now to be adding our little daily efforts.

Anyway, back to the actual adventure! Going up was hard because each step we took forward, we also slid half a step back in the sand. But we made it! The way back was hard because during the time we had been at the top of the dune, the sun had made the sand super hot, almost unbearable to our sandaled feet. As we came down the dune we literally felt our skin scorching as they sunk into the sand and were surrounded by blistering heat.

After laughing about it for a few minutes, we started getting more and more uncomfortable until all of a sudden Colter started sprinting toward a little area with vegetation. I ran to catch up just as he veered in another direction. As I got closer, I realized that the vegetation we were heading toward was down a slope, and that Colter had not wanted to put us in a position where we had to climb up burning hot sand, even if it gave us some temporary relief. I was so glad to keep moving in another direction toward more stable ground.

Isn't life so often like that?! We think we are heading in a great direction, but when we get closer we realize a course correction is needed. (Or we don't realize it but life circumstances force us into it, and it's not until retrospect that we are so grateful for it.) We have had so many experiences in our life where we thought we were heading in the right direction, and a wise, gentle hand has guided us in a different way. Sometimes we have even been sprinting so fast toward a life choice that we never would have been able to make a course correction on our own without that greater foresight. I am so grateful for the moments when a gracious God has changed our lives for the better, and trusted us to (in time) be able to recognize and be grateful for His hand in our lives.

One of the major course corrections we made on our descent trip was right into one of the lakes. In previous experiences at these dunes, Colter had seen people wading out through the lake. So, he thought in order to cool down and take a more direct route to our favorite beach spot, that we would walk straight through the lake. What a nice change that was! It was cool, refreshing, and never got any deeper than 2 or so feet. It was a great way to get back to base camp

The other eventful experience happened a few hours later. Colter had been doing a larger plein air painting, and the girls and I had been relaxing in the shade at the beach. Some other moms had come with their kids, and were enjoying the water as well. One of the little boys had enthusiastically waded out into the water without his life jacket, and was having a great time splashing around. In the midst of his fun, though, he tripped, and started flailing around. His arms were too short to reach the ground, and he was too young to know how to get his feet under him. Colter noticed immediately and sprinted into the water to help him. Undoubtedly his mom would have made it to him in time as well, but it was a relief to all of us that Colter was on his feet and ready to jump in the water. No matter how important Colter's painting time is, people are always more valuable than a paint stroke.

After hours of fun at the dunes we packed up camp and loaded the van. We are definitely going to have to do a thorough vacuum job to get rid of the sand remnants, but we hope that the memories last a long time!

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