When I look back on those three days, I can see that God planned each little detail to show us just how much He loves us.
We were able to leave our puppy at home with a good friend. She provided respite care for Ashlyn as well. Ashlyn gets stressed and agitated in new places with new schedules. She seemed happy to continue her routine with home and school.
Someone let us use their trailer for free! We loaded suitcases, sleeping bags, camping chairs, bikes, fishing poles, a pack-n-play, towels, a folding table, about 30 other items, food, food, and more food!
The 10 of us piled into the van and enjoyed the 2 hour ride. There was talking and joking and raucous laughter constantly. I found myself belly laughing over and over again. Laughter is good for the soul!
The Cabin was huge. Bigger than our house!
There was a bunk house right next to it that had 6 large beds and a wood stove for heat. The five oldest boys decided to sleep there.
They were so excited to have some independence. They got the fun of a sleepover, and the other children each got their own room in the cabin. Areli, my 18 year old, said that her favorite part of vacation was the fact that she had her own room with its own bathroom.
The weather was perfect! Cool and misty in the morning. Sunny and warm during the day. Cool and clear at night, just the right temperature to enjoy a fire.
The first day we enjoyed the expansive yard. I loved how it was full of moss and ferns without a bit of poison ivy. There was a swing set and a rope swing. The boys rode bikes. They played games. We cooked our meal over the fire. My favorite were the apples I roasted on the dying embers. Delicious!
The second day we decided to go to the World’s End State Park. We went into the visitor’s center and learned a lot from the friendly staff. There was a gift shop with silhouettes of birds on the ceiling. I identified the Cooper’s hawk. Wow, it is small! Then we located the Red Tailed Hawk which was definitely bigger.
“That was what crashed into our van!” Calvin said.
Then I saw the turkey vulture. It was large with wings that each bent like a V. Right next to it was the bald eagle, larger with straight wings. Still, they looked so much alike.
“How will I ever tell the difference?” I wondered to myself.
Finally we set out for adventure! The older 4 boys went fishing. The rest of us decided to take one of the easier trails that should take about an hour, the Double Run Nature Trail.
This was a very special time for me. I had not gone hiking with the family in so long, I can’t even remember. I would always stay back with Ashlyn. With her delayed walking and then club foot deformity, she could never navigate a trail.
It was cold and lovely in the woods. Areli, Calvin, Courage and Annalise were excited! We came across a few little waterfalls.
It didn’t take long before we realized that this wasn’t an easy trail. Soon we felt like we were going straight up a mountain…on a path littered with large rocks and roots…with a four year old and a two year old.
What was I thinking when I suggested this?
“How long is this trail? Are we going to be able to make it back to the van?” the adults were wondering to ourselves as we took turns giving piggy back rides.
Finally, we began the descent and found the Cottonwood Falls. It was all worth it!
We returned to our meeting place and found the boys waiting for us. They were a bit dejected since no fish were biting. We ate a picnic lunch and the children played at the playground.
Then we drove to the Loyalsock Canyon Vista.
I suggested we check out the Rock Garden. I thought it would be a boulder field. It was not what I was expecting! Huge rocks jutting out the ground in random ways. The children loved it. The boys climbed and jumped from one high cliff to another.
I was tied up in knots on the inside as I watched them. I felt terrified as I tried to help Annalise and Courage navigate through. There was no discernible path and I was worried the older ones, who were running ahead, would get lost.
“Please, let’s go now!” I pleaded over and over again. Finally we all walked back to the van as the boys excitedly talked about how that was the best thing ever and please mom can we go back again tomorrow and again next year and again and again…
I could breathe once more as I watched all my children with their feet on solid ground. I choose to put out of my mind the possibility of ever returning. I’ve always been afraid of heights, and I am even more afraid of my children being UP ON THE HEIGHTS!
We drove to the High Knob overlook. We could see for 40 miles, the beautiful expanse of Penn’s woods.
I searched the sky for birds but saw no eagles. How amazing would it be to see this view from the vantage point of an eagle! We returned to the cabin, tired but happy, ready to cookout again and enjoy the amazing stars in the black, black night sky.
As our last day dawned, we pondered what we should do before we had to pack up and clean the five bedrooms and 5 bathrooms. The previous day we had seen a sign for a general store. At the visitors center we learned that the women who used run the World’s Best Snack Shop was now at that general store. The children had dollars that they wanted to spend on some exciting souvenir.
So we set out to try and find the general store. We finally found the Hillsgrove Country Store and decided to stop.
As soon as I walked into the little shop, something caught my eye. There was a photograph of a bald eagle mounted on cardboard and wrapped in plastic. It was beautiful!
I thought to myself, “This might just be my eagle!”
I asked the women who was at the counter (who used to run The World’s Best Snack Shop) how much the eagle picture was.
“Forty dollars! Isn’t that a great price?! A local photographer spent three months watching two eagles before he got this picture,” she answered.
“Where did he see the eagles?” I asked. Maybe I could see them too!
“Just a few miles down the road at the Slaptown Bridge.”
I considered $40 to be quite a hefty sum, but I didn’t want to miss this God moment. He had led me right to this lovely eagle and I couldn’t leave him behind.
Courage and Annalise picked out 25 cents worth of penny candy. The other children purchased chips, drinks, and sausages. Finally I walked out the front door and sat down to wait for the other children. I looked out to the street…
THERE IT WAS…
A Real Live Eagle!
It was flying from across the street and came right towards us! It was so close that I could almost see individual feathers. This didn’t look anything like a vulture! It was larger. Its wings were absolutely straight. There were lighter feathers underneath. There was a stark white head and white tail feathers. It was majestic and noble…and beautiful!
Areli just happened to have her camera with her, and she snapped a few pictures when the eagle sat in a tree.
Then it took flight again, soaring higher and higher, further and further away.
Chris was almost excited as I was.
“I am so happy for you!” he kept saying.
We watched it until it was joined by another eagle. We watched them until they were so far, they looked like tiny black dots against the sky.
We finally headed to Hunter’s Lake to let the boys try fishing again.
The lake had just been stocked that morning and quite a few fishermen had gathered. We ate a picnic lunch and enjoyed that lovely view. We learned that there was an eagle’s nest along the water’s edge.
The fish weren’t biting, but we were delighted by the multitude of monarch butterflies on the goldenrod.
I didn’t see an eagle at the lake even though they are very fond of fish. However, the entire afternoon, eagles were soaring in my imagination.
I was in awe of how God perfectly orchestrated this eagle sighting. I had asked Him, and He had answered. How could I ever doubt His words to me?
He created me to be an eagle!
I have been born to fly!
After 41 years on this earth, I think it is high time that I stop saying that I am afraid of heights…
and start to learn to how to soar.