Around much of the country, summer has died down and, in some cases, winter has reared its ugly head (JAM team member Amy May has already seen inches of snow in her Bozeman, MT backyard!). Summer is a precious time for our team to spend with their families and friends, and adventuring where they love the most – be it outdoors or out of the country. As the seasons change, it’s a great time to reflect on the opportunities and experiences that fill our summer months. Amidst the madness of seasonal transition, a few of our team members have shared what they will remember the most about the past summer.
Summer is typically a busy time of year, and this summer was no exception. Trade shows, work events, trips back east to visit family - before I even realize it, my schedule is packed. Which is why 3 years ago I started my own tradition. For one weekend every summer I plan a mini vacation. Once I get my schedule sorted out, I pick an empty weekend and I get the hell out of dodge. This year I decided to re-live my childhood family beach trips. I got a group of friends together and we rented a house on the Oregon Coast, where we spent the weekend getting sunburned, digging holes in the sand, and spending more time in the Pacific than I previously thought possible. There was a seafood boil, a watermelon filled with jello, popsicles, board games, pizza on the beach, and the tastiest mojitos I’ve ever had. The trip was short and sweet (as it always is) but for me, it was the perfect summer vacation.
#TeamPleva road tripped to three more national parks this summer: Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia. To date, we’ve visited 18 parks together! Growing up, my two sisters, my brother and I spent every single summer playing on the shores of Lake Michigan. It was simple and magical. When I think of childhood memories, I think of that beach as the backdrop. But as a mom, I want to explore as many places as possible with my kids. My tween daughter and teenage son attend a public middle school that focuses on the environment. There are so many amazing parks and outdoor spaces to explore. I want them learning about nature - and from nature - both at school and during the summer.
A quick weekend trip to Santa Fe and nearby Abiquiu proved to be the perfect end to the summer. I find it fascinating to walk through an artist's home and the land that inspired them so this weekend was all about Georgia O’Keeffe. We took an early morning tour on horseback through the stunning vistas of Ghost Ranch where we saw the shining red and yellow cliffs of the Piedra Lumbre and her beloved Pedernal Mountain that she painted countless times. The afternoon was spent exploring her historic adobe home and studio, stunning in its simplicity and tranquility. We wrapped up our weekend with a visit to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. It was so moving to see her work after personally experiencing the unique light and landscape of this area and tracing her steps through her beloved Abiquiu.
This summer I had the opportunity to lead a teen leadership trip in Olympic National Park for a YMCA camp that I attended and worked at for many years when I was younger. In fact, I went on the same leadership development trip when I was 16, and had led it in my early 20s, so it was an honor to be asked back. We canoed on Lake Ozette and backpacked out to the coast to camp for a few nights, and I was reminded of the importance of spending time not just physically outside, but outside of our comfort zones as well. I think I was as challenged and learned as much as the teens did on this trip, a reminder that we're always on a winding path towards better understanding and knowledge.
My spring and early summer consisted of a slow recover from a knee injury so, when I was finally able to get out for my first backpacking trip mid-July, it had a stronger meaning. We started our backpack in Stehekin, WA, a small town (if you can even call it that) only accessible by boat, plane or foot. We spent our first day enjoying the town and taking in expansive views of Lake Chelan, one of the biggest in the country, and the surrounding mountains. The next two days we followed a quiet trail, meandering through the mountains while trying to avoid swarms of mosquitos and looming rain storms. We came across our last camp for the night and sat down for a snack when a large black figure came waddling out of the bushes. A black bear! We banged our trekking poles and yelled as loud as we could but the bear wasn’t phased. Assuming he was going to stay a while, we decided to hike the last 5 miles out to the car. It was a sign that it was time for us to leave and, since those last 5 miles felt fast and glorious, I also took that as a sign that my knee was well near healed.