Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Woodleaf Volunteer Vacation

My family and I spent the middle two weeks of April in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, on what we called a "volunteer vacation." We stayed at Woodleaf, a Young Life camp about an hour from Yuba City. Eric helped the camp mechanic fix camp vehicles and staff cars. In return, we got free lodging and most of our meals free. It was an awesome two weeks!

Woodleaf was an old gold rush town, established in the early 1850s. Some of the original buildings are still standing and in use. Now Woodleaf is a camp for teen-agers. It is gorgeous and so full of history. There was a photo opportunity around every corner.

We stayed in a two-bedroom cabin with a little kitchen. "Roadhouse," the name of the cabin, was near the auto shop and dining hall. Eric spent his days at the shop while I took care of the girls. They have a great work ethic at Woodleaf. Most of the employees start the day at 7:30, take a break at 10:00, eat lunch at noon, take another break at 2:00 and end the day at 4:00.
My typical day with the girls consisted of breakfast, homeschooling, long walks, lunch with Eric at the cabin, nap/quiet time, more exploring or craft time and then spending the rest of the afternoon/evening with Eric. Almost every day after work, Eric took one or both girls to the lake to fish. They caught (and released) several large-mouth bass those weeks. Eric also taught his new friend, Jonathan, how to fish, fillet and cook the bass that were plentiful in the lake. Every morning the girls and I would go on long (1 to 2 hour) walks all over Woodleaf. We’d set out in a different direction each day–around camp, around the lake, across the road and around the other lake, to the old abandoned horse stables, through the forest. No matter which way we went, there was always something new and beautiful to see!
It was very peaceful up in the mountains, and quiet in our cabin (well, except for the sounds of two little girls playing, fighting, crying, whining, laughing). There was no cell phone reception, and in the cabin there was no cable/VCR/DVD player, no radio/ipod–there wasn’t even an alarm clock! It was very nice!
Up at Woodleaf, we had all four seasons in two weeks. It was 31 when we got there. The next day it was in the 40s. The next day it snowed! Two days later it was in the 70s. The next week it was in the 90s. Then two days after that it was in the 50s and then it rained! I am not exaggerating. It was delightful to watch Amber catch snowflakes in her mouth. It was the first time Amber had seen snow fall. Poor Autumn was asleep. It only snowed for 20 minutes.
Amber celebrated her 6th birthday while we were at Woodleaf. We had a "Fancy Nancy" party and invited all of the famlies that lived on camp. The turnout was great; we had 20 people in attendance and celebrated on the porch of our cabin. It really touched my heart that people who had only met us a few days before, would come to Amber’s party. It meant a lot to Amber, too!
The hospitality that we received from the families that lived on camp was amazing! It far exceeded my expectations. I had brought food to cook, but only had to prepare an evening meal twice during the two weeks. We got to eat in the dining hall on the weekends when the kitchen was in service and during the week, families asked us one-by-one to join them for dinner. We even did a babysitting swap with a family, so we (and they) could go out on a date. Our girls were invited several times to play with other little kids on camp, too.
One day as we walked around the lake with another family, we accidentally caught a little perch, the size of a goldfish. I named it Frisbee because he swam into a frisbee that I was rescuing out of the lake. We brought it back to the cabin and kepi it in a bowl–our first pet as a family. After a week, it died. Amber cried for 30 minutes, all the while Autumn kept consoling her with, "I’m sorry Sissy that the fish died." It was precious!
Early in the first week, Eric fixed Jonathan’s Honda Mini Trail 70. He said we could use it while we were there. Eric took the girls on rides around camp after work a lot and I enjoyed riding it on my own.
One of the most fun things we did during our time at Woodleaf was go through the Lost & Found items that had accumulated for a year. The staff let us join them and their families as they looked through all of the loot. We could take as much as we wanted. The teens sure do leave behind some nice stuff! Eric got a whole box-full of t-shirts and zipper sweatshirts, tennis shoes, brand new/expensive flip flops, hats and socks. The girls got purses and jewelry and sunglasses. I got a shirt, pajamas, shoes, a hat and a beach towel. But more than all of the stuff that we got, we enjoyed the fun conversation as we tried to pick out clothes for each other and we laughed together at the crazy sayings on some of the shirts. It was a lot of fun!
I could go on and on about the two weeks we spent at Woodleaf; I filled up pages and pages in my journal. It was a fun, relaxing break from the craziness of life. We helped out a ministry we are in love with. We met people whom we will be friends with forever. And we were blessed!
The "Roadhouse" is the cabin we stayed in.

A walk in the woods.

Self portrait in the woods.

Motorcycle ride--don't worry, she wore a helmet.


Rebecca said...

So fun!! And beautiful too. I wish you guys could have popped up here to see us! Although that definitely would not have contributed to your peace and quiet. ;)

Christine H. said...

I didn't know you lived that close!

hestermom said...

So beautiful, looks like a great time. The pictures remind us of when we lived in the mountains, and lived at the camp.

frisky said...

Great memories for all of you.... so awesome!

heidibelle said...

That is really amazing. I love the beauty and simplicity of the place. I have been trying to spend half of my days just focused on the kids. Playing with them, going to the park, working outside. It is so easy to fill my time with 'work'. I'm glad it was such a neat time for your family. You will have that treasured memory forever... and I could picture the scrapbook pages... :)