Going on a Vision Quest

We recently got back from a roadtrip to Oregon, where we spent (not enough) time at Crater Lake National Park.

If Crater Lake isn’t on your “we really ought to go there” list, I urge you to write it in. I’m a sucker for National Parks. I like being out in nature, but I like the we’re absolutely and perfectly safe feel the National Parks provide with their paved roads, clearly marked signs, trimmed vegetation, readily available flush toilets, and stocked soap dispensers.

I was startled by the  blueness of this lake— it was as if someone had dumped in a vat of crayola paint— the blue didn’t look natural, and yet it was. After watching the video in the visitor’s center, I learned that for many many years Americans didn’t believe this lake existed— they thought it was a myth. I also learned that Native Americans would have annual pilgrimages to the lake for Vision Quests. They believed that they would discover the answer to all of life’s questions by looking deep into the blue water.

I did not have a epiphany while staring into the water. Instead, I was busy keeping the baby from climbing the safety walls and the big kids from trying to touch the ground squirrels (oh my. they were just too cute).

but I felt different. I was acutely aware that I was in a naturally made location that had been this way for hundreds and hundreds of years. I loved that I was able to see the lake with fresh eyes the way the Native Americans or the original pioneers must have (which is difficult in this day and age, since we have Google Earth!).

I loved being in the moment, pausing, and realizing that my two older kids will remember this trip. They’ll remember driving the 30-mile perimeter, and rolling their eyes every time Daddy pulled over to take “just one more picture.” They’ll remember how their mean old mom banned the Nintendo DS for the day. They’ll remember sitting in the squeaky chairs while watching the long and boring movie, and I’ll remember marveling at how well-behaved they were during the long and boring movie.

They’ll definitely remember the ice cream bar. Ice cream is always remembered.

Everyone’s Vision Quest, or life’s purpose is different, and I’d venture to guess it changes pretty often– depending on your age, your choices, and probably the seasons. The revelation comes when you have this startling deep down feeling that you are doing exactly what it is you are *supposed* to be doing.

and again, this is different for every person. It could be being the best darn teacher, or bank teller, or caregiver, or amusement park ride operator ever. It could be any  number of things—- IT is relative.  But when you’ve found the IT, you’ll know it.

and it will take your breath away.


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  1. Interestingly, I just got back from driving from Boston to Seattle with my son who will be starting grad school. I asked if we could stop at Mt Rushmore on the way so as to check off one of my bucket list items. Some family friends also suggested stopping at Badlands National Park, not far from Mt Rushmore, and I have to say that was the hit of the trip. I experienced a lot of what you did, and am kicking myself that I didn’t do this with my kids sooner. As soon as I got home, I promised my younger son that I would take him to the National Park of his choice next summer. Do it, you won’t be sorry.

  2. I love your photo of the lake. Beautiful!

    My mom lived in Oregon when she was in grade school and when she met my dad in an Oklahoma junior high, she thought (and still says) that his eyes were as blue as Crater Lake.

    One of my favorite photos is of my parents at Crater Lake after many years of marriage – I think it was after their 35th anniversary.

    I’m planning a trip there next summer so my kids can see the lake that’s as blue as their Papa’s eyes. 🙂

    I love the idea of a Vision Quest… maybe Crater Lake will be mine, too.

  3. We took two young teens and one pre-teen there in ’89 (camping) and they remember three things: the chipmunks, the ice cream, and it taking fOrEvEr to get there (since it is in the middle of nowhere).

    Dick and I went back there w/o the kids last summer, and it was even more fun. Still beautiful…

  4. Gorgeous photo, Steph! Love your thoughts on your time there and Vision Quests. 🙂 I often experience such moments in nature and I love how Son remembers so many adventures like your family’s And yes, he remembers things like ice cream and other food we ate (frog legs on a seafood buffet for example!) on a trip. We’ve never been to Crater Lake, but I think we should now. Until then, we’ll head to our mountain property (this weekend; ugly weather is gone!) and revel in its beauty.


  5. I am also a big fan of National Parks. Your picture was great. I loved the color.

    If you ever can get to Maine – see Arcadia National Park. It also can take your breath away.

    I am so glad we have saved these National Treasures.

  6. This is a little different because it is man made, but i felt pretty much the same way when I climbed the Great Wall earlier this year. Being on a structure that was thousands of years old, and following in the footsteps of thousands of people was was awe inspiring. It was a moment I will never forget, and i hope to have that same feeling many more times in my life.

  7. I’d imagine the Great Wall to be completely awe-inspiring. What a wonderful trip that must have been!

  8. Hi Elaine, thank you for the Arcadia recommendation. Flying to Maine and then driving down the coast is on the list— for someday. 🙂

  9. that’s so great to know that your son remembers the family trips! Have a wonderful weekend— be safe.

  10. Thank you for letting me know about Badlands. I’ll look into it for whenever we’re ever near Rushmore (which is on the list, too!) Interesting that sometimes the off-the-beaten parks are more magical!

  11. Is it weird if I say I felt the same thing about being in western Kansas/eastern Colorado? Everyone says it is so flat and boring there, but I found the vastness to be amazing. It was just. so. big. I felt like a small speck on the face of the earth.

  12. Hi Tiffany,
    No, not weird at all! I’ve never been to Kansas, but have visited Colorado briefly. I love seeing all the different terrain of our country. It truly is a magical place. xoxo

  13. Oh Stephanie, the memories you and Adam created on this trip! We always visited national parks (and camped in them) with our boys. Now that they are “old men”, they still recall specific memories of being on one or the other of our trips and something they remember seeing. We have been empty nesters for 20 years now, but they bring back what we all shared quite often and are so glad we decided to travel with them so much when we did.

  14. I saw that you had made a trip to Oregon and was totally surprised when I clicked on the link of your vacation. Especially when I saw that you had gone to Crater Lake National Park!! I live 2 hrs from Crater Lake and that area is our favorite place to camp and hang out for weeks at a time! Did you have ice cream in Union Creek or go to Beckie’s Cafe? My husband and I love that area and we are so lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the United States! As for cooking in a crock pot on our camping adventures, I’m sad to say that I have never done that. We dry camp, which means that we have no electricit, or water unless we take our generator. I don’t think it would work having the generator on all day! LOL! Thank you for all of your posts, pictures and crockpot recipes…I love your emails and look forward to all of the new things you post!

    Here’s to Crater Lake and Crock Pots!!

    Helen Ackerman

  15. I know I am a few years late on the post, but I think it is sad that most of America’s youth haven’t visited our national parks. I spent years working in Grand Teton National Park in the summers and my goal is to take my kids to a new park each year. I have been mostly successful, but it is hard to not visit my favorite over and over so they have been to the Tetons many times.

    My grandfather helped create Mount Rushmore and his name is on the plaque there. When I was 6, he took my younger brother and I on a road trip from the desert of Southern California to South Dakota and we visited Mount Rushmore and spent a week in a cabin in the Black Hills. There isn’t a lot that I remember at that age, but I remember that trip.

  16. Hi Sandra, what a neat family connection you have to Mount Rushmore!! We visited last summer and loved every second of it. It was much more moving than I thought it would be, and I felt immensely patriotic. thank you for sharing — I appreciate you taking the time to write!

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