#Passport Express passenger Danielle Elliott looks back on the final day in Mount Hood and the surrounding area.
The stone skipped one, two, three – wait for it – four, five, how-is-this-possible six times, each impact leaving a slightly smaller ripple on the surface of the calm lake. Christian thrust his hands into the air and cheered. Mike clapped. Zach’s head whipped around and camera shutters clicked. Laughter cut through the crisp autumn air, big belly laughs pregnant with so many questions. How had Christian done that? Did he have stone-skipping superpowers? Was the water particularly perfect for this simple game? Was it a fluke?
Soon, another five or six boys were hurling stones into the lake. Some plunked. Some skipped. Eventually we all put down our cameras, just taking in the moment as the sun began to set behind us and Mt. Hood shone pink ahead. We were ending our day on the shores of Trillium Lake, looking out at the mountain we’d partially climbed just hours earlier. As the sun dove deeper, Mt. Hood’s reflection intensified.
Ripples, reflections, laughter, simplicity. The scene so accurately captured the point we’ve reached on this journey.
We’ve known each other long enough now that we’re starting to reflect on our moments together, to feel nostalgic about events that happened just a week ago and sad that it will end before this week is through.
We had woken up that morning in an idyllic cluster of cabins, lost in the wilderness. I stayed in bed longer than I have most days, just gazing out the window, taking in the towering pine trees and clear blue skies. Most of the group headed to the lodge, where Amy Stroup played an acoustic set. I wanted to go, but real life was calling. I stayed in my cabin, writing. We’re all already starting to let “real life” and responsibilities seep back into the fold. But this trip isn’t over yet.
After the show, Adam and Tim hung their Kammok hammocks from the beams of the cabin and climbed in, suspended in the air. We lit the fire and cozied up on the couches, mugs of coffee warming our hands. It felt like a chill morning with old friends. Oh how I wish we could’ve just stayed suspended there.
Around 11:30am, we boarded the bus and made our way to Timberline Lodge, a historic spot on the base of Mt. Hood. The staff welcomed us with a massive brunch buffet. Phil Martin made his first waffle; Holly lost her mind over the bread pudding. Brunch never really ended – we just slowly migrated from our seats at the tables to seats on the couches and elsewhere around the beautiful room. A few from our group wandered outside to climb Mt. Hood; others pulled out laptops to sort through mounting emails. I sat next to Christian as he sketched designs for a brand, mesmerized by his talent. He attempted to work with headphones on, but I pestered him with questions. Sometimes I just can’t quell my curiosity. When I asked what he was listening to, I discovered it was the same thing I listen to as I run: the NPR Ted Talk Radio Hour. It was yet another reminder that we are all simultaneously so unique and yet the same.
Eventually a second group of hikers headed out to the mountain. I started with Jill, Sera, Phil, Mat, and Fran. At some point, four of us wandered off the main trail to check out the top of a ski lift, quiet and abandoned in the off season. The views were simply breathtaking; a full panoramic flanked by the upper half of Mt. Hood.
By 4:30, we were back on the bus, heading to Trillium Lake. We spent two hours exploring the wooded banks, a few brave souls jumping into the frigid waters, most of us just dipping a toe. And as the sun started to set, the skipping began. I sat perched in the roots of a tree, near but not exactly in the moment. It was all a little too symbolic to feel real. The ripples, slowly fading into the reflections, evoking pure and simple happiness.
Our trip is winding down. I don’t know when or if I’ll see some of our Passport Express family again, but I know that I’ll feel the ripples of this trip for a long time. I’ll reflect on it, and when I do, I’ll remember that moment, skipping stones, feeling rooted in one of the most beautiful places we’ve encountered.
Written by Danielle Elliot
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