Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wonderful Week at Holden Village

Sunday night we returned from a wonderful week at Holden Village. Holden bills itself as an "ecumenical retreat center rooted in the Lutheran tradition." I describe it as a remote, sustainable mountain community, completely away from civilization as we know it. To reach Holden, one must get to Lake Chelan in the North Cascades (a 6+ hour drive for us from Portland), take a 2-hour boat ride, and ride up into the mountains for 45 minutes. The village is a former mining camp nestled in the mountains. It has no televisions, telephones, cars, or internet or cell phone access. It provides a wonderful getaway from society as we know it. For example, we didn't realize that Michael Jackson had died until some "villagers" arrived the following day from outside (and we weren't really positive that it was true because it was unverified). I didn't learn about Farrah Fawcett's death, the DC Metro accident, or the South Carolina governor scandal until I'd been back in Portland for a day.

We went to Holden with a group of more than 60 people from our church (plus family members and friends associated with Mission of Atonement). For the past several years, we've gone as a group every 2 years. For me, this was the best trip we've ever taken, because my sister and her family came along. (Nadine and David hadn't been to Holden for 10 years, and their boys had never been.) The "cousins" had a fantastic time hanging out together all week...it was the most time they'd ever spent together. In addition, our friends from Boise, Shelia and Ken and their kids, drove over from Idaho to join our church group for the week, so we had a great time catching up with them as well.

We left on Saturday, June 21, to drive up to Lake Chelan and spent an uncomfortable night camping near the ferry dock. It was uncomfortable because of the camping situation--it was a state park, and the campsites were EXTREMELY close together, with absolutely no privacy or sound barrier. So it was very loud late into the night--Chelan is a partying, happening place apparently. Then of course the sun woke me up at 5:00 a.m. I think it will be the last time we camp the night before Holden. The kids loved it, of course (especially the donuts for breakfast), but none of us were very well rested.

They also loved wrestling in the tent...sigh...

Nick has been asking to go camping again...he loved the whole tent idea!

Hanging out in a Chelan park after meeting our Idaho friends for dinner downtown

Me and Shelia on the boat to Lucerne (where we would catch a bus up to the village)

Each morning through the week, Mike would go down to the river to write--this was taken by zooming in on him--he didn't know until later that I had taken a photo of him! Good thing he wasn't slacking off! :)

One of my favorite things to do at Holden is crafts. Here is my 7-year-old nephew Ryan and my sister doing an inkle loom weaving...

Me with my weaving--I made several bookmarks; last time I made myself a mandolin strap!

The cousins in the middle of the village (after being picked up at "Narnia," the wonderful morning kids program)

Chris hanging out on the playground--this year he was in the middle school group called the "Junior Miners"--they had organized activities such as s'mores, "dock day" (when they jumped into Lake Chelan!), and forming a "junk band."

Chris with two younger friends from church--Matthew and Beck

Each night the villagers are encouraged to attend vespers in the village center--this was Nicholas' typical pose at 7:30 vespers after playing hard all day long!

Nadine and I volunteered one morning in Narnia and we had a great time! Here is Kieran with his cousins, Daniel and Garrett, in class together.

Garrett and Nicholas listening to a story during Narnia time

Nicholas and Daniel leading the "Marching in the Light of God" song!

One night they had an open mike event in the "Lift" (a small performance area in the basement of the village center). Several members of our group performed, including Kieran and Mike--here they are singing "Hippopotamus." Kieran then did a song all by himself, called "Tony Chestnut." He amazes me with his confidence in appearing before a crowd!! In his end-of-year report card, his kindergarten teacher wrote that she expected to see him onstage someday. The time has already come, I suppose!

Four of us from "Consorting with Papists" sang one of our favorite irreverent songs--"Our Father (Revised)" by Susan Werner.

We took a group of lots of kids on a 2-mile hike back and forth to Ten Mile Falls. Here we are at the falls--Kieran with his walking stick. Lots of people in our group did much longer, more ambitious hikes in the area. We were lazy villagers for the most part!
With Mike at the falls

Nadine and me at the falls

Nadine and David and kids

Shelia, Ken, and kids

Nick playing the drums on the trail guide box
The food at Holden is very "low on the food chain," mostly vegetarian, organic, and healthy. We had fish two days and meat on two days (brats one night, and pepperoni on pizza another night). The food is WONDERFUL but simple. Then there was the snack bar, where for a mere $1.50, you could get a "Holden scoop" (read: GENEROUS) of ice cream. We made regular visits to the snack bar...figuring that we were eating lightly the rest of the time!

Ryan and Nadine indulging

With our Holden scoops

Nicholas always gets vanilla!
The boys getting ready to sing before vespers

Nadine and David

I think this is the only photo I have of my parents at Holden! Actually, we didn't see a whole lot of them because they were in the same lodge as Nadine and David, and we were in a different lodge. They also spent a lot of their time going to classes and spending time with some friends of theirs.

The boys singing with actions--again, Kieran displayed his dramatic prowess!

Chris got to play drums with the band at vespers one night--and loved it!

One night we had a party just for our group--where we celebrated our pastor and her husband's wedding anniversary, ate (more) ice cream, had everyone reprise their Open Mike acts, and just hung out. Fun!!

One of many sightings of Holden deer--a few people also saw some bears! I'll stick to the deer myself...one deer even took a bite out of Kieran's ceramic tile, which was drying out in the sun. He has a wonderfully unique souvenir now.

Kieran flying down the zip line on the playground, shouting "I love Holden!!"

Waiting their turn for the zip line

My littlest performer!

Chris performing in the junk band...another of my favorite things to do is to sing in the choir. The first 1/2 of the week the village musician was a very serious musician, and the pieces he chose were very challenging and heavy. The second 1/2, the village musician was a young dad and a statistics professor at Yale, and he chose much more lively musical selections. He was also wonderful with the children! He worked with all the middle schoolers and high schoolers to develop this band made out of junk. It was great!

Moon over the village one evening

My little St. Nick--Holden has a wonderful costume closet, which is always a hit with the kids. The kids found this perfect costume for my Santa-obsessed Nicholas. I will have to try to recreate it for Halloween!

One of the final days in the village, Mom and Dad offered to watch the kids so Mike and I could take a walk. We walked down to Ten Mile Falls and found a wonderfully cool, peaceful spot by the falls where we could sit and talk. This was our view! I can never get enough of waterfalls!!

I think this is my absolute favorite photo of my sister and Nicholas!!!

Many of the kids took a tye dyeing class one afternoon, and here they are showing off their efforts. I made a tye-dyed hat for Nick, but he wasn't wearing it that afternoon...

Nick ringing the dinner bell, helped by his cousins

Here is another great photo--Nick with his cousins--here you can see his tye-dyed hat!

The last night we were in the village, they had an outdoor singalong "Sound of Music." Kieran wanted to take one of the posters (which had been plastered around the village) as a souvenir. We stayed for some of the movie, but then retreated to a porch while Kieran watched much of the movie with his cousins, aunt and uncle, and grandparents. (Another one of my favorite things to do at Holden is to sit on the outdoor porches in the evening, drinking boxed red wine we'd brought from home, sometimes singing, always laughing, and hanging out with wonderful friends! This was truly a highlight of my week!)
I have always enjoyed my time at Holden, but this year I found it especially hard to leave. Here we are hanging out on the ark (the main wooden platform in the middle of the village), waiting for our bus down the mountain.
Shelia and me

With Mike
Our group shot before departure
David and Nadine on the bus
With Mike on the bus
It's been a hard few days of reentry. I think next time I'd like to stay longer. Many people live and work at Holden year round, and I'm not sure I'd ever want to do that (perhaps when I retire!), but I could certainly stay up there for a couple of weeks. I love letting the kids run free, getting good outdoor time without watching TV...hanging out with friends and not feeling the pressure of everyday life. I savor the feeling of being away from it all, in a beautiful mountain-peaked wilderness setting.
And hooray--I finally finished my first piece of knitting!!! (in addition to making a tye-dyed hat, some beautiful bookmarks, and some earrings and a bracelet)


  1. That looks so awesome. I couldn't even think of a better word. It sounds (and looks) like you had a wonderful time. I love being in nature with my family. And I especially loved the pictures of your performing family. The Tony Chestnut picture especially.

  2. I agree with everything Jennifer said. It looks like an AWESOME time, the very best of summer camp! I'd love to spend a week or even a few days away from technology to thoroughly enjoy my family and friends. Your kids are a riot too! What fun all around!