How I spent My Summer Vacation

by Janna Mauldin Heiner & r & I picked up the June 9 issue of The Inlander with no idea of the challenge lurking between its covers. I should have known that the summer activities suggested in there weren't going to be the cute, slightly silly pastimes one finds in so many other periodicals.

I read entirely through the Summer Guide section with pleasure but without an inkling of what was in store for me. When I turned to the final page -- the one with the checklist and cut-out badges -- I laughed out loud and had to apologize to some very confused and slightly offended people.

I am of an oddly competitive nature -- unable to muster the discipline to train for any true competition, but equally unable to resist any kind of a challenge, especially if there's fun (and a free T-shirt) involved. And as summer break means I am directly responsible for the entertainment and education of four other people (Seth, 16; Braden, 13; Nate, 9; and Miss Anna, 5) -- well, what the heck. I'd earn my T-shirt and they'd all join me. As would their conventional, conservative father, Brett, who is also a pretty indulgent husband.

Our quest began with the Summer Music badge, for which we enjoyed one of the concerts at Hayden City Park. We just finished up by purchasing a new kayak and paddling it around for five hours. (Which, I think, qualifies me for the Summer Sports badge. Is there a Summer Sports Injuries badge? I'd qualify for that, too.) Along the way, we had some great experiences.

For the Summer Arts badge, I went on a gallery tour with a group of women from my church. Several of the galleries in downtown Coeur d'Alene stayed open late just to receive us. Additionally -- although perhaps this comes under the Urban Fun badge -- Anna and I made art postcards, which we addressed to ourselves, stamped and hid in books in the Idaho Falls and Iona libraries. And finally, in the Sawtooth National Forest along a creek known only as the Outlet Creek, there's a Goldsworthy-esque (though certainly cruder) platform made of carefully arranged sticks hanging over a deep bend. Only you know who is responsible for its existence.

Our Urban Fun continued with the turnabouts. We rarely missed the opportunity to confuse other drivers.

We enjoyed several Summer Small-Town Trips. We stopped in Wallace for much-too-brief a stay. We spent Independence Day in Melba, Idaho, which has the best small-town Fourth of July anywhere. And we bought expensive groceries in Stanley, Idaho, where we also attended an unfamiliar church. Well, half-unfamiliar. It was a gathering of members of our own religion, but in a multi-denominational chapel built of logs and beautiful stained glass on the top of a hill facing the Sawtooths at close range.

The Summer Theater badge was mine even before the Summer Guide came out. Thanks to another tip from The Inlander, Brett and I attended both nights of the Playwright's Forum Festival. The Festival inspired me to write a short play based on my two crazy grandmothers, which my sister's grown kids helped stage in another sister's living room.

We aced Summer Food and Drink without even trying -- making our own ice cream and root beer are no sweat around here. We also made pancakes from huckleberries we picked ourselves.

For Summer Outdoor Activities, I think the huckleberrying qualifies, even though it wasn't on the list. If not, can we consider swimming? I'm pretty dang proud of some of the distances I swam this summer. They wouldn't impress any real swimmers, but my son Seth and I challenged each other repeatedly, swimming side by side in cold reservoirs and icy lakes.

Among our Summer Getaways, we visited Rhino Cave -- and if the definition of "adventure" is "an undertaking of uncertain outcome," this was the biggest one of the summer. We took an alternate route -- not the one described in The Inlander -- and it turned out to be much longer. But we finally arrived, only to be discouraged at every turn -- quite directly by a Forest Service employee, more obliquely by a resort owner. I began to feel I had dragged my entire family into the kind of experience they would never let me forget. But we finally found a helpful if none-too-friendly resource at Laurent's Resort -- a man who drew us a sketch map, took our three bucks and pointed the way. A very short boat trip later, all six of us -- even 5-year-old Anna -- made the full climb to Rhino Cave and peeked in. Braden even climbed inside and gave us a dramatic description in every detail.

So the only thing left is a Summer Hobby. Well, duh. Mine is finding great ways to educate and entertain my kids.

The Heiners live in Hayden, Idaho. Next time you see them, they may be sporting their hard-earned official Inlander summer T-shirts.

Summer Parkways @ South Hill

June 14-20
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