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Monday, September 6, 2010

The Vacation--Part Two

While we were camping almost the whole time there was the biggest moon out. At first I was disappointed; in the Sierras you can usually see a ridiculous amount of stars, sometimes you get a glimpse of the Milky Way, too. But I have to say this moon was pretty rad. It was so bright, and the reflection on the lake was gorgeous. Art and I went for a walk around the lake at night and with the intense quiet, the moonlight, and the sharp shadows cast by boulders and trees it was really surreal. Like being on a lake on the moon itself.

Monday Art and I packed up and went on our little hike. I didn't get pictures of the hike itself, because in the beginning I was enjoying the trail too much to think of the camera, and at the end it was because I was dodging bear poop and trying to keep from sliding down steep hills. We went off trail in search of uncharted territory, which meant crossing the freezing cold creek, hiking where bears had obviously been recently, jumping logs, and swatting away the insane amount of flies. I swear I felt like something from a cartoon--there were so many flies buzzing around my head!! That was the only bad part about our hike. We found a little sandy nook next to the creek and made a little picnic of beef jerky and trail mix, and hung out. Jumped in the freezing water because it's fun to get that instant headache and then slowly thaw in the sun. You feel great afterward. Here's the creek:

We got back from our hike hungry and hot, so I jumped in the lake to cool off while we waited for my mom to get back with the boys. She'd taken them all to the "resort" down the road for ice cream. "RESORT" is in quotations because I have no idea why it is called that. It's an overnight campground for backpackers going on the Pacific Crest Trail (which incidentally goes from Mexico to Canada--crazy, eh?) and it happens to have a tiny store with ice cream and a crappy eatery. We bought ice and firewood there, and got our drinking water canisters refilled there, too. So I guess it was useful. But resort? Ha ha. Anyway the kids liked it because there was ice cream. Of course. 

The next few days we pretty much just hung out. Played a lot of Parcheesi and Battleship. Ilya learned how to build a fire from scratch and actually got pretty good at it. Malcolm discovered how much fun it is to hang upside down and he's been doing it ever since.

 We went fishing again, this time without Sashka because he thought it was boring (and my mom bribed him with ice cream to stay with her and Malcolm). We caught a heap of fish, and we thought we could invite our friend over for dinner to share with us.

Oh yeah, our FRIEND.

So I guess a lot of these National Forestry campgrounds have what are called "Camp Hosts." Essentially they're people who stay at the campsite all season and their in charge of checking you in, making sure you're following the rules, and keeping stuff clean. Ours happened to be a young guy named Brian who had a dog named Stella. We'd talk to him off and on when he'd come by because he was really nice and friendly, plus my mom's dog Sirius was enamored with Stella. After the weekend, the campground pretty much emptied so it was just us and the camp host around, so he'd come by more often and we'd watch the dogs play with each other. The kids were all in awe of this guy, they kept showing off their "finds" and stuff they'd made, and they kept asking us if "the Ranger" could come over for dinner. Ha ha. So after our second overly successful fishing trip, we thought we'd invite him, but when we came back my mom had already made a big batch of spaghetti and invited him to come over. Which he did. And it was really fun. No picture though because I was already afraid we were overwhelming the guy with all our chatter and the way all our conversations turn toward poop jokes in the end--I thought taking pictures might be a bit stalker-ish. Plus my mom had told him that we were all really impressed with him and that we wanted to take him back to Florida with us. Aaaawkwaaard. Ha ha ha.

Our last day we spent a lot of time down on the beach, trying to soak up as much of the pretty as possible. Malcolm sure enjoyed being free to roam around in the sand, although at one point I wasn't paying attention and he almost went for a swim with Art. That would have been fun.

That night we packed up as much as we could so we could leave early in the morning. My mom had to be back in Southern California for work so we decided to part ways for a day or two and take a more scenic route back. Friday morning we broke camp, which was interesting. Trying to keep all the kids clean was difficult, we ended up making them eat inside the tent trailer and then hanging out in there while we packed up. They didn't like it but I really didn't want to drive for hours with a carload of grubby kids. Regardless, we were all still pretty dirty as we made our way out of the mountains. 

We'd decided to go north and then cut across the mountains over Tioga Pass--the road that goes through Yosemite National Park. We drove and we drove and we drove and we drove. We stopped just short of the southern entrance to the park to eat lunch at some mom and pop's diner (which happened to have the best hamburger I have ever had) and then Ilya threw up all his lunch into a cup right before we entered the park. Gross. I had to get out and dump it out while it was still hot, then clean up his shorts. Ew.

The drive through Yosemite was gorgeous. I wish the pictures could do it justice--there is just no way to capture the enormity of the place. We drove under granite cliffs so high you had to stick your head out the car window to see the top, but in pictures it just looks like a rock.

If you look closely at the top of the picture, you can just make out the trees. Those are HUGE trees, too. Crazy. We drove through several massive tunnels through the mountain and then came out with a decent view of Half Dome.

Here's the nerdy tourist version:

Since none of us had ever been through this park before, I wanted to at least stop somewhere and see something, so we opted to take the kids to see the giant Sequoias. We pulled over, put on our hiking shoes, and walked a few miles down to the "grove". There were really only a few of the trees down there, but it was still worth seeing, and the kids were duly impressed. Here's us standing inside an old dead one.

Everything in this park was huge...including the crowds. It was cool to drive through but I would never want to stay there. You sacrifice all your peace and relaxation for the chance to see all the sights, but we're not much for that type of sightseeing. So our drive-by visit was perfect for us. I never realized how big the park was--it took hours to drive through, and at one point we were at almost 10,000 feet elevation. The temperature went from 85 to 59 degrees during our drive through the park. Crazy I tell you.

Finally we were through the pass, and we drove the last 70 miles or so to our destination listening to the sounds of Malcolm screaming. Honestly he didn't cry all day so he did pretty good I think, but we were all pretty wasted from a whole day of driving and a four mile hike thrown in. I wanted to check into our hotel, and to FINALLY be able to shave my legs and take a hot shower. We made it to Bishop just as the sun was setting, and found a hotel to throw our stuff into. Sick of the car, we decided to walk around the town in search of food. It was breezy and lovely outside, and the kids thought it was the coolest thing ever to be out walking around at night. We ate dinner then crashed.

The next day we ate a good breakfast, and stopped at Schatt's Bakkery. No, I didn't misspell that--it's a Dutch place that's been there since 1905 and ever since I was a kid we've always stopped there on our trips to the Sierras for coconut Macaroons. I was glad we had the chance to take the kids there and make it a tradition for them, too. I forgot my camera though which sucks because it's a really interesting little place to see, like old hot air balloon toys, wooden clogs, not to mention all the yummies!

Then there was MORE driving. Our next tradition stop was for "REALLY GOOD FRESH JERKY." This place is literally a shack on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, but they have signs advertising it for like a hundred miles. The place itself is so crappy, totally covered in stickers from all the hikers and snowboarders who stop there. There are bathrooms you can't flush toilet paper in and right next to it are chickens you can feed. But they do have really good jerky. And dried fruit.

Our traditional family picture in this same spot:

Notice how we're all about to be blown away. It was SOOOO windy here. I was changing Mal's diaper on the front seat of the car and the wind blew the door into my butt so hard I almost started crying. Ha ha. Also, it blew away the directions my mom had given us to get back to her house. That ruled. Well, it got even windier as we continued our drive. We'd roll down the windows when Mal would get too fussy because he couldn't possibly scream with the hurricane going through the car. Ilya kept his face next to the window and I about peed my pants watching his face practically peel off in the wind.

This leg of the road trip was particularly sucky. Ugly. Brown. Nothing much to look at. We did stop on the side of the road at one point so we could pick out some volcanic rocks for the boys to bring home. Other than that it was just long and brown. Many many boring and annoying hours later, we arrived at my mom's house. Which was a relief.

The last few days of our vacation we spent with a delightfully limited schedule of events, which were: do laundry, eat tomatoes, watch Star Trek TNG. The laundry was INSANE. My mom started it Friday, and I continued it Saturday and Sunday. And a little on Monday, too. I lost count of how many loads I folded. Some things had to be washed twice they were so dirty. This was AFTER about six or seven loads had already been finished:

Now, about that monster tomato plant. Here's Art picking the third or fourth FULL SHOPPING BAG of cherry tomatoes. THIS IS ONE. PLANT. Just one!

According to my mom, the trick is to not take care of the plant, no trimming, weeding, sucker pinching, nothing. And apparently the result is a freakish plant that produces more tomatoes than you know what to do with. I seriously think we ate our own weight in those things the last few days.

Monday was our last day in California, so my mom took us to the Sheriff's hangar where she volunteers so the boys could see the helicopters her and my stepdad get to fly in. He's a firefighter paramedic and she's a nurse, and they get to do stuff like get lowered on a harness into mountain canyons to rescue people. It's pretty cool. The boys loved the helicopters, and we even got to stand there when one took off on patrol.

After the hangar visit Art and I took advantage of Grandma babysitting and went and saw a movie. Then it was back to the house for some final packing and readiness checking. The next morning we were up bright and early at 3:45 (double UGH) loading up our stuff in the truck. This time we were hiccup-free--no barfing, no birth certificate questions, we just got right on the plane and it was smooth sailing all the way home. Mal didn't really cry, and the boys were very entertained by my invention of airplane barf-bag puppets.

At last we arrived in nice, cloudy, muggy Tampa, where Zac and Nate were nice enough to drop off our truck for us, and we got our bags and loaded up the car. We arrived home to a mowed lawn (thanks to our neighbor) and a green pool (thanks to our chlorinator being trashed) and as we plopped our bags down on the floor with a sigh we realized that the vacay was officially over.


Anonymous said...

this looks so memorable!
the wind picture is too funny.
theboys are getting so big!!!!

all of these happy family blogs & i'm still single beulz :\

Jenn Grigoryev said...

good grief beulah, what are you like 20? happy family blogs will come to you. how could they not, with all that talent and large amazing hair???

Anonymous said...

22! 23 in february!
whatever, BOOOOO.

Steve Nelson said...

Best blog entry EVER! Love love LOVE this! Thanks so much for sharing. Miss you guys a lot looking at all those shiny happy faces!

Anonymous said...

I love that first pic of you and Mal! I am glad you had a good relaxing time. looked like fun!