Sunday, November 30, 2008

One Last Time: Thanksgiving in Yosemite

This year Thanksgiving was very different than our usual tradition, but then again these past 14 months haven't exactly been traditional, at least not for Max and me. As we get ready to leave California, we are doing "one last times". This was not only our last Thanksgiving here (OK, it's only our second) but we also celebrated it by giving thanks for beautiful nature, specifically Yosemite. Yes, we were there about a month ago with Matthew and Sharon, but this time we met Will and Brandy in a cabin just south of Yosemite. I'm going to miss being so close to such beautiful mountains and trees. We can drive north to Muir Woods- or the spectacular Avenue of the Giants- or south to Big Basin- or Big Sur- or to the west to lake Tahoe or Yosemite- the longest drive is 5 hours- and you see the most incredible, breathtaking, humbling experiences of God's spectacular creation. I'm going to miss this the most (except perhaps my Bay- I do love this Bay- and never tire of watching the boats come in and out- and the surf rise and fall)- But it is the forests that take your breathe away- again and again. So this Thanksgiving we met Brandy and Will to celebrate Thanksgiving in this most remarkable of places- Yosemite. Our first full day there was Thanksgiving Day, so with all due tradition, Will, Brandy and I headed for the park and Max stayed in the cabin to cook our dinner. Such a wonderful little wife I have! Actually it was her suggestion, and I think she really wanted to do it that way, or at least she insists that she did. For me it just isn't Thanksgiving if I don't spend the day in the kitchen- And I was determined- and I wasn't alone because Will and Brandy's two puppies kept me good company. So I cooked and cooked and cooked and cooked. Our Yosemite experience was a little different this time. The day was beautiful (at least at the start), but because of some snow and rain in the mountains, there was actually some water coming over the falls. It wasn't the crashing water falls the park is known for, but it was water and it was falling.

In the upper right corner of this picture you can just make out Bridal Veil Falls. That was our first stop in the Valley. We walked up to the bottom of the falls at the viewing area. Below is a good picture of how much water was actually coming over the falls.

On our last trip, Sharon and I climbed up to the very bottom of the falls where the water lands in a pool. It's a fairly rugged climb over big boulders and Will and I tried to do it again this time. But when we got close to the top the mist from the falls was too heavy making the granite surfaces very slippery. We got close, but couldn't get the whole way there.

Coming down was a new adventure too. Climbing down wet slippery rocks is a lot harder than climbing up them. So Will and I had to carefully find a less difficult path back down. Below Will is demonstrating some of the skills he learned as a combat rescue officer as he walked the plank down the rocks.

The surprise of the day was that Yosemite Falls also had water coming over it. On our previous trip the falls were only represented by a water mark on the granite wall where the water normally falls. This time you can actually see water on the 1430 foot upper Yosemite Falls. The picture below was taken quite a ways away from the falls, just so I could get both the upper an lower falls in the same picture will Will and Brandy.

The picture below was taken about 300 feet from the base of the lower falls, which are themselves 320 feet high.

When Don, Brandy and Will got back to the cabin it was time for THANKSGIVING. We had to serve buffet style- straight from the stove- no serving bowls or utensils. But that doesn't make anything less tasty!

Brandy and Will went through the line...

And this year I made Grandma Lucas' Corn Pudding- and I'll make it next year and the year after and the year after...

Many of our traditional Thanksgiving foods were "discovered" in America- and then made their way back to Europe- And now we build our Festival around these NATIVE foods- turkey- corn- string beans- cranberries- potatoes- squash (pumpkin).

So we had sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, corn pudding, cranberry relish, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing- and of course the turkey. I've been making this same meal (that gets bigger and bigger when in Cincinnati- for 32 years- It's my favorite day- my favorite time- my favorite holiday- and I'm so looking forward to returning to Cincy to share this day with so many friends and family (PS: Brandy intends to run next year in the Cincy Thanksgiving Day Race- it is her POST BABY goal- so I think many of you need to get to the gym- or hit the streets- so you can keep up with her).

On Friday we hiked in the national forest just north of our cabin. The hike was about 4 miles along Lewis Creek. We planned this one well, by parking one car at the bottom of the hike and taking the other to the top. That way it was down hill all the way, and 830 foot drop. I forgot my camera on this hike, but Max had hers and got some great shots. The hike was GREEN and cool with a few waterfalls (not quite like the ones above, but very nice nonetheless).

There is nothing like a 4 mile hike- that is down hill all the way!

Now in between all this hiking- and eating (in typical Thanksgiving fashion this is the meal that keeps on giving- we had leftovers the rest of the time in the cabin- never had to cook again!)
But there were the games!

Will won scrabble...
Will won bridge... when I was his partner....when Don was his partner....when Brandy was his partner.... Not sure we would have noticed- but Will did point this out just in case it had escaped our notice.

On Saturday we hiked another National Forest trail up in an area that at one time was a grove of giant redwoods. Unfortunately, most of them were cut down in the early 1900's and turned into roof shingles. This was more of a grave yard of the giants in that after the trees are cut and carved into lumber, the stump remains for several hundred years as a reminder of what used to be there. The rest of the forest has grown up around these stumps leaving them as ghosts of what was there.
This stump on the left is close to 6 feet tall and the one in the back on the right is at least 15 feet tall. But the axe and the saw missed a few like this one in the picture below. This tree was about 250 tall, standing alone, surrounded by firs and pines that have grown up around it.

This hike took up up about 500 feet over a distance of about 1.5 miles. It was a beautiful hike with vistas of the lower mountains that make up the western edge of the Sierra range.


And then there was a nice walk in the forest....

We spent a two days hiking in the National Forest so that we could take Brandy and Will's dogs along with us. Dogs are not allowed on trails in the National Parks, but they are allowed in the National forest as long as they are on leases. So Caymen and Brumby both got some long walks with us on Friday and Saturday. But while in the cabin, they claimed the coach in front of the picture window as their own, and enjoyed naps there when they weren't protecting us from intruders.

And of course Don built the most fantastic of fires...

And we had such a wonderful time- and felt so lucky to spend this time with Brandy and Will (and Grandbaby #7)!


Beyond The Strip said...

Ahhh, what a great trip! We're so happy we got to spend Thanksgiving with you two in such a beautiful setting!

The Life and Times of Poose and Hawk said...

Wonderful trip. Max, have you gotten even smaller?