On the high road to Arizona

On the high road to Arizona

Right, so with first the Yosemite and then the Sequoia National Park mountain adventures tucked tightly under our belts, we’re ready to embark on our third road trip, one that would involve crossing the state line into Arizona, no less.

This trip would be super-exciting for several reasons: first off, we’ve never been to Arizona, and to get there from California, we’re looking at, oh, a 10-12 hour drive *faints*, and of course, the very thought of seeing the Grand Canyon is enough to send tingles of sheer excitement down anyone’s spine, right!?!

Obviously you can’t embark on a trip like this without a whole lot of planning and logistics. The North American continent is yuge so even if a place looks like it’s a fingernail away on the map, it could, in actual fact, be one lo-ong, back-breaking drive away. To train for the drive, we may or may not have run 10 miles and done 100 pushups daily lol, just sayin’. So then our plan was to see as much of the landscape as possible and have fun doing it all within the confines of time and economics.

The common route for getting to the Grand Canyon from California would be, and I’m guessing here, by way of Barstow and Las Vegas. While many swear by Las Vegas because of its casinos and razzmatazz, for me personally, it’s a case of been there, done that and quite frankly, gambling and glitz ain’t exactly my cup of tea. I mean, if you’ve been to Vegas once or twice (or more, as I have), I think that’s plenty. So we decided to take the route less traveled from Barstow to Needles (the sleepy border town where Snoopy was born) and Flagstaff instead.

Once again, the morning sees us sneaking out of town with the rising sun – you know it – driving endlessly through hills, valleys and desert (yes, the Mojave) on to Needles on the Californian border crossing over to Arizona to Kingman and finally arriving in Flagstaff after two days of driving. Did we break into loud raucous cheers of victory as we crossed the border into Arizona? Ya betcha!!! That sure was a big achievement and a very lo-ong drive indeed for the uninitiated!!

On the high road to Arizona

Next up, fun stuff in Arizona!

Inside a giant Sequoia

Inside a giant Sequoia

We were so pumped about our road trip to Yosemite we simply had to go again. To another national park, that is. Trust my two geologists and all those Earth Science classes they’ve been taking and as for me, I just couldn’t get enough of ’em trees. We just had to see more, and more doesn’t mean more of the same but more as in bigger, taller, more majestic. And the magic word is Sequoia.

Once again, taking advantage of the summer sunrise to get a super early start, we set off on the winding mountainous road taking us up and up thousands of feet to the land of the giant sequoias.

Inside a giant Sequoia

Just look at these amazing giants. Everywhere you look, there are trees this big all reaching into the clouds. I mean, forget the Coach handbags and lobster dinners. This is what you gotta see if you get the chance. Crafted by the very hands of Mother Nature and so beautiful it seriously blows your mind. I’m standing there feeling like a midget tilting my head back till I’m almost falling backwards and these trees just go on and on and on into the clouds. Amazzzzing!

Inside a giant Sequoia

And just look at the girth of that fallen tree trunk! It’s hard to imagine without actually seeing one. The fallen tree trunks are so big you can actually walk into them, which we absolutely did. We went in through the base and walked right through to the other end. Even people bigger and taller than me can stroll in without bending over, that’s how wide and tall this trunk is. In fact, during my college days, we even drove our car through one of these tree trunks!!

Okay, so to get to Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park to see the General Grant tree, the second largest tree in the world, we had to hike a short distance. At an elevation of 6350 feet (1935m), the air was cool and crisp, and the trail was fairly easy to hike. And at the end of that trail, ta-daaa…

Inside a giant Sequoia

The Grant Tree, nicknamed the “Nation’s Christmas Tree” is 3,000 years old, stands 268 feet (81.72m) tall and measures 29 feet (8.85m) around its base. Lol metric measurements are entirely too weird for me, never could wrap my head around them but I looked up the metric conversions for you metric folks.

Obviously you can’t go all the way to see the second largest sequoia in the world and not see the largest one, right? So we hopped back in the car and drove for another, oh, about a half hour to the Sequoia National Park. Climbing to 7000 feet (2200m) on narrow roads snaking along the edges of the canyon is quite the hair-raising experience. Oh man, it’s making my legs go jelly just thinking about the drive.

Inside a giant Sequoia

The hike to Sherman Creek was longer and more challenging but definitely worth the strenuous workout. So worth it. Think about it: General Sherman is 3200 years old, 274 feet (83.59m) tall and measures 27 feet (8.25m) at the base. Standing before the world’s largest living tree is truly a humbling experience.

I felt really really tiny shading my eyes staring up that endless trunk, so full of wonder and feeling really privileged to be meeting “the man” himself! How a tree grew to be so majestic and commanding is beyond me! Imagine if General Sherman could talk, what great stories he would tell about his growing years through all of those 3200 years!!!

An early morning drive to Yosemite

An early morning drive to Yosemite

There’s good reason why summer is the best time for traveling. I mean, what else would you do when such wonderfully long days of sunshine are calling out to you, right ? So we did the only thing there was to do. Taking advantage of the 5am sunrise, we got up early one morning, threw a few peanut butter and jam sandwiches into a Ziploc bag and soon we were on our merry way to the Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite is in the Sierra Nevada mountains which means it’s literally in our backyard. Apart from the fact that the mountain road is winding for most of the way, it’s not too long a drive. Still it’s wise you want to get an early start to beat the tourist build-up because believe you me, as the day wears on, you’d be hard-pressed to find a parking spot.

I’ve been to Yosemite many times since college and in recent years but this time, a strange thing happened. As I sat in the back seat watching the endless blur of trees whiz by, I began to notice how beautiful the trees were. It’s funny how we see trees everywhere all the time and I’ve never thought of them as anything more than just plants that stick out of the ground and reach for the sky.

But now as I gazed out of the car window, I started to develop a brand new realization of the sheer number and beauty of all these trees rising high up above us. You know, there’s a saying about not seeing the forest for the trees but for me, all I could see were the trees (literally, of course *lol*) and how beautiful they are and just like that, I’m in love.

An early morning drive to Yosemite

At some point, we left the blur of the trees behind and entered a long, dark tunnel and just like the proverbial tunnel, this one opened up to an unbelievable view of hills, rocks and waterfalls. Yosemite is, of course, the land of picturesque waterfalls – big ones, little ones but every which way you turn, there’s one waiting to take your breath away.

An early morning drive to Yosemite

The waterfalls are exceptionally beautiful because of the snow melt from the substantial rain that California’s been getting this year. Seeing the deluge of water as it cascades down from a great height creating billowing clouds of mist as thick as the water itself coupled with hearing the thunderous roar as the water hits base makes this a truly amazing experience.

A word of warning though if you’re planning a trip to Yosemite this summer – the rivers are full and very fast-flowing, the slopes are slippery when wet, and many accidents have been reported this year where people have fallen into the water and gotten swept away. So be very, very careful out there!!

Of all the waterfalls we saw, the one we most wanted to see was the Bridal Veil Fall. It took us a while to find a parking spot at the trail to this amazing sight. The hike to the base of the Bridal Veil Fall is a short one along a tree-lined trail beside the rushing river that this waterfall drains into.

An early morning drive to Yosemite

As we got closer, we could feel the mist raining on us. We did get a little wet but we didn’t mind. It was a welcome shower on a hot day. Actually it felt more like we were getting a generous sprinkling of holy water and we were quite happy about that lol!

If we’d wanted to go further up the trail, we would’ve needed raincoats which we didn’t have but which many folks seemed to have come prepared with. We had umbrellas in the car but we wouldn’t have been able to use them because of how narrow and crowded the trail was. Still it was amazing that we not only got to see and hear this mighty waterfall but to actually feel it too!

Long days and the deception of work

When my morning alarm goes off, I jump up with a start thinking that I’ve overslept because the sun’s shining so bright it’s like high noon outside. I stumble across to my cell phone at the other side of the room and whew, it’s only 6-ish. To those of us who’re constantly complaining that we don’t have enough hours in a day to get everything done, these unseasonably, incredibly long summer spring days are a dream come true.

Getting an early start knowing you have a full 15 hours of daylight ahead of you is a great feeling. While it’s technically not quite summer yet, Summer seems intent on elbowing Spring swiftly out of the way. And if our air-conditioning weren’t acting up so often, that great feeling might easily be a superlative. Except the darned thing keeps blowing hot air instead of cold.

So between toasty temperatures and cranky AC, we figured we really must do something about it. We did the next best thing: jump in the car and drive to San Francisco to escape the heat. Well, okay, the heat was one thing but our real excuse was the Memorial Day sales. Now if you’re a serious shopaholic, you don’t just stand there doing nothing when it’s raining discounts and promos out there.

Two productive days of retail therapy later, I’m happy to report we have a few, not many bagfuls of spoils to show for our hard work. Shopping is work? You’d better believe it! Do you know how many pairs of jeans I had to try on before I found my one true love? And don’t even get me started on the shoes. Sifting through rack after rack, shelf after shelf, hunting down your size, waiting in line for the fitting room clutching armfuls of clothes, yeah!

But it’s only when you get into the fitting room that’s when the real work (or workout, depending on how you look at it) begins. You’re doing countless squats trying on a pile of jeans and your ankle socks keep coming off with your jeans and you’re doing countless bends to get them back on. At some point, I hear someone saying, to heck with these socks, I’m leaving them off. But not me, I hate stepping on the cold, sandy floor and getting my bare feet dirty… so I keep on keeping on with the battle of the socks!

So yeah, it would seem, and I’m not even going to fault you for thinking, that it’s been all play and no work around here lol. If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you’ll know that around here, the term ‘work’ often takes on meanings that are worlds away from how others may view it.

Peace out… uttered with tongue in cheek.

Mid-winter froyo

Mid-winter froyo

Ouch, it’s cold. As in freezin’! It’s too cold to blog (anyone got a better excuse?) and it’s been raining heavily except that heavily in California means you can walk outside in a hoodie and not get wet. And when it rains, it’s actually not as cold except when the wind blows.

Some pretty gusty winds out there, the kind that flips your poor umbrella over the minute you get it open. When the wind blows, you shake the loose strands of hair off your face and toss your head back to catch more of it. Refreshing takes on a whole new meaning.

So we get to the front of Yogurtland and the sign says we’re 7 minutes early. We’re the only ones standing marching on the spot (brrr!) outside waiting for it to open! Well, at least we’re not standing in the blazing sun!

Frozen yogurt, here we come! And this time, I got my own cup, yay! (unlike the last time).

Mid-winter froyo

Had the Alphonso Mango Tart, Cheesecake and Sumatra Coffee Blend. Tossed in 2 little pretzels and called it a topping. Coupled with the intense shivering, this is really an awesome combination.

Stepping back out smacking my lips after this delicious frozen yogurt w-was q-quite th-th-the ch-challenge! The wind wasn’t letting up so the only thing left to do was pull my hoodie in closer, toss my head back and do the hustle. Woo-hooooo!!

 

Reflecting on 2016

Reflecting on 2016

Okay, so I started writing that obligatory end of year post that tries to capture, in a single post, everything that’s gone on in an entire year, but I didn’t finish it. Frankly, it’s harder to write than most years. 2016 was meh, at least that’s how I feel right now.

I’ll say though that yesterday was a beautiful winter’s day outside, the kind of scene you read about in novels – gray, foggy, rainy and trees now devoid of leaves – and so cold I had to keep my hands wrapped around the electric kettle. Gorgeous weather…

… and enjoying baguette slices gently toasted with homemade garlic butter and a bowl of piping hot homemade tomato soup. Aaah!

But the show post must go on. In keeping with the tradition of past reflection posts, I’m going to throw a bunch of completely random recap of our food adventures out there.

Cooking firsts

It’s again been a year of kitchen explorations with lots of cooking, lots of baking, lots of eating. What’s exciting is the bevy of budding chefs working alongside me in the kitchen churning out lots of creative ideas and new favorites. Our joint successes this year include:

New food loves

2016 was, in many ways – grilled, braised, pre-seasoned – the Year of the Pork Rib for us. It’s also been the year we ate a lot of fish #happy and too many desserts and snacks #notproud. Happy New Year!

Happy tummies, happy holidays!

Happy tummies, happy holidays!

So okay, we attended a Christmas breakfast. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Is she going to serve oats? cereal? fruits?  Hmm, now I know. Christmas breakfast is another way of saying Christmas lunch because by the time her entire family arrived, it was lunch time! Understandable, of course, given that her children and grandchildren were driving into town from all over the state.

Meanwhile, she’d been up since the crack of dawn to start making – breakfast? – for 15 people. She was thrilled when the elves showed up bright and early – 9:30 on the dot! We immediately got to work – washing and arranging strawberries, raspberries and grapes, cutting pineapples, slicing bananas to place on the jello. Yup, I was right about the fruits *winks*.

Them there were the leek and feta cheese phyllo pastries to arrange on the baking sheet to go into the oven. She has 2 full-sized ovens, by the way, and was lamenting that she needs 3! Between whipping the cream, arranging the crackers and wheat thins, laying out the jams, sauces and salsas and the doorbell ringing every 10 minutes, time flew by rather slowly!

By noon, we were running really low on fuel. At this point, we were willing to do just about anything to help her speed things up so we could sit down and EAT already! Good thing we always eat before attending invited events. In fact, we’d had 2 breakfasts at home that morning before heading out. Winter does weird things to your digestion.

Finally after 3 whole hours, my plate was filled with turkey, ham, sausage, bacon, corn salad, biscuit, crackers and fruits – hohoho! – followed by an afternoon of games, gift exchanges and some photos before dessert. There was so much food I ended up having only a slice of pumpkin pie. Good times, good food and lots of laughs.

We got home in the evening to pop those ready-to-cook ribs into the oven.

Happy tummies, happy holidays!

Thank goodness everything else was pretty much ready to eat – my homemade cranberry sauce, coleslaw and mashed potatoes. Happy tummies, happy holidays!

Happy tummies, happy holidays!

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