January in CA: Yosemite Winter Hiking and Camping

I found it humorous to realize in my travels abroad that many Europeans (perhaps subconsciously) imagine all of America to look like NYC and Laguna Beach. Yet most Americans have the same narrow understanding of California as beaches and movie stars. In my opinion, the best parts of CA are found miles from the coastline and even further from the endless summer of SoCal.

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So when my dad came to visit in January, I couldn’t wait to show him that mid-winter displays some of California’s most gorgeous angles. I owe much of my love of the outdoors to my father. Thanks to him I grew up on mossy, tree-shaded trails leading deeper into the woods or on to the river or even to another world if my imagination was up to the task. Actually, I have him to thank for discovering the amazing site Walkifornia a few months before we moved. It was this site that turned me on to my two favorite (mostly unknown) parks in CA: Garrapata and Big Basin. My dad, being the tree-lover that he is, requested to see Coastal Redwoods and Sequoias on his trip. Luckily, both are just 3 hours away from our home in the Central Valley.

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So we set off for Big Basin Redwoods State Park on Friday morning. Located amidst winding roads and hidden between Santa Cruz and San Jose, this park is quiet and majestic.

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Big Basin contains the largest stand of Coastal Redwoods south of SF.

DSC_0002For our day trip, we opted for the shorter trails nearest the park office. The largest trees are within 1 mile of the parking lot, so it’s perfect for a shorter hike. The best views in the park are said to be at Berry Creek Falls, but we haven’t yet put that path to the test.

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We’ve visited Big Basin from Fresno as an overnight and stayed in Santa Cruz, but this time we were day trippers. It’s impossible to be this close to the ocean and drive right back into the valley without saying hello, so we stopped into Santa Cruz for dinner.

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IMG_4729Do you find yourself repeating the same trip instead of staking out new territory? I can’t help myself – the Lighthouse Beach in Santa Cruz is simply stunning, especially toward sundown.

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Nearly every time my boots hit the trail, I find myself wishing my dad was out there with me. He would love this, I think. He would really just love it here. Finally, I had my chance and, as you can see, we were determined to make the most out of his visit. The next day, we were on to Yosemite (or as I dreamily refer to it: our backyard).

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 Trudging through the snow, we debated the merits of the Redwoods and Sequoias. It was love at first sight for both of us. The Sequoias had won my heart two years prior during my first visit to California. The Jurassic quality of the grove, the quiet magnitude… and this guy: The Grizzly Giant. Isn’t he magnificent? I stood under his triumphant branches and watched the dry snow crystals sail down like angel’s confetti. Sure, the Redwoods are fantastic, but he and I will have to agree to disagree on this topic.

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You thought I was finished composing a sonnet for these centurions, didn’t you? You obviously don’t know me well enough yet. Just look at this photo. Early settlers cut a car-sized hole right through the tree to increase tourism to the area, yet the bark has wrapped itself around into the interior. It’s healing itself and still alive nearly a hundred years later.

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Eventually, we strapped on some tire chains and rolled noisily into the Valley.

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DSC_0138Nearly an hour into Yosemite Valley from Mariposa you will enter Tunnel View. If it’s your first time visiting Yosemite and you’re traveling from Fresno you will be rewarded with the ultimate unveiling of the most iconic mountainscape in America.

DSC_0180 DSC_0182Be forewarned: if you’re traveling to Yosemite between November and April, come with chains or be prepared to purchase some in the park. If you’re especially lucky, you’ll be traveling with your brilliant father who will put them on in a jiffy.

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The first turn off after Tunnel View is Bridalveil Falls. Watching the water fall off the cliff and scatter into vapor and snow on its way down is not to be missed, but beware of the ice!

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We checked into our tent cabin in Curry Village so that we could do a bit more exploring before dark. In the winter months, they run a deal so that you only pay a flat fee of about $40 for a heated cabin, plus $1 for every degree above freezing. If you stay in an unheated cabin and it’s below freezing, you don’t pay anything. I know – it sounds nuts, but staying in an unheated cabin in the mountains in January is even crazier, so I imagine they still come out ahead.

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Road weary and a bit photo-fatiqued, I settled into the lodge at Curry Village across from a welcoming fire. Next time, we’ll bring a few more board games and plenty more groceries. As it was, we settled for some pizza from the place across the way.

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We flipped on the heat before spending several hours in the lodge, so it was more than cozy when we got in. Naturally, I had to make a midnight trip to the loo and it wasn’t terribly frightening to do so (especially since I commandeered an escort (love you, baby!)

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The next day we closed our eyes and chose a hike from the park map. There’s no way to go wrong in Yosemite, but to be safe in the winter it’s best to consult someone who works at the park. Some trails were closed for the winter. We took the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail to Columbia Rock.

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The thing about CA hikes in comparison to the rest of the world is that the metrics are surely off. One mile always feels like two and a moderate hike always feels strenuous. To me, anyway. Strenuous, but completely worth it.

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It began to snow once we reached the vista. The flakes descended in a cloud. We were warm from the hike and remained perched on Columbia Rock amidst our very own snow globe for nearly a half hour, but not nearly long enough. Slowly, we stepped down again into the Valley, into reality.

Many thanks to my dad for nearly all of these marvelous shots, and for the wonderful weekend. Come back soon. xo, Adrie

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What Did I Do Wrong?: Why female relationships are tricky.

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I recently devoured a book by Liz Pryor written about the mysterious, complex and sometimes brutal friendships between women. In her book she identifies the common, yet unexplored phenomena of female-breakups. You know what I mean… when that lady you’ve been sharing coffee, yoga mats and intimate life details with suddenly drops off the radar. I imagine that if you haven’t been on the receiving end, you may have been on the leaving end. The one left behind feels confused, ashamed, betrayed and sometimes reaches out to her closest friend asking “Why?”, usually only to be met with “I’m just soooo busy right now.”

This, my dears, is the classic, keep-your-hands-clean, passive-aggressive ending to so many of our female relationships. Many of us can appreciate both sides of this story, because really, how do you break away from a friendship that started wonderfully, but just hasn’t evolved the way you wanted it to? Plus you hate the way she says “croissant” like she’s teaching a French class and how every accomplishment of your own needs to be met by her like some crazy grade-school competition.

Sometimes we just need to move on. Sometimes they need to move on. But how?

I must admit that my primary appreciation of this text was simply knowing that I’m not the only one that has been “dumped” by a close friend. It’s amazing, really, that we feel so ashamed and want to badly to put that experience behind us that it NEVER comes up when we talk to other women, regardless of the fact that nearly all of us have experienced it at one point or another.

Well, dearie, the dozens of stories shared in this book will relieve the burn with the soothing salve of normalcy, which might just encourage you to reflect on the less-than-kind ways you treated women that thought of you as the jelly to their peanut butter.

How is that for some rose-tinged reality?

Resolved.

Yes, this is quite late in posting. I found it written on a scrap in my desk and wanted it preserved…

2013 Resolutions

1. Be kind
2. Explore
3. Pursue quiet
4. Answer the call
5. Create good food
6. LISTEN!
7. Yoga
8. Find happiness in today

Don’t tell me “no”.

There is a certain reckless danger innate to in-the-moment blog posts. You have been warned.

Scene 1: I am sitting across from my brilliantly astute and mercilessly honest university coordinator. It’s a few minutes after my third and final teaching observation and she’s looking at me over her glasses, evaluation in hand. She’s telling me that she knew after the first observation that I was one of the most stellar teaching candidates she’s ever worked with, that when she had nothing to offer as a recommended area of growth it was my own expectations for improvement that were listed on the evaluations, that she was personally recommending me to an elite North Shore district, and then… and then somehow she said something else. It was something like, “… and it’s very clear to me that you are unaccustomed to not getting your way immediately and that it is difficult for you.”

Did someone just kick over a trap set? Where did that come from? That can’t be true. I don’t always get my way. In fact, I’m a really flexible, adaptable person. What?!

Scene 2: I am sitting at the dining room table. Danny is across the room at the computer. I have graduated from my master’s program and am trying to work out how and when I will complete my science endorsement. I have laid out the reasoning behind the science endorsement to Danny five million times. 1.) It provides me an edge in my market. 2.) It makes me more marketable to middle schools to have both a social studies and science endorsement. 3.) Teaching science allows me to use the inquiry-based learning model more than any other subject. 4.) You’re bored now, right… I won’t go on.

He says: I don’t think you can do it right now (for financial reasons). Why don’t you wait until next year?

She says: Because next year I will be teaching full-time, and won’t have the time or energy to take additional coursework.

He says: We’ll have the money later.

She says: I have the time now.

8 months later… she is unexpectedly given all the time in the world and pursues the endorsement. She reminds him that she’s still right. That she wouldn’t be able to do this if she were teaching full-time.

Scene 3: I am sitting at my computer. I am researching programs to become a yoga instructor. The above argument re-kindles. Time v. Money.

To bring this full-circle, I have been forced to reckon with Dr. D’s harsh blow. Those words still echo in my mind and leave me feeling baffled. That’s not true about me. It can’t be, can it?

The truth of the matter is that I don’t hear no very often. It’s hard to tell me “no”. In my other lives, I must have been a salesman, a lawyer, and a politician. I can lay out my case and in a few minutes, you believe it more than I do. So I have to remind myself in times like this when I’m being told “no” that in the face of resistance I have the habit of holding on tighter. This tenacity is a great thing. But I have to check in: what am I holding on to? Is it worth fighting for? How badly do I really want this? The disagreement leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth toward this venture anyway.

I think that time will win out in this argument after all, just not the way I originally intended. I have to remember to always look at the big picture, pink-tinged perspective or no.

Quieting quarrels

“Get up now, so you can get the gym in time for that sculpting class.”

“This bed is too comfortable. You’ll never take me alive.”

“If you get up now you can still make it to the yoga class you intended to go to after that sculpting class, which you were too lazy to attend. Did I mention you’re lazy?”

“Yoga smoga. I want cereal.”

Two hours pass. Email is checked, Twitter is monitored, Facebook is glanced at, breakfast is served.

When I finally made that long, much resisted journey into the shower (which, fun fact, is where I do my best thinking, for whatever reason) I realized that I was using up all of my momentum by allowing these strange arguments to continue in my head. To be so berating and so escapist at once was literally exhausting me. If I simply go and do the thing I am resisting, my energy is diverted and the quarrels must quiet.

I’m sure this strikes a note with a few people in this season of resolutions (of which I have plenty, thank you). And as I was appreciating this matter-over-mind approach I began to feel frustrated that my notion of “productivity” was tied to things visual and material. I’ve always been the sort to spend long holidays up in the solitary confines of my own mind. And, for better or worse, I’ve been to that deserted island more than I ever imagined possible this past year. I’ve gotten a lot done up there, sorted things through, really. Yet it’s much easier to feel at ease if the dishes are clean at the end of the day. That’s the proof that I’ve actually “accomplished” something.

My first inclination is to make this a gender issue… which probably just stems from the dishes comment. My experience with males tells me that they are often (though not always) much more defined by “doing” than “being” as we ladies often are. So if I feel the need to clean the kitchen in order to prove to my husband that I’ve done something, it’s probably due to the fact that that I’ve realized that’s his perception, rather than any sort of subjection on his part (poor man, to be married to a modern woman and accused of such things.) 😉

In the practical sense, I will silence the battle in my mind through, and in order to, get something done. And while I do, I will continue to pursue those things unmeasurable up in that dusty little attic of my mind.

Seeking comfort and finding change.

‘Tis the season for comfort. Comfort food, comfy sweaters, steaming cups of comfort by cozy fires – you get the picture. We take comfort in reliving traditions and making new ones. But as I seek my traditional comforts this season, I’m met with more than a little change instead.

My parents decided to move out of my childhood home in the country and into town over the Christmas holiday. Having grown up with a family that discussed moving on an annual basis, I can’t lie that I was a bit unprepared for it to actually happen. I’m thrilled for this change in their lives and the positive effect it will have on all them. I completely appreciate the necessity of the decision and what precipitated the long-debated move becoming a finality.

My mom asked me numerous times if I would miss the house (our house, as I will always think of it) and I could only respond that I would miss it mostly for my children, because it’s simply one of those magical places you can only visit to really understand.

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But of course, living in a 150 year old farmhouse was less than magical in the day-to-day. I have deep-rooted memories of trying to fall asleep with pounds and pounds of quilts on top of me in the winter. I’m convinced that it took me years after moving out to increase my internal body temperature so that I wasn’t incessantly and unreasonably cold. The legacy of the house was equally chilling at times. Given that the home has belonged to the same family for those entire 150 years, there are reflections of each passing family in the home and it was difficult to ever make our own mark there (however hard I tried and much to the chagrin of my father).

My mother, the suburbanite, the baby boomer, is ready for a more comfortable lifestyle, and in this season, who can really blame her? Being the woman of the house (okay, apartment) myself, I can certainly agree that if mama’s happy, everyone is happy.