Sunday, May 4, 2008

Greener Pastures


Jutting granite swelled past me. Purple lupine, clutching to rocky cliffs, swept by. The sun scattered, dotting in through tall trees. I felt light headed, dizzied as much by the lack of air at 7,000 feet as by our decision to leave Sequoia National Forest after only one day. The towering sequoias, beckoning hiking trails and frolicking river were, for the most part, off limits. Dusted snowbanks closed most of the roads. Trees, felled by winter's storms, stretched across others.

As our car glided off the mountain and into fingered foothills, cattle grazed and a cow and her calf nibbled prairie grass, side by side. I thought of my hopes for a meaningful vacation - one that would reconnect my children with the wild outdoors and instill in them a love for nature and her unpredictable beauty. Out of the hills and passing acres of almond trees and dilapidated dairy farms, my husband pulled into a gas station. Our second full tank in two days. So much for an eco-friendly vacation. So much for this month's Riot numbers.

Last night, we sat in the dark cabin, perched on a cliff, and considered calling the vacation off, going home. It wouldn't be the worst thing. I missed my garden. Had my pumpkin seeds, tucked into compost mounds in the sidewalk strip, poked out of the earth yet? Would my son's Calypso beans survive the onslaught of slugs and snails without my application of slug soup? I also missed my farmers. Sapphira always set aside special treats for me - the earliest cucumbers, the last watermelon radishes. I had forgotten to tell her I would be gone. She would look for me and wonder.

A week's vacation is hard to come by though and we had decided to relocate. Studying a decade old map sprawled across the cabin's kitchen table, we settled on Yosemite. Neither of us had been there in years but it didn't look too far.


Four days later, in the car yet again, we head home. Yosemite's yawning domes and stone valley stretch out behind us. We made the right decision. We had the muddy faces, dirt caked fingernails and sore legs to prove it.

Not every vacation is a communion with nature. There will still be trips to Disneyland in our future, no doubt. As we slide past farms and pastures, back into suburbia, though, I remember the sandy inlet along the Merced river, where we picnicked for an afternoon. The boys explored the gurgling creek, mud-pie sand and rock tunnels. Caught in the churning current, floating branches were transformed into sea serpents and a downed tree into a rare and dangerous shark. Monstrous boulders were scaled and red winged black birds worshiped. I know that those trips to Disneyland, to places where nature does not take center stage will be fewer and fewer. Mother Nature simply has too much to offer.

11 comments:

Verde said...

Oh, beautiful. I imagine the seasons were different there. Not too far from us in the basin.

CindyW said...

Love love Sequoia National Park. Years ago, Friends and I spent two weeks hiking there. And Yosemite, how can one not appreciate the sheer granite. It must be so nice this time of the year - not many visitors, just peacefulness and magnificence. Oh, your post totally made me want to go there next week :)

Joyce said...

We spent our one free day amongst the Sequoias when our son was married in Selma a few years ago. I'm so glad you were there even a short time! There was snow up there then, too, but we still got the full affect of feeling like little ants under those trees. Who knows if we will ever be there again?

Heather said...

Sounds like a wonderful vacation. Your photos are just gorgeous. Welcome home!

pink dogwood said...

welcome back - vacations are nice if for nothing else then to refresh your love for home sweet home.

Melissa said...

It sounds like you definitely made the right choice! Glad you had a good time!

Beany said...

Beautiful pictures! I'm glad your kids had a good time.

Donna said...

Your pictures remind me of how Yosemite looked when Scott and I took our honeymoon there in the spring 11 years ago. When I was a kid, my family would visit Yosemite2-3 times/year camping at Tuolomne in summer and day trips in other seasons. Every fall when the leaves turned, we'd pick a day, get up at 4 AM, drive to the valley floor, soak it all in, and drive home that evening. Crazy, maybe, but you can't always take a long vacation during school and my dad needed his Yosemite fix! I guess it rubbed off on me, too!

Green Bean said...

Thank you all. It was a beautiful, wonderous trip. The sequoias, even though we could only hike out to two groves because of the snow, are something everyone should see. If you want to feel small, inconsequential, go hug a sequoia. Stand at its base and look straight up. It goes on forever.

Yosemite was perfect this time of year (especially mid-week). Many of the campgrounds were still closed due to snow which meant fewer visitors, less hassle and easier communing with nature.

Joanna said...

That is my home. I grew up in Mariposa and spent my summers climbing rock faces and winters on the out-door ice rink. I do miss it. Of course- had they charged for entrance then like they do now I wouldn’t have had the privilege of enjoying it as Mariposa County shares the ignominy (with Mendocino County) of being the poorest districts in rich California. That is how the locals have been isolated from their own back yard.

Green Bean said...

Joanna, we enjoyed our time in your backyard. It is interesting, though, that Mendocino and Mariposa (the two most beautiful counties I know of) are the poorest in the state. There has got to be a solution to allow residents of such wonderful places - who open their backyards and their roads to us tourists - to enjoy the richness of their own counties.

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