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.