Wednesday, March 19, 2008

California, Friday to Sunday

It is now Tuesday night, but I finally got a card reader to work so I could get my photos off my camera and start blogging this trip. This will be a very long post, so feel free to take the National Geographic approach and go here for the pictures and captions.

It has been a whirlwind of fun times and we are not even halfway through yet. We flew into San Francisco at 11:30 pacific time after getting our family out the door at 4:45 eastern time, got our fabulous rental minivan and headed west to stop in at my brother's house. After a nice visit with them, we headed out at around 4 pm-bearing north on I-5 to Yreka.
View Larger MapWe stopped for dinner at the Black Bear Diner at the foot of Mt. Shasta, which we could not see due to heavy cloud cover. The Black Bear is a California diner chain where the food is good, comforting, and rooted firmly in the meat and potatoes tradition. After our late dinner on the road, Holly welcomed us to her lovely new home around 9:00 pm. We got our very tired children settled into bed, then chatted with Matt and Holly, held the darling baby Linnea, and waited for Heather and her family to arrive from Oregon. Holly and Heather are sisters and also friends that I've made through my online book group. I met Holly when she lived here in Beltsville, but I had never met her sister Heather other than in virtual reality. I was so excited to meet her and her family in person. They were driving 4 hours to meet us! I was so pleased and honored and excited. Heather hadn't yet gotten there when Eric and I started to hit the wall after our day of cross-time-zone travel, so I had to put my anticipation on hold for another night and fell into an exhausted but happy sleep in Holly's house. It just felt right to be there, in spite of the drive, in spite of the fact that Holly and Heather and I haven't known each other very long, just felt right.

The next morning, I met Heather's husband and her two children before I met her. What fun that was-her husband is warm and friendly and seemed genuinely glad to meet a houseful of strangers. I was standing at the sink doing dishes when she walked out of her room and I caught her eye. We smiled at each other, and after giving her about a minute to survey the situation, I couldn't resist and went and gave her a hug. It is a satisfying byproduct of this wired life I'm leading to have this new kind of friendship. I once had a pen pal in Trinidad/Tobago. I never met him, but he certainly made that little island nation more real to me than it ever had been as just a picture on a map. In a similar way, Heather has felt like a kindred spirit for more than a year now as we went from reading each other's posts on an online book forum as strangers with 2 degrees of separation between us, to reading each other's blogs, to feeling like friends. It was a similar journey with Holly, and so making this connection meant a lot to me.

After a wonderful breakfast of French toast, eggs and sausage grilled outdoors by Matt, we gathered ourselves up to get out the door. The weather was dicey, but we decided to be intrepid and head for a wildlife preserve at a place called Tulelake. We had information that the spring bird migrations were in full swing and 70,000 swans were taking their leave on the lake. Golden eagles also make their home in the area. Nearby are lava caves for exploring, so my kids were looking forward to our planned day. They had been wonderful-helpful and good-natured with the younger children, and getting along pretty well for the most part, in spite of all the travel we'd put them through in the last day or so. The skies were cloudy, there had been snow on and off all morning in Yreka, and the forecast wasn't great, but bundle up we did and off we went.

On the way, we stopped at a small war memorial park to have lunch, give the little ones a rest from the car seats, and get some fresh air. When we stopped at around 1:15 pm, it looked like a perfect moment for a picnic. The skies were partly sunny, the temperature was crisp, and the setting was lovely-ponderosa pine all around, lower peaks playing hide and seek among the fast-moving clouds, and friends all gathered. Within 45 minutes, all that had changed. The temperature dropped, the snow started then gathered strength, the wind picked up, and the visibility dropped-a full-on mountain snow squall. By 2 pm, we were back in our cars, some of us with our sandwiches still in hand, shaking the weird, pellet-like snow out of our hoods and cuffs and socks, and heading back to Yreka. It just wasn't worth the risk to take on a storm in the mountains. We didn't want to end up as a Lifetime Original Movie about getting lost in the mountains of Northern California, so we headed back home. The slideshow re-tells the story. It was pretty pathetic, but the group never lost heart, and the mood stayed pretty positive. When we got home, everyone was happy enough to settle down for naps, reading books, playing computer games and generally relaxing. Holly, Heather and I got time to visit, my kids got time out from their usual pell-mell schedules, and life was good. The evening rounded out with take-and-bake pizza, scrabble, and more good conversation.

Sunday morning, the sun came out and so did The Mountain, that of course being Mt. Shasta. Click on this to find out why it was especially meaningful that we finally got to see the mountain. Like the other volcanoes in the Cascade Range, this one is just spectacular. It is a big one-over 14,000 feet-similar in size to Mt. Ranier. There is a view from Holly's home that is just inspiring. The picture at the top is the mountain peak showing aboove the clouds and was taken from the front porch. Later that morning, Heather and I and our families went to church while Holly and hers stayed home because of sickness (yes, sweet Holly was hosting this house party in the middle of her family going through a miserable virus.) After church, we came home to a beautiful lunch spread that Holly and Matt put together for us when they could have been resting after a couple of tough nights with sick kids. It was a beautiful sight to come home to and a wonderful ending for our weekend together. After lunch we had everyone gather for some photos to record the occasion, then goodbyes that were bittersweet. How grateful I am for blogs and other ways to stay close to friends who are far away. Many thanks to Holly and Heather for these sweet memories, and many thanks to my family for supporting me in these activities that mean so much.

We headed down I-5 to Fairfield, about a 4 hour ride, and were rewarded with clear skies and views of the mountain all the way past Redding. There were other wonderful sights along the way, and the drive was deemed well worth it by my whole family. The true north of Northern California is a place apart-quiet, peaceful and defined by nature rather than man.


  1. I am very jealous of your fun times with our nook friends. It sounds like a total blast! How very hospitable. And you don't want to be a Lifetime movie? Whyever not? You could have some famous person play a much more emotional you!

  2. awh, kellie, you made me get all teary eyed. sniff. It WAS such a wonderful time, in spite of all the illness and cloudcover. I'm so glad the sun came out for your trip back at least. The photos are fabulous. come again soon, ya here? i'm hoping we'll be knocking on your door in the not too distant future!

  3. WONDERFUL!! That group picture is fantastic. OH I am jealous and thrilled for you at the same time :)

  4. What a great post, Kellie. We had such a wonderful time with you and your family--definitely worth the crazy 4-hr-drive-turned-8-hrs! I too felt like we all just belonged together--like old friends. The time just went too quickly. I really hope we get to make it out to Maryland sometime in the near future!

    I love the pictures, and I'll have to snag a few for my own upcoming post...

  5. So lovely to hear from you. I am glad that you are enjoying friends and family. Those times are the best! Good luck with the rest of your trip.


Thank you for sharing your insights!