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Archive for July, 2008

Mike resting on the front deck

Originally uploaded by Kiki Karia.

The Bible says that that God ended his work which He had made, and He rested on the seventh day from all his work which He had made (Genesis 2:2). This was the seventh day of our trip, so it was only right that we spend the day resting. The past six days, we had done a lot of driving, traveling and sightseeing. Now we were going to be staying at one location for the next five days.

We slept in, as people who rest usually do. Later that morning, I fixed us a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, toasted cinnamon raisin muffins, orange juice, and apple slices with yogurt and granola. Yummy! It was a beautiful sunny day in the redwoods. We spent a good part of the day relaxing on the front deck, reading and taking in the view from this lovely and tranquil location.

There were some resident deer that came near our cabin, and Mike spent some time photographing them. A couple of stellar blue jays were twittering about in nearby trees. Mike laid out some Sun Chips, and made friends quickly with them. It was a leisurely, relaxing day. Mike remarked that he could get used to this. I wonder if retirement would be like this? I spent a considerable amount of time reading and writing in my journal.

I fixed a simple dinner of hamburgers, corn and Weenie Beanies. This slower pace was quite enjoyable. At 7:30, we drove to the registration facility to hear a ranger talk that was scheduled for that night. This is where a Yosemite ranger comes and holds an informal and educational discussion about the national park or whatever topic he chooses. There were about twelve people there, and the ranger had an open forum, allowing us to discuss or ask him any questions we would like. He threatened that if we ran out of questions to ask him, he would bring out his ukulele and make us sing songs. That never did happen. Our group had many questions, and this friendly and loquacious ranger was blessed with the gift of gab. He rambled on about the various topics and questions that were posed. It was quite interesting hearing about the history of this amazing location. He talked about Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir’s travels to this area as well as the problem of overcrowding in the park. I learned that the grounds where we were staying, “Redwoods in Yosemite”, is mostly private property, and although it is surrounded by Yosemite National Park, it is not part of the national park service. We drove back to our cabin about an hour later, with our heads a little bit fuller with knowledge of this area.

Deer near our cabin

Deer near our cabin

Stellar blue jay near our cabin

Blue jay near our cabin

Mike reposing on the front deck

Mike reposing on the front deck

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Click to play Day 6 - Yosemite
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We were awakened by the alarm clock at 6:00 AM. This was going to be a day of much driving as we were headed to the southern end of Yosemite National Park in a town called Wawona. Twenty-nine years ago Mike and I were married. We had spent our honeymoon in Yosemite, so it was only right for us to be there on this special day.

We made one last drive up to the Minaret Summit view before leaving Mammoth. The temperature was about 55 degrees, but with no wind blowing, it was quite mild. We took more pictures as this time of day provides better lighting. We spied some mountain flowers in blue and orange hues. This trip we have noticed more flowers than previous times being in the mountains. Perhaps it is because we have had a cooler spring than normal, causing the flowers to bloom later. After a quick stop at Vons to pick up groceries and gas up the car, we headed to Yosemite.

We reached the Tioga Pass entrance about 9:00 AM. The elevation there is 9,945 feet. Spring was just beginning in the high country, and many places still had patches of snow. Mike and I walked around a small meadow with a pond, reveling in the beauty of God’s creation. The Tuolumne River was full and flowing through parts of the meadow. Deer were nearby feeding, and the day was glorious! Cathedral Peak lifted her head towards Heaven in praise to her Creator.

We stopped at Olmstead Point to take pictures of Tenaya Lake and Half Dome. We were greeted by a family of yellow-bellied marmots, hiding amidst the boulders and rocks. . Everyone was hurrying to take snapshots of these cute critters. Mike then brought out his “Big Guns”, which are a huge pair of binoculars that weigh about 35 pounds. After linking them on his tripod, we were able to see several hikers up on Half Dome from off in the distance. Before long, he had a line of tourists waiting to look through his “Big Guns”. If he charged them for a look every time he’s done this on our trips, we would be rich by now!! Ha!

We landed in Yosemite Valley around 2:00 PM. Many road improvements were being made. We stopped at a favorite view point of Yosemite Falls and ate our lunch, thankful to God for bringing us here. We felt like we were home. The wonder of Yosemite is still new, even after twenty-nine years.

We parked in Curry Village and went riding on the many bike trails in the valley. Initially, we rode to Mirror Lake. The skies were such a deep blue as we coasted down the trail towards the lake. As my bike picked up speed, I could feel the wind blowing past me. This always feels so exhilarating to me. I almost feel like a kid again. It was a warm day, so quite a few people were wading in the water. On the way up to the lake, Mike and I stopped beside the river and soaked our feet in the cold, refreshing water. How invigorating and enjoyable! Straight up from where we stood at the Lake’s edge, Half Dome towered above us so lofty and high. Further back towards the southeast end of the lake was a little peninsula that provided an excellent photo opportunity. A medium-sized rock was on the peninsula where many would sit and have their photo taken, myself included. This was a very delightful and tranquil part of the valley.

About 6:00 PM, we drove down to Wawona, where we would be staying for the rest of the week. We checked into our cabin in the forest around 7:00 PM. We were very happy with our temporary home. Cabin #77 had a large front deck that was elevated about 10 feet. The house sits on a rise with pine trees all around. There are a few other homes nearby, but for the most part, it felt like it was just the two of us in this peaceful location of homes called Redwoods in Yosemite. We could hear Chilnualna Falls off in the distance. After unloading our luggage, we drove to the Wawona Hotel for dinner. This hotel is over 100 years old and is a historic landmark. It often evokes visions in my mind of women in long, flowing white dresses and men in white suits promenading on the beautiful grounds. Mike and I both ordered the 8 ounce flat iron steak, which came with garlic red-skinned, mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley of zucchini, carrots and broccoli. There was a small candle in the middle of our table, and Mike asked our waiter if he could light the candle since it was our wedding anniversary. He was happy to oblige. After a tasty and filling meal, our waiter told us he would give us the dessert of our choice on the house for our anniversary. We selected the Crème Brûlée, a custard-like dessert. Our waiter delivered this tasty treat to our table with a small, lit candle in the middle of it. What a sweet way to end our special day.

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Click to play Journey to Mammoth
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This morning we awoke around 7:30AM. After dressing and packing, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the Best Western Motel where we had spent the night. Best Westerns are really great places to stay. They’re clean, the décor is a cut above Motel 6, and they have all the special amenities: ironing board ( a must!), blow dryer, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, shower cap, Kleenex, refrigerator, etc. The one in Bishop even had a Microwave in the room.

After getting our breakfast, we sat at a small table in the front motel lobby. It was quite cozy there with a fireplace and windows with an incredible view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

After breakfast, we gassed the Sequoia, fondly named, “The General”, and headed north on 395 towards Mammoth Lakes. We took some last pictures of Mt. Whitney and bade our goodbyes. We stopped again in the town of Bishop. Mike had wanted to purchase a topographic map of the area. He had seen this map when we were up in the White Mountains at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine visitor center. They had told him he could purchase one of these maps in Bishop at the BLM. Mike and I both enjoy reading maps, so we were happy to have this one, which provided so much valuable information on this environ. There is another roadmap that we have. It is called the Bible. It shows us the way of salvation and is taking us on an incredible journey. If we follow and heed its advice and pay attention to its signs along the way, it will direct us to our eternal destination in Heaven. What a treasure this road map is!

We reached Mammoth about an hour later and stopped by their visitor center. It’s always so interesting to frequent a visitor center when we travel to new locations. We learn so much from their books, displays and by asking questions to the rangers there. Afterwards, we stopped by a Quiznos for lunch. We had originally planned to take a gondola ride all the way to the top of Mammoth Mountain. We were told they have a geological center at the top. However, we learned that the gondola would be down for a few weeks to undergo maintenance. How disappointing for us. I know that maintenance is vital in order to keep these vehicles of transportation running safely. And I’m glad for it. We too need to have maintenance – not only with our physical health, but also our spiritual health.

We decided to drive around Mammoth and explore the area. As we drove along Lake Mary Road, we enjoyed several encounters with beautiful lakes and awesome scenery. Lakes Mary and George offered tranquil settings and phenomenal vies of the snow-capped mountains jutting towards the sky. The serenity of the lakes and pine trees make this a great place to camp and relax. As we continued up Lake Mary Road, we came to a lookout vista. Far below we saw the lovely Twin Lakes (not to be confused with the Twin Lakes where we stayed in Bridgeport). There were a couple of foot and motor bridges crossing the lake area. We had to find a way to drive down there so we could explore! As we were doing so, we came to another lake called Horseshoe Lake. There was something definitely different about this lake. Although it was nice, we noticed that many of the trees nearby were dying or already dead. Sections of the area were roped off, and danger signs were posted indicating the presence of toxic gas. We learned that since 1980, scientists have monitored geologic unrest in the Long Valley Caldera and at adjacent Mammoth Mountain. After a persistent swarm of earthquakes beneath Mammoth Mountain in 1989, earth scientists discovered that large volumes of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas were seeping from beneath this volcano. This gas is killing trees on the mountain and also can be a danger to people. The USGS continues to study the CO2 emissions to help protect the public from this invisible potential hazard. While we were briefly at this location, we ran across a woman walking three unusual looking dogs. When we asked her about her dog’s breed, it sounded like she said that they were Scottish Short Hairs. We had never heard or seen of this type of dog. I was unable to find this breed anywhere on the Internet. However, I found a breed called the Scottish Deerhound that looked very similar to her dogs. This woman was making light of the warning signs in the area. She said that she had been coming there for years and never had any problems. I think she may have been in denial. The strange thing is that from the time we arrived at the lake until we left, I had developed a sudden headache. I found out a little later that this was one of the signs of Carbon Dioxide poisoning.

After leaving Horseshoe Lake, we found the road leading down to the Twin Lakes. When we arrived, we heard the sound of a waterfall, and minutes later, Twin Lakes and the waterfall came into our view. We parked the car and walked around this beautiful place. Mike and I had fun taking pictures of the snow-capped mountains and falls. Photography is new to me. I had never realized how enjoyable it could be until this last year.

We continued on the Lake Mary Road loop, and when we finished, we then drove to the Minarets Summit View. From this height (about 9,200 feet), we had a breathtaking view of the craggy Minarets and Mammoth Mountain. Afterwards, we checked into the Mammoth Inn, which is only about ten minutes from the Minaret summit view. We had a cozy room with two queen beds, laden with 5 pillows each and a featherbed like duvet. It was very plush and comfortable. We felt like we were lying in the lap of luxury in these beds…all for a AAA rate of only $94.50.

We decided to walk over to the Mountainside Grill for dinner since it was so close. This restaurant was upstairs in a loft-like setting with linen tablecloths and antler chandeliers. It appeared to be an upscale eatery. However, it took them several minutes to seat us, apparently because they could not find a menu. When we finally were escorted to our table, a one-page menu was handed to us on an 8 ½ x 11” sheet of paper. This was a little unusual to me. For a restaurant of this caliber, I would have expected something more. Oh well. But when we started reading the names of the few entrée choices, we were baffled. We had never heard of some of these dishes. Many had French names like “au poivre”. Although I had taken 4 years of French in high school, we never studied the more exotic cuisine names. We decided to leave this establishment and drove the extra ten minutes to our favorite Italian restaurant, Perry’s. I ordered the Eggplant Fantastico with pasta, Marinara sauce and a vegetable medley of (squash, cauliflowers and broccoli. Mike ordered lasagna. Both dishes were delicious, but nobody can make eggplant like my mom. Mike said that he liked my lasagna better. We split a giant canolli for dessert. It was a yummy meal! The nice thing about Perry’s, besides the good food, service and friendly atmosphere is that they actually play Italian music. Most other Italian restaurants we have visited did not even play Italian music. It brought back memories of my grandmother singing some of those songs when I was a child. O-So-La- Mio!

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a 2008 summer road trip 214

Originally uploaded by Kiki Karia.

We awoke around 7:00 AM to a clear, warm, sunny day in Nevada. By about 8:30, we had checked out of our hotel, but not before I encountered what I thought was a large black widow spider in our bathroom. As I was doing my hair, I noticed some movement above me. I looked up and saw a large, black, creepy-crawly creature inside the light fixture above the sink! EEK! I showed it to Mike, who said it was just a cricket. Nevertheless, I am glad it was in the light fixture and not hopping around in the bathroom or on me!!

I neglected to mention that when we were driving around the town of Beatty the night before, I had noticed a street with a peculiar name…”Beyond Hope”. And the only house on this street was an old, worn down mobile home, neglected and in sad need of repair. I had to take a picture of this, not only because of the peculiar name of the street, but because I thought about how hopeless a person’s life is without God in it, and how thankful I was to have Jesus living in me, which the bible says is the “hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

We left Beatty around 9:00 AM, and within about a half hour, we were driving down towards Death Valley. What an awesome view from this vantage point. Even though it was hazy, the view heading down into the valley, which is at or below sea level, is pretty impressive. The temperature when we first began descending was 93ºF. When we reached Badwater, the lowest point in the contiguous United States at 282 feet below sea level, the temperature had risen to 105º. Whew!

Since it was hazy all through the valley due to the fires in southern California, we opted to forego the drive to Dante’s View, which is a breathtaking vista of the valley floor from an elevation of 5,000 feet. Instead, we stopped at the visitor center and spent quite a bit of time observing their displays and perusing their bookstore. This was quite an impressive visitor center. While there, we asked the rangers if they knew about the large berm we had seen in Beatty the day before. They told us that it was an old mine. We also learned that the Military had performed nuclear bomb testing near Beatty back in 1951. The rangers also told us that the Military tests and flies their jets through that area. It would’ve been spectacular to see the Stealth jet flying through while we were there. We also learned that there are many runways in Nevada that were used for test pilots such as Chuck Yeager as emergency landings when they were testing various airplanes. Our brain cells were energized with all the new things we had learned.

We headed to Lone Pine around 2:00 PM and reached our destination three hours later. How excited we were to once again see the majestic Mount Whitney and all the surrounding ranges standing sentinel over the Owens Valley. We spent a lengthy bit of time at their visitor center asking questions and reading their books and maps. We learned more information on the big earthquake that hit this area in 1872. This temblor was estimated to be around 8.2. It caused a lake to dry up, and a new lake to form. We passed this lake (Lake Diaz) while driving around on the south side of Lone Pine. Many geo-scientists who have studied the area theorize that quakes similar to the 1872 Lone Pine event are responsible for creating the Owens Valley..

We ate dinner at our favorite Mexican-American restaurant. It’s a hole-in-the-wall place, but their food is muy bueno! The White Mountain Range to the East was aglow with sunset’s last rays of the day. It sure was good to be back in California!

Mike at Badwater

Mike at Badwater

Mesquite Dunes

Mesquite Dunes

Karen at hot, dry, desolate Badwater

Karen at hot, dry, desolate Badwater

Our Motel in Lone Pine - White Mountains in background

Our Motel in Lone Pine - White Mountains in background

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Click to play 4th of July Celebration
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Today I was thinking on the worth of celebrating meaningful events with friends and family. If you've ever tried to celebrate anything alone, you know it isn't very enjoyable. A fireworks fanfare isn't very fun if there's nobody to get excited with. Picnics need a crowd. Graduations, anniversaries and birthdays all are enhanced when you have lots of friends and family there to celebrate with you. We were so blessed this year to have a houseful of friends and family.....34 people to be exact! In our 1400 square foot home, that is no small feat! People were eating, talking, laughing, playing games, singing and just having a great time together.

As Christians, we have so much to celebrate and be thankful for, and not by ourselves or merely a couple of times a year. We gather regularly with others of like precious faith to worship God and uplift one another and thank God for His goodness to us all. The bible encourages us to recall the works of God and lift our voices in praise to Him. Yes, we had a wonderful time fellowshipping with one another, and my heart is full of gratitude for all of God's blessings. It's good to know that because we have Jesus living inside of us, we always have a reason to celebrate.

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Click to play Road Trip Day 3
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This morning we had planned to leave Bishop at 8:00 AM and drive up to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. However, we slept so well that we did not awake until around 7AM. I fixed Mike his favorite treat, “Bub’s Delight” for breakfast. This dish consists of cut up apples, grapes, vanilla or strawberry yogurt, and raw cashews on top. It is quite delicious and healthy too. We packed up the car and headed out around 10:00 AM. The Sierra Nevada range was all lit up by the sun, providing some excellent photo opportunities. We reached the town of Big Pine around 10:30 where we took Hwy 168 up to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest at a lofty elevation of around 10,000 feet. We stopped several times along the way to capture shots of the awesome scenery. As we rose above the Owens Valley floor, the mountains became more breathtaking with every increase in the elevation. We also glimpsed some pretty wildflowers in bloom as well as a little cactus with a vibrant red flower. I also took a shot of a lizard…my first amphibian on the trip! The scales on its underbelly were a lovely sky blue color.

Before we reached the visitor center and trailheads, we stopped at a lookout about 9,000 feet above the valley floor. This gave us a spectacular view of the Sierra range from the Yosemite mountain ranges of the North to near the Whitney mountain ranges down South. We met a couple about our age who were touring several states. They were on a motorcycle. This couple had sold their RV business in the Temecula area and had decided to leave the rat race and view some of the beautiful scenery this western countryside has to offer. Kim the wife, had mentioned to Mike how concerned she was for their two grown children because of the difficult economic times we are living in. She stated that in our lifetime, we have known and made it through difficult times. But her kids have only known prosperity. Would they be able to handle a recession and financial hardship? I thought about our son, Jeremy. He too has never really been through difficult times. He’s always had a roof over his head and clothes on his back and food on the table. How will he do in the years to come? There is something about hardship and trials that refines a person and brings out qualities and strengths that otherwise would have lain dormant. As parents, we do our best to raise our kids, and then when they are grown, we must pray for them and leave them in God’s care.

Mike and I walked out to the edge of the lookout and took several more fantastic shots. We sat on a nearby bench and held each other for a moment, did a high-altitude smooch and headed back to our vehicle and up to the visitor center. About 15 minutes later, we reached the parking lot. The high-altitude had me feeling breathless and light-headed. Due to my asthma, it takes me several days to acclimate. This was day 3. After a delicious lunch of deli sandwiches, chips, dip, and veggies, we hit the Discovery Trail. This trail is only a mile long with about a 300 foot elevation gain. There were signs and benches along the way for you to rest and catch your breath. The Bristlecone Pines are some of the oldest living things, with some of them dating back to the time of the pyramids in Egypt. Living in such adverse circumstances has prolonged their lives. Quite amazing.

We left the pines around 2:00 PM and began the long trek down to Beatty, Nevada. How different Nevada is from California; so barren and hot! There were no trees, just sagebrush and desert-like wilderness. We reached Motel 6 in Beatty around 6:00 PM. I wasn’t too happy when I walked into the lobby and read the sign the management had posted about the bug problems they had been having. Oh Great! What will we find in our room? Upon checking our room, I saw no signs of any bugs or creeping things. Thank God! The room was small and had a rectangular shower. But it was clean, and we had A/C!

The only decent restaurant we could find in this one-horse town was Ritas. And to get to it, we had to wade our way through a smoke-filled casino, past the many slot machines. Mike and I ordered the hamburger steak, which came with mashed potatoes, gravy and a salad. It was pretty tasty, but we were anxious to get out of that place.

After dinner, we took a stroll next door to the Death Valley Nut and Candy Store. There were all sorts of candies and nuts. We purchased a one pound bag of raw cashew pieces for only $4.49 per pound. That’s cheap compared to the $6.99 we normally pay.

We then drove the 4 miles to Rhyolite, the local ghost town. The sun was setting, and the whole area gave us the creeps! The few buildings remaining were so dilapidated that there were fences around them and danger signs warning of rattlesnakes. We remained in our car and drove around the small town. There were several ghosts there! We saw them off in the distance. Yes, this place gave us the willies! The only building that seemed in decent shape was the train station. We did not linger long in Rhyolite!

While driving to Rhyolite, we had noticed a runway off in the distance as well as a large man-made berm about a mile in length. We were very curious about this mysterious berm. We drove closer to it and observed a barbed-wire fence all around it. The berm appeared to be about 20 feet tall on the North side and about 40-50 feet tall on the south side. This was to compensate for the angle at which the valley sloped. We speculated as to what this berm could be. Was it a bunker? Was it a military installation? The whole area seemed to hold an air of mystery about it. We almost felt like we were in a suspense novel.

We drove back to Beatty and decided to explore the town. As we drove up and down the streets of this small town of 1,000 people, we felt a sadness. Beatty reminded us of a town that was in the throes of death—one that didn’t know if it wanted to live or die. Most of the homes were mobile units with little or no green grass or landscaping. Probably the main revenue in this town comes from gambling or mining. There were only 3 churches that we saw: Baptist, LDS and the Beatty Community Church. But none of them were listed in their tourist handbook. God was obviously not that important in this town.

We did find that gas was cheaper here than anywhere else we went on our trip. The Rebel gas station only charged $4.29 a gallon. Cheap compared to Yosemite’s $5.09 a gallon. We headed back to our hotel, thankful we did not have to live in this town. God help Beatty.

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