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Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook: Climb to the Falls
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While vacationing in Yosemite earlier this month, Mike and I hiked to the top of Vernal and Nevada Falls. The slideshow above shows the highlights from our hike. It took us about 4 hours to reach the top of Nevada Falls. On the way via the Mist Trail, we were drenched, along with all the other hikers. The scenery was fabulous, a reminder of God's glorious creation. It only took us 1-1/2 hours to hike down, and by that time, we were exhausted, knees and joints aching, but happy that we did it! Yes, you can still hike, even in your 50's! We proved that! Woo Hoo!

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Recently Mike and I returned from a 10-day road trip to the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains and Yosemite. Every year when we do this trip, we try to visit new places. This time, we stayed in the town of Lone Pine, which lies in the shadow of Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. In this area are many mountains over 12,000 feet in elevation, and the scenery is often breathtaking in beauty. There was a meadow that Mike wanted to explore near Lone Pine called “Horseshoe Meadow”. The road leading to this meadow could be seen from way down below in the valley as a double Z of switchback roads zig zagging their way up the side of a mountain. The long drive up the eastern escarpment of the southern Sierra via the paved Horseshoe Meadow Road is an adventure in itself. The road rises from 4,000 feet in the arid Owens Valley to the timberline forests at Horseshoe Meadow at 10,000 feet. As we began the drive up this road, I realized that there were hardly any guardrails, and only a couple of feet of pavement were between us and gravity’s grasp. In all honesty, by the time we were near the top, I was terrified. The dramatic view from that height threw me into survival mode, and it was all I could do not to panic. And yet at the same time, the view was riveting and beautiful. It was hard to fathom that we were 6,000 feet above the valley floor. I could not comprehend such height. It was too much for me. I am reminded of a scripture in the bible that says,..”that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19). The breadth, length, depth and HEIGHT of God’s love is even greater than the dizzying heights that I experienced. And this altitude encounter once more reminded me of His great love which is higher than any earthly heights.

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Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: HAWAII 50 GET AWAY
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It's taken awhile, but here is a slideshow summary of our trip to Hawaii in February for the Big 50 birthday. Mahalo. Thank you, Honey for a wonderful birthday gift! I will always cherish the special time we had together in paradise. I love you! Aloha!

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Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook: Hawaii 50 surprise
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Aloha! This past week, Mike not only threw me a 50th birthday surprise party, but he booked us tickets for a week in Hawaii! We are there now enjoying this tropical paradise. Here are some photos of our first day or two in Oahu. More to come later. Thank you, Honey, for treating me like a queen. I love you!

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Originally uploaded by Kiki Karia.

The morning again began with sunny, blue skies. After breakfast we packed up and said our goodbyes to our lovely cottage in the woods. We would always cherish the special time we shared there in commemoration of our 30th anniversary.
Last October, we had endeavored to hike around the valley floor. There is a trail that goes completely around the valley, but due to that time of year, we ran out of daylight before we could complete it. We had begun the hike at Curry Village and ended at the Yosemite Lodge. Today we were determined to pick up where we left off and finish this hike. We drove to the campground near the Yosemite Lodge and parked our cars. Today was warmer than yesterday, so we did not bring any jackets. We started our hike on the trail shortly before Yosemite Falls. On the way, we passed a group of people taking rock climbing lessons on one of the walls. It is always fun to watch them practice. Although this is not a sport or hobby I would ever care to undertake. Before long, we were again at lower Yosemite Falls. We did not linger here too long since we had just passed by here yesterday. The trail next led us deeper into the forest and started ascending higher up above the trees. We were very near the rock walls on the eastern end of the valley towards Royal Arches. At one point, we left the trail and climbed up a semi steep hill to the bottom of a large rock wall. Above the wall, an ephemeral cascaded down into a small pond. It was a tranquil setting. We also saw some rock climbers nearby up the wall. We ventured back down and continued on the trail. About a mile later, we arrived at the grounds of the Ahwahnee Hotel. We stopped by the gate keepers hut and took pictures. The trail next led us behind the Ahwahnee parking lot and again began to ascend higher back into the forest. We crossed a small foot bridge near Lahamente falls and saw the canyon where the Indians used to travel through to reach Yosemite Valley. As the trail neared Mirror Lake, it started to descend again. At times, we could see the bike path which we had been on many times before. But we were determined to stay on the valley loop trail and reach our destination of Mirror Lake. Once again, the trail ascended up into the forest. This was also part of a horse trail, and it seemed the higher we ascended, the more difficult the trail became. The trail was strewn with rocks and horse manure. It became slippery and somewhat difficult to continue one, not to mention the foul smell of the road apples we were encountering more and more. But eventually we did make it to Mirror Lake. How good it felt to dip my tired feet in its cold waters and be refreshed. We sat by the lake’s edge and ate our trail mix. Of course the local squirrels seemed to have some innate sense in them to know that we had food. They were soon coming up to us. Mike fed them a few peanuts. It was entertaining to watch them chew their food. Afterwards, we caught a shuttle bus back to our vehicle near Yosemite Lodge.
It was getting later in the day, and we needed to head to our next destination at Yosemite West. After a quick stop to the grocery store, we made the 20-minute drive to Yosemite West. We are staying at a small house called Cozy Bear. The entire décor of the home is a bear theme. The house has 4 different levels. The first level is a small living room area with a gas fireplace. The next level is a small kitchen that leads out onto an outdoor patio with a gas grill and table and chairs. The third level has our bedroom and a bathroom, and the 4th level has another bedroom. There is a 5th level, but it is locked, and we did not have access to it. The home is tastefully decorated, and very cozy, hence the name, Cozy Bear.
Jeremy and Molly arrived here at the Cozy Bear cabin around midnight. They are going to spend the next three days with us. We’ve looked forward to seeing them. We only visited for a short time after their arrival as it was late and everyone was tired. It felt good to lay our heads on our pillows for the night.

Bedroom at Cozy Bear

Bedroom at Cozy Bear

Ahwahnee Gate Keeper Hut

Ahwahnee Gate Keeper Hut

Pond & Waterfall below Royal Arches

Pond & Waterfall below Royal Arches

Below Royal Arches

Below Royal Arches

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anniversary ahwahnee

Originally uploaded by Kiki Karia.

The morning of our 30th wedding anniversary began with sunny blue skies. After a delicious breakfast at the Curry Village Pavilion, we rode our bikes around the valley. Although it was mid June, the temperatures since we have been here have been in the high 50’s to low 70’s. It does not yet feel like summer. Our first stop was at the historic church in the valley. We always enjoy visiting this church. By this time though, part of the valley was beginning to fill with clouds, so the photo opportunities were not as ideal as we would’ve liked. From there we rode to the visitor center. We ate our meager lunch of granola bars near the Indian Village which is behind the visitor center. After that, we watched the film “Spirit of Yosemite” in the visitor center. We first saw this film in 2001, and it is still being show there. The footage carries many spectacular views of not only Yosemite Valley, but also Tuolumne Meadows and the high country. We had been told before that the majority of people who visit Yosemite do not venture any further than 500 feet from their vehicles. If that is true, it is a shame, because there are so many breathtaking places to see in this great park. Our first visit to Yosemite was on our honeymoon in 1979. We were so impressed with this place of such natural beauty, that we have returned again and again. There is so much to see, and we probably have not even scratched the proverbial surface of all there is to see in this great national park.
After browsing a brief while in the visitor center, we rode our bikes over to the trailhead for lower Yosemite Falls. On the way there, we ran into the O’Keefes again. They were heading over to El Cap meadow to watch the rock climbers on the wall. They are such a special couple, and we look up to them. We wished them well and rode over to the trailhead of the falls. We made the short hike to the footbridge where many visitors were enjoying the amazing view of the falls cascading from incredible heights down the mountainside. It took us longer to return from this hike as we were having so much fun taking photos and experimenting with our cameras. I am a beginner in the world of photography and have a lot to learn. Mike has been a big help to me.
From there we rode our bikes back to our cottage at the Ahwahnee and changed into our dinner clothes. We walked to the Ahwahnee and enjoyed some tea and cookies in the hotel’s Solarium. This room is behind the great hall and offers a good view of Glacier Point high above. The Ahwahnee has three main wings, and each wing was designed to face prominent scenes in the valley. The dining room faces Yosemite Falls. After we finished our tea and cookies, we wandered around some of the other rooms in the great hall and viewed old photos and relics of the past. At 5:30, we were escorted to our table to enjoy our 30th anniversary dinner. Mike had requested this special table, and we were happy that they were able to grant us our wish. The table is called the honeymoon table. It is located at the very back of the large dining room and sits in front of a huge window that I am guessing is probably 30 feet high. From out of this window, you can see Yosemite Falls. Mike ordered the Filet Mignon dinner, and I ordered the Alaskan Halibut plate. A basket of delectable breads was brought to our table. Before eating, we held hands, bowed our heads and thanked God for giving us 30 years of marriage together. In an age where more marriages appear to be failing than succeeding, we are so grateful to God for being with us all these years. When Jeremy and Molly were married last October, Pastor Stoops charged them to always keep God in the center of their marriage and to put Him first. If you do this, you will succeed. It was a special moment. We also ordered a watermelon salad. Neither of us had ever heard of this or tried it before. I was quite surprised with how pleasing it was to my palate. The watermelon was cut into small bite-sized cubes and arranged along with a few pieces of avocado on a thinly sliced dill pickle. There was a hint of mint seasoning on the melon along with some other spices. The combination was truly refreshing. For dessert, we each ordered the raspberry sorbet. The entire meal was delicious. We walked around the hotel and grounds before retiring for the evening. Thankful to God for this very special day.

Wedding Day June 16, 1979

Wedding Day June 16, 1979

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Tour of the Ahwahnee and grounds

Originally uploaded by Kiki Karia.

After a delicious breakfast in the Ahwahnee dining room, Mike and I went back to our cottage to take care of some business. We needed to do laundry. It has been almost a week since we left on our anniversary road trip, and we were in need of some clean clothes. When we reached our cottage, we noticed that the cleaning lady was already there busily cleaning our little abode. We told her we would only be there for a few minutes and then would be out of her way. Her name was Ann Marie, and she was from Jamaica. As we were preparing to leave, I heard her singing a tune that sounded very familiar. As I listened to her sing, I recognized the song. “You’re all I want, you’re all I’ve ever needed,” she sang. I went outside to where she was and began singing with her. “You’re all I want, help me know you are near.” These are some of the words to the song “Draw Me Close to You” by Michael W. Smith. Ann Marie turned to me and smiled. I told her that I loved that song and that we sing it sometimes at my church. A delightful conversation ensued. I was glad Ann Marie was our cleaning lady.
Mike and I drove over to the Housekeeping campgrounds near the river’s edge. We found the Laundromat and put our load in to wash. Then we headed down to the river to relax on the beach. We brought two folding chairs and our cameras, and for the next hour or so, we relaxed and took pictures. For the most part, we were the only ones there. From time to time, some rafters would sail by, and we would wave to them. By 12:20, our clothes were all washed and dried. That was the most enjoyable laundry mat experience we have ever had.
We drove back to the Ahwahnee and made it in time for their 1:00 PM tour of the hotel and grounds. There were about 17 of us who had signed up for this tour. Our tour guide was a friendly young lady named Megan. She first led us outside to view the hotel’s cornerstone. I had never noticed it before. It was inscribed with “A.D. 1926”. An elderly lady who was part of our group spoke up and said that she was born in 1923. Mike and I asked her to stand next to the cornerstone so we could take her picture. She was a spunky lady who was still quite spry for her age. This cornerstone reminded me of a greater cornerstone mentioned in the bible. Ephesians 2:20 says, “…Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” I’m grateful that one day over 30 years ago, I built my spiritual foundation on Jesus Christ, the chief cornerstone. The tour lasted an hour, and we viewed the hotel grounds, the solarium, the great hall, the mezzanine, the dining room and the elevator hall.
We spent the next few hours relaxing in our room. I caught up on some of my writing, viewed some of my pictures and did a little reading. Mike took a snooze, did some reading and went back to the hotel to check out the gift shop. At about 4:50, we went to the great hall to have tea and cookies. Every day from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM, the Ahwahnee serves tea and cookies to their guests. When we arrived there, Christor was playing the piano. We first met Christor two years ago at the Ahwahnee. He had played “We’ve Only Just Begun” for us. This was the song that was sung at our wedding. It was good to see him again. Mike asked him if he would be there tomorrow as it was our 30th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, Christor is off on Tuesdays, so he would not be available. As we were getting ready to leave the hotel and go to dinner at another location in the valley, we ran into the O’Keefes at the Ahwahnee. Brother and Sister O’Keefe were missionaries to Sierra Leone in West Africa for about 25 years. They currently pastor a church in Pittsburg, CA and are friends of my sister and brother-in-law. They were staying for a few days over at the Yosemite Lodge and had just stopped by the hotel to relax and take in the sights. We enjoyed visiting with them. They are good, kind God-loving people.
We drove to the Curry Village dining pavilion for dinner. There was a long line, and we had to wait about 15 minutes before we could be seated for dinner. It was a rather enjoyable 15 minutes though. The reason for this was because there was a man and his son in line ahead of us. The man, we found out, was 94 years old. He did not look his age. His name was Michael O’Gorman. Michael is Irish, in case you hadn’t figured that out. He was studying to be a priest when World War II broke out. Instead, he joined the Air Force (U.S. Air Corps at that time). He was an animated man, and it was enjoyable talking with him. I think that part of what makes a vacation enjoyable are the people you meet and the moments you share. Today seemed to be one of those days.
After dinner, as we were headed back to our car, we noticed a bride and groom walking through the parking lot. We drove up to them and asked them if they just were married today. Kinda obvious, huh? They were all smiles and said that they had been married this day on top of Half Dome! The bride appeared to be Asian and was wearing a knee length dress that was rather modest compared to most dresses I’ve seen. She was wearing flip flops and was carrying her white pumps. We congratulated them and told them that tomorrow would be our 30th wedding anniversary. They congratulated us, and we then drove back to our hotel. As we were walking up to the hotel, we again saw this same couple. I asked them if they hiked up to Half Dome for the wedding. The bride turned to me with a big smile and said that they had hiked up to Half Dome at 5:30 in the morning. The justice of the peace also had hiked with them. We were amazed. Mike and Jeremy have done the Half Dome hike before, and it is no easy hike. It is eight miles one way to the top with many switchbacks. People have died on this hike. I’m glad they made it up and back with no incidents.

She's older than the Ahwahnee Cornerstone!

She's older than the Ahwahnee Cornerstone!

Ahwahnee Dining Room

Ahwahnee Dining Room

O'Keefes

The O'Keefes

kare relaxing by river

What a way to do laundry!

relaxing by the river

Mike relaxing by the river

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