Tonight, as I was singing with Rebeka, “I have a joy, joy, joy, joy, joy in my heart…” I realized how incredibly blessed and fortunate I am and how blessed my family is.
Too often, Chet and I reflect on our past year. I’ll see pictures of Gabriel without hair or with a puffy Prednisone face or Rebeka a year younger, and I have to be honest – I’ll break down in tears. It’s so hard to explain how it makes you feel to walk along this path. Chet and I will talk about how much of this last year we missed just enjoying Rebeka as a sweet little two year old girl. Gabriel’s lost so much of his year, friendships, relationships and those types of experiences. I don’t want to say that as a family we’ve been robbed, but in a way, we have. And, it’s difficult because Gabe doesn’t look sick anymore, but he’s still fighting cancer, and we’ve got a long journey ahead of us. It’s so disheartening at times.
But, those are fleeting moments that pass almost as quickly as they come. And, I thank God for that.
And, then it is nights such as tonight, that remind me how incredibly blessed we are. How blessed I am. I have two beautiful children. Gabriel, is alive and doing amazingly well. I have a job I enjoy. I have an amazing husband. And I have a wonderful and supportive family. Truly, life does not get much better; and while we may have rough patches in this life, we’ve been given so many gifts that I can’t dwell in the sorrow, pain, or memories. They are the past and water under the bridge.
So, a couple of weekends back we had a family adventure. Kind of like this past year, what was anticipated to be sunny, beautiful and full of fun – instead, our weekend was filled with unexpected turns of events, surprises with silver linings, ups, downs, and a beautiful conclusion to the weekend.
Now that I’m a dedicated state employee, I get the pleasure of furlough days. Honestly, I do mean it’s a pleasure. For me, it’s been a blessing, as I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get a day off this early in my employment except for the furlough day. So, I actually kind of like it. We planned my furlough day for a Friday so that we could take advantage of a long weekend. We knew we’d head out camping.
Originally, we thought about going to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, but after thinking long and hard, we decided that was just too far to drive for a 3 day weekend. Then we thought about heading to Yosemite National Park, but when we looked at the weather forecast, they were forecasted to get a couple of feet of snow – and that was not inviting to us, considering we were hoping to get some hiking in. NEXT!
Then we started looking at other options: Berlin-Ichthyologist State Park? Lava Beds National Monument? Montana De Oro State Park? North-central California coast? Bishop, eastern Sierra? Chet started checking out the forecast and after much evaluation, trepidation, discussion, and analysis, we decided to head to the Bishop, California area. The forecast was snow Thursday night, cool and sunny Friday, and warmer and sunny Saturday and Sunday. Keep that fantastic forecast in mind.
Friday morning we have the camper loaded, get the kids loaded and head off on our weekend adventure. No real set plans. We had no idea where we’d camp. But the few things we knew we’d do were: (1) stop at Mammoth Brewing and grab a couple growlers of beer; (2) stop at Schatt’s Bakery in Bishop and get some cheese bread; (3) get out for a nice hike.
About an hour from home, Rebeka asks for her nite-nites (blankets). At that point, Chet and I realize that we forgot to grab them. Oy! Rebeka moves into a full-blown fit. I tried negotiating with her (’cause there was NO way we were going to turn around over blankets) and offered that when we got to Bishop, we’d stop and buy her a new SPECIAL nite-nite just for camping. That worked for a little while, but as soon as the distraction passed, it was back to a whining session for her blankets. And, yes, that continued off and on for the whole remaining 2 hours (give or take) to Bishop.
Fortunately, once we got to Bishop, the K-Mart served us well and Rebeka was attached to a new blanket. Whew.
Next, after making the required stops (groceries, Schatt’s, fuel & propane) it was time to decide where to camp. After looking at the maps and a stop to the local National Forest Office, we decided to head up to Grandview campground in the White Mountains. It’s on the road to the Bristlecone Forest, and Chet was told by the Forest Ranger that while the road was closed still for the winter to the Bristlecone groves, it was only a 2 mile hike in from the gate. So, because the hike sounded like a terrific Saturday morning hike with the kids and the campground was just a couple of miles down the road – off we went!
We found this beautifully isolated, and desolate, campground. It was a bit cooler than we expected. But, as soon as we picked our campsite, popped up the camper, Chet and Gabe got the fire going and we got things set up, it started to snow.
Now, it’s time to remember that forecast I mentioned before.
And, I mean that it started to SNOW! And snow and snow.
After a delightful dinner of pizza and Mammoth beer, we hunkered down. If I haven’t mentioned, I love our camp oven. It’s AWESOME!!!
Then, in the middle of the night, I wake up to Chet peering out the window. Okay, it was windy, really windy, and all night long in between the gusts you would hear the snow hitting the camper. So, I ask Chet “what’s up.” Chet responds “call me crazy, but I think we should bug out of here right now.” To which I respond “you’re [bleeping] crazy!” and then I rolled back over and tried to go back to sleep.
The next morning we woke up to about 6-8 inches of snow on the ground. Yah, brilliant.
A pot of coffee and a quick pack up, we headed out to drive down the mountain to Big Pine to be lower for making breakfast. As we were driving out, we thought we’d try to head up to the trailhead – just to see if we could make it (and we’re a glutton for punishment). And, we got about a ¼ mile from the gate (by our best estimate), but the snow drifts were just too deep and while we like an adventure, getting stuck isn’t an adventure for us.
No hike to the see the oldest trees for us this weekend.
We headed down back to Big Pine and took a break at the local park. The kids had a blast playing while Chet shoveled the snow off the roof of the camper and I got breakfast cooked.
It was all fun and games until Rebeka went flying off the zipline. Shhh, that’s our little secret – Chet doesn’t need to know that I shared that.
After breakfast, more coffee and some play time, we all headed back up to Bishop and do some browsing at the backpacking stores. At that point, it’s time to decide where to head to next.
Considering there was still a ton of snow in the mountains. Remember the forecast… And it was drizzling in Bishop, we decided to continue north and maybe camp near Bodie State Park. But, then we decided to take Highway 120 from Benton to Lee Vining, because there’s a fantastic 5 mile stretch of road that rolls and is quite fun to drive – especially with kids.
After making out way back to 395, we decided to continue north and Chet suggested camping between Bridgeport, CA and Smith Valley, NV – there’s some fantastic mountains east of the Sweetwater range. And in those mountains we found a perfect campsite with a great fire ring, plenty of wood to collect, and isolated. It was awesome.
We park, we get the camper set up, I get dinner going, Chet and Gabe get the fire going and guess what – IT STARTED TO SNOW!
All I could say was “are you kidding me!” Yes, I really said that – multiple times. Fortunately though, this time it didn’t snow that much or for very long, and we were able to enjoy a nice dinner and Chet and the kids had an amazing fire.
I mean A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!
But I will be honest, when it started snowing again (remember the forecast) Chet and I were so frustrated, we almost decided to head back home. I’m glad we didn’t.
The next morning, we decided to head back to Bodie State Park. Rather, instead of taking the direct route (back to 395) we decided to take the back road from Hawthorn.
The mountains were absolutely beautiful in the morning.
Off we went and it was beautiful, the road heads up a canyon and is just awesome. It’s definitely 4×4 required, but it wasn’t too bad (especially considering some of the Nevada mud slick road we ended up driving on for a while). And, it was great, until we hit the sign regarding the road not being maintained (if you’re coming down from Bodie, not from the direction we came). There we encountered a spring, and there was a bit of a stream crossing across a meadow. No big deal, right? Stream crossing to the left, mud bog to the right. Easy choice – keep left and cross the stream. At least, that’s what we decided (and there might have been some taunting not so P.C. words said by me to Chet about being a weenie – but I didn’t use the word weenie). And that was a great idea until the water was …. well …. DEEP. I mean, like to the top of the wheel wells, mid-way up the doors deep. Oh, and our truck doesn’t have a snorkel.
We had an “oh no” moment.
A quick shift into reverse and we were fortunate to get out before we flooded the engine. Whew! So, through the mud bog we went, and that was a challenge in of itself. We almost ended up high centered, as it was deep in its own right.
We made it to Bodie, in one piece, not stuck, and in good spirits. That was a win. Then we got to tour Bodie, which was a very cool experience.
Yes, experiences like this just continue to build on how fortunate and blessed we are as a family. Cancer, what cancer. We kick cancer’s butt and we’re not about to let it beat us!