Sunday, August 21, 2011

Big Basin Redwoods

We hadn't gone camping as a family in 3 years. Dave takes the boys once or twice a year, but I usually look forward to that time to be home alone or with a baby. Since our unexpected trip back East took all our vacation money (last minute tickets are pricey!), we decided camping would be a good, inexpensive family vacation this summer.

Some docs from Dave's work recommended a campground in Big Basin, which is about 20 miles north of Santa Cruz. It took us 3 hours to get there.

Well actually it was supposed to take 3 hours; but with the delay of a flat tire, it took over 4. We were just so grateful that it happened near a K-mart, where we could park in the shade and go to the bathroom. Our insurance includes roadside assistance, and the tow truck came to help in less than 10 minutes.

One thing we loved about this campground was that our site (155) was so secluded. We were surrounded by woods on all sides, and the nearby campsites were blocked from view by hills and trees. We had water and bathrooms (toilets only, but they were nice) very close by. We saw tons of poison oak, but miraculously no one got it. We did, however, get lots of mosquito bites. We weren't as diligent with the Off as we should have been.

Another thing we loved was all the hiking! We love family hikes. We went on one right next to our campsite after we set up camp and ate dinner. Then we went on a 3 mile round trip hike (Sequoia) to a waterfall the next morning and a 1/2 miler (Redwood Nature Trail) the next evening. Then the kids were itching to do one last one before we left, so we redid the one next to our campsite after we had everything packed up.

Brennan, smelling a freshly cut tree. It must have fallen recently and was obstructing the path.

This is how my family hikes: the 4 big boys run ahead (they especially love to race all the downhills),

while Dave and I walk at a normal pace with Levi on Dave's back. Then the boys wait for us to catch up or run back to us if we're taking too long. Even Brennan kept up with them this time. I take lots of pictures along the way, although Spencer loves to steal the camera from me.

Coastal redwoods are amazing. They are so big and strong and can continue to live even after being burned by fires. One tree burned for 18 months (you'd think someone would have put it out at some point) and still survived. I took this picture from inside one of the burned out trees.

We stopped for pictures and snacks at the waterfall. I made trail mix because all the ones at the store had peanuts in them. It was really good.

We thought it would be bigger, since it made so much noise for the last bit of the hike. But there was probably more water in it than usual for this time of year, after that super wet winter.

This almost 2,000 year old tree shows various points in history, such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence, at about the year they occurred in the tree's growth. Amazing to think that some of these trees were around at the time of Christ's birth.

The 3 oldest boys went to the junior ranger activity Thursday afternoon (they did a water study in the creek) while Levi took a nap and Brennan and I did another little hike and ate Twizzlers and gum (I had to make it fun for him, since he was sad he was too young to go with the big boys). We also walked around the little museum and gift shop, where I bought another air mattress. Ours lost all its air that first, rough night, which reminded me why I hadn't camped in 3 years. We slept much better the 2nd night.

The half mile hike I did with Brennan and then later that night with everyone is the most popular one. It has the tallest tree there, called the Mother of the Forest. It's 329 feet tall. It also has the oldest tree, called the Father of the Forest. It's estimated to be about 2000 years old.

One of the best things about camping is eating yummy food. We grilled hamburgers and hot dogs the first night, since that was quick and easy, and chicken and corn on the cob the 2nd night. Then we used the coals for our dutch oven dessert - cherry chocolate cake. It was so good and so easy to make.

I invented this super yummy campfire treat. First I stuck a marshmallow onto a poker. Then I wrapped it with a refrigerated biscuit, flattening and stretching it first to make sure it completely covered the marshmallow. Then I cooked it over hot coals, being careful not to burn the biscuit. When it was evenly browned all over, I covered it with spray butter and sprinkled cinnamon sugar on top.

The outside is crispy, and the inside is all melty and gooey. Yum!!

The boys loved our nightly visits from raccoons. They came right up to us while we were sitting around the campfire. I was surprised at how BIG and unafraid they were. They eat well around all those campers. They never got into our tents, like they did to some fellow hikers we were talking to. We were sure to keep all our food in the car at night.

We packed up Friday morning and did that last hike by our campsite. Spencer started to get sick on the way home with a fever and sore throat. The rest of the boys got it after him, except for Dallin, who had it before we went. I was thankful for the timing. That would have been miserable if everyone was sick while we were there.

We love redwoods! They are so beautiful and tall and majestic. They are even fun after they fall down. You don't realize how tall they are until you see them on their side, stretching on forever.

I love this cute pose of Tyler and Dallin. There were so many fun things to see and climb there. We didn't want to leave.

Can you see how swollen Tyler's eye is? We all got mosquito bites, but his were the worst, as usual. We were just grateful we didn't get poison oak again, because that would have lasted much longer.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Grampa's funeral

We had a very nice funeral for my grandpa. My brother Ben sang, "Accentuate the Positive" - one of grampa's favorite songs. My dad gave a wonderful eulogy. All the great-grandchildren sang, "I Am a Child of God," and then the Bishop gave a beautiful talk about the plan of salvation. Afterwards the relief society served lunch to the family, and we stayed and visited for hours. Another great thing was that the young women babysat the small children during the funeral. This was very helpful so that I could just sit and listen and cry without having to wrestle with Levi.

Grandpa's 4 children - Michael, Marilyn, Judy and Ron.

Not everyone was able to stay for the internment, which was held 2 days later. The funeral home doesn't like to work weekends. It was the nicest day I've ever seen in Los Osos, which is usually very cold and windy when we put flowers on grandma's grave. But it was sunny and warm.

Since grampa fought in WWII, they had a military honor ceremony for him with three rifle volleys, taps and folding of the flag.

Presentation of the flag to my mom.

We lingered and visited some more, and people pretty much left from there to go back to their various homes.

The flags on the veteran memorial were flown in honor of my grandpa that day.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Unexpected family reunion

Right after Dallin's birthday party, my dad called to tell me my grandpa Wight died. We knew he didn't have much time left on earth, but it was still a shock. The following week was a big family reunion. All of my siblings were able to come (minus a couple of spouses and cousins), as well as lots of extended family. Even my great uncle Juan drove in from southern Utah with a couple of his sons. It was so good to spend time with all these wonderful people. We met at various parks to play and eat together.

We didn't think we'd get to hang out in Morro Bay with the Smalleys so soon. What a treat!

Here's my cousin Teri's little guy, Zachary. What a cute, happy baby! We enjoyed having her family stay with us one night.

Her daughter Katie is such a mother hen. Whenever I didn't know where Levi was, I'd find her retrieving him.

The recycled tires at Cuesta park turned everyone's hands and feet black.

Ben used his summer camp leadership skills to organize some fun games of tag with a twist.

There were bunches of kids playing, and they had such a great time.

Even Levi got into it.

They did rock/scissors/paper whenever they tagged each other at the same time.

Maryruth's family drove here from Idaho and arrived right after the funeral. But we were glad we got to see them for a couple days and meet cute little Makayla.

A bunch of the boys cought frogs in the creek at Sinsheimer park.