Tag Archives: big trees

Old Stories

At the Trees
At the Trees

Over the weekend, as I stated in my last post, I took the kids to the Calaveras County Big Trees park.  It was during the trip to that very state park, though, that my kids asked me if I’d ever been to the park before.  I had, but it had been a very, very long time.  In fact, the only time I’d actually visited I wasn’t even a resident of the state of California.  I wasn’t married yet…may not even have been engaged.

When I started dating Andrea, things were pretty hot and heavy at first.  We spent nearly every free moment together.  When she went off on any kind of break, particularly over the summer, I visited.  This was one particular break, most likely Spring Break, as I distinctly remembered the trip.  It wasn’t memorable because of the trees or the drive or the altitude…it was memorable because I had to have a tooth pulled and I waited until after the trip to visit Andrea to have it done.  This was problematic because I ended up having it pulled on the day of my computer final.  (still managed to get an “A” in it, though)

I told my kids the story, of how I had come out and visited their Mom.  How we drove all the way to Big Trees because, frankly, her father wanted to take us there.  I was all for it, but I distinctly remember Andrea being less than thrilled.  Still…she caved in and did it anyway.  If it gave us a chance to have some wine and a picnic – a fact I left out of the story for the kids – their mother was all in.  I went along and, frankly, hopped up on narcotics for the pain in my infected gums and aching tooth, I could have visited the Calaveras County landfill and not cared.

Why I bring this up, though, is because there was a dichotomy to the story.  I had fondness for their Mom, and my brain still remembers great details of everything that happened in those first years with her.  They were intense and fiery and sexy and I would go back to those very memories whenever things got bad or difficult to remind myself…this is why you married this woman.

But during the trip, when I’d bring up the trip with their mother, each of the kids would have their own qualifications for what likely happened:

2013-08-10 14.42.35“I doubt Mom would have walked up this trail, Dad.”  That was true.  It was near vertical in places and filled with tree roots and their Mom was likely dressed to the nines, even to go to a state park.
“She didn’t like hiking.  Mom wasn’t an outdoorsy type.”  True again.
“Did you stay a long time Dad?”
“No, kiddo. ”
“Because of Mom?”
“Well…no…your Mom probably wanted to stay.”
“Grandpa, right?”  That was right.  Andrea’s Dad liked to say he visited places, but he didn’t spend a lot of time there once he’d arrived.  He’d go, see the sights and get out.  Lingering wasn’t something her family did.  Camping they did, but I wasn’t up for that and we weren’t in a position to do it at that time.

It was interesting, to me and I had come to realize that we had swung the pendulum both ways: we started out two years ago adoring everything about Andrea.  She was perfection, the beautiful photos from her youth and the smile and the love she showed us.  A year later we were talking about the bad things, the stuff that put us through so much stress.  That seemed all we could dwell on.  Now, though, we’ve reached the happy medium, which is what marriage really is/was, right?  We had hard times, we had amazing times.  I’m sure my own kids will have their vision of how their Dad raised them and there will be things about me that drive them completely bonkers.  I hope by the end they realize I tried my best.

But as we stood there next to a tree that was thousands of years old, I knew they’d at least remember visiting the place.  Where they weren’t real sure they wanted to go after we got home it was all they could talk about.

As I tucked in the boys for the night they informed me “we had the best day, Dad!”

That’s all I could hope for.

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Weekend Adventures

Often we do simple, little things that take us out and about.  Many times, if we have the money, it’s simply a movie.  That’s what the kids wanted to do.  The twins wanted to see the new Disney movie Planes, while my oldest wanted to go see Elysium.  My middle simply wanted to do anything…she’s pretty easygoing.

I had other plans.

They weren’t massive, but I got up early enough that I made breakfast for the kids and began my task.  I made sandwiches for all of us, put some root beers and ice in a cooler with them.  I bought chips to have and a box of grocery store bakery cookies.  (I know, I preach making homemade snacks and buy some, but I had a plan)  I put it all in the back of the car and headed out the door with the four kids in tow.

We hadn’t really gone on any kind of adventurous outings before this, but I figured it was time.  Abbi, my oldest, leaves in 10 days.  10.  That’s how long I have until the family of five becomes a family of four.  I hadn’t really anticipated this change two years ago when my wife passed away.  It’s one of those massive milestones.  I had spent a long time looking at the funds (or lack thereof) in my bank account and what we’ll need to head out the door and go to another state with her for college.  She’s excited, a little nervous, probably a lot scared…but really anticipating a good time at school.

The kids at the Sequoias
The kids at the Sequoias

Knowing we didn’t have a lot of time left to us we went to the Big Trees.  Do you know it?  It’s in the middle of Calaveras County, CA – yes…the same one with the frog-jumping contest made famous by Twain.  You enter a national forest and then a state forest and then you’re there, in the mountains, something like 4,500 feet in elevation.  You’re up in among pine trees that reminded me of the smell of South Dakota when we used to visit there as a kid.  Friends reminded me that this is where George Lucas shot a good portion of Return of the Jedi.  We didn’t even think of that.

We just saw these massive, gargantuan trees.

I could see, before arrival, that it raised some doubt in my oldest’s brain.  She wasn’t sure this was the kind of adventure she wanted to achieve.  She isn’t the hiking type, doesn’t camp.  The boys and Hannah, who grew up in Texas and California are about as big a city dwellers as you’re going to get.  When I told them to get shoes they could hike in they tried to wear them with no socks…in the mountains…in the trees.  I immediately sent them up to change.  Again.

Still, when we arrived and they saw the giant stump big enough you could fit 8 families on it for Thanksgiving dinner they were amazed.  Floored.  Happy.

We hiked up the overlook of the entire forest.  We sat inside a hollowed-out center of a tree.  We walked through a downed tree, hollowed out by fire.  We spent a long time, hours there.

It was two hours there and two back, but they didn’t care.  We listened to a couple podcasts, some music, sang along to the radio . . . and just enjoyed the day.

As it got dark we sat outside, lying on blankets, watching the beginning of the Perseid meteor shower.  We saw a bunch of stars streak, flame in the brightest, shortest of intensities.  The pink and green and blue flame streaked by like tails in the sky.  The boys missed wishing on one at first and then started to as another streaked by.  The small start that was moving in a straight orbit I informed them was either a satellite or possibly the International Space Station and they followed it as it left the sky and crept over the horizon.

As I tucked them into bed, all three, I sat and rested for the evening and realized that sometimes . . . once in awhile . . . we have a good day.  It wasn’t with their mother, but we brought up together . . . she’d only been up here once with me, before they were born, and she wasn’t a big fan.  We’d spent about an hour then and that was it.  No hiking.  No walking around.  History was glorified by her father’s words not the plaques we read today on the trail.

It wasn’t a huge adventure…but it was still adventurous enough for us.  That’s all that matters.