My girlfriend, Tyler, and I arrived, late at night, to a large cabin in the woods, situated high up on a mountain. It was so devoid of light, we didn’t have a clue where we were til morning.
(I later learned that we were in the Stanislaus National Forest.)
We were welcomed by a large group on the back porch – Tyler’s friend (we’ll call her Judy), plus Judy’s mom and dad, two brothers, and several friends. They had all arrived the previous night and planned to stay throughout the weekend to celebrate Judy’s birthday. The inside of the cabin was more picturesque and cozy than most people’s houses – warm, rustic, and clean. We ate some leftovers and drank wine on the porch while we got to know the people with whom we’d be spending the next couple days.
Spoiler alert: Judy’s mom ends up being one of my favorite people on my whole trip. She showed us and the other guests (most of whom she’d never met) hospitality which rivaled that of any Southerner. The whole weekend, she cooked for everyone, made the beds we slept on, and chatted with us over board games. I profusely thanked her upon leaving Sunday and told her I knew my own mom would appreciate that I had someone’s mom to look out for me while I was so far from home.
After spending the better part of ten days alone and on the move, the Sierra Nevada came as a welcome vacation for me. I learned early on not to use the phrase “the Sierra Nevadas,” as we do on the east coast – the proper terms are either “the Sierra Nevada” or “the Sierra Nevada mountains.” (There are many mountains, but only one sierra.) Yep, I’m up on the local northern California vernacular. No big deal.
Saturday afternoon we packed our trucks and coolers and caravanned up to the Lake Utica Reservoir in Pinecrest, CA. This was the highlight of our weekend. Lake Utica was the only part of my entire trip to rival Lake Tahoe in terms of its natural beauty. We climbed onto the giant, flat rocks surrounding the lake, laid out a picnic, and floated on rafts in the sun all day.
^ That’s me ^
So much fun.
Unfortunately, I got cocky and laid face-up in the open sun for WAY too long. I came back looking like a tomato. How arrogant was I, to think my mortal human skin could stand up to the unmitigated power of the SUN for more than a short time? I was asking for it.
On the way back, we stopped in Murphys, a tiny nearby town full of old hippies selling stuff to tourists and hikers. It reminded me of Truckee, CA, back in northwest Tahoe, which we weren’t too far from by this point. (I had managed to circle largely back to where I was days ago, only I didn’t know it then.)
We browsed the stores of downtown Murphys and ate ice cream.
We continued back to the cabin, stopping for a beer on the way home.
^ That’s me on the left, in the tie dye shirt I made long ago^
We went back to the cabin, showered, and ate whatever delicious dinner Judy’s mom had prepared for us while we were at the lake.
In case anyone was wondering (and I doubt anyone was), it was at this point that I published my blog post about DENVER. That’s how deferred each of these posts are. I remember this fact because I initially wrote most of it, subsequently lost it, and had to re-write it all later.
Finally, it was time for Tyler and I to pull ourselves away from the relaxing bliss of the mountains and head back to her place in Napa Valley.
So begins my next post, which follows with the startling realization that my trip was half over, plus my seventeen-hour drive back across the desert.
You don’t want to miss it.