Monday, October 12, 2009

Our journey's to the center of the earth

We started our day driving up the 49 , spiraling down the crazy path between Mariposa & Coulterville. You know the one that takes you down a mountain side real fast....real steep. That animal must have a name, but we don't know it.
  Our four-pack was in route to Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Our first agenda was to *hopefully* happen upon an apple farm. Happen we did, we have a nice sized box stuffed full with yummy heirloom apples for apple butter makin' and caramel apple crunch pie bakin'!!!
  After arriving at the park & pulling out all our stuff, in effect campifying the joint, we toured the museum. This is where I got the answer to my question. You see I was hit with an acorn while coming out of the bathroom by a squirrel (I presumed). The ranger on duty warned us about the flying squirrels stating they were rascals...known for throwing acorns at passers by. Contrary little things!

  We also walked the North Grove loop (well Jeff & Billy ran a good chunk of it) I love the pictures of the boys in this grove. However I must say they don't really capture the size of these trees.

  We then headed to the South Grove section of the park. Here we hiked down to the Stanislaus River. Although back in the foothills we just left it was hot, Calaveras was pretty darn chilly. So we welcomed the sunshine pressing into us as we rested on the boulders. Bravery took over for a few minutes as we dipped  our feet in the ice cold river water, just to feel to the strength of the current.

  Apparently it was ladybug mating season because we saw hundreds and hundreds of them dancing all around us here and then later back at the camp ground along the meadow clinging to each other trying to stay warm.
  Before leaving this side of the park we drove down to "Roads End" this was at Billy's request. It seems he has caught that bug from his Dad! Beaver Creek was reached by a short hike from the Roads End parking lot. Ricky took a dive...not the rest of us. (Ricky is the splash..he jumped before I was ready)
   Ricky learned to make a fire with only a magnesium stone, knife and a few twigs. Billy was his biggest supporter.  Ah, what you can do with patience, tenacity and a really great cheer leading team! We loved our fires most especially this trip, as Autumn camping (cuz it really was Autumn there) is really chilly!!!
  After dinner we enjoyed story telling by the campfire. Whittling, knife sharpening and rough housing. Finally calming down to sipping herbal tea with honey, munching on cookies and candy (yes we took a break from smores & cocoa)
  I woke up to a warm fire Jeff built. I busied myself preparing breakfast for the day. Only packing the ingredients for lunch as it was much too cold to bother with at this point.
  After warming our hands with mugs of hot tea and a love-built fire. As well as eating a yummy bowel of oatmeal to warm us even greater. We finished our morning routine and packed into the car.
  Our first adventure of the day was Sutter's Gold Mine. Jeff & The boys took this tour. According to the brochure they went 620 feet below the surface and 1850 feet into the mine. They rode the "Boss Buggy Shuttle" which is a jeep looking vehicle. They hiked part of the way down. Then a second Boss Buggy returned them to the surface. Ricky said it was awesome, that riding down a cave in a jeep was his favorite part. Jeff really liked  the WALL of quartz with gold running right through the middle of it. Billy said they learned a lot. As a matter of fact he excitedly rambled on for quit a while about Gold Rush History and the geology of California. I sat this one out while I  made the lunch I hadn't made back at the campsite. We ate our picnic lunch here.
  Then we drove on to Black Chasm Cavern. Jeff sat out of this tour, while the boys and I took it on. There was no warning here, no gentle grade. It was an immediate steep narrow staircase going down, down, down. However I'd climb it again in a heart beat. It was an absolute jewel case. Billy practiced his picture taking skills on the beautiful helictites this cave is famous for. Ricky tried to scare the wits out of me. He spotted a clear turquoise lake WAY WAY down at the bottom of the cave. He leaned over the very narrow planked walkway to point it out. Geeezzzz boy!!! Jeff was glad he didn't see it.
 Our last expedition of the day lead us to California Caverns. All four of us went on this tour. As with most of the tours we again sported hard hats and sweatshirts. Everyone liked this cave because there were so many twists and turns and fun little spots. Oh yes, we had many bend over to get through there, watch your head here, lean this way...okay now lean the other way. Yes, we had many directional commands from our guide.  Billy again worked for photography credit getting just the right picture of this caves splendor. (Billy & Ricky are in the picture above Ricky bent down, I know its hard to see....)
  The evening was welcomed, we were all ready for a comforting fire (made by the hands of Billy), resting by the moon lite mountain glow. As well as a quick warm meal....and bed.
  The lure of a winding rural road is powerful. Beautiful varying scenery with each gnarly turn. Often, though of course impossible, I find myself wishing I could stop in the middle of the road. I just want to take it all in. This happened several times today. My sweet Jeff pulled over on the side of the road several times for me to take pictures of lovely bits of this and that. My favorites are the GIANT radio wagon Billy is standing in front of and the incredible red tree, a blissful example of Autumn.
  Our first planned stop of the day was Mercer Cavern. Here we walked another very steep, staircase 16 stories underground.  The staircase was not only steep and narrow, it very was low at certain points. Even I hit my head once, oops! Having said that, this was great cave. As with every tour, there is no better way to learn the history of the area. Billy worked his photography skills here by catching shots of the rare and famous cave flowers. ( Ricky is ducking down to fit through this section of the cave & Billy is on the staircase behind him in the picture)
  Next we moved on to Moaning Cavern. This place sends you down a very tight narrow staircase. The walls of this section are NOT for the claustrophobic. After that you descend a 284 step, rusty, rickety, spiral staircase. This cave was massive. It was impressive by its scale alone. We were told the Statue of Liberty could easily fit inside the cave. Our equilibrium was thrown off as was our depth perception making for an interesting climb back up that crazy staircase!
  Before we left Ricky had his 15 second thrill. He jumped in a truck driven by a wild teenager up a hillside to a tower. Here Ricky climbed up to get  harnessed for a massive zipline. Ricky, not tall enough to reach the wiring, pulled himself up with his arms. The attendants, after recovering from their shock grabbed him and attached...the ugh attachment's?? Then they sent him on his way down the hill. Billy & I sat at a table watching his midway descend. Jeff was at the base to see him land. Ricky waved to all as he "flew through the air with the greatest of ease"
  Our very last journey was to Natural Bridges Cave. *Note to all, this place is free. We parked our car and hike about 2 miles down to the mouth of the cave. The boys climbed around and we all explored it a bit. Ricky swam in. We had a picnic snack here and then headed back up the hillside to our car. (Billy is sitting on a "shelf" & Ricky is swimming in these photos)
   This was another wonderful road trip with my guys. Yet we were all ready to go home and releave ourselves of our camp-nasty filth!


solehah said...

fun family time there, clearly we are living in the wrong place.

solehah said...

Great pictures!

Charity Anne said...

oh come on now Arizona has some awesome spots!