I’ll hopefully have the next book chapter post done soon, but in the meantime I thought I’d share a lighter life update/travel post. (Note: “Lighter” sadly doesn’t refer to the length of this post.)
So ever since we moved back to California in 2015, my husband Michael has been looking for a job with no travel, Monday-Friday shifts during normal business hours, job responsibilities in line with his work experience, and pay close to what he was making in Houston. These criteria aren’t just for our own comfort or pickiness. While we know there’s no “perfect” job out there, we want to try and maintain certain priorities in our family as best we can. We want Michael to be home and present with his family as much as possible, for a work schedule that allows us to have normal church involvement and community with friends and family, and for me to be able to stay home with Nora.
Until a couple weeks ago we’ve struggled to find such an arrangement that fit our priorities. The job Michael got when we first moved out here required some crazy hours and travel. The next job he got required some long hours and classes two nights a week in downtown LA for the next five years. So we’d been praying that God would provide something else, all while Michael faithfully worked at the jobs God had already provided for the time being.
That waiting hasn’t been easy, moreso for Michael than for me. I get to be a stay-at-home and now work-from-home mom woohoo! He’s had to trudge to work every day in jobs with some serious downsides, then come home to a wife and baby demanding his attention. All that to say, God has taught us a lot about patience and trusting Him in the year and a half since we’ve been back.
Well, I’m happy to report that God has graciously provided another job for Michael and this one seems like it’s what we’ve been looking for! Normal hours, no travel, no school, a 30-minute commute, and a great company to work for with plenty of room to grow in skills and position. Thank you, God! So last Wednesday was Michael’s last day at his old job and we had four free days before he started the new job on Monday.
But how should we spend those four days??
Well, we woke up Thursday morning without a plan in the world and at breakfast we started kicking around ideas. Then I started spouting off about going somewhere. “Let’s go to Yosemite! Let’s go to Tahoe! Let’s go to Sequoia!”
Here’s the thing though…I’m all talk when it comes to being spontaneous. I’ll throw out ideas but the second Michael says, “Okay, let’s do that,” I’m like, “Nooo way! I haven’t planned! We can’t go on a trip without thinking long and hard about every single detail and planning every single thing down to the minute!” (Can I get an amen from any other OCD and FOMO trip planners out there??)
Well, the same thing happened that morning and I quickly started backtracking once Michael said, “Sure, let’s go to the mountains.” But thankfully, Michael was persistent enough that we should do it, and thankfully, through years of being married to Michael, I’ve become more open to spontaneity than I used to be.
So I quickly got to work on booking a place to stay and getting stuff together for a short Thursday-Saturday vacation to Sequoia National Park. Side note on the hotel – the property I wanted had no available reservations online but I decided to give them a call anyway and they were able to find us a room! So if you ever see “no rooms available” online, give them a call anyway. They might have last-minute cancellations and open rooms!
By 11:00 a.m. I had squared away my work responsibilities for the next few days and we were packed and ready to go! We didn’t leave until 12:30 in the hopes that Nora would nap for part of the drive. And of course, she only napped for half an hour. But she still did great on the drive and we got to Three Rivers around 4. Not long at all considering we had a few stops in there.
Three Rivers is just outside the southern entrance to Sequoia, a beautiful little town nestled at the base of the mountains and right along a rushing river.
We checked into the hotel then went to find some dinner. I checked Yelp and the top-rated place was Sierra Subs and Salads. It did not disappoint! Not only was the food fresh and delicious, but the place had outdoor seating right near the river. It was definitely the most scenic meal we’ve had in awhile!
After dinner we parked at the small trailhead of the Cobble Knoll Recreation Area in town and made our way down to see the river. Nora just had to touch the water and play in the sand so we hung out there for a bit before heading back to the hotel to get her to bed.
We put Nora down then laid in the dark eight feet away watching the pilot episode of The Walking Dead on Netflix. I know people are obsessed with that show but we weren’t too impressed. I know, shouldn’t judge a show based on the pilot alone but oh well. Afterwards, since we’re babies, we needed to watch an episode of Arrested Development so we could go to sleep on a lighter note.
The next morning we woke up and after a few preparations, headed into Sequoia National Park! The entrance fee to the park is $30 for seven days of access, and an annual pass is only $50. It was a beautiful drive up. With all the snowfall this past winter there was snow at the top and lots of streams and little waterfalls to see on the drive. The only downside was that I got really carsick both on the way up and the way down. I’d never gotten it that bad before so that was a bummer.
We made it to the Lodgepole campground in the hopes of hiking to the Tokopah Falls waterfall. The campground itself was closed and probably will be for awhile because there’s still so much snow everywhere. But it was a great opportunity for Nora to experience snow for the first time!
In unsnowy conditions, the trail is just an easy to moderate out and back hike (1.7 miles one way) to the waterfall. But we quickly realized it wasn’t going to be such a quick hike making our way through icy and slippery snow with a toddler strapped onto one of us, and we were a bit pressed for time as we still needed to go see the giant sequoias before driving back down during Nora’s nap time. So we hiked for what I’d guess to be a little short of a mile, then turned around.
We let Nora play near the river for a bit then hopped back in the car and made our way to the General Sherman trailhead to see some big trees!
The last time I had seen this grove of giant sequoias was 14 years ago during one of the summers I was up at Hume Lake. It brought back a lot of fond memories of my Ponderosa, Wildwood, and Caleb Program experiences, and the trees were as impressive as ever!
Sadly, we didn’t get to stroll around as long as we wanted because a certain Nora was starting to get delirious. We booked it back up the hill to the parking lot (great workout holding a toddler and walking uphill at 7,000 feet) and headed back to Three Rivers. And of course, Nora fell asleep only in the last 10 minutes of our hour-long drive.
We just chilled the rest of the evening at the hotel, enjoyed some more Sierra Subs and Salads for dinner, and slept early.
The next day we leisurely got up and had breakfast, watched some Fraggle Rock in the hotel room, and checked out. We decided to try the drive-while-Nora-naps thing again so we had a couple hours to kill before heading home. On the recommendation of a friend we went to Reimer’s Candies and Gifts in Three Rivers to get some of their homemade ice cream. Michael may or may not have also gotten a giant dark chocolate peanut butter cup from their candy store. Everything was delicious and Nora certainly wasn’t complaining about getting an ice cream and waffle cone snack at 10:00 in the morning!
After our sweet fix we stopped at one of the Lake Kaweah recreation areas to walk down by the river once more before heading out.
We had such a great time on our little getaway! There were so many great reminders of God’s goodness to us along the way – His goodness in providing a new job, His goodness in giving us this time with each other to relax and enjoy being together, and His goodness in letting us again experience some mountain majesty. We kept saying how excited we were to discover that the Sierra Nevadas are more accessible than we thought. I had only been to Sequoia through the King’s Canyon entrance further north and Yosemite on the other side of the mountains, both of which are much longer drives from LA, so I always assumed there wasn’t an easier way. I should’ve just done some basic research! But now we know and we can’t wait to go back sometime soon!