“He who would travel happily must travel light.” – Antoine de St. Exupery
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Brad and his girlfriend Ashley kept us pretty darn busy during our recent visit to Chico. Ashley planned an action packed Saturday, beginning with a wildflower walk atop North Table Mountain near Oroville, California.
Formed by ancient lava flows, and looking suspiciously like our own Upper and Lower Table Rocks just outside Medford, Oregon, it rises 1582 feet above the valley floor. The wildflowers were spectacular!
We meandered along a series of interconnected trails, eventually arriving at Hollow Falls where we cautiously followed Ashley down the face the cliff you see behind us in the above photo. Fortunately, we discovered a trail that led us easily (and safely) back up to the top.
After a quick bite to eat, we took a short drive north of Chico for some wine tasting at The Abbey of our Lady of New Clairvaux, located in the tiny town of Vina. The history of the land dates back to 1843 when it was a part of a 22,000-acre Mexican land grant. Established in in 1955, the monastery sits on 600 acres and is one of only 17 Trappist-Cistercian monasteries in the United States.
Our tasting included a variety of whites and reds, all of which were quite good. Even Brad, who loves his beer, admitted the reds were pretty good.
New Clairvaux Vineyard offers a unique setting and is well worth the detour when traveling through Northern California.
Of the twenty-one missions that dot the coast of California, La Purisima Mission, in Lompoc, has always been a favorite of mine. As kids, my friends and I used to pack a picnic lunch and ride our bikes out to the mission grounds, eager to explore the gardens, pat the livestock and wander through history.
Years later my three boys loved their childhood visits to La Purisima just as much as I did…so on a recent trip home for my Dad's 90th birthday, Reg and I returned with two of my (now adult) sons to relive the memories.
La Purisima is one of the most completely and authentically restored missions, so be prepared to let your imagination take you on a trip back through time.
Individual rooms are furnished as they would have been when it was a bustling community hub. Wander into the church, shops, blacksmith shop, living quarters and more.
Wear your walking shoes. There are miles of hiking trails around the perimeter of this 1,860 acre park as well as paths through the gardens and around the buildings.
The Visitors Center is the best place to learn the history of La Purisima and to start your tour. Be sure to allow enough time to see this treasure of California's Central Coast…and don't forget your lunch!
We packed up our courage Saturday morning, and set off for Canyons in Park City, Utah. We had 11:30 reservations for the ride of our lives.
During our lift ride up the mountain, our instructor Matt spoke enthusiastically about his job and all the improvements that are currently under construction around the Park City area. He was a great salesman…after we all successfully made our first run down the 800 foot Red Pine Zip Line, he announced that it was our last chance to upgrade to the Epic Tour.
Pleased with ourselves for having conquered our first 800 foot zip and feeling a little cocky, we all accepted the challenge and signed on to ride down the Lookout zip line, a 2,111 foot drop over the treetops above Lookout Canyon.
Once we reached the loading platform, there was only one way down…unless we were willing to take the long hike back to the resort. I must say, I gave it some thought as I watched Andrew and Leah disappear into the distance…
The brochure promised “It's more fun at Park City,” so we got an early start today to determine if it was true.
Our first stop was the Alpine Coaster, an elevated track that winds through more than a mile of twisting turns, racing beneath the trees at speeds of up to 30 mph. After a short lesson on braking and accelerating, we were sent up the hill.
Warmed up and ready to go, we jumped on the lift and rode up to 8,000 feet for a ride on one of the four the Alpine Slides, a luge-like track that would speed us back down the hill.
Our first attempt was rained out, and we were sent back to the bottom in a Suburban. Fortunately, the afternoon sunshine allowed us multiple trips down the mile-long course.
We were all warned that the “sleds” will dump you out if you try to go too fast. A couple of us learned (the hard way) it was true…but I'm not a tattletale, so I'm not saying who…you'll have to guess!
Unsettled weather like we had today can be a little tricky. There are no refunds when rain shuts down rides. However, even with a little bad weather, our family consensus was seven thumbs up for the Park City Resort. It was a fun day!
Thinking back over the years, we should have paid more attention to our first “travel light” experience. It was the spring of 2006, and Andrew was graduating from high school that June. Brad and Chris were two years behind him, entrenched in life with their friends and various activities. Time was running out for family vacation memories.
How could we generate enthusiasm from our three teen-aged sons for a weeklong trip? With a little outside-of-the-box thinking (and five cowboy hats) we found ourselves astride the mules at the Grand Canyon, facing downhill! After a short “pep talk” informing us that mules are not the easiest way to experience the Grand Canyon and that if anyone wanted to back out, “now is the time to do so,” we headed down the Bright Angel trail behind our guide Patrick. We were bound for Phantom Ranch, a beautiful but rustic guest ranch at the bottom of the canyon, where we would spend the night and ride up the next day.
Checking in the previous day, we were each handed a plastic bag, only slightly larger than a hot water bottle. We were told whatever personal belongings countered able to fit into the bag could make the journey with us down the canyon for our overnight stay. We all carefully decided what was important and then tried to squeeze in just one more thing.
Despite the lack of luggage, I think this was one of our most memorable vacations. On the ride back up to the rim, a fellow traveler asked our boys to each rate the trip on a scale from one to ten. After two days of sitting atop a mule, no electronics and only the endless canyon views, we were thrilled to hear ratings of nine or ten from all our kids. We're learning…take less and see more!
I have always loved photography…ever since Denise (my best friend from childhood) and I saved our allowances (fifty cents/week – we were probably about 10 years old) to buy our Kodak Instamatic 104 cameras…at the time, they were amazing; drop-in film cartridge and pop-on flash cube…so easy, so cool!
I went on to take several photography classes in high school, followed by a couple more in college. With a good 30+ years of practice, one might think I would have a pretty good command of the features on my camera (like the timer) but the digital world still baffles me.
On a trip to China a few years ago, we gave our sons money to bargain with street vendors for souvenirs. The buying turned into a competition to get the lowest prices. I thought it was a great deal when I got a Chinese army winter hat for 5 dollars. The boys laughed that Dad was a fool to pay that much. It was all in good fun, but the kids also got the last laugh.
I sampled some Chinese liquor one day and bought a few bottles to bring home. Back at the hotel, I put them in a backpack and we continued on our tour. When going through security at the Shanghai airport for our trip home, the officer at the x-ray machine shouted a few words in Chinese while pointing at my pack. I had forgotten about the bottles and had a choice: go back and put them in my checked bag, or leave them behind. Let's just say that some Chinese airport officers had a party at my expense.
But, as we found out just recently, one of our three teen-aged sons had even more fun. He had used the money we gave him to buy his own sampling of Chinese liquor. But, he had the smarts to put it in his checked luggage and the booze made it back without a hitch. I am sure he and his friends enjoyed every last drop.
On the same trip, another son almost learned a major travel lesson the hard way: never put your passport in your checked luggage. He had done just that. Our travel guide was able to find the bag at the last minute so he could board the flight. He now wears his passport in a case around his neck.