I spent Thanksgiving at Montecito-Sequoia Lodge in Sequoia National Forest again. Like last year, there weren't any activities designed to bring high school or college-age kids together, so I only met a few (Alex and Jenny). My brother Drew and my cousin Jessica were also there.
It seems that many visitors have not internalized the idea that black bears are dangerous. When we saw a bear several meters from the road, we stopped and took photos. Other people stopped and got out of their SUVs to take photos. Also, members of my family kept leaving food in the car and even taking trips to put food in the car.
Wednesday: The drive up
Dad hit a bear when it jumped in front of our car. Dad was able to brake enough that when we hit the bear, the collision made us stop. Our license plate was bent, but the bear did not go under the car and was able to run away from the road.
Mom got upset and tried to make Dad slow down (with partial success). Later, she insisted on driving so that she could drive slowly. It's a good thing there are lots of turnouts along the forest roads.
When we arrived at Montecito-Sequoia Lodge, there was snow on parts of the ground. We determined that most of the areas with snow were in the shade at least part of the day.
I slept in, missing the morning (10:00) and afternoon (1:45) hikes.
Thursday night was casino night. Instead of playing blackjack or poker, I took my casino money to the girl at the front desk.
We hiked up Moro Rock. This wasn't so much a hike as a quarter-mile stair climb. I couldn't tell whether I was out of breath due to altitude or due to climbing stairs. We wondered how the stairs were made. The view from the top of Moro Rock was amazing.
After hiking Moro Rock, we went to visit General Sherman Tree. This tree has the distinction of having the largest volume of any tree (or perhaps any living thing), although not the largest girth or tallest height. Many of its branches looked like fully grown trees.
Friday night was a dance. It's the first dance I've ever enjoyed, partly because Jenny danced with me, and partly because I wasn't the only person who didn't know how to dance.
I got up early to see Jenny and her family off.
We hiked to Tokopah Falls, a waterfall that partially freezes in the winter. The hike took several hours. Snow and ice made the hike difficult, and I slipped several times but somehow managed not to fall. Soon we were surrounded on three sides by steep granite cliffs. As we approached the waterfall, we heard a loud crash, which turned out to be a small avalanche next to the waterfall that we barely missed a chance to see. The waterfall itself went behind ice at some points, which made me wonder how the ice stayed there.
Saturday night was Coffee House or Open Mic Night. Most of the acts were guitar-and-singing or karaoke, but a few weren't musical. Dad read Jabberwocky, two kids demonstrated their karate moves, and a group of four kids did the "invisible bench" skit. I took notes on all of the performances, and Jessica and Alex found my notes amusing.
One guy, Mark Cronin (sp?), managed to sign up for three acts by finding partners for two of them. His guitar-playing, voice, and song selection were great. He played and sang "El Paso" (Grateful Dead), "Love, Me" (Collin Raye), and "I've Got a Name" (Jim Croce). I didn't know any of these songs before, but I liked them, especially "Love, Me".
I played an awesome Scrabble game with Mom and Dad. Dad and I tied at 252 to 252. We each used all of our tiles once: he went out with "whalers" for 83 points, and I went out with "bindings" for 64 points.
At midnight, Drew, Mom, and I went to the hot tub to stargaze. Using a hot tub in the middle of a near-freezing night was kind of insane. We weren't able to do much stargazing because we couldn't turn off the hot tub light and our glasses kept getting steamed up. But we still had fun.
Later in the night, I found a darker spot to lie down and look up. I'm used to Los Angeles smog and light pollution, so having a clear sky was awesome. Constellations have more meaning when you can see stars that are not part of a constellation.
After stargazing, I stopped by the lodge for some hot chocolate to warm up. You gotta love the free-hot-chocolate machine.
Sunday: the drive back
The drive back was uneventful.