Day 55

Sequoia National Park

Wow! This is a must!

We got to walk among giants!!!

I mean HUGE trees, in a magical forest.

Be prepared for a long, windy road up and down. I don’t know why I was expecting to find giant trees in a valley, but, no no, they won’t grow in a valley. So you got go up, way up, 5000-7000 feet up.

We drove our Sequoia in Sequoia

I held my breath for this photo

There was purple blooming everywhere the first 3000 feet.

And incredible views. You’ll wanna take your time.

These trees are really, really big

What an amazing phenomenon of the perfect conditions to grow these incredible giants.

The girls climbed and explored inside and outside of a hundred trees.

Carved in some falls ones

We finally found a tree SMALL enough for all four of us to reach around! This is “our size hug” tree.

Here is the largest tree in the WORLD. You’re not aloud to hug it. It is 110 feet around. That would take our whole family!

Mimi can’t get over how small Sequoia pine cones are. The seeds are so tiny too!

It’s amazing. Other, smaller pine trees have giant cones!

This is not a sequoia, but it has a cool tunnel to crawl through.

The moss is so bright it looks spray painted.

We had lunch at the Village. The restaurant was only open for dinner but they have snacks and free coffee.😁

Then we hiked to Tokopah Falls. What an incredible hike. 1.7 miles up along the river. Just beautiful.

Nina and I found our “Mother /Daughter hands on rock” rock.

On the way to this huge rock mountain!

The falls are incredible

Yes, there is still snow up here in April.

We hiked 11 miles today and my whole body hurts, but boy, was it worth it.

We stopped to see the sunset on our way back down.

This was a most wonderful experience and a place we will cherish forever.

Burning Breaks and Napa Valley

I thought this whole day would be just a wash with nothing to blog about since we were in the car for 7 hours.

But, once again, it’s not just the destination that is noteworthy, it is the JOURNEY!

This was my first time ever seeing Napa Valley. We drove through the southernmost part of it and ONE day, I will drive through the whole thing and stop a hundred times! It is beautiful. I’ll share a few pictures I was able to get on our drive after I share about our scare.


We are descending from Big Bear (7000 feet)

Hair pin curves and 10 mph in spots

I had to stop twice in 10 miles to rest and once for NIna to go pee per. Aren’t the views pretty?

Anyway, Mimi made fun of me for needing to rest due to my driving anxiety and fear of heights.

Well, we started smelling really strong burning breaks and just assumed it was a truck in front of us.

Nope, it was us. Both front brakes smoking strong!

I pulled off the road again.

I had everyone following our trip praying. Here were stuck 5000 feet up in the middle of the San Bernardino National Forest, with no water, and not sure of how to get down safely.

So thankful there was a cell signal and I could call the mechanic who installed the breaks 3 days ago. And he answered!

Also thankful we happened to stop at a pull off with a tree for shade.

Per the mechanic, we let the brakes cool off for 30 minutes and we’re back on the road. Back to our 5 hour drive north.

Whew. That was so scary. But, I am easily scared so, just saying.

After we descended the mountain, drive a cross the desert valley, snd began ascending into the hills, the view became breathtakingly beautiful!

Everything got green! There were rolling green hills on both sides of the road. My heart was in awe.

I couldn’t even take pictures of the beauty while driving so these are not even representations of how pretty it is.

We stopped for a rest at the most epic pit stop ever! Murray Family Farms.

Farm fresh food and fruit right off the tree.

We also passed through our first oil field! There were hundreds of oil rigs pumping!!! So cool to see for the first time.

I’m not sure where Napa valley begins, but my guess it is where we began seeing miles and miles of citrus groves.

And thousands of acres of vineyards

And these trees as far as the eye can see, in perfect rows. Anybody know what they are?

And olive trees!

And BEE farms! Lots of bee farms! Duh, Orange Blossom honey! Ding ding, it all makes sense now.

We couldn’t pass up the big Antique store on the side of the road so we explored it.

And there were fresh fruit farm stands with fresh honey we had to check out too. They let you taste all the things. Even fresh squeezed orange juice.

And the drive into three rivers on the way to Sequoia is spectacular.

We checked into our hotel on the river, went for a quick swim in the very cold pool…

The girls are staying in their first vintage motel and Nina is getting the biggest kick out of the tiny bathtub that none but her can fit in.

Mimi flat ironed my hair without burning it off and we went to the Pizza Factory for dinner .

What a day. What I thought would be a day of nothing but driving, was a fat filled with surprises and blessings.

Day 53-54

Big Bear Lake, CA

This is certainly a place to come for skiing, but we didn’t have time this trip. Will save skiing in Big Bear for another year.

We did find an awesome trail that has great views of the lake.

Castle Rock Trail

After a nice, hearty breakfast at the Grizzly Manor cafe.

This trail is steep and climbs 833 feet in elevation.

You are already starting at 7000 feet+, so it feels much longer than a mile to the top.

It’s a really nice trail , climbing along a stream for much of the way. It has massive boulders to climb and explore.

Crevices and Caves

Really big trees

Little waterfalls

Big pine cones

Cute hikers

Nice views of Big Bear lake

And you can’t miss the castle rock

And if you ever wondered if it snows in California, check out Big Bear in April! Still snow on the ground.

After our hike, we stopped at the Honey shop for a little tasting .

Don’t let Becca’s expression deter you. Only one honey tasted like sweet horse manure, the others were delicious. We just happened to tarts that one last, just before this pic.

We will be leaving California in a couple of days so I wanted to mine for gold while we were here.

They have an old western town set up at this mining business.


We waited in line for an hour (due to Co-vid) so I got to tell the girls all I knew about the California gold rush in 1855. When it was our turn, they were sold out of gold. 😏

So the girls mined for rocks and sharks teeth.

We went to a local Mexican restaurant for lunch. Azteca Grill. Their kids meal burrito is really good.

We sat on the patio. Really pretty day.

We went shopping in The Village. Lots of great shops and restaurants all in a small area.

We did some antiquing.

We went back to the resort for a while. The girls checked out all their treasures they found today while I worked for an hour.

Then we went back to The Village for Indian food for dinner. No pictures because I left my phone in the car. But the Himalayan restaurant is yummy.

We came “home”, piled up on the bed and watched the new episode of When Calls the Heart. (Our Sunday evening tradition for the last 7 weeks).

Did a load of laundry, slept well, leaving Big Bear today for a long drive North. Wonder where we are going? You’ll just have to read our blog in a few days. 😊


Day 50-52

Stranded at the ranch.

For the last 1000 miles, my car steering has felt more and more out of control.

I have been sweating while driving in 16 lane San Diego traffic just trying to stay in my own lane.

It began affecting my psyche. I was beginning to think my traffic anxiety was causing me to forget how to control the car.

We were supposed to leave Oceanside and drive to Big Bear. That is up a mountain 7000 feet.

LONG story short, stopped by Da-Le ranch for a half a minute to say hi on the way to Big Bear, decided to have car checked , oil changed, etc.

Turns out Rack and Pinion was OUT and all 4 brakes were shot! Plus a laundry list of other things that come from driving a 17 year old car 5000 miles in the last 2 months.

So, we were stranded at the ranch for 2 days.

The girls were in bliss and wished the mechanic was less efficient!

They are so drawn to farm life and all the animals. Even the work! And they don’t mind the poop!

They cared for the animals, did chores, dragged supplies with the Kubota, explores, caught wild lizards, helped in the garden, collected eggs to incubate, and had eager hands and willing hearts the whole time.

I helped tag and castrate 25 sheep and finished the hoop garden I started on our previous visit the week before.

We learned about red granite, gold mine run off, how to dig a hand dug well, and how to build a ram pump for pumping water uphill with no electricity.

Our time on the farm is just packed full of learning new things. A rich two days for sure.

And so grateful we could drive a safe car up to big Bear. So, very thankful for the Lord’s mercies in not letting us make that trip when we planned.

Here we are at 7000 feet.

Settled in our resort and out to a nice candlelit dinner on top of the mountain to end the day.

Counting a hundred blessings right now.

Day 47-49

We finally reached the West Coast! Seeing the ocean and the California sunset each night was amazing.

What was super cool is that while me and three of our kids were on the west coast, David and two kids were on the east coast! He took Cameron and Katherine to the beach for spring break. So we were literally on opposite shores at the same time!

Such a nice view of the ocean from our room.

There is a nice waterfront seafood restaurant in our resort. Mimi said they have the best water at any ocean. I agree. No salty or fishy taste at all!

We spent the days at the San Diego Zoo

It’s really awesome. Perfect weather, 70 degrees

Spent the evening at the hotel pool and went to a nice restaurant for dinner.

Next morning. Found THE world’s BEST donuts!

I mean, the BEST!

Then we spend the day exploring beaches.

First Cardiff by the sea…

So many bikers!

We were sure to go at low tide and found amazing rocks! Mesmerizing amounts of tumbled rocks in all shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns!

Then we went to La Jolla shores and watched some surfers a while and got our feet wet.

Then we going La Jolla Cove! What a treat!!

So beautiful!

And seals!

So many seals!

The water was incredible.

We found an injured seal and Becca was determined to find a rescuer. We finally found a lifeguard who assured us that they had contacted Sea World for someone to come check him out.

We ate lunch overlooking the cove

And explored the rocks and caves

The waves were big crashing onto the rocks

This is a beautiful place.

My heart jumped a little standing on this rock. I am not as at ease as everyone else seams to be around me, but I wanted to stand on a cliff next to an ocean that wasn’t too high and so I did.

We walked to a Thai restaurant about 2 blocks from our resort.

Nina climbed up in my lap snd hugged me. She said the sweetest thing I’ll never forget.

“I don’t know why, but I feel so safe with you.”

My heart is full.

This is how we woke up the next morning.

I feel so blessed to have this time with my girls. It truly is special.

Meanwhile… on the East coast, my other kids are visiting the Easter bunny and having a great time with their buddies. I miss them so much. Glad for a picture on Easter, since it’s our first one apart.


We spent Easter at The Wild Animal Safari in Escondido.

Mimi found a tiny, baby kangaroo mouse and Becca picked it up.

They nurtured it for the rest of the day in the park.

It was the size of a small grape!

I mean, very well nurtured!

They named him “Dido“ since they found him in Escondido.

I amazed at all the native plants in these parks. Plants that only grow in Africa, Asia, or Australia. So cool.

There are safaris you can take, but they are $350-500 each, so we decided to wait until we had 6 people to make it more cost per person conducive, but we got to walk for 8 miles inside the park and see the Savannah’s from a distance.

And lots of amazing creatures up close.

So glad we wore our safari hats, the sun was brutal, but lots of nice shade too, especially in this amazing bamboo forest.

So cool.

We had our last night on the west coast with a fire pit ON our table. What a nice way to end our stay at Oceanside, CA.

See you again one day, Pacific Ocean. You are amazing!

Day 44-46

Y’all, we have been off-grid a few days living farm life.

There is no way I can catch up on all that we have seen, heard, felt, smelled, eaten, drank, done, and learned these last few days.

I’ll try to remember a few highlights to catch up a little.

Some of you thought we felt off the west coast somewhere since I haven’t blogged in a few days, but I assure you we are alive and well!

Spending 3 days on Da-Le Ranch was an experience of a lifetime.

Living and working with all the animals on top of a mountain with nothing but the sound of bleeting sheep, mooing cows, honking geese, growing roosters, quacking ducks, clucking turkeys, and snorting pigs.

It was awesome.

We fed a new born calf and helped it learn to nurse.

We milked a cow

We did farm chores and drove the Kubota all over the mountain.

We learned to tell the difference between six different kids of eggs; chicken, quail, guinea, turkey, duck , and goose.

We ate a goose egg!

Check out the duck with the human hair knot. 🤣

I learned how to and helped build a hoop garden.

We ate delicious fresh grilled pork from pigs raised on the farm.

We learned how to make home made nut butter.

The girls fed, held and played with baby lambs.

Mimi learned to drive the Kubota

And I took some Dramamine and we did a little wild 4 wheeling.

I even helped put a uterus back into a sheep who had prolapsed.

The girls were surrounded by animals and are in love with farm life now.

What an unforgettable few days we had. Thank you Da-Le Ranch for being such amazing hosts.

Day 43

A day in Palm Springs, CA

First time staying right next to a golf hole. Felt like a ball could drop in my coffee at any time.

The reality of eating out every meal on this trip on our wallet and my waistline set in today and we decided to go to Trader Joe’s and get food for the next 4 meals. Saved $150 doing that and got some healthier choices.

We wanted to go to the Thousand Palms Oasis, but it was closed so we went to the smaller oasis nearby. The hike was a hot, sunny, half mile walk. The shade of the palms was nice.

I must admit I was a little frightened of something wild having found refuge from the hot desert in these palms, hence the scream from a palm leaf blowing in the wind. 🤪

We then spend the afternoon in The Living Desert. There was a lot to see there and we only had two hours before closing so it was more rushed than we wished.

Mountain goats

My favorite! Camels!!!

A camels lips are awesome.🤣

And amazing giraffes. These truly are incredible creatures.

So many cool plants and cactuses

And snakes. The venomous ones.

Mimi wants a Great Horned Owl

There is a miniature model of the Grand Canyon with the train going around it. That was cool since we were just in the canyon a couple of weeks ago.

Could have spent 3-4 hours in this park and taken our time.

We had a nice relaxing night at the hotel pool and made a healthy dinner in our room.

On our hike to the oasis today we talked all about the different major natural disasters; tornados, hurricanes, volcanos, typhoons, and earth quakes.

Since we are currently on the San Andreas fault, we all piled up on the bed and watched Superman to see some potential effects of an earthquake with a rating of 10 on the rictor scale. I made a nice pot of decaf to avoid eating popcorn. A very nice day.

Day 42

This was one of those days that taught me much about my strength, tolerance, and character.

No hiking. No fun activities. No exploration. Lots of yucky traffic, wasted time, and gps taking us places that were temporarily or permanently closed when we got there.

I got very few pictures, even of the few things we did enjoy doing.

We started the day by saying goodbye to the ducks, geese, herons, hummingbirds, and pelican. It was so peaceful lodging by this pond and hearing them playing and singing before the sun was up.

This resort is immaculate. WorldMark Indio. I can’t get over how well they grow grass in the desert. I can’t get it to grow half this well in the NC mountains and I live 20 miles from a Rain forest.

The girls LOVED running through the cool grass barefoot. Running! And skipping, and playing, by the pond with the animals was a highlight for them, especially Nina.

She sneaked up on the “Pelican“ to get a fly or any off of it….😂

Pelican is in quotes because the whole time we though that’s what it was, but when it snapped at Nina it didn’t have a pocket in its bill to carry a baby in, so not sure what it was.

Packing and leaving was a chore for some reason. I just had the girls go play tennis on the courts while I loaded the car up, put ice and refrigerator items in the cooler, etc. It was 72 degrees when we checked out at 10am. Well, 10:18 because I’m slow by myself, and so grateful they don’t knock on your door and rush you out at this place!

In the 10 mile drive from Indio to Palm Springs, it got up to 85 degrees! 😳 And sunny and 88 very quickly after we arrived.

The drive was beautiful. I had no idea there were snow capped mountains this size in California. All I remember seeing in California as a child was the San Diego suburbs, busy, crowded city streets in LA, and smaller, brown dirt mountains in the hills when I brought Cameron when he was 2 ( 13 years ago).

We almost got sideswiped by a car that couldn’t see us in his blind spot, and I had to run off the road to avoid us being hit.

My hands shook for an hour after that.

There were some neat trees and very pretty, lush landscapes, as well as homes with Tuscany style architecture that I love. I took a couple of pictures.

We decided to find Mexican food because the place from Diners, Drive ins and dives we looked up was closed. Not only were we sad about where we picked because it wasn’t great, and there were a bazillion awesome looking places we could have gone that we saw afterwards….

On the walk from our parking space to this little Mexican restaurant, I got aggressively engaged by a pan handler. It scared me and the kids.

This was one of those give me wisdom dear Jesus moments. I am waking on the sidewalk with three small children. Left my weapons in the car because I figured they might like me carrying them in the restaurant, nor did I think I would need them.

It’s hot and sunny and I’m cranky, and everybody is hungry, and we don’t know where we are.

This panhandler across the street, yells at me, challenges me and my character for turning the other way to ignore him, calls out demanding that I look at him. I’m shaking, pondering the whole caring for the poor, helping the unfortunate, loving people like Jesus thing in my mind, while gentle Mother hen and aggressive Mother Bear fight a battle of their own in my mind as I must protect my children first.

All the things.

I decide to go ahead and look at him. I thought of the lesson we learned about the mountain lion at the Tiger Sanctuary in Missouri a few weeks ago, how if you look them in the eye, then they see that you acknowledge that they are there and they no longer desire to have you as prey because the surprise factor is gone, and back off.

When I looked at him, he yelled “Come over here!”

I looked him straight in the eye and yelled back to him. “No!”

To our shock and relief, all the nastiness and force went away and he sat down, gestured with his hand and said, “Well, stay over there then.”


We went in for lunch.

We walked the “strip” in Palm Springs and did some shopping.

Nina found some California sunglasses and I bought a luxuriously soft Palm Springs sweatshirt and an awesome pair of boots. Neither of which I will need in Palm Springs. 🥵 But I’m excited about wearing them this fall at home.

We spent the early evening at the small hotel pool.

The girls observed and were shocked by the capacity of 45 people for this tiny pool.

Our kids will never understand pre-social distancing times. Now, this pool only holds 8 people and you have to reserve your two hour spot and your sanitized lounge chairs.

The girls think I’m awesome because I surprised them with new goggles I found at the small market at our last resort. Nina has been having a hard time not opening her eyes in pool water and they have been red after swimming.

Speaking of needing to make a reservation for everything in California, I hesitate to post this next “event”, but after the day we had, I will share it, not to bash the restaurant, but to share where my own mind and heart are right now in this environment, socially, and physically.

There have been at least half a dozen places we have asked GPS to take us that were closed when we got there on this trip. Sad for the small business owners we have been trying to support, but I am not going to go there.

Well, tonight, because the only time we could get a reservation for the pool was 5-7, we had to shower and figure out something for dinner. It was almost 8:00 when we found and got to the place we really wanted to dine, a nice Greek restaurant. Haven’t had a Greek salad in weeks and was looking forward to taking the girls to a local one.

Doesn’t it look nice? The girls were so hungry from their swim that they went in to get a table without even getting a picture out front.

There were only 3 tables full in the whole restaurant and the patio was completely empty. But before you start feeling sorry for them…

They asked if we had a reservation.

Remember, it’s 8:00 at night.

When we told them we didn’t, they said they couldn’t seat walk in’s, that you had to have a reservation.

I can’t tell you how frustrated I was. It’s dark, J don’t know where I am or what other options there are besides del Taco. Everyone’s hungry and I’m thinking, they have no idea what kind of restaurant patrons we are and that we leave 30-40% gratuity for good service, etc. Uurgg!

Well, I actually had to get in the car and pray to calm down and look for another option.

I’m not sure I calmed down, but the Lord was gracious and after just 2 miles of a blind drive, we found this incredible, bustling Vietnamese fusion restaurant.

We were seated graciously and immediately,even though they only had three open tables in the whole restaurant. We had a fine, funny waiter. The food was absolutely delicious. The girls even drank 2 full glasses of water, of their own choice, even though I have been trying to get them to drink water while we’ve been hiking for miles in the desert the last two weeks, because the curry was so spicy! They LOVED the red curry ramen they got and ate every bit of it!

I got Tiger Shrimp curry

I’m so glad the Greek restaurant turned us away. This was a beautiful, wonderful night on the patio with my girls.

A night to remember after quite a day to remember on this journey.

And we tipped our waiter very well. 😊

This actually might be the beginning of some serious exploration of curry cooking with my girls and the beginning of their appreciation of a little spice on their tongues.

Day 41

For our last day in Indio, CA we spent the day in Joshua Tree National Park.

Nina says this was the best day of our trip.

It really was amazing.

The girls think the tiny print in the sole of my show is adorable. They follow my tracks in the sand on our desert hikes.

We started off in the Cholla Cactus garden.

Yes, that last picture is correct. You Don’t want a cholla cactus in your skin. Mimi and Becca both had encounters with one of these cute little baby cactus balls. We used a sock to pry them out.

Next week stopped a giant rocks to explore. We rock climbed for hours. They were amazing.

We spotted a ground squirrel! He was adorable.

These boulders are massive and so fun to explore.

Then we found Joshua Trees!

And more giant rocks to explore! So much fun! We kind of got lost.

We then hiked to The Arch ( short .37 miles)

Then we lucked out and accidentally ran into the 29 Palms Oasis. There was no water there. But we found Mexican Food!

We stopped at the visitors center and learned a few cactus and plant nanes

There were some pretty things in bloom there.

Then we went to the 40 Palms Oasis.

This was a strenuous 3 mile (OAB) hike over a mountain. But there is shade and big rocks to rest on under the palm trees at the oasis.

The oasis has HUGE palm trees. You can’t even imagine

I wish we were not in a time crunch to beat the sunset. Would have been nice to relax in the oasis for a while.

We barely made it back before sunset. Cut it really close.

Nina said her entire body hurt on the hike back. She was such a trooper!

After hiking 10 Miles today, it’s no surprise we were all exhausted and aching.

We came back to the resort and had a nice relaxing playtime in the pool.

We very much enjoyed our last day in Indio. And according to Nina, it was our best day yet!

Day 40

Trying a new format to save a little time blogging.

It takes me about 2 hours to write a blog every night and last night, I told Nina (sleeping with me) to turn out her lamp. She said, but you need it on to do your blog.

“Your” blog made my heart sink. This is “our” blog of “our” adventure. But she sees it as mine. 😢

When I told her I was not writing tonight but going straight to bed, she said…

“Aahhh, this is so nice. You not doing your blog.”

She nuzzled up behind me, wrapped her little arms around me and said…

“You are the best mom a kid could have.”

And continued…

“I can’t even explain how much I love my parents.”

She was snoring within 5 minutes.

So, today, you get a gallery of photos from our day and have to guess what they all are.

Thanks for following “our” journey.

Good night all. See you tomorrow.