Thursday, September 29, 2016

Millview Ranch

The early trips to Apple Hill always just make me long desperately for fall. It feels wrong to be sweating in a tank top at a place selling pumpkins and gourds and hot apple cider.

Millview Ranch is up the street from my sister's house. It's my favorite apple ranch to take the kids because of the big old-west style playground. By the time we leave, they are brown with dust from head to foot.

But first, the girls each had a dollar to spend on an apple doughnut.


Lots of deliberation for the big choice.



After devouring our treats, the girls hit the playground, all homemade structures that lend themselves to wild little imaginations.






Lucy is choosing most of her own outfits these days, and she has some real pizzazz.



The girls played "Little House on the Prairie." Polly likes to be baby Carrie, while Toot is always Laura. It pleases them very much to go by pretend names, and they call out exuberantly to each other. They gathered bits of leaves and twigs, and maybe some litter, to make a stew, and ran in from the "rainstorm" which evolved into a blizzard. 



"Ma."


"Pa."


Maybe our next apple doughnuts will be eaten on a cool day! And maybe that dust will even have been tamped down by rain. A girl can dream! 



Thursday, September 15, 2016

Already Looking Back

In mid-July, we took an unusual camping trip: it was my first time taking both girls camping without Darin. We were with my family (Dad, Joey and Scout, Addie, Art and Utah) so I totally wasn't flying solo, but I did do our tent set-up and take down by myself and all the food prep and all the bathroom trips and headlamps and marshmallow roasting and teeth brushing and bedtimes and all that other stuff that comes with camping with tiny kids. 

I loved it.

On our way to Bridgeport, Joey's car started overheating. Stopped in Markleeville to suss it out and let the kids run free a bit. Joey was stressed, but we decided to continue on, taking the backway through Nevada instead of over Monitor Pass.  



And we made it to Bridgeport! I rocked out to beautiful mix CDs I made myself and this new guy Joey introduced me to, Andy Shauf. The girls are so good on the road nowadays, I can totally just veg out and let my mind wander. It's freeing and expansive, and makes me so happy to imagine how much I will always love traveling with them. 

Of course, we immediately stopped at Jolly Kone. 




Just a few miles outside town, up a gorgeous mountain road, is Twin Lakes. My family has come camping here for years, and thus our desire to return this year. Lately our smaller camping trips have given way to longer, more extended whole-family trips to more distant locales. This year we wanted to go back to our old stomping grounds. It was nice to find so much the same. Best of all to camp here in this bright mountain sun, surrounded by sagebrush and gentle Jeffrey pines, with all our little awestruck sprites along. The girls clambered out bursting with excitement and said, "let's go for a hike!" 



They were ready to wander all the way to the top. We had to make them stay where we could see them. My girls were so rowdy! That's the one downside to traveling a long time in the car. When they get out they are READY TO RUMBLE. Tootie kicked dirt right through the mesh of Joey's tent and that's when we had a nice little talk. The dirt factor was out of control, the no-shoes-in-the-tent rule had never been more important. 


There was quite a production when the girls found out that Papa had a tiny first aid kit with a band-aid for Scouty's fresh ouchie.


Still waiting for Addie's crew to show up, we headed up to the lake for the rest of the afternoon. Midweek remnants of beachgoers were packing up their shade tents. Along with a family of ducks, we pretty much had the beach to ourselves as dusk came on, the Sawtooth Range looking over us, like before, like always. 





Headed back to camp for chili beans and rice; a bunch of hearty little girls ate well.


And then look who showed up! 



Little cousins together in nature was the whole point of this trip. After dinner, all four of the little ones did crafts and drawing and played ring-around-the rosies together. It was pretty much too cute to bear. 



There's nothing my girls love more than waking up to Scouty's face.



Addie and Art had their motorhome just a couple sites down from us. They joined us for all meals, stories, and festivities.


Verrrry friendly deer will visit your campsite and make themselves at home.


We packed up sandwiches and headed over to hang out at the lake for most of the day, where we rented a little motorboat to take out again and again. It was a busy day at the beach and our kids had fun watching bigger kids on SUPs and borrowing sandcastle toys. SO FUN.




First ever boat trip! They were enthralled.





Joey took turns giving all the girls splashy spins through the water, which made them shriek with delight. 



This little gang just warms my heart right up. I hope I never forget this stage, just before Lucy turned four, when Utah was three and Polly and Scout were two. Just a big bundle of kid imagination, spirit, laughter and demands.



That's Pops out there on the boat by himself, zooming by to wave at the kids!



I stood and watched in terror as I realized I just let these two guys and their box of PBR leave with ALL four of the kids. (they were totally fine.)


They had a grand time.


It was cold but I had to get in one quick dunk!


Late afternoon, we headed back to camp to find the only shade by the back of our cars. We had a watermelon dirt street party. 







Before dinner, Addie let the kids all come take a shower in the motorhome. Such a treat! I knelt by the little shower and bathed all three little girls at once, which was just adorable. Then we dressed them in clean clothes and socks and boots, and they explored the motorhome. On our way back to our site, the super sweet neighbors gave the kids bubbles to play with back at camp.




Artie was grilling us up some corn on the cob, which never tastes better than when you're in the mountains camping.


Champagne in plastic cups and pure beatty dorkness transferring seamlessly to the next generation.


Our little heavenly camp home.



The girls found a tiny dead snake in the road.


Our last morning on a whirlwind campout. We'll never get enough. 


That Scouty is a pure delight.


Addie read us some Mary Austin, her favorite Eastern California Desert turn of the century writer. As Joey packed up to get going, Addie read aloud the story "The Cheerful Glacier" from Austin's book of short stories called The Basket Weaver. There were no dry eyes. I highly recommend her writing.


Lucy went over to the motorhome to spend some time with Addie and Utah and came back gussied up. Addie had tied one of her own blouses around her and with her boots and frizzed hair, she looked like a dreamy little gold rush mountain girl.


Polly was fussy that morning, so she stayed with me and we stopped to play in Robinson Creek together before heading back down the mountain to meet up with everyone in Bridgeport. It was a sweet parting gift, and she was cheerful the rest of the day.




Back in Bridgeport, walking my little troopers to the general store for snacks for the ride home. 


While Addie explored the museum, the girls played with Utah at the park for a while before we hit the road for home.





It was only two nights, but the girls and I had such a wonderful time on this little camping trip to Twin Lakes. And even though we totally missed having daddy along, I found that it was super cozy to be snuggled with my two little cubs in our tent at night, and to do the work of camping as a little team. Just like all my favorite adventures, this one haunts me already.