Sunday, July 6, 2008


Saturday, our family went to visit my in-laws in Lake Arrowhead, which is up in the San Bernardino Mountains. It’s about an hour's drive from our house, half an hour on the freeway and then another half an hour on windy mountain roads. I’d planned on capturing a virtual flag which was very close to their house. We left fairly early in the morning, earlier than most times and I attribute that to the fact that my daughter wasn’t with us. She’s the one who ends up sleeping in and not getting up early as the rest of us. My 16 year old son has learned the benefits of sleeping in, but he was up by 9 AM and we were on the road by 9:30. Let’s face it, guys can get ready more quickly than girls.

Once up there, we sat around acclimatizing ourselves to the mountain altitude and then started fixing lunch. Lunch is always an experience at my in-laws house. I think one of the reasons my mother in law fell in love with me was because I ate her food, and lots of it. Needless to say, she pulls out the stops whenever we eat, even if it’s just sandwiches, which is what we had for lunch. Blondie’s Dagwood would be hard pressed to beat me in a sandwich making contest.

After lunch we went for a drive, basically to find a place to do a small hike. At first we decided to go up to Strawberry Peak to take in the view. Strawberry Peak is a fire lookout station manned by volunteers. Four years ago when the devastating fires here burned through this area, the fires were beaten back within feet of this tower and the radio towers that are also atop this peak.

The lookout station is manned by volunteers and you can climb to the top of the tower when it is occupied to check out the view. On clear days, you can see out to Catalina Island, a distance of about 50 miles. If the trees weren’t in the way, there is a sight line all the way to Las Vegas. We could see down into the desert and see Victorville where I’d been just two days before, but we couldn’t see very far to the south or west due to a fire in the Yucaipa area to the east. The smoke was obscuring most of the hills across the valley and we couldn’t see parts of the valley either. We’ve been fortunate here. Other places in California have been hit far worse this year.

We pointed out some of the sights to my older son who climbed the tower with us. I tried to point out the mountain peak that I used to identify with when I was a youngster, having grown up on the opposite side of that mountain down in Orange County. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see “Saddleback Mountain” because of the smoke. My wife had the dog, so she stayed down below and my younger son, who doesn’t deal well with heights also stayed down below.

After coming back down, we drove over to capture the flag, worth 4 points for me in the game, and to do our hike. Getting over to the flag was easy, but capturing it wasn’t since the game dictates that you have to be a minimum of a 100 meters to capture it and we were stymied by a road closure that kept us a quarter mile from the flag. I knew there were other access points, but they would require bushwacking, which would be out of the question for my nearly 80 year old father in law and my 76 year old mother in law, so we found another trailhead on which to hike, with a nice level terrain along the waterfront.

Everyone had a good time. We got some pictures on our hike and we tired the dog out. He slept most of today and at this moment is sleeping near the feet of my wife in the other room. What I was most impressed with were my two sons. When their grandmother got tired near the end of the hike, one of them and then the other in turn assisted her back to the car, helping her along, just by being there for her to lean on for support. I know I probably didn’t have that kind of compassion at ages 12 and/or 16. I was pretty self indulgent as a kid and didn’t grow up for a long time. I was glad to see them taking care of other family members in need.

Each day I thank God that my kids have all four of their grandparents. By the time I was 13, I had none. I’m thankful we live close to them so we can visit. I grew up in California while my grandparents lived in Indiana. I’m glad my kids have a relationship with their grandparents and I hope it continues to grow for many more years. They won’t be around forever so the time we spend with them is always precious. Yesterday, I scored no points. I got no smiley for any caches found. And yet, it was a good day nonetheless. Sometimes it’s the journey taken, not the end point that’s important.

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