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Monday, August 17, 2015

Saying Good-Bye to Abuelita Ursula

Yesterday we lost our grandmother, Ursula. Ursula was actually my cousins' grandmother but she loved and cared for  me and my sister and brothers as her own grandchildren.  Growing up, our paternal grandmother lived in Mexico so we only got to see her about once a year and although I loved my Abuelita Lupe so much and had a very special bond with her, I felt I needed to have a grandmother here that I can see whenever I wanted.   Since I never knew my maternal grandmother, I decided Ursula would be my other Abuelita.  It made sense. My cousins and we (my siblings and I) grew up together and love each other like siblings.  We did everything together as kids and that included visiting abuelita Ursula.  So one day, during one of those visits, I asked her if I could call her abuelita too like my cousins did, and she said, "I am your grandmother" and hugged me.  From that day forward I had a grandmother that I could kiss and hug all the time.  And my cousins were delighted to share her.

It's difficult to explain this dynamic to other people and it's hard for them to understand.  I don't mind.  All I know is that yesterday at 2:05 PM a little piece of my heart went to heaven with an angel.  My abuelita Ursula.

I am so grateful that God gave us the opprtunity to be with her and watch her slip into everlasting life yesterday afternoon.  She lived to be 98.  She was a strong woman.  Righteous and quick to tell you when she dissaproved.  She prayed a lot and never let us leave her house without a blessing.  She lived a good life and she will be dearly missed.

Abuelita Ursula, please tell my Abuelita Lupe that I love her very much and that not a day goes by that I do not think of her.  I hope the two of you are together now praying the rosary like you always did and sending your blessings to your children and grandchildren.  Rest in peace.  I love you so much.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Our Trip to Big Sur - Part 2

Mission Possible

Its official name is San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission but that is much harder to remember than The Carmel Mission, which is how most people refer to it.  Some of the people in our group went fishing, the rest of us took a break from camp life a drove the 27 miles to Carmel.  Our mission was not see the mission.  See what I did there?  We had other adventures in mind but somehow ended up here at this beautiful, historic and spiritual monument.  I am really glad we did.  

 Established in 1771 under the leadership of Father Junipero Serra, the Carmel Mission is the second oldest mission in California. It served as the headquarters for Fr. Serra and all the missions and from here he oversaw the building of seven other mission in California.  After Fr. Serra's death, Fr. Fermin Lasuen continued the work.  It was Fr. Lasuen who built the stone church we see today that replaced the original adobe church.  It was the first California Mission Church to be built from stone!  All of the other Carmel Mission buildings have now been replaced by stone structures but on the same foundation of the original structures so the mission is pretty much as it was in the early 1880's.

When we first drove up to the site, I thought it was a bit small but as we toured the grounds, I was taken aback by how extensive it is!  Each section connected to another unexpected area and that connected to yet another area and it kept going.  There are many artifacts and relics on display, in fact, it is considered one of the finest collections in California.  If you are ever in Carmel, I highly recommend that you visit.

If you are not familiar with early California Mission history here is a quick recap:  Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821 making California part of Mexico and the Mission continued to flourish.  Then in 1834 Mexico closed the mission and took over its lands, selling off parts of the land to California settlers.  Forcing the priests and native American Indians out.  Many of the priests retreated to other churches and some of the Indians either went back to their native ways or worked for the new settlers as ranch hands.  More devastation to the mission ensued as the buildings fell victim to vandalism and decay. It stood as a pile of mud and rubble for many years.  California won its independence from Mexico in 1846, became a United States territory in 1850, and in 1859, the United States government returned the mission to the Catholic Church.  Restoration began in 1884 and continues today.  The mission experienced its greatest restoration period in 1933.  It was then that Mr. Harry Downie was put in charge of the restoration project.

Statue of Father Serra

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Our Trip to Big Sur - Part 1

Camping at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Every Summer, the parents of our Boy Scout troop plan a family camping trip, because the boys don't get enough camping throughout the year.  Not!  Actually, because we (the parents) want to get in on the camping action.  Why should the scouts have all the fun?  Our troop is pretty tight and we enjoy spending time together so we decided this would be a great way to spend some time with the scouts and get to know some really cool camping spots.  Last year, we camped at Zion National Park in Utah.  I was on a blog break so I didn't blog about that camping trip but it was awesome.  The year before that, the troop went to Sequoia National Park but we didn't join them for that one.  There were several other trips that happened before then and before the current cohort.  So this post is about our camping trip at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.  I will post about it in several parts because goodness is always best in small doses.

The Highway of all highways

Driving up the California coast on Highway 1 is an experience in and of itself.  Having only driven on this fabled road once before, a long time ago when it was too dark to appreciate, I made sure to take in the beauty of our magnificent coast this time around.  Taking nothing for granted, all along the way, I was in a complete state of awe.  The beautiful beach towns tucked in the ridges; some dense and some boasting sprawling horse and farm properties.  Oh to be a horse grazing in the pastures, feeling the cool whisper of the coastal breeze.  Lucky horses!  Further up the coast, homes become fewer and more embedded into the landscape that if you aren't paying attention, you can easily miss them!  I should mention, it helps to have someone else drive.  I think one of my favorite sights on this trip are the beaches crashing against mountain bases.  Most beaches are impossible to get to as there are huge cliffs that protect them from human interference, which makes them beautiful and unadulterated.  But, to see a seashore meeting up with mountain terrain adorned in giant redwoods, is a sight to behold.  To a Southern Californian like me, this is quite a juxtaposition.  There are many, many points of interest along the way and had we not been on a destination-bound caravan, we might have made vista stops in addition to the nature-calling mandatory stops we made.  We did manage to stop at a couple of attractions on our way home, which I will write about later.

Camping among the giants

Pfieffer Big Sur State Park was to be our home for the week.  Our welcoming committee; the Big Sur River, giant redwoods, oaks, and maple trees, squirrels, skunks, and a family of turkeys.  We also spotted a mommy and baby deer one morning on our way to the showers.  It's hard to take for granted the magnificence of these gentle giant trees.  All you have to do is look at their huge trunks and follow them up to their tops, high up in the sky, to realize you are in the presence of something remarkable and significant.  Redwood trees normally grow to be 200 feet tall, with some growing up to be 350 feet tall!  Their trunks can measure up to 15 feet in diameter and their barks can be up to 12 inches thick.  What's even more remarkable than their size is the fact that they need very specific climate conditions in order to thrive, making the northern California coast, with it's mild climate, morning fog and wet winters the ultimate host.  The bark of mature trees are relatively fire resistant but repeated fires can damage the trees from the inside, giving them a hollow base known as "goose-pens."  We saw this phenomenon on our hikes.

the bark of older trees have a grayish tinge and are deeply furrowed, giving the trees a fluted appearance
a tree that survived a fire
moss growing on a fallen tree
the ferns that surrounded our campsite

the boys of Troop 841 enjoying conversation before dinner

a hallow tree trunk still stands in the center of this group
here you can see a tree that has been hallowed out by a fire, life finds a way on the outside of the trunk

We Hike...That's What We Do

Buzzard's Roost Trail is a moderate 4.8 hike loop which ends at Pfeiffer Ridge giving way to breathtaking ocean views.  Unfortunately, there is no access to the ocean from the trail but the view from the top is worth the hike.  On the hike we saw many trees devastated by fire,  possible victims of the 2013 Big Sur Pfeiffer fire.   One of the things that surprised me the most is the number of fallen trees, and in some cases, they lay across the path of the trail.  I'm not sure if a lack of resources or the aspiration to allow nature take its course is the reason the forest is not cleared of the fallen trees.

on Buzzard Roost Trail
From left: Chloe, Isabell, Nico, Ricky, Santiago, Diego, Mateo, Hunter, and Andy

one of the fallen trees that crossed the trail  
this is the view from Pfeiffer Ridge

"We made it!!
a family that hikes together stays together!

The other hike we did was the Pfeiffer Falls Trail which leads to a waterfall.  Since we did this in August, the waterfall was not that big but according to other folks we met on the hike, the waterfall is quite sizable after the rainy season.  On the way back from the waterfall, we took a side trail to take in a view of Big Sur Valley and have lunch.

Here we are at the waterfall.  If you squint, you may be able to see it.  Horacio and the boys went fishing so they missed out.
From left: Oscar, Leti, me, Nico, Isabell, Jacob, Diego, Anne, Adolfo, Ralph, Elaine, and Trish

Big Sur Valley

Stay tuned for more on our Big Sur adventures.