I have to preface this story with a wonderful experience from my Childhood. Every year my mother would take me, my brother Bub, and later (after she was born,
when I was 13) my sister Patti, to a family reunion to see my grandparents in Colorado. There were 11 grandchildren at that time, (more to come), and I was the oldest one at age, so I was responsible for babysitting all "the younger ones". I have to say, it
was very unfair at times! Evidently, my “great " Aunt Floy & Uncle George Huntsinger thought so too! One Friday they came to see us all on their way to their cabin, high up in the Rocky Mountains. They observed me having to chase around all these
"little ones"' (I was about 10 or 11 at the time). They asked if "dear Karen” could go to the cabin with them for a few days, since I was the oldest! Wahoo!!! I was too excited for words!
We left Denver for
their cabin in the afternoon. Now this is over 60 years ago mind you, so once we got close to the mountains, the roads were narrow gravel roads. The ride was hilarious. Aunt Floy was the backseat driver, the entire 4 or 5 hour drive....."George, George, too
fast, watch the curve, go slower, stop, go", she never stopped. Uncle George, was a tall, slim man probably in his fifties. The entire ride he smiled at me in the rear view mirror and never said a word. Her loudest line was,watch out George, we have "precious
Karen", in the car! That was the first and last time anyone ever called me, “precious Karen”! At that age I was tall, skinny, gawky, and a total tomboy!! :-) -:)
We arrived at the cabin after dark and
I was wildly excited. It was a log cabin with a huge fireplace, and a loft with bedrooms. In the morning I woke up, jumped out of bed, and ran for the window. I looked out and could see spectacular scenery, aspen trees, their leaves like golden gems that twinkled
in the light and snow covered mtns. I felt like Heidi, the little girl raised in the mountains by her grandfather, I had read that wonderful book as a younger child.
In the morning after breakfast, Aunt Floy took
me on a hike with a wildflower book. We checked out all the mtn. flowers and I collected some flowers (for Mom) and of course pinecones! Much to Jim's dismay, I still bring home rocks & pinecones every time we go to the mountains .(I finally stoppd collecting wildflowers from the roadside when I suprised myself, by bringing thousands of tiny bugs into the car!)
In the late afternoon Uncle George took me hiking. We had such fun.We came to a wondorous spot and it was the most beautiful site I had ever seen, Aspen Trees. Totally magical and 64 years later I am more in love than ever with Aspen Trees! At
one point on the hike, the golden trees, appeared arched & at the edge of the mountain! I was just a child and remember thinking...."I must be in another kind of church". The memories of that day are seared in my memory still.
Now, as I re-tell this story, it is clear, that at that early age my love for nature, specifically, Aspen Trees, pine cones and quiet, gravel back roads, was formed on that wonderful trip, oh so many years ago. Well, I guess I got carried away with
my “childhood tale”, BUT it was instrumental in my deep feelings for the love of Nature in general, particularly my love for Aspen Trees! Note to my Family: This experience is probably the best gift, memory and experience of my young life,
not "stuff"! Spend time with your family in nature, Mother Nature has blessed us, and it doesn't cost a dime!
In my early years of Real Estate, I had some listings in the mountains above San Jose
& Los Gatos, Ca. I was fortunate to meet and work with a Broker, Gary Beck, that specialized in mountain properties. We formed a team of sorts, I was the "mouth" and secured the listings and Gary was the “expert” on land. Gary and I "ripped"
all over the Santa Cruz Mtns, in his Blazer, checking out these remote parcels of land!! Oh my gosh, it was exhilarating! (More about that when I write about my early real estate career, some wild stories!) It definitely expanded my love for "off roading”
or "jeeping" as it is described!
Jim and I have taken “jeep tours" in and around Sedona, Arizona, all over the spectacular Mountains in scenic Southern Utah, Palm Springs, Ca. and around the rim of Lake Tahoe,
to name a few, and love, love, love, them! It is sooooo much fun to go where it is quiet and beautiful!! These tours were all guided tours, where "they drove & we rode"!! We like it that way because we seem to get in trouble when we drive on the back roads....(see
Walker River Trip) of course we didn't have a jeep then!!! Anyway in our earlier years, we would have loved driving ourselves, but not now.
If you read my story about "Magical June Lake",
you know that our heart is there now! Every year I have checked for jeep tours and found none. This year, I was thinking about a "fall color" trip to the June Lake area. I guess I did a better Internet search this time, because this time I found, "High Sierra Adventures" where the guide rode one jeep and you drove the other. I sent an Email, and inquired if it would be possible
that he just drove us, and he agreed. We had diligently checked the weather, but all the sudden, as happens in the mountains, rain was forecast..... "Off & On".......bummer, but we were determined! When I finally spoke to Ian, (a sweet, gray haired, handsome,
quiet spoken guy) he asked if we liked dogs. Well heck, we do what kind of people would say no!! Fortunately, he was not busy until the weekend, so we would keep in touch and go out, Wed. or Thursday.
We left Brentwood
around 8:00 AM on Tuesday, Oct 11. We took Tioga Pass, over and through Yosemite National Park. It was warm, sunny, and the scenery was spectacular! It took us 5 hrs. to get to June Lake. Our favorite room, 207, was ready, at the Boulder Lodge. I have to say, I had called ahead of time to see if the colors were at "peak", and she said "yes, a little green maybe", well, from our room,
I was bitterly disappointed, the Aspen trees off our balcony were still "pretty darn green!! Besides that, gas was $5.00+ a gallon those three days we were gone!! Fooey!! However, we had a magnificent drive, the weather was still nice; we were together in
our beloved June Lake.......so I thought to myself...then agreed with myself.....quit being disappointed & be grateful!!! We called Ian when we arrived and agreed to meet at The Double Eagle Resort & Spa at 9:00 AM Wed. morning. (I told him we would be there at 8:00AM for breakfast) By the way folks, this place is classy, quaint, with a fabulous spa and restaurant! It is a “tad”
expensive and it has a gorgeous and serene setting, however, it does not overlook the lakes. It does have a pond for kids to fish in, catch & release.
As we were finishing our breakfast, & ”umpteenth”
cup of coffee (we had a few cups in our room prior to going to breakfast), Ian walked in and came right over to us. I told him to look for a cute guy with beautiful grey hair, and a "fake blond" pleasantly plump and always smiling!! He was charming. We discussed
which of several tours we would enjoy the most. He first described a trip to the top of a volcano.....then the magical words, Aspen trees.....I said, "whoa, don't go any further, Aspen Trees, it is. Aspen trees really flourish at higher elevations, 7000 to 11,000 ft. They can be easily up to 150 years old. Naturally, the higher you go, the colder it is, so the colors will
be there, (beautiful gold & yellow leaves & interesting white bark) June Lake is around 7500 elevation and we were going up in the mountains from there, so probably around 9000 ft. After a quick "potty stop", (all that coffee)' we left the restaurant.
So Ian, Jim and I walked outside to Ian's red jeep......and remember awhile back, I mentioned that Ian asked if we liked dogs and I said sure. There in all his glory is Hi*.....yes,
Hi, is the shelter dog’s name and he is Ian's best friend, great love, and confidant! Now the most recent dog we are totally familiar with is "Minnie"', a tiny toy poodle. (Minnie visits often with her parents Chuck & Janet Weller). Wellllllllll,
Hi is no Minnie! Hi is a black lab and some other muscular, humongous, lovely, lively, friendly dog, who thinks he is a lap dog, but his "butt" is in the back of the jeep and his head and upper body in the front with his Daddy.
*Ian named his dog after the character criminal Herbert I. "Hi" McDunnough, played by Nicolas Cage, in the movie (1987) Raising Arizona . H.I. is an ex-con that is trying his best to follow
the straight path and start a family, but with a checkered past and some former friends are making it hard for him. Written and directed by the Coen Brothers.
Now my troubles had begun!!! I had warned Ian ahead
that I was Adventurous, but due to all my orthopedic surgeries, followed by some pelvic fractures & fused ankles that need additional surgery, that it was difficult for me to step up (curbs are hard for me, much less a high step up into a jeep. (In retrospect,
when I mentioned all my problems & Jim's heart problems, I think he is a hero by tackling us) I did tell him that I still managed to have and sustain a real estate career that I thrive in, I guess he felt, well, he did have a "real trouper" on his hands!
Anyway, Ian did have a large block of wood for me to stand on. Now, I guess, Hi is used to riding in the front seat with Ian, so I said, no problem, I'll sit in back. What a joke! First of all, since it was so cold, I was layered in tons of clothes with a
huge winter jacket w/hood on and if it had been red, I would have looked like Mrs. Santa Claus! Well, we got me on the block, but figured out as Ian pushed, Jim had to finally get in first where he could pull and get be over the high lip of the jeep and step
down into it. Do you get this pitiful, hilarious picture????? My gosh, we were all exhausted and we weren't out of the parking lot yet!! Then, I was in; Jim decided that he would crawl out somehow and sit in the Dog's place up front! Now, mind you, this is
a huge (140 lbs. +-), muscular dog, so "he" Hi, decided he (a true lap dog) would sit partially on my lap, & feet, with his head between Jim & Ian's shoulders..........and we were off!!
I have to say with
all that activity, my bladder was "whispering", but there was no way in Hell, that I was getting out & back in that jeep till the “adventure" was over. When we hit the highway, I was so glad I had the warm coat & hood, because it was definitely
cold & windy back there. The front seat was covered, the back seat was not (which I prefer-better views)!! We finally came to the narrow, dirt road that would take us on our glorious tour. The views were spectacular, and Ian was totally knowledgeable about
everything we saw. We went up high, steep roads, to the "top of the world" & stopped for awhile to "soak in all of the beauty"! Ian needed to take a "personal walk away from us" and I was so jealous! Gosh, it is so unfair, it is so easy for men to "relieve"
themselves! At that time, I was dying, hating myself for drinking any coffee before we left, my bladder was bursting but I couldn't stand the thought of getting in and out of the jeep again, so I suffered in silence for the last half of the ride. To make it
worse, I had brought along a chilled bottle of "Dom Pérignon" champagne, a special gift from Scott! It was fabulous and fun, to toast our driver, the beautiful scenery, and the adventurous day! (It just added to my bladder "concerns" however). It was
a special moment and worth the bladder torture!!! :-). -:) Now to the part of the trip, (my Aspen moments) I had been waiting for.
As we drove further over the mountain, we passed a huge group of trees lying in
the same direction. Evidently, a freak cyclone had passed through, during a storm and due to the elevation, & weather, they had all blown and landed lying dead in the same direction. Really an interesting site! We also came across a small grove of Sequoia
trees. Ian jumped out and stood by one so we could get a photo. (Obviously, and sadly, I wasn't jumping anywhere!!!) so we took all our photos from the jeep, which was okay, but did hinder any really great photography! Finally, in a very high, deep canyon,
Boller, I believe, we had arrived at an ancient grove of Aspen trees. It was truly, heavenly!! First of all, it was fascinating
because these were truly ancient trees and located at the canyon and pass that led into Yosemite. Historically, Paiute and Basque sheep herders had used this route. The trees were full of ancient carvings (Ian called them graffiti), etc., telling a story of
times over 100 years ago. It was really cool! Also, we were at a high enough elevation that the trees didn't disappoint me! They shivered, and twinkled like golden gems sparkling in the sunlight! It was awesome, the beauty of the trees and no noise except
the gentle wind whistling thru those magnificent trees!! My adventure was complete!! Now, all I could think about was trying to enjoy the ride home! I have to tell you, it was so hard, my new best friend, Hi, was half on my lap and with every bump, he kind
of gave my bladder "a hug" .......oh my goodness, it was pure torture! When we arrived back at the Double Eagle Resort, they wrestled me out of the jeep, I ran to the car as Jim paid Ian, and we " raced thru town to our motel"!!!!! I MADE it.....whew!!
Then I called Ian and thanked him for a wonderful day. Note: Ian is from the UK, a former engineer for Lotus Automotive (one of those cute little foreign cars), discovered June Lake, retired and built a home in the 90's and
now loves sharing the beauty of this area. He is a quiet, lovely guy, and we can't wait to go on another adventure with him next year!
We ate that night at our favorite restaurant, The Carson Peak Inn, and as always we had a simply fabulous dinner in a divine atmosphere!! While there, we ask about the $11,900,000 log house for sale (19,200 SF),
has not been sold. We did learn that it was made of Montana tress, built in Montana, disassembled, and hauled to June Lake. It was not one of those “log house kits”. A Built to Order log house.
supposed to rain the next day so instead of driving on to Walkerfor a night and coming back over Sonora Pass we thought we may just shoot home the way we came!! Well, we woke up in the morning and it was snowing!! That worried us, especially Jimmy, so we didn't
even stop for breakfast, we just "beat" it out of there to make it over Tioga Pass,
9950 ft. high!! When we arrived at the very top of Tioga Pass and the entrance to Yosemite, it was simply gorgeous, the first measurable snow, a few inches, and we were in a total "winter wonderland"!! Yosemite workers kept the snow cleared and we headed down
the mountain. Our visibility was poor, but Jim is a careful driver and we made it home in 6 hours. We were pooped, but happy, and we love to "hit the road” but we really love to get home too! It had certainly been a busy, fun, three days!! Can't wait
for next adventure....that may be Jim on a ladder putting up the Christmas lights!!
Have a great day!