Week 22 – Burning Land

California is burning. Wildfires are raging across the state, as 2018 is forecasted to be the most destructive wildfire season in California history. The increasingly intense blazes seen in recent years, are attributed to decades of fire suppression that have broken the cycle of fires that are inherent to forests, creating an unnatural build-up of tinder. Looking at precipitation statistics, I would personally add that global warming is also to blame, however, since global warming is considered “Fake News” in this country, I am not surprised that the media has decided to focus on other potential causes. What are the fires to us? Yosemite National Park was evacuated and closed temporarily, forcing us to alter our route and suffer the heat of southern California. What a shame!

We were originally scheduled to tour the Eldorado and Stanislaus National Forests north of Yosemite. Instead we now travelled down Highway 1 to add Joshua Tree National Park to the list of our conquests. Quite some additional driving, but well worth the trip, as Mieke and myself were both sad that we originally couldn’t accommodate the truly beautiful Joshua Tree in our route. By postponing our visit to Yosemite we ensured that our campground reservation was not automatically cancelled and as the fire ban was officially lifted as of yesterday we are now on route back north.

Our original route with arrival in Yosemite on August 14th.

Altered route accommodating Joshua Tree National Park and with arrival in Yosemite on August 16th.

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Benni has discovered the world of Benjamin Blümchen, a classic German audio book that Mieke and myself already enjoyed during our childhood. While we find it exciting that Benni can apparently now take in and process audio books, this new discovery has also changed the quality of our life on the road, as Benni can now be entertained for extended periods of time without constant parental guidance. This only leaves one child that requires heightened attention. Another step towards self sufficiency of our two boys!

Benni listening to Benjamin Blümchen has also revealed challenges of raising a child in the digital age. Remember how simple it used to be? Take a cassette. Put it into the tape recorder. Press play (mechanical button). Press pause or stop (mechanical button). Take a new cassette. No reading skills required. Listening to an audio book on one of our phones is much more complicated! Let’s see how long Benni will need to pick it up…

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Gabriel has now been with us for the past five days. Already feels like he has been here forever and I mean this as a compliment. Life with our new roomie is simple and good. Just the way it should be. He tends to be a little whiny and clumsy, but not more than expected and totally manageable.

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Our week in bullet points:

  • We did some sightseeing in San Francisco and hung out with the seal lions at Pier 39, before meeting a friend for dinner. We have been in touch with Sonny ever since meeting him in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand back in 2011 and have since tried to meet whenever in the same city. This time around we were fortunate to meet his fiancé, Luna!
  • Gabriel arrived and we celebrated our first evening at a local Italian restaurant befriending the entirely insane owner Vincento (Paisanos Trattoria). It’s been a while since I was so thoroughly entertained at a restaurant! Well worth the visit.
  • We drove down Highway 1 to be marvelled by the incredible vista of the coast South of San Francisco.
  • We camped in the Los Padres National Forest and embarked on our mission to get Gabriel ready for the decent into the Grand Canyon (Gene Marshall Piedra Blanca Trail: 9km, 265m elevation increase). We took a drink at the local waterhole, sharing the joint with the Devils Deciples Motorcycle Club. Quite an experience!
  • We introduced Gabriel to In-N-Out Burger and got him addicted instantly. He now insists to check whether we are going to pass by an In-N-Out on every single drive. He has further created a song together with Benni and Alex for every such occasion; a continuous chant of “cheeseburger, cheeseburger, double-double cheeseburger….!”
  • We enjoyed Joshua Tree National Park for two days. We boiled in the heat (40° C). The boys played in the pool. Gabriel and I got up at 06:00 to hike to the Lost Palms Oasis and the Mastodon Peak (14km, 105m elevation increase). We cuddled on the picnic table to revel in the perfect night sky and be awed by the most beautiful shooting stars that we have ever seen in our lives!

Back north we go!

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