2016 Christmas Letter

As is our habit we once again wrote a letter to accompany our Christmas cards. It describes some of our experiences this year. In this on-line copy, I’ve included some relevant photos.

December 15, 2016

Christmas is a time for gifts! Multiple emails from Amazon (and others) remind me of that on a daily basis. I remember a Christmas morning a long time ago when I opened the front door and found my first bicycle on the porch. I loved that bike, even though I didn’t know how to ride it. I just pushed it around the yard for a couple of days until Dad got me going on it. I imagine we all have a memory of some very special gift.

Interestingly, we have found our best memories this year are experiences, not things. Which leads us to reflect on the historical reason to celebrate Christmas—the birth of Jesus Christ. As mankind has experienced all that results from his birth, life, death, and resurrection we see that we have received the ultimate gift when the Divine broke into human history and changed everything.

Point Lobos coastline near Carmel

So, about this year’s experiences—we traveled a lot! In fact we kind of lost count, but we’re pretty sure we were away from home for more than 2 months, spending time in some of our favorite spots as well as discovering some new places.

In February we spent a couple of days in Carmel, and explored south on Highway 1 as far as Mill Creek. We stopped for a photo op at the famous Bixby Bridge, but the light was poor and it was crawling with tourists (just like us). We always enjoy a hike at Point Lobos.

Mysterious moving rocks at the Racetrack in Death Valley

In early March Phil visited the desert areas around Death Valley and met up with Dan and some friends for a couple of days of exploring Death Valley during the spring super bloom of flowers. Particularly interesting spots were Manzanar, the old mining town of Darwin, and China Garden Springs. Death Valley in full bloom was amazing. Our visit to the Racetrack (where the rocks slide and leave mysterious tracks in a dry lake bed) was also amazing, and very expensive. The terrible washboard road destroyed the shocks on Phil’s and Dan’s vehicles. On the way home Phil visited the north-east edge of the Mojave National Preserve and the old mining town site of Hart.

Hole in the Wall area in the Mojave National Preserve

In April we (Karen and Phil) did an extensive driving tour of the southern California deserts. We found some very interesting spots, and some not so much. From China Date Ranch (near Tecopa) in the north to the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail (at the U.S./Mexico border near Campo), we traveled every major east/west roadway. The Mojave National Preserve was especially interesting, but remote.

In June we went to a couple of our favorite locations: Sisters, OR where the snow had not yet melted at our favorite hiking trailheads, and Bishop where the snow-covered eastern Sierras were beautiful.

Sparks Lake

The three Sisters

Heart Lake

Heart Lake

Long Lake

Long Lake

Rogue River bridge from the house

We spent the month of July in Gold Beach, OR where we rented a huge five bedroom house high up on a hill with a fantastic view of the Rogue River. We expected the kids to spend more time with us,

Seastacks on the Oregon coast

but they only managed to come for a week, so for three weeks we rattled around in a 5,000 sq ft house. We really enjoyed exploring and hiking the southern Oregon coast.

We have also enjoyed spending time in Sequim, WA and Sisters, OR (our favorite vacation spot), so in September we returned, spending 10 days in each location. It was so nice, we are ready to do it again.

Deck view of the Olympics

Olympic National Park

Looking towards Victoria

Selfie on the Olympic Mtns

Deschutes River

The Sisters

Sunset from the deck

Tumalo Falls

Long Lake, Little Lakes Basin

In October, the fall colors were peaking in the eastern Sierra, but we couldn’t get our schedules to work until late October. Most of the Aspens had lost their leaves and there was a bit of fresh snow on the higher elevation trails, but the mountains are always beautiful.

Our kids (Dan and Janet, Annmarie and Mark) and their families live locally and are doing well. Of course, as we’ve said before, our five grandkids are the smartest, most personable, best looking kids in town.

    “The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

We wish you a very merry Christmas filled with reflection and rejoicing, family and friends, gift giving and receiving, and a clear vision of Him who is far more than a baby in a manger. 

Photo gallery for Carmel/Big Sur 2016
Photo gallery for Death Valley 2016
Photo gallery for Southern California desert 2016
Photo gallery for Sisters, June 2016
Photo gallery for Bishop, June 2016
Photo gallery for Gold Beach 2016
Photo gallery for Sequim, WA 2016
Photo gallery for Sisters OR, September 2016
Photo gallery for Bishop, October 2016

Gold Beach vacation

We spent the month of July in Gold Beach, OR. This was a new experience for us: new location and a new amount of time. While we have sometimes spent three consecutive weeks on vacation, we have never spent more than ten days in a single location. I stumbled across a very nice fully furnished large house available for a monthly lease. We invited our kids to come up for however much time they could get away. In the end, their schedules didn’t work for anything more than a week, so the two of us rattled around for three weeks in a 5,000 sq. ft. house high up on a hill overlooking the Rogue River.

Rogue River view

The southern section of the Oregon coast is spectacularly beautiful and we tried to explore every mile of it from Crescent City, CA to Coos Bay. We used the Oregon Coast trail to hike along the bluffs and find sometimes obscure paths down to deserted beaches. The coast trail in the Boardman State Park area is particularly nice. It passes through open grassland, thick, lush vegetation ten feet high, and sitka spruce groves so dark you almost need a flashlight. One of the attractions on this section are the many photogenic sea stacks.

Sea stacks, Boardman State Park

We did a little bit of bike riding, but route choices were limited since we had no interest in riding on highway 101.
One ride was along the ElK River to the Elk River Salmon Hatchery, another was from Brookings to Chrissy Field.

One day we went south for a hike among the tall redwood trees in Jedidiah Smith State Park out of Crescent City. Most days, however, we hiked on or above the beach.

I was all together a fun month.

Beach and sea stacks near Bandon

Photo gallery for Gold Beach 2016

Long Lake hikes out of Bishop

We drove over to the Bishop area for three days to do some hiking on some of our favorite trails. We visited two different Long Lakes: one in Little Lakes Basin, and one out of South Lake. Both were beautiful, surrounded by snow-capped peaks. The high temperature in Bishop was 100°, but a welcoming 75° at the high elevations.

Beautiful Little Lakes Basin

Long Lake on the trail to Bishop Pass

On our last day we wanted to hike from Saddlebag Lake into Twenty Lakes Basin, but were stopped by a large sloping snow-field that ended in the lake. Precaution seemed to be advisable for us, although more sure-footed hikers could easily traverse it.

Photo gallery for Bishop June 2016