Saturday, January 28, 2012


A few days ago we went to Tahoe.  We went to the "Hyatt" (Mamo and Baba are owners there).  We had a great time there.  There was felting, a movie (Forrest Gump), good books, etc.

But my favorite thing to do there was skiing.  On our first day we drove up halfway to Sugar Bowl.  Grace, Eli, Papa, and I skied for about 4 or 3 hours and then drove the rest of the way to Tahoe.  The following day Grace was exhausted from skiing, so Papa, Eli, Mamo, Baba, and I went skiing at Squaw Valley.  Papa and I had a blast!  Eli, Mamo, and Baba got lost.  Papa challenged me a lot.  I skied down Siberia Express!  The hard way.  We also went on the tram and the gondola.  
 At the top of the hill.

On the tram.

The next day we went home.


Friday, January 27, 2012

A Long Road Trip


These Last 2 Weeks Were Special

Recently we took a 2 week road trip. There were a few things that made it very special for me.

First of all, it was fun. I was able to hang out with my friends at my dad's ultimate tournament. Later we went to Las Vegas and went to an indoor amusement park at our hotel. 

We also saw many beautiful and special things along the way. Some of the most incredible were the bristle cone pines, the General Sherman sequoia and other sequoias, and the Joshua Tree Cholla Cactus Garden. Some other amazing things we saw were the rock colors and formations in Death Valley, the 49 Palms Oasis and The Strip in Las Vegas.

Along with this incredible beauty we saw many superlatives. We saw the oldest living thing: the Methuselah Tree, the biggest living thing: General Sherman sequoia, the hottest, the driest and the lowest places in America at Death Valley and the largest city in America.

Because of the fun, the beauty and the amazing things, this road trip was very special to me.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

More from the Kids

Bristlecone Pines
Some bristlecone pines have been alive since the time of the Egyptian pharaohs.  They are the oldest living thing.  We fist took a mile loop around the forest.  Part of the hike had limestone soil and another part was highly oxidized.  The bristlecones grow well in the limestone while other plants do not.  Because of this, the slow growing pines can live for thousands of years.  After the loop, we took another 4 mile loop and we saw the world's oldest tree, the Methuselah tree which is 4,700 years old.
Eli, 1/19/12
The author by one of the ancients.

Bristlecone Pine
Yesterday we drove up to the bristlecone pine.  They were the oldest trees on Earth.  The first thing we did when we got there was pile on all our coats and jackets: it was FREEZING.  We planned a 4 mile hike to the oldest tree on earth.  Papa, Eli, and Sophia got ahead quickly because I had to tie my shoes and Mama waited for me.  We had walked about 1/2 a mile when Mama and I had to turn back.  I had a horrible headache.  It was probably because we were just a little bit ago way under sea level and now were nearly 11,000 feet above sea level.
Grace 1/19/12
Bristlecones' longevity is due to their ability to grow slowly where other plants can't.

Sequoia National Park
Today, the family drove up to the Sequoia National Park.  It was very enjoyable. We started out our day by listening to my Sequoia report and visiting the visitor's center.  Then we drove about 45 minutes to the Giant Sequoia forest.  We hiked to the biggest tree in the world: weighing 2.7 million pounds, as tall as 311 feet, lives up to 3,200 years.  When we decided we wanted to explre some different places, we walked to a frozen/snowy meadow.  It was crazy how much something like that can change in the seasons.  Later we drove to a high rock and went to the top.  From there we had an amazing view.  Finally it was time to get on the road again, but I will always remember my trip to Sequoia National Park.
Sophia, 1/20/12
From the high rock in the park (Moro Rock vista).

Amongst the giants.

Southwest Trip Photos

Last night, after a nice day at Sequoia National Park we had an uneventful drive through the rain back to my parents' house.  Here, I've had a chance to download a visuals from each of the stops on our trip (note that I have also added some photos to the previous blog with quotes from the kids' journals).  

 Los Angeles from the Getty Museum.

At home away from home in the Palm Desert area with Aunt Sally and her good cooking.

 Vegas, baby, Vegas.

 Death Valley Badwater (elevation -282 ft).

 Cholla Garden in Joshua Tree.

 Hoover Dam.

Eli and Joey at in the bristlecone pine forest.  These are the oldest trees in the world at well over 4,000 years. 

Yours truly being dwarfed by the largest tree in the world: the "General Sherman" sequoia.

We logged over 2000 miles on the trip.  I am so appreciative to live in such a wonderful place and to have had the freedom to make this journey with my family.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Trip of Superlatives

A stop in Bakersfield has provided me with my first opportunity to share some of our Southwest experience.  We have traveled about 1500 miles so far (not in the Yota--we decided to take the wagon in case of snow).  We've visited 2 National Parks (and another tomorrow, we hope), 2 National Monuments/Preserves, 3 states, and one National Forest.  We've seen the country's hottest, lowest, and driest places (in Death Valley), the world's oldest living plant (bristlecone pines), the lower 48 state's highest mountain (passed Mt. Whitney on hwy 395), what was for a long time the world's largest dam (Hoover), and hope tomorrow to see the world's biggest individual organisms (sequoias).  Fun was had in Los Angeles with friends, playing disc, and enjoying the Santa Monica Pier, in La Quinta with Aunt Sally, and in Vegas at the Circus Circus Adventuredome.  The driving hasn't been all bad either--thank goodness for books (and audiobooks)!  As usual, a special thanks to our neighbor Caleb, who helps make our adventures away from home possible by taking care of the goats, chickens, and ducks.

I will add pictures [done] and some more of my own thoughts (for example, I was awestruck by the bristlecone pines) when we aren't at a hotel computer, but I do want to share some of the kids' journal entries here [with some "editor's" notes]:

Eli, 1/17/12
Joshua Tree
Yesterday we were in Joshua Tree.  There was a bizarre landscape there.  In Joshua Tree, there were fields of puffy looking cacti and forests of desert trees (joshua trees).

I also climbed up a big boulder formation.  While I was climbing, I used techniques from the rock climbing camp [last summer].  Later we also did a 3 mile run through the desert [to a real palm tree oasis]...
Eli bouldering at Joshua Tree.

Sophia appreciating one of the 49 Palms at the oasis at the end of our run.

Sophia, 1/17/12
The Hoover Dam
Today we drove to the Hoover Dam. As soon as we stepped out of the parking garage, I took out my camera and started snapping shots of the beautiful landscape and many of the amazing beauties.  Two of the things that caught my eye were the two clocks of Arizona and then a few meters down, the Nevada clock.  Once we were done, we headed inside to take a tour.  Soon we were inside a theater watching a presentation about the dam.  It told us mostly about the making of the dam.  It said that all of the four tunnels only took two years and that 1 huge bucket of concrete was dumped every 78 seconds for 24 hours, 7 days a week for 2 years.  Also the workers only got 2 days off work a year!  When the presentation finally finished, we were shoved into an elevator, then a ding, and then we were let out in an underground room that had running water pipes under it.

Information:  Completed 1936.  Sells electricity to Las Vegas.  726 feet tall.  On the border between Arizona and Nevada.  Dams up the Colorado River.  1. Water flows in, 2. Water spins turbine,  3. Turbine spins magnet, 4. Magnet spins by wires and produces electricity.  This is called an electromagnet.
Sophia and Grace at the Nevada/Arizona border on Hoover Dam.

Grace, 1/18/12
Death Valley
Today we went to Death Valley.  As we drove to the resort in Death Valley, we saw a bunch of different colored mountains: red, orange, purple, green, blue, and black.  Our first stop was Zabriskie Point which is a beautiful viewpoint.  Next, we went to the visitor center.  At the visitor center Papa got suggestions on what to see in Death Valley.  While he was getting suggestions, I got a baby desert animal book so I could draw them.  After that, we went to Devil's Golf Course which was a sharp, salty, rocky plain.  We were careful not to fall in fear that we would cut ourselves and get salt in our wounds.  Artist Palette was our next stop.   Papa and I got out and took pictures while Mama looked for a scorpions.  She did find one eventually.  [We also saw the Badwater lowlands, a borax mine, sand dunes, and more!]
One of Grace's photos in Death Valley.

In our next installments, we hope to share our experiences at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Sequoia National Park (weather permitting), and more!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Heading South. With Yota?

Not much from the children of late--we've been busy preparing for our Southern California field trip.  We are planning to visit Los Angeles, Palm Desert, Joshua Tree National Park, Las Vegas, Death Valley National Park, and hopefully Sequoia National Park.  We'd like to see a bristlecone pine on a side trip as well (oldest living things on earth). 

As I warned might be happening a couple posts ago, we've also been buying a new (to us) car: "Yota"!  [I'm not sure what my preoccupation is with naming things associated with this place, but--unlike with the yurt and our trail--at least I kept "Stew" out of the name this time.  This is partially due to the fact that "Stewius" was vetoed early on by Eli.  FYI, the "Yota" name is also pending familial approval, but calling it "the Prius" seems a bit dull and too easily confused with the name of our other car (which also starts with a "P")].  We are excited about the possibility of some gas savings and a new, somewhat fancy-ish vehicle.  Compared to the van, it is a significant step up in those two respects.  I got 76 mpg on the 6 mile drive home from the dealer today using "pulse and glide" technique (fellow Prius owners may want to Google it, if you aren't familiar with it).  Despite this, we will miss the van for all of its practicality.  It served us well. 

We are still deciding whether to take Yota on our trip as we may encounter some snow along the way, especially if La Nina finally starts to break (as some are predicting will happen next week).  Anyhow, school books, warm coats, bathing suits, and hiking shoes will be stuffed into the back of one of our vehicles tomorrow and the journey will begin. 

I'll try to make a post or two from the road with some reflections from the kids.


Monday, January 9, 2012

The StewZ Loop

The past couple of weeks I have been clearing fallen trees and debris and marking trail on a short loop trail around our property.  I am excited to announce that it is fully operational--see the yellow lines below.

Special thanks to Mark, Lou and others on the naming front: we came up with the "StewZ Loop".  It evokes the "Stewyurt" and describes the zig-zag nature of the loop (Lou points out it sound a bit like the "Darcy and LouP", which I suppose is nice as well).  At any rate, we're using it as a running loop and a great way to get out on the property (Rosie loves it!).  With both "fingers", it is 2.5 miles.  I'm hoping to put in a bridge over the creek at some point to facilitate mountain bike riding.  With some extra laps around the loops, it could be a fun little close-to-home bike ride.

The StewZ Loop Trail Map


Thursday, January 5, 2012


Yesterday we went skiing for the first time at Sugar Bowl. There were only about 4 runs open but we still had fun. I did some drills skiing on one ski and practicing quick turns. For the first part of the day my dad was skiing on telemark skis but later used his new ones which he was very impressed with. There has been almost no snow this year but we are hoping for more later this year.

Winter Vacation

As soon as "school" was out for our winter vacation, the family packed our bags and left for Utah. Utah is 10 hours away from Auburn, so I packed smart for a long car ride. Reading, knitting, and sleeping materials were piled into my bag along with all sorts of presents and varied pieces of clothing. After 10 hours of knitting, reading, and sleeping, we sleepily staggered into the familiar Utah house.

The following morning was fun. Everyone was bright and cheery (not so much for Mike though, his back hurt). The following 5 days passed by just as that day had. I finished knitting a doll and started a sweater. And before you could say “yum”, it was Christmas Eve. Yummy foods were cooked and in a few hours dinner was all ready. It was delicious and before I knew it, it was time for bed. The next morning I woke up ecstatic. It was Christmas! Presents were very thoughtful and I think everyone enjoyed their gifts. 
 Sophia with one of her knitting creations--a koala doll with attire

Grace with her knitted and clothed doll (it became one of the "thoughtful" Christmas presents)

The next day we left for another get-together with our dad’s parents and Uncle Ben. I enjoyed our time a with them. The ice skating was great, swimming was wonderful, and sledding was fun. I didn’t go skiing but everybody else says it was good.


Breaking Dawn

Yesterday we [Sophia and I] got to see Breaking Dawn: Part 1, which we read. But we had to do a lot of school work first: 5 pages of math, 1 lesson of history, writing, and piano. We also needed to wait 'till 1:00 to see the movie.

Breaking Dawn was really good. It was pretty much the same as the book except more depressing. It was more depressing because you could actually see the parts were Bella was sick. 
I think it was worth having to do all that work before seeing the actual movie!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Winter Vacation and the Start of Semester 2

School is back in session today after a relaxing winter vacation.  During the vacation--even with very little snow and lots of driving--we greatly enjoyed visits to Utah and Tahoe with our families.  Thank you!
Christmas in Utah  

Ice skating in Tahoe

 On the road in the van (more on it later)

We were also graced by some visitors.  Isn't it time you came to visit?

Today we started the second semester with some writing (check back later in the week for some samples from the kids).  We also made meter sticks to use with the scaled timelines we will be putting up around the Stewyurt (universe, geologic, biologic, and historical).

We then took our show on the road with a trip to town: some stores, the bank, post office, and the library.  There really is quite a lot to be learned out there.  For example, with all the associated lessons in math, form completion, social interaction, and economics, what would have been a quick deposit at the bank took half an hour--and there weren't even any lines.

This first blog entry of the new year is also were I will be reporting the likely beginning of the end for our minivan.  Our mechanical advisers suggest the expense of ongoing maintenance will probably exceed a sustainable level for us. Its end (with us) may be nigh...

The van at the San Rafael soccer parade some years back