It's no surprise the Tahoe area is full of beautiful hiking trails so it's sort of strange that - for as many times as we've vacationed here - we haven't done that many hikes. We didn't come last summer and then for the years before that it seems like we either had an infant or have been pregnant. I'm excited that the boys are getting old enough now to go for "hikes" (read: longer walks).
Today we drove to Donner Summit to see some of the landmarks and explore these caves I've been reading about! We kicked off the morning with lollipops all around. Poor Croc is still nursing a wounded face from his spill the other day. You wouldn't believe the bloody incident count we're at already at this trip...
First stop was to see Rainbow Bridge over Donner Pass. It was built out of concrete in the 1920s to help connect Truckee to the towns down the mountain toward Sacramento. I learned it's sort of unique because it's curved and it also has a grade which is pretty uncommon. It was much smaller than I thought it would be or maybe up against this amazing backdrop, it just seemed smaller than 241 feet long!
We attempted a family photo which never ends well when 50% of us are hot and impatient. The 50% shall remain nameless :)
The pic below is China Wall, part of the construction completed by the thousands of Chinese workers brought over by the Central Pacific Railroad in the mid/late 1800's. They helped build the tracks from Utah to Sacramento. It was very dangerous - they endured avalanches, rock slides, blasting debris, and suffered awful racism and prejudice. Many lost their lives doing the work.
Near China Wall, we found (and by found I mean walked on and then noticed!) the petroglyphs left behind from the first visitors here, the Native Americans. I couldn't believe it wasn't roped off or protected in any way, so we felt pretty special to be able to see them now before they fade away entirely. If you visit, try to avoid stepping on them. Archaeologists think they were made around 1,500 - 4,000 years ago!
Our goal was to reach the caves and tunnels at the top of the rocks. When a portion of the railroad line was abandoned and the tracks lifted up, the tunnels and caves that were blown out to accommodate the trains remained. Now they're covered with graffiti (most of it beautiful in my opinion) and you can walk for miles through the tunnels.
We stopped at the first tunnel so we could have a bite to eat. This meant the three of them watching me wolf down a half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while they said they weren't hungry. Croc may or may not have wolfed down a handful of Cheez-Its (or as he calls them, "Cheese ins").
We walked a little bit more and it turned into real caves. I keep saying "real caves" to my kids because to me "real caves" are cold, wet, and contain bats. The temperature got much colder (I'd say 10 degrees) inside and I could see how it could turn super creepy if you were hiking alone (so don't!). The light turned everything into a beautiful sight. The color of the graffiti was so vibrant against the dark walls of the tunnels. I wish I had more time to explore them.
As we made our way down the hill, we built some stone towers. Croc wanted to use the biggest, heaviest rocks he could find and drop them. The Dude wanted to stack the rocks sideways to make a tower. Everyone has their own artistic style - we were feeling the vibe :)
We were all VERY ready for lunch (and me for a SECOND lunch) by the time we got to the car! I got a message from work on the hike about some staffing changes that are happening back in the office. While learning about these things on vacation is never ideal, I do think it was a blessing to be outside today for the distraction.
Jon drove us to downtown Truckee where we ate right next to the tracks in a little place called Marty's Cafe.
Once The Dude saw pancakes on the menu, the deal was done. Same goes for me with the french toast and Jon with his huevos rancheros. The food was outstanding and the ambiance of the diner was really cool. They had old pictures on the wall of some of the places we just hiked. Plus when the train went by it was very entertaining -- mostly for me!
This picture is of The Dude saying to me "no more pancakes. I can't." And looks like Croc is trying to shove more eggs at him. As I've said, we have a true appreciation for breakfast at any time of day.
When we got home, I had to take a quick unexpected call for work. It's always hard for me to switch gears mentally when work needs to bite into family time, and Jon could tell. I was trying to shut off my brain (and using some of the tricks I talked about the other day) but I was having a tough time, even with all the visualization tricks and breathing. I tried reading my book and playing with the kids but I could feel my brain racing, so I asked Jon for advice. He said control what you can control in this moment (I already know to do this but sometimes hearing it from someone you love and trust helps reaffirm it).
He suggested I go outside and listen to the birds and enjoy the silence. And within a few minutes I found myself feeling more relaxed. And then this happened...
Jon walked out with a plate of eggs and potatoes and said, "have you eaten?" Let me tell you how lovely those words were and how much I loved hearing them at that moment. I hadn't consumed enough calories and I was getting cranky. He knew it and I knew it but had he said, "have you eaten?" in the middle of my brain-running-plea-for-advice, I might have gotten offended. You see, timing is really everything in both relationships and in parenting. Some examples...
I'm sitting on my couch, writhing in pain over my monthly visitor when Jon calls me and says, "Hi beautiful. I'm at the store and I have a handful of celebrity gossip magazines. They also have a great selection of chocolate and romantic comedy DVDs. Are you on your period? Can I bring you anything?"
Me: "Jon, can you please remember to shut the cupboard doors in the kitchen?! They have knobs for a reason!"
Him: "Are you on your period?"
* * * * * * *
The Dude rushes through the door after an awesome, creative, and fun-filled day at school. He immediately unzips his backpack, pulls out a flyer, hands it to me and says, "Mom you need to bring cut up fruit for 25 kids on Friday." I put a reminder in my calendar for Thursday to pick up some fruit.
Friday morning we're hurrying to finish getting dressed for school.
Dude: "Mom you need to bring cut up fruit for 25 kids on Friday."
Me: "Today is Friday."
Family movie night tonight! And it's just cool enough now that the sun is down to turn on the fireplace. So cozy.
What are your favorite hikes?
Tell me which movies I should add to my family movie night watch list!