The Accountant's Garden

Scheduled non-accounting weeks: April 10-14, 2017 June 12-16, 2017 July 24-28, 2017

Sunday, March 24, 2013

We made our last pilgrimage to the snow this weekend, searching our dry California mountains for the last remnants of snow for the season. We aren't a big downhill snow family; I actually believe such sports are dangerous and too expensive. However, the girls have been begging to do things in the snow, so this winter, I introduced the girls to cross country skiing. And they loved it.

We try to start our drives up the mountain early in the morning, starting in a small town in the Sierra foothills, and winding our way up to Bear Valley, where friendly faces and acres of groomed tracks await us. The first part of the drive takes us through precarious turns and dips of the road, as we make our way to our first "large" town. One of the kids usually tells me I'm driving too fast, but in our little car, taking those turns and hugging close to the road is too fun to turn down.

Beyond Angels Camp, the curves and rises become more gentle and we are enclosed on all sides by various livestock and the beauty of rolling green hills, studded with oaks in new leaf. Our climb takes us further on to Arnold, where along the way someone usually gets carsick. Today, it's Helen. So we stop at Susie's Cafe - this time - which seems unappealing at first, but ends up offering spectacular pancakes and oatmeal and some of the nicest waitresses in the county.

Although delayed a bit by the unexpected stop, most of us are still eager to continue the journey, which will now take us from 4000 feet in elevation to 7000 feet. As we progress, the landscape changes. Gone are the pastoral scenes of the foothills, which are now replaced with towering pines in red soil. We are in the Stanislaus National Forest, and as we whip through the shards of sunlight passing through the tall trees, I begin to understand my daughter's queasiness.

The sequences of flashing sunlight are soon over, and we open out into more regular mountain views, complete with scraggly pines and shrubs concealing large flocks of granite boulders. At this point, we commence our search for the mysterious and fabled Whale Rock, which we have yet to spot. I keep thinking that perhaps Whale Rock is hidden beneath the patches of snow that become larger and larger as we continue our ascent.

And just when the kids can take no more of tree identification and rock hunts, we see the huts and lodges of Bear Valley Cross Country. We worry that the snow is too old or too sparse this late in the season, as we see very little movement out on the tracks. Then one lone skiier confirms that we can do what we set out to do, and we pull in the nearly empty parking lot, ready to trek across the bright white landscape.

John is still too small and unsure to use even the smallest skiis, so he hitches a ride on my back. The girls surprise me with their abilities on the snow; Elizabeth with her coordination and nimbleness (she doesn't even need to use the groomed tracks) and Helen with her perseverance (she falls about every five minutes, but gets right back up). I fall too, which shocks our nearest group of onlookers, mostly because of the howls from John. But I'm up on my feet again soon enough, no harm done besides a wet rear end, and I'm recalibrating my balance to accommodate the extra weight on my back.

We have a couple of wonderful runs, past running streams and charismatic old pine trees. John falls asleep after lunch and once I get a regular rhythm. We take breaks to play in the snow and have a snack, and then we all agree together that we have had enough of sliding across the bright, white landscape and we return to our starting point. After some hot chocolate and a cookie, we coast back down the mountain, sore but happy that we were able to fit in one last trip to the snow this season.