The Pioneer Cabin Tree has fallen.
January is depressing enough. My big pants are tight because of holiday over indulgence. Our bank account is weakened by the blitz of last minute gift purchases. It is so bleak in fact, that the sun doesn’t come out for days on end. The month was already taking its toll on my mood when Mother Nature blew up a storm that took down a tree that had been standing for more than 1,000 years.
When the headline popped up in the Google news feed my already weakened spirit was chopped down a couple more notches. I had always wanted to go on a good old fashioned family vacation and drive across the country with that tree being the return point. Unfortunately I waited for a summer when time and money allowed. The two never lined up. Now both our kids are adults and I can’t even take the grandkids we might have someday because the flippin tree fell. Not wanting to admit the failure was another casualty of my procrastinating ways I decided to see exactly how far away the tree would’ve been, hoping the distance would save me from blame of missing the tree.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park is on the eastern edge of California, more than a days drive away, so it would have been close to 4 days dash time, leaving very little time to see anything else. As I inspected the route it became apparent that I had probably been within miles of the park when I was 9.
I had to chuckle. That family trip had all the makings of a National Lampoon’s Vacation movie. 4 kids, 3 adults, 2 doors and 3,500 miles of hilarity! the poster would have read. All seven of us and luggage for a week packed into a 1980 Buick LeSabre coupe. Three in the front and four in the back, if there isn’t enough seat, just sit on someone’s lap.
I really only have a few random memories from that trip:
– We found a suitcase in a dumpster in San Francisco. There wasn’t a bunch of money in it but it was nicer than any of the ones we had. My mother made me leave it there because good suitcases just don’t end up in dumpsters for no reason.
– I took naps on the floor board of the back seat while my brother stretched out in the back window but that was pretty common.
– One evening my cousins curled the back of my hair with a hot iron. Come to think of it, they are probably to blame for the curly mullet I had all through high school and thus my lack of a prom date my senior year.
– One morning we stopped at a roadside park for breakfast. My mom had splurged on mini-boxes of name brand cereal and then my Aunt let us eat it with coffee creamer… come to think of it, that is one of the best mornings of my life.
We went to Disney Land and the San Diego Zoo, but the rest of the trip oozes into the La Brae Tar Pits of vacation memories. Come to think of it we went there too. I remember being yelled at for getting tar on my pants, I still argue that was a free souvenir. Some how we didn’t kill each other and everyone made it safely back to Missouri… except the Buick. The thin mountain air had wreaked havoc on its turbo charger. The car did not last long beyond that journey.
Maybe it wasn’t my procrastination that killed our pilgrimage. My youth had provided me firsthand knowledge of the hazards of embarking on land voyages covering thousands of miles. Cars break down. Kids fight. Gas station sushi makes you sick. As we have established, I am just a bit neurotic. The worries associated with the travel probably got the better of me, restricting my families outings to the fine state of Missouri.
Fortunately we did go camping at Watkin’s Mills State Park when the kids were much younger. I’m thinking that with a little photo editing magic I can cut and paste my kids at the entry to the Pioneer Cabin Tree. Ten years from now when we look at the pictures they won’t remember if we went or not and since Facebook wasn’t a thing yet there is no way for them to know we didn’t.