Sometimes plans change in major ways. We had plans to be in Ashland Oregon for a concert a week ago, but here we are today only as far as Ukiah, California. We had plans to explore five national parks in California and ended up seeing only three of them. And we had a plan to get this blog posted a week ago: it was going to be called “California’s National Parks,” but that changed.
|Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park
We had a lovely time at Joshua Tree National Park which was a favorite from 2003 and is still a favorite today. Besides these beautiful trees, which are not trees at all but members of the Yucca family, this park has spectacular climbing rocks, which we don’t climb at all but from which we derive a great deal of pleasure just in the viewing. We spent two days there, took some long walks, and practiced our music. After a quick trip to Pahrump, Nevada for supplies, we headed for Death Valley National Park. This was the perfect time of year to see this beautiful park and we spent a night there at 200 feet below sea level and enjoyed the spectacular panoramas as we slowly drove the whole length of the park. It was also very moving to read about the history of this area, where the hot weather and lack of water created a major impediment to early travelers heading westward. Death Valley is the hottest, driest and lowest place in the United States.
|Lilypad dwarfed by Sequoias
Next on our list was Sequoia National Park, but the road was closed due to snow, so we found a southern route across the Sierras, then drove up the valley on the west side to the northern entrance of the adjoining King’s Canyon National Park, missing Sequoia all together. But King’s Canyon, with the giant Sequoia trees, was spectacular. There was snow here too, and only one campground open, but the weather was good and a night in the forest was wonderful.
And then Pinnacles National Park got crossed off the list as we found ourselves short on time for our next date, which was a long-anticipated stay in Fremont California, at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of the Holy Family, home of Liz’s dear friend Sister Angelina. Liz and Sister Angelina were buddies when they both worked at Our Lady of Compassion Care Center in Anchorage, more than 20 years ago. So we moved out of Lilypad and enjoyed the hospitality of the Sisters for two days, sleeping in real beds, eating all of our meals with the Sisters, and playing cards in the evening with Sister Angelina. The Sisters of the Holy Family is a uniquely American institution, founded in 1872 in California and serving ministries in Alaska, Hawaii, and elsewhere for the benefit of children and families. Many of the sisters have given their lives in service, and are now retired and living together in community at the Motherhouse. We had a delightful time in conversation with women whose paths had crossed ours in Alaska and we got invited to share our music with them as well.
|We fit right into the crowd at the Motherhouse
The sisters are embarked on a remarkable plan to phase themselves into oblivion. This order stopped taking novitiates some time ago and their youngest member is 54 and the oldest is 101. They just retained a Baptist senior services management team to take care of the last of them so it was very interesting to talk with them about this transition. They are demolishing their outdated Motherhouse to create space for affordable housing and they will become tenants on the property they once owned. Many of them receive services through Cal-Med’s innovative On Lok Lifeways program, community-based medical and social services designed to keep seniors healthy and active and in their own homes. These services will help keep the sisters together as they age. We were very intrigued to hear about these plans and the years of work and prayer that had gone into making these decisions. We bid a fond but sad farewell to Sister Angelina with a fiddle and concertina concert in the parking lot and headed up the highway to see some other old friends, Andrea and Priscilla in Sausalito.
|Great to breathe the salty air of the Pacific once again!
So here we are in Ukiah, alternating naps with short walks as we try to regain some strength. Sister Angelina tells us the convent went into lockdown the day we left with many of the sisters being ill, and we hope that by now they are also all in recovery. We’ve been on the road for a year and a half, and until now, have been unusually healthy. This was a reminder that we really are very lucky and that life is what happens when you are busy making plans.