Today we took our first extended car ride trip. In another week and a half or so we have a solid 17-hour car ride planned so today's planned 2.5-hour ride was to be the first test.
The test was mostly a success. Of the eight... one complained of carsickness for a majority of the trip, two others complained occasionally of it, and another one entirely actually did throw up. Mostly a success, right? I mean... you know... no deaths or anything.
Once we arrived at our first destination California Caverns we signed up for a tour and then wandered the gift shop for about thirty minutes before being able to begin. The tour starts with a five minute outdoor walk and then a short speech about the history of the caverns and time to select and put on a hard hat.
In the past we have always done the Moaning Caverns tour which is the one more directly on the way to the Big Trees. This cave though provided much more to really experience and enjoy. Moaning Cavern in a vertical cave. The tour itself is some 260 stair steps down to the bottom where some features and pointed out and then 260 steps back up.
California Caverns on the other hand had twists and turns that required occasional crouch-walks. The hard hats were very necessary as we made our way through several different "rooms".
At one point the guide allowed for up to touch the formation. Human hands can destroy very quickly these underground formations so this particular sacrificial stone is quite "dirty" as you can see. The original, untouched, pieces are white in color as you can see from the piece I snapped a photo of in the "jungle room". The tour guide said, it's their "Kung Fu Panda" or "Buddha" depending I guess on your generation.
I was really glad I was able to show them this cave. I remember very distinctly the day we covered stalactites and stalagmites in Earth Science this past school year. The textbook had a couple of pictures but when I told them that they would have the opportunity to see them first hand this summer one replied with, "really? they're... real?"
It caught me off guard because in my head I wanted to argue of course their real! This is a non-fiction text! Are you really asking me this now?!! But after taking a moment to get past my own insecurities about my teaching (and teaching materials) I understood a little more about what they meant.
Seeing really is believing. And as a teacher I can show a million different pictures of a snake or a horse or a roller coaster or a lazer tag game... but they don't really become real until you see and touch them for yourself. I am exceedingly grateful that I have the opportunity to make (what seems to me to be everyday) things... real.
After we left the cave we drove to Big Trees. On the way out of the California Caverns area we made a wrong turn and ended up going in the wrong direction for a couple of miles. In those couple of miles though four deer tried to cross the road in front of my dad's van. He hit his breaks and then ran back onto their own side of the road. As the second car, I was able to slow to a stop and snap pictures as they contemplated just how far off the side of the road they should be walking.
Once we got to Big Trees it was near 7:00 and everyone was getting a little hungry and irritable. We laid out the picnic dinner in near silence. As the strawberries, soda, and BBQ pork sandwiches disappeared, the conversations started back up again. It was nice to see these then car-coma kids become themselves again.
There is a great hike there as you enter the park called the "North Grove trail." Maps are well worth the 50-cent donation as they explain (history/information) 26 separate trees along your way. The three boys ran through the trail at lightning speeds and then cross off the path and back to the car claiming "bathrooming needs." Issa and Marissa walked the full 1.5 miles but didn't bother reading any info on anything... they just enjoyed the scenery as a whole. And then, in the final group, Nicole, Sabrina, Kiana, and I walked the trail slowly taking in each of trail markers, the text the map provided, and even a few climbing opportunities.
Here's the obligatory group shot for the day. They are standing atop a tree stump.