Seventh Annual

If you are one of the few people who have visited this space more than a year (or two, or three), this post may seem a bit redundant.

I'm not an eloquent writer, one who can really describe the vast feelings that are experienced in a trip such as this, and to be honest, pictures don't even come near to capturing the absolute beauty of this place. 

Every year I fall more and more in love with Kennedy Meadows.  To see my family do the same is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences.

The water was murky muddy, due to a mudslide at one of the feeding lakes, but it was kind of fun to have a different feel to the scenery. 

 While the previous years have all shared the same thread of good friendships, active children, and all  the outdoor activities involved with high country camping, this year was a little bit different. Set apart.
As the children get older (which may seem humorous as there is still a fair share of infants and toddlers), the opportunities grow larger.
This year, the older children were able to fish on their own.  Because of the low water level and their strengthened swimming/ survival skills from this summer, we were able to let them leave the grounds without supervision. This was such a great experience for them, and us, as we were able to witness their first year of complete independence.
(they gutted and cooked their caught fish as well!)

The highlight of the trip, though, came unexpectedly and was a taste of the promise I've held on to for our family and friends in the years to come.
Kennedy Meadows is on the outskirts of the Emigrant Wilderness.  The Emigrant is everything as majestic as Yosemite, but without the people and tourism.  

I was showing Carter a map of the wilderness, the different lakes and places to hike to and camp at and he strongly suggested we take the hike to the nearest lake.
While my heart wanted to jump in and say "YES!", I was so hesitant as the shortest hike was 4 miles in.  He promised me he wouldn't complain.  Everett joined in and begged to come.
I couldn't say no.  Then friends joined in, which made the experience even more memorable.

I wasn't prepared for the level of pride and joy that would come of such a trip. 
 As we made our way from landmark to landmark, I was shocked to see the rate at which we were walking, uphill at that!  The hike is not an easy one. It hosts plenty of switch backs and rocky terrain.
The kids were amazing every step of the way.
 I didn't have to remind them to look around and take things in.  They were in awe. 
I would catch Everett screaming from various summits, "I LOVE NATUUUURE!".
Not one complaint.
Just joy and excitement. 
At one point, we came to a fork and we didn't know which direction to take.  
The kids gathered around in a circle and prayed for someone to pass by.
Lo and behold, a woman hiker walked by just minutes later informing us we were on the right track.
It's little moments such as that where their faith and understanding is confirmed in their God who created THIS. For THEM.
 Carter was precious.  He held my hand all the way home (which wasn't needed), he just wanted to experience this together.  He was so grateful.
 Their first peek of Relief Reservoir:
 The lake was breathtaking. Sitting on a slab of granite, the water was bright blue, like Caribbean waters!  Mountains of granite with scattered trees surrounded us.  We ate the small lunch we packed and headed back home.
The entire 8-mile hike took us 3 hours.
They were so proud.
The moms were so proud.
And we're already planning next year's 20-mile hike!
The weather was much cooler than it has been years past. It was such a nice break to not be changing clothes multiple times a day.  Morning jogs, walks, and a lot of campfire hangs. 
 We even had a quick thunderstorm one night.  It was so exciting and of course the fresh smell of wet pine trees and weathered wood was an added bonus.
The babies did great (How long can I call them "the babies" for?).  The first morning we woke there, we heard them have this conversation (at 5:30am, mind you): "Gussy, look, we woke up in Kennedy Meadows"..."Lili, we are in the bathroom, that's silly!!"..."Gussy it's not light outside yet"..."No, Lili, but we're in Kennedy Meadows!". Adorable.  But more adorable that they went back to sleep. 
 And then there is this...goodness you two.

 We will not pass up this tradition. Ever. (even when it's dark outside and the kids are filthy!).
Again, words can't quite capture the feelings and images can't capture the beauty, but their faces say enough!

Viva Yelapa!

We made it back from Mexico, so that's good. ;-) I have definitely been in "Vacation after Vacation" mode over here at this little space. Upon arrival, things were very much back in the swing of things, including a shoot the very next day and numerous school activities for the past two weeks.

It seems like a year ago that we were here, alone.

Well, not alone, really... with a great group of people.
Having nearly two weeks to reflect on it, I have come to realize a few things about this trip.
One, Jason and I really need to prioritize each other.  Not in a week-away-in-another-country way.  More as in a night away in another town.  We are so practical when it comes to gifts and time alone, we know the money is better spent on car maintenance or saving up for new windows... it's hard to justify.  But wow.  We spent a week without any source of tension. 
Tension being defined as making decisions or serving a bunch of little people while trying to talk about decisions that need to be made.  That kind of tension.
No, it never happened during that week.
The most difficult decisions were where to eat... it was a fun little game to play as we all enjoy good food.  Yelapa is a special place. I read the reviews on nearly every place there, did my research to make sure it was a good fit for us, and everything was true.

It's Mexico.
It's different than America.
But like with any type of international travel, if you choose to enjoy and embrace their culture, you will do just fine, and come away with a new appreciation and world view. 

Most of the restaurants were the back yards of the owner's homes.
The abuela would be cooking while the mom shushes her little ninos and serves you fresh drinks to order.  Abuelo is sitting on the couch watching the news...this is all within site of our little table.
Yet there was something so unique and enchanting.
I was surprised to discover that very few locals spoke English!

Thankfully Jason was able to pull out his fluency from who knows where, because he was the one that did most of the conversing.  We all got by with the little that we knew though.

We also got by with doing NOTHING. There were a lot of cards played, books read, walks, eating and laying around.  

The walk to the village was a very scenic one mile walk...along cobblestones and rocky trails.
We did this walk at least one to three times a day depending on our "activity".

Our houses (Casa Coco and Coco Cabana) were set aside from the village up in the jungle.
We had to walk a steep 100+ steps to get there, but the view was worth every step.  We had panoramic ocean views as we were at the edge of the cove.

Jason and I had our own little house. It was really incredible.  This is our porch. Not so bad.
Night swim!

You can see Casa Coco behind the crew on a walk to dinner.  It was completely open air, no windows.  The weather was perfect.  About 75-80 degrees the entire time, from sunrise to sunset.

I'm not much of a scenic picture person and it got kind of awkward and boring taking pictures of each other, but I knew we would regret it if we didn't.  I could have taken so much more, but it was important to do nothing too. :-)
Did I mention we didn't have kids with us?!!
Part of our view... the village is to the right and the wide open ocean to the left. The jungle was crazy!  Every morning we would wake to parrots and singing birds.  They were so loud but it was such a pleasure to see the sun rise through our mosquito tent (which wasn't needed, but felt quite romantic) and listen to the animals surrounding us.

One morning, I decided to take a run to the "close waterfall"...well that run ended up being at the "further away" waterfall... it was a 12 mile run. I wasn't too happy when I returned, but I have to say it was really good time with the Lord!
After I returned, I coerced Jason, Dave, and Denisa to hike back with me (walking that time!) a few days later. 
It was worth it both get a feel for the jungle, the country side, and to find secret, hidden places! (timer cam for the win!)
Goodness.  I can't say enough about the trip or the peace that was over it.  It was obvious that the Lord had his hand all over us and this trip...from our children being healthy and obedient to no flight delays to us staying healthy...seriously.  We set our expectations low (as you learn to do with kids) and left with nothing but great memories and a really new perspective towards our children and family.

It was incredibly refreshing.
I'm still savoring moments with them as if I haven't seen them in a long time.
I'm wondering how long that will last?  Because the entire trip was worth it for that sweet new perspective!

This is from our last night out.  We all did so well without our kiddos, but by the last night we were ready to go home.  
At dinner, which was fantastic (of course), we were able to watch a whale which was an amazing end to the trip.
As we took the boat back to the airport (yes, you can only travel by boat to Yelapa), schools and schools of dolphins surrounded us.  Everyone just watched silently.  It was another perfect end to an incredible experience.  Almost like a finale as we watched our little Casa drift away.

Thank you SO SO much, my family, for watching my kids!  It says a lot that I didn't worry once while we were gone.  You guys are the best!