Months of April and May 2006
Sadly, we departed Brasil in mid-April and returned to the United States. We spent our last few days in and around Curitiba, spending time with Gerson's family and enjoying several "last suppers" with Gerson's friends.
We have so much to be thankful for and so many people to thank. We had such a wonderful time during our three months in Brasil and to everyone that our path crossed, thank you so much for your gracious generosity and kindness, not to mention, all the food and the laughs.
We are not sure when we will be returning to Brasil; however, we are certain that we will indeed return.
Our trip home to Huntington Beach was rather uneventful and we settled in quickly enough. Within a few days, a significant storm hit California and we were ecstatic to see our local mountains capped in white. With little discussion and much agreement, we made arrangements to spend a couple of days at Mammoth Mountain.
Now, being Southern California, the days following a storm
are always (and I mean, always) gorgeous. Electric blue skies, white puffy
Seemingly, only in California can you hike a Pacific island one day, and the next, be speeding down the mountain slopes.
Santa Cruz Island is part of the Channel Islands National Park system and is California's largest island, approximately 24 miles long and at its widest, six miles across (approximately 96 square miles or 249 square kilometers). Embracing the greatest number of plant and animal species of all of the eight Channel Islands (only four are in the National Park), it is often referred to as the "Galapagos of North America".
Our friend, Nathalie, is an avid hiker and we just could not resist the opportunity to see Santa Cruz in full bloom and to be able to enjoy it with friends. Santa Cruz did not disappoint. The island was lush with green hillsides smattered with bright yellow poppies and mustard plants. The Golden Poppy is the California State Flower and once gracing the hillsides throughout California, it is now resigned to remote areas where human traffic is minimal. I have not seen a wild Golden Poppy since I was a child so I was very excited to see clumps of this beautiful flower clinging to the trails.
We meandered around the remnants of previous ranches that have now been banned from the island and wandered up and over the island to our destination, Smuggler's Cove. Well named, as the cove is tucked in on the east side of the island, we just sat and caught our breath that had been taken away many times by the beauty we experienced. We enjoyed our lunch and whilst contemplating life, we imagined ourselves aboard the boats we saw anchored in the bay. Maybe someday, we will be looking at an island cove and imaging ourselves hiking its hills...
We begrudgingly trudged back to Scorpion Ranch wherein we were to catch the boat for the 1+ hour ride back to Ventura and the mainland. It seemed that at any given time on the island, you would be without sight of any person as when someone turned a corner or started downward, they disappeared from view. Going back to the people-inundated city was not without reservation. But alas, we had a Mammoth Mountain to conquer.
The rest of the group left southward for home and we lazily stayed the night in Ventura. The next day, we ventured across California to our inn at Mammoth Mountain. With 18 - 24 feet of snow on its slopes, skiing/boarding was a guaranteed success.
The first day out was perfect. A firm packed powder base covered in a light, dry dusting led to some very fast runs. Not having people acting as moving slalom poles helped greatly as well. Gerson and I tend to be speed demons and we would prefer not to tax our knees with those bothersome things called "turns".
Our second day was shortened as a weather front was slipping in and we were contending with snow flurries. Rather than leave on a frustrated note, we enjoyed a few hours of great snow, enjoyed a hot shower before checkout time and headed home.
We found our bodies a bit confused by all the changes we inflicted on them in the past few weeks. We went from summer to early fall to spring to winter all in a matter of a couple of weeks. Needless to say, we would gladly do it all over again and certainly plan on doing just that.