Pinecrest and Strawberry

When my dad was just a young boy, his father (my grandfather) built a cabin with him friend and his own two hands. They built the cabin in one of most beautiful places I’ve ever been: Strawberry, CA. Tucked away beneath tall trees and blue sky, overlooking the river, and only a few miles from Yosemite, they built a cabin that would become the center for vacations and family gatherings for generations. I remember so many wonderful times that were spent together at the cabin, throwing rocks in the river, catching my first fish, watching my usually quiet and introspective grandfather suddenly coming alive and dancing around the cabin singing, Ramblin’ Rose. Every morning we’d head down the beautiful wooden stairs as the smell of bacon, coffee cake, and other delicious scents filled the air. The family would gather at the table on the deck and enjoy the amazing food as we listened to the rushing river just below the rocks behind us and drew long, deep breaths of the fresh mountain air.

After my grandparents passed away, the cabin was shared between my parents, my uncle, and their aunt Jean. Unfortunately, as I suppose often happens when there is shared ownership of something like this, there were differing ideas on what to do with it. My parents and uncle wanted to preserve this beautiful place their father created and have it remain just as he would have wanted. Jean wanted to remodel it and make it a big money-maker rental property. They bickered over their differing views for years before my parents (who were living in Tennessee at the time) and my uncle (who lived in Alaska) decided that it didn’t make sense to keep paying a good deal of money for a cabin that they couldn’t use often since they didn’t even live in the same state and was also becoming a major source of stress among the family. They eventually sold their share of the cabin, but we still love to return to that little town that is filled with so many wonderful memories for us.

We did just that the weekend after Thanksgiving. We rented a lovely cabin right on the river and prepared for what we thought would be a snowy weekend. Chad, Lily and I arrived on Friday afternoon. We wanted to spend the first night just the two of us as a belated 2-year anniversary celebration. We went for walks along the river, picked up some snacks at the Strawberry Store, and ordered a pizza from the lodge for dinner. We snuggled up on the couch and watched some holiday movies and ate, with that familiar mountain air wafting in from the open windows. There wasn’t more than a drop of snow to be seen.

My parents and brother arrived the next day, and we all took a walk down one side of the river, over the bridge, and down the other side. We walked through the forest and looked out at the cabin my grandfather built and recalled all our wonderful memories. Since we sold the cabin, someone new bought the property next door and built an enormous monstrosity of a home. It is such a huge eye-sore, with it’s bizarre gated walls that look like they might be more in keeping with medieval times than a sleepy mountain town.

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We dropped by the Strawberry Store again for a snack or two and then headed back to the cabin for a delicious dinner of mostly Thanksgiving leftovers. We watched a little football and then gathered around the kitchen table for a couple games of Trivial Pursuit, something we had always done on family trips to the cabin. My dad quickly schooled us and won two games in a row. Then we snuggled up in the living room and watched It’s a Wonderful Life, another favorite holiday tradition.

Before long, with sleepy yawns we all tucked ourselves into bed, and although it was quite cold outside, we left the window open a crack so we could lulled to sleep by the river’s calming sounds.

We woke up the next day and once again enjoyed a family breakfast on the deck. It was cold, but the food and air made eating outside the obvious choice. Then we got our things together, cleaned up the cabin, and checked out. We headed over to Pinecrest Lake, a short 5 minute drive away, and found ourselves to be one of only perhaps 10 other people that were there. We took a walk down to the Lake’s dam and back. On the return along the lake, we let Lily run along without a leash since she has gotten used to that and it well-behaved. Once we reached the shore, she jumped right in the lake and laid down. I can’t imagine how cold that water must have been, but you would never see a happier dog. My dad, brother, and Chad stood along the edge of the water skipping rocks for a long time and my mother and I played with Lily on the bank. It was such a beautiful day. The weather was so perfect it could have been mistaken for a warm June day. After awhile, we headed back to our cars and piled in for the 2-hour ride home.

Along the way, we stopped at a grocery store to pick up some sandwich fixings and then headed to a park for a picnic. We had salami and cheese on Grandpa rolls (rolls that my Grandpa makes – aka the best bread in the world, in my book), macaroni salad, cole slaw, chips, and an assortment of other yummy picnic foods. I couldn’t remember the last time I had had a picnic, which is a shame because we had such a great time.

Even though it was a quick trip, it was a short, sweet family vacation that I’ll never forget.

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