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April 17, 2005


I'm washed, fed, and ready for a nap. *yawns*

Tomorrow is Ryan's birthday, so he planned a camping trip this weekend. To the little place we found last weekend, a two-mile hike down the mountain. Turned out to be not so bad a hike, actually, even with carrying the supplies and food and sleeping bags and tents and enough water to last six people two days.

We left yesterday morning, hiked down, and set up camp before taking off exploring the smaller hiking trails branching off. There were about a half-dozen little campsites down there (of course, we set up at the first one we saw, not realizing there were others), and a creek running through most of them. We hiked until the trail ran out, and then the boys decided it would be fun to keep going -- only, they would rock-hop along the creek. Val and I thought it best to go back to the campsite, as we didn't fancy getting wet.

So we went back and played cards while the boys played "adventurers", and then we gathered wood for the campfire. Lots and lots of wood, some big, some small. When the boys made their way back to us around dinner time, they chopped the wood into smaller pieces, built a Boy Scout campfire, and we cooked dinner (veggie burritos for us, steak and mashed potatoes for Jake and Val).

Once it got dark out, and I mean pitch-black, can't-see-beyond-ten-feet-in-front-of-you dark, the boys felt it appropriate to tell the story of what they found in the woods. (I hope I tell it accurately...)

Apparently, Ryan took off in search of the rest of the trail while the others hopped around in the creek a bit. About twenty minutes later, he returned... white-faced, shakey, and admitting that he was "a little freaked out, guys." What he'd found? A huge clump of long blonde human hair.

They decided they'd better go back and have another look, lest the hair still be attached to something. So they hiked up the other bank of the creek, on a path that was less a trail than just someplace someone had walked through before and pushed branches out of the way. They said the "trail" got narrower and narrower, and they had to duck under a number of branches and brambles until they got to a bit of a clearing.

And there, in the clearing, was indeed a huge clump of long, blonde human hair. And not a small clump. They said it was as if someone had decided to cut off all their hair. Freaked out, indeed. It didn't look to be attached to anything (no scalp or burried head), so they went a bit further up the path.

There, they saw something bright blue through the brush. At first, they thought it was the back of someone's shirt. But it wasn't moving. As they got closer, they realized it was a balloon. A helium balloon, with a radio station logo on it. What was a balloon doing in the woods? They had no idea. Ryan cut off the string and the balloon had enough helium left to float up, up and away.

A bit further down the trail brought them to a complete dead end. No place to go, nothing branching off. One trail in, one trail out. They had to go back past the hair.

On the way back, they noticed the hair was by a wash of sorts, so it could have been carried down from anywhere up the mountain. Kenny decided to pick it up, inspect it... and they hurried back to the campground.

So this story was told in the dark, around the fire, and it was absolutely, 100% freaking true. Val and I were so freaked out! There could be a psycho clown killer loose in the Angeles National Forest! Cutting off people's hair and leaving balloons as his calling card! And the boys hadn't felt it necessary to pick up camp and leave while it was still light out?! Because now, there was only the light of the moon. It was a two-mile hike up the mountain to the cars, and there wasn't another soul at the campground. No one to hear the screams. Ack!

We tried to calm ourselves down by roasting marshmallows and getting into a discussion on the Church and marriage (Jake and Val are planning their wedding) and reincarnation and anything to help us forget what the boys had found in the woods. I made them promise not to make me sleep in the one-man tent. So freaking scared.

Then, Kenny says, "there's more to the story." And Val and I said "More?!" and Ryan says "Should we tell them? I don't think we should..." and Val and I are shaking in our freaking boots we're so scared. We force them to tell us.

When Kenny picked up the hair? He discovered it had come from a plant. The hair was from a freaking plant. Weird plant fibers that the plant was shedding. In most cases, the fibers were still connected to the plant, or were at least clumped and obvious they were from a plant. The pile of "hair," however, was not clumped or otherwise attached to anything. It really looked like a pile of long human hair. It wasn't until they'd found the plant, pulled off more fibers to compare, that they were convinced.

So, yeah. After that, we went to bed. It was freaking cold and I didn't sleep well at ALL, but it was really nice to be in nature, away from the smog and traffic and people on cell phones. We woke up this morning and toasted bagels over a little propane stove, then packed up and hiked back up the mountain. I have to say, as far as camping goes, I'm a big fan of hiking down first. Because then the uphill portion is with lighter packs. Heh. It still took an hour and a half to hike the two miles up, because we had to stop for frequent rests.

But I had a really good time! I'm very glad I went. And I'm very glad the hair wasn't real human hair. Heh.

April 10, 2005

Mom and Grandma Do LA

This was probably the most special visit that could have been. Since Grandpa Jim has been in the hospital/nursing home since February 18, the trip was in limbo for Quite Some Time. When it became clear that Grandpa was doing much better, and that his stay at the rehab center would be over soon, Mom and Grandma Peggy made some last-minute rush plans to make the trip happen.

I already covered Day 1 and part of 2 in my last entry (arrival on Wednesday, dinner after work, Thursday's breakfast, the Grove & Farmer's Market, lunch in Santa Monica, and the beach). We went to Chez Nous for dinner to celebrate Grandma's 80th birthday. It was wonderful. Sean, Caitlin, Ryan and Jan came. Sean and Caitlin had to leave early for a work engagement for Caitlin, and then Sarah joined us for dessert. Grandma adored Jan, aka my West Coast Jewish Mom.

Dinner was delicious, and the restaurant brought an eclaire with a candle and we all sang Happy Birthday to Grandma. Then we got a few more desserts to share and just chatted. Grandma had a fabulous time.

I had to work on Friday, but Mom took Grandma on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. They enjoyed the tour muchly, and then headed to Hollywood to see the Walk of Fame, Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and the Hollywood Entertainment Museum. Exciting! I met them at the hotel after work for dinner (and then I went to see Sin City at the Dome at the Arclight with the roommates & friends).

Mom picked me up early on Saturday and we had breakfast at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Grandma adored that, too! We went to the Burbank mall so I could switch my cell phone number over (note to friends: I have my old 773 number back), and we got See's Candy and did some window shopping. Grandma had so much fun doing that that I had to laugh a little. She's too cute.

Lunch again at Chez Nous (Grandma wanted to see it in the daytime, and take pictures), and then down to the airport to drop off the rental car and check into the hotel there. Traffic was horrid and we got to the hotel just in time for the second half of the Illinois v. Louisville game. Go Illini! A very exciting win for mah boys.

After the game, we headed out to Venice Beach to watch the sunset over the ocean. Grandma had never seen such a sunset, and was almost moved to tears. Said it really made her trip being able to see that. It was beautiful. I took pictures, which I'll post in my next post. Then back to the hotel for appetizers and some TV watching.

On Sunday, we had breakfast at the hotel and I dropped Mom and Grandma off at the airport. I'd have been fine, but Grandma started crying at the curb saying goodbye, and I was done for. I cried almost all the way home. She so appreciated having the opportunity to come out here, and the trip had come so close to not happening at all (and she wouldn't have done well with the summer heat, so this was the PERFECT time for them to come). I'm just so glad it all worked out, and that she had such a good time.

I miss them.