This wonderful quote by Zig Ziggler really sums up the Thanksgiving weekend. As we prepare to move into the Christmas season, (run actually for most of us) I wanted to reflect and take a moment give thanks.
Our Thanksgiving is different by most standards, I suspect, but for Thommmee and I, it is our favorite way of spending Thanksgiving for over 20 celebrations. We pack up our turkey and fixings and head to Death Valley to camp. He actually cooks the turkey in his smoker that he drags out there each year. He has it down to a science and this year he really outdid himself by cooking an amazing 9 pound turkey breast. (we decided to cut back this year instead of a full turkey).
We started this tradition in 1986, our first Thanksgiving together. In those early years we went alone, sometimes with one or two kids and occasionally other family members. Thanksgiving had become a bit of an untraditional holiday for us with the changing dynamics of the family. As teenagers the kids often went elsewhere and each year we trudged back to the desert. People always looked at us like we were crazy wondering what on earth was out there to keep drawing us back. For me, this weekend had become my thankful and reflective time-the calm before the storm of Christmas. On the occasional years we didn’t go-because of wind-I missed it immensely! As the kids became older a few of them found a significant interest in the place but only one developed the love of it that we have. It is her and her intended that we spent this most recent weekend with.
We put together a full Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravel, rolls, cranberry sauce, and fresh asparagus. Somehow we were even able to coordinate it to come together at the same time-no easy feat sometimes at home! We used 2 camp stoves, the smoker, a small Weber smoker, and our experience! Our camping neighbors are often amazed and this year (as they warmed their dinner up in their small camper) were no less surprised. We tent camp so did not have the luxury of a microwave or traditional oven. The stuffing was prepared using bread (that we tore into small pieces-just like at home), we chopped our celery, onion, mushrooms, and browned Italian sausage. We used a metal foil pan and “baked” it in the smaller smoker. We peeled the potatoes, boiled them on the camp stove, and mashed them by hand. I brought a real table-cloth, a nice bottle of wine, my daughter brought a pumpkin pie and whipped cream and there you have it-a perfect Thanksgiving dinner.
I digress, however, this story is about being thankful. As we took in the sunsets, the views, the quiet, the simplicity of Death Valley I could not help but to appreciate and relish in God’s masterpiece. Don’t let the name confuse you. This place is so simple yet so complex. The quiet can almost hurt your ears. The sunsets take your breath away. The stars at night are so intense it is hard to imagine. We went to a star-gazing program one evening. A few available telescopes allowed us to view some interesting constellations and stars. The rangers were very knowledgeable and informative about the night sky. It was amazing and awe-inspiring!
If you have not been there I suggest you go. This past year they had there most extreme temperatures-15 degrees in January and 134 degrees in July (you may want to avoid those months!) Our days were about 70 degrees and about 37 degrees at night. A bit chilly but we were expecting this and hunkered in our sleeping bags and our tent was cozy enough.
Breakfast on Friday morning consisted of pancakes and sausage-coffee and juice….and a gorgeous sunrise.
Lunch was-what else-left over turkey sandwiches!
There is a natural well fed spring swimming pool at the hotel. We missed it for the first nine years but have made up for it ever since. For $5 (increase in price this year!) you get a shower and a swim.
It was truly a time to be thankful.
Another thing to be thankful for was coming home and sleeping in our own bed! Dorothy said it best-“there’s no place like home.”