One of my favorite holidays. We celebrate a very untraditional Thanksgiving which started in 1986. Not that I don’t love spending holidays with family-don’t get me wrong-it was just that things changed in my life around that time. I am like most people who don’t like change but decided to make this a positive experience…
Thommmee and I decided to go camping. We packed up our little car (a Volkswagen Golf) gathered together our meager camping supplies, popped a turkey roll into the ice chest (with a few other essentials of course), and set our sights on Death Valley, California.
We began our journey-just the two of us-thinking we were probably crazy and that no one else could possibly have the same idea. We took in all of the sights along the way, stopped at Badwater (the lowest point in North America),
and enjoyed the magnificent views. We saw a few people here and there but figured we would pretty much have the place to ourselves.
We arrived at the campground (that did not take reservations) and found the place completely full! As we aimlessly wandered around trying to decide what to do, a nice couple offered us a small corner of their campsite to share (after looking us over to make sure we did not have any kids or pets in tow-which we didn’t). We made a makeshift campfire, warmed up our little turkey roll, unsuccessfully tried to light our propane lantern, and hunkered down in our little tent for the night. This was only a humble beginning of many wonderful trips to come!
Come to find out, Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest time of the year for desert camping and for Death Valley. We spent most of the next 27 years camping in Death Valley during the Thanksgiving weekend. Some years we explored, sometimes kids came with us, sometime we went alone. Occasionally we talked people into driving out for a full turkey dinner and once we ate at the small restaurant in Furnace Creek.
We got much better at this and Thommmee learned to smoke an entire turkey. We have stuffing, mashed potatoes and the entire meal with all of the fixings! Some of the kids learned to love it as much as we do and continued coming with their families and some of them have never again set foot there. We have listened to a multitude of ranger programs, hiked many trails, explored back roads, and appreciated a quietness that is hard to explain. We have had magnificent sunsets, wind, rain, and cold but have loved almost every minute of it. Well, maybe not the wind. Something about sleeping in a tent during a windstorm is just not fun. The wind is pretty much the only thing that will keep us from heading out there. A few years the Santa Ana winds have kicked up pretty bad so we have endured, left early, or not gone at all. Many people think we are a little nuts and are always asking us what is the attraction!
This year we are doing something different. We are driving a little closer to home-to Anza Borrego State Park .
This is largest state park in California and, the second largest in the continental US. It is located in Northern San Diego County and will be about a two hours drive and not the five hours it takes us to get to Death Valley. Our oldest daughter and her family will be going too. They love this about as much as we do. We are all feeling a little sad to miss our usual place but are anxious to see if this will work equally well.
The turkey is defrosting, Thommmee has started packing the car, dusted off our bicycles, pulled out the tent, and I am packing up the food. We leave in the morning for three nights and four glorious days.
This time in the desert allows me time to reflect on the year, count my blessing, commune with God, prepare my heart for Christmas, and spend time around a very unconventional Thanksgiving table. Except for the beauty of the desert in winter, there are few distractions. I have so much to be thankful for and look forward to this time. It helps me prepare for the Christmas hustle bustle and is the calm I need to face the next few weeks.
Wishing you all a very