Yes, I was away from it all for a while. I attend a meeting every year at this time, a clergy meeting, in southern California. Living as I do in Michigan, on the snowy side of Michigan, this is a most welcome respite. Because it is so far away, and the countryside is so capitivating, I usually add 2-3 days to take in the natural beauty that is so abundant.
This year I went into the Sierra Nevade range, the high mountains that run along the eastern half of the state, among which are the highest peaks in the southern 48. That meant going through part of the San Joaquin Valley on the way. My original goal was Sequoia National Park, where the one of two species of giant redwood grows almost exclusively. (Last year I drove most of the amazing Pacific Coast Highway, from the Orange County Line to the last town before Oregon. This included the range of the other great redwood.)
What you must know is that the perpetual spring of the valley is not true of the mountains. After speeding past orange groves heavy with fruit and almond trees in bloom down in the valley, I found myself trudging through three feet of snow on the ridge of the National Park, which is 6500 above sea level. That was interesting all by itself.
Once I download my pictures, I'll post a few. Even in deep snow the trees are spectacular, but not having snow shoes or even boots, I saw but a few. Not enough to suit me but enough to recall the experience from last year and its wonderful spiritual qualities. But rather than make this an even longer post I will stop here and leave you hungry for more. Come back in a day or two.