June 6 - 11, 2006

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Our dear friends Luc & Cassy were married on June 10 near Sonora, California.  We were fortunate enough to attend the wedding.  These are scenes from our adventures there.
We arrived in Sacramento, CA late on Tuesday night, June 6.  We crashed immediately and rose early on Wednesday to begin the fun part of the trip. 

Our first destination was a climbing area called Lover's Leap which is near a "region" called Strawberry.  (There is some dispute as to whether it's an actual town.)

This is Eric, cradling his rope bag on the trail to the rock. Our first good view of the cliff side.
 According to my rock climbing friends, this is a great place to climb. Eric, carrying everything so that I can concentrate on looking good. 

This is our first view of some climbers.  The area I highlighted is enlarged in the picture on the left.


 A little California wildlife.
   This is almost like a puzzle, "How many climbers can you spot?" 
 (I believe there are 5.)
 Making our approach to the base of the cliff. There's a semi-famous climb in the crack straight above the tree called, "The Line"
 The view from where I hung out most of the day - not too bad! My buddy for part of the day.  Brad's dog Madeline.
 We had to kill some time while the guys finished a climb
 so we just hung out at (or on) the rock.
I was trying to be artistic here and get the flower in focus but still
show the rock behind.  It didn't really work but I'm posting it anyway.
 Eric, wandering around Me, staying put
 Brad & Luc return from their climb Luc, planning for the next route while Madeline basks in the sun.
Brad, Kat, and a close-up of the rock. I don't think Kat believes a word of what he's telling her!
These 3 pictures are a series I call, "Saddle Up"  
   I think Eric wanted this picture of the detail of the rock face.

 OK, enough messing around - it's time to get on the rock

 Luc led the first pitch  
 Brad is belaying above and that's Travis doing the climbing I didn't know these climbers, I just liked the view.  
There were falcons nesting over by the those high trees.


These are a couple pictures of Eric on the first pitch.


 In these you can see Luc's feet as he belays from his 'perch' above

 Almost there... Made it.  Time for a rest on the ledge.  Only two more pitches to go!


My view from the base of the cliff.  You can see Luc starting on 
the 2nd pitch and Eric belaying him a little right of center in this shot.


At one point Kat had to make Madeline 
get off of her chair.  From that point on, 
Kat was Madeline's very best friend.   

 I left the following picture very large on purpose so you could see both climbers better.  
 I apologize in advance to those viewing this with a slow connection.  (Mom)


 This is the same picture twice - one untouched and one showing where Eric is located.



Here are the best friends again.
Kat was getting an ear full of 
sweet nothings.  (And doggie breath!)
The valiant climbers return!  Eric led the 3rd pitch and had a great time. At that point I left the intrepid climbers to venture off on my own.


The first thing I encountered on the trail was this snake.

It was some kind of pit viper.  It was only about a foot long but 
thankfully I saw it before I stepped on it so it didn't hurt me.


This was the creek running    
through the entrance to the area  


This is a blurry shot of a blue bird on a Ponderosa

  I went up a scenic drive and encountered some lingering snow drifts.

 This was the view of "Lost Lake"
 which was at the top of my scenic drive.

 It was a very small lake but also very pretty.



This was the view of Lake Tahoe from the Lost Lake area.


A nice couple took this for me at a roadside pullout.
That's Lake Tahoe in the background.

 The moss on these trees just glowed in the sun.  It was very pretty.  

I hung out at a health food store in South Lake Tahoe for awhile, then went to get a closer look at the lake itself.  
These shots were taken from Pope Beach. 

 The sky was as pretty as the lake that evening. Here I'm trying out the timer feature on my camera.

 Eric surrenders!  After this we all jumped in the car and
 started on the two hour drive to Twain Harte.

 Here's another view of the Lover's Leap climbing area as I headed
 back to get Eric after he finished climbing.

We stopped at the pretty little town of Placerville for dinner.  
What a neat area!  We had a nice dinner and enjoyed our short time in that town.

Wednesday had been declared, "Eric Day" since it was dedicated to rock climbing.  The next day we proclaimed as, "Shawnna Day" when I was allowed to schedule us for as many tourist activities as I wanted.  I picked out 12 hikes I wanted to do in Yosemite.  In the picture at right, Eric is stretching in preparation for our big day.  


This little creek had a tiny waterfall right under the bridge that created the nicest 'babbling brook' noise you can imagine.  It's all we could hear out the bedroom window and we slept amazingly well because of it.  

We stayed at the Gables Cedar Creek Inn in Twain Harte, CA.  We would recommend it to anyone!  


On the way to the park we met this chuck wagon train.

You know, two weeks before this there had been a chuck wagon festival in OKC.  
Surely they didn't ride all the way there and back, did they?  We don't know, we didn't stop to ask.

 Our first hike was to see the Tuolumne (two-Walla-may) Grove of Redwoods.
This is not a redwood, but did smell very nice.  We were looking at these 'wedges'
in the tree.  You can see one at the lower right corner.
Here I am on the trail.  You had to walk nearly a mile before you saw any
of the redwoods.  However, the trail was an old road so it was very easy.
Eric's comment here was, "Gee, I sure hope we don't lose the trail."

Eric, on the lookout for a sequoia tree.

   We found one!  Don't worry, it was already dead when they 
 dug the tunnel through it years and years ago.
 Here's Eric on the other side of it, reading an informational posting.  The first of MANY scenic pullouts of the day.  It was so beautiful there.
Luckily for us, they had experienced an abnormally wet spring.
All the waterfalls and rivers were at there most beautiful.
 That is Bridal Veil Falls and the Merced river behind me. Eric, dipping his feet in a rushing (and very cold) river.
 A waterfall just above where Eric was dunking the "old dogs." This was taken looking downriver
 A view of the valley near the falls

Eric, getting in touch with his inner self.  
(Actually, he was eating an orange and some pistachios!)  



 Our first view of El Capitan

 See the cars at the bottom for scale?
 To steal a word from my friend Mowen, 
 that rock was ginormous.

Eric filmed a movie of our day in Yosemite.  I'm sure there will be bootleg copies
available on the net very soon.  In that video I misidentified this falls as Yosemite Falls.
I actually don't know what it is.
                   Eric, looking up at El Capitan
 Bridal Veil Falls Eric, climbing "at the base of El Capitan"  (sort of)
  Our next hike was up to Bridal Veil Falls.  It was a short one.
 These formations are famous and have names but I can't remember them - sorry!
Eric is "with camera" in this picture.  He's protecting the
video camera from the incredible spray off the falls.
 Waterfall in the mist...  
 I think this is a seasonal waterfall This is actually Yosemite Falls - three waterfalls in one
 A closer view of Yosemite falls, taken from a meadow Half Dome

Eric, looking on in awe

      I photograph Eric while he includes me in his video
The view before we started hike #3, Vernal Falls On the start of the hike...
 Cool rock formations The rivers were so powerful - it was amazing
 Vernal Falls Vernal Falls with the Casazzas
 Yosemite Falls Yosemite Falls, with cars included for scale
 Our 4th (and final) hike was to the base of El Capitan  We're sneaking up on it.
We caught it at a great time when the sunset
was really lighting up the formations.

 We also got to see two climbers just starting out on a climb.  Eric suspected they were getting things set up for an early morning start.
  The outlined area is enlarged in the picture to the left.

  One last shot of the Capitan

 Only one of the best pictures I've ever taken.
It's nothing to do with the skill of the photographer so much as the skill of the Creator!

We were told we HAD to see the beautiful architecture of the Wawona Hotel
so we went there for dinner on our way out of the park.  Unfortunately, what 
we had actually been told was to see the Ahwahnee Hotel - but we got them confused.
We did not actually see the Ahwahnee Hotel, but here's a picture
of it I found on  They aren't very similar
but we had a very nice meal nonetheless.

 On the way out we saw a herd of deer and a fire.

Then it got dark and we saw nothing but highway signs telling us another 25 mph curve was ahead.


On Friday, we proclaimed it, "Rest Day" because we had worn ourselves completely out on the previous two days.

(Yes, we were tired even though we only did 4 of the 12 hikes I had planned at Yosemite.)
We went out for breakfast then back to the hotel to enjoy the nice weather at a slower pace.

 This is how Eric relaxes while on vacation
And this is how I relax.  
The hotel had free WiFi all over the hotel grounds - sweet!

  Our cabin, "The Loft"

  It was very tucked away and overlooked the creek.


 That afternoon we went to nearby Pinecrest Lake.  We did part of a hiking trail that circles the lake.  It's a very pretty spot.

The dog and that little girl in the picture on the left played fetch for AGES, it was cute.



King of the Hill


 One of my new things is Geocaching.  I had my GPS with me and wanted to try it 
out on a California cache.  It was around here somewhere, but heck if I know where it was.


The fruit in California was truly amazing.  

Here's Eric, all smiles after a breakfast
of nearly every kind of fruit and granola
out on the lawn.


Saturday morning we toured Ironstone Vineyard near the town of Murphys.  
It was extremely difficult to find, but was a beautiful place.  

 Me on the patio where we had a nice lunch. One of the many beautiful walkways
They set up a reproduced water wheel which was part of the tour.
The man on the far left was really nice and ran his own small
vineyard nearby.  Those vats and boxes are all wine in storage.
Some wine is stored in these oak barrels.  
The oak is partly French and partly American.
These doors were salvaged from some neat place that I can't
remember.  (Sorry)  The caverns were blasted out of solid rock
then sprayed with gunite for protection, which makes them look fake. 
Touring the caverns full of more barrels where the wine is being aged They were having a big wedding on that day.  Here comes the bride.
 The name of the vineyard grown in bushes. The whole back of the room was a giant organ that they played for us.
The largest single piece of Crystalline Gold Leaf specimen in the world.  
It weighs 44 pounds.  That was the last thing we saw on our tour.
The wedding was at 5:30.  We went a little early and got to see
Cassy out on the balcony of the house where she was getting ready.
Luc, fussing over his youngest brother Chance.  Men in black
 Luc & Chance Luc & brother Alex - finally, someone who is taller than Luc!
 Luc with his friend (and our new friend) Shawn
Luc and his friend (and our new friend) Travis
Oh, and the long board they use to do insane antics.

These guys have turned smirking into an art form.

     The view of the reception area from the wedding area



The whole "fam damly" - Alex, Romel, Luc, step father Joe, and youngest brother Chance


Last minute nerves?

I don't know, the man teaches people to fly fighter planes for a living, surely he can't be easily frightened!



Luc and his posse.  He had no shortage of 'official dudes' that day.


The pretty little flower girls.  

 They were pulling the ring-bearer in a wagon, he was a bit small. The big moment arrives!
 Cassy's dad gives her away Then the service begins.
 I must have been excited about the kiss judging by the way I blurred the shot.


 We now present Luc & Cassy Gruenther
 She and I now have something in common - we both gave 
 up perfectly easy to spell last names for very difficult ones!
                  I love this picture Everyone milling around in the reception area while the pictures were being taken.
The beautiful cake and the toasting glasses engraved with Half Dome The happy couple arrive with much fanfare and celebration

 New friends we've met through Luc & Cassy - Carley, Kat, Barbara (? I think!), Travis, Brad, I'm sorry but I've forgotten the little girl's name, and Q


Shawn, Aaron, and Travis

  Luc's family serving as bartenders.  After this I got a great shot
of Luc's Mom holding up a bottle of Tequilla - wouldn't you know
it, my batteries were dying and the picture didn't get stored.  Darn!!



The man to the right of center is Cassy's grandma's brother.
This whole family stayed at our hotel and they kindly let us join them for a fun night out
on the lawn one night, sharing their wine and listening to Dean Martin under the stars.


  The moon was just beautiful that night.

  We had to practically beg the batteries
  in my camera to let me take this last
  shot of our trip to California.  Beautiful!


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