Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Celebration, a Barbershop Quartet, and a Hidden Canyon: A National Park Odyssey Days 27-29

Durham, CA to Great Basin National Park via Lake Tahoe and Carson City, NV

Forty years of marriage is a great thing to celebrate.  Friends and family of Josh’s Aunt Nancy and Uncle Larry gathered in Chico, CA to honor the couple after more than a year of planning by their three children, Pat, Beth, and Sarah.  The Mexican menu was perfect for feeding a crowd, and the scrolling pictures chronicling this family that is so dear to us was an entertaining way to wait for our turn at the buffet. 
Their wedding picture was on the party invitation.

Aunt Nancy and Uncle Larry were married in Josh’s family’s backyard in Fort Thomas, KY, in 1977, so seeing the wedding pictures that included four-year-old little Josh was especially interesting to me.  Their wedding was a small one since they’d only met three months earlier, and Josh was one of only five people (besides Larry and Nancy themselves) who were at both the wedding and this party.  I wish we had thought to get a picture of those five people with Nancy and Larry at the party!

The main entertainment of the evening was the barbershop quartet performance by Uncle Larry, Uncle John, Josh, and Beth.  They practiced for several hours that weekend and sang beautifully together in spite of the complex harmonies involved in singing barbershop style.  All four of them have been singing their entire lives, but the chord progressions in a barbershop song are very different from those in the traditional four-part-harmony they grew up singing.  I was so proud of all of them!  Watch them for yourself below.
Uncle John, Uncle Larry, Beth, and Josh sing "Always" and "Can't Help Falling in Love."
In this one, they sing "I Love You Truly" and "Let Me Call You Sweetheart."  At the end, Uncle Larry spontaneously invites the crowd to sing along.

But the most impressive part of the evening was when Uncle Larry took the microphone and went around the entire room and introduced every single person there and explained their relationship to him.  I remember at my wedding that the thing that gave me the most anxiety was the fear that I would blank on someone’s name in the receiving line.  The thought that someone would give up their Saturday to travel to my wedding, buy me a lovely gift, and then I would not be able to immediately call their name was terrifying to me.  So while there is no way I would ever have been able to do what Uncle Larry did, he certainly made us all feel special.
Steve offers a poignant toast to the happy couple.

Aunt Nancy thanks her children for their hard work planning the fete.

The second cousins were much more entertained by Kinley's phone.

I love this picture of Uncle John and Aunt Liz.  I'll admit that it was staged, but that's only because I was too slow with my camera to catch the actual smooch seconds before.

After the party, we did what we always do when the Bradley family is together – sing.  We sat around Aunt Nancy and Uncle Larry’s kitchen table and sang hymns in four-part harmony.  Watching the faces across from me with their voices lifted in song, I got emotional for two reasons.  One, we sang one of the songs that was sung at my Daddy’s funeral.  And two, every time we do this I worry that it will be the last.  We just don’t get to see each other that often, and losing a parent has made me much more aware of the value of times like these.  But I wiped my tears and tried to keep singing because I certainly didn’t want to miss out on a single opportunity for my voice to blend with these beloved ones.
Knox was too sleepy to sing.

The next morning, Josh taught the adult Bible class and preached at the Chico church of Christ, and our extended family’s presence significantly increased the attendance that morning.  Lunch at Smokin’ Mo’s in Chico followed, and then we spent the afternoon enjoying more family time.  By late afternoon, the Bradleys packed up leftovers for us and we waved goodbye as we began to make our way to Carson City where we were spending the night.
Before we left, Josh arranged for his parents to bring his blazer with them so that we saved some room in our luggage.  The church in Chico has supported our LST mission work for years, and we were glad to get to share an update with them.

I'm not sure how Uncle Larry got stuck feeding a whole passel of people for an entire weekend just because he's been married a long time, but it sure was yummy!  And at Smokin' Mo's in Chico, if you wear their t-shirt when you come in, you get 10% off!  Uncle Larry wore his over his church clothes.

I was glad we were just sleeping in Carson City for a night because I was less than impressed with it, but we passed though Lake Tahoe to get there.  Now that is a place I’d like to spend some time on a future trip!  There were so many cute little shops and restaurants, and the lake at dusk was serene and inviting.  I made a mental note to look for a time to come back.
Sunset over Lake Tahoe

After our night in Carson City, we proceeded to drive all the way across Nevada the next day to make our way to Great Basin National Park.  The get there, we had to drive on US 50, known as the loneliest road in the US.  And for good reason.  It was desolate.  Gas stations and restrooms were rare so we stopped when each one appeared.  They each sold Loneliest Road t-shirts, but we weren’t tempted.  It wasn’t the sort of by-way we wanted to commemorate.  For hours and hours and miles and miles we drove, through rocky hills and past cattle grazing on land that appeared to have little for them to eat.  Finally, we turned off of US 50 and drove another hour to the dirt road that led to our hotel for the night.  In fact, we had to go just over the Utah line and then back into Nevada to get to our destination.
We had Bradley party leftovers for lunch on the road!  Yum!

We saw a dramatic forest fire along US 50.

Great Basin doesn’t have a lodge inside its boundaries, so we had made reservations at Hidden Canyon Ranch.  The property was located about thirty minutes away from the park at the end of a six-mile-long dirt road that wound its way over a ridge and down into a canyon as its name suggests.  The nearest restaurant was about forty minutes from Hidden Canyon, so we had arranged in advance to have dinner at the ranch for the two nights we’d be there.  There was only one seating each evening, and we were barely going to make it.  We had emailed to let them know we were coming, so we went straight to dinner when we arrived.  A different entrée and accompanying sides were served each night, and on our first night, a potato bar with chili was set before us along with chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

We were so glad that we'd signed up for meals at the ranch since it was so far from anything else.
The building housing our suite was a short walk from the dining hall.

When we finished eating and walked outside of the dining hall to have a look around, the first thing I noticed was the shocking abundance of water.  There was a rushing creek running the length of the back of the property, and, because of the plentiful water, the land was lush and green.  Trees and tall grasses replaced the scrubby, squat bushes we’d seen dotting the parched landscape all day.  Flowers bloomed in brilliant reds and pinks attracting hummingbirds in droves.  An orchard stood just behind the dining hall, and nearby, a faucet with a hose attached was actually allowed to leak.  Here we were in the middle of the desert, and there was this precious resource – water – just dribbling out onto the ground as if we were in some Southwestern Garden of Eden where all plants grew with ease and no necessary building block of life was scarce.  It was surreal, especially after having been in conservation-obsessed Arizona and California for two weeks.

Wild turkeys made their home in the canyon.
This is only one of the many hummingbirds in the canyon.

As we made our way to our room, we saw mule deer and a flock of wild turkeys with several little chicks trailing along behind.  The scene was idyllic, and Josh and I agreed that he’d made an excellent choice about where to stay for our two nights in the area.  Since breakfast was to be served at 7:00 the next morning and wifi was non-existent, we turned in early.  The next day we’d planned to do our longest hike of the trip so far, so we drifted off to sleep, hidden deep in the canyon, while the water rushed on, oblivious.

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