August 2011

Mischievous Look, originally uploaded by bexadler.

This past week I spent visiting my family in Utah, staying with my sister Jessica, her husband, and their adorable little boy, Sam. I often say I’m going home when I go to visit them even though it’s not actually home for me. I grew up here in Sacramento, but nearly 10 years ago now my family moved away. They’ve been living in Utah for about five or six years and, even though it’s not home to me, it has become a familiar place.

Although it’s not really a glamorous vacationing spot, visiting my sister in Utah is by far the most indulgent trip I take every year. I think the familiarity of the environs makes it easy for me to relax there and not feel like I need to get out and see everything I can in the few days I have there. Instead, I actually slow down and enjoy my stay.

One of my favorite parts of this particular trip was spending time at Liberty Park, which is only about a block from my sister’s house. The park has a great running track and plenty of trees for lazing in the shade with a good book. I spent many a morning running there and some of my afternoons just lounging and reading while my nephew played on the jungle gyms nearby. I hadn’t been planning to take the trip because now I feel pressed to get everything prepared before I leave next week for my big trip abroad, but I am so glad that I ended up going. That time to relax and the memories I’ve taken away of my sister and her family were definitely worth it.

Une Libellule at Natural Bridges, originally uploaded by bexadler.

Maybe it’s not so secret, given that it’s a marked hiking trail in Calaveras County, but I like to think of it as my secret swimming hole all the same. The place is known as Natural Bridges and is one of my most favorite places of all time. You get there by hiking about a mile down a dusty, rocky path. It’s a short distance to go to arrive at one of the coolest swimming spots you’ll ever find.

At the end of the path you arrive at what just looks and sounds like a babbling brook, but when you look along the stream to see where it goes, you see that the side of the hill next to you actually opens up to a cave that you can swim through. The water is freezing, but the swim is well worth it to see the cave opening up above you as you swim through. In the spring, there are wildflowers all along the hiking path and the opening of the cave has a constant trickling down of water from the roots of trees growing from the top of the cave, creating a sort of waterfall. In the summer, the water is more bearable, but the grass has been scorched by the California sun and the surrounding hillsides are the light brown you see throughout the Central Valley this time of year.

Todd Swimming Deeper Into the Cave (photo courtesy of Danielle Best)

Once you swim through the cave, you come to large slabs of rock that have been carved by water over time and are perfect for sunning yourself as you steel yourself for the swim back to the other side. Alternatively, if you don’t like swimming in open water or can’t stand the chill, you can hike over the cave and around to the other side (hence, the natural bridge name). Either way it’s a relaxing and lovely way to spend a day and I highly recommend it. I’m so grateful for my friends who went down there with me yesterday so I could hang out there one more time before I leave on my big trip.

If you go, I highly recommend getting out there on a weekday if you can as I’m sure it gets more crowded on weekends. We only saw two families out there while we were enjoying our lunch and a swim. There are plenty of places to spread out and you can move your way down the creek if you want more privacy, but the inside of the cave echoes and I imagine it can get loud if there are too many people there. There are also picnic benches along the hiking path and near the water if you prefer not to sprawl on the rocks. I recommend going during the warmest part of the day so the water feels refreshing rather than just plain cold. The link above is to the spot on Google Maps. Here are the directions from my friend who introduced me to the spot:

While driving South through Angels Camp, on Hwy 49 (lower/historic main street portion)
turn Left onto Hwy 4 East towards Murphys /Arnold/Bear Valley
drive 4.5 miles on Hwy 49, turn Right onto Parrots Ferry Rd just past Vallecito (and before Douglas Flat)
drive 3.7 miles on Parrots Ferry Rd, look for brown federal land sign on right of road and a sharp U-turn access road
If you get to the bridge you went a little too far. the Natural Bridges turn off is maybe a quarter mile before the top of the hill down to bridge.

When you hike down, the trail splits where you’ll see a path to your right or stairs to your left. I prefer to take the stairs to the left and then swim through the cave to the warm spot. The path to the right goes over the cave and brings you to the sunny side.


A couple of Christians just knocked on my door offering to pray for somebody in my life that needs prayers, or even to pray for me. I told them I couldn’t think of anybody. “Really, not even yourself? You’re happy with your life? You have all the money you want? You’re…” I cut him off saying, “Actually, yes. I think about how great my life is every single day.” He looked at me, surprised and said, “Really?” “I’m really lucky,” I replied. I don’t think they believed me, but it’s the honest truth. I can’t remember the last time I was this happy and optimistic.

Let’s be honest: A year ago I was angry at the world. Bitter. Depressed. And just plain unpleasant to be around. Everyone I knew would try to convince me about how great my life was but I just wasn’t hearing it. I was stuck in a rut that I felt like I was never going to escape.

Somehow, though, I did escape. I can’t even really pinpoint what it is that changed my perspective. I think it was a combination of a number of events, really, that got me out of my funk…

Even though I’m not practicing anymore, it all started with yoga. In my yoga classes, the teachers got me to question a lot of things about my attitude and how it was effecting my life and my relationships with others. For whatever reason those “deep” questions made me realize how much my anger at my ex-boyfriend was effecting everything I did and to no end. Me being angry at him did nothing to him, but it was poisoning my life. Me finally being able to let that go was a huge first step in getting back to the old me – and in allowing me to really open myself up to meeting somebody new.

The next thing, of course, was realizing I really could save up enough money for extended travel, then taking the steps to actually make it happen. Then I met the new boy, which has been amazing (but also super sad since I’m leaving). Those small things really helped to make me more positive and really see how lucky I am. I was finally able to see past my sadness and see what it was that my friends had been trying to help me see for more than a year. And I truly believe that my better attitude is what has brought so many other great things in recent months. So, yes, Crazy Christians, I really do love my life. It’s pretty amazing and I really don’t think I can ask for much more than what I have right now (and I don’t think I deserve to).

P.S. I can’t believe that guy’s response was to ask me if I have all the money I want. Who asks someone to pray for them to get more money? I thought that was really weird.