We drove up to Gaston's house on Friday with our sacrament meeting family, and Saturday morning, we rode in Alice's car to the cabin. But we didn't go the normal route, because Alice had gotten word that that route had been closed due to forest fire. The cabin was still pretty darn far away from the fire, so Google was used to find a back road that took us the same way, and oh my goodness that road was thrilling--more than once we found ourselves right beside a precipitous drop with nothing even resembling a guardrail. But the views were spectacular. It wasn't all terrifying, either--sometimes we were more inside the mountains, driving around beautiful groves of trees. That part was nice, but also involved a lot of winding roads. We got a little carsick.
The cabin was lovely. It had this great deck that was like 20 feet off the ground where you could sit outside and enjoy nature. We mostly just sat around and talked with everyone. The families all took turns cooking meals. On the first day, Athena and I didn't eat much, and Gaston felt very bad for not making sure there was something we could bring ourselves to eat (but we did try the rice--the texture was just too much), so the next day he and Alice both went out of their way to make off-menu items for us, which was exceedingly kind of them.
There was a small lake not too far from the cabin, and we spent a little bit of time there on the first and second days. The kids swam around and made their fingers purple, while the grownups mostly sat around and chatted, except for a couple of the men. There was kayaking, too.
On Sunday morning, a lot of smoke from the fire had settled in our area, so we started the day off inside (for breakfast we had pancakes with butter syrup--it was pretty amazing) and had a beautiful sacrament meeting. There was an electronic keyboard at the cabin, so once we got the generator going, I was able to accompany hymns. It was all pretty neat.
By the time we finished lunch, the smoke had cleared some, so we all went back to the lake, but it wasn't long before the wind picked up and brought a bunch more smoke and ash with it. We took shelter back in the cabin, where Athena, Gaston, and I lectured all the children on why the fully animated Beauty and the Beast is soooooo much better than Emma and the Beast (they were all so attentive, too!) while some of the girls made brownies. A few minutes after the brownies went into the oven, one of the neighbors (who had satellite and therefore contact with the outside world) came to let us know the evacuation order had gone out. It wasn't mandatory yet, but if we waited too long, they were going to close the main road again. (It was already closed for going in, but they were going to close it for going out, too, because it was going to be engulfed in flames.)
It was at this point that the kids started talking about how we were going to die. The grownups decided we should have dinner before we left, though, because it was going to be a long drive, and besides, everybody could pack up while the food was cooking. Nobody (except maybe the kids) seemed super worried, but I was a little nervous knowing that there was a time limit. It wasn't like a, "Oh no, we're going to get caught in a fire!" sort of nervousness, but more like the kind of nervousness that I get when I'm worried about catching a train. I don't like being stranded.
The drive back to Gaston and Alice's house was pretty surreal. It was like going through fog, only the fog was more gray and yellow-orange, until it got more orange and red as the sun went down. It kind of felt like being on an amusement park dark ride, only with a vague consciousness that there was real danger out there. And it lasted for a long time, because we had to drive straight for the fire before we could take the main road away from it. We all breathed a sigh of relief when we passed the checkpoint and made it onto that road. Then we could see the forest fire in the not-too-distant distance, but the non-burning trees were pretty thick, so we couldn't see much. The way the fire has grown since then, I'm pretty sure those non-burned trees are burned now.
We made it safely back to Gaston's house, where he made more brownies because none of us got any of the ones they made at the cabin. Gaston's turned out a lot prettier (can't say anything about the taste, but the kids forgot to adjust the recipe for high altitudes and we were at almost the highest altitude you can get in the state), and had the added bonus of ice cream, so I think we got the better end of the deal anyway. The fire was burning down a lot of happy memories for Gaston, though, which might be why he wanted to turn on a distraction. That's how we were introduced to The Repair Shop, which is a super awesome reality show about repairing sentimental items, with a bunch of experts who clearly love what they do.
The holiday weekend wasn't over yet, though, so we spent Monday at one of the family's houses. They had a fancy sound system where they started playing Disney music and all the kids were singing along. We would have loved it if it wasn't all stuff from the last five years. But it kept playing almost all day, and they ran out of the recent stuff, so then they got to the good stuff and that's when Athena and I started singing everything at the top of our lungs. Of course, by that time, everybody else was outside at the pool. (We're just not that big on swimming.)
Eventually those of us who live in southern California had to start the drive home, so we packed up our sacrament meeting family's car and headed out. And that was the end of our surprisingly exciting weekend. The drive was lovely, full of fun conversation and music, and we got to show off our DisneySea pictures. It was really nice. We had a good time.
Today I'm thankful for getting to spend a long weekend with good friends, surviving the beautiful yet terrifying road to the cabin (a woman we met at the lake said that when she was a teenager several decades ago, the road we took was the major status road, as in, you had serious bragging rights if you managed to drive it), lots of good conversation, making it out of the mountains before the fire engulfed the road, and being back home.