Remember what I wrote last time about our predictably pleasant SoCal weather?  Well, to the delight and surprise of everyone in our household, the morning after the downtown Christmas lighting last weekend, we woke up to a lightning-flashing thunderstorm.  Besides the sounds of thunder and rain, the first thing I heard in the early hours of Saturday were shouts of “Mom!  Dad!  It’s raining!”  Hallelujah–we need the rain, I crave the rain, it hardly rains here– the dusty dry world is washed clean!

The only drawback was that we had planned a mountain adventure for the afternoon, and would be heading into unknown territory.  The village of Idyllwild in the San Bernardino mountains was our destination, at an elevation of 5,300 or so feet above sea level.  We’d heard about the festive small-town version of a Christmas tree lighting celebration in Idyllwild, along with Christmas carol singing, a visit from Santa, and other treats in store.  In spite of the weather, we were determined to go.  So we dug through our stored winter gear and managed to find enough hats, coats, and matched pairs of gloves for everyone, and we set off.

Stormy weather out of the car window on our way:

dark rain clouds

There was a bit of white-knuckle driving, with a fogged windshield and ineffectual wipers barely doing their job, but the worst was soon over as we drove up a winding road and the beginnings of a mountain canyon.  Then, miracle of miracles, or maybe it was just the altitude–the rain turned into snow!  I feel funny and just a little sentimental trying to describe how what would have been such an everyday (winter) event in my former life, felt so special this time, and so heartwarming–but it was.  In truth, it was the snow, in combination with the mountain views, pine-y smells, and quirky mountain-town charm that warmed me over.  The boys could hardly contain themselves over the appearance of snow–falling, and on the ground–and were planning their first snowball fight of the season before we even stopped the car.

I’ll let the pictures tell some of the rest of the story…let it snow!

visions of sugarplums

jars of jellybeans

a good place for hot chocolate

watching for Santa

red suit on a white truck

temporary sleigh

the tree gets lit

all of us

There are no photos of the snowballs thrown, or the cookies iced and eaten on the spot, or the model electric train we watched through a shop window, or the bonfire we warmed ourselves by, but each of us will remember these things in any case.  It was a good day, and even if our fingers and toes got a little cold, it was well worth it.  One of the kids remarked that “Christmas had come,” and maybe in a way this was the real start of the Christmas feeling, the anticipation.

The sensation I felt of my own lifted spirits was more than the high altitude–I was strongly convinced of something else:  You can’t take the mountains out of a girl.