The other day I accompanied my daughter’s 6th grade class on a field trip to Calaveras County where we wandered among the big trees (giant sequoias) and camped in the forest by a meadow in one of California’s pristine state parks. I expected awe and inspiration, and a lot of kid fun, and I got that. But I also got some things I didn’t expect.

That’s usually the way with travel. You have some notions about what you’ll experience and at some point the path diverges and you end up someplace you hadn’t planned. A side trip in Calaveras County took me to the Fiji islands, the California 6th graders gave way to a Fijian Sunday school, and I was left awed by the redwoods and the sea.

On that Calaveras side trip we went to Moaning Cavern, where the kids roped up to rappel into a hole in the ground. Where that abyss led wasn’t entirely clear to me, but I was shocked to see the first girl disappear like Alice down the rabbit hole. I took a more conventional descent down a series of steps carved into the rock that led to a spiral staircase where the walls popped open to reveal a gargantuan cathedral with flowstones running down the cavern walls. Just above me the first girl on ropes emerged from the cathedral ceiling and inched into the chamber some 150 feet above the cavern floor.

The sight took me to Fiji’s Cannibal Caves, a place I explored on a recent trip to the islands and wrote about for the San Francisco Chronicle. That in turn reminded me of the village church near Savusavu, where one Sunday morning I had a memorable moment with the local children. And that in turn took me to La Dolce Vita, a slice of Italy in the South Seas, where Luigi and Margaret Giuliani have created their own version of the sweet life.

Remembering La Dolce Vita brought me back to Calaveras County, cooking dinner with the 6th graders on camp stoves while the evening sun slanted through the redwoods, lighting up our site and dusting the meadow green and gold. It was the sweet life distilled, a moment captured, appreciated, never to be forgotten.

Filed Under Adventure Travel, California, California, Camping, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Fiji, Fiji, Gold Country, Hike/Backpack, North America, Northern California, South Pacific, State Parks, Travel, United States


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