Santa Monica Mountains and Seal Beach

Right now we are at LAX waiting for our flight home from one of the best family trips we have ever taken. Every day felt perfect. Abe and I feel refreshed and totally in love with our kids and our little family.

On Sunday, we went to church on the south side of L.A., and afterward we drove to the Santa Monica National Recreation Area to get our National Parks passports stamped…and to hike around (quite possibly in that order of priorities).

We had no idea what the Santa Monica National Recreation Area was, but we discovered that the part we visited used to be the estate of King Gillette, inventor of the Gillette razor blade. It is currently infested with rattlesnakes. I am not exaggerating. For our entire hike, we heard a literal chorus of rattles on both sides of the trail, and even the grounds of the visitor center had so many snakes that Abe took a picture of one slithering right outside the front door.

But the rangers assured us that these snakes are very laid back¬†Southern California¬†rattlesnakes; the only people that get bitten are young men trying to grab the snakes. They aren’t aggressive like other rattlesnakes, and unless you step on them, they leave you alone. We decided to trust the ranger on that one and actually learned to somewhat enjoy the sound of the rattlesnake soundtrack on our hike.

The rattlesnake outside the visitor center door. The staff was nonplussed.
The rattlesnake outside the visitor center door. The staff was nonplussed.
The former Gillette stables now function as the visitor center for the park.
The former Gillette stables now function as the visitor center for the park.
Mary enjoyed the fountain outside of the visitor center. I sat next to her and listened to the peaceful sound of rattles in the adjacent field.
Mary enjoyed the fountain outside of the visitor center. I sat next to her and listened to the peaceful sound of rattles in the adjacent field.
We set out to find a trail.
We set out to find a trail.
We ran into some horses while we were looking for the trailhead.
We ran into some horses while we were looking for the trailhead.
Part of the hike was paved, and that made Abe and I wonder whether we were on the right trail. We concluded that this park is underfunded. Nothing is marked and the maps were pretty rudimentary/outright wrong.
Part of the hike was paved, and that made Abe and I wonder whether we were on the right trail. We concluded that this park is underfunded. Nothing is marked and the maps were pretty rudimentary/outright wrong.
The loud grass on either side was infested with snakes. Whenever Abe got too close to the side of the road, Lydia would loudly remind him to walk in the center. Her sense of self/family-preservation delighted me.
The loud grass on either side was infested with snakes. Whenever Abe got too close to the side of the road, Lydia would loudly remind him to walk in the center. Her sense of self/family-preservation delighted me.

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We stumbled on the house for The Biggest Loser.
We stumbled on the house for The Biggest Loser.
Lydia earned her Junior Ranger badge! Mary really wanted one too, but the parks only let children four and up earn them.
Lydia earned her Junior Ranger badge! Mary really wanted one too, but the parks only let children four and up earn them.
After the park. we drove to the Pacific Coast Highway and headed back to Cerritos. We passed through Malibu, where the houses overhang the water.
After the park. we drove to the Pacific Coast Highway and headed back to Cerritos. We passed through Malibu, where the houses overhang the water.
We had dinner with Vince, Auntie Geri, Erin, and Batch. Every year we go to the same Japanese restaurant for Sushi boats. I love this tradition.
We had dinner with Vince, Auntie Geri, Erin, and Batch. Every year we go to the same Japanese restaurant for Sushi boats. I love this tradition.

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Mary was really tired after all of the recent excitement.
Mary was really tired after all of the recent excitement.
Batch gave the girls these darling dresses. They match their bug suitcases!
Batch gave the girls these darling dresses. They match their bug suitcases!

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We went to Seal Beach this morning.
We went to Seal Beach this morning.

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Abe took a picture of his shrimp fajitas. We have enjoyed every single meal on this trip.
Abe took a picture of his shrimp fajitas. We have enjoyed every single meal on this trip.

After we had lunch, we drove to El Segundo to top off our rental car and have ice cream in the car while the girls napped. Abe talked about how all of the funerals we attended this year have changed his perspective and goals, and we felt so grateful for the opportunity to be alive. This trip felt like such a gift.