I am finally making this post! People (coughTravisKileycough) have been harassing me to post my photos from Strawberry. Of which there are 92.
I’m sure there are some people reading this who are all “Strawberry? Like.. the fruit? What?”

But no, Strawberry is a music festival held twice a year (Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend) high in the Sierra-Nevada mountains near Yosemite. And no, we were not in cabins coated in hantavirus so please halt your “OMG UR GONNA DIEEE” comments. We were in our own poop-free tents, 40+ miles away from the “outbreak” and I didn’t see one mouse (or bear, for that matter) the entire time.

So anyway! Strawberry. Strawberry is a fanstically magical place. It’s overwhelming in a myriad of ways. People. Music. Activities. All of it overwhelming. The first year I went I was pretty much o_O the entire time. Since then, I’ve gotten used to the chaos of it all and am more acclimated to it and I know what to expect. So I’m not a big ball of tension anymore! Aven, on the other hand, had a hard time the first couple of days with the overstimulation. Her fuse was sooooo super short. A torn paper towel sent her into a meltdown tantrum that lasted 30 minutes. The tiniest thing would set her off to the point where it just got ridiculous. After the umpteenth tantrum we just started to ignore her because doing otherwise would end in me leaving her with a band of gypsies. By the third day (Saturday) she was more herself, which I was soo thankful for. Because seriously, I was about to lose it.

We are campers, but we are the type to camp miles away from civilization and other people. At Strawberry you have to abandon those comforts because you are literally three feet from your neighbors. Or closer, even. There are no hard lines and people camp and park wherever there is space to do so. A five by five blank spot in the woods? Throw down your tent! It’s wonderfully overwhelming and chaotic, as I said.  And it’s comfortable in a different way. People are so friendly there. You can leave instruments and stereos and etc. out in the open and walk away for six hours and know your stuff will still be there when you get back. (Even so, I decided not to take my DSLR because I didn’t want to lug it around – heavy! – or risk it getting lost, stolen or damaged. Instead we just used Kyle’s point and shoot Canon).
If your child decides to take off and gets lost in the midst of the 6,000 people that are there, you can rest easy that they will be found and cared for. All of the littles wear yellow wristbands with their names on them in case they’re not old enough (or too shy) to tell someone who they are if they are found without a parent. It’s a great feeling of community! I mean of course there are the few that look irritated and snotty among all the nice people, but they really are few and far between. On our way up to the meadow each day we’d (and by that I mean Kyle) would pull 70+ pounds of Kid in the wagon. The entire way the girls would wave at people and say “Happy Strawberry!” and most would reply with an in-kind remark or wave and smile back. There were a few that would totally ignore them (WHAT? I know right?) and Jovi would go “Oh well, maybe next time!” haha
So funny.

The days were filled with activities at Birch Lake and the surrounding park area, hanging out a camp and jamming, music on the meadow and making new friends with our neighbors. My grandma Millie (ga ga Millie to the girls) was able to come with us and she had a lot of fun. Dressed up with us, entertained the girls, enjoyed the music, stayed out too late and was so much fun to have there. I hope to have her energy level when I’m her age. (ha, who am I kidding? I don’t even have her energy level at MY age!)
The other day Jovi and were driving home and she started talking about Strawberry and said it was her favorite and she wants to go back. I asked her what her favorite part of Strawberry was and she said, “Grandma Millie!” Aww.

Every season it’s a scramble to get into Camp Mather and find a spot to camp. Hundreds of vehicles are driving around doing the exact same thing, so you have to be quick and decisive. Don’t you dare pass up a spot! On our way in Kyle and I went right on one road and my parents went straight. We found a spot and they found a spot! Ultimately we opted to go to the one they picked (and right when Kyle pulled out of the one we’d picked, someone claimed it within seconds). Their choice turned out to be the ultimate! We were on the end of Coyote Road — camps in front and a blank meadow and forest in back. Absolutely perfect. So we had the feeling of community and neighbors but we also had this beautiful meadow right there to give us a little more of that genuine “camping” feel. And the dirt road through the meadow was a short cut to the lake — bonus! We’d sit in the grassy meadow and play music during the day and a couple times at night. There was a full moon (they said a blue moon) and the moonlight on the tall wheat made it seem like it was glowing – it was amazing! I’m painting quite a picture, right? How about I stop talking and let the actual pictures speak for me?

All set to go! Dad’s truck packed to the limit; ours was just as bad (good?) It was the sort of insane packing where if a bird pooped on top of the truck the entire thing would explode in Stuff.

The girls loved the wading/kid part of Birch Lake.

Sitting on the meadow the first night, this guitar-shaped cloud appeared all pink and awesome. The band stopped, the entire crowd took photos and everyone oooh-d and ahhhh-d. Super fun 🙂 (and there are probably like 5,000 similar photos floating out there!)

They had activities for children every morning at Birch Lake. The girls made crowns.

And they painted the big banner! This was used Sunday afternoon during the traditional Kids Parade.

Jovi made a friend the second night we were there (Kate) and played and danced with her for hours. And even though we were in the midst of 6,000 people, we managed to keep running into Kate and her family the whole time we were there!

On the meadow listening to the music. The presence of children meant we sat way further back than we used to in years past, just so the kids would have more freedom to move around. Or, in Aven’s case (as illustrated above) throw tantrums while everyone ignored her. haha!

A view from the middle of our camp looking out to the meadow next to us.

standing in the road. Meadow behind me, our camp/vehicles on the right. Camp Mather extends in front of me and in all directions.

the road we walked up and down every day to get to the music meadow!

standing in the road looking to the left of our camp at all the other camps. This doesn’t do it justice. At all.

my husband is Vanna White! Showing off our camp sign “Camp Please ‘Em All”
It’s Strawberry tradition to name your camp and create a banner. This was a gift from us to my parents years and years ago. New friends have signed the back of it.

Looking from the “back” of our camp to the front. There’s our kitchen area in the background, the bathroom we set up (mom’s brilliant idea! even has a shower!) with the purple tapestry, our tent and my parent’s tent peek-a-booing on the side in tan and red.

We know how to do it! A Strawberry worker was so impressed on a walk through of our camp that she took a bunch of photos of our grub box and kitchen. lol

our bathroom. with a “sink” and mirror, even. The blue tarp is around a solar shower. Brilliant, mom!

All the tapestries could slide closed because you know. privacy. I was standing in someone else’s camp to take this photo, in fact.

tuning before jamming

our fancy Calendar of Events

road to Birch Lake

Travis and Kiley had the idea to dress up a couple of the nights we were there. Friday was Cowboy night. (sorry for the blur; point and shoot!)

We were talking about a recent trip they took to Virginia City. I asked if they took any old-timey photos and they said no, that the ones taken at Strawberry were just as good. I agreed. I mean.. all you have to do is wear the right clothes and then change it to sepia and add vignette, right?


Kyle and I got in on it, too.

my sweetie pie

I love capturing these moments

Jovi took this photo! My little photographer!

glow in the dark pinwheels

OK so my grandma was ready to take a shower and wash her hair. We were getting water heated for her to use in the solar bag but she got all impatient and headed in there fully clothed with the idea of just washing her hair. Which, ok fine, but then she used a handful of Travis’ Axe bodywash and this happened:

SOOOOOO MANY BUBBLES! Hilarious. Travis kept filling up a kettle with water trying to help her rinse it out but the kettle only held like 20 ounces. We were laughing so hard. I love my grandma.

jamming in the meadow. our camp is behind the boys

my little hippie 🙂

Kyle’s camera kept playing off the green and gold of the meadow and woods and his photos would turn out like this. No editing on my part!

I took Jovi to get her face painted!

I got mine painted, too. And she took photos. 🙂

You can imagine my AHHHHHHHHH!-ing when I looked back through these afterward.

It took her like 5 minutes, literally.

Kyle may very well kill me for posting this.

I tried to get him to wear a scarf over his boobies but he though it’d make him look too “feminine” or something. Idk. That tight-pant leg on the left belongs to Travis.

getting dolled up!

I tried to paint a kitty on Aven’s cheek but she smeared it within two seconds.

Did I mention this night was our anniversary? Eleven years!!

They were talking about (and illustrating) tight pants. Or something.

pipes make one thoughtful.

I know this is mucho blurry, but Aven took it and I think it’s cute. 🙂

Rich and Robbie (dear friends) met up with us on our way to the meadow. We are standing in the food vendor area. The entrance to the music meadow is behind us.

my love!

Another theme self-designated theme night: King and Queen (keeng and kween) Strawberry!

Aven got her face painted that night because she was really good all day. She sat sooooo super still the whole time – hilarious!

my little kitty!

The last day we were there we went to the revival at Birch Lake and then went back to camp to relax a bit. The girls showed us their fairy gardens they’d found in the woods!
Some explanation: My mom started a fairy garden at her house a couple months ago. She built it out in the flower bed in their backyard and made it really cute. Used shells and wood and other natural things to make a little “house” for fairies. She told the girls about it and every day they go check it to see what the fairies have left for them. My mom will take things they’ve left around the house (play keys, hot wheels cars, hair bows, etc) and put them in the fairy garden so when the girls see it, it’s as if the fairies collected their things and built them into their house. It’s funny because they get a little indignant at the fairies for taking their stuff, but they also tend to leave it there in case the fairies need it. Anyway, so at Strawberry my mom took the girls for a walk one day and Aven found three fairy gardens all by herself. Over the next couple of days my parents would take stuff out of our camp and put them in the gardens. The last day we were there we all went out with the girls so they could show us the gardens, and they found their stuff hidden away. Super cute 🙂

I love love LOOOOOVE this photo. It was one of those, that right when I took it, I knew I captured something special

found a fairy garden!

I don’t even know what these are. Fairy gardens to the girls, but.. yeah. There are two of them in the meadow.

another garden!

My grandma wanted me to recreate an engagement photo I took recently. It didn’t work so well; they couldn’t stop laughing and my brother’s hands are weirdly unmoldable. 🙂

While we were packing up the last day my grandma kept the girls entertained in the meadow. She played hide and seek with them, looked for fairies, wore a chain of glow necklaces around her head and played in the dirt. She truly is an amazing lady!!!

Our huge camp was reduced to a pile of stuff

the girls and their Ga Ga!

On the way home we went over Tioga Pass through Yosemite. We stopped at a lookout toward Half Dome.

You can see Half Dome between the trees on the right-ish

photographer Aven. We’re all hoping she doesn’t drop the camera

photographer Jovi

We stopped in Carson City on the way home and shopped a bit at Trader Joe’s, then headed home. Next year we will take the day after off as well — we were soooo exhausted from the long weekend and it was torture going back to work so quickly. It’s such a fun festival though. Very family-friendly and organized well. We’ll be back next year!

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6 Responses to strawberry.

  1. OMG!!! I wanted to comment
    on so many of those photos, but I couldn’t! Such a wonderful time and such a wonderful family!!!!

  2. lori says:

    That was an awesome trip. I have never done anything like that. Love you pictures and the hole thing. Thanks Jen you are so cool. Love you all.

  3. Renee Hagen says:

    what an incredible camping trip….beautiful family…love you all, thanks for sharing fantastick pictures !!!

  4. Travis Axe says:

    thanks for the (coughcough) pictures (cough)

  5. christa says:

    What a beautiful event! Marvelous and enchantingly fun! Beautiful pictures, thanks for letting me experience it with you! Wish we could come!

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