3 Dec

Moab’s Peaks and Plateaus Part I

Posted by on December 3, 2016 at 11:19 pm

Jason and I couldn’t let fall freeze into winter without taking our traditional outing to Moab. However, my semester’s relentless presentations, papers, and team projects were creating quite an impediment so we chose to go to Moab for only two days rather than our customary three. Two days of fun is better than three days of no fun. You can check my math; it adds up.

Glorious summer sunshine seemed to seep out of every aspen leaf we came across as we traveled upward.

Glorious summer sunshine seemed to seep out of every aspen leaf we came across as we traveled upward.

We decided, reluctantly, not to take our bikes with us because of our shortened stay. Instead, we settled for two day of hiking in two drastically different climates. We visited the towering peaks of the La Sal Mountains and the deep drops of Canyonlands National Park.

Gold Basin held fantastic views of Mount Tukuhnikivatz or Mount Mellenthin. Maybe Mount Peale? It was hard to figure out which peak was which.

Gold Basin held fantastic views of Mount Tukuhnikivatz or Mount Mellenthin. Maybe Mount Peale? It was hard to figure out which peak was which.

Did you know that Utah’s tallest mountains outside the Uintas are not in the Wasatch Range? Don’t lie, you didn’t know that. The La Sal Mountains, barely east of Moab, contain 12 peaks above 12,000 feet, making them Utah’s second-highest range. Not impressed? What’s it with you and your desensitization to massive mounts? Despite our many trips to Moab, we had never been to the La Sals and that just wasn’t right.

This muddy pond marked the end of our path in Gold Basin, not exactly an inspiring stop spot.

This muddy pond marked the end of our path in Gold Basin, not exactly an inspiring stop spot.

At their lower elevations, the La Sal Mountains felt uncannily familiar and foreign all at the same time with sharp hillsides made scruffy by juniper and scrub oak. At their higher altitudes, the vegetation was more of an alpine standard with patches of aspens and bristly conifers.

It wasn't easy setting my tripod up on giant slabs of stone to get this picture.

It wasn’t easy setting my tripod up on giant slabs of stone to get this picture.

We picked a perfect time to visit the La Sals… well, it would have been perfect if our eyes were the overlords of our skin. The aspens were remarkable golden, almost fluorescent, but it was a bit chilly, as in 57 to 42 degrees depending on the elevation and sun’s inclinations.

Moonlight Meadow had already succumbed to winter's dreariness but it still provided some thrilling views.

Moonlight Meadow had already succumbed to winter’s dreariness but it still provided some thrilling views.

Nippy or not, we hiked three miles out-and-back along the Cirque Lakes Trail (Gold Basin) to a silty puddle our trail guide called a lake. Hence, the best part of this trek wasn’t its terminus but its lofty views of Mt. Tukuhnikivatz, Peale, and Mellenthin.

The aspens forming this wall were the last sentinels of color that remained in Moonlight Meadow.

The aspens forming this wall were the last sentinels of color that remained in Moonlight Meadow.

Although temperatures were dropping into the low 40s as the afternoon waned, we opted to do one more hike, a short jaunt to Moonlight Meadow. Moonlight Meadow is, well, an alpine meadow. Did you see that coming? We took an easy one-mile out-and-back path to this grassy knoll. At 10,000 feet, its famous aspens had dispatched their leaves already amid winter’s incoming bluster but it was still an appealing wander. Isn’t it odd that trees go around naked at the times of the year when they could use their shady wardrobes the most?

The liquid hanging precariously in the sky all day poured down just minutes after we jumped back in our car.

The liquid hanging precariously in the sky all day poured down just minutes after we jumped back in our car.

Unfortunately, thanks to our frosty climbs, by the time we got back to Moab my body had decided it was done performing the fruitless task of keeping me warm. I was cold all night. I had to wear a t-shirt, thermal top, and hoodie just to keep the goosebumps at bay.

The following day we got goosed in a different kind of way. More on that next week.

18 Nov

Gaining Momentum

Posted by on November 18, 2016 at 4:08 pm

Recently, our friend Adam visited from out of state. Remembering how much he liked indoor rock climbing, we invited him to join us for an evening at Momentum doing precisely that. Adam, excitable in general, was especially excited about this. His enthusiasm was not misplaced; we had a fantastic time completely depleting ourselves.

Adam's overabundance of climbing enthusiasm was contagious.

Adam’s overabundance of climbing enthusiasm was contagious.

Something may be troubling you. Namely, why would someone with an aversion to high places exert a lot of effort to pull herself into one? Don’t try to make sense of it; simply think of it as a warped kind of therapy. Sure, my hands shook the first time I went up the wall, like they always do on my initial climb, but I relaxed after a bit and had the satisfaction of knowing I’d taken a little more power away from that which frightens me.

You can have a good time doing intimidating things.

You can have a good time doing intimidating things.

Jason has an unusually-long arm span, making him the perfect monkey.

Jason has an unusually-long arm span, making him the perfect monkey.

Yes, we had a tremendous and exhausting time… not to mention an amusing one. Have you ever seen a T. rex try to do a pull-up? Yup, that’s why rock climbing with me is highly entertaining.

This picture gives the illusion that I have arm muscles. Go ahead and believe your eyes; I don't mind.

This picture gives the illusion that I have arm muscles. Go ahead and believe your eyes; I don’t mind.

Incidentally, three is a perfect size for a rock-climbing group. Everyone gets a lot of wall time but also breaks here and there to get a grip on their grip.

12 Nov

Nothing Like Nebo

Posted by on November 12, 2016 at 4:44 pm

Due to the success and satisfaction of our hike to Desolation Peak, my nephews became interested in hiking Mount Nebo, an idea I may have placed in their heads. So, on Labor Day, a select group of my family just went for it. Climbing Nebo was predictably tiring, a little scary, and totally amazing!

Although it was early when we started, we were ready to climb and conquer.

Although it was early when we started, we were ready to climb and conquer.

Mt. Nebo, at an elevation of 11,929, is the highest peak in the Wasatch Range. Sorry Timp fans, your beloved’s 11,750 feet don’t even come close.* Getting to the top of Nebo and back requires 8.5 miles of trekking and about 3,400 feet of elevation change, not too bad for a mount of that magnitude.

We passed through meadows lit by brilliant fingers of sunshine.

We passed through meadows lit by brilliant fingers of sunshine.

My dad, brother-in-law, and a couple nephews began the journey with us early from the Mona Pole Trailhead. The weather was predicted to be cold. Temperatures in the 30s at the top and 20-MPH winds were possible. We brought beanies and as many jackets as we could stuff in our packs; they turned out to be unnecessary. The conditions stayed pleasant and temperatures remained in the 60s for most of our hike. This trail did not come with shade, at least not much, so the cooler temperatures were perfect in combination with that constant sun exposure.

The trail to Nebo didn't mess around with switchbacks; it just scaled straight up.

The trail to Nebo didn’t mess around with switchbacks; it just scaled straight up.

It took us eight hours to make the roundtrip trek to Nebo’s northern false summit, more commonly known as Wolf Pass Peak. Wolf Pass Peak has an elevation of 11,440 feet, almost 500 feet less than the true summit.

Wolf Pass, at the base of Nebo's toughest slopes, provided views in every direction.

Wolf Pass, at the base of Nebo’s toughest slopes, provided views in every direction.

Why didn’t we make it to the true summit when it was only half a mile away? Excellent question. Well, two members of our party had to turn around 30 minutes before we reached the apex of Wolf Pass Peak due to a poorly-scheduled music lesson. Hence, my dad was placed in charge of my nephew’s safety, a responsibility that made him nervous thanks to the omnipresent drop-offs. (I don’t remember my dad being edgy about taking his kids out on questionable precipices when I was young.) He wasn’t about to scramble to the true summit while on guardian duty.

Not a bad spot to meditate.

Not a bad spot to meditate.

Jason and I considered going to the true summit, the North Peak, without my dad and nephew, after all we were only about 45 minutes from the tippy top, but sense eventually got the better of us. Here’s the thing, the terrain between Wolf Pass Peak and the North Peak on Nebo is scary. It’s what mountaineers call “a knife edge.” Why? Because it looks as thin as a blade and feels even more dangerous. On a knife edge, you will find an overabundance of diluted air instead of ground at your feet.

For a big mound, Nebo's Wolf Pass Peak had a tiny top.

For a big mound, Nebo’s Wolf Pass Peak had a tiny top.

We asked a couple descending groups about their summit experience to ascertain if the trail was as daunting as it looked. The first couple we questioned told us that going to the summit was the most frightening incident of their lives. The next group said it wasn’t as bad as Kings Peak or Timpanogos, both mountains we’ve scaled without issue. These conflicting accounts didn’t help us guess the correct amount of dread we should be feeling.

This picture does not properly portray the sketchiness of the path between Wolf Pass Peak and the North Peak.

This picture does not properly portray the sketchiness of the path between Wolf Pass Peak and the North Peak.

We decided to try continuing but after about five minutes of carefully treading through rocky twirls where a misstep could mean taking a swift shortcut to the bottom, I realized I was likely to have a height-induced panic attack and that wouldn’t decrease my chances of hurting myself. Hence, we settled for Wolf Pass Peak and made it back undamaged.

Even on Wolf Pass Peak, the landscape was a little dizzying.

Even on Wolf Pass Peak, the landscape was a little dizzying.

It was a fantastic hike with jaw-dropping views that I got to enjoy with my fantastic family. Sometimes the tough things in life are the easiest.

I would recommend this trek to any stout-hearted nature-lover, with a caution to evaluate skills and conditions before jumping on the path from Wolf Pass Peak to the true summit.

* “Close” has been defined here as 178 feet for the purpose of me being right.

4 Nov

Debunking Con Categorizations

Posted by on November 4, 2016 at 2:07 pm

Comic cons have a reputation. You know of what I speak. They suffer from the misconception that their attendees are all social outcasts that fill their elaborate costumes with the overpowering stench of their rancid BO and couldn’t find a date even if their cousin were a Habsburg.

While these stereotypes aren’t entirely undeserved, they are at least largely inaccurate. Since I have been asked several times lately, in a condescending manner, what one does at a comic con and with whom, I feel like I should set the record straight. Yes, mostly because I love telling people how wrong they are.

Below you will find the most common comic con myths I have encountered and the reasons for their erroneousness.

Myth #1: You will detect no hints of hygienic products at comic cons.

Incorrect. While you will come across an attendee now and then that is little too ripe in their Batsuit, most smell at least tolerable. Honestly, that’s about the best you can hope for anywhere.

Pikachu is one of the most adored anime characters of all time.

Pikachu is one of the most adored anime characters of all time.

Myth #2: Unless you wear a Wolverine costume to bed every night, you aren’t a serious enough fan to enjoy a comic con.

Not true. There is a little something for every type and level of fan at comic cons. And, frankly, it’s fun just to observe the rampant enthusiasm of others.

Arthur Darvill played one of my favorite Doctor Who characters.

Arthur Darvill played one of my favorite Doctor Who characters.

Myth #3: If you tell your associates that you went to a comic con they will think less of you as a human being.

False. Apart from those that suffer from what I call “too-cool syndrome,” you will find that most of your acquaintances are either envious of your attendance or have been to a comic con themselves. As for the too-cool kids, they are in fact the most uncool people you will ever meet because they care too much about what others think of their interests to pursue hobbies out of their comfort zone. You are already cooler than them.

I got a Spock tattoo. No, not a permanent one. Would you want your illogicalness constantly judged by those Vulcan eyebrows for the rest of your life?

I got a Spock tattoo. No, not a permanent one. Would you want your illogicalness constantly judged by those Vulcan eyebrows for the rest of your life?

Myth #4: If you don’t have a shrine for your life-size Asuna doll built in your closet, you will have nothing in common with the patrons at comic cons.

Wrong. Most of the people at comic cons are just regular folks. Well, regular folks that like to wear spandex or collect functional lightsabers. Don’t worry, if you do have a shrine in your closet, you can find friends at comic cons too.

Han Solos? An oxymoron or just a couple of morons?

Han Solos? An oxymoron or just a couple of morons?

Myth #5: Your friends wouldn’t be caught dead at a comic con.

Bogus. I’ve seen your friends at comic cons. And, need I mention the obvious, I’m your friend and I’m at comic cons. We see so many of our buddies at comic cons that we regularly set up lunch or dinner dates with them during these events to catch up and discuss our fondest con experiences. It’s one of my favorite parts of these conventions.

Mark Hamill filled nearly all of the Vivint Smart Home Arena's 20,000 seats, his largest audience to date.

Mark Hamill filled nearly all of the Vivint Smart Home Arena’s 20,000 seats, his largest audience to date.

Myth #6: A star panel couldn’t possibly be interesting unless you are so obsessed with the celebrity that you named your oldest and second-oldest kids after them.

Untrue. While celebrities are hardly heroes, they are entertaining people with amusing stories about things you will find fascinating and funny. You don’t have to be a hardcore stalker to appreciate a captivating talker. (Yup, I just made that up.)

Resistance is fun!

Resistance is fun!

Myth #7: The types of people that go to comic cons have no social skills and are therefore impossible to mingle with.

Wrong. We’ve met many intriguing and outgoing people at comic cons. Troy, how’s it going buddy?

We had a great time at Salt Lake Comic Con this fall. We listened to Mark Hamill, Will Shatner, Arthur Darvill, and Evanna Lynch. We learned about the ways sci-fi has addressed society’s woes. I even got the face of a green-blooded Vulcan tattooed on my arm. And, of course, we grabbed a meal or two with friends that we hadn’t seen in months. It was an entertaining event.

You must let go of your preconceptions, pride, dignity, ego, and “coolness” to experience the true power of comic cons. Will you meet an occasional fan that is eager to slither back to their mother’s basement to practice Parseltongue on their boa constrictor? Probably. But hey, who wouldn’t want to have an elegant conversation with their snakey? Just go with it.

24 Oct

A Browncoat Bash

Posted by on October 24, 2016 at 6:00 pm

Science fiction is my favorite entertainment genre, which is why I gobble up good sci-fi faster than the Crystalline Entity chomps organic life. Therefore, it should shock no one that Jason and I are Firefly fans, tasty sci-fi to be sure, and count ourselves among the rough and nerdy followers of that series commonly referred to as “Browncoats.” Also not surprisingly, we opted to attend the Browncoat Ball in Salt Lake City this fall like others with similar tastes in outerwear.

Although we were the only ones in our rail group to do so, Jason and I wore attire befitting the 'Verse.

Although we were the only ones in our rail group to do so, Jason and I wore attire befitting the ‘Verse.

It was fun to see a different side of Deer Creek Reservoir.

It was fun to see a different side of Deer Creek Reservoir.

The Browncoats put on a national shindig annually that happened to be in Utah this year. Even though I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from this event, I signed us up. After all, sci-fi is all about going daringly into the unknown and I am nothing if not daring… except when it comes to small places, high places, germs, swift water, sun exposure, meat, insects, crooked lines, movie gore, and so forth.

I love this picture of Jason except his oddly-placed arm.

I love this picture of Jason except his oddly-placed arm.

Not only did we decide to attend the actual ball, a black-tie evening full of great food, singing, heists, auctions, and dancing, we also opted to do a day activity with some of the Browncoat crew, a three-hour outing on the Heber Creeper. Yes, clearly a reference to “The Train Job.”

The Heber Creeper stopped at Vivian Park to switch the position of its engine.

The Heber Creeper stopped at Vivian Park to switch the position of its engine.

We enjoyed chatting with this bunch of fan strangers while our train ambled down the track.

We enjoyed chatting with this bunch of fan strangers while our train ambled down the track.

The Heber Valley Railroad, AKA Heber Creeper, runs from Heber to Vivian Park in Provo Canyon primarily on the power of steam locomotives over 100 years old. We had never gone through Provo Canyon on these bygone tracks before so we thought we might as well give it a whirl with some Firefly friends.

Because of the Asian influences in Firefly, I chose to purchase my dress for the ball from India. Claustrophobics of the world take note, Indian dresses do not have zippers. You have to wiggle your way out of them.

Because of the Asian influences in Firefly, I chose to purchase my dress for the ball from India. Claustrophobics of the world take note, Indian dresses do not have zippers. You have to wiggle your way out of them.

The Heber Creeper has been accurately named, in case you are wondering. Our train definitely crawled unhurriedly but the scenery we passed was pretty and we had a shiny time chatting with a group of people, most of them out-of-towners, with whom we had an instant commonality.

We did both old-school and run-of-the-mill dancing at the ball.

We did both old-school and run-of-the-mill dancing at the ball.

I’m glad that exploring unusual pursuits with strangers does not intimidate me. Perhaps I am ready now to journey to the stars or tackle touching food without washing my hands.