Monthly Archives: November 2013


29 Nov

The Harvest Ball

Posted by on November 29, 2013 at 8:25 pm

That little disagreement between the northern and southern states that happened a few years back, give or take a hundred and fifty or so, may have marked a dark time in American history but at least the dresses of the period weren’t as bleak as the politics. And since, frankly, I’m happy revisiting any era as long as the corresponding frocks are pretty fabulous, when an opportunity presented itself to return to Civil-War America, my ringlets and pantaloons were in place faster than the quick step makes you skedaddle to an Irish shanty.

I love dancing in any era.

I love dancing in any era.

We attended the Harvest Ball a couple of weeks ago put on by the Fort Douglas Military Museum. This annual event replicates the 1860s in dress, dance and delicacies. However, unlike the actual 1860s, at this shindig the only arms taken up by the Union and Confederate soldiers present were those belonging to their ladies. If only we all could have gotten along so harmoniously back in the day.

All my layers made me very hot. I don't usually enjoy frigid window-air much but that night it felt exquisite.

All my layers made me very hot. I don’t usually enjoy frigid window-air much but that night it felt exquisite.

I made Civil War time-period outfits for Jason and me a number of years ago so I didn’t have to scramble to find us something appropriate to wear that evening. Still, that didn’t mean my attire struggles were over. I was certain that a wardrobe incident was imminent with my enormous hoopskirt surrounding me like a giant carnivorous creampuff. Just walking around in that colossal ensemble felt dangerous enough, dancing in it seemed tantamount to begging for embarrassment. But, although I did clumsily step on my dress a couple of times while prancing around the hall, miraculously I never faltered on my face. Praise be to the gods of puffy undergarments!

Not everyone came dressed for the right century but most did.

Not everyone came dressed for the right century but most did.

Dancing in costume did turn out to be quite diverting despite the inherent difficulties. We ladies weren’t used to giving each other such a wide girth and our swirling skirts collided frequently, much to our amusement. You’ve never known mirth until you’ve twirled and bounced around while sporting orbiting hoops with their own gravitational forces.

Jason looked very gentlemanly in his cavalry duds.

Jason looked very gentlemanly in his cavalry duds.

What a charming evening filled with antique attire and lively entertainment. Thankfully, that entertainment did not include me performing a face plunge, although such a maneuver would definitely have made the night more historical.

22 Nov

Revisiting Moab

Posted by on November 22, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Moab is one of my favorite places on planet Earth, well the entire Solar System really. Jason and I just made our biannual trip to its weather-sculpted plateaus and untouched deserts that feel a bit like home to us…a home with an infinite crawl space. We spent three days seeking out adventure in its unexplored routes and novel crevices. Seek and ye shall find fun, or so I hear.

The switchbacks descending into Mineral Bottom seemed never ending on the way down and a lot more never ending on the way back up.

The switchbacks descending into Mineral Bottom seemed never ending on the way down and a lot more never ending on the way back up.

The hype surrounding the White Rim Trail has always made Jason and me curious…and skeptical. This 100-mile-long 4WD road below the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park could possibly be the most popular scenic ride anywhere. Between the 4WDs, dirt bikes and mountain bikes, it apparently becomes a crammed freeway during peak season. Experiencing the marvels of “peaceful solitude” alongside throngs of people? No thanks. That’s why Jason and I thought we’d give this famous path a try while the nature-obsessed hordes were absent thanks to the nearness of winter. We only saw a couple of 4WDs and a handful of bikers our entire day on the rim. Hallelujah for November!

Jason took this picture of me from one switchback up. It looks like an aerial shot.

Jason took this picture of me from one switchback up. It looks like an aerial shot.

The White Rim Trail practically jumps into the Green River.

The White Rim Trail practically jumps into the Green River.

We accessed the White Rim via Mineral Bottom Road, hopping on our bikes right before this path plunges to the actual bottom of Mineral Bottom over a series of gnarly switchbacks. We sped past the remains of four or five cars that had probably dived over the side of this narrow thoroughfare many years ago. Unsettling. Once we finished our descent to the river, our journey became practically effortless. White Rim is neither technically challenging nor physically difficult, apart from the brutal climb necessary to emerge from its bottom. In fact, I would venture that it’s the easiest trail we’ve ever done in Moab.

The weather was pleasant in Moab but extra layers were necessary off and on. I got sick of pulling off and on my warm warmers so in a ridiculous halfway-state they stayed.

The weather was pleasant in Moab but extra layers were necessary off and on. I got sick of pulling off and on my arm warmers so in a ridiculous halfway-state they stayed.

Was it worthy of all the hype? Not really. Towering plateaus with odd-shaped crowns encircled us and the Green River nonchalantly sprawled out at our feet surrounded by a halo of yellowing leaves but, as ideal as that setting sounds, the scenery was not any prettier than some we’ve witnessed at other less-acclaimed locations. With the seclusion we enjoyed that day, this ride was well worth it but would it be worth it in the presence of an endless caravan of tourists bent on experiencing the “wilderness”? Absolutely not. There are plenty of gorgeous places around Moab where you can enjoy nature’s exquisiteness without nature’s plague, AKA man.

This beautiful overlook on the Portal Trail marked the beginning of the ill-advised portion of the path.

This beautiful overlook on the Portal Trail marked the beginning of the ill-advised portion of the path.

Signs such as this were posted at several points on the Portal Trail.

Signs such as this were posted at several points on the Portal Trail.

Thanks to the time change, we only had enough daylight to bike a little over 20 miles of the White Rim but, with the 1000-foot ascent out of Mineral Bottom squished into a fraction of a mile, we got a hardy workout anyway.

Do you see a path in the middle of this cliff? No? There is one: the perilous Portal Trail.

Do you see a path in the middle of this cliff? No? There is one: the perilous Portal Trail.

Our second day in Moab is traditionally our hiking day. We give our sore butts a brief breather and use our feet for something besides pedaling. This time we packed our hiking day with not one but two adventures. First, we hit the infamous Portal Trail. Why is it infamous you ask? For starters, it’s one of the most dangerous trails in the world and has claimed the lives of three bikers. This route is a thousand feet up from the valley floor and right, and I mean right, on the edge of a 200-foot cliff. A three-foot ledge between the precipice above and the precipice below is all you’ve got to travel on and, believe me, it’s not much. It was scary enough just walking it, I can’t imagine the level of derangement necessary to consider biking it. The views of the Colorado River, too far below, were amazing but I found myself hugging the path while those precarious heights made me a little woozy. Beauty and terror: sounds more like your typical dating scene than a leisurely trip down a little portal.

False Kiva is tucked away in a hidden cave on the side of a rock face.

False Kiva is tucked away in a hidden cave on the side of a rock face.

The area around Moab has so much geological diversity that the terrain looks completely different from one spot to the next.

The area around Moab has so much geological diversity that the terrain looks completely different from one spot to the next.

After our 5-mile trek through the Portal of Death, Jason and I went on a different kind of adventure, the secret kind. False Kiva, so named because its origins are unknown, is a round stone structure built in a remote cave in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. Don’t bother looking for a trail to it on your park map, you won’t find one. While the 1.6-mile route to the kiva is pretty well-marked, the debate on whether to disclose the exact location of this archeological site has never been resolved and so it remains semi-concealed. We had a great time wandering the hush-hush path to this cave and photographing its cryptic kiva. Nothing makes something more fascinating than a secret.

These nameless precipices provided an excellent viewpoint from which to gawk at the Book Cliffs.

These nameless precipices provided an excellent viewpoint from which to gawk at the Book Cliffs.

The ride to the Book Cliffs overlook crossed a steep tongue of slickrock.

The ride to the Book Cliffs overlook crossed a steep tongue of slickrock.

Our last day in Moab we decided to divert from the beaten path even more than usual and take a little-known 4WD trail up to an obscure viewpoint overlooking the Book Cliffs. The Book Cliffs are the longest continuous escarpment in the world, traveling through a hundred miles of Utah and Colorado. The path we rode to “view” them was a little less than six miles total but it was so swathed in loose stones that it took us three hours to complete this outing. Although the panoramas of the Book Cliffs from the overlook were splendid, we found the unnamed precipices that the overlook itself was located on to be more interesting. We paused for an awesome snack break on their brink above Salt Valley’s beautiful desolation. What a nice, although rocky, little jaunt.

The "road" to the Book Cliffs overlook was as rocky as they come and very tricky to ride.

The “road” to the Book Cliffs overlook was as rocky as they come and very tricky to ride.

Moab, our favorite nature-made playground, again proved itself superior to any manufactured monkey-bars. We tired ourselves out pedaling its rimmed plateaus, discovered a few of its guarded secrets and witnessed some of its greatest dangers. It’s hard to cram that much intrigue into three days but somehow we managed.

16 Nov

The Cycling Cycle

Posted by on November 16, 2013 at 12:40 am

Although I’ve been mountain biking since I was a teenager, that activity has never teetered toward mundane. How could the exhilaration of aerobic accomplishment accompanied by the beauty of remote landscapes and a touch of danger ever get old? It’s a stupid question so don’t bother trying to answer it.

Sharp peaks topped with tenacious snow above fields of wild grasses gorged on spring's runoff: rides don't get prettier than this.

Sharp peaks topped with tenacious snow above fields of wild grasses gorged on spring’s runoff: rides don’t get prettier than this.

Adam didn't welcome the uphill portion of Big Springs Hollow but he did love zooming down.

Adam didn’t welcome the uphill portion of Big Springs Hollow but he did love zooming down.

Once the lingering bits of stubborn snow finally receded last spring, Jason and I went mountain biking as often as possible, too many times for each of our adventures to warrant its own fuss. Instead, all those experiences have been lumped together into this giant tribute to a summer of marvelous cycling.

You may not be able to see the little bumps on Abigail's arm in this tiny picture but they are there and they were the workings of a stinging nettle consortium.

You may not be able to see the little bumps on Abigail’s arm in this tiny picture but they are there and they were the workings of a stinging nettle consortium.

We are Lambert Park regulars.

We are Lambert Park regulars.

The first trail we hit this year, outside Moab of course, was Big Springs Hollow in Provo Canyon. This ride has a relentless uphill portion but the trip down, through lush meadows and pleasant woods, is completely worth that exertion. We took our friends Adam and Abigail with us on this inaugural occasion in hopes that it would convince them to continue their pursuit of pedaling and perhaps it would have had fate, and a bridge, not intervened. Abigail swerved around a corner too fast while descending the mountain and skidded off a rail-less bridge into a healthy bunch of stinging nettle growing brookside. This bridge was only a couple of feet from the ground but, since it was Abigail’s first mountain-biking tumble, she was pretty shaken by the affair and completely convinced that the plants she’d encountered were poison ivy. (They were not. If you doubt me, I have photographic proof and would be happy to share it because I am a pesky know-it-all.) Needless to say, Abigail has not expressed interest in riding with us since. For some, the dangers of mountain biking are all very well until they actually become dangerous. Maybe someday Abigail will forget that mountain biking hurts and concede to try it again.

Chunks of Lambert Park were in this sad state when we rode it in August.

These hardy grasses had been utterly flattened by surges of water.

These hardy grasses had been utterly flattened by surges of water.

Chunks of Lambert Park were in this sad state when we rode it in August.

Besides Big Springs Hollow, Jason and I rode many of our other usual paths this year: Lambert Park, Mill Creek Canyon, Corner Canyon and American Fork Canyon. Most of our rides were pretty uneventful with just the usual scrapes and some mouth-dropping scenery but a couple were a little more out of the norm.

Mud doesn't bother me until it clogs my gears and immobilizes my tires.

Mud doesn’t bother me until it clogs my gears and immobilizes my tires.

Goo this thick accumilated on my bike every few minutes while we were riding the shady side of American Fork Canyon.

Goo this thick accumulated on my bike every few minutes while we were riding the shady side of American Fork Canyon.

We hit Lambert Park in August, about three or four days after a rainstorm, and were quite surprised by the condition of the landscape. Some of you may recall the giant fire started near Lambert Park in 2012 that consumed a greater part of the mountain and threatened to burn a number of enormous homes. Well, due to the barren hillsides left in that blaze’s wake, what had been just a little summer rain for everyone else in the valley had become a mudslide and flooding threat for those singed foothills. We were astonished to find that the area had been disfigured by floodwaters only days before our ride. Huge expanses of bush and grass had been ripped out and washed over, parts of the trails that used to dip and rise had been leveled and thick muck had filled the gaps between the trunks of startled trees. It was boggling.

American Fork Canyon is always gorgeous when its leaves sing their annual gilded-swansong.

American Fork Canyon is always gorgeous when its leaves sing their annual gilded-swansong.

A ride up Corner Canyon early in October proved quite colorful.

A ride up Corner Canyon early in October proved quite colorful.

The last biking excursion that bears mentioning is one we took up American Fork Canyon in October. It had become uncharacteristically cold earlier that week and had snowed in the mountains. But, thanks to a few rather warm days, we thought we’d have a pleasant and snow-free ride. We were correct in assuming that there wouldn’t be much white stuff left but we ran into a different problem on the side of the mountain shaded from the sun: mud. I’m not talking about a miniscule layer of dirt that gets your toes a bit grimy, I’m talking about sludge so deep and viscous that it builds up on your tires and gears until your wheels won’t turn anymore. The most curious part of this ride was not the thick mud though but Jason’s lack of it. Anytime we go mountain biking I somehow end up 10X grubbier than him but that disparity was further amplified on this occasion. While Jason did not remain muck-free, he and his bike never looked remotely like they had been dredged up from the swamp that had swallowed me. We were biking the same trail and I weigh significantly less than him so how is it that my bicycle became so covered in filth while his only got a little splattered? I fear that some mysteries of the universe will never be solved.

The Canyon Hollow trail in Corner Canyon is a favorite of ours.

The Canyon Hollow Trail in Corner Canyon is a favorite of ours.

We went biking in Lambert Park earlier this month. The leaves littering the ground created a lovely scene and many hidden obstacles.

We went biking in Lambert Park earlier this month. The leaves littering the ground created a charming scene and many hidden obstacles.

We had a lovely, and mucky, time cycling in some picturesque surroundings this year. From the vibrant greens of spring grasses to the flaming leaves of fall, the world always looks better on the seat of a bike.

6 Nov

Halloween Happenings

Posted by on November 6, 2013 at 9:55 pm

It was a dark and stormy night…

Who doesn’t chill and thrill at the thought of Halloween? The morbid decorations, the piles of candy, the ridiculous costumes: it’s a lighthearted play on our inevitable demise that few can resist. For Jason and me, the bulk of our Halloween experiences revolve around the colossal party we throw but we always try to cram in a few extra morsels of seasonal fright when we’re not engrossed in entombing our home for that affair. This year we went to the scarier side of Cornbelly’s with our friends Adam and Abigail, yo-ho-hoed with the rest of the scurvy blaggards at a pirate gathering and made some delicious fall fixings for a distinguished gorging.

It came from the corn maze!

It came from the corn maze!

Cornbelly's is always rocking!

Cornbelly’s is always rocking!

While at Cornbelly’s with Adam and Abigail, we did lose ourselves in a corn maze, go on a hayride and watch pigs race but we were mostly fixated on the sinister side of agri-entertainment: Insanity Point. This dark corner of Cornbelly’s is devoted to spooking with several different haunts. There, amongst its ominous stalks and creepy stalkers, we let terror take hold and maliciously amuse us. We all had our moments of undignified apprehension. Adam often tried to convince Abigail to take the lead as we wandered shadowy passageways but instead she followed so closely behind us that she got stepped on or smacked every time one of us backtracked in fear. Yes, each of us shrieked that night but the highlight of my evening was hearing Jason scream like a little girl when one of the Big Top Terror clowns startled him good. It was glorious!

The Scallywag Siorre was crawling with snakes, scorpions, and tarantulas this year.

The Scallywag Soiree was crawling with snakes, scorpions, and tarantulas this year.

The snake I was given to hold was beautifully patterned but extremely wiggly. I didn't appreciate its squirming and it probably didn't appreciate mine.

The snake I was given to hold was beautifully patterned but extremely wiggly. I didn’t appreciate its squirming and it probably didn’t appreciate mine.

The Scallywag Soirée we attend every October is an elaborate pirate-themed party put on by a former employer. It makes our intensive Halloween get-together look like a pauper’s fling. This year’s swashbuckling bash held not only the usual delights of incredible props and heaps of food but also some extra creepies and crawlies. Scorpions, tarantulas and all manner of constricting serpents were brought in for the fondling. I’m not really too fond of fondling slithering beasts but I did it anyway. Time to face your fear little girl!

This scorpion seemed well-behaved enough until it made a run for it up my arm.

This scorpion seemed well-behaved enough until it made a run for it up my arm.

Amber and Jeremy were also invited to be bandits of the high seas.

Amber and Jeremy were also invited to be bandits of the high seas.

Cooking a spooky fall feast with Jason is always one of the highlights of my October. We have a blast making tasty food look disgusting. This year’s menu included: hearty pumpkin curry soup, witches’ fingers pretzels and cinnamon-sugar apple donut bites. Yum! Homemade pretzels, it turns out, are quite time-consuming to create, especially when they have to be shaped into digits, but our meal was delicious and grotesque.

These monster munchies were one of the many treats I surprised Jason with throughout the month.

These monster munchies were just one of the many treats I surprised Jason with throughout the month.

The food we made for our Halloween dinner turned out finger lickin' good.

The food we made for our Halloween dinner turned out finger lickin’ good.

We get swarms of trick-or-treaters every year. We only had five pieces of candy left from the pounds and pounds we bought.

We get swarms of trick-or-treaters every year. We only had five pieces of candy left from the pounds and pounds we bought this time.

Our own party haunts us every October but Jason and I usually slip away from that mayhem within to enjoy the chaos without a little. Between crawling through disgusting haylofts, dashing from chainsaws, caressing creatures and baking fingers, I think we had a pretty good run with chaos this year. We do always strive to remember the true meaning of Halloween: death and candy.