I am no artist. If you don’t believe me, I can draw you some convincing stick figures. However, because I am happy to undertake that which I suck at, I welcomed Jason’s suggestion of celebrating my birthday via a painting party at Painting with a Twist. Many of our friends also cheered this idea and, thus, it became a colorful reality.
We had 14 in our group, almost the studio max.
Since everyone at my party had to paint the same picture, I wanted it to be selected fairly. So, after sifting through over 4,000 options, I created a preference survey for a handful of the cooler ones. My survey didn’t exactly work. Someone (Cameron) took it multiple times. Consequently, the real winner, a Harry Potter castle, got supplanted by an Asian wave. Still, our Japanese-style surfs looked awesome!
I’m a perfectionist in all things, even that which I suck at.
The painting process went astonishingly fast so there wasn’t much time to socialize during it but we went to dinner at Leatherby’s with a subset of our party goers afterward, which offered more chances to chat.
Our waves, although from one source, took on distinct characteristics.
Thanks everyone that joined us for my twisted party. Nothing says “we’re friends” quite like matching decor.
We have a tradition of camping once a year with a group of our friends. This summer there was some chaos concerning the planning of this outing but, honestly, that is pretty common. However, I finally found us a nice spot at the Ledgefork Campground near the Smith and Morehouse Reservoir, which is on the western edge of the Uinta Mountains, on a weekend that worked for everyone. It was a great getaway… mostly.
Our camp spot was a double that offered ample room but not ample shade. Luckily, it was too cold for shade to be in demand.
We all arrived on Friday evening just in time for mallow roasting and campfire stories. The kids participated in the spinning of our fiery tales so most of them turned surprisingly gruesome or unbelievably implausible fairly quickly.
Jason should be logged with the boys. He has all the energy and naughtiness of one.
The following morning, after a night of cold-induced nonsleep, we went on a hike along the Smith and Morehouse Trail in search of a beaver dam. We were supposed to reach this stickly structure after just half a mile but, although we wandered for over an hour, that damn dam was nowhere to be found. Still, it was a lovely hike so we considered it a success… mostly.
Half the kids hiked without complaint; the other half gave up after a few minutes.
Our hike, though longer than anticipated, was refreshing.
We left the “wilderness” to eat lunch in the nearby town of Oakley at the cute Road Island Diner. This Art Deco cafe is historic, built in 1939, and its shakes are amazing. Plus, it has flushing toilets. Yeah for a break from hole go! Also, it has a roof. It started pouring while we were eating, a premonition of wetter things to come.
We gave up on seeing that damn beaver or its beaver dam eventually.
Some of the boys and kids in our group got a hankering to do a little fishing so after lunch we headed over to the Willow Springs Trout Farm. Hooking a fish at Willow Springs was a tad too easy. I’m pretty sure worms were unnecessary but the kids seemed to enjoy it… mostly. Generally, they did not appreciate the post-catching parts. For the record, I do not like fishing, no mostly about it.
The kids liked the drama of fishing.
We cooked fish and hotdogs for dinner over a fire that was unwell due to the sogginess of sporadic showers. Those showers were partly to blame for the premature death of our trip. Although most of us had planned on staying another night, it didn’t happen. Dampness, chilliness, and grouchiness jointly resulted in our camp being deserted hastily with accompanying drama. But what camping trip would be complete without someone getting tossed into the fire or impaled by a tent stake? Ok, maybe there weren’t any tent-stake impalings this time… mostly.
I can be an intimidating person to be married to. Just ask my husband.
I put a lot of effort into the gifts I bestow on others, which can cause panic when those others cannot concoct a thoughtful way to reciprocate. I have witnessed Jason squirming for this very reason. However, on our anniversary this year he had no reason to dread.
Every gift Jason gave me was tagged with the verse to which it belonged.
My favorite poem is T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. For our anniversary, Jason read this poem to me. Each verse had an associated gift. They were all tagged with fancy handwritten versions of the poignant words they referenced.
According to Jason, this particular scenario happened because the cat didn’t realize that a computer mouse isn’t a real mouse.
This wasn’t the first time Jason jotted The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in its entirety for me. He presented it bit by bit via handwritten scrolls the day he purposed. So this anniversary gift was a nod to that proposal.
The cat was intent on watching my bird watching book one morning.
Nice job Jason! It’s hard to keep up with a woman that sews a Han Solo costume or creates a whole scrapbook of lost childhood photos as just part of her spouse’s Christmas presents. Nicely done indeed.
On a side note, Jason moves the toy cat that was among his Eliot offerings around nearly every day, creating different feline motifs. I must say, it’s quite hilarious and Jason-ish.
This post covers our sea cave kayaking misadventures on Santa Cruz Island. If you can’t stomach barnacled flesh and wavy pounds, then read no further. For the words below are riddled with the beatings of the ocean and this human heart.
Channel Islands National Park gained its park status in 1980. The five islands that make up this park are about 20 miles off the coast of California and home to a number of species not found anywhere else on earth. Santa Cruz Island, the largest of these, is 96 square miles in size. The plunging cliffs on its shores are pocked with sea caves thanks to a fault line that has made them easy pickings for ocean erosion. One of these cavities, Painted Cave, is among the largest and deepest sea caves in the world. It extends almost a quarter of a mile and reaches widths of over 100 feet.
Shorts stuffed in a wetsuit make for a dynamite ensemble.
As intriguing as Santa Cruz Island may sound, it’s only accessible by boat… yes, literally one boat. There is a single ferry that drops passengers on Santa Cruz in the morning and returns to take them back to the mainland in the afternoon. The ride on this ferry was actually quite fun, although very slow. We saw a number of dolphins and Stellar sea lions right off our bow. Plus, we encountered a long line of offshore oil rigs.
There were five kayaks in our group.
The pier at Scorpion Anchorage, the only dock on Santa Cruz, has become rusty and unsafe over the years. The government, in its uniquely-incompetent way, has promised to fix this pier but is waiting for the funds to trickle through bureaucracy’s labyrinth. Apparently, that process will take a few more years. In the meantime, we had to take a small skiff, basically a motorized raft, from the ferry to the shore. I felt like James Bond landing on a treacherous coast… James Bond usually needs a few people to help him disembark from a skiff, right?
The Cavern was one of the scariest caves we went into. When waves would roll in, its opening would almost disappear in their crests.
The dozen or so kayakers assembled got split between two guides. I’m pretty sure we were separated based on the guides’ perception of our adventurousness. Evidently, the other group didn’t enter any caves while we, the wild ones, went into every nook.
Our group traveled along the coast, taking in its strange and holey splendor.
Jason and I opted to take a two-person kayak; it seemed appropriate for an anniversary trip. But we were warned that they are “vehicles of divorce.” Fortunately, our marriage survived our kayak’s double disorder but not without a few choice words… those come later.
Here’s the thing about sea caves. When even mild waves get shoved into a confined space they turn into much angrier surges. (I don’t blame them; I don’t like being tossed into tight spaces either.) So calm seas do not mean calm caves. Cramped quarters also create many opportunities for rocks to ram you at random, which brings me to my next point. The guides caution you not to touch any rocks if you capsize your kayak because sea-cave stones are seriously jagged and barnacled and ready to tear up flesh like an overripe banana thrown in a blender. (And I’m talking about a Blendtec or a Vitamix not some Walmart special.) This advice sounds wise, like not taking any wooden nickels. However, as my story will illustrate, not touching rocks when they are coming at you is like going to the Grand Canyon and not opening your eyes.
The coastline of Santa Cruz is rather bent and bizarre.
Although our guide didn’t compel anyone to enter grottos they weren’t comfortable with, we all paddled into every single one he suggested. Why? The peer pressure and curiosity were crippling I tell you! Harbor Seal Cave, The Elephant’s Belly, In-N-Out, and The Cavern were a few of the holes we packed ourselves into like floaters in a flushing toilet. These caves ranged from relatively mild to downright spin cycle.
This piercing beauty is Marge. Her innards are lengthier and sketchier than they appear.
Now it’s time for my Marge’s lament. Marge is not a cave but a rather long and narrow sea arch, so named because its pitted walls resemble the distinguishing feature of that Simpson character. Our guide recommended that everyone in our group try navigating through its tight and twisty corridor. Although, when probed, he admitted there was probably about a 50/50 chance of tipping before reaching the other side. Yet, pressure and pride got the better of us all and we unanimously committed to plunging through Marge’s spiny bowels.
This blowhole spewed salty drops at every wave.
Still, our conquest of that constricted arch might have proceeded without any inversions except our guide failed to give us one crucial piece of information. In the middle of Marge is a large boulder that is exposed when waves recede, at least when the tide is right. Yup, you can probably guess where this is going. Jason and I got halfway through the passage when, all of a sudden, we realized our kayak was sitting on stone and not water anymore. When the next wave came in it bashed our high-centered vessel right into the wall of the arch. Remember the guides’ advice about not touching the rocks?
I could have taken a whole series of photos at this picturesque spouter.
After some squabbling and miscommunicating, (Two-person kayaks really are harder to deal with in stressful and chaotic situations.) Jason and I managed to “self-rescue,” which means that we were able to get our butts back into our kayak on our own. Unfortunately, by this point I was bleeding from a number of gashes on my hand and foot. Still, we had over an hour left on our tour so I just toughed it out with a few soggy Band-Aids and some serious stubbornness. Jason managed to escape the incident with only a couple little cuts. He was farther from the wall than I was and had the sense to keep his hands to himself.
The Santa Cruz Island fox is only found on Santa Cruz Island. Thanks to their protected status, these cute critters are not intimidated by people.
In total, it took eight bandages of various sizes to cover my wounds. Despite the fact that Jason had to dig sand and barnacles out of my hand with a pin and tweezers, it healed up rather quickly. My foot, however, did not. It became swollen, splotchy, and alarmingly red in an extended area around one cut. Plus, that gash itched like crazy. I had to ice it on multiple occasions just to keep from scratching my skin off. I reopened the wound several times to clean it out and, about a week after our return, was ready to take it to the doctor when abruptly it started to improve.
Sadly, I hurt more than just flesh and ego in our tumble. The shoulder of the arm I caught myself with became irritatingly unhappy during our return flight. Its condition continued to worsen and, for a couple days, I was in a substantial amount of pain and couldn’t rotate or lift it. Jason had to be my lady’s maid. That shoulder is not quite itself yet.
The thought of Marge and her hidden perch still makes my heart pump a little but I have no regrets. Life’s great adventures require some rock bashings now and then. After all, who can say that they’ve been beaten up by Marge’s hair? Oh yeah, me.