Monthly Archives: September 2016


23 Sep

Seeking Desolation

Posted by on September 23, 2016 at 11:50 pm

I am a big fan of Utah’s mountains. So when I realized a few months ago that it had been a couple years since I’d hiked to the top of one, I resolved not to let summer pass without doing just that. I invited my family to come along with Jason and me on my “hike-a-mountain day” and a group of them opted in. Together, we reached the crest of Desolation Peak. It was beautiful family-bonding time. Geeze, I am just full of monumental ideas.

We started out early but still didn't make it back until late afternoon.

We started out early but still didn’t make it back until late afternoon.

The path to Desolation Peak, at least the route we took, starts in Big Cottonwood Canyon and ascends 2,706 feet in total. About four miles in, it reaches Desolation Lake, which sits in a colorful basin 766 feet below the summit.

Desolation Lake was a perfect snack spot.

Desolation Lake was a perfect snack spot.

My sister, two of her boys, and my dad were our companions on this trek. Everyone but my dad started out early in the morning. He came up three or four hours later due to a scheduling conflict but it only took him an hour and a half to reach us as we were descending the tippy top. Yup, my dad is a rock star.

Desolation Lake was incredibly clear.

Desolation Lake was incredibly clear.

Our initial climb may have been missing a father but it wasn’t missing the gumption to go farther. We rose up that mountain like silk boxers on a bull rider and then took a waterside break at Desolation Lake. Desolation Lake was beautifully clear, vibrantly teal, and uninhabited… except by salamanders that didn’t seem to be dwelling it well because there were quite a few dead ones about the water. We ate lunch in this gorgeous bowl, away from any decaying lizards, and then we aimed for the summit.

The boys thought the undisturbed lake waters needed to be skipped.

The boys thought the undisturbed lake waters needed to be skipped.

Panoramas of Park City were a surprise bonus with this trek.

Panoramas of Park City were a surprise bonus with this trek.

When we reached the saddle, we noticed ski lifts directly below us on the opposite side of the ridge. That’s when Jason and I had an aha moment. The valley on the other side was Park City. Desolation Peak, which tops out at 9,990 feet, sits directly above Jason’s favorite run at Canyons Resort (now part of Park City Mountain Resort), Ninety-Nine 90. Aha indeed.

Everyone made it to the summit without too much strain.

Everyone made it to the summit without too much strain.

One of the best things about hiking a mountain is what you find at your feet.

One of the best things about hiking a mountain is what you find at your feet.

The scramble from the saddle to the summit was a little tricky simply because there wasn’t an established trail. We circumnavigated most of the zenith trying to find a defined route before giving up on that and just climbing. That did it!

Desolation Peak's saddle offered spectacular views of two valleys.

Desolation Peak’s saddle offered spectacular views of two valleys.

Desolation Peak was a fantastic 10-mile trek. The boys went against youngster tradition and did not complain at all but rather seemed to enjoy themselves. The weather was nearly perfect, not too hot; we did get rained on a little on our way down though. Even the wildlife indulged our undertaking. We ran into a moose mommy and her calf during our ascent and a bull moose as we were returning. Bully!

I'm glad this bull moose wasn't nervous around people because a nervous moose would make me nervous.

I’m glad this bull moose wasn’t nervous around people because a nervous moose would make me nervous.

I’d highly recommend this trail to all of those that love hiking and to all of those that don’t. The distance is decent but not strenuous and the compensation, in the form of outstanding views and waterfront opportunities, is lucrative. Also, I’d recommend hiking in general. There is something almost mystical about stepping up a mountain. The whole world seems to slow down to the rhythm of your feet. Moreover, it can stimulate conversations like few other activities can. When your primary goal is simply taking one stride after another, a talk about almost anything can be quite welcome. Yes, monotony becomes your ally and discussions erupt. So connect with your kin and nature. Go hike a mountain!

12 Sep

Sin City Surprises

Posted by on September 12, 2016 at 9:26 pm

I’m going to be honest; I was not planning on posting about our most recent trip to Las Vegas. Jason and I have visited Vegas so many times that its gaudy streets and maze-like casinos are beyond our notice or noteworthiness. However, on this occasion, Vegas provided a few blabber-worthy surprises… hence, the blabber.

Jason had to go to Las Vegas for a conference and I flew down to meet up with him less than a day later. Our pretty standard rendezvous ended up being not so typical in a few ways.

Surprise #1: the thorough groin pat-down I got at the airport. Apparently, those high-tech security machines sometimes mistake space for stuff. So loose-fitting clothes are not ideal travel apparel for those that prefer to pass on preflight groin massages. You learn something new every day.

Our balcony gave us a rare chance to observe Vegas from a peaceful perspective.

Our balcony gave us a rare chance to observe Vegas from a peaceful perspective.

Surprise #2: the lightning storm that bombarded the hills around Vegas with constant surges of power the first night we were there. Our room’s balcony provided prime seats for this display and I think it was a better show than most I’ve seen in Vegas. I’m relatively certain the people swarming the streets below us didn’t have a clue that beyond the hotel towers and overpowering neons, nature was flashing them more enthrallingly than those girls in the club they just walked out of.

I didn't bring my SLR camera to Vegas so I was forced to use a point and shoot on this lightning storm. It was almost unbearable.

I didn’t bring my SLR camera to Vegas so I was forced to use a point and shoot on this lightning storm. It was almost unbearable.

Surprise #3: the weather. It wasn’t blistering hot. We’ve been to Vegas many times in the middle of summer and on none of those occasions would I call the weather “pleasant.” But this time, clouds and splatterings of rain cooled Vegas’ blazing temperament and left us comfortable.

Even during the day, Vegas was intriguing from above.

Even during the day, Vegas was intriguing from above.

In other ways, Vegas was very standard during our stay. Its stellar entertainment did not surprise. Our first night, we went to Jersey Boys, which was fantastic. Jersey Boys is closing this month after running in Vegas for eight years so I’m glad we didn’t miss it. The next night we saw Evil Dead: The Musical. This show was silly and ridiculous and drenched in fake blood and crude remarks. It was just what we expected. I laughed so hard in a couple parts that my jaw froze.

I guess Vegas has been hiding a few aces up its sleeves all these years because this trip wasn’t our standard Nevada venture.

6 Sep

Dams and Twerps Part III

Posted by on September 6, 2016 at 4:54 pm

In this post, I cover the last couple days of our European vacation. And you thought it would never end…

Day 7: Spicy Masterpieces

Since we had been getting up between 6:30 and 7:30 every morning in order to have enough time to sightsee before attractions closed at 5 PM, we welcomed a dawn when this wasn’t necessary. Sleeping in until 8:30 felt delightful. We spent the bit of time before our train ride to Amsterdam doing a little shopping in Antwerp, the city of fashion.

At the Rembrandtplein, a pleasant park, The Night Watch has been turned 3D.

At the Rembrandtplein, a pleasant park, The Night Watch has been turned 3D.

After we arrived back in Amsterdam, we headed to the Rijksmuseum. We only had an hour and a half before the gallery’s closing to check out some of its more noteworthy compositions like Rembrandt’s The Night Watch and Vermeer’s The Kitchen Maid. In all, we covered a fraction of one of the museum’s four floors but the masterpieces we got to experience in that brief time were… well… masterful.

Indrapura, an Indonesian restaurant, specializes in rijsttafel. A rijsttafel is about 20 different courses.

Indrapura, an Indonesian restaurant, specializes in rijsttafel. A rijsttafel is about 20 different courses.

To finish off the evening, we ate rijsttafel at an Indonesian restaurant called Indrapura. During the Netherland’s colonial days, the Dutch found Indonesian food too hot so they paired all native cuisine with rice to diminish its spiciness. This style of meal became known as rijsttafel and it’s Indrapura’s forte. Apparently, rijsttafel is all about stuffing your face with 20 different dishes while simultaneously stuffing yourself with rice. That’s what our dinner entailed. Jason ordered a dessert after our 20 rijsttafel courses, which I thought was a little ridiculous.

Day 8: Revolving Marvels

We spent our final day in Europe at the Zaanse Schans. The Zaanse Schans is an open-air museum that features eight working windmills and a collection of historical buildings. Bounded by the Zaan River on one side and idyllic fields dotted with grazing animals on the other, the setting at the Zaanse Schans is charming. However, its tranquility is lessened by the herds of tourists surging about. We still quite enjoyed it though.

The Zaan district, the oldest industrial region in the world, once contained over 1000 windmills.

The Zaan district, the oldest industrial region in the world, once contained over 1000 windmills.

It took some seriously-fake muscles to pretend to push this over-5000-kilo edge runner.

It took some seriously-fake muscles to pretend to push this over-5000-kilo edge runner.

Fortunately, we visited the Zaanse Schans on a day when the wind cooperated with mill operations. All the windmills, fully-functioning pieces of history, were turning enthusiastically in the spirited breeze. Their bright sails contrasted strikingly against the cerulean sky as they performed their circular dance.

The Seeker was built in 1676. It still squeezes and pounds linseed into oil.

The Seeker was built in 1676. It still squeezes and pounds linseed into oil.

We were able to go inside The Cat, The Seeker, The Young Sheep, and The Colorful Hen. We loved discovering their rotating wheels and climbing through their narrow passageways. The power behind their spinning blades was exponentially more apparent, and a little scary, up close.

The Zaanse Schans contains a quiet fishing village full of unquiet tourists.

The Zaanse Schans contains a quiet fishing village full of unquiet tourists.

The Young Sheep, seen here through The Cat's cap winder, was rebuilt in 2007 from detailed diagrams.

The Young Sheep, seen here through The Cat’s cap winder, was rebuilt in 2007 from detailed diagrams.

At the Zaanse Schans, a quaint fishing village has also been preserved. There we saw how clogs are made. Touristy? Yes! Fun? Absolutely!

The Cat, the last paint windmill in the world, offers lots of nooks, gaps, and motion.

The Cat, the last paint windmill in the world, offers lots of nooks, gaps, and motion.

We made it back to Amsterdam in time for a tasty Italian dinner at Eatmosfera and a stroll through our hotel’s private gardens. Relaxing by a warbling fountain as the night darkened around us (It was around 11 PM but it wasn’t black yet.) was a perfect way to end our vacation.

Europe was lovely, and tiring, and intriguing, and stressful, and unfamiliar, and delicious. We didn’t enjoy every minute of it but we enjoyed 90.2574% of its minutes and I think that’s pretty significant as far as vacation statistics go.