Posts Filed Under: The Outside Insider


18 Jun

Escalante Escapades

Posted by on June 18, 2017 at 9:44 am

It was my turn to plan our anniversary outings this year. Finals week and anniversary fun don’t play well together but after the presentations and term papers were all done, Jason and I skipped town for some celebratory recreation.

Our yurt was unexpectedly spacious and swanky!

Our yurt was unexpectedly spacious and swanky!

Jason has been wistfully contemplating the merits of glamping for years. So, I decided to organize our anniversary trip around those whims. I found the perfect glamping spot and planned our excursion accordingly. We stayed at Escalante Yurts and absolutely loved it! Experiencing the best parts of camping with the ease of modern comforts was delightful. It poured the first night we were in Escalante and falling asleep to the rain hitting the canvas was as relaxing as waking the next morning to a chorus of birds. I guess Jason’s glamping fancies were not entirely groundless.

Graceful cascades aren't exactly common in the desert. That makes Lower Calf Creek Falls all the lovelier.

Graceful cascades aren’t exactly common in the desert. That makes Lower Calf Creek Falls all the lovelier.

We spent the majority of our first day in Escalante hiking to Lower Calf Creek Falls. Lower Calf Creek Falls is probably the most popular destination in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It’s a 124-foot desert waterfall that gracefully spills across colorful slickrock into a cool (cold, really) emerald pool. The six-mile out-and-back journey was easy but it still took most of our afternoon. Luckily, since we went on a weekday, this trail and its spectacular endpoint weren’t too crowded.

If only every desert had such an oasis.

If only every desert had such an oasis.

Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument hosts not just nature's creations but ancient man's as well.

Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument hosts not just nature’s creations but ancient man’s as well.

We ended the day with a stroll through the Devil’s Garden. Sandstone hoodoos and permission to climb anywhere make this the perfect playground for the curious and snap happy. We didn’t stay nearly long enough thanks to our bellyaching stomachs.

At the Devil's Garden, you can climb and explore freely.

At the Devil’s Garden, you can climb and explore freely.

The next day we passed on slotting it due to flashing dangers. The area around Escalante contains many famous slot canyons but, thanks to forecasted rain and flashflood dangers, we opted for less-flashy expeditions. Consequently, we spent the morning wandering among sleeping rainbows in Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. We hiked the Petrified Forest Trail and Trail of Sleeping Rainbows, about two miles in total. The Trail of Sleeping Rainbows is littered with petrified trees roughly 135 to 155 million years old. The motley colors of that frozen timber were unexpectedly bright and capricious.

The Devil's Garden is a rock and shot wonderland.

The Devil’s Garden is a rock and shot wonderland.

The Devil's Garden is wicked awesome!

The Devil’s Garden is wicked awesome!

After treading through stony trunks, we gambled on the weather staying good as long as it was predicted to and set out for Upper Calf Creek Falls. Calf Creek’s higher but stubbier falls don’t get the same attention or traffic as its lower cascades. The trail to its 88-foot plummet is much shorter but a lot trickier. It descends 600 feet on exposed slickrock before wandering through rocky washes. In essence, it’s not the kind of terrain a non-Neanderthal would attempt when a thunderstorm was imminent (i.e.- flashfloods, lightning) but we did. Yes, trusting the weathermen’s timing clearly does not bode well for our IQ scores. Although the path to Upper Calf Creek Falls is only about one mile each way, due to the rough topography it takes most hikers 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. We did it in one hour and 15 minutes, 45 minutes downwards and 30 minutes back up. How was our uphill faster than our downhill? Incoming lightning and showers, that’s how. The storm arrived two hours earlier than expected. As soon as we saw the first flash in the distance, we picked up our pace to an enervating scramble. Well, I set a hasty tempo and Jason had no choice but to keep up. The meteorological racket followed us as we drove home; it was 31 degrees and snowy at the top of Boulder Mountain.

The Petrified Forest is an astonishing rainbow of rock.

The Petrified Forest is an astonishing rainbow of rock.

Who knew that hundreds of millions of years could turn dead wood into a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors?

Who knew that hundreds of millions of years could turn dead wood into a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors?

We made one last stop on our return journey at Anasazi State Park Museum. There, we checked out the 900-year-old artifacts of the Coombs Site. Excavations at the Coombs Site have uncovered 97 rooms, 10 pits, and thousands of items. We enjoyed the unearthed bits and the dwelling replica visitors can walk in. That model made us feel all prehistoric and ginormous.

Upper Calf Creek Falls doesn't get the love Lower does, probably because its path requires more exertion.

Upper Calf Creek Falls doesn’t get the love Lower does, probably because its path requires more exertion.

It was a superb trip filled with all the elements of awesomeness: elegant water, scrambling stones, vivid wood, and heavenly fire. Plus, as all anniversary outings should, it came with a large helping of extraordinary husband. Camping doesn’t get any more glamorous than that.

27 Apr

Fishy Towers and Dead Steeds

Posted by on April 27, 2017 at 11:16 pm

Due to my school schedule, we again opted to leave our bikes at home when we headed to Moab for a couple days this spring. It was sad to be cycle-less once more but, fortunately, I’m on pretty good terms with my feet.

The Titan is Fisher's tallest tower and is believed to be the largest free-standing natural tower in the United States.

The Titan is Fisher’s tallest tower and is believed to be the largest free-standing natural tower in the United States.

Our first outing was a repeat requested by Jason. We scrambled across the Fisher Towers Trail about six years ago in a darkness-induced fluster. So, Jason wanted to try it again without the runs.

Framing is a preferred photographic technique of mine but I don't often get to use 900-foot goliaths for this purpose.

Framing is a preferred photographic technique of mine but I don’t often get to use 900-foot goliaths for this purpose.

All along the Fisher Towers Trail one finds unusual beauty.

All along the Fisher Towers Trail one finds unusual beauty.

Some things never get old, even after 225 million years or multiple visits, the Fisher Towers are amongst these. The Fisher Towers are extraordinary skyscrapers made of sandstone and red mud. Their uncanny combination of uprightness and cratering makes them visually captivating. They are also enticing to rock climbers and are recognized as one of the best places to climb in the United States.

I dare you to hike through Fisher Towers without constantly gawking in wonder. It's impossible.

I dare you to hike through Fisher Towers without constantly gawking in wonder. It’s impossible.

It took us about four hours to complete this hike with a relaxing snack break at the ending overlook. With no need to hurry, those 4.4 miles passed a lot less hectically than when we squeezed them into two hours.

In Moab, striking colors blend in bewildering ways.

In Moab, striking colors blend in bewildering ways.

We jammed in one more hike after Fisher Towers, maybe because we missed the stupidity-fueled adrenaline rush of running from the dark. Parriott Mesa, a 2.8-mile trek that climbs over absurdly-steep boulder-infested hillsides, was our choice of nearly-nightfall dash.

The path to Parriott climbs abruptly through a rock field where it becomes a faint line in a jumble of stones.

The path to Parriott climbs abruptly through a rock field where it becomes a faint line in a jumble of stones.

On our way out, we got questioned by a returning hiker regarding our preparedness and abilities. He seemed enormously concerned about the approach of sundown in combination with our lethargic-looking limbs. However, he grossly underestimated the power in those wet noodles and the speed at which a stubborn girl can take on a mountain. We did the whole thing in about an hour and 40 minutes despite the 1345-foot elevation gain and rock-littered path. We made it back to our car without even needing flashlights. Darkness, you ain’t got nothing on a determined woman.

Parriott Mesa stands as a sentinel to Castle Valley.

Parriott Mesa stands as a sentinel to Castle Valley.

The sunsets in Moab are some of my favorites on the planet.

The sunsets in Moab are some of my favorites on the planet.

We decided to spend our last day in Moab 2,000 feet above the Colorado River at Dead Horse Point State Park. We walked eight miles on the East Rim Trail, West Rim Trail, and every overlook detour available. Basically, we trekked all the hiking-only paths at the park.

When you're 2,000 feet above the Colorado, your existence seems immeasurably small compared to the ages carved out in the canyons below you.

When you’re 2,000 feet above the Colorado, your existence seems immeasurably small compared to the ages carved out in the canyons below you.

The terrain around the Colorado River doesn't seem like it quite belongs on this spinning sphere.

The terrain around the Colorado River doesn’t seem like it quite belongs on this spinning sphere.

How would I rate these trails? The magnificent views are as nonstop as the drop-offs. I only shot pictures at a few spots because catching every amazing angle would have required constant snapping and stopping. (Wandering around cliffs while gazing through a lens instead of at your feet seems like a less than wonderful idea.) Since these paths go around the top of a plateau, there isn’t much vertical change along them. Hence, I would categorize them as physically easy. However, if you dread heights, their soaring setting might put you in a nearly-constant state of discomfort.

On Dead Horse Point's Rim Trails, you are almost always just a large leap or two away from a big drop.

On Dead Horse Point’s Rim Trails, you are almost always just a large leap or two away from a big drop.

Without bikes, Moab is missing a little something but I’m not complaining much. Jason and I still got to experience some of Utah’s most enthralling high rises and high places at the speed of foot.

7 Apr

A Season’s Wanderings

Posted by on April 7, 2017 at 3:30 pm

Walking is entertaining stuff and mountain walking all the more so. That’s why I’m sharing the accounts of the rest of our elevated strolls from last season with you now before the 2017 treks begin. I wouldn’t want to overwhelm you with excitement.

Rattlesnake Gulch: Millcreek Canyon

Memorial Day Weekend

We did this short 3.5-mile hike on a whim because I had a hankering to get outside. Lightning and rain threated to make the occasion more memorable but, although the storm whipped and flashed about to the west of us, we only got sprinkled on.

We've hit this viewpoint many times while riding bikes but never with such a stormy show.

We’ve hit this viewpoint many times while riding bikes but never with such a stormy show.

Desolation Trail: Millcreek Canyon

June

We rambled 4 or 5 miles roundtrip on the Desolation Trail just to see an amazing sunset above the Salt Lake Valley. What did we witness? The Great Salt Lake became misty and the lights of civilization started to beam and glimmer on like winking charms. The clouds blushed strawberry and tangerine with the approach of night. It was a sky worth every step.

We waited in this beautiful spot for the sun to disappear.

We waited in this beautiful spot for the sun to disappear.

With some tiny shorts and tube socks Jason could be back in the 80s.

With some tiny shorts and tube socks Jason could be back in the 80s.

However, the thing about hiking miles to see a spectacular sunset is that you have to retrace those miles in the dark. The moon hung nearly spherical above us but we had to use flashlights on most of our return journey regardless. At one point, something in a tree made a loud clamor and sent a shower of wood chunks down on us. Griffin, hydra, sasquatch, racoon? Who’s to say? It sure didn’t fill me with warm forest feelings.

The receding sun transformed the heavens into this stratospheric punch.

The receding sun transformed the heavens into this stratospheric punch.

Sugarloaf Peak: Little Cottonwood Canyon

August

If you’re a fan of topping all 30 of the Wasatch Range’s 11,000-foot mountains, Sugarloaf Peak is a good place to start. Sugarloaf is 11,051 feet high but it doesn’t demand much skill or shape to conquer. The hike to its pinnacle is a continuation of the path to Cecret Lake and totals 5.8 miles out and back. It gains 1,381 feet with 500 of those coming in the stony steep between the saddle and the summit. Still, considering its height, that’s not much of a challenge.

Somehow we managed to get a picture of Cecret Lake without gobs of people in it.

Somehow we managed to get a picture of Cecret Lake without gobs of people in it.

The real difficulty with Sugarloaf isn’t the rocky rubble but the rabble. Despite its cryptic name, Cecret Lake is certainly no secret. The parking lots near its trailhead were so packed that we had to park a mile down the road. Notwithstanding the crowds at the lake, we didn’t see many wanderers beyond that point.

Alta doesn't allow snowboarders so this is as close as we've come to catching one of its lifts.

Alta doesn’t allow snowboarders so this is as close as we’ve come to catching one of its lifts.

Jason got at least a few more feet out of Sugarloaf Peak.

Jason got at least a few more feet out of Sugarloaf Peak.

It took us a bit less than four hours to do this hike, even with the extra two miles that the area’s vehicular surplus made necessary. We made it back to our car just before phone flashlights became needed.

Horse Flat Trail: American Fork Canyon

September

One fall afternoon we trekked across the Horse Flat Trail for an undetermined distance until the sun skedaddled. We didn’t encounter many trekkers after the first fraction of a mile but we did come across a couple of fine meadows and inspiring views. Yup, it was a gloriously generic mountain climb.

Patches of gilded groves accented the shooting hillsides around Horse Flat.

Patches of gilded groves accented the shooting hillsides around Horse Flat.

A warped aspen offered Jason a perfect perch as we progressed along Horse Flat.

A warped aspen offered Jason a perfect perch as we progressed along Horse Flat.

We ended our Horse Flat hike here... wherever "here" was.

We ended our Horse Flat hike here… wherever “here” was.

There you have it, an ambling account of our wanderings through the woods last summer and fall. Didn’t I say that walking is entertaining stuff? Let the 2017 hikes commence!

12 Mar

Flowers, Fairies, and Flesh Eaters

Posted by on March 12, 2017 at 2:21 pm

Can’t go on one more day without knowing how Jason and I fared in our 2016 races? I figured as much and thus I am willingly sharing these completely mediocre finish times with the world. You’re welcome.

Tulip Festival Half Marathon

Race Specs: This is the hardest half marathon in Utah. It’s not downhill like most. It’s a rollercoaster and, as with any notable coaster, vomit’s a standard.

Race Stats: I finished in two hours and 26 minutes. Overall, a much better run for me than my last tiptoe through the tulips. I didn’t break any land speed records but I kept a steady pace and met my time goal of less than two and a half hours. Further, I only walked up three or four of the steepest hills, which was quite an accomplishment considering the bountiful bumps on this course. Jason finished under two hours, which was his aim. He crossed the line at one hour and 53 minutes. Jason’s dad, Keith, also ran this race. We were proud of him for taking on the Hungarian Horntail of half marathons on his first half attempt and slaying it.

My parents walked the Tulip Festival 5K so we had a hefty cheering section at the finish line. Thanks Ben Norell for the great pict!

My parents walked the Tulip Festival 5K so we had a hefty cheering section at the finish line. Thanks Ben Norell for the great pict!

Race Repercussions: Following the race, my knees hurt dreadfully the rest of the day. It was embarrassingly difficult to go up and down stairs. By the next day, the aches had retreated to mostly just my thighs but stairs were still painful. However, my discomfort was lessened by Jason’s awkward shambles. That boy really struggled with his knees both the day of the race and the day after… and probably some days after that. Within 24 hours, his calves and thighs also limped onto that bandwagon. Yup, he ran like a little boy during the race and then hobbled like an old man for days.

Lehi Roundup 10K

Race Specs: This race isn’t exotic but it is generally well planned and has become a tradition of ours over the years.

I'm not a competitive person, my only rival is myself, but I still appreciate the exhilaration of a starting line.

I’m not a competitive person, my only rival is myself, but I still appreciate the exhilaration of a starting line.

Remember that whole fight or flight evolutionary thing? Well, Jason is very flighty.

Remember that whole fight or flight evolutionary thing? Well, Jason is very flighty.

Race Stats: Jason won first place in his age group with 46:44. I finished at exactly 1H:3M:26S, coming in seventh in my age group. While this is nothing to be proud of, it isn’t too awful considering that typically about half the participants in any given race inevitably end up being women in my age group.

Fairy Tale Fun Run

Race Specs: Although not a timed event, this is, as its name suggests, a fun run. The course winds through Thanksgiving Point’s gardens where mermaids, pirates, princesses, and bad wolves await. I’d highly recommend this race if you’d like to get some little ones interested in exercise or just want to take your family on a running stroll through enchanted greens.

This fairy didn't get the dust memo.

This fairy didn’t get the dust memo.

Jason galloped through the Fairy Tale Run wearing that unicorn head even though he couldn't see where he was going and the plastic fumes choked his brain.

Jason galloped through the Fairy Tale Run wearing that unicorn head even though he couldn’t see where he was going and the plastic fumes choked his brain.

Race Stats: None, unless you want the speed at which Jason killed off brain cells inside his unicorn mask.

Fallen Officers Memorial Run 5K

Race Specs: This race’s purpose is to raise funds and promote caring for the families of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. It has a superhero theme and participants are encouraged to dress up. This year, Jason’s uncle was among the officers being honored so we felt particularly compelled to support the event.

Jason donned uncomfortable headgear again for the Fallen Officers Memorial Run for which he cut his nose and got his picture in the paper. Photo courtesy of Laura Seitz.

Jason donned uncomfortable headgear again for the Fallen Officers Memorial Run for which he cut his nose and got his picture in the paper. Photo courtesy of Laura Seitz.

Race Stats: We were joined at this race by a small gang of family members. Jason, Jeremy, and Keith all placed first in their age groups. I came in 3rd in mine. Jason finished in 24 minutes exactly and Jeremy came in seconds behind him. It took me 29 minutes and 20 seconds to drag my cape to the line. How did we fit in the grand sprint? Jason came in 10th overall out of 267 participants and I came in 42nd.

Night of the Running Dead 5K

Race Specs: The Night of the Running Dead is an undying favorite of ours. It has changed management, style, and locations over the years. This time it crept over a dark route that went along parts of the Porter Rockwell Trail and unused portions of Highland Drive. Glow sticks placed here and there gave the only meager indication of the course direction. With leaves crunching unseen under our feet and a shrinking moon eyeing us behind a sharp breeze, the night felt deliciously fall. It was a far howl from previous, more theatrical, versions of this race where the undead danced about and the apocalypse was broadcasted. We’ve found all renditions terribly satisfying.

I used the strip of light from the timeclock to transform Jason into a brain biter.

I used the strip of light from the timeclock to transform Jason into a brain biter.

Race Stats: Jason placed 2nd out of all the men. Good work Jason! His time of 26 minutes and 58 seconds was more sluggish than normal but the darkness and hills slowed everyone down. I placed 5th in my age group with a 9:56 mile average, not amazing but not too bad considering my putrid physique.

Yes, your life can go on now that you know Jason is still fast and continues to place often while I am still committed to maintaining my streak of mediocrity.

19 Feb

Phoenix Fun

Posted by on February 19, 2017 at 11:40 pm

Jason and I are more about accumulating experiences than accumulating things (with the exception of my LEGO Minifigures collection of course). Therefore, one of the primary gifts I gave him for Christmas this year was a break from winter’s crankiness via a long weekend in Phoenix.

Although not too opulent by today's standards, the Wrigley Mansion was interesting.

Although not too opulent by today’s standards, the Wrigley Mansion was interesting.

Our first night in Phoenix we visited the Wrigley Mansion, the house that gum built. No, the bricks were not held together by Big Red but one room was completely lined with foil from the factory.

Saguaros are a classic emblem of the American Southwest.

Saguaros are a classic emblem of the American Southwest.

The next day, we hiked to the top of Camelback Mountain via the Cholla Trail. This path gains 1,253 feet in only 1.4 miles. In combination with some rocky sections where scrambling is necessary, that steepness has earned Cholla a double black diamond rating. But that grade doesn’t adequately elucidate what we saw up there that day. I’ve never come across so many timid hikers (or so many pairs of yoga pants) in my life. As a Utahan, I was shocked by the number of trekkers that were seemingly puzzled by the concept of putting one foot in front of the other or clinging to rocks like they were dangling on the edge of the Great Pit of Carkoon. Were these natives or were they tourists? And how did they not know how to walk up a hill? Double black diamond or not, this trail seemed pretty standard to us but the people we encountered on it didn’t.

Camelback's spine twisted like a stony serpent.

Camelback’s spine twisted like a stony serpent.

We spent that evening wandering around the Desert Botanical Garden. Its display of 23,000 cacti, succulents, and other desert flora was both informative and picturesque. Desert plants have always fascinated me, perhaps because I can relate to their inventive stubbornness.

The Cholla Trail was a little intense but not intense enough to account for the petrified and confused hikers we encountered.

The Cholla Trail was a little intense but not intense enough to account for the petrified and confused hikers we encountered.

Our last day in Phoenix, I requested more time out in the mid-sixties sunshine, something essential I’d be missing in Utah for a while. So, we headed to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and trekked around the Bajada Nature Trail, Saguaro Trail, and Saguaro Loop Trail. We walked about a mile and a half while looking at educational signs and examining native spikers. It wasn’t exactly exercise but it was peaceful and pleasant.

Phoenix's mountains are sporadically spaced- a peak here, a peak there- with urban sprawl spanning the gaps in between.

Phoenix’s mountains are sporadically spaced- a peak here, a peak there- with urban sprawl spanning the gaps in between.

Strolling through the Desert Botanical Garden was Jason's favorite part of our whole trip.

Strolling through the Desert Botanical Garden was Jason’s favorite part of our whole trip.

Next, we stopped at Butterfly Wonderland, the largest butterfly conservatory in America. There, 3,000 butterflies and moths, some of them startlingly enormous, flitted around us like graceful and animated bobbins weaving a lofty tapestry. Pretty awesome!

Bristly saguaros silhouetted by a technicolored sky make for a mighty memorable sunset.

Bristly saguaros silhouetted by a technicolored sky make for a mighty memorable sunset.

We finished off the day at the Musical Instrument Museum. At that institution, we saw everything from Johnny Cash’s guitar to the first Steinway piano. Also awesome? Yes!

At Butterfly Wonderland, thousands of butterflies and moths fly freely around you.

At Butterfly Wonderland, thousands of butterflies and moths fly freely around you.

With so many winged creatures fluttering about, it was difficult to decide which way to flutter ourselves.

With so many winged creatures fluttering about, it was difficult to decide which way to flutter ourselves.

On a side note, during this trip we stayed at a resort out in the desert. It was both inconveniently located and beautifully situated. Nature seemed barely held back by its bits of development. Bunnies and birds bobbed about each morning and at dusk coyotes howled twilight serenades.

The Atlas moth is the biggest moth in the world. It's bigger than many birds and Jason's hands.

The Atlas moth is the biggest moth in the world. It’s bigger than many birds and Jason’s hands.

On a far side note, one night we tried to start a fire in our casita’s fireplace with wood provided by the resort, strange desert wood. It refused to light but then, three hours later at 1:30 AM, it set itself ablaze suddenly. Waking up to flames is not a comfortable experience.

Saguaro cacti only grow in the Sonoran Desert but they do so with zest, living hundreds of years.

Saguaro cacti only grow in the Sonoran Desert but they do so with zest, living hundreds of years.

We flew to Phoenix less than a week after our return from Yellowstone so we underwent a 100-degree temperature variation within a few days. Warmth was the point of Phoenix but I wasn’t sure what else we could fill a few days there with. Now I know, we could have filled a few more easily. Merry Christmas my love!