There is something extraordinary about the places that evoke the remnants of childhood joy. My grandma’s house is such a place for me.
Beautiful antebellum homes can be found in unexpected places throughout the South.
My grandma lives in a rural area of the South. Her small home, humble by adult standards, always thrilled me and my siblings as children. To her grandkids that house meant endless doting, plentiful food, innumerable hugs, rows of dress-up shoes- all the standard spoilings of proud and loving grandparents. We believed our grandparents were loaded, quite erroneously, because they offered us everything they had.
Bingo is a popular pastime in the South; my grandma plays it rather religiously.
Running is not a popular pastime in the South. We ran into more rattlesnakes than runners during a 10-mile jog.
Recently, Jason and I took a trip to visit my outstanding grandma. This time, my sister and dad traveled with us. We toured the sites of my father’s youth, lost at Bingo, visited with living relatives and those no longer around, sampled Memphis barbecue, explored antebellum homes, gobbled catfish and hushpuppies, and enjoyed Easter gatherings.
We don’t see our Southern relatives often so it was nice to catch up.
My grandma now suffers from some of the afflictions that get us all in the end and doesn’t have the energy she once did but visiting her still brings back a surge of memories and an onslaught of hugs. And that’s why her stout home, unremarkable to the rest of the world, will forever remain a shrine to unconditional love to me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m a nerd. If that’s news to you, your powers of observation are not likely to earn you a place at Scotland Yard. Also, not astoundingly, Jason and I attended FanX, a smaller version of Salt Lake Comic Con, last month.
Frankly, we’ve been to so many geeky cons that they feel more like the familiar cling of spandex than the uncharted regions of the Delta Quadrant but that doesn’t mean we don’t make new discoveries at each one. Here are a few of our findings from FanX this year:
1. Weird Al’s hair is naturally curly. Sorry ladies and gentlemen, he can’t provide sweet perm advice.
I tried making a Weird Al face for this picture but, instead, it was just a weird face.
2. Zachary Levi gives great hugs and leads great panels. Honestly, he put on one of the best con panels I’ve been to and I’m not even a serious Zachary Levi fan.
Who shot first?
3. John Rhys-Davies is a storyteller and a gentleman but he’s not best buddies with Legolas. Apparently, wearing dwarf parts influences the inner grouch. (The skin-stripping adhesives holding on those parts might also.)
The largest room at FanX seats thousands and fills up regularly.
4. Bonnie Wright does not appreciate bucking broomsticks, Nimbus 2000 or otherwise.
We got to spend some time with our niece at FanX wandering the exhibit hall and recounting our con experiences over dinner.
5. Cary Elwes is adorable with kids. During the Princess Bride panel, which featured both him and Chris Sarandon, he shared hugs, kissed hands, and brought youngsters up on stage.
I felt like a traitor without my Starfleet uniform in this picture.
6. “Fangirl neck” is a real phenomenon and should be taken seriously. Just look at my picture with Zachary Levi for proof. If you are taking a picture with a gorgeous star, I can guarantee that you will not look gorgeous; this is one of the unchangeable laws of the universe.
This is a truly terrible picture of me. It’s included here to prove two things. One, I did get a hug from Zachary Levi. Two, fangirl is not a flattering look.
Even if you’ve been to more comic cons than Stan Lee, there will always be countless con mysteries yet to be revealed. You may still uncover ways to win Snakes and Foxes, reach Jareth’s castle in Goblin City, or duplicate Weird Al’s hairdo.
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.
Desolation Trail: Millcreek Canyon
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.
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.
Sugarloaf Peak: Little Cottonwood Canyon
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.
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.
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
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.
A warped aspen offered Jason a perfect perch as we progressed along Horse Flat.
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!
I was pleased to be invited to Visions of History’s Ladies Victorian Tea at The Grand America last month.
I was fully prepared for the social and genteel demands of this occasion. With my delicately-netted gloves, stiff taffeta skirt, puffed sleeves, and equally-puffed hair impeccably placed, I gracefully nibbled scones topped with clotted cream and lemon curd, macaroons, and cucumber sandwiches. I sipped tea with a perfectly-popped pinky while carrying on stylish conversations with my companions. Indeed, the tearoom was titivated by my refined presence.
My outfit was appropriately ruffled, puffed, and laced.
The Grand America provided the perfect setting for our elegant affair.
Not convinced of my overpowering poise? Okay, perhaps my charm was not quite sufficient for the fanciness of the affair. I spilled tea on my dress and had to hunch awkwardly a bit to keep from dribbling anything else. With that said, I had a splendid time chatting with my fellow history aficionados and we were the highlight of the memorable atmosphere for many of the ladies and little girls taking tea; we received a number of picture requests from these females.
It was a delightful afternoon spent in the company of fashionable foods, bygone vogues, and cultured companions.