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.

15 May

The Hunt

Posted by on May 15, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Jason and I organize an epic Easter hunt every year with my family. Virtually all our nieces and nephews on my side participate in this quest regardless of their age; no teenagers decline on the grounds of childishness for the plunder is rather ludicrous.

Jadon was the lucky locator of one of the golden eggs.

Jadon was the lucky locator of one of the golden eggs.

Between goodies supplied by aunts, uncles, and grandparents, the kids got way more booty than necessary but they didn't seem to mind.

Between goodies supplied by aunts, uncles, and grandparents, the kids got way more booty than necessary but they didn’t seem to mind.

Porter, our oldest nephew, was still digging and climbing for his hoard long after the little kiddies had found theirs.

Porter, our oldest nephew, was still digging and climbing for his hoard long after the little kiddies had found theirs.

We make the hunt interesting by adding some competitive elements, golden eggs with substantial cash in them for instance, but all the kids take home a disturbingly large pile of goodies regardless of their seeking skills.

Benson discovered this gilded shell and its monetary contents.

Benson discovered this gilded shell and its monetary contents.

Jason insisted on buying two outlandishly-sized bunnies for the finders of some tiny eggs.

Jason insisted on buying two outlandishly-sized bunnies for the finders of some tiny eggs.

As the “cool” aunt and uncle, we take creating memories and hyperactivity very seriously. We would never dream of letting an Easter pass without providing an opportunity for our young relatives to acquire one-pound peanut butter bunnies and cash-filled eggs. The Easter Bunny wishes he could be all that and a bag of Peeps.

11 May

My Southern Shrine

Posted by on May 11, 2017 at 9:42 am

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

12 Apr

X Marks the Spot

Posted by on April 12, 2017 at 4:10 pm

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.