Saturday, April 22, 2017

Living the Dream (Hiking in Nevada/Utah/Arizona)

Motivational speaker, Matt Foley, warned us all that we would probably grow up to amount to "JACK SQUAT" and find ourselves "living in a van down by the river." Well, la dee frickin' da, wouldn't you know that's exactly where my husband and I found ourselves...and I can't think of a better way for us to have celebrated 30 years of marriage. (Only thing that could have made it better was if we had "rolled some doobies", ha ha!)


Hell yes! LTD!



Would you pass the government cheese, dear?
I was pretty surprised when my husband agreed to spend a week driving around in such a "colorful" set of wheels; but I had found such a great deal, and frankly, he probably would have agreed to just about anything only to get away for a few days. Though thankfully he's learned to enjoy hiking just for hiking sake, (not easy for a former adrenaline addict climber) so driving to a few of Utah's National Parks and hitting some trails was a plan we could both agree to.


After picking up our rental van in Vegas we spent our first full day hiking at Red Rock Canyon.We were so glad we had already decided to drive back to Vegas to stay another night at a hotel, because the campground there was already completely full. I had no idea this place was so enormous and that we would have so many trails to choose from. (You can drive the 12 mile scenic loop and see quite a bit without even leaving your car, but be aware there is an entrance fee...I wasn't, and by the end of this trip, I was cursing entrance fees!) I'm glad I did a little research before hand and had read that Calico Tanks was a good moderate hike of 2 and a half miles--no need to wear ourselves out straight out the gate!
A great payoff view of Vegas at the end of Calico Tanks
Immediately Ken had climber envy, and was kicking himself for not packing his climbing shoes and a chalk bag so he could at least do a little bouldering. Every hike on this trip provided him nearly endless opportunities to salivate over routes. "Look at that overhang!...man, that crack is endless...can you see where they drilled the bolts?"--oh, the heartbreak of missing one's glory days. 
I wanna keep going!!
"Ken, get back here!!!"...JK, this is some other lucky climber
Speaking of younger years, visiting Zion after 10 years away (we celebrated our 20th there by doing "The Narrows") made us long for the good ol' days. We thought it was busy then, but it's a whole new level of crazy now. It was unfortunately proving to be Ken's worst nightmare come true...wait in line for the campsite (over an hour, though we were lucky to even get one)...wait in line for the permit (no luck there; water at "The Subway" hike was running too high as it was still March)...wait in line for the shuttle (no cars allowed anymore, even during "slow" season)...wait in line for the bathroom...and finally the kicker, wait in line for the trail!!!
Somebody shoot me
You'd think death warnings would be a deterrent
"Calling number 753...it's your turn"
Seriously, Angels Landing looked more like a Disneyland attraction than anything you should find in nature. Ken had been pondering why on earth Utah would pick "The Beehive State" as it's official nickname; but waiting and observing the buzzing masses, he turned to me and simply said, "now I get it." 


Relaxing? I sure hope you know how to tie a knot!
The next day we decided to abandon our hard fought for site and continue on to Bryce. Looking at the forecast and seeing nothing good anywhere, we decided if we were going to get rained on, we might as well have a change of scenery.
Goodbye Zion! 
Hello Bryce!!
It was a good call, because lucky for us Bryce got cold enough to bless us with snow instead! We did the "Figure 8", which is a combo of both the Navajo Loop and the Peekaboo Loop, and I could not recommend it more highly. What I wouldn't recommend though is trying to sneak off to pee when your husband has the camera. ;)

Where's Waldo?

The only regret we had for this leg of the trip was not buying more firewood to last us into the freezing night. But resourcefulness prevailed, as we found quite a plunder of charred log remains at our neighboring sites. (I always find this activity oddly thrilling...must be my extreme love of free stuff)
I got the quesadillas!
I got the Coronas and salsa!
#wefoundourbeach
In the morning we scraped the ice off the van and doubled back to Zion in hopes that the water level had receded enough to snag a last chance permit, but it was not to be. Some quick Google searches for an alternate hike lead us to a less popular trail in the Kolob Canyon area just outside of Zion. Another good choice, because our muscles were still upset over the steep declines and inclines of the previous two days, and Taylor Creek is an easy in and out 5 mile beauty. (And it's included in your Zion Park entrance fee--thank God because I couldn't handle another fee)
"Would you look at the size of that wall?!? Sigh..."
Historic cabin on the trail
Very cool arch at the end of the hike
Go another 10 minutes (no real trail) and you get another treat
The last hike of the trip took us to a new state; and although I had thought I had outwitted the fee Gods by choosing it, lo and behold you have to pay $30 just to drive through the Lake Mead area to get to it! (You could avoid this by coming a different direction, but we did end up camping at Lake Mead, because of it's proximity to the hike.)
Arizona Hot Springs begins as possibly the ugliest trail I have ever been on. Starting off as a wide desert wash going under the highway, it doesn't look like anything anyone should be doing for any reason. (And you shouldn't do it for any reason in the summer, because you would fry!) But it makes up for it after about 2 miles when you arrive in the slot canyon area, and then be prepared to be blown away once you reach the hot springs.
He's always got to add the tiniest rock he can find

Now you would think sitting in such a secluded spot in 110 degree water would be relaxing, but all I could think about was not getting any water in my nose so I wouldn't die from the rare but deadly amoeba found in the springs.(It can only enter through you nose...isn't that weird?) Ken lifted his wet finger to pick his nose and I just about had a heart attack! "I just had a scratch!" he insisted, but I think he was enjoying freaking me out, as usual.
For God's sake, keep your nose above water!!!
Neither of us were aware we were less than a quarter mile from the Colorado River. I don't know how that got past me when researching this hike, but thankfully a fellow hiker filled us in. There are a few different ways to get to the springs, and obviously we choose the one that didn't include the river. So we pushed on, down the ladder, and found ourselves at another bee hive of people. A large kayaking group was camped out there (what an amazing spot) so we were extremely lucky to hit the hot springs at a time when they were not there. And so far neither of us has shown any signs of our brains being eaten by the Naegleria Fowleri amoeba, so we were fortunate all the way around. ;)
The 30 foot ladder was a little unnerving  

Of course, being married to such a great guy and good sport for a blessed 30 years...and not having to actually live in a van down by the river...is what makes me the most fortunate adventurer ever. So here's to 30 more years and many more adventures to come!
Because our ride was named "The Money Van", Ken had to
take a "money shot" to go with it. Gotta love him.









Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Seasons of Squires

Squires Lake was one of the first hikes I ever did; long before I had any aspirations of backpacking. It was an easy place to drive to, bring the dog, and hope to discover a beaver with the kids. (Although on one trip a woman told me how her dog was attacked by one! So be wary of letting your pup swim in the upper pond!)
From my ancient hiking scrapbook. Am I really wearing earrings?

Since then I've gone in every season--sometimes with my dog, sometimes alone, sometimes with others. As the seasons have come and gone, suddenly my kids have grown, my dog's time is almost up, and I've become a Grandma. So lately it's my go to place to take my grandson, Liam. 
First time out hiking with Grandma!
Still has the eyebrows..."Why you doing this to me Grandma?!"
"Are we having fun yet?"
I know he may look like he'd rather have his toenails ripped out than be hiking, but he came out of the womb with that expression! He may appear grumpy; but trust me, he's just taking it all in. I know that he loves his walks with Grandma, and it's hard to think of much else that makes me happier than listening to his sweet babbling as we chug along. I fantasize about the days when he's old enough to come on an overnight trip; when we can talk all night and I'll actually understand what he's saying.
In the middle of these imaginations, I almost always think back on that day he came out of the womb, with that intense gaze of his, and it makes me teary every time. It was a life changing day for me. As the mother-in-law of my poor laboring daughter-in-law, I felt so confused about my place...how did I fit into the picture? I certainly didn't expect to be in the room when Liam was born. But somehow I found myself in the thick of it--as the designated photographer even! And then the big moment...head's out and we are waiting for his first breath in this world. Except something was wrong...the cord was wrapped a couple times around his neck...he looked blue. Instead of air going into his lungs, I swear that all the air went out of that room and none of us could breathe. Something changed in me during that minute (maybe even only seconds...felt like an eternity) because I suddenly realized with clarity that life is never a given. Every moment is a gift, and I don't want to ever take even one breath for granted again; even though I know I unfortunately will.
 Rainy Squires years ago with a friend
And so, this memory takes me back, but then it squarely places me right back in the present moment. It reminds me that I might never have even gotten the chance to have this time with my grandson, and so I want to drink it in. I don't exactly feel guilt about reaching ahead in hopes for more future adventures with him, but I know I can't hold tightly to them; the future is unknown. What is ahead, and what lies behind are not now--and now is where it's at! Now is listening to the snow crash down from the trees and getting to hear Liam's laugh of surprise. Now is watching the delightful little chickadees hop about, and the sun rays dappling the forest path. Nothing else can be the present moment; each second is like the falling snow flakes...unique, and never to come again.
Spring...
summer...
fall...
and winter
I hope for more seasons on Squires Lake Trail--moments with my kids, my dog, my friends, and most of all my beloved Liam. Although, I'll need to buy a new baby backpack, because I forgot to put mine back in the car and somehow managed to run over it as we were leaving. I never said all the moments are good ones. ;)
Frick...anybody selling a child carrier?