Category Archives: Adventures

Deseret Peak with Isaac, Charlotte, and their grandma

After our hiking adventures in Arches National Park a couple of weeks ago, I started getting the thought that the kids (especially Charlotte) could take on a serious hike. I had a really great hike on Deseret Peak a few years ago, and the week after Labor Day seemed like a good time, but I hadn’t really committed to anything until the night before. It all felt like it was a little impulsive, but I invited my mom, told the kids, and we set off at 6:30 on Saturday the 12th. It’s a bit of a drive out to the trailhead; we got started hiking around 8:30.


One thing about Deseret Peak is that it’s an alpine wilderness surrounded by Utah’s desert. There are lots of woods on the way up, and even though it was late in the year, the stream was still running. A view of North Willow Peak through the trees from the trail:DSC02430-01

We took it easy on the way up, with lots of stops for rest and snacks:DSC02433

I said this is a serious hike. Well, for folks more athletic than I am (and that’s most of you!), it’s not so bad. A little over 4 miles to the summit, but a lot of elevation gain: about 3600′. Here’s the crew climbing up some switchbacks:DSC02441

There’s a tough climb up to a ridge that’s right around 10,000′. Once on the ridge, a big meadow opens up, with some nice rocks for having lunch:


Isaac was pleased to note that no one had thrown up at this point. (Isaac threw up on our Delicate Arch hike, and I have a little history of barfing when I get to about 9500′.) After our lunch break, we hit the trail up toward the summit. At this point, there’s still another 1000′ to climb, and after the switchbacks up to the ridge, it can be a little tiring. We met some nice folks from Florida who called it quits at about 10,500′.

I kept telling Isaac and Charlotte that they’d know we’d made it when they looked around and there was nothing higher than them. I could tell they were hurting a little on this last stretch. You really feel the altitude, and it takes some commitment to keep going up. There was a little complaining, but I kept telling them to think about the positives: think about telling your friends how you toughed it out; think about being higher than you’ve ever been before; look at how far up we’ve come already.DSC02449

Here we are just a bit below the summit:


Finally, I was able to shout: “CHILDREN! Is there ANYTHING higher than you are?” (There was not.)DSC02479



The view from 11,031 feet:


Time to head back down:



We made pretty good time back down to the ridge, where I got a nice picture of the kids enjoying the view to the north. The van is 2600′  down and 3 miles away still (somewhere behind Charlotte’s head, I think):DSC02513

Here we are at the sign post at the top of the ridge, just before heading down the switchbacks (this is looking the other way, to the south):DSC02515

Coming down wears you out, and we were all starting to feel it. Here we are making our way down the switchbacks below the ridge:DSC02528

The trail back always seems twice as long when you’re tired, and we were all glad to be back at the van. Charlotte was proud of how dirty her feet were:DSC02546

Our final obstacle was this ridiculous deer. She just looked at me when I beeped the horn at her, but the kids thought it was pretty funny. DSC02553

I was proud of how well Isaac and Charlotte (not to mention my mom!) did with this hike. It’s a lot of climbing for a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old, and they toughed it out. I’m always pleased when they’re willing to do tough things, and this hike will prime them for more adventures. Assuming I can keep up with them.

Trip to Huntington and Arches with Dan and Bethani

I’m a murderer. A mur-diddly-urgler.

Well, that’s how I feel sometimes after underestimating the desert. But let’s not get too far ahead! Let’s go back to August 4th.

With my sister and her husband visiting us from California, the time was right to get out to the red rock. Dan hadn’t ever had the chance to see it, and Bethani hadn’t been to Huntington in many years. For those who aren’t aware, Huntington, UT is where I lived until I was 8 years old. My dad taught at the LDS seminary there (and did about 40 other jobs as well). And since we weren’t able to make the trip to Seattle this year, I thought that the children could use an adventure. So we loaded selected children (those I figured could do some hiking) into the Sienna and headed south and east. Read more »

Cedar Point 2014

Ever since I married Kathleen and we started visiting Ohio occasionally we’ve made it a point to go to Cedar Point. I like roller coasters (though I wouldn’t say I’m as hard-core as some of the nerds on the internet), and Cedar Point is probably the best single collection of coasters on the planet. So with our trip to Ohio this summer, we made plans to go and bring Isaac and Charlotte along.

Charlotte is just barely 48″ in shoes, which means she wasn’t tall enough for many rides, but she was tall enough for some of the best. Isaac was just short of the 52″ requirement for that next tier of rides as well. So we planned accordingly.

We wanted to give Isaac and Charlotte a chance to experience some really great coasters, and we wanted to break them in gently so they’d have a good time and not be too intimidated. We loaded up and headed for Sandusky with Bryan, Grandpa Bird, and Cousin Paul to hit the park.

It turned out Paul was too small to ride anything big, which was disappointing for him, but he still had a chance to ride a lot of smaller rides with his grandpa. We split up to try our first coaster – Paul and Grandpa to some smaller rides, and the rest of us to a pretty mild coaster, the Iron Dragon, that we’d picked as our starter.

Isaac, Kathleen, Charlotte, and Bryan in line to ride the Iron Dragon

Isaac, Kathleen, Charlotte, and Bryan in line to ride the Iron Dragon

Charlotte was pretty nervous, but she tried hard to be brave, and it seemed like she had a pretty good time. We took a break from coasters to drive the antique cars:

Isaac drove me around.

Isaac drove me around.

Charlotte was nervous about this at first, too.

Charlotte was nervous about this at first, too.

From there, we thought the mine ride would be a good next stop.

Isaac, Kathleen, Charlotte, and Bryan waiting to ride.

Isaac, Kathleen, Charlotte, and Bryan waiting to ride.

Then it was time for lunch. We had a quick snack in the van, than a too-long line for bumper cars, and then Charlotte went with Paul and Grandpa Bird for some more gentle rides while Kathleen, Bryan, Isaac and I went to ride a coaster.

We opted for the Magnum XL-200, which was one of the early “hypercoasters”, built back in 1989. It was the first coaster higher than 200 feet and was the tallest, fastest, and steepest coaster when it opened. It’s still a pretty great ride. But sadly, it broke down while we were in line, so we wound up jumping out of line and riding a new ride, the Pipe Scream:

It was OK, but the line was kind of long. But when we got off, we saw that the Magnum was running again, so we headed over there to give it a ride. Isaac was a little nervous, but he seemed to have a good time, and more than that, he was pretty proud of himself for being brave and riding it. Here’s the official video so you can get a sense for it:

We also took the time to re-create a famous picture, with Kathleen as a stand-in for another participant:

Bryan, Isaac, Kathleen, and Zach reproduce a prior photo.

Bryan, Isaac, Kathleen, and Zach reproduce a prior photo.

After this ride, things got a little muddled. Kathleen and I had really poor phone reception (in fact, we wound up borrowing phones from people at points during the day), so we had trouble connecting with Grandpa Bird and meeting up again. But we wound up going to the van to get some snacks and drinks, and then getting Charlotte again to try to hit some more rides. We didn’t want to abandon Grandpa Bird, but since Paul couldn’t ride anything while Isaac and Charlotte could, we thought we’d try to get Charlotte a chance at another big coaster. Kathleen and I also decided to try the parent’s pass thing, which lets one parent ride while the other one is with the kids, then they trade off and the other parent rides without waiting in line. We were able to try a couple of new rides this way:

Somewhere in this mix we lost Bryan, though, and then we weren’t able to connect with our next meeting. After looking around for a while, Kathleen, Isaac, Charlotte and I went on to try to ride the Millennium Force.

Millennium Force was a new coaster when Kathleen and I first visited Cedar Point, and it was another record breaker. It’s still impressively high and fast, and Charlotte was pretty intimidated. The track runs past the line, so you are quite close to the trains whipping by at close to 90 mph. Pretty soon into our wait in line it was clear that Charlotte was too scared to try this time. So when we got to the station, Isaac and I got on while Kathleen and Charlotte went around to the exit platform.

Isaac was pretty scared; the lift is very high and very fast, and the cars are really open. He spent the lift looking at his shoes, and I didn’t blame him; when I was his age I was scared to death of the Colossus at Lagoon, which is 85 feet high with a top speed of maybe 55 mph. Millennium Force is 310 feet high, by comparison. It’s a scary hill. But once we were over the top, he started to really enjoy it. I love this coaster; it’s very fast, very smooth, with huge sweeping turns. Isaac had a good time too. Here’s the official video so you can get a sense:

As we came into the exit platform, Kathleen and Charlotte were waiting. Kathleen hopped on to ride while Isaac, Charlotte, and I exited. As we were waiting for Kathleen’s ride, Charlotte started to cry.

“Dad, can I have another chance?” In spite of everything, being so frightened, and getting right up to the ride, Charlotte still wanted to go.

“Of course you can!” So when Kathleen got off, they went right into the line to try again. I was proud of Charlotte for giving it another try in spite of being scared.

We’d promised Charlotte she could have Panda Express for dinner if she gave it a try, and that’s where Isaac and I went. Unfortunately, just as Isaac and I got our food, they shut down the restaurant, so Charlotte didn’t get her reward. (Coincidentally, I’m finishing this post after returning from lunch with Charlotte at Panda Express; we finally kept our promise!)

Charlotte and Kathleen came off the ride, and then we started heading for the exit as the park was shutting down. Kathleen and Charlotte ran one way to hit Charlotte’s favorite ride (the Matterhorn, a spinny flat ride) and Isaac and I went to ride the Blue Streak, which we regretted since we got knocked around a ton and got a headache (still fun, though).

So we came with the hope that Isaac and Charlotte would get a chance to try some roller coasters, and just maybe they’d be brave enough to ride a big one. In the end, they both got a chance to ride one of the biggest and best in the world, which I call a successful day at Cedar Point.

The Boys Have Adventures–Part 2

Saturday last week I got tickets to go to the air show and hydroplane races. I imagine you can still get a good view without tickets, but I wanted to be front and center. Isaac and I took the light rail to Othello, then took a shuttle over to Genesee Park on Lake Washington. We just grabbed a spot in the grass along the shore to watch.

We watched a couple of heats of the hydroplanes first, which was a lot of fun. My camera was acting up a little, but I did get a few videos:

Here’s Isaac with his binoculars trying to get a better look at the hydroplanes:

Seafair 2011 (2)

The air show came next, with a few really neat demonstrations. Air shows present some unique photography challenges, and my little camera wasn’t up to capturing a lot of good images, but I did snap a few shots. Things I didn’t get good shots of were a visit from a P-51 Mustang and a Spitfire. I couldn’t have captured the really great sound of those Merlin engines anyway. The did several low passes for us.

After the WWII planes, we had a demonstration by Vietnam-era choppers, a Cobra and a Huey. They did several maneuvers showing us tactics that were used in Vietnam. The Huey would go in first, low and fast, snaking back and forth, scaring up ground fire, while the Cobra would arc up high and take out any VCs who were shooting. Great demonstration, and some really low flying.

The Coast Guard did a nice demo, where a rescue swimmer jumped into the water and was then picked up. My picture is terrible, but you may be able to click through and see them hoisting him back in.Seafair 2011 (9)

Next up was a demo from an AV-8B Harrier, which was really cool. It was also very loud, as loud as all the Blue Angels together. Isaac kept his ears covered. Here’s a video I took of its departure:

After this, they had a routine by a stunt pilot named Sean D. Tucker, in a little custom built plane for the Oracle team. Holy carp. I have seen some ridiculous things, but he was bonkers. He was doing prop stalls, strange high-angle ultra-slow passes, outside loops (-6g!), and a really silly series of front flips where he literally just whipped the tail around over the cockpit. Ridiculous. Amazing. My video stinks, so here’s a better shot of his routine if you’re interested:

Isaac LOVED this, and I thought it was amazing too.

We had a demo from the C-130 attached to the Blue Angels, Fat Albert. Here’s a video of their big climb-out:

They used to use RATO for this, but from what I hear they’re running low on those; not as much need for them these days.

Finally, we had the Blue Angels. I’d seen the Thunderbirds before at Hill AFB in Ogden, but this was my first time seeing the Blue Angels. We’d been watching them and hearing them fly around the city all week, so Isaac and I were ready. It was a great setting; they zipped all over the lake and over Mercer Island for their routine. Isaac was getting a little worn out by the time they were flying, so he wasn’t as excited as I expected, but he still enjoyed it. I was able to get one fairly decent shot of them in formation:

Seafair 2011 (34)

Once they were done, we headed back to a long, hot line for the shuttle, and then the train home.

There’s one picture I kept even though it didn’t turn out, and even though I’m looking a little scruffy. The reason I kept it was because Isaac took it. He’s getting more independent, and I sent him out with my camera to take pictures. Most of them were of the camera strap, or the ground, but he got everything but the focus right here.

Seafair 2011

It was a busy week, but a lot of great fun with Isaac.

The Boys Have Adventures–Part 1

Last week was the main week of Seafair here in Seattle. That means parades, hydroplane races, an air show, and visits from the Navy. Isaac and I took advantage, and went on some fun adventures.

On Thursday, Isaac came to work with me. After I got through my morning meetings, we hopped on a bus and headed down to the pier to get a tour of the USS Bonhomme Richard, LHD-6. This is named after John Paul Jones’ famous ship, which itself was named to honor Benjamin Franklin.6016437915_25e6d8e2f3_b

First I should probably explain what an LHD is, for those who don’t know. An LHD looks a lot like an aircraft carrier, and it is in a sense. In fact, it displaces nearly twice as much water as HMS Invincible, the lead British aircraft carrier, and nearly as much as the largest carrier outside the US, the French Charles de Gaulle. The big distinction is the role.

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Tonsillectomy: Mission to My Mouth – Aftermath

So the week was hard.  I came home from the hospital in some discomfort, but not anything unbearable. Just the knowledge that something had really been trashed in the back of my mouth. (It took me a couple of days before I even wanted to get a flashlight and look back there.)  I settled in to bed and tried to just sleep through the discomfort.

As the anesthetic from the hospital wore off, the pain started to get a little more intense.  Kathleen went out right away to get my prescriptions, but it took a couple of hours since there were four to fill and the pharmacy is about 20 minutes away.  I was getting pretty uncomfortable by the time she got back with the pills.

I was given four (eventually five) prescriptions:

  • Demerol, for pain.  This turned out to be a little bit weaker than I needed, and may have been the reason I didn’t get as much to eat and drink early.  It just didn’t seem to do much for the pain.
  • An anti-nausea medication, to take with the Demerol. I was scared to death of vomiting with all the damage in the back of my throat. Luckily, this was not a problem.
  • Prednisone, for inflammation.  This actually really seemed to help. I iced my throat too, which eased my discomfort somewhat.
  • Keflex, to prevent infection. I’m still taking this.
  • Lortab – when the Demerol started to run low, I called in for another painkiller prescription.  I thought they’d give me more Demerol, but they went with Lortab instead.  This turned out to be a good thing; the Lortab worked much better at taking the edge off the pain so I could eat. 

As of today, I’ve lost about fourteen pounds. It’s kind of a combination of nothing being appetizing, and everything being really painful to swallow.  I had the weight to lose, really; I’ve been getting kind of fat in my old age.  This took me from 190 to about 174, which is better for my size (I’m 5’9”, with a kind of skinny frame anyway).  That’s not the healthiest way to lose weight, but hey, I’ll take it.

The foods that worked for me were tuna sandwiches, gummy worms, applesauce, and otterpops.  Last night, I begged Kathleen to run to Taco Bell and get me a Baja Gordita (also a Baja Chalupa, as backup).  It stung a little bit going down, but it was so nice to eat something tasty.

So the past nine days are kind of a mélange of grumpiness, hunger, pain, and boredom.  However, I find myself breathing through my nose more comfortably already (the doctor went ahead and took my adenoids as well).  If I have any improvement in the number of throat infections this next year, I’ll call it a win.  I had eight throat infections over the last twelve months.

That’s the summary for now.  I’ll post more when I have my post-op appointment with the otolaryngologist.

Tonsillectomy: Mission to My Mouth – Part 1 “Preparing the Chamber of Rejuvenation”

Upon orders from my doctor, I am having tonsils and adenoids removed.  I’m 33, which people tell me is rough.

I’ve made as much preparation as I can think to do.  I’ve purchased a number of soft foods, got some drinks, got my Camelbak filled up and ready (they say fluids are very important), and I’ve got a lot of technology and reading to amuse me.

Videos follow.

Our Vacation, Day Three

Remembering how much fun everyone had at the beach on Day 2, we just assumed the next trip to the beach would go just as well.  We made plans to go to the beach with my cousin Brent’s wife Natalie and their kids at the beach next to my Aunt and Uncle’s condo.  Unfortunately, both of the little girls started to cry almost immediately and wanted nothing to do with either the sand or the ocean.  My aunt Dee and I took the little girls to he pool while Zach and Natalie played with the big kids on the beach.

Poor Nicole must not have been feeling well, because she didn’t leave my Aunt’s arms to play in the pool.  She clung to her and even fell asleep in her arms in the water.8.6.10 at the pool (2) Zach brought the big kids over to play in the pool and wash all the sand off their bodies.  He reported that they built a nice castle and a canal system, but we have no pictures since my camera was with me at the pool.

We went back to our room and decided to get ready and drive home since the kids were kinda sick and the last two nights of sleep in our room were less than restful.  Everyone showered and got dressed.  Zach went to fill the tank with gas and fetch some lunch (shrimp from “The Sea Shack”) with one of our remaining food vouchers while I packed up all of our things. 

We drove home by way of Charlotte, North Carolina.  It added an hour to our trip, but we really wanted to be able to take our Charlotte to Charlotte.  We arrived around 8:00 PM and had a late dinner at IHOP in Charlotte.  Everyone enjoyed chocolate milk, pancakes, bacon, sausage, crêpes, and coloring.8.6.10 In Charlotte, North Carolina (4) 8.6.10 In Charlotte, North Carolina (2)8.6.10 In Charlotte, North Carolina (3) By the time we were done with dinner, the sun was setting and it was starting to rain.  We drove to downtown Charlotte to see the skyline and look for buildings and signs with Charlotte’s name on them.  Unfortunately our van’s wipers were terrible and it was pouring rain.  By the time we pulled into a parking lot  so that we could get  a picture of Charlotte in Charlotte it was completely dark and pouring rain.  Zach hoped out with his umbrella and the two big kids and they all came back soaking wet.4868745083_ae23ced16a_b8.6.10 In Charlotte, North Carolina (7) Before we could drive out of Charlotte, the rain poured down so hard that it was almost impossible to see the road so we pulled over to wait out the storm.  After about 15 minutes, the storm died down enough for us to drive on and we were soon out of the storm and on our way home.  We arrived home in the wee hours of the morning.

Our Vacation, Day Two

The highlight of day two was an absolutely perfect trip to the beach.  All 4 kids enjoyed themselves.  Isaac and Charlotte played in the water and in the sand.  Zach and I each got to take a turn out with the big kids in the water.  8.5.10 The Beach (78) We taught them to “ride the waves.” At one point a wave crashed down on Isaac, hitting him squarely on the bottom and he announced that the wave had “spanked” his bottom (see video).

All the kids enjoyed playing in the sand.  Ila and Nicole didn’t like the water much, but they both enjoyed the sand.  8.5.10 The Beach (104) We dug out a little hole in the sand in front of Ila and let it fill with water so that Ila could splash around in it.  8.5.10 The Beach (62) Unfortunately as you can see in the video below, she also sampled some of the sand.

Before long the water started washing further up the beach enough to cover Ila’s legs with each wave. 8.5.10 The Beach (91)Ila started to yawn so I scooped her up and wrapped her in a towel.  I put her in the stroller and turned the stroller so that her face was not in the sun.  She watched everyone play for a little while before falling asleep.8.5.10 The Beach (93) A collection of fountains between the beach and the car helped the kids to rinse most of the sand off of their bodies.8.5.10 The Beach (112)Back at our room, everyone got showered and dressed.  We ate lunch before attending a timeshare sales pitch that not only paid for most of our room, but also provided us with some food vouchers.   After another stop at our room and a little down time for the kids, we choose a nice restaurant off of the list of places that accepted our vouchers.  The name of the restaurant was “Robert Irvine’s eat.”8.5.10 dinnerIt was a very nice restaurant that wasn’t accustomed to serving children.  They only had one high chair and no kids’ menu.  I have to admit to being a little nervous about taking the kids there.  Every table had these fragile looking water glasses and the atmosphere was very pleasant and peaceful.  I must not have been the only one who was nervous because as we left the restaurant, we got many relieved compliments on how well our children behaved.  My favorite dish was the fried green tomatoes with feta and sprouts (pictured above).  At one point, Ila dropped her pacifier and a waiter washed it off and returned it to us on a dish.8.5.10 dinner (3)Day two ended with movie night in our hotel room.   Ila fell to sleep easily and although Nicole still required extra attention to stay in bed and fall to sleep, she did seem to fall to sleep quicker than the night before.  8.5.10 movie night (2)Unfortunately she also woke up in the middle of the night and threw up all over the bed.

Our Vacation, Day One

We had an opportunity this summer to go to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.  It’s a resort town with lots of beautiful beaches.  Our trips started out with a 7 hour drive.  The kids did well, as always.  8.4.10 The drive to Hilton Head 8.4.10 The drive to Hilton Head (12) For most of the trip, they entertained themselves looking out the windows and at books.  We had no snacks in the car and stopped off for lunch at McDonalds about halfway through the trip.  Also about half way there, we hooked up a portable DVD player to the van’s little TV screen and let the kids watch a few episodes of Curious George to pass the time.

Ila didn’t cry much.  She did practice her trick of transferring toys back and forth between her hands and feet.8.4.10 The drive to Hilton Head (23) All of the kids took a nap in the car8.4.10 The drive to Hilton Head (19)

8.4.10 The drive to Hilton Head (25)

We checked in, got unloaded and then headed out for dinner at Fat Baby Pizza.  We ate peppers stuffed with prosciutto and cheese and a delicious thin crust pepperoni pizza.  The kids were not fans of the peppers, but they tried them.8.4.10 Dinner at Fat Baby Pizza (2)8.4.10 Dinner at Fat Baby Pizza (5)8.4.10 Dinner at Fat Baby Pizza (3)After giving Ila a bath in the hotel sink and feeding her, I put her to bed in our pack and play to let her cry herself to sleep. 8.4.10 Ila in the sink (1) She was very distracted by everyone in the room so I took the other three kids out on a walk to acquire more pillows and ice.  She was still crying when we got back so I decided to take the kids on a bedtime swim at the hotel pool. 8.4.10 swimming in the hotel pool Our pool trip was cut short unexpectedly for reasons I won’t detail here, but our rush back into the room and the changing of all three kids out of swimsuits and into PJs awaked Ila just after she had finally fallen asleep.  The rest of the night was difficult as Ila and Nicole both had some trouble falling asleep and as a result, Zach and I also got very little sleep.

Another Road Trip: Pensacola, Florida

2010-02-27 Pensacola - Dad, Isaac, Charlotte 004 

So my best friend David has been down at NAS Pensacola for some training, and I thought this was the best time to go see the National Museum of Naval Aviation with him.  I’ve always wanted to visit; they have a great selection of aircraft.  Naturally, a road trip these days means bringing Isaac with me; bringing Isaac usually means bringing Charlotte too.  Hit the jump for a boatload of pictures and a quick summary.

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The Second Drive, or “Orem to Knoxville in 27 Hours”

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Get a good night’s sleep.  Pack a lot of caffeine.  Bring all the sessions of General Conference and a couple of Robert Jordan books to listen to.  Bring food, water, and extra newspaper for the cats.  That was the plan, and for the most part, it worked out well.  After 1900 miles of driving, I found myself in a new house, far from home, and completely depleted mentally, physically, and emotionally.

After two weeks, it’s faded a little bit and blurred together.  I headed out from Orem and up Provo Canyon, through Heber, and up onto I-80.  When I’m driving by myself, I can drive pretty hard, not stopping much, and that’s what I like to do.  Here’s the view in back:

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Cats, some clothes, and everything the movers wouldn’t take.  I headed out across Wyoming.  A lot of people tell me they dislike the drive, but I enjoy it.  I like views like this one:

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I wasn’t too far into Nebraska before it got dark.  I left I-80 in Lincoln and skirted east and into Iowa, where I hit I-29 and went south.  I passed Mound City in the dark; I didn’t have time to stop and check for Lamanites.  I passed around Kansas City through Independence, and onto I-70. 

About this time, I thought about sleeping, but the cats were getting upset.  Late night is their play time, and they wanted to get out and be free.  They were scared and sad.  Their unhappy meowing meant no sleep for me, so I grabbed another energy drink and kept driving.

2009-10-24 The Crazy Drive - Orem to Knoxville 007

My GPS suggested I cut off on I-64 into St. Louis, which would have been a great shortcut, except it was closed.  After a little route-finding, I made it over the bridge and into Illinois.  Sunrise that next morning:

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I-64, I-57, I-24.  Then a jump over the Ohio River, and into Kentucky.

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The drive through Kentucky was beautiful.  It was a sunny day, with leaves changing all around.  Can you see the extra day’s beard growth?

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Soon I crossed the Cumberland River and was in Nashville:

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Here I grabbed I-40, which is my new “home freeway”, the way I-15 was to me growing up.

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Almost to my new home:

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I left about 10 in the morning Mountain Time, and arrived at about 3 in the afternoon Eastern Time that next day. 

That night, after I had the van unloaded and the cats settled, I went over to Rick and Dee’s for dinner.  I was kind of a bad guest, I’m sure; I was weird and tired and wound up all at once.  After dinner I found myself in a state of emotional disarray.  I think the exhaustion and the caffeine combined with loneliness and homesickness to really smash me.  All the uncertainty piled up on me at once; alone on my air mattress on the floor, with no family, no TV, no internet, none of my usual outlets.  I read from the New Testament, called Kathleen, and finally fell asleep.

The next day, I felt better.

Trilobites and Topaz

One last hurrah in Utah.  I’m lucky enough to have found friends who like the remote places in Utah as much as I do.  Yesterday I went out with Jim to roam around in the deserts of Western Utah.  I love the House Range in particular.  It’s got the formidable Notch Peak, one of the highest cliffs in the world and one of the most staggering views I’ve gotten from a summit.  It has Wheeler Shale, which means great fossil beds.  It’s miles from anything, which means you’re usually alone with just the sound of the wind in your ears and the occasional Air Force presence overhead.

Notch Peak

We headed for U-Dig fossils, which is run by a very nice old man and his two dogs.  It’s a pay site, but there’s the advantage of them pointing you right to good layers of shale and having it broken up in advance with some heavy machinery.  It makes finding fossils very rewarding; I estimate we found more than 50 nice trilobites.

Some nice trilobites

After spending a couple of hours breaking up layers of Wheeler Shale, we took our haul and hit one of the long, lonely, gravel roads.  We drove along the east side of the House Range, with the Drum Mountains to the east of us.  One thing I expect to miss when I leave Utah is the long sight lines. 

2009-10-21 House Range with Jim 010

Topaz Mountain is open to rock hounds, provided they use hand tools only to extract the crystals.  The best rhyolite formations are higher up in the canyons west of the main dig sites.  We parked and climbed about 300 feet up, but weren’t having a lot of luck breaking up the rock.  After about an hour I started back down, but just about that time Jim found a nice pocket and gathered up some topaz.  Below is the view from the spot we were working.

View from our topaz quarry on Topaz Mountain

I will miss the hundred-mile vistas.  I’ll miss the dry, harsh desert.  I’ll miss being the only one on the long dirt road.  Nothing gold can stay.

Snowbird with Heidi and Grandpa Bird

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We’ve had Grandpa Bird in town, and so we thought it would be fun to have an adventure together.  The last few times Grandpa Bird has visited, I’ve dragged him through Utah’s exotic deserts.  I thought it would be a nice change to go to the mountains this time. 

Normally I like to avoid crowds, so I stay away from the mountains and national parks when it’s a holiday.  This was really our only chance to go, though, so off we went.  It was Oktoberfest at Snowbird as well, so there were longer lines and some crowds, but nothing too bad.

Isaac noticed the alpine slide right away, so I went ahead and got a ticket since we were having a day out.  He enjoyed riding the chairlift to the top, and after a bit of a wait in line, we raced on down.

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After this we were ready for some lunch.  Grandpa Bird treated us to some sausages and sauerkraut, along with German potato salad and potato pancakes.  We listened to a silly little Bavarian band while we ate.

We’d planned to go to Snowbird for the tram ride to the top of Hidden Peak.  It’s the easiest way to get to 11,000 feet in Utah, and is certainly the easiest peak I’ve done this year. 

At the top, Isaac was full of excited questions about the tram:

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After a few minutes walking around the peak and taking pictures, Isaac declared he missed his sister.  “Which one?” I asked.  “Both of them!” he replied.  So we went back down and headed home. 

It was a fun excursion, and great to have Grandpa Bird and Heidi along.  More pictures below.

Deseret Peak

I was very impressed with this hike.  One of the most beautiful places I’ve been.  I think Deseret Peak and the surrounding wilderness area compare very favorably to Timpanogos.

I’m a little thrashed; due to a road closure and some “scenic” route choices, we wound up going about 17 miles today, gaining about 4500’.  We were expecting about 8 miles and 3600’.  Still a great day in the mountains.

Here’s a slideshow:

Squaw Peak

I had a chance to do another nice hike with  my friend Jim yesterday afternoon.  Squaw Peak is the prominent peak above Provo, and the backdrop to those pictures of the Provo Temple you often see.  (Speaking of pictures, here’s a link to the whole hi-res slideshow on Flickr.)  After the trip up Provo Peak two weeks ago, I was a little gun-shy; that was more than I expected.  My conditioning is still not great, but I think it’s getting better each week as I keep lifting weights and working my heart at the gym.  Jim brought his dogs, who are a bit old and fat, so we were able to take our time.  Still, we made the 7-8 miles in just about 3 hours.

The trail starts at the mouth of Rock Canyon, which was one of my favorite haunts as a kid.  It seems like I was up there all the time once I was able to drive.  My best friend David and I even started to get into rock climbing a little bit, playing in some of the easier routes.  I don’t think I’ve been in Rock Canyon more than once or twice in the last ten years.

I forget what a remarkable place I live in.  Here is a terrifically beautiful place, right in my backyard, and how often do I remember to go and enjoy it?  It’s been great to get back in the mountains a little more.  Click the link below to see all the pictures.

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Provo Peak

EvidenceI decided it was time to stop talking about mountains and finally hit another peak. It’s been long enough since my last peak.  I’ve been in pretty bad shape physically, letting myself get fat and lazy.  For the past couple of months I’ve been in the gym almost every morning, so I felt up to a bit of a climb.

The target was Provo Peak, and my gym buddy Jim and I left work at 3 PM so we could get to the trailhead.  Provo Peak sits behind Rock Canyon, and rises to 11,068 feet according to most sources.  The trailhead (such as there is) is at about 8600 feet.

To get to the parking area, you drive up the Squaw Peak Road from Provo Canyon, turning left to go towards Hope Campground rather than right to go to the overlook.  The road is decent until about Rock Canyon Campground, but then became a little bit rough.  In fact, an avalanche blocked the road at one point, and we had a bit of a crawl in Jim’s Tundra to get over it.2009-06-05 2009-06-05 Provo Peak 032 by you.

The path to the summit seems pretty straightforward: find the prominent west ridge, and go up.  In practice, this turned out a bit more complicated.  Click the image below to see details of the route.  We started out following an ATV trail, but that took us past the ridge.  We then cut back to the south, through mud and snow and brush.  After this detour, we were able to find a light use trail up the ridge.  This was quite steep, and we were exposed to high winds; I estimated sustained bursts at about 60 miles per hour.

Provo Peak Route

Not only was it windy and steep, but the terrain was loose.  I was glad to have my poles as we climbed.  After a couple of hours, we gained the summit.  With the clouds and haze, views were limited, but still quite good.  Nothing feels quite like standing on top of the Earth’s high places.  I called Kathleen to tell her I was fine so far, and not to send helicopters yet.  Then we headed down.  After an hour or so of steep, knee-killing descent, we were back at the truck and headed home.

Slideshow below for additional pictures, and take a look at the Summit Post page for more details on the peak itself.

Zion, Part 3 = Isaac

Isaac is at the perfect age for adventures. 5.13.09 Camping trip to Zion's (6) He gets so excited about everything.  Even driving down the freeway is exciting for him.  He loves looking out his window and talking about what he sees or asking questions.  One of his favorite games lately is finding letters in the alphabet. When he sees the letter he’s looking for he’ll say “got it” then figure out the next one.

He wanted to be involved in everything.  He enjoyed helping his dad set up the tent doing everything from bringing stakes to his dad to holding the poles of the tent.  He thrilled to see the fire and when Zach gave him a rule to stay 5 steps away, he committed to stay 8 steps away.  He got to cook his own hot dog and his own marshmallow.

image The first site we went to see was The court of the Patriarchs.  He was very excited because one of the peaks was named Isaac.  As we rode the shuttle to the site, he heard them say his name when they were describing the next stop—his eyes got wide and he exclaimed “they said Isaac!!”  He was very proud to have a mountain named after him (or someone with his same name).

He hiked himself to exhaustion on each trail.  5.14.09 Camping trip to Zion's (18)-1He loved to be the leader and would run up ahead if he got behind.  On one walk he helped me name some rocks that we thought may have been overlooked when they were naming everything.  He wore himself out so thoroughly that at the end of one hike he said “give me some food and put me to bed!”

As we were preparing a meal at our campsite we suddenly heard Isaac shouting “Mom, Mom!!” and running toward us.  When he got to us he pointed to the road and said “What is that thing?!”  It was a little white golf-cart type vehicle.  What I thought was interest turned out to be fear.  He was actually scared of it!  He can be a bit of a chicken.

You really couldn’t ask for a better camper.  He went to bed on time and slept well.  He loved every adventure and didn’t turn down an opportunity for a walk or a hike or to help make food.  At the end of our trip as we were packing up camp, Grandma’s tent started to blow away and Isaac grabbed hold of the tent.  He was very proud of himself for saving it from “blowing over the mountain”

Zion, Part 2 = Nicole

Taking Nicole camping with us turned out not to be our best idea.  5.13.09 Camping trip to Zion's (9) Our first problem was that since she couldn’t walk she became filthy very quickly if allowed to crawl around.  She spent most of her time either in someone’s arms, in her high-chair, or in the stroller.  She seemed happy enough most of the day.  She was a little wiggly on the bus at times, but in her stroller along the paths she would either sleep or ride along contentedly.

Our biggest challenge came at bedtime.  Typically I read her some stories, sing her a song and then lay her in bed where she cries herself to sleep.  She usually doesn’t cry too much, but in a strange place I 5.14.09 Camping trip to Zion's (18) thought her crying might be worse and I didn’t dare annoy the entire campsite by letting  her try.  First I walked her around until she fell asleep, but she woke up as soon as I tried to lay her down.  Then we thought we’d see if she’d be content laying in our bed with us.  She just wiggled endlessly and became quite unhappy.  Frustrated and tired, I put her back in the stroller and walked around in circles until she fell asleep.  It was too dark to go far and I didn’t want her to wake the campsite while I found a flashlight. I carefully removed her from the stroller and laid in my bed with her in my arms and she was awake within five minutes.  I put her to sleep again by holding her close and rocking her as I paced around by her bed and once I felt that she was sufficiently sleeping I laid her down and she stayed asleep, sometime after 11:00 PM.  She woke up a little after 4:00 5.13.09 Camping trip to Zion's (28)AM ready for breakfast and play.  I grabbed a few things quickly and found my way to the bathroom which was lit and had a floor not made of dirt.  I fed her and let her crawl around on the bathroom floor until about 6:30 AM when I could see that the sun had come up.  At which point I could see well enough to take her on a walk in her stroller.  She actually fell asleep, but I only got a 10 minute break on my bed before the other kids started waking up and woke Nicole up in the process.  We decided we didn’t want to try another night like that and so instead of sleeping one more night in our tents and then leaving in the morning, we packed up our campsite and left after dinner.

Zion, Part 1 = Charlotte

I thought I’d start with the middle child for once.  I really think the best way to describe our recent trip to Zion National Park is to tell the story child by child. 

The way we have our car seats arranged, 5.13.09 Camping trip to Zion's (2)Isaac and Nicole sit in the middle and Charlotte sits all the way in the back by herself.  This seems to be the best arrangement because it allows me to easily buckle and unbuckle the two kids who need help and the hardest seat for me to reach is Isaac’s and he can buckle himself.  I do sometimes feel bad when we go on trips or long drives because we have a hard time hearing little Charlotte all the way in the back.  She does well to entertain herself, mostly by singing and sleeping.  In fact, I can’t think of a time that she complained about her seat, unless you count the non-verbal complaint about Zach’s music choice pictured above.

As a girl who loves to play in the dirt, She couldn’t have been happier to camp. image She was constantly playing in the dirt and finding sticks and rocks.  Even the threat of spankings couldn’t keep  her hands clean for 5 minutes.  She did receive a few spanks and often when Zach called out her name she’d stand up and run away with her little hands covering her bottom as she yelled:  “don’t spank me.”  Ironically, when we got home I asked her what her favorite part of the trip was and she said “playing in the dirt.”

She was a good little camper.  She loved watching the fire, although she was sad that it was orange instead of pink.  One of her other favorite things seemed to be the “silly bus” which was “a bus attached to a bus.” 

We went on lots of little trails.  5.14.09 Camping trip to Zion's (14)She walked most of each trail, but often insisted on holding mommy’s hand or held onto the stroller that I was pushing.  Charlotte and I often trailed the rest of the group as she walked along the dirt next to the path and would stop to pick up a rock or stick.  Once she had collected a stick she’d trace the dirt along the path with it and poke any small stream of water she saw along the way.  When she got to tired she was hoisted up to Zach’s shoulders where she happily rode along wearing her father’s adventuring hat.

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