Back in the USA

Hey all! So I have returned to America for the summer months to visit friends and family. I thought this trip would be full of bouncing from place to place but rather uneventful…but I was wrong!

While visiting some family in Florida, I discovered that my uncle is a pilot with his very own plane. What?! HE. HAS. A. PLANE! And he offered to take us up one morning for a little aerial tour of the Amelia Island coastline.

Flying a plane has been on my bucket list for a long while now.

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You can imagine the excitement I felt as we drove out to the little airport.  We went to my uncle’s hangar and got to check out the little plane we were about to fly in.

I jumped at the chance to grab front seat before he even finished asking us who wanted to claim it and we clambered aboard. We put on our headpieces, performed a pre-flight check, and then we were off! It was so awesome watching a take off from the cockpit. It’s like I never knew I wanted to be a pilot until I saw what pilots see all the time. Realistically, I don’t actually want to become a pilot, but it is pretty sweet.

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Once we reached altitude and leveled off I looked over at my uncle. “Can I…can I fly it?!” I asked, holding my breath. “Oh yeah! Of course!” crackled in through my earpiece and I almost died wit13393513_10206457922983578_564837812_nh excitement. I did a little cheer and clapped and grabbed the controls, letting him guide me through it. I didn’t ascend or descend (I feel like my uncle did not want to gamble with death and quite frankly neither did I) but we stayed level and I followed the coastline before cutting inland.13400924_10206457921063530_2103348785_n

 

I was feeling simultaneously exhilarated and terrified at the same time, because as much fun as it was I didn’t want to over turn and send up spiraling (which, as I have since learned, is actually quite difficult to do). After landing he let me guide the plane along the runway and around to the hangar. I was so so stoked to unexpectedly be presented with the opportunity to knock off a huge bucket list item and lifelong goal: fly a plane. I did it!!

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He looks so pleased with the mid flight selfie….

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Dreaming of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is upon us (or just around the corner depending where in the world you may be) and I think my brain is short wiring a little bit despite this being far from my first Thanksgiving away from home. The first time you are away from home for any major holiday is a bit rough. I thought I was a seasoned veteran by now but apparently subconsciously I still miss those home comforts, especially during a holiday as specifically American as Thanksgiving.

I had a dream the other night that I was enjoying a nice Thanksgiving dinner at a Thai friends home, with turkey and everything! I ate it all and when they asked me if I wanted more I eagerly said yes. I was so happy that I was finally able to eat turkey again (despite it tasting a bit funny) on Thanksgiving.  A woman walked over to a rather large oven and opened it as I looked on. What I saw, however, was definitely not turkey. Instead of the golden roasting turkey I was expecting I found myself (literally) face to face with a giant black beetle. Inside this huge oven was a beetle that rested on three large baking trays. It was almost bigger than me. I gaped, appalled, at the spectacle before me. I looked down and saw part of a beetle carcass on my plate, some bits of leg scattered about. It was as if I had awoken from a trance and I just realized what I had eaten, and how it was actually not turkey as I had previously blindly believed. I felt somehow betrayed, horrified, and in great need of my Mom.

I’m not too sure what that dream meant because I actually kind of enjoy eating bugs. I think deep down I am actually quite missing the good ol’ US of A right about now. I miss the traditional American Thanksgiving fare of western culinary delights. I have spent many hours today just daydreaming about turkey, green bean casserole (my favorite!), sweet yams and marshmallow, stuffing, cranberry, mashed potatoes, you name it. It ‘s been a while since I sat together with my family around the dinner table; able to touch, talk face to face, and share moments together. Thanksgiving really is something special.

My family Thanksgivings in the past have been a mixed bag of misadventures of sorts, but they are the sort of things that we can look back and laugh on each year and wonder what will happen this time. I quite miss that.

If you are in America this year for Thanksgiving, consider yourself lucky. And if you happen to be surrounded by your family, consider yourself blessed. It’s times like these that I recognize and appreciate the value of simply being with the ones you love. So stop reading this and plug into some real life moments instead! Also….eat a lot of turkey and casserole for me. 🙂

 

Memory Monday

Today I decided to scroll trough my photos and take a little walk down memory lane to 2008 when I worked on Snake River Ranch in Wyoming….beautiful place, beautiful memories!!

WY pt 2 008WY pt 2 052Home on the ranch….

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No complaints on the view!

My backyard..

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lovely 🙂

Just 5 minutes away, Grand Teton National Park was my playground.

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Grand Teton National Park 100Man oh man, I miss this!

Viva Las Vegas

What happens in Vegas……

…stays in Vegas.

But I can leave you with these few nuggets:

*I woke up the next afternoon, sat up and saw my ID, debit card, and 3 room keys scattered across my bed. The handbag they were originally in was MIA.

*There was a note from Kathryn saying she went to the pool. She was passed out face down on her bed, still clothed and on top of all her sheets.

*Glitter. Everywhere.

*On the desk was a sheet of paper with our own room number written down (on the back a note saying “hope you made it to your room ok”) and a princess wand that we didn’t start the night with.

*I have a camera full of photos I don’t entirely remember taking.

*Kathryn and I mentioned wanting to go the Bellagio to check it out. She then found in her purse a $1 cashout voucher, from the Bellagio, time stamped at 6:16am.

*We might have seen a circus show.

*32oz vodka slushies are the perfect way to avoid a hangover. Mostly.

Waking up in Vegas.

Into the Narrows

After waking up in our comfortable beds and grabbing a bite to eat, we were decidedly not up for Angels Landing. We opted to do the Riverside Walk/canyon adventure hike instead. There is a hike called the Narrows that is 16 miles long and you trek through the river the whole time while sqeezed into the canyon which I really, REALLY want to do someday when I go back with more time (I’ll tackle Angels Landing then, too…). While we had to get to Vegas later that day and were off to a late start already, we couldn’t do the full Narrows hike but went as far in from the end point as we could, assuming we would only spend a couple of hours there at best.

At first the river was incredibly crowded, which, as I already mentioned in my previous post, makes nature no fun. The crowds thinned out though the farther in we went, which I was quite pleased about. The river got pretty deep at some points which forced us to walk with our packs held over out heads as we wandered farther into the canyon. Our path gradually got darker and darker the deeper we went, sunlight creating striking lighting as it pepped into the canyon and gave way to dancing shadows.

Kathryn and I had already gone farther and spent more time than we had intended to (per usual) in the canyon, but when we came to a break and the river split into two directions, we had to take the path less traveled. We couldn’t help ourselves. This portion of the journey took us over a few minor waterfalls and shot us back out into some sunshine at the final waterfall where we stopped. We began the long but easy walk back to the start and hopped in the car. Five hours after beginning the small day hike (oops) we were finally on our way to Vegas!

Summiting Zion

Kathryn and I stopped…somewhere…on the side of the road to sleep (I honestly can’t remember anymore, apart from the cemetery sleeping experience all of our sleeping in the car locations kind of blur together) before driving into Zion on the 22nd. I really wish we could have spent more time in Zion, that park is beyond amazing. With its majestic, towering cliffs and endless hikes, you could easily spend a week exploring.

We arrived, parked the car, and took the free shuttle to Weeping Rock. Our plan was to do a moderate hike over to Hidden Canyon, a lovely looking slot canyon hike. The trail begins with switchbacks straight up the canyon wall. Half an hour later and all out of breath already, we arrive at the split between Hidden Canyon and Observation Point. The trail to Observation Point continues zigzagging its way up while the Hidden Canyon trail seems to level out a bit. We questioned a passing hiker and he assured us that Observation Point was worth it, and the hike get’s way easier after the first mile. With half a gallon of water between us and only a couple of granola bars for energy we began our trek in the bright, hot, afternoon sun.

That. liar. The trail did not get easier! It got harder! It was the toughest 4 miles of my life! Well, the second mile leveled out and we went in between some canyons so it was nice and shaded and cool, but mile three almost killed Kathryn and I. Miles three and four were in direct sunlight almost the whole time. We didn’t really prepare or plan ahead, so we were shocked to hear that this hike took and average of 6 hours. Did I mention we didn’t start the hike until 12:30 in the afternoon? In the desert? We had hiked straight into hell, I’m almost certain I heard the devil laughing at us. The third mile took us straight up yet another cliff side in harsh sunlight and the fourth mile leveled out at the top to the edge. I must say though, it was worth it. Observation Point and Angel’s Landing are two of the most strenuous hikes in the park, and we were looking down on Angel’s Landing. It was quite cool. The views on the way up (and at the summit) made the hike totally worth it, and we felt quite accomplished.

Strangely enough, this hike felt way steeper than the Grand Canyon hike we did, but I think we covered the same altitude difference, even taking longer (miles wise) to do so on the Zion hike. We could definitely feel the slope taking a toll on our knees and ankles. Once we reached the bottom of the mountain Kathryn had an announcement to make: “I have made an executive decision. A while ago my mom gave me a credit card and said if I was ever in dire need of a bed to use it. We are getting a room tonight.” I couldn’t be happier with that decision; sleeping in the car, hiking, sweating and not showering for a week was definitely taking its toll. We found a nice little hotel right outside of the park, showered, ate dinner and passed out early. On the way down from Observation Point we had ended up talking to another hiker and he said Angel’s Lookout was a great hike and we should do it. Feeling ambitious, we decided we would see how we felt the next day and try to tackle that one in the morning.

(Spoiler alert: we never made it.)

Lightning Storms and Kodachrome Wanderings

From Buffalo Bistro we made our way into the Grand Staircase. Unbeknownst to us at the time we entered through the back way, which was just a dirt road, making the trip much longer than if we had taken the direct route from Bryce Canyon. But then we wouldn’t have met Ron, so really it all worked out in the end.

We followed the dirt road for an uneventful hour before coming to an information kiosk. We checked it out, read some of the stuff on it, ignored most of the warnings, and went on our way. For the record some of the warnings included: road is IMPASSABLE when wet-check weather conditions, make sure you have plenty of food and water, check in at a ranger station or visitor center to make sure someone knows where you are, no overnight camping without a permit, etc. While no one knew where we were except for maybe Ron (and even then not really), we did have some water, beer, and canned goods so we reckoned we would be alright for food if it came down to it. We hadn’t checked weather but all we had come across so far were dry lightning storms (which were awesome!) so we assumed the best. Besides, how bad could the roads be?

They were terrible. That first hour of dirt road was smooth as silk compared to what I put my poor little ford taurus through. The road conditions went from slightly grooved to potholes the size of craters. As night fell we drove, ever so precariously, deeper and deeper into the canyon. I can see why these roads would be impassable when wet. There were times when there was so much clay on the road the car almost got bogged down in it, and it was dry! Our unease at our decision to recklessly drive into this situation grew slightly as clouds rolled in and night fell upon us.

Talk about an intense drive! The canyon walls and road were the same red color as Bryce, and once the sun set the storm began. There was no still no rain, so we cautiously inched our way along the dark road, red canyon walls and sheer drop offs at hairpin turns illuminated by flashes of lightning. We finally made it to the Willis Creek trailhead, turned in and parked. The first thing I noticed about the sign my headlights illuminated was a sentence in all bold stating: You could die out here.  Oh. Apparently the roads are REALLY not possible to drive on when wet because of all the clay, and if it rains a lot you could be stranded for days with no one to help you if they don’t know you’re out there. Since the sky above us was still clear, Kathryn and I decided to wait it out and see. We grabbed a beer and sat on the ground to watch the show. We were now at the bottom of the canyon, and we sat there looking up at the clear sky above glittering with stars as lightning forked out of the clouds on the canyon rim in a 360 around us. It was probably one of the coolest things I have ever seen; the type of beauty my cheap point and shoot couldn’t even come close to capturing and even an expensive, high end SLR using photographer would struggle to encapsulate into a 2 dimentional photo.

A great, big, dark and menacing cloud ruined our happy moment as it rolled in over us and we decided it might be time to head up to the visitors center (we ultimately opted for safety’s sake to sleep by the visitors center and return in the morning once someone knew we were down there). Damn good thing we left, it poured that night. It rained more that night than it did any other time this entire trip. Sure enough, that battered clay road was sure as you’re born impossible to drive down the next morning. Whew, close call! I was quite bummed out because that was a hike that looked really cool, but we got redirected to Kodachrome Basin State Park, and I am so glad Kathryn was willing to pay the $6 to go.

Since we wanted to get to Zion National Park later that day, we took the first hike we could find called the Shakespeare Arch Trail that linked with the Sentinel Trail. If you get the chance to go to Kodachrome, do it. This park is way less populated but no less impressive than the national parks. The Shakespeare Arch itself was more than a little less impressive than the brochure boasts, but it’s what’s beyond the arch that counts. We hiked a bit of the Sentinel Trail before coming to split, where we could take a trail that continued along the path we were on, or veer left to a more difficult hike called either Slip Rock or Slippery Rock Trail (I can’t really remember). We opted for the more difficult one and hung a left…only to be faced with a rock wall and an arrow pointing up. Are they serious? We bouldered a bit up this rock and sure enough it was a trail. Small rock piles guided us as we trekked across the top of these massive rocks. This trail took us above Shakespeare Arch, and I tried my very hardest to stand on top of it like a bridge but I just couldn’t get to it. Despite that, this trail was absolutely fantastic. Not only were the views great, it didn’t feel like a trail-more like we were just blazing our own on top of the world. Too much fun.

After taking our time exploring this hidden gem, it was time to go. Of course we got distracted by checking out Chimney Rock (mostly due to my squealing about how it was just like the old Oregon Trail computer game and demands to see it in real life, apparently ignoring the fact that the real Chimney Rock from the Oregon Trail is, in fact, in Nebraska….), but we weren’t there long and it was off to a later than anticipated start to Zion National Park.