Sunday, July 31, 2011

Beware the Land Shark

Brenna was off watching some over hyped pop starlet in Atlanta last night and smartly stayed there overnight.  I, on the other hand, was here holding down the fort.  Which Brenna does a great job of handling every day, so her day/night out to catch a concert was well deserved.

We woke on Sunday morning.  Well, I woke on Sunday, with Aiden poking me in the nose saying, "I want to play with you...after you get me a waffle 'cause I can't reach them." I looked at the clock.

6:13 a.m.


The rest of the kids woke eventually.  By saying that, I mean that Bryce was up shortly after Aiden and Ansley dragged herself out of bed sometime around nine...uh...thirty.  Yep, she is a carbon copy of her Mom as a teen...already.

Once they were all up and semi-functional, I made Sunday morning pancakes, and began thinking, what in the heck am I going to do with these little people?  They were scarfing down the pancakes at an alarming pace, and I was quickly running out of time on my first plan for entertaining them.  Food.  I was going to be chased down with the same enthusiasm as they were eating breakfast, if I didn't come up with something fast.

I shouted over the breakfast time din. (Honestly, does anyone know how kids eat, shout, fight, hurt themselves while sitting in a simple chair, and breathe at the same time?  I don't know, but there must be some scientific study on it by now...I'll google it later.)

Anyhoo...I shouted, let's play a game outside before it gets hot.  Yes, I knew it was already too late for the hot part.  I swear I saw a bird on the bird feeder burst into flame a moment before, but I had to do something though.

What do you want to do?  Play knights, kings and pirates?  "Yeeufff!" they replied with mouths full of jelly covered pancakes, and then Aiden said, "and there should be a shark!"

Ok...why not!

They gathered up their shoes, put on swimsuits and got some ideas together on what to do.  Bryce said something about sliding away out of a castle on the zip line and crashing into a wall or something.  I figured, what better than to smash stuff while on a zip line.  Yes, I am a guy and assuredly my poor wife's 4th child.  The next 20 minutes were spent finding capes, swords and a shark costume...naturally.  We also spent a few minutes gathering up all the plastic blocks in the basement that we could load into the wagon in order to build a target...uh...castle.

When I saw how excited they were, I pulled out the GoPro.  Nothing that silly and playful should go undocumented.  Not with today's technology.  Right?

Well whether you agree or not that we should, as a society, spend lots of our time making dumb movies with GoPro cameras, we did it anyway.  And we had a blast!

Enjoy and happy Sunday!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A real JEM -- not apologizing for that one...

Ah, the final Utah mountain bike video that you have been waiting for, or quietly wishing I would accidentally forget about editing...

I can't tell you how much footage that Nathan and I took over the course of the trip to Utah.  The number of hours of video was a little over the top, but it has been loads of fun re-watching some of this stuff and trying my hand at editing together questionably interesting videos for others.  I do like to share these videos because it lets other people see some of the views that we got to see.  Bikes are great in the sense that they are quiet, you still can appreciate the views without the confinement of a car, you connect with the outdoors, and you can ride out into places that it would take many hours of walking and overnight camping to see.  Plus, it's a heck of a fun hobby.

I wanted to ride this loop from the first day we got there, but the rains kept us away and the trail a mess, so I had to wait until the last day before we were going to head up to Bryce Canyon.  Nathan opted to ride part of the ride with me, but wasn't in the mood to put up with the first half which included some grueling uphills to get to the top of the JEM trail.  Hurricane Rim was the first segment and it skirted the edge of the Virgin river and offered up some great views.  This ride also pointed out that I am totally directionally impaired.  I had a map and the map said that the trail turned to the right.  The trouble being that out in the wide open area, there were multiple jeep trails and other random single-track looking trails that were probably cut by animals walking through the tumbleweeds.

I ended up taking the wrong track and heading down into the canyon by the river at one point.  At another offshoot, I found that I was off in no man's land trying to follow the rim of the canyon around.  After about 45 minutes of riding, hiking, and fussing at myself liberally, a vulture flew close over my head.  It wasn't just cruising, it was checking me out.  I decided that was a sign to just find my way back to the original trail and head up a different direction.  I was furious.  I could still even see the house where we stayed out in the distance, but I couldn't get there because of a canyon in the way.  Nor could I call Brenna and say my ride plans had changed because cell service in the middle of the desert is sketchy at best.  I was officially not having any fun, so bailing out and just riding up part of the loop and coming back down seemed like the best way to salvage what was supposed to be a fun ride.

I rode up the JEM trail about a mile and magically found (drumroll please) the rest of the Hurricane Rim trail.  I don't know if that didn't tick me off even more because the map didn't say that the Hurricane Rim and the JEM were the same trail for any length of time.  I can't really blame the map.  I'm a little thick headed sometimes and probably just didn't read the map right.  Anyway, I was off again and had only wasted an hour wandering in the wilderness.  A true Moses ride -- thank goodness it wasn't 40 years of wandering, even though it was beginning to feel like it.

I found Brenna and Nathan an hour later in a parking lot looking worried.  I was after all, pretty late in my estimates of when I would meet them there.  The Goulds climb was looming across the road where I would head up a steep road for quite a distance before linking up with the Goulds trail and then the top of the JEM.  Nathan wisely opted to meet me on a side road where he didn't have to put up with the climb.  I being a little thick headed, as I stated before, wanted to ride up the thing.  The effort is cathartic in a way.

The ride was definitely better once I had a buddy with me.  It meant we could at least laugh at each other if we managed to get lost again.  The Goulds trail wound around the colorful reds, whites and even green looking sand/clay at the base of Gooseberry Mesa, and it was fun, but not the main event.  We were ready for the 8 mile downhill where we had seen signs that bike traffic was one way, and that bikes achieved "dangerous speeds" so to be careful.  That's a great advertisement for mountain biking if ever there was one.  Besides, there was nobody around for miles and we could enjoy the expansive desert views whilst tearing around as fast as we could get the bikes to go.

That's enough typing about a subject that most of you couldn't care less about.  I'll let the video show you more of the ride instead.  I hooked my camera on facing backwards and it worked pretty well, but it worked its way loose on the way down, so the video gets a little floppy in places.  I need to build a better mounting system, but the rear facing view was perfect.  We would get footage of both of us as we went flying through the tumbleweeds.


Monday, July 18, 2011

They named a canyon for Me? -- Bryce Canyon

My son has been enamored with the place ever since he learned of it.  "They named it after me?" he says.  Perhaps not, but and after hiking around the entire place, I'll have to take him there someday.

I'm glad that he didn't go this time though.  He would have passed out within the first 2 miles, and we hiked until even Brenna stated,  "Not one more step.  It's hot. I'm tired. You can get the car." as she found a heaven sent log bench after climbing back up to the rim of the canyon.

I know I need to wrap up my posts about this trip, and I can't seem to find time to edit together the last big a "Moses Ride"(i.e. seems like you are lost in the desert for 40 years) video. I'll get to that next, but for the sake of getting a story written, I'll jump out of order and write up Bryce Canyon.

Of all the strange geological formations we have seen out in Utah over the past 2 trips, this pretty much tops it.  Arches national park was cool, but Bryce Canyon was something else.  It's high elevations and alien rock forms "hoodoos" are a true miracle to see and explore.  It's actually not a canyon, but a ridge where water has been eroding away the sides for millions of years dissolving the softer rock compounds away and leaving constantly changing spires and deep cuts in the rock.  The hoodoos look like giant drip castles from the beach.  Eventually the erosion will cut deeper into the high ridge and level the whole place out.

What struck me most was the color.  Every hour as the sun would move the colors would be different.  From a deep orange and white in the morning to pinks and tans in the afternoon.  The shadow effects were remarkable and made for photographs that you couldn't really get wrong.  Utah, makes my total hack photography skills better just by being there.

And with that, I see this post turning into one of my literarily (perhaps even literally) lazy posts and more into a slide show.  Hopefully you will enjoy it just the same.  Assuming that anyone even visits this link at all.

You enter Bryce Canyon NP from the rim and hike down into the base.  The trails wind all over among the walls and spires.  The place is actually named after a Mormon settler that famously mentioned that Bryce Canyon was "A heck of a place to lose a cow".  Fortunately for us, we weren't looking for any large animals down there.  The joys of a relaxing vacation...  I'm also glad we were up at 10k feet because I could tell even at the mid day temperatures in late spring that for much of the summer the canyon would be dangerously hot.

I love the twisted gnarled nature of the junipers and pines on the slopes all over the canyon country in Utah.  The environment is so harsh that they are just clinging to life on craggy hills, but they seem to keep growing just the same.

The rain hung over the far mountains, but never made it to us.  You don't realize how small our horizons are here in the southeast until you get to a place like this.  We are always surrounded by tall trees in the Appalachian and you can only see maybe 100-200 yards at any given time?  Out west you can see for miles quite regularly.  Not a bad thing, just an interesting observation.  If you grew up out west and came to the southeast it might be a pretty claustrophobic place.

We got up early to catch the sunrise over the park, and realized that we didn't own enough clothing for the high altitude temperatures.  
We were standing on the rim overlooking sunrise point (aptly named...) with the temperature reading 29 in the car as we pulled up to the park entrance.  The interesting variation is that when we finished the day the car thermometer read 98 degrees.  That's quite a change for one day.

The sun flashed above the horizon and the glow crept slowly down the rock faces as the sun cleared the mountains and mesas in the distance.

May 25th and there were mounds of snow 10 feet high still on the ground.  I have no idea how much snow this area must have had just a month before.

We climbed to the top of a rock outcrop to look back at the tourist laden observation area.  It does amaze me the amount of people that will drive everywhere in these parks and just hop out for a photo and drive on without exploring or even trying to hike around.  They are really missing out.

Hiking shoes got a few miles on them during this trip.

One of the many arches that are found everywhere if you look for them.

Bryce Canyon, a place I highly recommend visiting if you ever make it out to Utah, and as I keep finding out, we could spend years in the state and not see everything that we would want to.  I'll try to edit up the JEM / Hurricane Rim/ Goulds trail ride video for the next post.