Monday, December 17, 2007

Nobody SHOUTS ... Moab part III

On the third day of Moab, Eva sang to me ...

That night, Bettie and Grandma Polly joined us and we stayed at my cousin Cody's house. Isobel wasn't too thrilled with sleeping in a bed that night, but Eva liked it.

My brother, Vince, and my happy daughter.

Cody shared some great local wisdom, sending us first to Funnel (aka Cable) Arch, in the Kane Creek area.
There's no marked trailhead or trail to this and I haven't found it on any maps, but it was a pretty short hike to a huge arch. Sweet.

On the way down, Eva burst into song again. "Nobody SHOUTS ... not in my closkle on a cloud." Once again, she repeated it for the rest of the day. Eventually Isobel taught her the line between and it became "Nobody SHOUTS or talks too loud. (now very quiet and sad) not in my closkle on a cloud." And that was it. I bet she sang it at least once every five minutes for the rest of the day. At least 200 times in total. And I loved it every single time.

Isobel shouts in the desert.

Then we drove on, stopping for lunch.

This is Isobel "eating lunch."

... and a potty break.

Here's how Eva spends her time between long drives.

And here's Isobel. They're not different at all.

We headed toward Long Canyon, Cody's next suggestion, via the Shaffer Trail.

This is the best-known section of the Shaffer Trail, a rough road in Canyonlands National Park that climbs to the Island in the Sky.

We made it to Long Canyon. There's a spot near the top where the road crosses a spine at a group of impromptu picnic areas. If you stop there and just walk out along the spine, it narrows until you end up way above a huge canyon.

We thought this was cool. Great, long echoes, with a loud one that comes after several soft ones.

Luckily we kept going, though, and the ridge kept narrowing as another canyon came in.

Then it got really good. It echoed up both canyons, with dozens of voices coming back at you from both sides at varying volumes.

And when you've had enough of that, you can always take a bath in the tub right at the end.

Up next: Part IV: Out one day with you Hollylujah.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Seven Deadly Sins

Here are seven random, stupid things that happened to me, some from before I got religion (back). You can blame Share for this post. Numbers 4, 6 and 7 are PG13.

1. Poor taste
This is the reason Share tagged me with this, so here you go: If I happen on an Ace of Base song on the radio, not only do I not change the channel, I always turn it up.

2. Absentmindedness
My father-in-law calls me the Absent Minded Professor. Here are three absurd examples, all having to do with car keys.
a. I locked my keys in the car, in a parking lot, while the car was running, after I had backed out of the stall, 40 miles from any town.
b. I locked myself out of our house, called Bettie to ask her to come let me in, hung up, walked from the porch to the sidewalk, noticed my phone wasn't in my hand, looked for it and never found it.
c. I borrowed my mom's car once and parked it in my driveway. I walked straight to my room, where I noticed the keys weren't in my hand. I immediately started looking, but never found them.
Judging from where things usually turn up, that phone and those keys are probably in a pocket of the pants I'm wearing right now.

3. Be ye not prepared
Here are a few things I've done to Bettie on our family vacations.
a. Forgot to bring water, then got lost and stuck in the desert.
b. Ran out of gas in a National Forest 20 miles from town with a 14-month-old girl in the back seat.
c. Drove over a mountain pass in a Lincoln Continental with only one headlight, in a blizzard that dropped 6 inches of snow in an hour. Made it out, then, at the first hotel we stopped at, instead of checking in, I picked up a bum and drove around Bend Stupid Oregon for more than an hour looking for his hostel. Thankfully, we were pulled over by a cop, who informed us our headlight was out, gave us directions and wished us a pleasant honeymoon. That's right, honeymoon.

4. Rock and roll
My favorite concert I ever went to began at 2:30 a.m. and ended at 5:30 a.m. on a Tuesday night. Most of those who bought tickets -- and even the bartender -- went home before the band showed up. The band, Crash Worship if you really want to know, squirted wine from bags into people's mouths and flung black and red paint at the crowd.
The best part was after I left. I walked into McDonald's just as they opened -- totally wrecked, 24 hours without sleep, the paint making me look like I'd been beaten badly -- and asked for the employee discount on a Sausage Egg and Cheese biscuit.

5. Working for the Man.
Yes, I worked at McDonald's. I also worked at Denny's for six days and at a place where I scanned calling cards (I think I was the only boy) and at a dude ranch in North Carolina and in a gift shop at Mount Rainier.
And cooking at Big Sky ski resort, where I was shocked how many people were in it for the money. For instance, if it was slow, the manager would ask who wanted to leave. Duh, the lifts were running and we all had free season passes. My hand went up every time, but usually it was the only hand.
And for a 19-year-old kid and his uncle moving houses. They actually jacked the house up off the foundation and trucked it to a new location. My favorite time was when this farm-raised 19-year-old newlywed started the day by backing the big truck with the big winch onto a lawn despite a few inches of new snow, then spent three hours spinning the tires, telling me to stick a block here, dig there and push over there until the lawn was a deep, vast mudhole and the truck was hopelessly stuck. Then we went home, waited a few days, came back and dug the truck out.

6. Shoplifting
I once tried to hitchhike from Asheville, N.C., to New Orleans, for no reason. It was an utter failure. A highlight: Two guys picked me up, drove to WalMart, stole a fishing pole and sent me in to return it for cash. (I guess they were known there.) The checker said I needed the receipt and I said, 'OK. Thank you. Goodbye,' gave the guys "their" fishing pole and walked back to the highway a mile or two from where they picked me up. By Mobile, Alabama, I'd had enough and bought a bus ticket home, to Utah.

7. Very poor judgment
Here's a little story: There was once a girl who pawned her guitar, then accepted a cleaning job from the opportunistic pawn shop owner. She went but there was no work to do that day, so he just talked to her about his fabulous and frequent trips to Thailand, then paid her and told her to come back in two days, saying there would be some work to do then. It took three increasingly uncomfortable visits -- she had been invited on one of those Thai trips by the last one, but still hadn't found any cleaning to do -- for her to decide not to go back for any more "work."
What has this to do with me and my poor judgment? I was dating this girl when it happened.

All my dreams came true. But now I have a bunch of other dreams.

Fat Man, you're up.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

"I can be strong..." Moab part II

On the second day of Moab, Eva sang to me ...

Click on that. It's worth it.

Compared to Isobel, Eva's not really a singer. She doesn't come home from nursery or preschool singing that day's songs, she almost never sings along with even her favorite bedtime songs, and she rarely sings in public restrooms.

But on this trip, Eva picked a new song every day, and sang the heck out of it. She only knew about half of one line, usually, but she latched onto it, belted it out, and let it propel her up the rock.

She didn't get this song from me, that's for sure. I had to ask Isobel where it came from (Disney's Hercules). But it sure seemed appropriate as she grunted her way up the slot canyon, belting, "I can be strong. I know every mile." Here are the real lyrics. Her line goes, "If I can be strong, I know every mile will be worth my while."

If anybody wants to go to this place, it's a few miles off SR 128 in Onion Creek, about 20 miles northeast of Moab. I'm not sure how far we drove in on this dirt road, but we stopped at a little pullout just beyond the road bridge that's about 100 feet or more above the creek. The pullout was near a confluence of two tiny creeks that probably only have water from March to May, and occasionally during the flash floods of July and August. We followed the left fork to a 20 foot sheer face and climbed around it.

That's when Isobel had to go. She's great at doing her business in the woods (Eva's pee is still "scared of the ground," but that's another story), but this was number two and we had no shovel or TP. So we ran, then drove back to the campground we stayed in the night before.

That gave Eva, who stayed behind with Devin, a good, long chance to explore some of her very favorite parts of hiking:

Eating Snickers bars.
Drinking from a Camelbak.
Pushing sand.

Then we continued around the drop-off and up the canyon, which got narrow and steep, and fun, after that. Then it spread back out and climbed, steeply again, to a ridge.

This is me, spreading out a little pillow for Eva's head and a jacket for her stinky bum right at the top.

I am sooooo glad that she is now potty-trained.

This is also about the time she started her daily fit (much worse on top of a ridge with only scary, scarier, and scariest ways down).

Here's a nice view from the top. (Devin took all these pictures.)

And here's Isobel, victorious. Listen to that audio clip again. You can hear Isobel blowing by us in that steep, narrow, rocky canyon: "UH! Hi Dad."

I tell you, the girl can scramble.

Part III: "Nobody SHOUTS! Not in my castle on a cloud."

Friday, November 30, 2007

Can you 'preciate Moab, sweetie

On the first day of Moab, Eva said to me ...

Last March. It was Devin's spring break and I had to "work" in Moab. So he tagged along. We also brought Isobel and Eva, because: Every spring break worth its sun includes a couple of girls that are super cute, and just a little bit dirty.

We hit Lizard Rock first. (This rock can be seen from the Fisher Towers trailhead, about 22 miles northeast of Moab on Utah State Road 128.) On a previous trip, Isobel had named it "Bottle Rock." After Eva's first look, it was "Mother Rock." I guess it just depends on your point of view.

From here, I think it looks like a big scary Tyrannosaurus lizard. I haven't seen any lizards standing on their hind legs like a bunny rabbit in 65 million years, but maybe the T-Rex resemblance is how it got its name.

Click on the picture for the full-size version if you can't see Isobel marching through the canyon at the bottom. She's a beast on the trail.

At some point on this hike, one of us said something like, "I don't think the pack rat that lives there would appreciate you poking your head in his home," and I guess Eva heard. Because, for the rest of the day, she was asking everyone (or no one) if they " 'preciated that."

Sometimes these girls make me nervous, but maybe it's just because I can't really keep up with them on the harder sections. Here's Isobel leaving me in the dust.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

More deadline hiking

The clouds are building today, the high is supposed to be in the 30s and snow could fall this evening.

Two days ago, I hiked to an 11,746-foot lake and there wasn't any ice or snow anywhere. Good thing I left the skis and the ice auger at home.

OK, I did find a little ice ...

This is a fork of the Rio Nambe, at about 11,000 feet. On the shady side. There was a bit of snow and ice in the shadiest spots. But it hasn't snowed in at least a month, so there wasn't much to speak of.

This is a 12,600-foot peak, Santa Fe Baldy. Dry as a bone.

I didn't make it up there. But a couple was going that way. They were from San Diego, and had just finished a long backpacking trip in Southern Utah (Paria Canyon). I told them I was amazed the trail was so bare at this time of the year and they said, "Why?"

I guess the trails around San Diego are milder than those in northern Utah. I bet the Uintas aren't this easy to navigate right now.

In all, I hiked about 17 miles, saw four lakes and a bunch of peaks I'd like to come back to. I started on the Winsor Trail at Ski Santa Fe and ended at Holy Ghost Campground. Bettie dropped me off and left a car on the other side. (She had to drive 60 miles to get there; it's 13 miles by the shortest trail.)

This is Lake Katherine, the highest and probably prettiest of the four lakes I saw.

Good thing Devin and Vince weren't there, or it would have been a pretty cold swim.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hiking is not fun

Hiking is one of my favorite things. Really. Most of the time. Sometimes, though, it is nothing but a task to be completed. A tedious, painful, task to be completed. At the last possible moment.

(I have not slept for 27 hours. The 45-minute naps in the rain on the rocks do not count.)

The truth is, though I had been vowing to bag Gunsight Peak for 13 years, I may never have gotten around to it if I hadn't moved 600 miles away.

Once, a fellow canoeist on the Bear River said of Gunsight Peak, which looms over that Cache Valley, Utah, section of the river, “It’s one of those peaks you get sick of just looking at.” He’d lived in the area for about a year when he finally did more than just look at it; he climbed it.

At the time, I thought I knew just what he meant. I didn’t.

I’d had it on my list of peaks to bag for years. But as it turns out, I loved looking at it, summit conquest or no. The only thing that got me to the top was the prospect of having it looming over my memory, growing ever larger, without being able to add this note to the story: I planted my tennis shoes on the tippest top of Gunsight Peak.

That’s what drove me there, on a hungry, rainy, dark night – full moon blotted out by clouds – even pushing past a false summit at dawn.

Gunsight Peak is a beautiful mound, rising quickly from the valley floor, north of one small mountain range and west of another. The small range’s high point is named for the view from the west, where two peaks (Gunsight is the northern peak) and their connecting ridge aim above the valley at nothing but the sky. (From an airplane, you could probably sight in Naomi Peak, Cache County’s highest.) The peaks blend when looking from the southeast, where I
grew up.

There are a hundred peaks like it across the West: Small, beautiful, rising lonely out of a patch of sagebrush, watching over settlements anywhere from 100 to 1 million strong.

It’s beauty is understated: I spent a lot of time looking out of high school classroom windows at the Wellsville range, its neighbor to the south, but I never paid much attention to Gunsight Peak – didn’t even know its name – until I returned to the valley after a summer away just after high school graduation.

Once I returned from Mount Rainier National Park, I looked at it differently. From Hyrum, Gunsight Peak has nearly the same profile as that giant northwestern volcano, which rises 14,410 feet from the sea level city of Seattle in 54 miles. Gunsight’s little cone rises not quite 4,000 feet – to 8,266 feet from the valley floor of 4,400.

What finally drove me up it, however, was not tiring of “just looking at it,” it was a deadline. My brother and I planned our ascent for the last full moon before I moved 600 miles from Logan. I didn’t want to remember Gunsight Peak as the little volcano I never climbed. So I enhanced the memory.

As with so many of my unspectacular little adventures, this one was made memorable by poor decision-making and lack of preparation.

It was a full moon, according to the calendar, but we couldn’t see the full moon at 1 a.m. when we finally left the house. At least it wasn’t raining anymore. We debated the pros and cons of starting early in the morning or starting right now.

Pros: It wasn’t raining. We were still up. We had to do it sometime. If the clouds did clear, the late-July day would be scorching.

Cons: The big dinner we ate to fuel us to the top was already wearing off. We had nothing but Oatmeal Crème Pies and water to fuel our hike. After sitting in front of a movie – I don’t even
remember what we watched – for a couple of hours, I had the beginnings of a headache.

OK, we didn’t weigh any of those factors against taking the peak. Didn’t think of them until later, when we were tired, hungry and had nothing in our packs. The one we did think about was that, well, we didn’t know where, exactly, to start.

Off we went. We found a starting point and started in the dark. (Here's a Topozone map with Gunsight Peak on the left. We started just off the right side of the map, at the dead end of the road on Myler Creek.)

By three in the morning, I was ready for bed. And it was raining again. And we didn’t have raincoats. And my head hurt. So we lay down under a tree, dozed off, woke up shivering 40 minutes later and hiked again.

At dawn we made the summit.

(Oh. I'm glad
that's over.

From the summit, in new light, we could see the real summit.

(Kill me.)

We called it good - this was the summit we could see from home, after all - and headed down. Or, rather, we tried to head down. We couldn't leave it up there.

We dragged ourselves across the ridge, up the, well,
chokecherry-choked final slope - much longer than it looked of
course - and passed out on the tippest tip of Gunsight Peak. Forty
minutes later, it was raining, we were freezing, and we were on our
way down.

Going down is always the worst part. Except for driving home, copilot asleep, stomach churning nothing but sugar, after 29 hours without sleep.

It was not fun, but it's done. And we never have to do it again.