New year, new decade

This last year marked the start of a new decade of life for me. So long twenties, hello thirties! Thirty feels different in some ways than my twenties. Not necessarily in feeling older. In that area I feel the same. I still believe, and hope to always believe, that age is more a state of mind and being than a number. I can’t quiet put my finger on the difference of being 30, maybe it feels more distinguished, maybe I feel more understanding of who I am, maybe a little of both or something else.

I entered 2016 with the idea of trying to really mark my thirties by being present in important moments and meeting goals. In some ways, this task was easy. 2016 was filled with wonderful memories, travel, and new experiences that shaped the year and will forever be embedded in my memory. In other ways, it was difficult to really be mindful of the moments that stood out and overall I realized that I have been blessed to have another year that was pretty awesome. I have a lot to be grateful and that’s what focusing on these moments helped me remember every day. I’ve always believe that I have a lot in life to be thankful for, but this task of marking my 30th year with experiences made that so blatantly evident.

I visited several places I had never been to before Boise, ID (1), Chicago, IL (2), Flagstaff, AZ (3), Dinosaur National Monument, UT (4), Jackson, WY (5), Great Basin National Park, NV, (6), and checked another country off the list with a two week road trip through Canada (7). I did things I have never done before such as eating beets (8), trying ice climbing (9), dyeing my hair (10), staying in a yurt (11), eating oysters (12), making Thanksgiving dinner on my own (13), going night sledding (14), and cutting down our own Christmas tree this year (15). Some moments were goals I had that were accomplished. We grew our own garden this year (16), I swam for exercise which I haven’t done in several years (17), I climbed Little Black Mountain-a hike that bested me twice before-(18), finished a daily reading book based on the works of C.S.Lewis (19), and ran the most I’ve ever ran with 18.5 miles (20). This last goal I beat the first week of year 31 by completing my first marathon! There were also moments that were unexpected. I had quite the fangirl moment this year when I met Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter!!) at Sundance this year (21), my extended family grew with the arrival of another beautiful nephew on Derek’s side and the announcement that a nephew was on way for the the first time on my side (22), and I unexpectedly got served a meal from the refugee family we work with that consisted of cow stomach and testicles (23)! Yum!

And then there were the sweetest of moments, the moments of all around happiness. Derek and I got tattoos (not matching) on my 30th birthday (24). It was fun to experience that together and mark my 30th year permanently. On our Canada trip, we visited Banff National Park (25). This had been a bucket list item for both of us for awhile. It’s a stunningly beautiful place. I surprised my mother while she was here visiting with High Tea at the Grand American hotel (26). She was so happy and excited! It was a wonderful experience to have with her. In my professional life, I got to be a part of a client fighting for custody of his children after a very difficult year and finally succeeding (27). The moment he came bursting into my office to tell me he had been granted custody of his children with a huge smile on his face is something that still warms my heart when I think about it. We had the opportunity to return to Santa FE, NM (28), a place that is very dear to my heart. When we moved to Utah, I was sad to think I wasn’t going to be able to go there as much. Getting to return and visit all of our places was a treat. This year was also marked with numerous experiences with our refugee family from Burma (29). We saw our relationship blossom this year from volunteers helping a family to real friendship. Besides the meals of ball and stomach soup, we spent many Wednesdays throughout the year helping with homework, teaching how to pay bills, laughing, telling stories about our lives, and sharing in the joy of finding out they are expecting another child!

And the last moment may be this. Getting to sit and reflect on another year of life, on a new decade, on God’s blessings, and all the captivating moments that marked 2016 brings me joy. I will take a moment on the last day of this year and be present in my gratitude. I am so excited for what 2017 has to bring. I leave this year with this one thought rotating through my mind-Life is Beautiful.



Birthday getaway to Jackson Hole

In celebration of my 31st birthday we spent a weekend in Jackson, WY. Who needs gifts when you can travel instead, right? This was our first time in Jackson and I am smitten. The snow, tall mountains and open spaces, amazing food, and picturesque town square have captured my heart. And the fact that it is so close to Tetons and Yellowstone are a huge plus (so I will certainly be returning).

We arrived on Friday afternoon after an extended journey through snow and icy roads. We headed straight to Snake River Brewing to sample brews and have a snack. After having our fill, we happened to stumble upon a neon building that houses one of the only hydroponic greenhouses in a 3 story warehouse, Vertical Harvest. The guide gave us a tour and samples of fresh basil, chives, and tomatoes. We spent the rest of the evening exploring the town square, stopping in for samples at Grand Teton Distillery, and eating pizza at Pinky G’s.

Saturday we stuffed our faces with breakfast burritos from D.O.G. and did a short drive through Grand Teton. It snowed most of the day, so the view was limited, but it was cool to see the whiteout all around us. We came back into town and did some shopping. My favorite store was MADE, complete with hand made cards, tees, local jewelry, and other unique gifts. We then drove out to Teton Village to have drinks at The Handle Bar and watch the skiers on the mountain. We headed back to Jackson for a little more shopping and happened upon Hatch Taqueria and Tequilas where we had DELICIOUS margaritas. We continued the stuffing of our faces at Thai Me Up with tasty Thai dishes and beers from Melvin Brewing (it’s a Thai restaurant and brewery in one…WHAT???). I picked out some desserts for us at Coco Love and a day of eating everything we could get our hands on came to a close.

Sunday started with breakfast at Persephone Bakery and then a scenic drive through Grand Tetons National Park. The weather cleared up enough for blue skies and more visibility, although clouds still covered the Tetons. We were able to spot elk, deer, moose, buffalo, and bald eagles. We made it to Jackson Lake and enjoyed all of the snowy sights along the way and stopped at the visitor center of the Elk Refuge (so many elk!!) when we returned into town. 

I absolutely fell in love with Jackson, Wyoming. I plan on returning time and time again. It is a lovely town with a lot to offer in and around the area. Truly a beautiful place to visit!


Chile: Part 1

“Traveling-it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” -Ibn Battuta

We recently spent two weeks traveling through southern Chile. We did so much in those couple weeks that it seems somewhat overwhelming to write about. Chile is a breathtakingly beautiful country, so much so in fact that of all the places we have been, I think Derek and I would agree that it wins when it comes to natural beauty.

Our trip started off a little rough on Wednesday with intense weather in Lubbock that caused us to miss our flight out of Dallas. We were both scheduled to run portions of the Patagonian International Marathon on Saturday, so were were praying we could to Torres del Paine by then. We were able to fly out of Dallas on Thursday night and another domestic flight to Punta Arenas and a 4 hour car ride later, we finally arrived at the EcoCamp in Torres del Paine around 2am on our race morning. We both got to see some awesome scenery over the course of our race. Derek’s race started at Glacier Lake (of course he took no pictures) and mine started right near the famed Los Cuernos del Paine or “the horns” (of course I took like 50 pictures). After our races, we were able to enjoy the EcoCamp. If you ever make it down to Torres del Paine, the EcoCamp is the place to be. Their environmentally conscious domes, friendly staff (Tim, Pablo, and the rest of the crew, you were amazing!), and down right delicious meals made our experience at the EcoCamp one we will never forget. Most of the other guests were there for the race, so we had the opportunity to spend a few days with a bunch of crazy, travel loving runners like ourselves. Meeting kindred spirits is one of my favorite parts about traveling.  Somehow, through the shared love of adventure, life experiences, and, in this case, running, we met a bunch of strangers who felt like life long friends by the time we left. I sincerely hope our paths cross with all of them again in the future.On Sunday, we took an excursion with the EcoCamp to explore more of the park. We made several stops including Sarmiento Lake and Laguna Azul. We feasted on a traditional Chilean barbecue (we were definitely not vegetarians on this trip) with the 3 towers as our backdrop and rode bikes on different parts of the trip. We saw guanacos, condors, foxes, flamingos, and rheas. Torres del Paine is absolutely amazing! I would go back in a heartbeat.


We (sadly) left the EcoCamp on Monday and returned to Punta Arenas. The following day we ventured out to Tierra del Fuego with a local tour company to see a colony of King Penguins. Now, one thing we were not prepared for was the lack of English spoken in Chile. We certainly do not expect anyone to know English, it just so happens that most places that we have been are full of English speakers. Chile was not that way, so obviously there were some language barrier issues because I speak very little Spanish (and Chilean Spanish is different anyway) and Derek speaks just about none. So, the tour bus drove onto a ship that would carry us across a bay to where the penguins were and once on the boat we were allowed to get out of the bus and walk around. Our guide apparently told us to be back at a certain time, but we didn’t quite catch that. When we docked, we went to get on our tour bus and it was no where to be found. The dock was a ways away from the nearest town and cars and buses were clearing out quickly, by the time we decided for sure our bus wasn’t there and we needed to look for a cab it was too late. Luckily, a man and his wife in a little pick up truck signaled to us-he held up the number 2, we shook our heads excitedly yes, and before we knew it we were in the truck (sorry mom) trying to explain to him what happened to us in very broken Spanish. With his help we were able to reconnect with our tour group, turns out the guide was planning on coming back for us, but he had to clear the dock or so he said, and we continued on to the penguins. We arrived at the colony and had to put on multiple layers due to the biting cold and the wind, but seeing the penguins waddle around was worth it!


We returned to Punta Arenas that evening, caught a flight to Puerto Montt the next morning, and arrived in Puerto Varas and the Lake District that afternoon where we picked up a rental car. We feasted on some conger eel cheeks, which were delicious, and took an impromptu drive out to Parque Nacional Vincente Perez Rosales. The park has a rapid filled river running through it with the volcanos of the Lake District visible in the background.


On Thursday, we drove out to the island of Chiloe, again crossing the sea in a large ship. We spent the day exploring the island and the national park. Chiloe is partly known for the colorful palafitos that line its coast. These are brightly painted houses on stilts. We read about some of the folklore of Chiloe before arriving and Derek was fascinated with the story of the camahueto a bull with one horn (or unicorn bull) that violently erupts from the earth and destroys everything in its path as it run to the sea. We drove so far out onto the island that we ended up on a remote beach with nothing but a few run down houses and some free roaming horses, cows, and sheep. It was serene and peaceful being the only people around to enjoy the ocean.


There are more stories to tell and I will get there, but it’s time to take a break and pack some boxes. We leave for Utah in 2 1/2 weeks. The good news of today is that we have a place to live! We at least won’t be homeless! We found a wonderful apartment right in the middle of the neighborhood we wanted to live in. One task down! We will be west before we know it.

For more Chile pictures check us out on Instagram @asweheadwest!

National Park trip: Crater Lake, the Redwoods, and Lassen National Parks

One of our goals as a couple is to see all of the national parks in the U.S. We actually keep a little map in our house where we put stickers on the parks we’ve been to. This past weekend we ventured out on a mini road trip through parts of the northwest to hit 3 national parks.

Our original plan was to head west and spend 4 days in Sequoia National Park. Due to the fires in the area and a prediction of unfavorable conditions, we made a week of decision to change our course. We tossed around Bandlands, Yellowstone, or Tetons, but ultimately decided that since we had a few extra days off we were going to go as far as we could and see as much as we could. So, we plotted out a route to see Crater Lake, Redwoods, and Lassen Volcanic National Parks. 3 parks passing through 4 states in 4 1/2 days!
We left on Thursday afternoon and drove the long stretch from SLC to Crater Lake, OR. We decided to drive as far as we could and stop whenever we felt like we were done for the day. We have a 50/50 rule when it comes to driving so we each took turns behind the wheel. We drove through the desert of Nevada and enjoyed the sunset along the mountains. Time seemed to go quickly due to a binge listening of the Serial podcast. Derek had heard it before, I hadn’t; we listened to like 10 episodes back to back which is the time frame it takes to gets to Oregon! We made it to Klamath Falls, OR. One of the last little towns before the park.

After a brief hotel stay at an awesome resort ranch in the area (something Derek surprised me with), we drove the hour we had left to Crater Lake on Friday. Crater Lake is impressive. It’s beautiful and the water is just so blue! We drove the crater rim loop and stopped at various viewpoints as well as doing a short hike to Plaikni falls.



Although there is not as much to do in this park as others, we could have done some other longer hikes, but given our packed agenda we headed on to Northern California.  In 2010, for our first anniversary, we did a California roadtrip from the Redwoods down to San Diego. So, we have been in the Redwoods before, but it became one of our favorite parks after that trip and it was an easy decision to stop there again. On our first trip to the Redwoods we stopped in a little beach town for dinner. We were convinced this time around that that town was Crescent City. So all day Friday we were excited to stop and eat in Cresent City before setting up camp. Turns out our memories failed us and Cresent City was not the little beach town we remembered from before. We ate a platter of fried seafood there anyway after a scenic drive through Stout Grove and then set up camp amongst the Redwoods. On Saturday, we drove to the southern part of the park and stopped at various trails and beaches along the way back up to our campsite. The Redwoods are just incredible! You feel like a tiny ant as you walk among them. Derek said they almost seem aliens, like the don’t belong on this plant. We checked out out the Trees of Mystery and took a gondola ride up to the top of the forest, took a beach walk along Dry Lagoon, hiked the Lady Bird Johnson, Big Tree, and Cathedral Loop Trails, wandered through Fern Canyon, and ate dinner on the beach where the Klamath River meets the ocean. There we watched around 30 seals and sea lions frolicking in the waves where the river rushes in to the Pacific. We watched them chase birds, dive for fish, and surf on the waves.


After a pit stop in Trinidad (which turned out to be the beach town we were looking for earlier!) and one in Redding, we arrived in Lassen on Sunday afternoon. We hiked to Bumpass’s Hell (yes, that’s it’s name) which is a large area of sulphuric mud pits that you can view from pathways connecting them to each other. You smell the strong stench of sulphur and see the smoke almost immediately as the mud bubbles up from the pits. These sulphuric pits are in various parts of the volcanic park. We saw others right off the road at Sulphur Works after a short hike to two mountain lakes.


That night, Derek built a fire after we set up camp again, and we enjoyed the cool mountain evening under the stars. We packed up camp for the last time Monday morning, stopped at the Devastated Area and Manzanita Lake, and then began the journey through California and Nevada back to Salt Lake City.

Road-tripping through Canada

After a two week road trip through Canada, I am attempting to re-adjust to real life. I love vacation life. I think I could live in vacation life forever.

We got to see and do so much during our journey through the Great White North. We spent the first day in Missoula, MT and then drove through Glacier National Park on the Going to the Sun Road. We crossed into Canada and camped for the night at Payne Lake. The next few days were filled with exploring Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise, Yoho, and the Canadian Glacier National Park. We drove the Icefields Parkway for a day and made various stops along the way to marvel at the scenery. Lake Louise and Moraine Lake took up another day. We then headed towards Vancouver with a stop in Kelowna, Canadian wine country in the Okanagan valley. Who knew Canada had a wine country? And a spectacular one at that. We stopped at Quail Ridge and did a tour of Mission Hills winery. Both vineyards overlook the massive Okanagan Lake. Picturesque is an understatement. We spent a few days in Vancouver, staying at a little Airbnb in Kitsilano near the beach. We ate sushi, ran through Stanley Park, tried poutine, checked out the Grouse Grind, walked across the Capilano suspension bridge, and stopped at several breweries. Our final few days in Canada were on Vancouver island. We did a kayaking trip in Telegraph Cove. We saw dolphins, bald eagles, and lots of jellyfish. One of the highlights for me was staying at the Free Spirit Spheres, these large hanging ball shaped tree houses. We spent a night in the Melody sphere, which was pretty amazing. Our last day in Canada we spent in Victoria before taking the ferry back to the U.S. We spent a day in Olympic National Park with stops at Ruby beach and the Hoh Rainforest. The final day of our vacation we explored Seattle, WA. We went to Pike Market, the Woodland Park Zoo, multiple breweries, Fremont street and the Fremont troll, the Ballard Locks, and ate delicious Thai food in Capitol Hill.

It was 15 days packed full of adventure and fun! Although we saw a ton, this was definitely just a taste of all the amazing things Canada has to offer.




Spur of the moment in Dinosaur National Monument

Consider this a late post because this is a recap of Labor Day. But better late than never! We made a last minute decision to head north to Vernal, UT and Dinosaur National Monument.  Vernal itself is pretty small, but has some good eats, a brewery, and the Dinosaur museum. The surrounding area, however, is incredible. Between Ashley National Forest, Fantasy Canyon, and Dinosaur the views are spectacular. We spent a rain soaked and lightening strike filled night camping in Ashley (lightening so bad, Derek woke me up at 3am to go sit in the car) in between seeing the sights. We ventured into Colorado as well to check out their side of Dinosaur. All in all a great weekend exploring more of this beautiful state we live in!


As Winter Comes

For the first time since Thanksgiving we can see the grass in our yard. The snow is melting and the weather is getting warmer. Although I’m sure there are still a few more random days of snow ahead, I have survived my first real winter in SLC and really my first real winter anywhere.

I’ve never lived anywhere with a true winter. My years spent in North Carolina and Southern California brought little to no snow and I had a handful of wintery days while living in Texas, but nothing compares to this past winter. Even last year’s winter here was more than I’ve experienced, but mild compared to most as I’ve come to understand. Utah is a winter wonderland and I’ve learned that I enjoy it!

I managed to get around in it and have gotten used to driving in snow (which is a big deal for me as it used to terrify me). I’ve hiked, ran, and walked my dog on the snowy mountain trails. I built a snowman in our backyard. I have learned to embrace winter and all the wonderful things that come with it. Here a few pictures that sum up this winter season.