Grand Escalante and the Cosmic Navel

Derek and I, along with another couple, headed down south for our first camping weekend of the year! We got down to Escalante, UT and Grand Stair Case National Monument to a mix of rain which eventually turned into snow. We decided to camp at the Escalante Outfitters so as not to have to set up ours tents in the middle of nowhere with the weather how it was. We munched on pizza from the Outfitters that evening. I think it may be the best pizza in Utah. Goat cheese, jalapenos, and pepperoni-yum! We turned in and hoped for better weather in the morning. We woke up Saturday morning to this…unnamed-2 So much for a warm spring weekend in Southern Utah. With the weather conditions, most of the dirt roads leading to some of the desired hikes were impassable. We decided to make our way to the Upper Calf Creek Falls area and see if we could hike to the waterfall. The slick rock was covered with snow which made for a slippery hike down and a handful of good stumbles. I returned home with a nice baseball sized bruise on my outer thigh from one such stumble. The sun came out mid morning and quickly began to make the day warm and melt away the snow. We made it to Upper Calf Creek to find not one, but two waterfalls! We hiked around to explore the bottom and top of both falls as well as splash around in the water and through a few snowballs. By the end of the day, that warm weather we were hoping for had arrived and our drive back to Escalante looked like a whole new landscape without the snow.IMG_8171IMG_8174IMG_8183IMG_8187IMG_8207IMG_8233IMG_8247IMG_8249IMG_8251IMG_8259IMG_8276IMG_8280IMG_8178We played games, ate, had a fire, and relaxed that evening. The next day the roads were dry which meant we could get to the hike we were truly there for…The Cosmic Navel. Derek saw this online a few days before we left and decided we had to try and find it ourselves. We made our way to the start of the trail and followed GPS coordinates up and down red rock, sand, and slick rock. It took a while, but we found it! The Cosmic Navel (or Cosmic Ashtray depending on who you ask and what you Google) is a large, and I mean large, pothole full of sand. The hike ends with a view of the top and then there is a way to work your way down to the left into the hole with grooves in the rock forming a make-shift ladder. The Cosmic Navel is around 200 feet wide and the reddish-orange sand makes you think you’re on Mars when your down there. Definitely look it up, there are some pretty fascinating articles about how it was formed and why it’s there. Why call it the Cosmic Navel? Because it kinda looks like a giant belly-button…from outer space. Anyway, we climbed down to play in the sand and explore. Before we left, we played a few rounds of bocce ball using rocks. It’s certainly the most interesting place I’ve ever played bocce ball. We made our way out of the navel and back to the car. This was one of the most unique hikes I’ve been on in Utah. The scenery was other-worldly and breathtaking at the same time. Derek already has plans to return in the fall. Just to play more bocce ball in the space belly-button. IMG_8281IMG_8283IMG_8289IMG_8290IMG_8292IMG_8297IMG_8307IMG_8309IMG_8310

Birthday getaway to Ouray

This weekend we celebrated Derek’s birthday with a quick weekend getaway to Colorado. We spent Friday night checking out Palisade Brewing since we were staying the night in Grand Junction. The brewery has great beers on tap while also featuring local ciders and delicious sandwiches. On Saturday, we stopped at Octopus Coffee for breakfast before making it the rest of the way to Ouray. I had a bacon bagel, with bacon, and eggs mixed with bacon. WOAH! We made it to Ouray and checked out the local shops. I found a world necklace at the Silver Lynx that I am obsessed with. We spent the afternoon relaxing at the Weisbaden Hot Springs Spa. They have a vapor cave underneath their hotel that is like a sauna and hot springs in a cave with temperatures around 108 degrees. They also have an outdoor warm spring which you can enjoy while taking in the breathtaking mountain view all around. It was amazing and so relaxing! We split an afternoon snack of a poblano bacon burger with fries at Maggie’s, which is definitely the top 5 burgers I have ever had. We then had a brew at Ouray Brewing and ventured over to O’Brien’s Pub to have a few more drinks and watch KU beat Oklahoma State. ROCK CHALK! We decided to have some dinner at Buen Tiempo’s which was not amazing, but had delicious margaritas. After a stop Mouse’s Chocolate’s and Coffee for dessert, we finished the night with beers at Ourayle House Brewing (also known as Mr. Grumpy Pants) where we chatted up some locals and met Mr. Grumpy Pants himself!
This morning we had breakfast at Roast and Toast which had delicious pancakes and sausage and biscuits and, yes, more bacon.  We hiked a portion of the Ouray Perimeter Trail near Box Canyon Falls. The hike has incredible views of the town in the bowl of the mountains.  We started the drive back to SLC with a stop in Montrose where we found the best beer store ever, we brought home brews from Prairie, Grimm Brothers, La Cumbre, and more…so many favorites. And a stop for a wine tasting at Whitewater Hill Vineyards which had ice wine, something we hadn’t seen since Canada.
Derek deemed Ouray his favorite mountain town and I would agree. It was wonderful to escape to the Colorado mountains for a weekend, very relaxing and very fun!

 

Long weekend in Tahoe

This is definitely a late post, but I’m finally getting around to a small recap of a long weekend in Lake Tahoe, CA. Derek and some friends spent the weekend skiing at Heavenly and Kirkwood resorts, while I spent most of the weekend recovering from a knock out cold and a stomach bug. I had hoped to ski at least one day, but my body did not follow the plan. I ventured out long enough to explore the lake and snaps some photos and join the rest of the group for meals at local places such as Base Camp Pizza, Cold Water Brewery and Grill, The Brewery at Lake Tahoe, and sushi at Off the Hook. I hope to revisit Lake Tahoe when I am well and have the energy to do more!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.