Friday, June 26, 2009

Week 4….Capitol Reef Surprise!

After just my first day in Capitol Reef National Park, I want to spend the rest of my summer here.

Not only does it have a great location (only 2 hours from Moab, the middle point between Arches and Canyonlands national park), but it also has the most amazing housing and people.

Before I came here, my supervisor told me I would be staying in a dorm. When I heard the word “dorm,” my thoughts immediately flashed back to freshman year when I had to share a dorm room with the grossest little dude ever. Along with the fact that I would be living in a dorm, was the idea that I would be trekking over 20 miles with my supervisor in 90-degree southwestern heat. The night before we left, I barely got any sleep. I was dreading my time in Capitol Reef. I guess I still underestimated my luck.

The “dorm” turns out to be a 2-story house in a quaint little neighborhood sitting at the foot of a beautiful, red, purple, and green 500-foot-tall rock face. 3 other guys had been living there; one is a seasonal interpreter, one is a seasonal astronomer, and the other is a seasonal maintenance worker. All great guys and we immediately hit it off; more great friends to add to the list.

On top of that surprise, the newest addition to the cultural resources staff, a young archaeologist from Indiana, would be joining my supervisor and I on our 20-mile roadside survey. The young archaeologist turns out to be a pretty cool dude from Indiana, and we end up having plenty to talk about while we hiked along the roadside looking for artifacts. We even decided to hike after work to take a look at some petroglyphs (ancient rock art), the historic Mormon pioneer register, and hike up to the rim view point to catch sunset. The hike was incredible. Capitol Reef is, although very different from Bryce, a wonderfully beautiful place.

After the hike, he introduced me to a new brew from Indiana called Upland. It was pretty damn delicious.

Throughout the rest of the week, we worked on our survey. The survey consisted of walking 10 miles of roadside (20 counting both sides), looking for historic and prehistoric artifacts. Some of the things we found, for example, were arrowhead bases and midsections, civilian conservation corps (CCC) campsites with old soda bottles and tin cans, and even collapsed bridges.

During our 20-mile survey, I couldn’t help but enjoy the scenery. Some of the flowers were in bloom and, of course, the 300-foot cliff faces were wonderful to look at.

Enjoy the pictures!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

3rd week of work…Intro to Archaeology and the Astronomy Festival!

I left Costa Mesa, CA on Sunday evening (definitely later than planned). I ended up breaking up the 10 hour drive into 2 parts. I stopped in Vegas for the night, then finished it up in the morning to make it to work by lunch time. Thankfully my supervisor is totally flexible and understanding.

Anyway, I showed up on Monday right after lunch and, surprisingly enough, I had mail! My amazing uncl sent me a care package with tons of cliff bars and camp food along with a brand spankin new camera! I was pumped! 12 megapixels, shockproof, waterproof Olympus. Super awesome! THANKS UNLCE AL! YOU'RE THE BEST!!!

Later that day, my supervisor and I headed out to the field to get my first taste of archeological surveying. Having no experience whatsoever with archeology, the entire day was an awesome, but very slow, learning experience. Archeological surveying takes patience, time, and most importantly, a passion for extremely old stuff. I’m not gona lie, it was pretty boring. Every now and then we would find something cool, but most of the time, all we found were chert rock flakes. These flakes are remnants of pre-historic Indians’ tools and shavings from arrowheads. Since the chert was brought to the site by these Indians, they are considered artifacts. I’m still learning, and the biggest lesson is patience (and to get more sleep before staring at the ground searching for shiny rocks all day).

On Tuesday I worked in the Visitor’s Center all day. This was definitely more my style than archeology and more fun since I got to interact with a lot of people. I got to learn things about the park that I didn’t know before by answering guests’ questions. Surprisingly enough, one of the guests was a Gator grad and another one was actually from Davie! What a small world it is.

Towards the end of the day, I took a drive to the local town of Panguitch to assist with setting up for the 9th Annual Astronomy Festival! The festival is 4 days, from the 17-20 of June. Since Bryce Canyon NP (National Park) is known as one of the last sanctuaries for natural darkness, it’s an extremely appropriate site for the festival. 2009 is also the International Year of Astronomy!

Throughout the whole festival, I assisted in workshops, lectures, and stargazing!

3 out of the 4 days during the festival, I was put in charge of the rocket building workshop. This was a blast! (no pun intended lol) We even decided to strap a small rocket with 5 engines on the last day to see what would happen. It ended up not going very far hahaha, but it was still fun!

I also helped out with planisphere workshops. Planispheres are simple plastic tools used to read constellations in the night sky.

While working in the visitor’s center and also assisting with tickets for the lectures, I had the chance to meet some amazing astro- and deep space photographers! Including Wally Pacholka, Time & Life magazine “picture of the year award” recipient! His work is unbelievable! Check out his website at!

Each evening, at one of the campground parking lots, the Salt Lake Astronomical Society (SLAS) would set up over 40 different telescopes to view the night sky! One of the nights during the festival was unbelievably clear. The Milky Way streamed across the sky and, amazingly, visible to the naked eye! I got the chance to see things like iridium flares (which are rare and specific times when highly reflective satellites that catch the sun just right as they are orbiting, shine brighter than anything else in the sky), various nebulae (where stars are born), star clusters, and even Saturn! Saturn was really incredible. Seeing it with my own eyes absolutely blew me away. I never knew how different and more inspiring it would be than pictures I had seen before.

On the last evening of the festival, the staff threw a “StarBQ.” We had steaks, salad, and cheesecake in the same parking lot as the stargazing. It was a little too late in the evening for me to really enjoy the meal, but it was a nice celebratory event anyway.

Today, I played a little basketball and went to take some pictures of Bryce Amphitheater since the weather was so nice. While I was taking pictures, I noticed a “little person” lady walk by with, what seemed to be, a few of her sons. Then, a camera crew followed behind them! I quickly realized who they were and spoke with the ranger (who I knew) that was put in charge of escorting them around the park. They were filming “Little People, Big World,” right in Bryce Canyon for the day! That was kinda cool.

Now, the festival is over, and I’m scheduled to spend at least the next week in Capitol Reef National Park with the cultural resource specialist doing archeological surveys. I’m excited to visit a new park! We’ll see how I like the archeology :/

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Next Big Weekend

On Wednesday afternoon, I decided at the spur of the moment that I would drive to Costa Mesa, California to visit Ben and his Brother for my long weekend. Since I knew I was working the following Saturday, I was able to even get Thursday off. Once that happened, my mind started thinking of ways to make the weekend even more fun.


I ended up meeting Ben and his bro in Las Vegas to have one amazing night. We stayed in the Bellagio (cuz, hey, when you only have one night in vegas, you gotta do it right!). We explored the strip, watched the fountains, gambled a little bit, then made our way to my favorite place in Vegas….Ghostbar. To the people I’ve been there with already, I definitely missed you. Come visit so we can go again!!!

Thanks to my awesome cousin, we were treated like regulars at the Palm’s infamous roof-top bar, Ghostbar. Always a great time when you’re partying on the roof! The rest of the night is, well, history.

We woke up the next morning, and I took a look at my wallet to see just how much I had spent. Low and behold, my credit card and ID were gone. “Great,” I thought. I woke up the guys, “I gotta go back to the Palms. I think I left my tab open.” So that was our first stop. The next occurrence just blew my mind.

Before we left the hotel and checked out and everything, I called the Palms to make sure they had my cards. They did. They were being held at a little retail store named “Stuff.” So we went over there, I jumped out of the car to run inside and grab it. “Hey man, I think you have my credit card and ID,” I said to the guy at the register. A girl’s voice came from behind me, “You’re the guy from Florida?” With my Florida hat and t-shirt on, I smirked and said, “How could you tell?” She laughed.

As the guy at the register was fumbling around trying to find my cards, the girl casually said “Yeah, I love the Gators. My boyfriend used to play for them.” My eyes lit up, “Really!? Who’s your boyfriend?” “Corey Brewer,” she said.

I could barely hold back my excitement, “WHAT!? NO WAY! Are you serious?” “Ofcourse, she said.” We went on to talk for a few more minutes, then after she realized how much of a fan I was, she asked if I wanted to talk to him. “HELL YES I WANT TO TALK TO HIM!!!!” Long story short, everything happens for a reason, and I’m one of the luckiest people I know. I spoke to Corey about his knee and how rehab is going, and he even mentioned how he’s going to Chicago to train with the guy that trained Michael Jordan (Sorry, but I can’t remember the trainer’s name). We spoke about how UF basketball is falling apart and how no matter how bad we are, the Gators will always be the Gators…THE BEST! After all that, I was so excited to go tell Ben, that I didn’t even catch his girlfriend’s name. hahahah, but whatever.

That’s going down as one of the best random moments of my entire life.

We continued on our already-awesome journey through Vegas. I needed to take these guys to a place called “BurgerBar.” I could’ve sworn it was in Caeasar’s Palace, but after searching that place end-to-end and asking 2 different people, we found that it was in Mandalay Bay. We continued on to Burger Bar and all had Kobe beef burgers topped with, whatever it was that we wanted it topped with; everything from grilled asparagus, zucchini, and onions, to portabella mushrooms and black truffles. You want it, they got it. The best burger place in history! Oh and I topped it off with a Nutella milkshake to go ☺. Deeeeeelicious!

*Note! Go to BURGER BAR in MANDALAY BAY next time you are in VEGAS!

After that, we hit the road and headed for the coast. We stayed in an awesome little house in Costa Mesa, CA near Newport Beach. The weather wasn’t exactly great. In California, the locals call the time of year “June Gloom.” I guess because it’s gloomy more often than not. Anyway, we had a basketball game to catch. We got ready and went to a local pub to watch a heart-wrenching game 4 between the Lakers and Magic. We all know how this series ended up. I guess it was just Kobe’s time.

On Friday, our first stop was Huntington Beach. Amazing beach! They have atleast 20 sand volleyball nets set up and there are people everywhere! Biking, skateboarding, playing live music, playing volleyball, Frisbee, surfing, everyone was active! It was great! We ended up picking up one random guy and played a few games of 2v2; always a great time.

Then, we went to Volcom’s International Headquarter’s “employee only warehouse store.” Ben’s brother, somehow, by the planet’s aligning, he got an internship with Volcom. He brought us in and after we did some awesome shopping, he showed us around the whole building; design, marketing, administration. The whole building was decked out with awesome gear and art. If there was a contest for best desk-job in the world, the winner would be in this building. They get to surf during lunchtime and wear sandals to work! How cool is that!?

Then we hit the town again and another stroke of luck came our way. We decided to hunt for some solid seafood. We went into one place and it ended up being pretty stuffy and extremely expensive. We dipped out and hit the place next door, The Rusty Pelican (they’re the ones that started the Bubba Gump chain!). We automatically knew we made the right decision when we saw the hostesses. We chatted’em up for a lil while, then got a table. Our waitress ended up knowing everyone at Volcom and gave us free appetizers and dessert! Then we went out and had a great time! We even met up with our waitress and some friends at a local pub and had a great time.

Saturday was surf day. That is all. We were beat and just rested the rest of the evening. Sunday morning, Ben headed back east. We would go our separate ways….for now.

2nd week of work...this is fun!

The second week of work wasn’t as easy as the first, simply because my travel-buddy has left. That road trip was AWESOME! Thanks Ben, for the trip of a lifetime!

But anyway, the week's been cool so far.

On Monday, a professor and doctor in botany from Southern Utah University came to the park to give us a "walk & talk" field trip around the park. I learned so much, I can’t even begin to explain. He taught us everything from plants’ scientific names, to ecosystem characteristics, to wild edibles (definitely valuable information to add to my wilderness survival skills).

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I was put on the “veg” crew. Which is a special team put together to manage invasive exotic plants in the park. Basically, they pull weeds. Hahah
Being as I’ve had almost 6 full years of manual labor in large scale property management and landscaping, this task didn’t really intimidate me. I brought energy and humor to the team like I always do. It actually ended up being pretty relaxing.

Since the plants the team was looking for (Salsify) blend in almost perfectly [in it’s early stages] with the native grasses, the method is actually just to take a leisurely stroll around and pull as many as possible. In Salsify’s later, flowering stage, they’re pretty easy to spot since it’s usually a 12-15 inch tall yellow flower (pictured). The veg crew is also the team local highschoolers sign up with for summer seasonal jobs. So, unfortunately, I kinda have to deal with managing delinquent highschoolers, but they usually behave. I usually just walk and talk with my supervisor the whole time. Some of the highschoolers are actually pretty nice. One of them was kinda fascinated that I was from Florida and actually taught me a bunch about the area. They even showed me my very first horned lizard (pictured)! I thought they would be bigger. Supposedly the biggest ones in Utah are only the size of your palm.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Good times in Park City

1 week into my summer in Utah, and it's already been amazing.

Ben and I left for Park City last Thursday afternoon to visit a college buddy that lives there.

We had a great time.

Mostly partied and explored the city on Friday, but on Saturday, Ben and I shredded the town on our longboards. They have a great skate park right in the city, and a ton of great hills. We were able to get to the top of the town and skate down 3 times using the free buses that run up and down the main strip. Check out the pics!

Saturday night we went out for a bit, and that was the end of my weekend in Park City.

I have a feeling I'll be going back to Park City in the future.

Friday, June 5, 2009

3rd Day at Work…can you say, pack test?

I just got off for lunch and today has already been the most rewarding and fun day of work. I reported into the office at 730 and worked on the sign in board; making it a little more permanent and professional looking. Then I had to report to the fire station for the “pack test.” The pack test is a 3 mile, 45 minute timed hike, with a 45 lb pack strapped to your back. I was pretty intimidated. 6 of us took the test today and everyone was egging the group on to go faster and faster. It was definitely a case of mind over matter for me. My hips and shins were burning after the first ½ mile. 2.5 miles to go and I was finding myself in the back of the group. A good friend of mine, the fire engine captain, was pacing behind me in a truck. “Doing good Will! Keep it up!” It was probably the most physically challenging test I’ve ever been through. I kept pace by watching the guy’s feet in front of me. The terrain was extremely hilly and the elevation quickly caught up with me as I was ascending the first hill. Luckily I had my ipod to keep me focused. Coming up on the final ½ mile of the hike, “The Distance” by Cake began to play on my ipod. A new burst of energy flowed through my body and I began to speed walk as fast as I could with the finish line in sight. With my eyes focused on the ground and my body leaning forward, I was dropping my hips to gain momentum. Before I knew it, I was passing the only person in front of me....oh and by the way, I was wearing my National Championship t-shirt, and the guy that I passed at the end, happened to be wearing an Ohio State hat ☺. It was a pretty awesome random little act of personification ☺.

I couldn’t have been happier with myself. We all sat around for a little while sipping on water, chatting, laughing. Then I made my way back to the office to check in with my supervisor. The plan for the day was to hike…all day. Man, am I glad I’m not working in an office ☺.

For the rest of the day, Ben and I explored the south end of the park. I showed Ben Rainbow Point and all of the other view points that are outside the main north section of the park. I also made a pit-stop at the Bryce Canyon Lodge to meet the head of the HR department there. I'm going to try and work a few nights/weekends to earn some extra cash on the side.

After exploring a little bit, Ben and I began the most magical, majestic, practically indescribable afternoon/evening of hiking. We began the day at Bryce Point and hiked our way through Peekaboo Loop and Queensland. It's really impossible for me to describe our experience on this hike. Everything was perfect. We came across flowers that bloom only once a year for only 24 hours, sometimes less (the primrose). The night sky swept over us halfway through the hike only to reveal the most incredible night sky either of us had ever seen. "I've never seen the moon so bright." The moon lit up the light portions of the rocks and trails. We had headlamps, but rarely used them. This would be our first ever moonlit hike and an unforgettable one. It brought out the best in both of us. We would chat about the past, present, future while being inspired by the seemingly endless beauty of Bryce Canyon. Our total hike took us about 6 hours. We hiked until we couldn't hike any more.

June, 3 2009 would go down as one of the best days of our lives.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My First Days as an SCA Intern

My first day as an SCA Intern at Bryce Canyon National Park consisted of just meeting everyone in the building and also getting a personal tour around the park to learn the inner workings of each department. The office is about a 10 minute walk through the woods from my apartment, which is kind of nice.

My second day has been much more tiring. The morning consisted of 2, 2 hour meetings. Then, in the afternoon, I assisted the physical scientist in collecting air and precipitation quality data. Pretty neat stuff. Then we took a ride out to "the dump," which is named that for reasons I'm not really sure about, but I'll find out. It's really just a huge canyon. She was surveying to see possible routes for bike trails, planned to be installed in 2014. We hiked all along the rim and just checked things out, discussing plans and contracts.

Now I'm in the Bryce Canyon Lodge blogging, extremely exhausted, and about to go hike Navajo Trail for the first time with Ben. We'll see if I make it.

Our Arrival at Bryce

We collected ourselves after who-knows-what-happened in Denver, we got a bagel for breakfast and moved on to the last leg of our cross-country trip. This drive was the complete opposite of the Kansas drive. We drove through the rockies and some of the most beautiful landscapes Ben or I had ever seen. We finally made it to the Utah state line around 7pm with another 6 hours of driving ahead of us. We were so pumped up, that it felt like nothing. We finally made it!!! 7 days ago, we were in Florida, and now, we’re right smack in the middle of Nowhere, Utah. What a feeling! G-d bless the Camry!! She’s the best!!

We arrived at my new apartment at around 2am. We unpacked the best we could and passed out almost immediately.

Since the drive in was in the wee hours of the morning, we had no idea what Bryce looked like. We woke up, looked out the window, and realized that we were right smack in the middle of, well, nowhere. We organized a little bit more and took a drive to see the Bryce Amphitheater, where we would be completely blown away by our own country’s majestic beauty. “Is this really America? Are we on another planet?” Words really can't describe this place.

My roommate couldn't be closer to the complete opposite of who I am. Fortunately, though, I think we'll be teaching each other very different, but valuable lessons. So it's not a complete loss. There's also a basketball court about 50 yards from my front door. It's pretty beat up, but since I assumed that I wasn't going to be able to play basketball at all this summer, it'll do.

We explored a bit more, got acquainted with the main spots in the Park and checked out the visitors center. Then Ben, myself, my roommate and another friend of ours decided to go check out the Mossy Cave hiking trail. You'll find as you follow along that most of these trail names aren't appropriate at all. The hike was an awesome one.

We went back to the place and found that alot of the residential workers were congregating around the firepit behind my place. I ended up meeting my boss, her boss, and alot of other great people that work at the park. Everybody seems like they're great people.

Then we cooked up some dinner and passed out.

Got Nuggets? 3 Days in Denver

I know it’s been a while since my last post, so I’m going to do my best to recap everything that’s gone on.

On Wednesday, we left Lawrence and drove through Kansas, which is all you need to know about that day. It rained, and rained, and rained. It was, by far, the worst leg of the trip. (Ben just reminded me about one of the crazier moments in Lawrence, so I’ll touch on that real quick. As we were trekking through KU to find the main strip of bars, we crossed paths with an extremely troubled junkie sucking on a cigarette as if it was his last. As we walked past him, he immediately jumped and arched his back, gave us a bug-eyed stare, and reached his right hand into his trench-coat pocket as if he was reaching for a gun. We tried our hardest to keep stone-cold faces and our eyes straight ahead. We both mumbled under our breath, “Please don’t shoot us in the back.” I’m happy to say that he didn’t. We kept walking, thanking whomever, or whatever it was that saved our lives. We ended up having one of the most awesome barhopping sessions either of us have ever had.)

Once we reached the Colorado state line, it immediately cleared up. “Welcome to Colorful Colorado,” the sign said. We couldn’t have been happier. For the next 100 or so miles, we eagerly anticipated seeing the Rocky Mountains.

We got in touch with some friends and met up for a couple of rocky mountain fresh coors. We were exhausted. Then we went to Illegal Pete’s for a much needed 4lb burrito (for those of you that don’t know what Illegal Pete’s is, all I’ll say is that, in Ben’s words “CHIPOTLE AIN’T GOT $H*T ON ILLEGAL PETE’S!”).

We parted ways with our happy hour buddies and made our way over to an old friend of mine’s apartment in a suburb outside of Denver. It was excellent having a permanent residence for a few days and not having to worry about driving the next day. We took it slow, rested, and enjoyed the incredible view of the Rockies right off his balcony. I met this buddy of mine on the Israel trip back in ’06, which instigated by passion for the outdoors and, eventually, this trip. His hospitality could’ve only been matched by a Ritz-Carlton. We partied, chilled, explored, and unfortunately watched the Nuggets tank in the playoffs. Denver would’ve been a whole lot more fun if they had won. Everyone was bummed. “There’s always next year,” we would say. Everybody else just wanted to fight or drink their sorrows away (which would become even more apparent when they got eliminated on Friday night)

Thursday was a pretty special day. We got to experience Boulder, CO, the town Colorado University calls home. We met up with my buddy and some his frat brothers, and we had one amazing afternoon. We walked around Pearl Street, which is an AMAZING strip of shops, restaurants, and street performers. We went into one of the coolest toy stores I’ve ever been into. Well, it was more like a kite store than a toy store (see pictures!). Then we went into a couple of awesome specialty stores with little knickknacks and special edition Nike shoes. Then we went to the Walnut Brewery for lunch. AWESOME place! Delicious beer brewed right in the restaurant, accompanied by various savory lunch entrees; it really doesn’t get much better than that. Or so we thought.

After lunch, we spontaneously decided to add another hour to our road trip and go to Golden, CO to experience the Coors Brewery. Firstly, the tour of the brewery was free, which automatically made it worth the drive and got us extremely excited to taste free rocky mountain freshness. If you didn’t already know, Coors brews a pretty wide variety of beers (Blue Moon, Blue Moon Seasonal, Killian’s, Molson, Coors Banquet, Coors Light, Keystone, Keystone Light, and Keystone Ice). When we started the tour, the first room we came across was the brew room. The aroma of all the different beers brewing (the technical term for this stage is “wart,” when the sugars are still being separated from the brew) was unbelievable; an incredibly strong, sweet, meaty smell invaded our senses. We kinda drifted through the “educational” part of the tour and quickly got to the first tasting, which was a small cup of Coors Banquet (which is called the “banquet beer” because Mr. Coors would supply this beer at each and every banquet he would hold for his workers!). This small cup of Coors Banquet was easily distinguishable from the Coors Banquet available anywhere else for two reasons. First, all Coors in the west have around 2% more alcohol content and secondly, and most importantly, this cup of Coors Banquet had never seen light or heat of any kind. This Coors was as fresh as it gets. Next was the real tasting. We each got 3 free beers. I started with a Molson, and then had a Killian’s, then finally a Coors Light straight out of an icy tap. We met some fun people in the process, too! Then we headed back to the place we were staying at to get some much-needed rest.

Friday was pretty relaxed apart from the super intense P90X workout session (look it up if you don’t already know about it; it’s AMAZING). Later that afternoon, we went to the mall to just browse around. We ended up coming across the best store in comedic history! Sur la Table! (check out the pics) We couldn’t resist going inside and asking them if they had a margarita machine. “Of course!” the clerk lady said, “Right this way!” Ben and I immediately starting chuckling, then right around the corner, in the middle of the store, there it was. A REAL MARGARITAVILLE! We burst out in laughter. The clerks asked us what was so funny. After we had explained to them that this was almost the main topic in an episode of south park, they understood. “Trey Parker even owns one of those! He comes in all the time!” she said, “The episode is even posted on our website!” That made our day.

After that, we went to my buddy’s softball game, which was pretty sick; 2 homers and an inside the park homer. We sat up in the stand [classily] heckling the other team while enjoying more rocky mountain freshness. Then we went back to my buddy’s place to finish watching the Nuggets get pounded by the Lakers. We continued to party and ended up at a local bar. We got pretty rowdy.

In a blink of an eye, it was Saturday morning. “What happened last night?” Ben said. That just about summed up our stay in Denver.