Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Last 3-day Weekend

Once I realized that I only had 2 weeks left of my stay in southern Utah, I knew I had to make the best of it.

I was motivated to make my last 3-day weekend the most adventurous yet.

Luckily, I had a coworker to accompany me on my adventures.

On Friday, we headed out to Lower Calf Creek Falls; a wonderful 6-mile, sandy hike that led to an incredible 120-foot-tall waterfall. It was amazing to see how this waterfall fed the entire canyon its water. Trees, animals, shrubs, all flourished in the canyon in which it fed. It was almost oasis-like.

The water was absolutely FREEZING. We jumped in on the count of 3 and I could barely stay in the water for more than 3 seconds. You know that feeling of pins and needles? Well, multiply that pain by about 100 and put it all over your body. That’s how cold it was.

What was great was this little area about 50 yards away from the water that still had a bit of sun shining on it. We ran to this area and soaked in the sun to bring our bodies back to life. I’d never been happier to feel the sun’s amazing heat. We had a nice lunch in the sunshine, then hiked back.
During the drive back we decided to hit the town of Escalante for a bit of rural exploration. We ended up meeting a gentleman by the name of Kevin, who has a PhD in chemical engineering, but you wouldn’t know it by his looks. A modest man, with a long, ungroomed gray beard, soft brown eyes, and torn clothing, he was extremely friendly, and welcomed us into his incredibly unique shop. “I build waterwheels and drums,” he said, as my coworker and I stared in awe at his work. “This piece has taken me about a year and a half, and I’m still not done yet,” he softly mentioned. “I’m selling it to a hotel in Park City for 35 grand.”

His work was like nothing I’d ever seen before and his passion for it was truly apparent. Check out his websites if you get a chance:

He suggested we go to Georgie’s for dinner. We took his advice and later thanked him for it. We had a wonderful Mexican dinner followed by fresh cookies, which we took to the local frosty shop to have mixed in with a milkshake ☺.

Best Friday so far, now it’s time to make Saturday REALLY worthwhile.

Saturday started out AMAZING. I decided to bring my longboard along for some of the awesome hills we came across on Friday. I had my coworker follow me in the car and take pictures. The early morning adrenaline rush was a great way to start the day off ☺

So, if you haven’t heard of Peek-a-boo and Spooky slot canyons before, take a minute now to google and read some literature on them. They’re truly some of the greatest gems in this country. They’re located about 30 miles south on an un-maintained dirt road called Hole-in-the-Rock in Grand Staircase Escalante Nat’l Monument. The drive turned out to be the scariest part of the entire trip. With obstacles like sand pits, 10-foot slides, and areas with 100 2-foot-bumps gathered together, I was scared for my 1998 Toyota Camry. Ever time we bottomed out, I dreaded that it would be the last bottom-out the Camry would see, but at the same time, I was determined to hike Peek-a-boo and Spooky. They had been on my to-do list since the beginning of the summer and there was no way I was leaving Bryce without hiking’em.

The 30-mile drive took us a little over an hour, but we finally got there. As we were hiking out, I looked back at my Camry, “I hope she can get us out of here.”

The hikes were a real treat after the hour-long white-knuckle drive. I didn’t realize how tense I was until I finally got out of the car and took a deep breath. The drive took a lot out of me.

We decided to link Peek-a-boo and spooky together as a loop. We started with Spooky, which was….indescribable. As we were squeezing and shuffling through the slots that were sometimes not much wider than the distance from my nose to the back of my head, I couldn’t stop giggling. I was so happy to have finally been right in the middle of the world-famous slot canyons. The rest of the hike was incredible. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking for me.

Well, the camry made it out (thank the heavens) and I'd never been happier. In the words of my old roommate Ryan, "The Camry runs on good times."

We hit a little café in Escalante for an amazing green-chile cheeseburger and we also stopped in at the frosty shop again.

Sunday was supposed to be a relaxed day since I had work at 4:30, but my neighbor woke me up early, “Let’s go hike the cottonwood narrows.” I couldn’t refuse hahah. It was a wonderful day-hike, but after doing peek-a-boo and spooky, no slot canyon can compare. Grovesnor arch was sweet, though! It almost looks like a castle or a fort or something.

I slept that night feeling very accomplished and satisfied.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Great Finale….

The 22nd year of my life was a special one, filled with more life lessons, good times, and memories than any year before and it ended with one crazy week, and a wonderful weekend with my two favorite girls in the entire world.

My mom & sister not only brought a ton of food and drink for my birthday party, but also some amazing weather. They got to see the best of Bryce in just 3 days. 3 of the most beautiful days I had seen in 2 weeks.

It started with a decent sunset, and then we hiked with moonlight as our only guide on Queens Garden trail, stopped, laid back, and gazed at the incomparable night sky of southern Utah.

Woke up the next morning for the best sunrise I had ever seen here. What a perfect start to the 23rd year of my life. We hiked Navajo loop later that day, then started partying. This party was great. A nice fire, hot dogs, s’mores, roasted starburst (if you’ve never tried it, go for it, it’s delicious), beer pong, and good friends and family. Nothing could’ve made me happier on my birthday.

Sunday was great, too. We went on the tower bridge hike on Fairyland Loop and had a nice snack at the bottom.

We would even be treated to a show put on by my favorite bird in the park! The Stellar Jay! Another great birthday gift!

Thanks, Mom and Andrea for a great birthday weekend!

Love you both!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

An Interesting week at work

Monday was, well, Monday.

I wasn’t exactly excited to be back to work after, what turned out to be, a great 3-day weekend, but I was given a treat by being sent out with the fire affects crew. It was a crew of about 9 people, half from Grand Canyon, half from Zion. Their assignment was to collect post-fire vegetation data from about 30 different sites around the park. It was a great day; totally stress-free and I was able to work with some new people for a change. We did get caught in a pretty nasty little hail storm, though. With one incredibly close call with lightning. It was kinda funny, we all decided to head back to our gear when the lightning seemed to be getting closer then once we had our gear, a bolt of lightning seemed to have struck within 100 yards of us. We all froze, looked at eachother, then started to run as fast as we possibly could. Hahah, we all couldn’t stop laughing once we got back to the cars. It hailed and rained on us for about an hour, and then we started back up with our data collection.

Tuesday was lame. Just a meeting and some office work.

Wednesday was ACTION PACKED! I finally got my hands on my own project. I was given the task of revisiting photopoint markers that were last documented in 1996. It’s called a photopoint survey and it’s used to track vegetation changes throughout the years. This was an awesome project. I finally got some real responsibility and some good fieldwork experience! It was like a treasure hunt. There were 9 total photopoints where I needed to find a marker (sometimes a piece of painted re-bar or a slab of concrete) and take various photos facing different directions. The people who originally documented the sites in 96 never GPS’d the points, so we were following written instructions on how to get to each photopoint. This was sometimes fun and sometimes very, VERY frustrating. In the end, I was able to track down 6 of the 8 photopoints. Not a bad hit percentage! The fun part of this day was when we came across, what would end up to be, one of the craziest storms either myself or my colleague had ever witnessed. Hail, flash floods, lightning…you name it, we got it. Check out the pics and videos below.

On Thursday I was able to help out the interpretation department in administering a Visitor Survey. This was a pretty cool experience. I was the stereotypical guy with a clipboard asking for a few minutes of your time, but this survey was different because the visitors didn’t have to stand around to take the survey. The survey was a booklet with a stamp on it that they could take with them, fill out on their own time, then throw it in a mailbox and send it back. Most people were surprisingly excited to participate in the survey. I guess it’s because I’m not standing in a mall trying to sell them something, plus they’re all on vacation having a good time.

Friday was exciting because my Mom and sister arrived at Bryce to spend my birthday with me!

My First Taste of the Grand Staircase

The weekend of July 24-26 was, well, better than I thought it would be.

We had a 2-day backpacking trip through Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (GSENM) planned. My friend and I headed to the nearest “city,” called Cedar City, to do a bit of shopping for the trip. On our way there, our other friend called us saying that there was a 60% chance of rain all over Utah for the entire weekend. We’d never come across precipitation chances that high the entire summer and since our trip was planned around hiking through slot canyons, we knew we had to start working on a backup plan.

We were immediately bummed. We couldn’t think of anything to do that didn’t depend on the weather being at least decent. “Well, we might as well stay in Cedar City and just party,” I suggested. There were no objections.

We traveled up and down Cedar City’s main drag, doing anything even remotely fun, which ended up being shopping at the local thrift stores. What bummed us out even more, was that half of the city was closed because of Utah’s state-wide holiday, Pioneer Day. We were disappointed to say the least. How could a weekend go so wrong so quickly?

We ended up grabbing a cheap motel room for the night and roaming around Cedar City on foot, hitting all 3 of their incredibly boring bars. We had fun nonetheless.

On Saturday morning, we headed back to Bryce real early. My friend had gotten a call saying that he needed to report back so that he could work on a fire. Once we got back, my buddy went to work and I passed out again. Later that day, we decided to hit the local rodeo. It was fairly entertaining and made for some fun photos. Afterwards we stayed for the fireworks, which was actually a pretty good show.

Sunday was, surprisingly enough, a beautiful day. We decided to head out early and try our hand at a slot canyon hike in GSENM. It would come to be the best decision we’d made the entire weekend. The weather was perfect and the slot canyon was amazing. Willis Creek was the name of the hike. Slot canyon hikes are incredible experiences and I would suggest them to anyone who enjoys the outdoors.