Back from Utah

Nina and have returned from our week in the Southwest.  A fun, hard, dramatic and relaxing trip all at the same time.  I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape, and being a former geologist and avid photographer, in complete nirvana.  We got a lot of exercise hiking all over the place almost always in excess of 6,000 feet.

I will write a couple of entries about our trip as I plow through and post the myriad of photographs I took along the way.

We started out arriving in Capital Reef National Park after our drive down from Salt Lake City.  This was not the plan.  We planned to arrive in Escalante, camp in a local campground for the night and then take a 3-day back-country hike down Coyote Gulch in a very remote part of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  But, as they say all great plans…

Weather had turned sour a few days before we arrived and sure enough the entire Southwest was getting hammered by rain and thunderstorms the day we got there.  Even the locals were saying they couldn’t remember a September that was like this.  So, all non-paved roads were impassible (all of our plans involved non-paved roads) – and hiking in slot canyons was strongly discouraged.  So we decided to swing by Capital Reef and see what we could see. We ended up staying in a campground in the National Park for the night and spent the next day hiking in some high-country.

This shot is an example of what was going on there.  That’s the Fremont River below, normally flowing low enough that you can drive across it to access a big part of the park, but not today.  It was blood-red and angry.

So we hiked in a narrow, but high canyon and kept watch on the weather (a theme for the whole trip).  This was my first up-close contact with Southwest Geology and it was amazing.  Cross-bedded standstone, hoodoos, slot canyons and even strange things like big basaltic boulders laying around on the groud like they had been placed there as part of an exhibit.  Turns out their source has been studied a lot and are believed to be transported by glaciers and then moved into these gulches by flash floods.  They were everywhere in the park.

Nina was a trouper on the entire trip putting up with my photography, helping me change lenses and laughing at how excited I got everytime I saw something new.  Mid-way through the hike we suprised a Bighorn Sheep that hung around close enough to us that I was able to change lenses and get a few great close-up shots of it.  Good thing because it helped break up the endless shots of rocks and mountains in my photos.

We hiked all morning, then finally headed out of the park by noon with no idea where we would be sleeping that night.  With the weather still ugly, Coyote Gulch was definitely cancelled and we were desperate for a place to camp in the wilderness away from all the retired people in RVs that descend on the National Parks after Labor Day (the people-watching of the National Park croud was a topic of ongoing conversation between Nina and I).

More about that afternoon and evening in the next post.  For now, here is the link to the Capital Reef shots: http://andysimonds.smugmug.com/Vacation/Southwest/Southwest-2011-Capital-Reef/19153216_J47DNs

I definitely want to go back to this park.  Unlike the other parks, most of it is very remote, only accessible via 4-wheel drive or hiking.  The Cathedral Valley loop is a must- see 4-wheel drive adventure that I really want to take.  Will need good weather for that – maybe next time.

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Mice Update (smells like victory)

A quick update on the mice.  They got into my car again last week and screwed up my A/C fan.  My thoughts were simply:  You. Did. Not. Just. Do. That.  I could not believe it.  $128.  That puts me over the $200 mark on mice-caused car repair.  I unleashed the ‘Wheel of Misfortune’ again and took out three more over the weekend.  No sign of mice since then.  I will claim victory again, for the third time.

Bears are here

With a great deal of irony the bears have returned to the neighborhood.  I say irony because last night two things happened.  The first was a conversation between Heidi and I about putting out the garbage the night before it gets picked up.  We always do it the morning, because of the hard lessons we’ve learned with bears getting into our garbage.  But, recently I forgot, leaving us with two weeks of garbage piling up.  So, we said "Well the bears have not been around for a long time so lets go ahead and put it out".  The second piece of irony was Chelan coming into the bedroom after I was in bed, begging me to get my clothes on and do something for her.  I complied begrudgingly, only to find out that what she wanted was for me to walk outside with her as she got a bunch of stuff out of her car.  She didn’t want to be outside by herself in the dark.  This of course is rooted in the past experience of seeing the bear from her bedroom window in the middle of the night – and partially just the normal ‘fear of the dark’ thing that we all have.  I chuckled, because it is always fun to see such great childlike behavior from our kids while they seem to be so grown up.

So for the bear to show up for the first time in long time the very next morning after these two events the night before is very entertaining.  Although I wasn’t very entertained cleaning this up before I went to work today:

 

I noticed on my drive out of our neighborhood that many other neighbors garbage met with the same fate. 

-Andy

Mice up $189

These bastards are showing a level of arrogance I have not often seen.  They are persistent and sneaky.  A couple of days ago the fan that blows air to the my car’s interior started making a loud clanking noise.  Yesterday I finally got it to the shop where they found the reason:  A chopped-up mouse inside the blower housing.  $189 later, it was cleaned up and I drove home fuming mad.  About a week ago the ‘Wheel of Misfortune’ caught another victim.  This was unusual because I left it unattended for a while; no new peanut butter on the can, no water at the bottom of the bucket.

This morning, I woke up with a plan to get it all rigged up again and put an end to the life of any mouse that was foolish enough to step on my property.  But there was a surprise – a live mouse sitting at the bottom of the empty, waterless bucket.  The can has absolutely no peanut butter on it – but the WOM is still bringing it’s wrath!  Do I let the mouse go?  Do I have any mercy in my blood?  No.  Not only did I not let it go, I went and got a couple of jugs of water and filled the bucket up.  I watched as the mouse slowly struggled for its’ life, growing weaker, dipping under the water, lungs slowly filling up.  I let out an evil bwaaahaahaaah laugh as the mouse gasped it’s last breath, gave it’s last feeble kick of the feet and sat motionless, floating in the water.  Then, a few bubbles spurted from its’ mouth and it sank to the bottom.  Dead.

These mice don’t know who they are dealing with

They don’t know the depths of my evil

I have cleared my plate of all other distractions

They are my only mission

They will feel my wrath

On my way to work this morning there was a new spring in my step, the air felt clean, the birds singing, the flowers blooming seemed slightly brighter.  Spring is a wonderful time.