Retreat from the Heat

I was not ready for the first 90 degree day we had in town, so I decided to flee to the mountains. We took a drive up to Success Summit, our closest easily- accessible high mountain area. It is about 2,500 feet higher than town and ended up being about 8 degrees cooler, so I would call that a win. The views are always spectacular, making this one of my very favorite places around Ely.

The picture below is the view we had where we parked the car and had our picnic lunch.  You don’t even have to take a hike to be able to appreciate the scenery here.

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But, of course we did take a hike. We came out here a couple times last year and wandered around a bit, but never really found a good place to hike. All the ATV trails we tried seemed to peter out quickly, but on this day we finally found one that fit our needs. Our hike started off fairly leisurely along a wildflower- bordered path. The lupines added a pretty, soft touch to the otherwise rugged sagebrush- covered hillside.

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After a ways our path became significantly steeper and catching our breath at over 9,000 feet elevation became more difficult. However, the views kept us motivated to push forward.

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After hiking a couple miles and gaining several hundred feet in elevation (and taking many water breaks in the shade along the way), we eventually reached this saddle and we deemed it our destination for the day. The path going up the next hill looked enticing, but our time (and energy) were waning.  That hill will have to be saved for another day- Future Hiking Goals.

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On the other side of the saddle was this interesting wall made of rock.

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Looking back from the way we climbed up the saddle was a stunning view of the Schell Creek Range. You can’t really tell from the pictures, but a couple of the peaks were holding on to the last few remaining patches of snow. Our snowfall last winter was not as high as the year before and the snowpack is melting off a lot quicker this summer.

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June 13 Success Summit (55)

After resting up, we started our descent, at first steep and rocky and gradually becoming more easy- going. We took our time, I took even more pictures, and we soaked up the last of this gorgeous place. In the picture below, I found the juxtaposition of these two mountains interesting: one rugged, full of protruding rocks, while the other is soft and green, without even the sharpness of trees on top.

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We moseyed our way back through the wildflower meadows, grateful for the simple, lovely day we shared together out in the wondrous beauty of God’s masterpiece.

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Psalm 104: 5-13

5
He set the earth on its foundations,
so that it should never be moved.
6
You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7
At your rebuke they fled;
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight.
8
The mountains rose, the valleys sank down
to the place that you appointed for them.
9
You set a boundary that they may not pass,
so that they might not again cover the earth.
10
You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills;
11
they give drink to every beast of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12
Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
they sing among the branches.
13
From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.

 

The Playground of Astronauts

On our latest Spring adventure, we set out on the open road to visit Lunar Crater, which sits in a remote area near the center of the state. To reach the Lunar Crater National Backcountry Byway, we drove nearly 100 miles southwest of Ely through numerous mountain ranges, with the last being the Pancake Range (which may or may not have given me a serious IHOP craving).

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The Byway winds about 20 miles through the Lunar Crater Volcanic Field. The dirt road wasn’t bad, but sometimes the washboard bumpiness and deep sand made it slow- going. Which was fine- it is a place you want to go slow and savor.

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We didn’t drive too long before we were ready for lunch. We decided to stop for a picnic at the Lunar Lake playa (a dried- up lake bed). The vast expanse of glaring white sand was pretty cool, especially since it wasn’t a hot day. We decided this wouldn’t be the best summer destination, but we had fun moseying around the playa in the pleasant spring weather.

April 24 Lunar Crater (13)

April 24 Lunar Crater (14)

After lunch we continued our journey through the pretty red hills.

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Before long, we reached the main attraction- Lunar Crater. This 430- foot- deep maar was formed when underground magma boiled the groundwater, causing lava to shoot up from beneath the earth’s surface. This left behind the dry, circular hole that we now call Lunar Crater.

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The area didn’t really remind me too much of the moon, but it was good enough for NASA. In the 1970’s, astronauts trained here to prepare for the Apollo moon missions. The astronauts, in full gear, traversed the crater in rovers and collected rock samples. The story goes that two astronauts almost got stranded out here. Their rover broke down a couple miles from the rest of the group right as the group was packing up to leave the area, so the stranded astronauts had to race on foot to catch up.

This place was thought to be similar enough to the moon that the astronauts came way out here to middle- of- nowhere Nevada to practice basic procedures. This beautiful, desolate area sure has an interesting history.

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The area doesn’t have any actual trails, so we thought we might as well try to hike up the hill/ mountain that rises from the back of the crater. It was a steep, slow trudge to the top (For me, anyway. Roland raced up the slope like it was nothing, with enough time left over to stop and do nature studies of the rocks and flowers along the way. Seriously- he must be part mountain goat).

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Along the way we saw several different lizards, including this cool guy. I’m no lizard identification expert, but I’m pretty sure he is a northern desert horned lizard. It is a good thing we gave him his space. When threatened, these horned lizards like to swell up, hiss, bite, and stab with their horns. As a last resort, they will shoot blood out of their eyes. Lovely little critters, aren’t they?

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We eventually made our way to the top and we were rewarded with a stunning 360 degree view of rolling red hills, craters, sparse sagebrush valley, and the mountains in the distance.

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We got a good view of Easy Chair Crater, which is a cinder cone volcano.

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We gained enough elevation to also be able to see our picnic playa in the distance, surrounded by the rugged red hills.

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After taking in the view, we hiked down the backside of the mountain, which was thankfully a little less steep. We finished the backcountry byway without any hiccups and made it back to the pavement, which eventually took us back to civilization 100 miles later.

It is so fun to just pick a place on a map we haven’t been before, get out of town and our normal everyday lives, and explore this amazing state. We don’t get to do it as much now that Roland is in school, so every family outing now is even more special.

As our son gets older, I know he will have an increasingly busy schedule of his own, but I feel these outings are so important, beyond just family time. So many kids hardly ever leave the city limits of the town they live in. How are they able to understand the importance and beauty of wild places, or to feel humbled when they actually experience how small they are in the grand scheme of things, or to see God’s power and magnitude bursting out from His own creation? If a child has never experienced the grandeur of creation, then how can he be awe-struck of the Creator’s deep, personal love just for him?  Of course standard education is immensely important, but there is so much more to learn and experience outside of those schoolroom walls, and I think that is how passionate, curious, involved, well- rounded adults are formed. That’s the hope, anyway.

 

“To the dull mind, nature is leaden. 

To the illuminated mind the whole world burns and sparkles with light.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hello Spring!

So far this spring we have taken a depressingly low number of family hikes. Matt and Roland don’t share any of the same days off anymore and we had a lot of lousy weather in March. During Roland’s spring break from school we weren’t able to get away for a trip, but we did go for one day hike and, thankfully, it turned out to be a pretty great one.

We drove two hours south to Echo Canyon State Park (near Cathedral Gorge) and hiked the Ash Canyon trail. It was a beautiful sunny spring day in the upper 50s- a perfect day for a hike. The trail was less than three miles round- trip, but it sure felt longer. The trail started with a somewhat steep ascent away from Echo Reservoir up to the rim of Ash Canyon. As we headed up the dusty switchbacks, we looked back and had nice views of the lake, valley, and surrounding mountains.

April 3 Echo Canyon (5)

Throughout the hike we of course saw several jackrabbits (Nevada is filthy with jackrabbits), but more interestingly, we also saw three different types of lizards. I have never seen any lizards up around where we live in Ely so these were fun to see.

April 3 Echo Canyon (2)

After we hiked up to the rim, we started our descent down into the canyon. Ash Canyon is narrow, with many interesting nooks and crannies in the rocks. In many places the route was less of a trail and more of a rock scramble. The pictures may not depict that because in those areas I was too busy just trying to make my way through. Our five- year- old son, Roland, thought it was the coolest place ever. He would have ran the whole way if I let him. He’s already leaving his poor mom in the dust. At this rate, he’ll be summiting Everest at 12.

April 3 Echo Canyon (13)

April 3 Echo Canyon (22)

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After we shimmied and scrambled our way through the narrow canyon, we finally reached the great open expanse on the other side. It was a fun challenge, but my legs were happy for a more straight- forward trail. As we worked our way downhill, we oohed and aahed over all the cool rock formations. I think I started to annoy my family because, now that the hike was a bit easier, my hands were freed up to take pictures every few steps.

April 3 Echo Canyon (48)

April 3 Echo Canyon (55)

April 3 Echo Canyon (59)

We meandered our way down through the intriguing rocky landscape and we eventually reached the pretty little creek that we followed back to Echo Reservoir. We relaxed for a little bit by the lake, but it was getting late so we needed to start heading back to town.

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The animals were definitely out and about during our evening two- hour drive back home. We saw several herds of pronghorn and we even whizzed by an animal that we are pretty sure was a badger (the first one we have ever seen in the wild- too bad we were going 70 mph).

And….we finally saw our elk! We supposedly live near the largest elk herd in the state, but after a year of living here without ever spotting one, we were beginning to think that elk in Nevada was a myth. When we drove out to the park we passed them, but we couldn’t decide if they were cows or horses. On the drive home we pulled over, and sure enough- they were elk! They were pretty far out in the distance, but still exciting to see.

April 3 Echo Canyon (86)

With the tricky, but fun trail, impressive rocky scenery and numerous wildlife sightings, we had a great first family hike of the Spring. With all of our conflicting schedules, we needed the time together and I definitely needed the time in nature. There was surely no shortage of things to praise God for on this day.

 

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” 

~Anne Bradstreet

The Lure of the Ocean

We recently got back from visiting my family near Raleigh, North Carolina. Even though it is winter, I have been longing to see the ocean so we made a weekend excursion to the coast. It was extra special as this was Roland’s very first trip to the ocean. I was excited too, but it wasn’t until I was walking along the beach on our first evening there that I did the math in my head and realized it had been 10 years since I had visited the Pacific Ocean and even longer for the Atlantic.

How could this be? I mean, I grew up in Miami! But, ever since then we have lived in pretty land- locked places (interior Alaska, Vermont, Idaho, Minnesota, and now Nevada). We have spent plenty of time near rivers and lakes, including Lake Superior, but sadly it has been a decade since I have experienced the grandeur of an ocean.

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With that said, we had a great time. It was the off- season so we were able to share the beaches with a tolerable amount of people.  One nice thing about taking a multi- generational family trip to the beach is that it is large and flexible enough to appeal to just about everyone- all ages, interests, and energy levels. Roland had a blast running from the waves (although not quite fast enough as he got soaked in the chilly water). Matt played in the water with Roland while  I enjoyed scanning the sand for shells. All the adults alternated between chatting with each other and taking solitary strolls along the beach, just soaking it all in. Doing fun things together as a family creates bonds that can withstand years apart.

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I know it has been said a million times, but there is just something so special about the ocean. The combination of endless sky, fresh breeze, and the rhythmic crashing of the waves creates the most rejuvenating and calming setting.

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It is the most pleasant case of sensory overload and it is so easy to lose yourself in it all- listening to the birds and waves, feeling torn between searching for the pretty sea shells scattered over the sand and watching the waves roll up on shore, feeling the breeze on your face and the soft sand under your feet. The views go on forever and it all feels so big and open and free.

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The ocean is probably one of the best balms that God has given us to soothe so many ailments: anxiety, grief, stress, boredom, sluggishness, depression. Pretty much anywhere in nature will help with those things, but like I said before, there is something special about the ocean.

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One morning we took a detour from the beach and visited the nearby Fort Fisher. We toured the historic fort area and then took a pleasant walk on a boardwalk through the coastal grasses adjacent to the water.

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I loved the twisted branches on these trees. I don’t know what kind of tree they were, but they sure looked interesting.

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Roland is ever- ready to get back to the water. He had so much fun he didn’t even mind his shoes and clothes being drenched in cold ocean water. (I did not anticipate the mild weather so I didn’t pack appropriate beach clothing).

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I really do enjoy and feel at home in the Southwest. The stillness and quiet of the deserts, rocks, and mountains are peaceful. However, the constant motion of the waves gives off an energy that is so refreshing and mesmerizing. It was definitely a nice change of pace. We all agree that a visit to the ocean should occur more than once a decade.

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“The sea is emotion incarnate. It loves, hates, and weeps. It defies all attempts to capture it with words and rejects all shackles. No matter what you say about it, there is always that which you can’t.” 

~Christopher Paolini

 

 

Ending the Year in a Valley of Fire

We spent the weekend between Christmas and New Years visiting Valley of Fire State Park, located near Las Vegas. While the East Coast was bombarded with snow and freezing temperatures, we explored a red rock wonderland beneath pleasant blue skies. The purpose of this  little getaway was to celebrate our 12th anniversary. I have always sort of regretted getting married on Dec. 30 because it is hard to fit in an extra thing to celebrate during the holidays and the weather usually is lousy. Now that we live in Nevada, we have a perfect winter destination only 4 hours away.

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We stayed in Henderson to save money so the drive to the park was a little over an hour from our hotel. It was a scenic drive through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area to get to Valley of Fire. We got little glimpses of the lake and I really wanted to check it out, but we were already short on time and visiting the state park was our priority. As it was, we ended up hiking fewer miles than I had planned, due to a late start and the shorter daylight hours of winter.

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Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park (and I would venture to say the most visited.) We loved walking among the red sandstone formations, but we definitely did not have the place to ourselves. I expected the crowds as it was a holiday weekend, the weather was in the 60’s and it was near a large city, but it still took away from the experience. The parking lots and trails were crowded and I yearned to experience this awesome landscape with a bit more solitude, but that is probably rarely an option here.

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The Mouse’s Tank trail took us through a little canyon surrounded by red sandstone walls. It was short and mostly flat so we decided to leave our backpack full of water in the car and just head out. However, it took us longer than we expected since the trail surface was composed of soft sand, requiring a bit more effort. I sure was glad we weren’t walking it during the heat of summer.

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The canyon was pretty full of people, which was not much fun, but seeing where groups of people congregated made it easy to spot the many petroglyphs along the way.

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It was late afternoon by the time we hiked the Fire Wave trail. The winter sun, low in the sky, reflected off the red rocks, making them ablaze with color. In every direction we were surrounded by glowing, rich red sandstone in an array of shapes and designs. The sight was pretty awe- inspiring. It was evident how the park got its name.

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We walked a couple yards off the busy trail to take the family picture below. Matt was busy preparing the camera while I was acting as a place holder for the picture. After a couple minutes I turned my head and saw a bighorn sheep, not that far away, staring right at me, probably wondering what these weird people are up to. (The camera was already occupied so we didn’t get a picture.) It was pretty cool to be able to have a private, memorable experience in the otherwise crowded park. I wonder how many dozens of people walked right by without ever noticing the creature was there.

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Even though we didn’t end up spending a ton of time there and we had to share it with too many people, Valley of Fire was still a pretty special spot to celebrate our anniversary and to say farewell to 2017.

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I hope in this new year, you are able to set aside some time to spend out in nature and fully experience the pure joy and wonder of God’s handiwork. Happy New Year!

 

“Then here’s a hail to each flaming dawn,

And here’s a cheer to the night that’s gone,

And may I go a roaming on, 

Until the day I die.”

~Anonymous (carved into a rock on Mount Katahdin, Maine)

Christmas Joy

I have been down and out with the flu for the past week and a half, but on Christmas Eve my need for fresh air outweighed my lack of energy. My family and I put on our jackets and left the dull confines of the house and took a short walk by Comins Lake.

I was surprised to see how much it was frozen over. Our nighttime lows have been well below freezing, and sometimes in the single digits, but it warms up quite a bit during the day. I wouldn’t try walking over the lake, but when we threw rocks on it, it seemed pretty solid.

Dec. 23 Comins Lake (27)

It was around 50 degrees and breezy when we went out. The blue- gray ice with patches of snow seemed to mirror the moody, partly cloudy winter sky. Scatterings of dried yellow grasses and light green sage brush added pleasant colors to the frozen lake shore.

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We only spent about half an hour meandering by the lake, but it was just what I needed. It had been two weeks since I had spent any meaningful time outdoors and a dose of nature at that point was just as important as any other medicine I was on. When I got back to the car, my body was a little tired, but my mind was happy and my soul was refreshed.

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It is amazing how spending just a short amount of time outside in a peaceful spot can make your whole outlook so much brighter. This Christmas as I celebrate Jesus’ birthday, I am also grateful for God’s first gift to mankind- the gift of Creation. He gave us this amazing world that not only sustains us, but is also abundantly full of beautiful places that have the power to make us feel alive and free, happy and at peace. I believe it was always His intention for us to have a close relationship to nature. I know it calms my nerves, fills my heart with joy, and it is where I most often feel His presence.

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I hope that this Christmas and in the upcoming new year, you not only have some beautiful moments in nature, but that you also open your hearts and quiet your minds so that you can more fully experience God’s presence and love for you.

Merry Christmas!

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John 1:1- 5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Zion Day 2: Sunshine & Solitude

As you can probably tell from my title, I enjoyed our second day in Zion National Park more than our first. After heavy wind and rain the evening before, the skies cleared for an absolutely gorgeous autumn day. This day was a Saturday and the park was even more crowded than the previous day, but somehow we were able to find little pockets of solitude.

We started off the day with the Watchman Trail, which begins right at the visitor center. I thought this trail was going to be packed, but it was surprisingly not bad. We saw other people on the trail, but we were staggered enough that we were able to hike mostly by ourselves. The beginning of the trail briefly meandered by the Virgin River and we saw this handsome heron (who, like the deer, was not scared of us at all).

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We soon began gaining elevation up the mountain. When I was planning our trip, I read that the Watchman Trail had only mediocre views and was only good for filling up a couple extra hours. I have to disagree with that review. This ended up being my favorite trail we did at Zion. It was not crowded, even though the park was, and I thought the views were fantastic the entire way.

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We zig- zagged up switch backs until we eventually made it to a sort of plateau, offering grand views of the red rock mountains and the valley.

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We saw people below us making their way up the switch backs, but we were fortunate enough to have at least 30 minutes alone at the top before anybody else came. The three of us were able to sit quietly, have a snack, rest, and just take it all in. It was the first time I felt like I could actually enjoy the park. I wasn’t rushed, and it was just my little family surrounded by a red rock wonderland.

After a while, we headed back down and spotted a herd of bighorn sheep on the opposite side of the ravine. It is always a special experience to watch wildlife while you are sharing the same space with them, instead of whizzing by in a car.

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After finishing the Watchman Trail, we fetched our car and headed out on the Mt. Carmel Highway, which takes you through a couple of tunnels and accesses the eastern part of the park. We saw another bighorn sheep from the car and we were able to get a better picture of him.

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There was absolutely no parking available for the one short trail in this part of the park, so we skipped it and did our own exploring. This area ended up being my favorite scenery of the whole park. I’ve seen mountains and valleys before, but this was something new. The earth was composed of giant waves of red rock, solidified into all sorts of shapes and varieties. It was almost other- worldly. There were numerous patterns on the rocks, anywhere from swirls to checkerboards.

We didn’t hike any actual trails, but we parked at a couple of pull- outs and explored a little. There were people and cars all around, but nobody was precisely where we were. It wasn’t exactly solitude, but it was close enough. We were able to breathe in and experience this special place on our own terms. The sun’s evening glow on the rocks made the area even more magical.

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Having the opportunity to get away from our everyday lives and see someplace new is a wonderful blessing. It allows for more intimate family time as we were distanced from distractions and chores. Also, seeing a new wonder of creation fills my soul with fresh awe. Knowing that God personally hand- crafted areas such as this for our enjoyment and benefit is truly humbling and gives me ever more to be thankful for.

 

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

Zion Day 1: Clouds & Crowds

In mid- November we were able to sneak away for a weekend trip to Zion National Park in southern Utah. After our visit, we left with two equally strong impressions of the park: 1. Zion is very beautiful, and 2. Zion is very crowded. Matt and I had visited Zion 14 years ago so we expected the beauty, but the crowds were not as we remembered.

Our first day there was overcast so the red rocks were not as brilliantly red as they would have been on a sunny day. It was late enough in the season that the park’s shuttle system had just suspended its service so we were on our own to find parking spaces. Parking was tight, but we managed to park at most of the places that we wanted to stop.

First on our itinerary was the Emerald Pools trail. The trail began with a bridge crossing, offering beautiful views of the Virgin River, the red rock mountains, and the last remaining fall leaves.

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The following picture may look serene, but it does not show the hoards of other people on the trail. I didn’t mind the people on the first part of the trail to Lower Emerald Pools, when it was paved and easy. However, the trail became quite a bit rougher going to the Upper Pools. Navigating a rough trail with a 5- year- old while there was a line of people behind us (even though they were quite friendly) was not a super enjoyable experience.

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We eventually made it to Upper Emerald Pools (along with seemingly every other person in Utah). Our reward was a very small pool of water surrounded by sheer red rock cliffs.

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In the picture below, if you look closely, you can make out a small trickle of water. Maybe in the springtime this area is more interesting, with bigger pools of water and more water cascading over the rocks. However, in late autumn things were pretty dry and yet the crowds were still there. I wasn’t too impressed with this one.

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Next up on our agenda was the Riverside Walk. I was prepared for this one to be crowded, as it is an easy paved trail at the end of the park road that lets you get a little bit deeper into the canyon before having to wade in the water.

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It was a pleasant walk, even though it felt a little more like a theme park than a national park (there were groups of people making so much noise it sounded like they were riding a roller coaster). Even with the commotion, we saw numerous mule deer coming down to the river for an evening drink. They are national park deer and not skittish at all so we were able to watch them for a while.

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It was quite cloudy, but at the end of the trail, one mountain flickered in and out of the last remaining evening sunshine. It glowed brilliantly while its neighboring mountains were shrouded in the shade. It gave us a little preview of what the park would look like the following day when the sun was shining.

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On this trip, Matt and I got a first- hand experience of the overcrowding of America’s National Parks, which is becoming a real issue. I have thought about it a little bit, but I am at a loss for what the answer might be. It is good that people want to visit the parks, and it is also good for the parks, up to a point. If nobody ever visited or cared about them, they would never get any funding. However, their infrastructure just cannot support this amount of visitation. And that really does have an affect on the visitor’s experience. They recently announced that they are raising the entrance fee to a few of the parks. If this does deter a few people from visiting, it will only be the people who are very strapped for cash, and that is a real shame.

Personally, after having to share Zion with so many people, it makes me less inclined to visit other national parks. Sure, there are a few that are so iconic and special that there are no replacements for them, such as Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. For the most part, though, I think I will be sticking to National Forests, BLM land, and state parks. Living in rural Nevada has spoiled me;  I like a little peace and quiet with my natural splendor.

*Stay tuned for the rest of my trip notes*

Celebration in the Rubies

A couple of weeks ago we took a weekend trip to our nearest “city”, Elko. It is a three hour drive to get to Elko and it’s population is less than 20, 000 people (yep, our town is pretty remote). Our reason for going was pretty important, though. We adopted our son almost two years ago from the Democratic Republic of Congo and he just now officially became a U.S. citizen. We had to travel to Elko to meet with an USCIS officer to pick up his Certificate of Citizenship (Yay!!). We technically could have done it in a day trip, but we took advantage of the opportunity to visit an area we hadn’t seen before- the Ruby Mountains.

The Ruby Mountains got their name when an early explorer found garnet in them and wrongly assumed they were rubies. While the mountain range may be lacking in precious gems, it is most definitely not lacking in beauty.

On our drive to Elko we took a side trip to visit Angel Lake, the only lake in these mountains that can be reached via paved road. Unfortunately, we got there right as the sun was setting behind the mountains. Even though we ended up experiencing the place in the shade and the temperature started to quickly drop, it was still a beautiful sight. It is also a good thing that we went as Angel Lake ended up being the only lake we saw on the trip (spoiler alert).

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The following day we took a breathtaking drive through Lamoille Canyon. We earnestly scanned the mountain slopes for mountain goats and bighorn sheep, but never saw any.

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We reached the end of the road, had a picnic lunch by a pretty creek, and then set out on our hike to Lamoille Lake. The beginning of the trail took us through this cool rocky valley. We headed out into it for a while, mesmerized by the scenery, until we realized we weren’t really on a trail anymore. We backtracked a couple times until we discovered that we were supposed to cross a creek near the beginning of the trail. We lost some time and energy, but we finally found the right way….and that is also when things got tricky.

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The aspen leaves were long gone (which was a shame since there were so many of them). All we had were these red stick plants to add a nice pop of autumn color.

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Just taking a breather on one of our many rest breaks. At least we had a nice sunny rock to sit on this time.

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The Ruby Mountains are the wettest mountain range in Nevada and we soon found how their conditions differed from the mountains in our neck of the woods.

The trail started out at around 9,000 feet and went steadily uphill from there. There was patchy snow from the very beginning, but the patches became increasingly larger and the trail became increasingly steeper. It wasn’t supposed to be that long of a hike, but after over two hours of slogging uphill in the slippery snow and ice, there was still no lake in sight.

At one point Matt was helping me through an especially treacherous section. My feet lost all traction on the slick, melting snow and they slid out from underneath me. If Matt wasn’t holding onto my arms, I would have slid all the way down the trail. I don’t know how, but we managed to get to the side of the trail where there was a snow- free patch and I was finally able to stand upright again. We hiked uphill a bit farther, but my nerves were shot and I eventually admitted my defeat. I was a bit bummed to give up my chance of seeing Lamoille Lake, but it was not like we did not see gorgeous scenery the entire way. So we rested and then started our slip- and- slide descent off the mountain.

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Even though we didn’t reach our destination, we still ventured farther than most people. The parking lot was full of sight- seers, but most of them just strolled through the sunny and warm rocky meadow. We saw hardly anyone anywhere on the trail. (Maybe they were wiser than us, but we had ourselves an adventure!)

All in all we had a great weekend exploring a new area of our state and celebrating our family and Roland’s new citizen status. We fell in love with the rugged beauty of the Ruby Mountains and we definitely want to visit them again (but maybe not quite so late in the season).

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“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature…We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.” 

~Henry David Thoreau

A Perfect Day

It is not often that a perfect day comes around. A day when nobody is sick and everybody is in a good mood, the weather is pleasant and the views are beautiful, and there are no little stressful hiccups along the way. A couple weeks ago we were fortunate enough to have one such day.

When we had our September snowfall, we assumed we missed our chance of going to Great Basin National Park for one last autumn hike. However, a stretch of warm weather melted the snow and opened the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive back up again. We were a little hesitant to go because the snow on the Bristlecone trail on our visit back in June made our hike pretty difficult. This time we tried out the Alpine Lakes trail and we were pleasantly surprised to find that the snow was almost entirely melted (even at 10, 400 feet!).

At the lower elevations of the park road, the aspens were dazzling in their yellow autumn leaves, but as we drove up higher the trees were past their peak and had already begun to lose their leaves. It was interesting to see the seasons change as we gained thousands of feet in elevation.

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The weather was wonderful as we headed out on the Alpine Lakes trail: sunny and hovering right around 60 degrees. It wasn’t a difficult hike, but I could definitely feel the high altitude as we hiked uphill to Stella Lake and Teresa Lake. They were both petite in size (one barely more than a pond), but they were surrounded by grand, snow- covered peaks, creating the most picturesque of settings. It was pure bliss to set myself down on a rock, bask in the sunshine, breathe in the cool air and take in all the beauty surrounding me.

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Roland’s moods are usually the limiting factor on the enjoyment level of our hikes. His whininess and grumpiness can spoil even the most grand of hikes. However, on this day, not one whine came out of him. He kept up with us without a fuss and he was in a happy mood the whole day. Even when he fell down, he cried for just a minute or two and then he was able to move on and get back to enjoying himself, which is no small feat for him.

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If you have met our son, you know he is not a quiet child. There is always some sort of sound coming out of his mouth, whether it is words, songs, or just senseless noises. On our hike back down from the lakes in the darkening woods, I noticed it was perfectly quiet. I turned around and saw Roland was just walking along, playing with a couple sticks AND WASN’T MAKING ANY NOISE! It may not sound like much, but being able to enjoy the quiet serenity of the woods is not something that happens often when you have a kid like mine.

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I soaked it all in and marveled at how everything came together to create a perfect day. Days like that feel like a little sneak peak of what heaven might be like. In the midst of a string of ordinary days, sometimes God will give you a day that feels like a slice of heaven on earth and you can almost hear him whisper, “Don’t worry, there is an eternity of more days like that. Just wait.”

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“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”

~George Washington Carver