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Friday, May 25, 2012

Big Sur

 Holy Amazing
I have been lucky to see a lot of incredible sights, but Big Sur had a very last impression on me.  Rarely, do you see that much beauty stretched across that great of a distance.  From the morning fog, over the deep cliffs of San Simeon to the open panoramas of the coastline south of Carmel, Big Sur is simply breathtaking. The water is bluer than I ever imagined it to be.  There are many microclimates as the shoreline undulates out into peninsulas and recedes into coves.  One bay is snow covered in midmorning, and a cove is tropical turquoise water and waterfalls in mid afternoon.
For me the highlights were Salmon Trail, Jade Trail, Pfeiffer Beach, and driving up above into the hilltop road and overlooking Highway 1 from the clouds with small holes of ocean peeking through.  If I didn’t have a lot of great things left to see, this easily could have been the summer I lived in Big Sur instead of the Summer of the Road Trip.  I would like to go back and just explore the hiking trails for a week sometime.  I guess I didn’t realize how accessible but still remote all the hiking in this area is. 
If you have not visited Big Sur, please consider adding it to your bucket list.  In general, I would say I am underwhelmed by a lot of destinations, but this place was absolutely incredible.  It was one of the few places I really wish I had someone to share in my excitement.  I felt like I kept pinching myself to affirm this is real, it’s really that beautiful.

San Simeon to Monterey

A must visit
At the bottom of Big Sur is a nothing of a town that deserves at least a passing visit. Sea elephants, rocky beaches, mission architecture, and kite surfing make San Simeon the perfect place to spend an afternoon.  With rolling hills and contrasting deep blue and turquoise beach water, this place feels like a movie. 

Conversely, at the top of Big Sur, Monterey feels like everyone’s hometown.  The Canary Row, the Aquarium, and inviting bay with blooming purple flowers make this an engaging town.  I think a perfect week would be to spend a day or two in Monterey, a day or two in Carmel, a day or two in Big Sur, and a day or two in San Simeon.  I slept at a motel in San Simeon on the super cheap.  I spent an affordable night in Monterey at the HI Hostel, and I had a lovely dinner at the Mediterranean café Koko’s which I would recommend for a casual dining experience in Monterey.

Somewhere USA

My day of kitsch- somewhat tasteful to the crassly garish
Today I explored the kitsch side of road trips.  I explored Central California’s Hearst Castle and San Luis Obispo’s Madonna Inn.
 Hearst Castle was set on a remarkable plot of land overlooking San Simeon, a rough coastline with deep navy water.  There is no wonder why William Hearst picked this hilltop for his Spanish Revival Castle. The structure itself is somewhat unremarkable.  It’s a concrete earthquake proof structure clad to look like a Spanish castle.  The interiors are a bit gaudy for my taste, but kind of remarkably encompass Hearst’s unique collection of religious Renaissance and Gothic art.  He had a specific taste for hearths and ceilings; the ceilings of each room are elaborate tablets brought from Europe with the room designed around their dimensions.  It‘s a really interest showcasing of art through the medium of architecture. 
While I did not really enjoy the castle itself, the grounds are absolutely amazing.  From an elaborate Esplanade to a fruit tree covered horse trails to grazing wild animals, the guest of Hearst Castle must have felt like Mediterranean royalty.  From the Neptune pool to the Roman baths, Hearst spared no expense on this lavish estate, which he lovingly called “La Cuesta Encantada” (Enchanted Hill).

The other marvel of kitsch was the Madonna Inn.  Each room is themed from Western to Under the Sea, to Love Suites; this motel encompasses a plethora of garishly odd décor.  I was only able to go to the main lobby and gift shop, but see attached photos for the gist.  I guess taste is subjective and quirky is more memorable than tasteful.  I don’t exactly understand the appeal to kitsch.  The largest bottle of ketchup or the biggest rubber band ball, some things just don’t need to be celebrated.  Maybe, I am missing something, but I just don’t get it.  

Santa Barbara

One Love
Alongside sail boats, flowering trees, and a backdrop of undulating mountains, I feel at home on the Santa Barbara Bay.

The beach is shared by handsome volleyball players, nerdy college techies, hippies, and yacht sailors. The atmosphere is decidedly more laid back than the so cal beaches.

I walk the pier with a mint chocolate chip ice cream exploring local pottery, street performances, and observing budding romance.

As the afternoon progresses, love is in the air.

A couple asks me to take their picture giddily expressing that it's their 40th wedding anniversary. That's old love.

Two moms dressed to the nines look on joyously as their two daughters get married in a private beach ceremony. Not that homosexual love is any different than heterosexual love but to love so strongly that you want to express your commitment in a country where a large segment of the population does not value your right to do so; that's brave love.

As I walk further down the pier, I see an Asian family and a Jewish family embracing sharing toasts. Two dissimilar cultures bound together by love, by marriage. To embrace the unfamiliar as your own, that's family love.

I take a seat in the sand and overhear two college girls contemplating why he didn't call, why was he flirting with that other girl. I know that conversation well, the "he's just not that into you" conversation.  In my own life, I call it the mr.greene phenomena. There will always be a handsome guy with an easy confidence that will at some point cause a girl to undervalue her own awesomeness and torment herself with question of why he doesn't want to be with me. She'll justify away his behavior as bad timing or he's shy or he would like me more if I would just...

The reality is that guy probably just doesn't like you that much. Not because your ugly or boring but just because "he's not that into you." It's a simple lesson, one I felt like expressing to those girls, but realized at 27, I haven't quite learned that lesson completely. Some things in life have to be experienced and not taught.  I laughed a little as I thought about how I had justified away why the shy guy in my life hadn't asked me out.  He could be the exception and it could be bad timing, but more than likely he's just not that into me.  Allowing yourself to be enough without someone else's affirmation, well that's self love (Self love takes a little time to work out the kinks).

As late afternoon set in, I became melancholy. I want that type of love: lasting, brave, all encompassing. I thought about my failed relationships, the most recent one in which I chased away a boyfriend because I couldn’t make a commitment. I thought about how much time I had wasted in life waiting for the right guy to ask me out instead of enjoying the nice, handsome, available guys of my present.  I began to get tears of self pity, tears of loneliness.
Then, a circle of drum playing hippies began to chant “One Love”.  I looked at my holey t-shirt, the dirt ring around my ankles, and the week old entrance bracelet on my wrist, and I thought if ever a time those hippies would be my kind of love, well tonight was it.  I quit my job, I’m living out of my car, I have a blank future, and a roadmap to nowhere in particular, might as well enjoy the present.  I sat on the fringe of their circle, and I listened to them bang their drums; I let those small tears run down my smiling face. 
I can’t wallow in the pity of the past or the uncertainty of the future, the only option for happiness is to live each moment in the present.  This is a great moment.  I know the joy of the open road, the possibility of each new day, and the freedom to do whatever I please.
 I imagine a decade from tonight, somewhere with a baby on my hip, maybe in a PTA meeting, I will look fondly on the memory of tonight, of these hippies, and their drums, and my freedom. 


Cool Breeze, Pretty People, Fruity Drinks
I don’t know why people rag on Southern Californians as being aloof or in a bubble; that’s a bubble I would gladly join.  The water is clear, the air is crisp, the people are beautiful, and the drinks are plentiful. I have a great friend Kelly Nicholas, who is yes, tan, and yes, gorgeous, who grew up in Laguna Beach.  She always has a relax way about her in even the most stressful of situations.  Running the beaches of Laguna, I can imagine that if the ocean air flowed through your veins as a child, that any stress could be calmed by the sound of gently crashing waves.  I also have never understood why people get irritated by pretty people.  There are gorgeous people all around me; it makes me want to run harder, take better care of my appearance, and generally be better to my body.  I would gladly be the ugly duckling in the land of the beautiful, versus a swan in the land of the ugly.
I spent the first part of the day on a run in Laguna Beach.  As I made my way to Newport, I hazily remember a very drunken fourth of July with Kelly, Jeremy, and Marcus where we spent the entirety of the day drinking along the streets of Newport.  I discovered Newport in a sober way today, and I gladly enjoyed a delightful spinach salad and green juice, two doors down from the marathon drinking bars of my past.  I spent sunset at my new favorite beach, El Matador, north of Malibu proper.  I unfortunately lost most my pictures from El Matador, so if you want to experience it, you will have to visit yourself; it’s one of the best cliff beaches I have been to in So Cal.  I had a great fish taco dinner at affordable Malibu Seafood.  I backtracked to spend the night and morning in Santa Monica; I walked along the boardwalk and got a much needed eyebrow wax by a salon picked at random off the internet.  To my delightful surprise, the esthetician was an Aspen native and we gossiped about locals.

 I spent the night in the Santa Monica HI Hostel, which provided a hot shower and warm bed.  When I was brushing my teeth, an early twenty something asked me if she should be beach chic or rocker chick for the luau party, and then asked me what I was wearing to the luau.  Not that I would have attended a hostel sponsored party in my college years, but tonight  I felt truly content being the old lady who went to bed early.  When I woke at 7 am, only two beds had bodies in them.  Turns out the luau must of have been a rager if no one made it back to their bed.   Sometimes in the phase of emerging adulthood, you have to choose your adventures and give a smirk and a memory to those things you’ve done in past chapters of your life, which you gladly left in your past thankful not to relive in your present.  

San Diego

Simply Lovely
San Diego is one of my favorite places; not to mention a welcome ocean when you’ve spent weeks in the desert.  It’s easy to navigate, it has lovely beaches contrasted by lush parks, and an interesting makeup of beach bums, military personnel, tourists, and corporate types.  Since my mom lived in San Diego for most of my time in college, I have visited at least a handful of times.  She always came up with fun weekends filled with a mix of touristy and local activity that made a San Diego weekend a welcome distraction.  However, this time was my first trip without a home base, so I checked into the RV Park at Campland at Mission Bay. Minus the flock of mallards that attacked every morning when the sprinklers went off, I would definitely recommend this place to RVers and a safe option for tenter like myself.

On day one, I went for a run along Mission Bay, a nice town beach with bay and ocean access.  It’s the perfect place to ride your bike or go for a run without feeling like you are at a meat market or on a runway.  I spent one lovely day in the past with Jeremy Voegel going jet skiing around the bay.  If San Diego weather does not make you want to be a runner, I don’t know what will.  I easily ran for an hour with clean air and zero elevation.  Next, I drove over the Coronado bridge to spend the afternoon in my second favorite place in San Diego.  Coronado Island, albeit touristy, has some really great bike paths that can take you straight to Mexico if you stay on them too long.  Knowing my navigational prowess, I found myself all the way in the Tijuana Estuarine Reserve.  Realizing I was a little close to the border with no ID, I decided it was time to peddle north.  I had deliciously delicate mahi tacos at Pehoe, a touristy but delicious bay view restaurant where I have had three meals, all of which have been delightful.  I finished the day by driving up to the Point Loma military base in hopes of being at the lighthouse at sunset, which I vaguely remember being able to do in years past.  Anyway, the park was closed so I settled for a sunset at lower elevation in East Mission.
On day two, I returned to my new favorite San Diego restaurant, Café 21.  My favorite and only Ajerbaiijan restaurant serves the most delicious brunch imaginable. Last visit, I had chicken curry cakes and a porter beer.  On this trip, I had the turkey kabobs and red chai tea.  The cakes are out of this world, but the kabobs were a great treat too.  If you find yourself in Downtown/ Gaslamp area, stop here to eat; I give it my highest endorsement.  After that, I went to my favorite San Diego attraction, Balboa Park.  Bigger in area than Central Park, Balboa has a few of my favorite things: great museums, Spanish architecture, blossoming fig trees, rolling hills, a wonderful restaurant, quaint outdoor cafes,  nestled sculpture gardens, and eclectic sidewalk art.  I have spent many a delightful afternoons in this park, a memorable late lunch with Jonathan Bahr in the modern sculpture garden, and today a trek through the free exhibits at the Museum of Art.  I went to La Jolla to say hello to the friendly sea lions and then did a light hike at Torrey Pines to see the storm roll in over Del Mar beach.  As the sun set, I headed north to spend the night in San Clemente and start the morning on the PCH.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Death Valley & Joshua Tree

Sometimes the story is better than the experience
After a night lost within Death Valley, I stumble upon a campsite at 10:15.  It’s too dark, too eerie, and too hot to set up camp, so I am resolved to spend the night in the car.  At about 2:30 a.m. two tall bearded men start getting closer and closer to my vehicle.  At first, it seems like they are lost, then it seems like they are plotting an attack, and when one of them brushed up against my taillight, I decide it’s time to turn on the car and drive away.  I freak out, try to start the car in a hurry, and disable the starter.  My car won’t start, won’t lock, and I am in the middle of Death Valley with two tall strangers looming in the half moon lit sky.  I begin to freak out, wonder if I should call the cops, hundreds of miles away from cops, wonder if I should call AAA, not terribly appropriate to call AAA at 3 am.  Last thought is to call home.  I decided better not to scare my parents.  I finally get my car to lock, and I count Mississippi’s until I pass out.  At 5 a.m., I wake up to dawn’s light, and at 7 a.m. am greeted by two post college photographers with scrubby unshaven beards, head to toe decked in camera gear apologizing if they startled me while they were taking pictures of shooting stars ( the shooting stars I saw that night were phenomenal even amidst my paranoia).  I freaked out over nothing, but that will forever be the night that my car broke down in the middle of Death Valley with two ominous strangers hovering around me.
Flash forward to night two in Joshua Tree.  I had always heard great tidbits from the few visitors who made it all the way down to Joshua Tree.  As I rolled into the park and found my campground, I was just in time to set up for sunset shots, which are supposed to be spectacular within the park.  Three men approached me, one I had recognized from the night before in Death Valley.  He spoke first and said he remembered me from the night before; I was wearing this or that.  I parted ways to get to the perfect spot to take dusk pictures.  They followed me, but the other two disappeared and it was the one friendly stranger who asked me why I was by myself, where was I staying for the night, told me I was pretty tried to hug me and then when I shrugged the hug told me my shirt was nice and began to pet it.   In retrospect, he was probably just on mushrooms trying to enjoy the intensity of Joshua Tree and get a little high with a few friends.  And if I was with a few friends and a little less sober or in a familiar place, I may not have freaked out.  However, when you are in butt fucking Egypt at dusk and you’re a petite young woman alone, sometimes to error on the side of caution is best.  Since there were only two open campgrounds in the park, and he knew my car, I broke down and called home.  An hour and a half later, I checked into a Homewood Suites in Palm Desert.  That will forever be the night that I narrowly escaped a psychedelic predator.
I think the reason people want to travel to places like Death Valley and Joshua Tree is for the story.  Names like “Devil’s Golf Course” and “Inferno” strike up story worthy imagery.  Even the name “Death Valley” with temperature in the 130s elicits a certain unworldly severity.
 I visited Scotty’s castle, a phantom castle in the middle of nowhere in the northern reaches of Death Valley.  A castle built on fables, playful deceit, and an unlikely friendship between a Chicago millionaire and a swindling cowboy who swore the castle was his own and a gold mine was buried below its foundation.  This castle enticed travelers to visit the area, supposedly rich with gold and 180 degrees in the shade, and to meet Scotty, the devious, embellishing cowboy with a lifetime full of stories and adventures about this remote but mystifying place. 
All these years later, people still venture through this area for a chance to experience their own story.  Whether it’s a young woman escaping night villains or a young man getting stoned in the mystifying desert of Joshua Tree or two photographers in search of the perfect shooting star or perfect sunrise, there is something spectacular that in the age of the internet there are still places where mystery exist and adventures are uncharted.
That said if you want the highlights and low lights without the sweat and gas mileage; here is my take.  I would take the time to drive through Death Valley, preferably close to sunset or sunrise.  I would watch dawn or dusk at Zabriski Point or Sand Dunes.  I would make sure to visit the Sand Dunes, Artist’s Drive, Badwater Basin, Devil’s Golf Course (unless you have seen salt fields in spectacular places like Chilean desert).  I would probably skip the rest.  If you find yourself in the park for longer period, the tour of Scotty’s Castle is entertaining and the ranger does a great job bringing the story to life.    I would also drive through the Mojave Desert, just spectacular roadside vistas.  As for Joshua Tree, I was only there a short afternoon and evening, but I just didn’t get it.  Not to mention the creeper and the less than remarkable sunset.  I guess I would make sure to plan visit around astrologically significant dates.  That said, everyone’s adventure is different, and if I was writing from the perspective of the mushroom creeper, I might describe Joshua Tree as a life highlight.

 As I spend a lot, a lot of time alone in the last few weeks, I am increasingly aware of how each person has their own story, their own life events, their own hardships and triumphs that make up their identity.  I am also aware that is a spectacular moment in my own story, a nine week chapter that is leaving a lifetime of impressions.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Las Vegas (or Henderson, NV)

I’ll shave my legs when I get to Vegas
So, as I have been traveling, people have been saying “you’re living the dream, or “how cool, you quit your job and are on a 9 week road trip.”  And yes, I am spectacularly lucky to be living the dream and doing bucket list adventures when I am young enough to enjoy them.
However, living out of a car for 9 weeks has its draw backs, and through the weeks in the desert, I have encounter a handful of items that I  didn’t consider when making the idiotic choice to plan an epic road trip.  As the list of items grew, I began the mantra “I’ll take care of that when I get to Vegas.”  From inability to shower and shave to a lingering chest cold, to rotting eggs in a cooler, to a morning I woke up with my ass split between the gear joist of my car, I have encounter the woes of the road, not to mention loneliness.  So my initial intention to win a little money on the strip and splurge on a dinner from money coworkers gave me as a parting gift lost out to a good rest and a hot shower.  A day and half in Vegas turned into 2 days in a Hampton Inn in Henderson.  Life cannot exist as highlights alone; we need the lulls in life to recover and distinguish extraordinary from everything else.
However, Vegas is my blood.  Most people think of Vegas as silicone strippers, excess, drinking, drugs, strung out gamblers; I think of my dear grandmother, Gram, as she was affectionately known.  My most prominent memories of Gram were learning to play cards in her parlor, while she drank Crème de Menthe and tapped her fake red nails against the table not so patiently as I learned Aces high and low in gin and when to split in blackjack.  She was a beautiful woman, impeccably groomed, big white curls and manicured fingers; she was also the biggest card fiend I ever knew.  She dragged my mom along to Vegas twice a year to gamble before Vegas was hip.  My mom recalls fried chicken buffets and hours upon hours at the blackjack table, strictly blackjack, as any other gambling was a bit trashy.  Luckily, by the time I came around and my mom wanted her daughter to go to Vegas and share in her family history, there were 4 star restaurants and headliner shows.  While I have never worn acrylic nails and I wouldn’t touch Crème de Menthe with a ten foot poll, I think my love of cards is something that will always connect me to my mom and to my Gram.  So, tired and strung out, I at least had to take the nostalgic drive down the strip as part of family tradition.

Grand Canyon Top to Bottom to Top

Grand Canyon- Top to Bottom & Back Up Again

The National Park does not recommend hiking to the Colorado River and back up to the top of the Grand Canyon in one day.  The elevation change is 4800 ft from the South Kaibob Trail to the foot of the Colorado River.  That said, when you have your heart set on going to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and you can’t get a permit to stay the night, sometimes recommendation are just that, someone else’s opinion.
 My plan was to start from South Kaibob at 5 am, and get down to the river, and a third of the way up the Bright Angel Trail at Indian Garden before midday, so that I could get exposed, non-shaded hiking done during the cooler hours. Plans are kind of like recommendations, sometimes you just got to throw them out the window.  I missed my alarm, got lost on way to trail head and didn’t start my descent until 7:30 am.  Paranoid by rangers insistence that I be a good way up the canyon by midday,  I decided to do a slight jog down the canyon.  Don’t cringe; the trail is quite wide on the South Kaibob side (its where they bring up visitors on mules).  So as I jogged down the canyon, the light was magnificent in the mid morning.  I stopped to take pictures as this trip would probably be my only opportunity to relish the inner canyon.  I was feeling pretty strong, and it's easy to feel like a running god when you are doing approximately a mile of descending.  However, at the bottom of my trail, a hunk of a man, was beginning his shirtless run up the trail.  Life has a way of grounding us in reality when our head gets too big. 

Nonetheless, I made it to the canyon bottom in 1.5 hours.
I have never loved the Colorado River as much as I did on this day.  Blue and green clear water, gentle rapids with the world’s largest canyon as its back drop, made this view truly spectacular.  I got a little lost at the river, so  I couldn’t linger too long as I wasn’t sure how challenging the ascent up Bright Angel Trail would be.  I hauled up the canyon like a mountain goat, and I made it the Indian Garden at 11:30.  After refilling water, I began the challenging ascent up the remainder of Bright Angel, 3000 ft of vertical gain left.  The views from this trail were night and day to the South Kaibob Trail.  The Kaibob Trail had sweeping views, large, open panoramas.  This side of the canyon had tight, rocky views interspersed with spectacularly green vegetation.  I made it from bottom to top in 3.5 hours, which I am pretty sure is hella fast.  Nonetheless, I would strongly recommend doing this trip as a two day venture.  I was exhausted and had to do a fair amount of hiking in the midday heat.  It is definitely manageable as a one day hike, but if you are not living at 8500 ft, it may be more enjoyable as a two day hike.

I would say if you are in decent shape this hike is a must when visiting the Grand Canyon, and I would suggest doing it in the same order I did, down South Kaibab and up Bright Angel.  Old folks and kiddos were doing the hike all the way to the bottom.  If you are really apprehensive about your physical limitations, consider at least hiking down the canyon a mile or two to get a one of a kind glimpse of the inner canyon. 

Grand Canyon

Really Big Hole-
Many eloquent verses have been said about the Grand Canyon;  I guess my first impression of the Canyon was more like the kid from the 1980s classic American Vacation: “it’s only the biggest God-damn hole in the world”  Excuse the language, but it is sort of a holy shit sort of moment.  You prepare yourself for it being huge and encompassing, but I think that part of the splendor of the Canyon is that there is no way to prepare yourself for how small you feel out on the canyon’s edge.  It is sort of a once in a lifetime experience, where you understand the power of nature and history, and your own relative insignificance.  The day I arrive there were scattered showers that heightened the contrast of the sky and canyon, creating a more intense depth of field. 


 On day one, I hiked the South Rim Trail.  It’s a hike along the perimeter of the canyon at a flat grade.  I went from the visitor center to the Hopi Point destinations; the trail in total is 13 miles, but you can hop on and off the shuttle about ever ½ mile.  I thought this was a great introduction to the park.  
On day 2, I did the Dripping Springs Trail off the Hermit Trail Head.  This hike took me into the inner canyon and about halfway down the canyon where I got sweeping panoramic views.  The coolest part was seeing wedges where the canyon had split dues to erosion and geologic disturbance.  This was a 7 mile hike, that the ranger said should take about 5 hours.  I did it quite a bit faster, as I was worried about getting stuck out in the heat without enough water.  The ascent back up the Hermit Trail Head was quite difficult, a pretty steep grade.  If you want to hike the Inner Canyon without going to the river, I would suggest doing the Bright Angel Trail or the South Kaibab Trail instead.  In the Grand Canyon, it does not appear as dry as other desert landscapes, but you need to respect the elements, bump up electrolytes and stay out of the heat in the early afternoon.
I had planned to do the hike to the base of Canyon from the South Kaibab Trail, and then ascend the Bright Angel Trail the 2nd day.  However, no backcountry permit was available, so I had to condense the hike into one day.

More Zion

I am my father’s daughter
Most days I don’t think about the fact that I was raised primarily by a male; a goofy, sarcastic, but genuinely kind male.  On day three of Zion, I realized that I may be the spitting image of my mother, but I am undoubtedly my father’s daughter.  The list of Tom Cooneyism that I have mimicked this week:
  1. I smell checked two clothing items out of my clothes bin, acknowledge they did not match, shrugged the shoulders, and wore them anyway; they did after all pass the smell check.
  2.  I took all leftovers, including humus, carrots, spinach, beans, guacamole, apples, and corn, and threw them into a tortilla, shrugged my shoulders and said “not bad.”
  3. I blew a snot rocket off a cliff with about 20 people in my near vicinity.
  4.  I met a group of Los Angeles Mexican tourists on Cinco de Mayo who called me their new friend.  It reminded of me when my dad tried to join the Chicano Student group in the sixties.  My experience with Latin and Irish culture is we really do have a lot in common, but as Latin as dad and I may feel, pink just doesn't blend into the crowd.
  5. On a similar note, I set up my new campsite to Gloria Estefan music on my ipod.  Like my father, I found myself dancing along to the chorus in the whimsical way he does. I don’t like Gloria Estefan music, never have, not sure how she landed on my ipod, but when it starts, the feet just start moving.

 A big part of this trip is a solo experience, a time of self-reflection, but I have been surprised at how much I have been thinking about all the great people in my life.  The goofy quirks of my father and the compassionate, patient generosity of my mother have overwhelmed me at times.  I think in the selfish quest towards adulthood, I often forget how blessed I am to have supportive, kind parents to help guide me, let me fail softly, let me learn, and share my successes.  Thank you. 
On day three, I explored Adrielle’s greatest suggestion, The Narrows.  I did not know this hike existed but it soon became a bucket list item and my reason for each of you to visit Zion.  After getting outfitted in a wet suit, I began the 5 mile hike up the Virgin River between the Narrow Slot Canyons.  You are hiking the whole duration of the hike, calf to chest high in water.  The water is translucent, and the canyons shade the sun except for brief moments of brilliance when the sun penetrates the narrow slot between canyon walls.  This hike was an eerie experience to do solo, but I experienced transcendental moments that remind me that our creator has a way of reaffirming faith in even his greatest cynics. 

On day four, with a chest cold set deep into my lungs, I did the morning summit of Observation Point.  It was a nice hike; I was mainly using it as a training session for Rainier, which is coming up within the month. 
If I had only a short time in Zion, I would do Angel’s Landing, The Narrows, The Mt. Caramel Highway, and I would eat at Oscars, though Pizza and Noodle and Bit & Spur were also solid choices.


A splendid recommendation
My friend Adrielle suggested I visit Zion, her favorite national park.  While I love my friend, we are birds of a different feather, so I was a little nervous that her glowing recommendation might render 4 nights of boredom in the South Utah desert.  And when she suggested a restaurant and said she ate there all three nights of her stay, I was sharply reminded that Adrielle is a creature of habit.   I am a bit of an adventure zealot and adrenaline junky, slightly unstable and neurotic. Adrielle, on the other hand, is how I would describe my concept of home; she is warm, kind, comforting, consistent, and reliable. 
To my great surprise, I found Zion National Park to be the perfect blend of Adrielle and Kelly.  The town of Springdale was accessible and inviting, a good home base to explore the multitude of canyons.  The staple hikes of the park were controlled but challenging.  The excursion hikes to glowing slot canyons and peaks were breathtaking.
I spent the first day exploring the main drag of the park via shuttle, the Emerald Pools Trails, The Weeping Rock, and Riverside walk along the Virgin River.  It was a pleasant afternoon and I closed out the night with Adrielle’s recommendation, Pizza & Noodles, which proved to be a good staple, carb load for tomorrow’s day of hiking.  I have to say, that like her taste in men and fashion, Ms.Fry’s taste in national parks is impeccable.

On day two of the trip, I hiked to the top of Angel’s Landing, a lookout atop a sliver of a peak within the canyon.  Acrophobic, beware.  It was not as scary as summits of several Colorado Peaks, but it was surprisingly exposed and steep for it to be such a popular hike within the park.   I would highly recommend this hike to visitors. In the afternoon, I took the West Rim Trail, towards the northwest part of park to some relatively tight slot canyons.  It was a pretty long day of hiking, and not particularly impressive views; I think if I came back with some canyoneering or rock climbing skills, I would have really enjoyed this area.
After a long second day, I ventured out to my second restaurant, and since it was Cinco de Mayo, I gave Oscars a try.  I tried to order a Margarita and was offered a Winerita, those Utah Mormons and their alcohol.