On Saturday, Mark, Nicole, and I hiked in the Uintas, the highest east-west running mountain range in the contiguous United States:
We started at Mirror Lake above Kamas, about 80 miles from our home, and started hiking...
One of my favorite things about the Uintas is that the rocks are purple with bright lime green lichen:
A little over half-way up, we stumbled upon some of our USEE friends, Jason and Maggie, at a crossroads. Now people, bear in mind, the Uinta range is vast. The chances of this happening are miniscule. If either of us had arrived at this location just a minute later, we would have missed each other completely. We commemorated the astounding event with a photo, though their uber cute dog Fossil was more into catching flies than smiling for the camera:
7.5 miles in, the end of the road, Jordan Lake:
A nearby waterfall:
If you hike 7.5 miles in:
you hike 7.5 miles back:
It's a 15-mile gift that will last much longer than our fatigue.
Much, much longer.
While I realize that my posting in this blog as of late has been at best, sporadic--this last respite has been the result of a vacation to visit our PLUs in New Hampshire.
We became lovingly reacquainted with our beautiful niece, Olivia:
Our most handsome nephew, Tony:
And this oh-so-lovable and wonderfully goofy sweetheart, Annemarie:
We saw tall ships in Portsmouth before eating lunch at Smuttynose and hanging out for a couple of hours on Rye Beach:
We made stuffed shells, shishkebabs, jambalaya, homemade pizza, seafood linguine Alfredo, double chocolate brownies, and pie and muffins from wild blueberries we picked and plunked into our pails on Pitcher Mountain.
We had coffee on the porch every morning and got thoroughly caught up.
We walked to the cornfield, around Tarn Pond, and to and from the coffee maker.
We ventured into Vermont, destination: Ben & Jerry's:
We laughed until it hurt and then we laughed some more.
We drove by farms like this:
And contemplated roads taken, and not taken:
We stopped by this farm stand...
...and bought vegetables like these for our meals:
Some went kayaking at a nearby lake:
While others stayed home and made handmade cards.
We froze to death in a cornfield while eating homemade ice cream, went mini-golfing in which I got two holes-in-one, went antiquing, attempted to watch the Perseid's Meteor Shower and giggled far more than there were falling stars, and watched Twilight and Anchor Man as age and interest permitted.
We reincarnated old jokes and invented new ones that will last much longer than we might like.
We grabbed coffee and Chai on one of our many trips to the grocery store:
But mostly we just basked in the joy of being together.
For we are as close as they come, my brother and I--and our families:
And though my heart breaks every time we have to say good-bye, and I fantasize about living near them once again someday, I know that there will be no love lost across the miles, just time...
...before we walk together again in the woods of New Hampshire.
The Crest Trail hike remains my favorite hike in the world. Nearly 14 miles long round-trip, it begins at the Little Water Trailhead in Mill Creek Canyon and ends at Desolation Lake in Big Cottonwood Canyon. It climbs well over 2,500 feet in elevation and takes you through some of the most scenic high-mountain back country in the world.
It is, quite simply, the reason why I live where I live.
There are, quite frankly, no words to describe the beauty that I find here, the depth of which can only be glanced upon with a camera.
It is rare that I find myself without words. I suppose it is a testament to how deeply this scenery touches me, to say nothing of the sounds and smells that greet me upon each new turn in the trail.
If I attempted to assign words to this experience, they would pale in comparison to the feelings this pilgrimage evokes in me.
For it is religious. It is rapturous. It is sacred.
It is like walking through a dream.
Yesterday, on the 12-hour-long odyssey home from CHA in Orlando to Salt Lake City (which included a 2-hour wait after the shuttle had dropped me off at my airline and a 3-hour layover in Phoenix), I was surprised to have found a new friend.
When traveling to and from an industry event such as the semi-annual Craft & Hobby Association Convention, I find myself perusing the passengers, checking to see if there's anyone there I know. Because there are so many in my industry who hail from Salt Lake City, there usually is a handful of friendly faces on each flight as we make our way to the Magical Land of New Paper Crafting Product and then back home again.
As the time for my flight drew near, I scanned the crowd as per usual, and saw no one that I knew--and quite honestly, I was a little relieved. For I was extremely tired. After two long days of walking the showroom floor and trusting the waitress who had promised me the night before that it was, indeed, decaf in my cup--a fib that kept me up until past 2 in the morning--I was definitely looking forward to catching up on a little sleep, hopefully without any slack-jawed drooling.
Having procured my low A-number in the queue by registering online precisely 24 hours in advance for my Southwest Airlines flight the previous afternoon, I was able to get a window seat away from the Loud & Cranky Family I had noticed in the waiting area and had made a mental note to avoid. The plane gradually filled up, the aisle seat in my row was then taken, and as the remaining passengers filed on by, a thin, attractive woman was asking if anyone was sitting in the middle seat of my row. I would be lying if I said I wasn't relieved. Let's face facts. Everyone wants all the room they can get on an airplane. Not that I'm the tiniest of trims, but it was nice to know that I'd have a little elbow room on the 4-hour flight west now that she had chosen the empty spot beside me. I've suffered many a twisted, cramp-filled, uncomfortable flight after having sat by large, frequently flying, stingy-elbowed businessmen in my day. I'm just sayin'.
I felt a little badly that she was going to have to sit separately from her husband, but not so badly that I was willing to give up my window seat. After all, I arranged my very day so I could get the coveted low A-number in the queue from Southwest Airlines. So, I settled in with my current read, Saving Fish from Drowning, and waited for the flight to get underway.
As the flight attendants were squaring things away, you know, showing us how to fasten our seatbelts as though it were rocket science, telling us that we could use our seat cushions as flotation devices should we crash into some kind of frigid water, and reminding us to secure our own oxygen masks before those of the tiny, helpless souls we might care to rescue in the event of a tragic emergency, my seatmate took out a catalog from one of my favorite manufacturers, 7gypsies.
"You must have just came from CHA," I said.
"Yeah, I did," she returned. "Did you? What's your name?"
"I'm Cath. Cath Edvalson. I'm the creative editor of Paper Crafts magazine. Who are you?"
"Oh,OK. I'm Noell. Noell Hyman. I do subscription-based scrapbooking tutorials on a website called Paperclipping."
"Oh my gosh! I've heard of you, but I didn't know that you were you!" I said with enthusiasm.
Truth be told, I had just recently become aware of Noell as a result of her recent partnership with a blog called Scrapbook Update. Because of the recent sale of our company to New Track Media, and the requisite upheaval, I've been watching Scrapbook Update to see what has been reported about us. Hence, the name recognition.
Our conversation ignited immediately. One question after another, we each had something more that we wanted to learn from one another. We spent some time talking about our industry, but as the discovery process continued, we started to learn how much we have in common in our personal lives, which is a lot. It's not often that I run into someone who is as far down the path of sustainability as I am, and Noell is right there with me. She is a vegan and so we talked a lot about that, particularly with regard to how it compares to vegetarianism, which my daughter, Nicole, embraces. We also talked a lot about how difficult it is to determine where to draw the line between what you're able and willing to do to be "green," and what is beyond your capabilities at the time. As the flight progressed, one conversation jumped to another idea which took off in a new direction which landed onto something deep, profound, and heartfelt, and before we knew it 4 hours had passed without a single pause and we were in Phoenix and it was 106 degrees and time to move on to the next.
It's strange to think that if she had not sat in that empty seat next to me, I still would not really know who she is, and vice versa.
It's strange to think that if she hadn't sat in that empty seat next to me, our lives in this industry would have continued to run parallel to one another, unbeknownst to one another.
It's strange to think that I could have so much in common with someone I had never known, and that we could share so much with each other in such a short period of time.
Which all causes me to wonder: how many other people on that plane might I have connected with? How many flights have I been on where I don't even say "hello" to the person next to me, let alone make an attempt to get to know them?
I know that I'm not going to connect with everyone I sit by on an airplane, nor is it necessarily desirable. There are many flights, especially when I'm flying for work, when all I can manage is to put on my seatbelt and close my eyes and do a bit of the slack-jawed drool. But when push comes to shove, I'm thinking that maybe, just maybe, we are all much, much more than just strangers on a plane.
Yesterday Mark and I hiked Grandeur Peak. It is 2, 340 feet up from where we begin at the Church Fork picnic area of Millcreek Canyon. One step forward, three miles to go. I am strong. I am willing. I am ready. I take another step.
The trail widens to expansive views. We keep going. We advance by degrees. There is more beauty...
...in every switchback.
We breathe hard, sweat much, and dig deep inside for the strength we need to reach the top; but I am hiking, so I am happy:
We marvel as blue flax scatters its joy across the hillsides, distracting us from our effort:
While we become intoxicated by this summery scent as it propels us up the mountain:
We are surrounded by loveliness:
...and grateful for vistas like these that put things in perspective:
...when we realize that all vistas are humbling, no matter how near:
...or how far:
And when, at the top of the world, we pause for a moment,
catch our breath, and prepare for the steep descent,
we are overwhelmed by the beauty that is here, in our own back yard.
For we are the best of friends
...especially at 2, 340 feet up.
Seeking sanctuary, I went to the desertland Oh great comfort, Solitude, I wish you to cleanse me with your silence.
Saturated with exhaustion, I endeavored to alleviate a flat, numb, dull ache that has persisted since early this year I greet you with hope clutching cynicism, yet.
The economy spiraling downward with the intensity at work I am yearning for a cadence that seems familiar.
Fighting a tiredness beyond that in recent memory where is my Muse? she can't be far from home.
I hiked and hiked, each step a prayer towards wholeness I give myself to you my solitary friend.
Amidst a chilling wind and striking hail singing how I give myself to you my solitary friend.
I breathed in deeply, a fair exchange of fresh with stagnant Air you feed my blood my heart my life
And hiked another mile beyond my brink I need to bury this malaise before I leave
While a new fatigue washed through me as I succombed I give myself to you my patient friend.
And a quiet posture glanced at me at last Oh Rest I bid you come before the dawn.
As the sage bloomed bluer than a twilight sky you are the very harbinger of joy.
And cradled me in silence while I cried I am your long lost child please help me home.
Last Saturday night, Mark and I went on a moonlight walk up Mill Creek Canyon, our favorite canyon, just a half-hour drive from our home. By day, it is special. By night, it is magic.
It's true, the chill in the air as you put on the bulky warm clothing you didn't want to wear in the car is foreboding, but as you get moving, see the shadows of the trees in the woods on either side of you, and start to notice how undeniably quiet it is, the cold is forgotten. Easing into a steady pace, just the two of you, you inhale the clean, crisp, pure air, breathing deeply as you climb. Your heart beats faster, you feel suddenly more alive than you've felt in days as the moon overhead follows you, lighting the way. There are not many stars due to the moon's brightness which has made this experience possible, but the old favorites are there: Orion, the Big Dipper, the Pleiades.
All around you there is light and shadow, nothing more, nothing less. The silhouettes of the trees are seen easily in their canvas of white. If you look at the snow closely, you see diamonds. Walking steadily upward, you fall into a distinct rhythm, necessarily disrupted by frequent pauses to look upward at the moon, to close your eyes and listen to the pulse of the ever-moving creek, or to acknowledge the memorable event that you are sharing together with a kiss.
You stop at the same spots: the clearing where we stopped to sing Silent Night with the kids on a moonlight walk before Christmas one year, the hiding place where the group ahead of us ambushed us with snowballs, and the opening in the canyon where the creek gets big and the moon gets bigger and the gift you've been given starts to seriously sink in.
It is, however, a rare occasion, for there are many factors that have to come all together at once in order for it to even be possible. Here are the 9 ingredients for a perfect moonlight walk in a canyon. May you share one with someone you love sometime soon.
Moonrise: The moon needs to rise early enough so that it can clear the ridgeline of the canyon you are in before it is too far from bedtime. By the same token, it needs to rise late enough so that you can enjoy it at all. Not much moonglow takes place when the apex occurs at 11:00 AM
Day of the week: Let's be real. This is more likely to happen if it occurs on a weekend.
Weather: The skies must be clear at the time of the moonlight walk, otherwise, you won't be seeing much, if anything at all. That being said, clear skies mean cold temps. So either dress accordingly, or don't go at all.
A boda bag full of cinnamon schnapps--or the peppermint variety, whichever you prefer. Whatever you do prefer, it needs to feel warm all the way down.
A blazing fire at the end: This isn't necessary, but if we're talking a perfect moonlight walk, then it's great to warm your buns before getting in the cold car for the drive home. Not to mention just pure fun. Be sure your wood is dried out, though. We had one heckuva time warming our buns one cold Christmas night when we couldn't get the wood to light. Thinking back on it, I'm pretty sure we just drank more schnapps.
Good company: A no-brainer, I'm sure.
The will to overcome entropy must be strong: Face it. The temptation to stay on the couch on a cold winter's night under a blanket with a cup of hot cocoa that was heated quickly in the microwave while relaxing in front of the riveting movie that arrived in the mail that afternoon from Netflix is powerful. And when you think about the fact that all these factors have come together to make the moonlight walk even possible--there is some amount of guilt involved if you can't manage to tear yourself away from your cocoon. But I guarantee you, if you can muster up the courage to rise to the occasion, throw on your long johns and find your mittens, brave the cold and rip yourself from the comfort of your weekend routine, you will, indeed, have one of the richest experiences of your life.
Tomorrow I'll be here.
I'm packed, psyched, and rarin' to go.
Starting Sunday I'll be at CHA hangin' with all my industry peeps, being inspired by some amazing new scrapbooking product, and rubbing elbows with my favie friends from all over the world at two Paper Crafts events--our 5th birthday bash on Monday at 2:00 and the World Card Making Day 2009 Kick-Off Party on Tuesday at 2:00. If you're going to be in the neighborhood, be sure and stop by booth #3153.
I'll be back in a few days. In the meantime, you can see what I'm up to by clicking here.
(...and remind me not to scream on Space Mountain. Last time I did that I lost my voice for the show--just like I did when I screamed myself mute at the U2 concert at Rice Eccles Stadium--except then I had to teach school. Created a few problems. Bad Cath. Bad, bad, Cath.)