Reconnecting to Joy – Salt Lake City Weekend

Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City from the top of the hill

Our adventures took us to Salt Lake City this past weekend. On a whim, we drove the almost six hours north to visit the capitol city of Utah on Saturday. We prefer booking a hotel close the center of the city. This allows us to walk to the sights. Therefore, we found accommodations only one half block from the center of town. After all, we only had one afternoon and evening to explore the area. We like to be near the action!

Salt Lake City
Mormon Temple Salt Lake City

Naturally we started at Temple Square. Brigham Young and his followers have created an impressive place to tour. While the temple itself is not open to the public, everything else is available. Despite our best efforts, we only had time to explore about half of the twelve buildings there. Eager, friendly young people fill the square and stand at each building, ready to answer any questions. I am impressed by their ability to refrain from pushing their mission too hard while still welcoming tourists.  We watched videos, toured houses, read signs and, as a result, learned a lot. Even our fellow tourists were friendly and kind. Like begets like, I think.

 

Salt Lake City
Utah Capitol building Salt Lake City

Next stop was the Utah state capitol. This sits on the top of the hill above downtown Salt Lake City. Walking uphill increased our breathing and heart rates but the climb was worthwhile. The building is full of beautiful white granite designed to make the most of the natural grain in the stone. Consequently,  wedding photographers from around the area find the capitol a perfect spot to pose in their gowns. We saw many beautiful women being photographed on the steps, in the alcoves and against the sparkling walls. Every single bride looked dazzling.

 

The city lights up at night with trees full of twinkle lights and buildings lit with colorful spot lights. Things felt safe since there were plenty of fellow travelers and many shops open late to lure us in. Those of you who know us will realize we zeroed in on a brewery called Squatter’s. Their motto is “Good for what ales you” and it certainly was. The bartender served us food, beer and friendly conversation. Somehow, he found time on a busy Saturday night to talk with us about snowboarding, traveling and life.

Sunday morning brought the best experience of the trip, listening to the Mormon Tabernacle choir. We arrived early enough to hear the rehearsal. We listened to their accomplished director make small corrections to an already amazing performance. A couple of the choir members talked to the audience about auditioning, practices and finding inspiration in the music they get to sing. Then, after a request for quiet, we watched cameramen filming the half hour live broadcast. The music filled the hall and me with its power. What a privilege to be present for this display of musical talent.

Finally, the ride back to Natural Bridges brought more beautiful scenery. We added in a stop to visit a friend in Green River and another for vanilla malts in Hanksville. I highly recommend all of the three (yes, three) restaurants in little Hanksville, Utah.  Each time we eat here we come home full and happy. This time was no exception. The entire weekend gave us joy.

Brigham Young Salt Lake City
Brigham Young

 

 

Remember, a chip on the shoulder is a sure sign of wood higher up.” – Brigham Young

Reconnecting To Joy – Exercise

Exercise stretching
Exercise may or may not include stretching

I know, I know. Exercise and Joy do not necessarily belong in the same sentence. It is so easy to justify not exercising. After all, I tell myself, I am active at my job (standing behind a counter) and don’t really snack (much). This new situation of being in an remote area with few opportunities for working out has not helped.

My preference for exercise has always been classes. Jazzercise ruled in the eighties, swim aerobics in the nineties. I have gone to Curves, done interval training, sweated in spinning classes and excelled at step aerobics. (Excelled is an exaggeration but it sounds great, doesn’t it?) As I said, our current lifestyle of needing to relocate every few months has put a damper on finding classes to attend. It is difficult to get into a habit of exercise when there are so many good reasons to avoid the subject entirely.

Gale Exercise Arches
Hiking in Arches National Park

Still I missed the virtuous feeling I get after a workout. I love the knowledge that I am taking care of myself. It is important to me to be healthy enough to continue to hike and to be able to enjoy our travels. All those things encouraged me to look for an alternative to being a blob on the couch (plan A). These are all the reasons I want to workout. I try not to pay too much attention to the reasons I have for skipping the workout.

After searching, I found a program which allows me to stream daily workouts. Because they have so many choices, I never do the same thing twice. The program allows me to choose the level of difficulty and specify the amount of time. What do you know? I am not bored with working out anymore. The iffy internet does make me do longer sessions of down dog when the screen freezes. It also encourages me to do 20 reps instead of whatever number they were at when the internet pauses. Still the variety keeps me interested.

FYI, I am using beachbodyondemand and have heard good things about dailyburn. Both cost some money but it sure beats the guilt around not taking care of myself.

I keep reading that the key to changing behavior is creating a habit, as in doing it every day for the magical 21 days. Believe it or not, it is working! I look forward to choosing my workout now. What a change! And yes, A Joy!

“A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me, I’m afraid of widths.”Steven Wright

Visiting Arches National Park

La Sal Mountains, Utah on the way to Arches Park
The La Sal Mountains

Utah is the land of national parks.  We were able to visit Arches National Park this time.  The road to this park parallels the snow covered La Sal Mountains.  The wind blowing that snow off the tops made the ride especially beautiful.

Three Gossips Formation in Arches National Park
View of Three Gossips and Courthouse formations

This part of the country is full of surprises.  Around every turn there is another awe-inspiring view and the geology behind the rock formations adds to the magnificence.  Ancient oceans, petrified sand dunes and subsequent earthquakes gave the raw materials for erosion to create interesting shapes.  It is easy to see how some of the rocks were named.

Rock shaped like Lief Erikson in Arches National Park
Is this Lief Erikson?

Other formations invite our imaginations to come out and play.

There are over 200 arches here (hence the name of the park). We only saw a few of them, however the afternoon sky gave me an opportunity to capture the beauty of the day as well as the spectacular nature of the rocks.

Double Arch
Double Arch

 

 

 

 

 

Sand Dune Arch path
Sand Dune pathway

Our favorite hike of the day brought us to a set of stones set on their edge. Following the path between the rocks, we walked on fine red sand until we found an arch tucked inside, hidden away from the road.  Most of the other visitors drove right by this treasure.  I am so glad we stopped.

Sand Dune Arch
Sand Dune Arch

 

 

 

 

I believe that it is important to take care of the day-to-day responsibilities first, but what a blessing it can be to make sure we take time to step outside of our routine.  I am grateful that we choose to visit nearby wonders.  The little adventures are what makes life so good.

Skyline Arch
Skyline Arch

“I’ve got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.”

– Thomas Carlyle

Cairns

Tower of rocks, a cairn
Cairn marking the way

While hiking in Utah, there are few ways to mark the trails.  Some parks use rocks lines along the edge of the path.  Others mark them with twisted branches of juniper.  My favorite method though is those parks that use cairns, a small towers of rocks.  Cairns are organized so you can’t see the total path at once.  You walk to the cairn, pause and look for the next cairn. Sometimes you can see a few markers ahead, but many times the path is cairn by cairn.

One of my favorite author/life coaches is Tama J. My favorite method though is those parks that use cairns, a small towers of rocks.  Cairns are organized so you can’t see the cl-cairntotal path at once.  You walk to the cairn, pause and look for the next cairn. Kieves (http://www.tamakieves.com).  She is a teacher, life coach and someone who inspires me.  One of the tools she uses to help you find your life’s purpose is to “follow breadcrumbs”. A breadcrumb in this case is a small thing that brings you joy, something that fills your heart. Following a breadcrumb of happiness can help you look for the next little thing that you can do to find your way to your true joy.

Valley of the Gods, Utah cairn
Valley of the Gods, Utah

I am still bread-crumbing around, looking for things that may help me define my “purpose.”  I see that concept when hiking from cairn to cairn.  Not being able to see the next one helps to make the journey more fun, an Easter Egg hunt rather than a life or death search for meaning.

I end with a quote from one of my heros:

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” – Dalai Lama

Bryce Canyon Adventures

bryce-5
Bryce Canyon Inspiration Point

We spent this past weekend exploring Bryce Canyon National Park.  Some of my friends had told me that it was their favorite park, so I looking forward to seeing why.   As usual, it is difficult to compare national parks.  They are all so wonderful in different ways.

road-to-bryce-5
Colorado River flowing into Lake Powell

The road to Bryce held its own treasures. We stopped at the north end of Lake Powell.  Hite marina sits so high above the lake as the waters recede that it is no longer in business.  The land is reclaiming its place so green grass and small trees grow where the lake used to be.  The most impressive part was the Colorado River is still flowing into the lake.

Capitol Reef rock formation
Capitol Reef rock formation

We passed through Capitol Reef National Park.  The weather cooperated and the sky was a brilliant blue, perfect for pictures.  This is an area where Native Americans and early Mormon settlers made their marks and where there is a 100 mile “wrinkle” in the earth’s crust.  The wrinkle, also called a “waterpocket fold”, is bordered by cliffs and rock formations. We took the ten-mile scenic drive, stopped at the Mormon settlers’ cabins and walked to see the Petroglyphs.

Capitol Reef Petroglyphs
Capitol Reef Petroglyphs

 

Scenic Drive - ten feet to the right is the canyon.
Scenic Drive – ten feet to the right is the canyon.

One of the most surprising things about Bryce, which is a huge canyon, is that it is hidden from view as you drive along the road.  The road is lined with tall, beautiful pine trees that hide the edge of this dazzling national park.  There are signs enticing you to pull over: “scenic overlook” and “viewpoint”. When you do the surpise takes your breath away.

Bryce Canyon Navajo Trail
Bryce Canyon Navajo Trail

It is a fairyland of spires and columns, some with the most lifelike faces, all surrounded by tall trees: Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, Utah juniper, bristle cone pine and pinon pines.

bryce-8
Dave on Navajo Trail

While we were only there for the weekend, we had plenty of time on Saturday to visit the many scenic overlooks and hike the three mile Navajo and Queen’s Garden trails.   The descent into the valley is steep, but there are amazing sights around every corner.  This made the fact that we had to climb back up that steep path at the end much easier to bear.  There was always a good excuse to stop and enjoy the view.

bryce-1

Hoodoos

An Native American legend says that the hoodoos (the many spires in the park) used to be bad people that were changed into stone by Coyote.  It is true that many of the forms look like people or animals.  We asked a ranger what the spires names were and he laughed and said, “It is more fun to name them yourself.”   And so we did.  There were turtle heads, gossips, washing women, camels, warriors, queens and more.  We could have stayed longer.  There were more hikes to do and hoodoos to visit.

 

On the Road
On the Road

Luckily, there more chances to stop and be in awe on our drive back.  As we rode along, a sign would tell us to slow down and suddenly we would be in a new canyon or pulling off to see a spectacular view. We couldn’t tell in advance what would be around the corner.  I think that happens in life sometimes.  I am afraid that things will be boring (as in “are we there yet?”) or hopeless (this will only get worse), when right around the next corner or just down the road, there is a new view.  I am grateful for these reminders.

Quote of the moment: “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”Thich Nhat Hanh

Canyonlands National Park

cl-butte-view
Canyonlands National Park

The parks in Utah are not only numerous but enormous. Canyonlands National Park is so big that the two entrances are 109 miles apart.  We had visited the Islands In The Sky north entrance last month, so Sunday we went to the Needles district. It is only 70 miles from our home base.  I say “only” because in Utah, as in many other states, you always plan on driving a long way to get anywhere. Luckily the views make the journey as enjoyable as the destination.

cl-needles
The Needles

The Needles district is so named because it features a unique set of spires reaching towards the sky, the product of millennia of erosion.  They are spectacular and remote.  The scenic road only allows us to get views, but not to be underneath them without a strenuous  hike.  Instead we chose to take the hike around the top of the mesa near Big Springs.

 

cl-cairn
Big Springs

When we hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, the paths are easy to distinguish as you walk between trees and the trails are maintained with steps carved out of rock and foliage cut back to keep the way clear.  In Utah, we hike on top of rock that goes for miles.  The path is marked with cairns, rocks that show the way, one marker at a time. We go from cairn to cairn to get to outlooks that allow views of both the distant mesas and the canyons below.   I love walking along these rocks and looking for the next marker.  As we are here on the off season, it has been so quiet that I only hear my own breath and Dave’s footsteps. The two mile hike is short but helps us feel both isolated and connected at the same time.  By the time we were back at the car, we felt peaceful and happy.

 

We ended our day visiting a place where cowboys camped for almost 100 years. This spot has a spring that provides water year around, as well as being in a valley where a ricl-cowboy-campver flows much of the time.  The ranchers would use this place to graze their cattle and the cowboys camped under the cover of the rocks.  When the government not longer allowed the cattle to graze, the cowboys left some of their belongings, which now allows us to peek into the past to see how they lived. Naturally the ancient Native Americans used the same cover for centuries when they traveled through this desert land. They too left their mark with petroglyphs and soot on the rock faces. This too was a tranquil place, a reminder of human and nature connections.

I am once again grateful for this opportunity to experience the beauty of this land.  Aren’t we lucky?

 

 

Natural Bridges Monument, Utah

Our current adventure has brought us to Southeastern Utah.  Dave is working for the National Park Service and has been working at Rocky Mountain National Park for the past 3 summers.  This year he has the chance to work for Natural Bridges, a small park with 3 natural bridges formed as the rivers cut through the sandstone mesas creating buttes and sometimes bridges between curves in the river.  The biggest bridge in the United States is Rainbow Bridge accessible by a boat ride on Lake Powell.  The second biggest bridge is Sipapu, here at Natural Bridges.

pic-sipapu-bridge
Sipapu Bridge

The bridge is huge and, if you are game, you can walk down a short, but challenging trail to walk underneath it’s span.  It is a fun trip because we had to use ladders, hand-holds and little scrambling to get to the valley floor.

 

pic-kachina-bridge
Kachina Bridge

We walked under Sipapu then headed along the river bed towards Kachina bridge.  The walk was amazing.  We saw lizards,  flowers, trees, and cactus while being surrounded by towering canyon walls and a brilliant blue sky.

 

Once in the canyon, we found an ancient ruin and spotted some pictographs. Although20161016_121932 we didn’t see any, we heard that there are often petrified wood pieces washed down from the mesa during the monsoon season.  And the land is still being formed by wind and water.  In 1995, a large chunk of the Kachina bridge fell, changing the shape dramatically in an instant.

At 20161016_134511the end of our hike we climbed  up out of the valley.  This proved to be fairly challenging as it is fairly steep, but they provide some hand-rails and ladders to help with the hardest parts.  The trip was totally worth it!

There are so many more parks and places to explore here.  More adventures to come.