Friday, August 29, 2008

Hidden Canyon, Zion National Park

For Suzy's birthday, yesterday, we hiked into Hidden Canyon and had a birthday picnic. We had a great time. The first picture below is one I took from the top of Observation Point last Monday and shows the route and canyon. The trail starts at the Weeping Rock trail head and climbs a handful of switchbacks out of the bottom of the canyon (bottom left corner of picture), then forks off the Observation Point trail and up the mini swithbacks to the right. After about a mile of climbing (maybe 600 vertical feet), the trail drops into Hidden Canyon, a beautiful slot canyon (seen below, splitting the mountain in two). Fairly easy hike, but lots of fun. The canyon itself is really beautiful. There is no maintained trail in the canyon, but the adventurous types can go up the canyon as far as they can make it, over boulders, up fairly steep sandstone inclines, through narrow slot canyon walls. We probably made it about half-way up the canyon before it became a bit too much to do with a baby on my back. The best part of the hike is probably that the switchbacks get great morning shade, and the canyon is shaded and cool even in the middle of the day.

My beautiful birthday girl stops to enjoy the spectacular view where the trail wraps around the exposed cliff face just before entering Hidden Canyon.

Looking back down the canyon (Weeping Rock is visible at the bottom of the cliff).

This free-standing rock arch is about a quarter mile up Hidden Canyon.

Our little hiking buddy really liked the flat areas in the canyon where he could get out of the pack and play in the soft sand (and throw it at momma).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Three sentence book review: The Innocent Man, John Grisham

While on the cruise, I was able, for the first time in three years, to read fiction. Or, at least I thought I was reading fiction. Every three years or so, when I want to turn my brain off and read an entertaining book, I pick up Grisham. In this case, I made it half way through the book before I realized the book I was reading was based on a true story (it was the 5 pages of pictures in the middle that gave it away). In any case, here is my 3 sentence book review:

The Innocent Man tells the story of your average Joe who was swept out of his life, falsely accused of murder, and spent a decade on death row before being proved innocent through DNA. If you've been to law school you've heard this story (or one like it) a dozen times and the book probably isn't worth your time. If you haven't been to law school, and you're under the illusion that the justice system is anything other than a complete mess, you may want to check out this easy, entertaining, and informative read.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tenny the tease

Being our son, Tennyson was bound to be a big tease. We just didn't know he would start so early. It probably didn't help that we just left him for a week with grandpa Ross. In any case, here are a couple shots of our crazy boy, who is always trying to entertain us, and refuses to smile normally at the camera.

Observation Point, Zion National Park

Hiked to Observation Point yesterday with Pops. There are two routes, one climbing up from the bottom of the canyon (8 miles r/t, climbing 2,000 feet) and one that crosses the top of the ridge from the back side of the park (6 miles r/t, climbing ~50 feet). For the sake of time, we did the latter, though with the extra driving time (dirt road) to the trail head, we probably should have done the canyon ascent. In any case, it was an easy but rewarding stroll through the park. Highly recommend this one, whichever route suits you.

Cruisin' Mexico

Just returned from our "Bar Trip" to Mexico. Loved it. Thanks for babysitting Julie! A few pics of the fun:

Departing from San Diego

Our first night on the ship we treated ourselves to side-by-side full-body massages in the ship's spa. That was one of the best hours of our entire lives.

Sweet Suzy, gazing at the stars from the ship's top deck, in her pretty party dress.

El Arco and the peninsula jutting out from Cabo San Lucas

Typical Cabo: sail and sale.

Lovely find while snorkeling in Cabo.

We spent a whole day snorkeling, swimming, tanning, climbing and cliff diving in Cabo.

We also shopped a bit.

And sipped pina coladas.

In Ensenada, we found an awesome sidewalk stand where this compadre was preparing and selling the freshest, most tasty ceviche I've ever tasted--amazing.

We also spent an afternoon on horseback in the mountains surrounding the Ensenada Bay.

One happy, relaxed couple.

We had a wonderful week, and can't wait to get back to Mexico.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Immigration and kindness

Suzanne's great-great-great-grandma, Elizabeth Xavier, hailed from a small town (Poona) on the outskirts of Bombay, India. She met and married William Tait, an Irishman serving with the English military in Bombay. William was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon church) and introduced Elizabeth to the church. She joined the church through baptism in 1852. In 1855, William sailed with their oldest son to San Francisco to then join the Saints who were beginning to settle the Utah Territory. Too ill to travel in 1855, a pregnant Elizabeth set sail with her daughter in 1856 to join her husband and her new church, despite the pleas of her parents. Her daughter died en route to the United States. In July 1856, she left Iowa City with the Willie Handcart Company, pulling her few belongings across the plains. The Willie handcart company infamously met an early October blizzard as they approached the Continental Divide, near the Sweetwater River, and were forced to camp in the snow and pray for rescue. Scores died before the rescue party (sent by Brigham Young) arrived with food, clothing, blankets and team-pulled wagons to pull the beleaguered pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley (incidentally, my ancestors were in the rescue party). Elizabeth survived and finally joined her husband, son and new spiritual family in Cedar City, Utah. For the rest of her life, and her kids' lives, and her grandkids' lives (Suzanne's grandma remembers it), they were mocked and ridiculed by their neighbors for being Indian.

Last February, Suzanne and I were in Southern Utah for a short spring break. Julie (Suzy's mom) pointed out a restaurant, Lupitas, in a small town (which shall remain unnamed) that was owned and operated by a Mexican family. Though the Mexican family was legally in the United States, the town members had rallied together to boycott the restaurant in a show of displeasure for illegal immigrants. We couldn't believe it. In D.C., Suzanne and I are often on the unpleasant end of prejudice and discrimination on account of our religion, and it was hard for us to believe that our people (who themselves had been much aligned and persecuted), would similarly mistreat others. In any case, I determined that during my next trip to Utah I would make time to eat at Lupitas.

After hiking Angels Landing, I took Tenny to Lupitas Mexican Restaurant for lunch. The service, food and beverages were terrific. My favorite part, though, was the new addition adorning the front of the property: a 6-foot tall replica of the Statue of Liberty.

I've seen the real Statue of Liberty many times. I've seen the replica in Paris. I've got a photo of it hanging in my bathroom. I've always known what it meant to others, but it never really meant anything to me. Until now.

There is no legitimate justification for discrimination, and with food this good and prices this low, there is no legitimate reason for not eating at Lupitas. For the love of Elizabeth, for the love of me and Suzy, and for the love of all of our brothers and sisters out there, let's stop the madness. Surely we can do better.

Angels Landing - Zion National Park

At the ripe age of 20 months, Tennyson made his first ascent of Angels Landing, one of the most beautiful spots on earth. Climbing up a sandstone fin to a monolith that exposes you to 1,500 foot cliffs on three sides is exhilarating, and the view is spectacular. Tenny was the perfect hiking buddy: he never complained, he never had to stop for bathroom breaks, and he stayed right behind me the whole time.

Start time: 10:20 am (start earlier than this if you do it in the summer!)
Summit time: 11:50 am
End time: 1:20 am
Distance: 5 miles
Elevation change: 1,488
Temperature: 105 f (no, really)

Angels Landing, from the trailhead

We saw a California King Snake soaking in some rays. We also saw a huge California Condor (one of the largest birds in North America) circling overhead (though didn't get a picture).

The other side of Angels Landing, as seen from the saddle.

Best buds, gearing up for the final ascent (and $1,000 richer).

The view from the top.

Catching some Zs on the descent.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Middle Teton

I finally went home last weekend to spend some quality time climbing in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Perfect weather, great company, and one of the most beautiful places on earth made for a terrific climb up the Middle Teton.

Trailhead: Lupine Meadows (elevation ~6,800)
Destination: Middle Teton (elevation 12,804)
Climbers: Me, dad, bro-in-law Thomas, & step-brother Robert
Start time: 5:35am
Summit time: 12:40pm
End time (finally, back in flip flops!): 7:00pm
Final thoughts: "Tetons, Tetons, Tetons, we love you! Amen."

Sunrise as viewed from the switchbacks up to Garnet Canyon.

Sunrise on the Middle Teton (straight up the canyon).

The beautiful Garnet Canyon (worth the hike, even if you don't continue to a peak).

Ascending to the saddle between the South and Middle Tetons

Ascending the south ridge of the Middle Teton.

Pops summiting

Thomas summiting

Robert summiting

The Grand Teton (elev: 13,770) as seen from the summit of the Middle Teton.

The Grand Teton hovering over North Cascade Canyon

Happy 55th birthday dad!

Another $1,000 just for standing in heaven.


Elephant's Head, one of my favorite flowers, growing in the Meadows of Garnet Canyon. Take a close look to see how fitting this flower's name is.