Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Happy Thirteenth Birthday Aaron! Zion Style!

After Bryce we headed to Zion, one of our favorite national parks. Somehow we managed to get our favorite campsite and the boys spent the first afternoon there having epic sword-fighting duels among the cottonwoods and towering red cliffs. The next morning we hopped on the up-canyon shuttle with our eye on the Hidden Canyon hike. Unfortunately it was closed so we changed gears and hiked up to Scout's Landing just below the infamous Angel's Landing. At Scout's Landing we enjoyed a snack as we took in the views and watched throngs of people start up the epically steep scramble to Angel's Landing. The trail is insanely steep and exposed and makes even our climbers' stomachs turn. I couldn't believe the crowds of normal-tourist people heading up the chain-assisted trail. They looked like ants swarming an ant hill. We ventured up the first set of chains and sat on the scariest rock platform we have ever sat on with the kids. It still makes my mom-stomach turn to think about or to look at photos of it. Given the number of people on the trail and the scariness factor we opted to turn around and come back another time when the crowds cleared. We spent the afternoon swimming in the Virgin River at the campground. It was delightful to get fully clean. In the evening we ate dinner at our favorite Zion restaurant, Oscar's Cafe. On the covered patio we watched as a storm rolled through and pounded us with rain. Back at the campsite we walked over to the river to see it swollen and angry in the twilight.

The next morning we were awoken by a very excited, now thirteen-year-old birthday boy, Aaron. We snuggled in our bed while he opened his presents. Mother Nature had quite the celebration in store for Aaron's birthday. She dumped what was left of Hurricane Norbert on us. Throughout the day we watched as the Virgin River flash flooded and raged outside of its banks. It was super cool to watch it flood so insanely fast, become clogged with logs and then drop slowly as the day went on. Mudslides closed the national park for part of the day and south of us, an entire section of I-15 collapsed. We spent the morning deluge in a coffee shop where the boys amused themselves with a tank game. In the afternoon, the clouds parted, the sunshine came out and we went for a walk along the river surveying the changes. We then went for a walk with Aaron's new remote control tank. Very cool. In the evening it was back to Oscar's for dinner where we sang happy birthday to Aaron over a brownie sunday. We had no candles so we substituted straws instead and Aaron sucked in brownie and ice cream instead of blowing out flames after he made his careful birthday wish. Happy thirteenth birthday Aaron!

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Sylvia's battery went dead the day before Aaron's birthday so after a jump start from the park ranger we bought a battery that's just a little too big for the battery compartment which Jason and a mechanic grunted and sweated into place. Fingers's hoping it gets us home.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Bryce National Park

We spent the next couple of nights at Bryce National Park. At 8000 feet we could definitely feel the elevation and when we weren't looking over the canyon filled with the goblin-y hoodoos, we felt like we were in Yellowstone. While we were there we hiked down into the canyon among the hoodoos along the Navajo Loop to the Queens Garden trail. On the second day, with frequent thunderstorms rolling through and extreme exposure to them on the canyon rim, we opted for less hiking and more time in the camper van driving from scenic point to scenic point.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Escalante National Monument

We left Capitol Reef and ventured even further into the middle of nowhere in the Escalante Staircase National Monument. After eating a delicious lunch at the Hell's Backbone Grill, where they grow all of their own vegetables, we headed further south to find a campsite. The road narrowed to a scary fin called the Hogs Back with sheer drops on both sides and hardly enough room on top for the road. We felt like we were driving on the top of the world before we wound down into the canyon. At the bottom we found an awesome campsite backed up to Calf Creek. We spent the afternoon wading, playing and washing the accumulated sweat from our bodies in the creek. The following morning we hiked to gorgeous Calf Creek Falls. In the late afternoon we climbed the steep road over the Hogs Back up to Boulder to go to the Anasazi Museum where we learned about the Ancient Pueblo people and saw a huge yellow and black gopher snake out back near the unearthed pueblo dwelling. For dinner, with lightning and rain threatening, we were easily drawn back to Hell's Backbone Grill. Yum.

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Capitol Reef National Park

Boy....Isaac is a hard act to follow. After the excitement had subsided and after Jason and I had cleaned fire extinguisher dust from every nook and cranny, we set out at around noon to explore Capitol Reef NP. We first headed up Grand Wash where we went on a hike through a dried riverbed. Aaron was happy as a clam to be back in the desert. After suffering months of desert withdrawal, he steadily picked up dried sand clumps and hurled them against anything solid, watching them explode, for the entire hike. No pauses. We took the scenic loop to the end, enjoyed the view and people-watched a group of German Harley riders. Side note: roughly 70% of the people we saw were Germans the other 30% were an equal mix of Belgian, French and American. The national parks must have a killer advertising campaign going on in Europe, but America seems to have forgotten about them. Next we headed back down to the visitor center where we took the Sulphur Springs hike backwards to the first waterfall. We climbed the short falls and played in Princess Louisa-esque pools carved into the sandstone and watched braver people jump off the cliff into a pool of murky water. Isaac decided he would jump off the cliff instead of down-climb and I reluctantly followed. The cliff was a lot higher than anticipated and, after some debate (and lots of me saying "I'm scared!"), we retreated and opted for the more familiar experience of down-climbing the cliff. Next stop was the Gifford house, conveniently located next the campground, where we enjoyed homemade ice cream. We ended the day with a walk through the apple orchard in the campground where we ate apples straight from the tree.

Our second day brought no catastrophes and our bad luck streak seemed to have come to an end. After snagging a sweet site next to the apple orchard and river, we walked across the road and up the Kohab Canyon trail. We were super excited to find awesome slot canyons with mouth-watering climbing potential. We salivated and tried our hardest not to climb on the perfect jugs above us. We partially succeeded. We then hiked up to the top of the rim and enjoyed the view of the lush Fruita Valley contrasting against the red desert sandstone cliffs. In the afternoon we took a dip in the nearby Fremont River and lounged about in our shady campsite reading.

Our last day in Capitol Reef we spent hiking in Capitol Gorge. The boys found an awesome sandy area to launch into to their hearts' delight. Afterwards we climbed up to water tanks where we saw the ittiest-bittiest frogs we have ever seen. They were so cute. We then drove to see the petroglyphs and to see if there were any peaches left in the peach orchard. Alas, it was picked clean but we did find an open apple orchard so we picked a couple of bags of apples and deposited money according to the honor system. With the combination of desert awesomeness and fruit orchards, Capitol Reef is shaping up to be one of our favorite national parks.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Fire Cabinet By Isaac

Fire in the hole! (Or some other similarly stupid title)

After brushing my teeth at the public restroom at the Capitol Reef Campground, Dad and I headed back to the van while Aaron brushed his teeth. We got back to the campsite, and of course, we smelled something weird. Dad thought it might be a campfire, and after glancing into the van, I thought it might be from the small flickering light that I could see reflected off our plates in the cabinet. The sink pump appeared to be working pretty hard, even though the counter-top was closed. "Dad," I said as dad moved across the van to open the counter-top. "Dad," I said as he opened the counter-top. "Dad," I said as he stared at the running faucet. "Dad," I said as he tried to turn the faucet off with the floor switch. "Dad, it's on fire."

I'd been staring at the flickering light reflected in the plates as I carried out this interesting and moving dialogue. At first, I thought that the burner must be on and that it was reflected in the plates, but the plates were in the cabinet and the burner was on top of the counter. Unless photons had x-ray capabilities, that couldn't be it. So next, I thought that there must be a light on in there. But why would there be a light in a cabinet, and why would it be flickering? I was finally forced to admit that the cabinet was indeed on fire. As Sherlock Holmes once said, "Once you have ruled out the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth." Thus, I produced the informed remark that was outlined in the last paragraph.

So, I attempted to carry out logical reasoning in the course of a tenth of a second. My brain immediately thought to use all available resources to carry out my priorities as best as possible. First priority happened to be picking up the chihuahua. I leaned into the van to snatch Pika, while dad threw a pair of flaming kitchen mitts past my legs. I extricated Pika from the van as dad grabbed the fire extinguisher and blew a large cloud of pressurized dust into the flaming cabinet. Before he did this, I caught a glimpse of the inside of the cabinet; a small electrical fire was calmly eating the wires controlling the automated water pump. Then it was gone in a spray of dust. I turned around; on the pavement, the kitchen mitts were on fire. Dad extinguished this fire as well. As a precaution, Aaron emptied a water bottle on top of them. And then started to freak out at dad for playing with fire.

We ran out of water as dad tried to get the pump to stop running.

It turns out the the problem arose not because the pump had heated up from over exertion, but because the floor switch had been designed to be on for short periods of time. Being on for ten or fifteen minutes was too much for it, and it obligingly lit on fire to show its disapproval.

Let's see now; broken fuel pump, broken engine, wheel fell off, and innumerable other problems have plagued Sylvia. Luckily, this was the first, and hopefully last, fire we've had in Sylvia. Nothing worse could happen. Right? Right??

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sylvia Back in Action

I should begin this post by informing you that Sylvia never fully recovered from what was ailing her before our spring desert trip. We had a minor wiring issue we were scheduled to bring her into the shop for before our sailing trip, but when Jason tried to fire her up to bring her in, she wouldn't start. Uh oh. Eventually she started and made it to the shop but she never came home. Jason would occasionally call from the sailboat to see if the shop had figured out what was wrong. On one such occasion they told us that they didn't know what was going on even though they had one mechanic in the engine and another standing on one foot with a bible in his hand praying. At long last they reached the conclusion that it was finally time for a new engine. After much research Jason decided on a GoWesty engine and placed the order. So long story short, after four months in the shop, we have a new, and improved, Sylvia back and we were definitely ready to hit the road. After weeks of debate about where to go, and repeatedly giving the answer "we don't know" to the question of where we were going, we decided to head to Capitol Reef NP with two days to spare.

Day 1: We drive to Provo.
Day 2: Jason checks the tire pressure in the morning and discovers a screw in one of the tires. We have the tire fixed while we browse a farmer's market. We drive to Capitol Reef and secure one of the last campsites.
Day 3: Starts like this...After Isaac and Jason return from brushing teeth and I depart to the bathroom Isaac says to Jason, "Ummmmm, Dad? Why is the cupboard glowing?"

To be continued......