Just a quick update, since I have spotty Wi-Fi and absolutely no cell signal where we’re staying. In fact, we went the whole day in Capitol Reef National Park and it was liberating. We spent yesterday exploring Bryce Canyon National Park. It was spectacular, but more to come on that later. Today we hit Capitol Reef Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and Petrified Forest State Park. We had an exhausting day clocking in over 30,000 steps and countless miles. Tomorrow we head northeast to Canyon Lands National Park. When I have better internet and more energy, I’ll write about each of the parks.
We’ve spent the last two days exploring Zion National Park. This is the first national park we’’re visiting this week. Tomorrow we’ll head to Bryce Canyon for our second park of the tour. Zion absolutely lived up to our expectations. We will be back. When we return, we’re going to complete the Narrows and Angel’s Landing hikes. We were unable to complete the Narrows today due to weather and the risk of flash flooding.
Before you go, here are some things to consider.
- The busy season run from April to Early October. And it is busy, plan to get there early in the morning if you’re not staying in the park.
- Buy the Interagency America the Beautiful pass. For $80 ($20 for seniors, free for military,) it gives you access to all of the National Parks.
- The Zion National Park newspaper is a good resource for planning your visit.
- Watch the weather carefully. The weather will impact your ability to complete certain hikes (like the Narrows) safely.
- Get the right gear! You’ll need good hiking shoes and socks, ponchos, jackets, walking sticks, hats, sunglasses, charger for your cell phone, lots of water and snacks. We also brought bear spray, sunscreen and bug spray
- Prepare to be flexible. Your planned hikes may need to change depending on the weather conditions. We were scheduled to do the Narrows today, but couldn’t due to the rain and possibility of flash flooding.
Some of our favorite hikes:
- Emerald Pools is a moderate hike that feature three uniquely colored pools and waterfall. It’s a busy hike, so get their early.
- The Watchman trail is a 3.3 miles moderate trail up to a beautiful viewpoint of the Towers of the Virgin, Lower Zion Canyon and the town of Springdale. This was my personal favorite.
- Riverside walk is 2.2 miles and leads to the beginning of the Narrows. It is an easy, mostly paved hike. We got to the end of the Riverside walk and decided to do the beginning of the Narrows.
- Kayenta Trail is a 2 mile moderate trail that connects the Grotto trail to the Emerald Pools trail.
Animals you may see while visiting Zion (not an exhaustive list):
- Desert pronghorn sheep
- Mule deer
- North American rock squirrel
- California condor
- Gray fox
The park has a beautiful visitor centers and numerous nice restroom facilities throughout the park. There is a shuttle system that is quite efficient that takes guests up and down the canyon to the different trailheads. If you’ve never been to Zion National Park, I’d recommend adding it to your list of places to visit.
My number one priority tomorrow is getting us safely to Bryce Canyon. We’re leaving Zion and heading to our second National Park of the trip. I’m a bit nervous as Bryce has gotten some snow over the last couple of days. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see what Bryce and the surrounding area have to offer.
Eeek!!! This time tomorrow I will be with my oldest in Utah. I’d say I’m excited, but I’m afraid that’s a bit of an understatement. Honestly, I’m over the moon. Our neoprene socks arrived today, so now we’re all set. I picked up the altitude sickness medication and new Epi-pens, so I’m really ready. Okay, maybe I’m more than ready to go. The afternoon at work is going to be way too long. Eeek!
In the interim, I’m just enjoying having the Mayor home for a bit. We had dinner from Sushi Yama last night. We’ve been eating there since they opened when the boys were small. I’ve never had a bad meal there. Well, at least I hadn’t had a bad meal there until last night. I always get chicken teriyaki, which is hard to screw up. Unfortunately, the chicken was so overcooked it was inedible. It looked gross and tasted equally gross. At least I got my money back easily since I had ordered through Grubhub. I love having my groceries and food delivered, these folks are our modern-day milkman.
If I could work any job and money didn’t matter, I’d be a stay-at-home mom, a social worker, or a full-time travel blogger. Unfortunately, money will always matter, so I’m tethered to a 9 to 5 gig until I retire.
My baby’s home for a few days and it’s so nice to have him here. I couldn’t believe how old he looked when he walked in last night. Time has flown by so incredibly fast. He’s doing really well and is enjoying his time on Florida’s west coast. I just have to say we are blessed that he has an incredible billet family and incredible billet brothers. I’m glad to see him thriving away from home. My boy is definitely not tethered to my apron strings. Tonight we’re going to celebrate him being home with some Sushi Yama for dinner.
Meanwhile, I’m still packing for my trip. I didn’t get much down yesterday and need to do some laundry. I’m trying to pack light, since we’ll have laundry at every AirBnB we’re staying at. The hardest part is trying to decide how many pairs of shoes to bring. I’m bringing two pairs of hiking boots/shoes. I have hiking sandals that’ll work well for the hike through the Narrows at Zion. Aside from that, I’m trying to decide if I need to bring dress shoes. We’ll be having dinner out some nights. Clearly, I don’t want to show up in dirty hiking gear. From snippets I’ve read, it seems like Southern Utah has some fine dining options. Hopefully, the food is better there than it is in Ogden.
I’m proud of my family’s Norwegian heritage. When we went to Norway in 2017, it felt like going home. The way people spoke, and the way houses looked back in Minnesota all made sense after that trip. I could see why they immigrated to Minnesota as it looks similar to a lot of Norway. Of course, nothing in Minnesota can compare with the beauty of Fjord Norway although Lake Superior is pretty spectacular. One thing I love about our heritage is that our ancestors wasted nothing. Food and farmable land were scarce, so they used every part of the animal. In fact, it was this ingenuity that led to the creation of Brunost (brown cheese,) which uses whet a byproduct of the cheese-making process as its main ingredient.
It’s almost time to start packing for my trip to Utah. This will likely be my last trip to visit my Boy before he moves out of the state. I have really enjoyed our family trips to Utah. Particularly, I’ve enjoyed exploring the mountains of the Wasatch Front and surrounding national forests. It is an absolutely beautiful place to visit even if the food sucks. I’m hopeful that the food in South Eastern Utah will be better.
This trip will be different because Jake and I are going to explore the Mighty Five and surrounding state parks. For the uninitiated, the Mighty Five are Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park. Southern Utah is jam-packed with wonderful places to explore. We’ll be there for a week, so it will be quite busy as we explore as much as possible. I’m really looking forward to the different hiking experiences each park will bring.
I may try to post some updates while in Utah, but most of our time will be spent off the grid. In fact, the Hubby and my folks have a copy of our hiking itinerary, so they know where we’re at. This was if we get lost on a trial and they don’t hear from us, they know where to direct people. Obviously, I don’t think anything would happen, but these parks, their canyons, and rivers can be unforgiving. I want to be prepared in the event one of us gets injured.
I’ve already bought most of the stuff we need for the hikes with a few exceptions. Once I get to Utah, I’ll pick up some bear spray. The Mighty Five have plenty of bears and plenty of latibules where they can hide. Honestly, and I don’t know why, but I can’t talk about or write about bears without thinking of Dwight Shrute from The Office. In addition to the bear spray, I’ll pick up snacks for the trail out west.
What could I do more of? Travel! I don’t travel nearly enough. I wish we weren’t strapped to 9-5 jobs that keep us from exploring the world. It’s kind of a shame that we don’t have enough time off in the year to explore the world with our families. The culture of working 24/7 is toxic and serves nobody, but the C suite and shareholders.
I had a great time this weekend with the puppies traipsing through the neighborhood. I spent much of it at home binge-watching Sex Education on Netflix. The show is both well-written and well-acted. Gillian Anderson’s performance is amazing. Needless to say, the show was really entertaining and provided a good backdrop to my weekend and my weekend chores. I have to say it’s nice to have full authority over what I watch on television. It’s been a long time since that’s happened.
Saturday afternoon I made it out for my good friend Lisa’s birthday party. Lisa is one of my favorite Kaplan people and I hadn’t seen her in so long, so I didn’t want to miss it. The weather was looking a bit sketchy, so I was worried there’d be a shower or two, but the weather held out. This is important since the party was on a tiki taxi that cruises the Intracoastal. For $10, you can ride it for as long as you’d like and it comes back to the dock on the hour. It also has a bar onboard and a jukebox. Ok, probably not a jukebox, but the music covered all the genres much like a jukebox.
In addition to Lisa, there were a bunch of great people from Kaplan that I hadn’t seen in forever. I got laid off shortly before the pandemic, which really put a damper on all of our social lives. I’ve seen a couple of them at concerts, but it was so good to see so many folks in person again and reconnect. We ended up in the tiki taxi for a couple of hours. The weather was overcast with a nice breeze, which was perfect because it kept us from getting too hot. It was a great night.
Yesterday I spent the morning doing chores. After lunch, I headed to Terri and PJ’s house for coffee. It was nice to see them again. I haven’t seen anyone for months thanks in part to travel and an autoimmune flare. Thankfully, I think I’ve been on the upswing. Hopefully, my doctor will think so too when I go see her for a follow-up tomorrow. I ended my weekend with some sushi and more Netflix. It was a great weekend.
The best advice I was given was to cherish and enjoy my kids’ childhoods. When you’re a new mom, the advice sounds a bit cliche. When you’re the mom of a screaming toddler, the advice seems absolutely ludicrous. And when you’re dealing with a teenager and big kid problems, woah the advice can feel dead wrong. When, however, your kids leave the nest, it makes sense completely. The bad days make up such a minuscule part of your life, but the good days and joys of raising your kids far outweigh everything else. So if you’re kids are young and you’re reading this, buckle up and enjoy the ride because it’s over really fast.
We’re going into the weekend with an unclear path forward. I hate to be vague, but I can’t at this point be really specific. In time, once the dust has settled I’ll be sure to share my thoughts on the situation. To be clear, it’s really put a damper on the end of the week and made hubby’s trip to Vegas a bit complicated. Unfortunately, the Hubby’s flight was also super late as the inbound flight was diverted due to weather. He decided to fly to Nashville last night instead of driving through severe weather to get home.
This weekend it will be just me and the puppies. Tonight I’m binge watching Sex Education on NetFlix. It’s quite good. I didn’t even recognize Gillian Anderson. Tomorrow I’m going to hangout with some of my Kaplan peeps to celebrate my good friend Lisa’s birthday. It will be so nice to see everyone. I don’t get out much. Usually, the longest trip I make during the week is to my mailbox. In all due seriousness, it will be nice to see everyone. I can’t remember the last time I’ve hung out with this group of awesome people.
At the moment I’m obsessed with all things revolving around Tudor England. It all started with Hilary Mantel’s brilliant book Wolf Hall, which follows Thomas Cromwell’s rise to prominence during Henry VIII’s reign. I think I’ve read nearly every historical fiction involving Tudor England. Once the kids are firmly set, I’d like to take one of Alison Weir’s Tudor themed curated tours. They’re not cheap, but Weir is a leading historian, so it would be amazing to experience Tudor England with her.
Is it too soon to be thinking about the holidays!? Today’s prompt has me looking ahead to December and winter break. My busy season ends after the first week n December, so I’m thinking Goalielocks and I may fly up to Minnesota for a visit. The Mayor has a showcase in Tampa the following weekend, so I’d like to be back in Florida for that. Once the showcase is over, he’ll be on winter break too.
We celebrate the holidays with family and friends. I bake a lot of cookies some with the boys’ help. If my mom’s in town, we’ll get more ambitious and make lefse. I’d say that a good portion of my weekends leading up to Christmas are filled with baking Christmas cookies for our annual Christmas brunch.
On Christmas Eve, we join Melody’s family for church service, which is an absolute joy. Melly is one of the singers at the church and is so talented. Plus, the sermons are always top-notch. Afterwards, we do a family dinner. Last year, it was at Melly’s folks house. Sometimes we have dinner at my brother’s house with him and his friends. I use friends loosely because family would be a better way to describe his circle.
On Christmas morning, we host a brunch for our family and friends. The centerpiece of which is my caramel rolls and the hubby’s cholesterol bake. Personally, I’m partial to Brandi’s cheesy hash browns. It’s a high-carb, high-calorie meal combined with mimosas, Bellinis and beers served around our commodious dining room table. The food is always as magnificent as the company. Needless to say, there’s no food waste at this brunch.
In years past, we followed brunch up with paintball, but the place closed down a few years ago. It reopened last year under new management, but they don’t have many maps anymore. We may still try to play some paintball this year or even ride the go-karts. It’s nice to do something active after eating your weight in carbs. Our Christmas finishes off with some delicious Chinese food. Anyway, I suppose it’s never too soon to start looking forward to the joy of the holidays.
Today’s prompt is about my most epic baking fail. While I’ve had several, but if I were to pick my most recent one it would be a frosting fail. A couple of weekends ago I decided to make homemade toaster strudel. This was a part of my prednisone-fueled baking fest. I also baked an apple tart, kouign-amann, and short ribs that weekend. It’s no wonder that prednisone makes you gain weight.
The recipe was super simple and easy to make. Yet, I managed to royally screw up the frosting. I mixed everything together and it looked super clumpy. As an aside, frosting should never look like pastry dough. Since it looked so odd, I decided to taste it. It was then I realized I had accidentally grabbed flour instead of powdered sugar. Whoops! So if I may give one piece of advice, label ziplock bags when you put flour or sugar in them.
Another baking fail, and I swear it wasn’t my fault, was when I baked lasagna after Goalielocks’ graduation. My parents were staying with a few weeks, so I decided to make lasagna as it is always a crowd-pleaser. Everything was going well and I put it in the oven. When I checked on it thirty minutes into the baking time, I noticed it wasn’t cooking. That was a fun and expensive puzzle to solve! Ultimately, I was able to cook it in our bottom oven, which was thankfully still operational. Eventually, I got a new oven and I absolutely love it.
I think all bakers and cooks have failed in the kitchen. Often times the failure leads to laughs and second attempts. Some recipes take a lot more practice and refining than others. I, however, find it rewarding to finally master a more difficult bake. It should come as no surprise that I love watching the Great British Bake-off. I often end up baking items I’ve seen on the show. It’s a fun journey that connects me to my mom, my grandma, and all the bakers in my family.
It was a quick weekend and here we are back to Monday. It’s as if the weekend never even happened at all. We did have a busy weekend planned. The Mayor’s first games of the season were this weekend in Fort Myers. Consequently, we planned to drive over both days for the games. This plan was obviously not great, but that way we didn’t have to find someone to watch the dogs.
We left the house Saturday intending to drive to Fort Myers for hockey. As we were driving on the Sawgrass, the Mayor texted that he was a scratch. Since we hadn’t driven that far and I was nursing the remnants of a nasty headache, we decided to turn back. Instead of driving home, we ended up at Skate Zone watching the Typhoon play the Tampa Bay Jrs. This ended up being a pretty fun afternoon as we were reunited with a lot of our friends. It also made for a much shorter day than our original plans.
We left the house yesterday morning at 6:00 a.m. to be there by 9:00 for the puck drop. He was scratched again, but we wanted to see him and support the team. It was a great game and the Eels came out on top. More importantly, what came out of the trip was seeing the Mayor in his element and hearing about his experience. He loves the program. He accepts that he’s a young player on an older team, which means less ice time. What he has gained, however, is a bunch of mentors who are helping him and the other new kids acclimate to junior hockey.
After the game, we headed to grab lunch. Not surprisingly, the first thing he said to us when we saw him was that he wanted hibachi for lunch. I don’t know about you, but I’m never thinking about hibachi at 8:30 in the morning. We did, however, end up having Hibachi at the outlets and it was really good. The Mayor has matured a lot in his time away from home, but more than that he’s found a program that fits his goals. He knows it may be less ice time in the beginning, but in the interim, he’s working hard to get better, not getting complacent, and being a great teammate. I couldn’t be more proud. He did play this morning and had a great game.
I wish I understood that experiences are far better than material goods at a younger age. I think growing up I was too fixated on having things instead of enjoying life’s moments. So when I look in the mirror that is definitely something I wish I learned or should I say heeded earlier. I’m proud, however, that my boys firmly understand the importance of experience versus things. Although to be fair, they still want a lot of things. Nevertheless, we don’t talk about graduation presents, we talk about graduation trips. When I’m gone I want them to have a life full of memories made (and of course some mementos) with their mom exploring the world.