Thursday, August 10, 2017

An Organized Laundry Room

Remember how I mentioned at the beginning of the summer how my laundry room was a complete cluttery mess and I needed to clean it out?  I took a day last week and did just that.  I bought a bunch of plastic tubs to organize stuff and I threw away a huge garbage bag full of junk.

I spend a lot of time in my laundry room, and it makes such a difference to work in a room that is uncluttered and organized.  It may not be magazine material with coordinated everything, but it's extremely functional.

These shelves make sense now for the first time since I moved into this house.

Of course now there's all this out in the hallway to deal with...

But there's always something to work on!

Engino Again

Bean outgrew his Engino construction set quite awhile ago.  We hung onto it though, and now Frog is almost ready for it.  Bean has started helping Frog build things.  This is just my favorite thing ever: Big Brother helping Little Brother build awesome stuff (after which, in true teenager style, he rolls over on the couch and goes to sleep!)

The Rest of the Trip

I gotta finishing blogging about Utah because life keeps on happening.  

We had a lovely family gathering at the park with my adorable parents and many of their posterity.  

Someone brought bananas and there must have been 23 of them because my sister took a pen and gave each one a name... do you remember the Dr. Seuss story about the woman who had 23 sons and she named them all Dave?  There's a big list of all the things she wished she had named them instead.  So that's what all these bananas got named.  It made me very happy.  I used to always name bananas, but in recent years I have lost the habit (too busy?)  I need to start doing it again.  

The twins love to play chess.

We sure have a carfull...

Here's our rig getting ready to pull out and head home...

Ice cream at Little America again...

Wyoming is so beautiful.

We stayed with cousins in Colorado.  Here's the goodbye hugs:

Back home at last!  Spaghetti for dinner.

And here's the pile of luggage to unpack!

It was a wonderful trip!  And now life is full speed ahead with football season and a new school year right around the corner.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A Mountain to Climb

I was born into a family that hikes.  Spending time on mountain trails is just a part of who we are.  We aren't notably speedy and we are not seekers of danger, we just spring from generations of those who spoke the language of the everlasting hills.

Growing up in Minnesota, we looked forward to our annual trip to Utah, where we would drink our fill of camping and hiking in the mountains.  As I got older, I was able to participate in the hikes more and more.

One thing that I very much looked forward to was hiking to the top of Mount Timpanogos, a hike that is doable by the average person but that will take said average person all day.  There are two routes to the top of that mountain.  The Timpooneke trail will get you to the summit in somewhere between 6.5 and 8 miles, depending on what map you're looking at.  The Aspen Grove trail is roughly a half mile shorter and takes you past lovely Emerald Lake, but makes you have to cross a large and cumbersome rock slide.  I went on the first couple of miles of both of these trails multiple times as a child-- they were family favorites.  Then, when I was nine, I was part of a big hike to the summit.  My dad rounded up a group of a dozen or so cousins and aunts and uncles and whoever else from both sides of the family and up we went.  It was very hard and I'm sure I complained a lot, but it was also the most wonderful, beautiful, empowering, inspiring experience of my life to that point.

We went again the next year, when I was ten.  This time we attempted to be on the summit at sunrise, by hitting the trail around 1 am.  Stumbling up the Timpooneke trail in the dark is a blur to me.  I just remember getting to the basin and being so exhausted that we all crashed in some branches of a group of pine trees and slept for a couple of hours.  We awoke after the sun was up and then continued on to the summit, which seemed like an old friend.  Then came the long, tedious descent, where we tried to put our aching feet out of our mind by singing silly songs and reciting poetry with our relatives.  Talk about a bonding experience!

I bonded with more than my family, I bonded with that mountain.  It became a part of me.  I looked forward to the next time I would make the ascent.  For some reason we didn't plan a Timp hike the next few years, but I knew I would go up there again.

Meanwhile, adolescence was not being kind to me.  I gained a great deal of weight and all active pursuits became difficult and undesirable for me.  I quit baseball, I quit ballet, I stopped riding my bike, and gym class became torture.

When I was fifteen, our family moved from Minnesota back to Utah.  I was extremely unhappy about this.  However, my mother had taught me to bloom where I was planted, so I tried to find things to be excited about in Utah.  One thing was hiking.  I was going to live there, so I could do as many hikes as I wanted!  Not only could I hike Timp again, but I could hike Lone Peak and Twin Peaks and Squaw Peak and Provo Peak and Grandeur Peak and any other peak I could find!  I was so excited to explore every hiking trail along the Wasatch front.  It was going to be great.

Except it wasn't.  Not long after we arrived, we headed up Mill Creek Canyon and hiked to Dog Lake-- a short jaunt of a couple miles, as I remember.  And I hated it.  I was slow and out of breath and my muscles ached, and even the gorgeous mountain scenery couldn't make up for the misery I was feeling.  I didn't do any more hikes that summer.  Dad took my brother on a few, but I stayed home.  It was depressing.

The following summer Dad planned another Timp hike.  I had to go-- it was Timp!  Surely I would be okay.  We were probably going to just go as far as Emerald Lake, and that wasn't so far.  We started out and it was wonderful to be back on that glorious trail.  I was slow, but Dad was patient.  After a few miles, though, my legs just gave out.  My quadriceps hurt so bad that I couldn't go another step.  Dad kindly stayed with me and we went down together.  I felt very defeated.  I had always just taken for granted that I could climb Timp-- yes it was Hard, but it was doable... that was the place I had learned I could do hard things.  Except now I couldn't.  It was crushing.

I went through the next several years with the belief that I was destined by genetics to be overweight and sedentary for the rest of my life, and though I lived in Utah for several more years I rarely attempted to hike in the mountains.

Then this crazy thing happened.   I had a baby, and while I gained 50 pounds during the pregnancy (it figures, I thought) something unbelievable happened after he was born.  I lost weight.  I lost 100 pounds.  I couldn't believe it.  It totally changed the way I saw myself.  I was not big boned after all-- turns out I have very small, delicate bones.  I was not genetically stuck being stout for the rest of my life.  And so maybe I could also enjoy being active once again.  Maybe I could hike.  Maybe I could snowshoe.  Maybe I could run.

Yes, I could!  When I wasn't pregnant, anyway.  During pregnancy I was always sick and miserable.  Then with a new baby I had my energy back but I was limited in what I could do because of my close relationship with my nurseling.  I did enjoy some short hikes and things with a baby on my back, and the key word there is enjoy.  They weren't torture.  They were fun!

So I started dreaming.  I set some goals, goals that I had spent years believing were forever out of my reach.  I was going to run a 5K.  And I was going to climb Timp again, once I had the chance.

Last January we started planning our trip to Utah and... at last... at long, long last... I started planning a Timp hike.

I was nervous.  Yes, I'm in better shape.  But I'm not in great shape, and I still struggle with overeating.  Okay, so I ran a 5K.  But I ran it really really slowly, and I've actually gotten worse at running since then.  Plus, that's less than an hour of exercise, whereas a Timp hike goes on All Day.  Could my heart and lungs handle it?  Would my quads quit on me again and force me to stop?

I would go to the gym and I would think about that mountain.  My Timpanogos.  The peaks.  The snowfields.  The aspen trees.  The wildflowers.  I ran.  I lifted weights.  I worked my quadriceps as much as I could.

We talked about it a lot, the Badger and I.  It wasn't just a question of how I would do, but we wanted to have the Badger and our four oldest kids come too, and there was no way to know how any of us would do.  I told him that when it came down to it, I would be happy just to spend the day on that mountain, in that sacred space.  However, I really wanted to give the summit my best shot.

My extended family wanted in on the hike too.  We started planning a day that included Aunt Crocodile, Uncle Owl and maybe some of his boys, Uncle Loon... then Cousin Jewel volunteered to come up to the trailhead in the afternoon and cook a hot meal for the returning hikers.  And then Uncle Horrible Beast announced that he was going to drive up from New Mexico to hike with us!  Could this get any more fun?

With the exception of Owl, who hikes often and is in great shape, none of us had complete confidence in our ability to make the summit in a day, but we all agreed we wanted to give it a shot.  However it turned out, we were just going to thoroughly enjoy our day up there together.

That was a lot of background, I know.  But I needed to explain just exactly what this day meant to me.

One more thing: we checked in with a knowledgable cousin the day before about trail conditions, and he told us that the Aspen trail was still impassable due to snow.  He also linked us to a Facebook post about the Timpooneke trail, which about 4 miles up had an extremely dangerous bit with snow over a waterfall that the writer referred to as the "gnasty moat."  Other than said gnasty moat, trail conditions on Timpooneke were great.

Crocodile lent me some cool hiking gear, including an expensive backpack and clothes made of fancy hiking fabric.  We packed up a lot of Clif bars and peanut butter sandwiches and water bottles.

We got to the Timpooneke trailhead about 7 am.  There ended up being 13 of us in the party.  (Thanks to Uncle Owl, Aunt Crocodile, and the Badger for sharing photos!)

Oh, what a beautiful morning!  There were clouds clinging to the mountain further up.  Everything was so lush and green, and the flowers were blooming their hearts out.

We had agreed while planning that we wouldn't plan on staying all together, we would break into groups according to speed.  The question I had was, who would be in what group?  I was sure I would be in the slower group.

Well, I surprised myself.  I ended up being in the advance group.  Sometimes I was even the leader, and I never felt like I was dying trying to catch up to anyone.

About two miles up there is a ledge of rock known as the Shelf.  We waited there for everyone to catch up, especially since Uncle Owl and those with him hadn't quite gotten to the trailhead when we started hiking.  Then when everyone arrived we all enjoyed a snack and break together.  Much merriment ensued as we all laughed about what various people had brought in their backpacks.  "You brought a hammock?"  "You brought A-1 steak sauce?"  "You brought a cook stove?"  It was one of the best parts of the day.

Just below the shelf, we spotted a moose family browsing in a meadow.  Mom, Dad, and Baby Moose.  So cool!

We set out again, and I ended up in the front with Uncle Owl, Uncle Loon, Roo, and Cousin Mouse and his new wife.  I had so much fun talked to the newlyweds and hearing their whole story of how they met etc.  The time just flew by.

I have been to many amazing places in this gorgeous world of ours, but I do not think there is a prettier place than Mount Timpanogos.  It was even more breathtaking than I remembered.

The big question now was the Gnasty Moat.  How gnasty was it?  When we would say "gnasty" we would pronounce it with the G sound at the beginning, and that was so much fun to say that we all said "gnasty moat" as often as we possibly could.

We talked to other hikers coming down.  Some said it was absolutely no big deal, others had turned around in terror.  We did not know what to expect.  I was enjoying the hike so much I knew I would be very disappointed if I had to turn around at the Gnasty Moat.

Finally we arrived at the Gnasty Moat.  I felt confident having experienced hikers with me, and together we figured out a way to get across that wasn't too bad.

At that point we ate a sandwich and waited a little bit for more people from our group, but when no one showed up after awhile we decided to press on.  We knew our group had a chance at the summit.

We got up into the basin not long after that.  It's a whole new world in the basin.  You go from alpine forests and merry little waterfalls to a landscape of tundra and rock.  There is a stillness up there that settles all the way down to the bottom of your soul.

Not long after we got into the basin, Cousin Mouse and his wife decided to turn around.  They had school and work the next day and they didn't want to tire themselves out too much.  Shortly after that, Uncle Loon decided to stop.  Now it was just me, Uncle Owl, and Roo.  There was no sign of any of the others... maybe they had turned around at the Gnasty Moat?  Anyway, we three were doing great and the summit was in sight.

Next up was the saddle, which is the place where you cross over from hiking the back side of the mountain to climbing the front face.  It is a part of the ridge of the mountain, so the views are incredible in all directions.

About a half mile from the saddle, Roo kind of ran out of gas.  She was very tired and a little bit scared of the cliffs and snow patches, and she started going very slowly.  So it took us awhile to get to the saddle, but all three of us made it.  It felt absolutely amazing to be up there.

At that point, it was 3:30 pm.  Uncle Owl and I conferred, and decided that while we could make it up the last mile to the summit, it would put us coming down after dark, which wasn't ideal.  Plus, Roo was tired.  So we decided to make the saddle our stopping point.

I was absolutely fine with that.  The saddle is a great hiking destination by itself, with all those awesome views.  Plus, that last mile of trail looked every bit as scary to me as an adult as it had when I was a kid.  Maybe I am kind of afraid of heights.  I told Owl that if we went to the summit I would need to hold his hand and look at my feet and whimper the whole way, just like I had done with Dad when I was a kid.  He would have been okay with that, but it was easier on all of us to turn around at that point.

I was elated to have made it that far.  It had been a long, rigorous hike, but I had not only done it, I had enjoyed it!  My muscles held up, my lungs held up, and my feet weren't even very sore!  And it was such a treat to be up there with my brother and my girl Roo.  I was so proud of her!

After some Clif bars and a couple of phone calls (cell phone reception is great from the saddle!) we started our descent.  Then, a couple hundred yards down the trail, I got the suprise of my life.  There was Bean, coming up the trail.  Just Bean: everyone else had turned back.  But he had pressed on, slowly but surely, and there he was, in sight of the saddle.  I told him Uncle Owl would go back up there with him, but he begged me to be the one to have the honor.  I was oh, so weary, but I turned around and went back up to the saddle with my boy.  Roo and Owl continued to head down the trail.

Sitting up there on the saddle with Bean was yet another beautiful moment that day had for me.  I was so proud of him for perservering.  I had questioned whether or not he would be able to make it up that far.  It was hard for him, but he did it.  And there we were, bonding together on the ridge of Timpanogos.  It was priceless.

We started back down in the golden glow of late afternoon.  We caught up with Owl and Roo, and picked up Uncle Loon in the basin.

We sang mountain-ish songs.  We crossed the Gnasty Moat again, with much confidence this time.   Turns out the Badger had hacked at the snow a bit with a machete and made it easier going.

I was still taking cheesy-grin selfies.

A little while later we heard someone hollering up to us.  We could see someone down on the shelf but we weren't sure who it was.  When we got there we discovered Crocodile and the Rabbit.  It was late evening at this point.

That last couple miles down from the shelf seemed to last forever.  Our feet were killing us and we were aching and hungry.  Where's that trailhead?  Surely the hike up wasn't this long...  At that point I never wanted to hike that mountain ever again!

We got to the trailhead just as it got dark.  There was Cousin Veeblek and Cousin Jewel and their kids with a huge pot of hot spaghetti... oh, bliss!  I don't recall ever in my life having the luxury of having a hot meal at the trailhead after a long hike.  I will never forget that.  I was too tired to be jolly company, but I hope they know how much they were appreciated.

Right after we left, a huge thunderstorm drenched the mountain, so I am very glad we got back when we did.  The whole day just went so beautifully.  It was not only a dream come true, but I got to share it with so many dear family members.

I did miss being with the Badger though.  He stuck with Fish and the Rabbit, who were at the tail end of the group (the Rabbit's slow pace was a surprise-- I thought she would be right up with Roo... maybe she was just having too much fun talking to Aunt Crocodile and Uncle Horrible Beast.)  Anyway, we didn't know how far up he could go because he has some arthritis in his knees, but it turned out he did fine.  He turned around at this tricky snow field just before the basin because he didn't have good traction on his shoes.

He enjoyed the day, but would very much liked to have gone further.  At that point he was with Crocodile and the Rabbit, and they made it up into the basin... he would have liked to have made the basin as well.

We are already planning next year's hike.  We want to make it an annual family tradition.  Nothing could make me happier.  This mountain means a lot to me.  It is where, both as a child and as an adult, with my family at my side, I have faced my fears, pushed myself to the limit, and conquered.  To me, it is holy ground.  

A Evening With My Siblings

As I mentioned in the last post, my sister Crocodile was out of town.  She'd been in England for several weeks, and when she came home, on the 24th of July, she wanted two things: to have dinner at the Red Iguana, and to watch the fireworks.  

It evolved into a mini family reunion.  

After my sister Pineapple picked Crocodile up at the airport, we all met up at my brother Owl's place.  "We all" ended up including all six of my parents' children.  We don't get to be all together very often, so this was a real treat.  Here we all are in age order.  

Bean and Fish were up at Owl's house hanging out with their cousins, and I took these great pictures of Bean giving piggy back rides to not just one...

...but two of his cousins!

Then it was on to the Red Iguana in downtown Salt Lake.  This has been our family's favorite restaurant for decades.  Their mole sauces are really extraordinary.  I know quite a few places where you can get good Mexican food, but I don't know anywhere else that has mole like they do.   The mole verde is my favorite.  So that's what I always order: something smothered in mole verde.  I haven't been there in years and years, and it was every bit as good as I remembered.

There were nine of us at the restaurant: five of the six siblings, three nephews, and one newlywed nephew's lovely wife.

Afterwards most of us went downtown and battled the crowds to watch the fireworks at Liberty Park.  We had to search for parking and then walk a ways, but that just gave us more time to spend together.  My pictures were not great, but I'm keeping them because they remind me of a wonderful time.

Our view of the fireworks was somewhat blocked, but we enjoyed them anyway.

It was so joyful and energizing to spend time with my siblings.  I'm pretty lucky-- I don't know how I managed to tack myself on to the end of such an amazing group of people.  However it happened, I will always be grateful.