Patient? Me?

Not so long ago I said to my husband “I am not very patient.”

He laughed.  Really laughed.

And then he said “that is the understatement of the year!”

I like to believe I am a patient person.

I act like I am a patient person.

But those who know me, know that I need some work in that area.  A lot of work!

I have improved.  I no longer peek at Christmas presents.  I do not like surprises and I really don’t like waiting, so every year since I was a kid, I would search for my Christmas presents, hoping to find them.  Sometimes I did.  Sometimes I did not.  As an adult, I would pull the tape carefully back so I would not tear the paper and then unwrap the gift to peek.  Then I would carefully rewrap, paying attention to the creases and replace the same piece of tape exactly where it was.  I thought no one knew!  Ha!  Eventually my husband and kids caught on and then they used a whole roll of tape on every gift so I couldn’t peek.  (THAT may be an exaggeration, but it is A LOT of tape!)  I no longer peek.

I like to think that I stopped peeking because I am more patient, but the reality is that my guys made it so difficult for me to peek that I just don’t even try anymore.

My impatience also shows up when it comes to arriving for appointments, or leaving for a trip, or meeting someone, or anything that requires being somewhere at a certain time.  On time is important.  Early is even better.  When I am ready to go, I AM READY to go.  I don’t want to wait around.  I time everything I need to do to get ready for something based on the time we are leaving, so everyone else better be ready too….or I get really impatient!  And don’t give me a “we will leave between this time and that” timing, because that does not sit well with my patience. 

My impatience has resulted in a speeding ticket or two.  Again, I don’t like to be late.  For anything!

So, my intention for 2020 and now for 2021 to live in the moment, to be mindful and not worry about yesterday or tomorrow takes my level of patience to task.  I have to be patient to live in the moment, don’t I? 

I guess I have not quite learned the lessons of patience, so circumstances are colliding to teach me to be more patient.  One year ago, today, I was in the waiting room of our local hospital waiting for my husband who was having knee replacement surgery.  Have I mentioned, I do not like waiting?  From my journal entry that day, written while in the waiting room, I can feel my impatience.  Then add in my own back issues one week later, well, I was going to have to learn to be patient, whether I liked it or not.  I had no choice.  Both were hard!  I just wanted everything to hurry up and return to normal, for my husband and I both to heal.  NOW!  Things don’t work that way, do they?

That should have been enough to teach me to slow down, to live in the moment and to be patient. 

It was not.

The pandemic hit and my patience was sorely tested.  I just wanted it over!  I just wanted life to return to normal.  I wanted to hug people.  I wanted to shop in stores.  I wanted to travel.  That has been hard.  Now is NOT happening fast enough for me.  Yet, I have found that living in the moment helps.  Being mindful and grateful helps.  Maybe, I am more patient. 

Maybe?

Then came the conversation with my husband not too long ago.  He laughed because he knows me.  He knew I was not really a patient person, even with my improvements.  Things will continue to test my patience and to teach me lessons. 

When my alarm goes off at 3 pm every day, as it has every day for almost 3 months now, I cringe.  Ugh!  Really?  Can this just be over?  Now?!  It has been long enough and I am ready to be done with all of this and get my life back to normal.  That alarm is a reminder for me to take those two pink pills, the ones I have to take to treat this fungus in my body.  The pills I thought I would take for a week, maybe two. 

Jokes on me!  I will be hearing this alarm on my phone every day for months, maybe longer.  EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. How is that for teaching me to be patient?

No, I am NOT a patient person.  But I am trying!  I don’t peek at gifts anymore.  I don’t speed (okay, maybe just a little, but not much).  I stop and smell the roses far more often than I used to. 

But my body keeps betraying me, forcing me to step back and take it slow.  And I don’t like things to be too slow.  I just want to get back to 5ks and using my spin bike.  I want to be able to hike.  I want this done NOW!  (And don’t even ask how I am doing waiting, and waiting, and waiting for my turn to get the vaccine while everyone around me is getting theirs….)

Again, I am NOT a patient person.  I am a work in progress.  Always learning.  This will pass…. So, for now I am taking a leap toward patience and just breathing!

The Charm Bracelet

I love Hallmark movies, especially at Christmas.  They just make me feel good!

This past December I watched a new Hallmark 2020 Christmas movie—“A Little Christmas Charm”.  It was so good!  It centered on a charm bracelet, found in a donated coat, and the finder wanted to return it to its owner. 

While searching for the owner of the bracelet, the finder discovered that each charm had a special meaning and that made it even more important to find the owner.

Why am I sharing about a Hallmark movie?  Because, watching this movie, I was reminded of a charm bracelet that was sitting in my jewelry box, unworn by me.  It was not my charm bracelet.

The charm bracelet had belonged to my mom.  One of the very few things I have that was my mothers.  

This movie had me thinking about my mom and her charm bracelet.  I had vague memories of hearing about her trip to New York City and for most of my life, I believed this bracelet held charms that were from her trip, along with other charms that may have a special meaning to her.

I pulled her bracelet out and took another look…. Wait….. there was no charm that looked like the Empire State Building…. Hmmm…. I could have sworn there was one.   

And it looked like there was a charm missing, making me wonder what that charm was?

These charms were not from New York.  So, what did they represent?  Why was it important to her?  How would I ever find all this out?  How would I learn the stories behind her charm bracelet?

Taking a cue from the movie, I started to search.

I examined each charm and that is when I saw my first clue, one charm was stamped “Chicago” on the bottom.  Well…. I never knew she went to Chicago. 

I pulled out my laptop and started searching.  It is amazing what you can find on the internet now.  I searched for images of the Chicago skyline in the 1960’s and there I found the first building represented by one of her charms.  As I continued my search, I also discovered what the other three charms represented.  I now knew that all four charms were representations of buildings in Chicago—The Historic Water Tower, One Prudential Plaza, Marina City and the John Hancock Center.

Now that I knew the charms were from Chicago, I assumed she took a trip there.  And that trip had to be in 1969 or later as the John Hancock Center was not completed until 1969. 

The internet was a wonderful help in my finding what the charms represented, in locating them on a map so I could see how close each was to the other and in helping me to know the earliest my mom could have gone there.

You can find just about anything on the internet now. But there are some things the internet cannot not tell us.  

It could not tell me the things I really wanted to know— Why did my mom travel to Chicago?  Was it for pleasure?  Was it for one of dad’s work conventions?  Was it for her work?  What did she do there?  What did she like?  Where else did she visit?  When exactly did she go?  Did she take my sister and I?  If not, who took care of us while she was gone? 

I wish I had asked these questions when I had seen the bracelet when I was a child.  I wish I had asked lots of questions about my mom’s life so that I would have the stories to pass on to my children.  But I was young, and I did not realize just how important those stories would be to me.    

Now I know the importance.  And it is too late. 

Though I may not know the whole story behind my mom’s charm bracelet, at least I now know where she got the charms and a rough timeline for when.  I can imagine her there and what she might have done.  I know this charm bracelet was important to my mom.  And that is why I treasure this bracelet now.  It is another connection to my mom and to her story. 

Family stories are important.  Family history is important.   I would love to have just one more day to sit with my mom, ask questions and listen to the stories about her life. 

It is that desire, that drives my scrapbooking and keeps me journaling our trips and keeps me writing, period.  I am motivated more than ever to record our family history, the things that were important and the things we did, so that future generations of our family won’t have to wonder or imagine. 

The answers will be right there, waiting for them. 

Hello 2021!

“2020 will be the best year yet!”

Well….  I wrote that on the last day of 2019, after committing to making 2020 the year I would live every day, not waste a minute of any day…saying yes to adventure and taking care of me.  Really living in the moment.

Well…..

I can say that I did live in the moment in 2020.  How could I not?  What else was there to do?  But I don’t feel like I was really living in 2020…… at least not the way I had imagined.

2020 was a challenging year for us.  For our country.  And for the world.  The year was filled with fear, anxiety, and loss.  And it still is.

And I stayed home far more than I ever have.  I was grounded many times as a kid, but this, THIS, was a-whole-‘nother level of grounding!  But I stayed home.  And so did my husband, other than work and essentials.  And now I am ready for the grounding to be over, but it won’t magically end at the stroke of midnight tonight.  Darn! 

Yes, I am ready for 2020 to be behind me.  Yet, despite the challenges and the world-wide pandemic, some real positives came out of 2020.

It is those positives that I am focusing on, reflecting on, while I sit here in my backyard next the warmth of the fire in our firepit and listening to the sounds of the waterfall in our pool.  The positives are what I want to remember the most about this year and what I want to take with me into 2021. 

My family is healthy, at least as far as COVID-19 goes.  And we are all happy!

My oldest is in his own apartment now.  He is happy.  He is doing well.  He is creating art pieces that are amazing.  He is so talented!  Being on his own again has been very good for him.

My youngest and his wife are doing great!  They are happy.  And we got to see them not once, not twice, but three times this year!  Thank you 2020!  I look forward to the day we can travel again so we can go visit them. 

My husband has his knee replacement surgery the end of February and we thought he would be home for 6 weeks…. But that 6 weeks turned into 5 months due to schools going virtual.  I am so grateful for that time together!  We found that even “locked down” we still enjoyed hanging out together.  I have no doubt after this year, that when he finally retires for good, we will be just fine!  And I look forward to that day and the travels we have planned.

We were able to get away once this year—to see my sister and her husband for a few days and then to spend a couple of nights at Zion National Park.  Being outdoors did us both some good.   We needed it.  Having not been able to travel this year was hard, so we needed the time in the outdoors.  I don’t know when we will be able to get away again, but the memories of those couple of days in Zion will keep us going for now.

I found time for my hobbies and to read. 

We got projects done around the house. 

I escaped to my backyard oasis many times a day, so grateful to have a backyard to escape to. 

I also found that I love cooking from scratch and tried many new recipes. 

Thanks to the shortages in the stores, I rediscovered my love of baking bread. 

I found ways to stay in touch with family and friends. 

And I discovered that I am okay alone too.  (though I really miss hugs from friends)

Yes, there were some good things this year.

Looking forward to 2021, I want to continue to live every day (hopefully this year I will get a chance to live outside my home environment) and I am going to focus on kindness- toward others and toward myself.  If nothing else, 2020 showed me that kindness is needed.  And I discovered that sometimes I can be a little too quick in my responses, jumping to conclusions and making assumptions.  I am also quick to criticize myself. So, 2021 will be the year I take a step back, I take time to breathe BEFORE responding impulsively.  2021 will be where I work to be a little kinder, to listen more and talk less and try to see the other person’s perspective more.  There is just not enough of that in the world today.

When midnight strikes tonight, the challenges of 2020 won’t just magically end….no matter how much I wish it would happen.  The virus will still be here when I wake up in the morning on January 1st, 2021.  And my fear of this virus will still be front and center. 

But I will NOT let that fear take away the beauty in the world around me.  And I won’t let that fear stop me from living each day as it comes, present in the moment.  2021 will be the year I become a kinder, more grateful person and the year I will continue to live mindfully, saying yes to adventure and no to fear. 

2021 will be a great year!

Oh, and I also want to learn to be more patient, because patience and I have a love-hate relationship…….. more on that soon, thanks to 2020 and Valley Fever!

Happy New Year to you all!  My wish is that 2021 brings you peace and hope. 

And yes, this year I am staying up to make sure that 2021 really does appear…. Don’t want to live this year over, like a kind of “Groundhog day”. 

Travel Thursday– Zion National Park

My husband and I have a joint bucket list.  We want to visit EVERY National Park in our great country.  We have made a big dent in that bucket list but still have more to visit.  And many we want to return to.

Recently my husband added another element to our bucket list—to stay in the National Park lodge for the park we are visiting, at least once.  And our first lodge on this new addition to our bucket list was Zion National Park Lodge.  A great one to kick off the checkmarks on the latest bucket list.

We have been to Zion National Park before.  2 times to be exact.  And both times the only part of Zion that we visited was the area from the Visitor Center to the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway turn and then on the highway driving east.  The Zion Scenic Drive was closed to personal vehicles when we visited in the past and we didn’t have time for the shuttle, so driving through the park on the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway was our only option for visiting this National Park.  And it was stunning both times we have driven it.  It left us in awe of the forces of nature and the art those forces created.  And it made us want to go back and see the part we had never seen before.

A couple of years ago, our youngest son and daughter-in-law spent some time in Zion and they took the shuttle.  They did the hikes so many go to Zion to do—the thrilling hikes sought out daily by those who live for the thrills and the adrenaline.  Their photos were gorgeous and only solidified our desire to one day, go back and see that part of the park for ourselves.  (But there was NO WAY I would be hiking Angel’s Landing!  Not this girl!  No need to test my fear of heights on that hike.  I will leave that hike for others to do!)

Well, 2020 came along and brought with it some challenges for us.  A new knee for my husband.  A back injury for me.  And a pandemic that kept us home for most of the year.  Those challenges made our desire to travel stronger.  We decided to take a short trip to see my sister and brother-in-law….at least that would get us away from the house and we knew we would be safe at their home. 

A few days after deciding to take the trip, I got a text from my husband who was at work.  He just wanted to let me know, that though I might think he was crazy, he had made a reservation for us at Zion National Park lodge for 2 nights following our visit to see my sister.  Okay??  THAT totally came out of the blue! 

And of course, I said yes!

These past few years have been about not saying no.  About taking leaps of faith.  About living fully, with no regrets.  So, I had to say yes.  Even though I thought he might be a little crazy. 

I am so very grateful that he made that reservation.   And extremely happy I said yes to going.  Our couple of days inside Zion National Park were rejuvenating, relaxing and nothing but spectacular. 

We arrived around lunch time, stopping at the visitor center first.  It was CROWDED!  It was like any other times we had been there.  And if it were not for the masks people wore and the markings on the ground for social distancing while in line, we would not have known there was any pandemic happening in our world. 

We left the visitor center with our souvenirs and with our red hang tag and gate code in hand we headed up the road toward the lodge.  At the intersection where we normally head straight, we turned left, following a shuttle bus.  At the gate we entered the code and magically it opened.  We were off.  Excited to see in person what we had only seen in pictures.

The drive was amazing!  We were surrounded by trees—which for us, having lived in Arizona for 6 years now was quite the sight!  And the walls on both sides of the road were stunning.  We were among giants.  My heart was happy here.

We arrived at the lodge and checked in.  Our room had a great view off the balcony and out the window from the bed.

I would be so happy waking to this view every day.

We rested a bit and shopped in the gift shop before getting our hiking gear and heading out for a short hike.  We left the lodge and crossed the road, where we were met by the beautiful sight of a bridge over the river, with huge rock cliffs behind.  Wow! 

We enjoyed the view and waited for others to leave so we could get some photos of just the scenery.  Then it was off on our hike.  We hiked the Lower Emerald Pools trail.  Though the day had been quite warm, the evening was cooling down and the breeze coming off the river at the beginning of the hike as quite refreshing. 

The hike to the Lower Emerald Pool was an easy hike, with a slight elevation change.  The views were amazing on the entire hike.  And the trail was not busy, only passing a few people while we were out there.   

We heard the water before we saw it.  Finally, we arrived.  It was so cool!  And not in a temperature kind of way.  Just beautiful.  The 2 waterfalls were small due to the dry summer, but there was water.  And we walked right under both.  That felt so nice!  We spent quite a bit of time in the area, enjoying the views, the sound of the water, and the time together.

Reluctantly we headed back to the lodge, we didn’t want to be out on the trail after sunset. 

And this is what we found when we arrived back at the lodge to order our takeout dinner from the restaurant.

It was not just dinner time for us.  These mule deer were having dinner.  At one point we counted 29 of them.  We enjoyed watching them as we waited for our food.  Quite a pleasant and unexpected gift!   

We went back down to the green lawn after dark to enjoy the night sky.  WOW!  It was so dark.  We could see thousands of stars, twinkling in the dark.  We marveled at the Milky Way and watched the International Space Station fly over our heads before returning to our room.  An amazing first day in the park.

The next morning, we boarded the open-air shuttle with the tickets we had purchased the night before.  I highly recommend this open-air shuttle.  It was slow, yes.  But our driver told us what we were seeing and some of the history of the park on our way to the Temple of Sinawava at the end of the road. 

The views were amazing from the shuttle.  And we could see the people at the top of Angel’s Landing as we drove past.  They must have gotten up really early to be at the top already. 

We arrived at the Temple of Sinawava and were quite surprised by how many people were there.  It was here, that those hiking the Narrows, started.  But the river having a dangerous bacteria in it and the vast warnings about the dangers, had us thinking it would not be crowded.  Boy were we wrong. 

We hiked the River Walk trail to the end, where the Narrows hike starts.  It was a beautiful hike.

Stunning views all around us.  We didn’t go fast, we wanted to enjoy the views.  And we were not getting in the river.  Not this trip anyway.  Despite the bacteria, most of those on this trail with us, were there to hike the Narrows. 

We really enjoyed the hike, even with our masks on.  After our hike, we had some time before the shuttle would be picking us up for our return to the lodge, so we found a spot next to the river to enjoy the view, have a snack and do some people watching. 

It was a beautiful spot.  And the other tourists were quite entertaining.

We then meandered across the road to a secluded spot on the river and enjoyed some quiet time, just the two of us and mother nature.  This was the BEST way to spend our morning.

We arrived back at the lodge at lunchtime and found a spot in the shade on the big grass lawn to eat our lunch.  My husband had planned everything perfectly and brought folding chairs and a small camp folding table for us.

We enjoyed the afternoon, there on the lawn.  We ate, we read, I wrote and we enjoyed a conversation with another couple.  It was so relaxing.  So peaceful.  Even with all the people roaming around.  I think we could have stayed there forever. 

We took a short walk that last evening and again enjoyed the mule deer having dinner on the grassy area and then the night sky after dark. 

Zion was everything we expected and SO MUCH more! 

We left the next morning, feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on whatever craziness that 2020 would be throwing our way next. 

For the third time, we took the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway as we left the park.  And it was just as spectacular as we remembered. 

We made a couple of stops to enjoy the views as the sun came up.

Zion National Park is a spectacular park that offers many things for many people.  Yes, there are the big hikes, the ones that thrill seekers love.  But for those of us, who can’t do those hikes, for whatever reason, there are still hikes we can do.  The park offers hikes for all levels of ability.  And the views on the easy hikes are just as beautiful and amazing as the more strenuous hikes.  Different views, yes.  But no less impressive. 

If visiting Zion National Park is on your bucket list, but you wondered if it would be worth it if you couldn’t or wouldn’t hike to the top of Angel’s landing, I will tell you, Yes, it is worth it!  Our 2 short hikes made the trip worth it.  Sitting for a few hours on the big grassy area at the lodge made the trip worth it.  Watching the mule deer each evening made the trip worth it.  The spectacular view of the night sky made the trip worth it.  The time together, off the grid, made the trip worth it.

Our two days in Zion National Park left us renewed and rested.  And I couldn’t be happier that I took the leap, trusted my crazy husband and went on the trip.

Travel Thursday– Have Mask, Will Travel

When it comes to our travels, my husband is the planner, often planning our trips far in advance and planning all the details for each day.  Though he has also been known to plan a spur-of-the-moment short trip too.  We often joke he has a 5-year plan—for our lives and our trips.  And I love that about him.

I am the planner when it comes to prep for the trip and packing.  About a week prior to our trips, I write a packing list.  I add to it as I think of things I do not want to forget.  When our boys were young, my lists were long—what I needed, what each of them needed and the extras for the whole family.  My husband was on his own.  He could pack his own things and if he forgot something that was on him. 

Now that it is just the two of us, my packing list is 2 pages instead of 4. 

And yes, I cross each item off the list as I pack them.  And those things that cannot be packed until the morning of the trip, I just put a line next to them to remind me to pack them.  I check and double check my list as I pack and before we leave.  It works for me.

So when we planned to go see my sister and brother-in-law for a weekend, I started my list.  And then my husband added a couple of days at Zion National Park to our trip and my list got longer.  Now I had to pack bags just for my sister’s house and bags for Zion.  No problem! 

The usual things went on my list—clothes, snacks, drinks, shoes, toiletries, journal, camera, meds, etc. and then there were the extras…..

This is 2020 after all.  And travel is just a bit different.  It requires a little more planning.  And a few extra items.  So I added them to my list—a can of Lysol spray, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer wipes, hand sanitizer bottles, and masks–quite a few masks.  And fear was also packed for this trip.  How could it not be in this unprecedented time? 

Never would I have ever imagined I would need ALL of those.  I have always been careful in our travels.  But I have Never had to take all those items necessary to clean and sanitize things. 

But the items we needed to take with us were not the only way that travel had changed.  Our stops also changed.  We usually make quite a few pit-stops on our road trips.  This time they were more planned.  Safety and cleanliness were factors in deciding where and when to stop.  But also, what was opened was a factor in where and when to stop.  Some things are still closed. 

Short, quick, “run in” and “run out” stops were made.  No need to hang around and look at souvenirs or talk to strangers.  Just get in and then get out.  Had to limit exposure, just in case.  Very strange for us. 

And then there was the extra time it took just to get out of the car, making sure we had a mask and making sure we had sanitizer wipes to take with us.  I used those wipes when touching doors, faucets, walls… really anything that someone else had also touched.    

Masks were on whenever we stopped.  Of course, most places on our trip required masks to be worn, but not everyone adhered to that rule.  We did.  We had our masks on inside any building and when others were too close.  It was weird to see our society all masked up.  Hard to see someone smile at you.  Hard to connect with others or talk with strangers.  The masks are like a wall that we carry with us to keep us distant and disconnected.  It was very, very strange. 

Upon arriving at the lodge where we were staying in the park, the first thing we did was to wipe down ALL surfaces, ALL light switches, ALL faucets…… and so much more.  And then spray the whole space and all cloth covered items with the can of Lysol.  Doors opened to allow it to air out.  NEVER have I EVER done that on a trip.  (I know others do and I have mad respect for them!  I just never did anything close to this). 

Oh boy, travel was different. 

Despite the extra precautions, we had a great trip, and I will share the trip in another blog post. 

And we learned some things–

  • Time with family is necessary and healing. Of course, I always knew that, but in 2020, time with family has been even more important.
  • Masks are difficult when hiking, but necessary on very crowded trails. And on trails where there is the ability to keep that distance, removing the mask is quite refreshing! Ahhhh! Fresh Air!! Isn’t that what we want to breathe when spending time outdoors?!?

On the shuttle in Zion National Park

  • Masks keep the face warm when the morning is quite chilly and breezy! A HUGE plus!
  • If you look you really can see a person smile when all you can see is their eyes!
  • Fear does NOT have to hold us back. It is possible to travel safely, just differently and with a little more planning.
  • Even in these masked times, we found that while sitting on the big green lawn and by keeping distance between us, we could connect with strangers and enjoy a conversation. THAT was really good for us. I have really missed connecting with strangers and hearing their stories. The conversation we had over that hour and a half, with a couple from San Jose, was wonderful!

Yes, 2020 has been a difficult year. A different year. And what we have enjoyed in past years, has been a little harder to enjoy now. Even a little harder to find. This trip was much needed for us. A little time away. And time outdoors. So good for the soul.

I do not know what future travels hold for us or what they may look like.  But I do know that any future travels will find me making my packing list and then checking the items off as I pack!  Some things will never change!

Travel Thursday- A National Park, A Lodge and A Grill

After leaving the dramatic landscape of Goblin Valley we were off to spend the rest of the day and the next day exploring Capitol Reef National Park.  We had grand plans that we would be able to explore both Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  Well….. we ran out of time to see both.  Capitol Reef National Park was more spectacular than we had expected, making us spend more time there than planned….. but boy was it worth it!  And we still did not see all we had wanted to see.  I think we have finally come to that point in our lives of wanting to slow down a bit, and just take our time.  Even relax a little on these trips rather than go full steam, rushing to get it all done and exhausting ourselves in the process. 

We arrived at the park in late afternoon.  Driving into the park from the east was stunning to say the least.  This drive gave us a glimpse into the dramatic landscape of this National Park and made us want to get started immediately. 

We stopped at the Visitor Center first.  Always our first stop.  The view from the parking lot at the Visitor Center was AMAZING!!  The view teasing us, calling to us to explore. 

We got our maps, bought some souvenirs, and talked to the ranger.  My husband really wanted to see Cathedral Valley, but it had been raining before we arrived and more rain was on the way.  The ranger gave my husband instructions for getting out to Cathedral Valley and then warned us about the rain.  His last words to us were that if we were out there when the rain came we would have to be prepared… there was no cell service, no rangers roaming the road and it would be self-rescue.  Well, THAT made me nervous!  But NOT my husband.  We did ford the river (you can read my post on that here) and started on the dirt road to Cathedral Valley. Then the rain started really coming down!  We aborted our attempt for that afternoon.

After aborting our trip out to see Cathedral Valley, we decided to go get settled into the lodge where we would be staying for a couple of nights.  The Lodge at Red River Ranch met our expectations and surpassed them.  The lodge is west of Capitol Reef National Park and just west of the town of Torrey, Utah.  From the highway we could see a large log “home” with stunning red cliffs behind it and lush green fields where the buffalo roamed on the ranch land.  Oh, my heart was happy. 

We had reserved the Anasazi room, one of 15 unique rooms in the lodge.  There were no TV’s anywhere in the lodge and very little Wi-Fi.  Cell service was minimal too.  This was keeping us off grid!  We were delighted.  Our room was beautiful and cozy.  Perfect!  And the Great Room in the lodge was filled with books, games, and seating for guests to enjoy.  We hung out in the Great room, relaxing after our long day. 

After dinner, we roamed the land, walking along the river, watching the buffalo, and enjoying the quiet solitude we found.  The Lodge at Red River Ranch was the perfect place for us to get off the grid and just breathe!

After a peaceful night’s sleep and a delicious breakfast at the Lodge, we were off for our full day of exploring.  We headed first to Cathedral Valley.  (I wrote about Cathedral Valley here.  It is one of my favorite adventures!)  After the hours spent in Cathedral Valley we were pretty tired, so we decided to skip the big hikes we had planned.  We still wanted to see a little more of the park, though. 

On our way to the Scenic Drive, we stopped to see the Freemont Culture Petroglyphs.  It was a short, easy walk to see the Petroglyphs. 

Then a quick stop at the Visitor Center before driving down the Scenic Drive. 

The scenic drive was stunning!  Every curve in the road took us to a different view.  We stopped at every pullout to take in the view.  We were amazed by the colors.  We were in awe of the forces of nature that created the dramatic and diverse landscape. 

Stunning!  What else can I say?! 

At the end of the paved road we parked in the parking lot.  We could not drive any further as the dirt road beyond this point that would have taken us into the gorge was closed because of all of the rain. 

Here in the parking lot the view took my breath away.  And I felt so tiny here.  We enjoyed a bit of time here, just sitting and taking in the view. 

It was the 4th of July.  The birthday of our Country.  And we could not imagine a more spectacular place to celebrate, than here in Capitol Reef National Park.  We did not want to be anywhere else at that moment, on that day, celebrating our Great Nation.

We finally got back in our car and drove back toward the visitor center, making one last stop in the Fruita District.  There we found the campground, in an orchard.  We could see the apricots in the trees and on the ground. 

What a great place to camp.  In that moment we wanted our camper back.  We wanted to stay in the park, in the orchard, surrounded by all this beauty…. And the deer. 

Next to the campground we discovered the Gifford House.  The house sits on the historic Gifford Homestead.  We went inside the house and found a store, with unique gifts and delicious treats.  We bought a cinnamon roll and a piece of pie and took it outside to enjoy while watching deer roam through the orchards.  A perfect end to our long day exploring. 

The next morning, we packed up and headed home.  We left the lodge early so we could arrive at Hells Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah, in time for them to open for breakfast.  We found out about the grill from an internet search for unique places to eat. 

The restaurant was founded by two women who grow their own food on their farm and source food locally.  The atmosphere was so peaceful.  And the food was delicious.  Our breakfast was the BEST breakfast we have every had, in all of our travels.  We cannot wait to go back and enjoy more meals at Hells Backbone Grill.  Maybe we will stay at the lodge next door on our next trip, while we explore the area around Boulder.

I miss traveling.  I miss getting out and exploring.  2020 has stopped our travels for now.  2020 has also made us rethink our future travels. We do hope to get out soon, at least for a short trip somewhere.  These memories of our trips have kept me going through these unprecedented times. I get to travel from the safety of my home– through our memories, through the pictures we took and the journals I wrote. 

Capitol Reef National Parks is one of those places we will go back to again.  We did not get to do everything.  We want to hike some of the trails.  We want to camp in the campground.  There is so much more to see in this park.  It is a little more out of the way than some of the other parks, but that means it is a little less crowded. 

Capitol Reef National Park is perfect for getting way off the grid and just breathe!  And we all need that once-in-awhile! 

Travel Thursday– Lunch with the Goblins

Southern Utah sure has some of the most spectacular and dramatic landscape.  Places that seem out of the world.  On our July 2016 trip through part of southern Utah, we made a discovery. 

We found a place where Goblins roam.  Millions of years ago, an inland sea (yes, a sea in Utah) deposited sand and silt here in what is now a valley.  Then over millions of years of compacting and erosion, the sandstone created a valley where Goblins now roam freely. 

We were on our way to Capitol Reef National Park but first we had a lunch date in Goblin Valley State Park.

Driving up to the park from the highway, there was nothing that really indicated what we would see.  It was desert landscape.  Okay, I thought, let’s see what is hiding out there.

Once inside the park, we were able to see little bits of the sandstone shapes.  This was beginning to be quite intriguing.  And then we saw a few of the figures, carved over millions of years by wind and water erosion.  But still not in the valley.  And then we came upon, what we called the Sentinels, standing guard, watching visitors approach the end of the road and thus the valley. 

Pretty dang cool!  Nature’s artwork shining!

We parked at the end of the road and stood at the overlook, looking over the valley.  A dramatic view to say the least.  There were hundreds and hundreds of carved figures.  Everywhere in the valley. 

I was excited!  We quickly ate our lunch on a picnic table.  I wanted to get down in the valley.  I wanted to see the goblins.  I wanted to walk among them.  To just be still, there in the valley surrounded by the most magnificent natural art. 

Off we finally went.  Hiked down a short trail that led to the valley.  I was mesmerized by the sights all around us.  There were others there, too, but we didn’t see much of them.  This valley was quite big, so it was easy to just get lost among the goblins…..

We walked through the carvings, discovering at every turn a new figure.  Some looked like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles my boys had loved when they were young.  There were Turtles and ducks.  I even saw Donald Duck in the valley.  There were mini Storm Troopers.  Snakes.  Long sea monsters.  And lots of little and big goblins.  What do you see?

A playground for the child within.  A delight for the eyes. 

As we turned around, with the goblins behind us, we imagined they were scurrying closer…. Stopping when we turned back toward them, like a game of Red Light-Green Light.  Such fun! 

We so enjoyed our time in the valley that we agreed we would come back again someday, even stay in the campground.  That might be a little eerie…. Camping at night, with the goblins all around us. 

Goblin Valley State Park is another world, and worth the time to visit.  If you find yourself in southern Utah, visit this dramatic valley.  Who knows, maybe the goblins will play a little game with you too!

Travel Thursday– From the Valley to the Top of the World

July 2016, on our trip through southern Utah, we left the Valley of the Gods and headed out to, what felt like the top of the world. 

3 stops, high above the valley floor.  High above the desert floor.  3 stops that would test my fear of heights.  3 stops that would give us heart-stopping, breathtaking views. 

When we exited the Valley of the Gods, we headed south on Hwy 261, toward the first of three planned stops, Goosenecks State Park

I had seen pictures of the Goosenecks along the San Juan River and marveled at the beauty carved by this river.  We arrived at the park, prepared for the view….. and it did not disappoint.  The view was even more spectacular in person.

Here, we stood on the top the deep canyon, looking down to the San Juan River, 1000 feet below us.  A long way to fall!  Yes, this viewpoint, here in this state park tested my fear of heights.  I approached the edge carefully.  Shaking.  It was windy.  I did not want to get too close.  Gingerly, I positioned myself in a safe spot to view the river below. 

And then we saw the floating rafts, appearing as tiny little leaves floating down the river from where we stood.  It would be so awesome to float down the San Juan River, through the canyon…… but that would have to wait for another day, another trip.  We still had more to do on this day.

We got back on the road, heading back north again.  This next stop was really going to test my fear of heights.  Thankfully, I wasn’t driving!  Before our trip, my husband had shown me photos and video of the Moki Dugway, a 3-mile gravel road that had been carved into the face of the cliff edge of Cedar Mesa.  The video scared me!  I was NOT looking forward to this drive.  A narrow, gravel road, with sharp switchback turns.  And the drop-offs!  No guardrails, anywhere!  And we would be traveling from the valley floor to the top of the mesa, 1200 feet above.  Oh my!! 

As we approached we saw the signs warning of the steep grade, the low speed, and the switchbacks. 

And we could see the cliff side, all the way to the top of the mesa.  But we could NOT see any road.  Hmmmm……

We started up the gravel road.  Okay, view is cool, and not too bad…in the beginning.  But it got steeper!  And higher, with the drop-offs even farther down.  Each time that the road switched back, putting me on the drop-off edge, I would lean as far into the middle of our vehicle as I could get with my seatbelt on.  And I grabbed onto the hand grip with force that would have stopped all blood flow to anything living.  My heart was racing.  My legs shaking.  My breathing fast.  I.  Was.  Scared! 

We were getting higher.  And higher.  And the view was getting more amazing with every foot in elevation we gained.  We stopped at a couple of pullouts (so close to the edge, I thought we were going over it) and the views stopped my heart.  The views were more than I had expected.  We could see the Valley of the Gods from up here.  We could see farther than forever.  That view! 

Finally, we made it to the top and I could breathe again.  I made it through 2 stops that tested my fear of heights and I survived!  I did not fall to certain death.  And I got to see, with my own eyes, some of the most spectacular views EVER! 

I didn’t think anything could top those places and those views…. Until….

After reaching the top of the Moki Dugway, we took the first road to our left and drove down the dirt road.  Where was this taking us?  How could it top what we had just seen?

At the end of the dirt road we reached Muley Point, an overlook with a panoramic view that was like nothing we had seen before.  And yes, it tested my fear of heights, once again.  I did not get close to the edge. (and my husband made me extremely nervous when he would get close to the edge..)  Here, on the overlook there were no railings, no safety fencing…. Just the rock ledges of the cliff edge, 1200 feet above the desert below us.  Yikes! 

The view! 

We could see the Goosenecks, Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley from Muley Point and so much more!  We took it all in!  We were in awe!  This view was beyond our wildest expectations.  We loved it so much, that we found a spot to sit, enjoy the view and have our lunch.  Here, in this spot, I wanted to build a house.  I could live with this view for the rest of my life and NEVER tire of it. 

And then our time here came to an end…. We had more to do. 

These 3 places tested my fear of heights.  They pushed me out of my comfort zone.  And they were so worth it!  The views were amazing.  The views were worth every heart-pounding-out-of-my-chest moment! 

I am so thankful that I took the leap, trusted my husband that I would be safe, and went on this adventure.  AMAZING! 

(and for the record, we drove the Moki Dugway a second time, the next morning, on our way to Capitol Reef National Park). 

Travel Thursday- In the Valley of the Gods

We were a couple of days into our trip through Southern Utah in July 2016, when we visited this valley. It was early in the morning when we headed out for the day. Our vacations usually mean really early starts. No wasting daylight for us. And we had a lot planned for our day.

We were starting our day in the Valley of the Gods.

My husband had seen info about this land, run by the Bureau of Land Management, while he was planning our trip. We had been to Monument Valley in 2014, so this looked very interesting to us. Valley of the Gods, is not as well known as Monument Valley, and therefore it is quieter. And yes, just as spectacular!

We found the entrance using the printed guide we had brought with us and chose to enter through the east entrance, about 15 miles west of where we were staying in Bluff, UT.

We knew it was the right road, when we saw the deep red dirt. We turned onto the road for the entrance.

And we were off!

Entering Valley of the Gods

The road through the valley is dirt, compacted so it was easy to drive. (After a fresh rain, I am sure it is a different story!) The dirt road through the valley is 17 miles and it winds through some of the most beautiful natural art, created over time by erosion from wind and water.

I don’t understand, or even pretend to understand the type of rock and geological features seen here or any other places we visit. I try to understand and learn, though. Really, I just know that this is ART. It is beautiful. Stunning. And I could easily get lost in this type of landscape. Happily lost.

Each turn, each change in angle, every change in lighting, revealed a different piece of art to delight the eye and make the soul smile!

So. Much. Art.

There is so much to appreciate in the Valley of the Gods. I could have spent the entire day in there. But, that was not the plan. We had more to do and more to see that day.

Our morning there in the valley was one of my favorites. We were alone on the road while we explored. We had the valley all to ourselves. This place made my heart sing.

I hope that one day, you can visit. It is worth the time to drive through and to stop and look, really look. Enjoy the time in this little known valley. You won’t regret it, I promise!

Home

My husband and I celebrated a milestone in both of our lives a couple of weeks ago….  We have now, officially, lived in one place, one house the LONGEST either one of us has EVER lived in our ENTIRE lives.

Crazy!  Growing up, I envied those who lived in one place their entire lives, where they could put down roots and where everyone has known each other FOREVER!  That was not the way I grew up and not my life as an adult either.

My husband grew up as an Air Force Brat.  And that life meant moving wherever the Air Force sent his dad.  He moved 14 times in the first 18 years of his life.  Before we married, the longest he had lived in one place was the 3 years he spent with his parents during the last 3 years of high school.

I was not a military kid.  But my family moved.  A lot!  From the age of 3, (when I was adopted) to the age of 19 (when I married my husband), I moved a total of 20 times.  20 moves in 16 years!  That is a lot of houses and a lot of upheaval in a young life.  The longest I had lived anywhere before I married my husband was the 3 years in the last house I had lived with my mom, before she died.

So, by the time we married, we both had moved a lot and the longest time spent in one place for either of us was 3 years.

And then we got married.  And we moved.  A lot.  My husband was a career Air Force guy.  And we went wherever the Air Force sent us.  Together, as a married couple, we have moved 15 times, in 35 years.  Not as many moves as my childhood, but still a lot.

The longest the two of us lived in one place during those years was the 6 years we spent in Virginia.  That was also where we bought our first house.

And now we celebrate being here, in this house for just over 6 years.  Officially longer than Virginia.  We planned, when we bought this house, that it would be our forever home.  But I am not going to lie, we have been thinking about moving…. It is in our blood….. we get restless…..

And then we realize we are staying.  For now, anyway.

The other night when we were talking about our moves, and the different houses and apartments we have lived in, my husband asked me a question—“Which one felt more like home?”

I did not hesitate in my answer.  “All of them!”

Every. Single. Apartment.

Every. Single. House.

Every. Single. Place.

How?  How could all of them feel like home?  Some we rented.  Some were duplexes or fourplexes.  Some were single houses.  But they ALL were home.

For me, home is a feeling.  A house is just a foundation, walls and a roof.  But a home.  A home is so much more.

Home is about the people that live there together.  It is the friends and family who visit within.  Home is the memories made.  The holidays. The celebrations.  The family game nights.  Movies.  Laughter.  Tears.  Fights.  Meals eaten together.  Cookies baking.  Inside jokes.  Dreams of the future.  Reading together.  Dancing.  Home is all of this and so much more.

Most importantly, Home, is LOVE.

Not every place we lived was where we wanted to be.  Not every place we lived was a good experience.  But EVERY place we lived was HOME!  We were together.  Every place.  As long as we were together and as long as we continue to be together, the physical building we live in will be HOME.

In 2014, after my husband retired from the Air Force, we were caravaning to our new town, where we were going to find our forever home.  We both were nervous.  Unsure of what we would find.  Would this be a good place for us?  Would we like it?  Would our boys think of this place as home for them?  Moving was hard.  Change was hard.

It was while driving down the unfamiliar road, following behind my husband, that a song came on my iPod….. the same song that had played as I followed my husband on a previous move.  “Home” by Phillip Phillips.  And it said it all—

“Hold on to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave, wave is stringing us along

Just know you’re not alone
‘Cause I’m gonna make this place your home

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble – it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
‘Cause I’m gonna make this place your home”

Each move is a leap of faith….

Whether we stay here the rest of our lives or we eventually move, or even take off in an RV to travel throughout the country, as long as I am with my husband, I will ALWAYS be HOME.