Travels: Capitol Reef National Park

Photo May 14, 5 57 34 PM (1)This was our first long vacation in almost 2 years! Sometimes it seems like we’re always traveling but truly most of that is just long weekends away. This was a real trip!

We decided to continue our love affair with Utah, especially since it’s mud season here in the mountains. We love Utah so much, there is just something about the desert that has captured us. So far, we’ve done Zion, Arches and Canyonlands. This time, we aimed our sights at Capitol Reef National Park.

We left Friday afternoon and made it to the State line by about 11pm. We ended up in BLM land just off of the Interstate. We wandered around in the dark trying to find a place to camp for the night. All the campgrounds were full so we poached a site off a guy who was sleeping in his Airstream and wasn’t using his tent pad. We left Saturday morning before he was awake and kept heading towards our destination.

We decided to start our tour de Capitol Reef in the northern section, called Cathedral Valley. Cathedral Valley is only accessed by 4×4 roads so it’s really pretty empty. Most tourist in rental cars shy away from the river crossings and bumpy roads that lead into and out of the section of the Park. We dropped in from the northern area of Fishlake National Forest. It’s a windy and bumpy 4×4 road that offered some really great views of the Cathedral Valley area.

Eventually we came to the primitive Cathedral Valley Campground.We found a great campsite and set up our base camp. We spent the rest of the day hiking the Cathedrals Trail, driving through sandy washes and checking out the Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon. This area was probably my favorite in terms of scenery, it was so amazing! The monoliths just rise straight up to the sky out of the ground. It is really so beautiful!

Photo May 14, 3 51 23 PM Photo May 14, 1 19 10 PMSunday morning, we ate breakfast, packed up camp and headed towards the Fruita Historic District, which is the main section of Capitol Reef where most people go. The road out of Cathedral Valley was long, bumpy, winding, full of washed out creekbeds and eventually a large river crossing. We heard the water was only running 12 inches high, so our 4Runner had no problem crossing, it was pretty fun!

We snagged a great camp site in the Fruita District, it was on the edge of the orchard and looked over the red cliffs and apple trees. Deer grazed in the orchard every morning and evening, it was so peaceful!Photo May 15, 6 16 20 PM We headed to the Visitor’s Center to inquire about backpacking. We originally wanted to do a 2 night backpacking trip in the Park. The backpacking “expert” was probably the worst help we’ve ever received at a Park. Every question we asked, she would respond “I”m not sure, I’ve never hiked that trail” or “oh I’ve never been there before” or “I can’t really answer that question because I’ve never done that before.” We eventually ignored her and relied on our own intuition and decided on a 2 night trip up Pleasant Creek. We got our permit and left to explore more of the Fruita District.

We thought a good day hike would be a great way to see part of the Park. We chose the Grand Wash trail, which turned out to be our favorite hike of the entire trip! It leads all the way to Cassidy Arch, which is rumored to be where Butch Cassidy hung out back in his outlaw days. We did 7 miles all together with 1,000 feet of elevation in the last mile. On our way out we got caught in a downpour. It was actually really fun being in the wash and watching all the rain pour off the rocks. There is always a danger of flash flooding in the desert so we made sure to keep an eye out for higher ground if needed.Photo May 15, 2 50 31 PM

The rain that started on our hike continued for the next 2 days and eventually forced us to cancel our backpacking trip. It rained pretty steadily but we managed to sneak in a few more quick hikes and scenic drives as the clouds let up every now and then. Hickman Bridge was a favorite for sure!
Photo May 16, 10 50 45 AM

Photo May 16, 11 00 57 AMOn our last day in the Fruita District, we found a little trail that lead from our campground through the orchard and along the river. We just thought we’d take a morning stroll but soon enough the trail started going up! We weren’t planning on a hike, but the scenery was so beautiful, we just kept going and it turned into one of our prettiest hikes of the entire trip.

Photo May 17, 8 48 06 AM

We packed up camp and headed over towards the Waterpocket District which is the southern most section of the park. It’s a pretty remote area, and another one where 4×4 is recommended so not many people visit. We had a picnic lunch, hiked a little bit and then saw some pretty ominous storm clouds approaching so we decided to keep moving.

The goal was to head to Goblin Valley and camp since it was on our way back towards Colorado. When we reached the visitor’s center, the ranger told us he had one camp site available and that we should go check it out, so we did. We liked it, so we set up our tent and then went back to the ranger station to pay. I knew the second that rangers saw us that something was wrong. “Uh sorry guys, it’s first-come-first-served and I just sold that camp site to someone else.” Ummm, what?! YOU told us to leave and go check it out before paying! And then you sell it right out from under us? Gah! He totally screwed us, so we had to go back to camp and take our tent down and then find some BLM land to camp on. So frustrating! We did at least check out the Hoodoos, which is what Goblin Valley is known for. Photo May 17, 4 26 59 PM

Photo May 17, 4 13 18 PM

We found a great spot of BLM land that gave us a great view of the valley surrounding us. We made a fire, cooked dinner, listened to good music and watched the skies fill with more storm clouds. Photo May 17, 6 14 53 PMAnother night of camping in the rain didn’t sound appealing and thankfully we hadn’t set up our tent yet, so we decided to head out and grab a hotel room in Grand Junction for the night. A hot shower and soft bed sounded delightful after 4 days of camping in the rain!

Our trip home was uneventful and easy. To be honest, we were both a little sad that our trip had to stop at 5 days. I could have easily spent another week out in the desert. We are still living with David’s parents, which is going just fine, but when you don’t have your own home to return to…returning home just doesn’t sound like fun. Oh well, just another excuse to go back to Utah in the near future!

Utah

Mmmmmm I love the desert. I don’t know what it is about this place, but I’m officially obsessed. Moab is a 6 hour drive from our front doorstep (uh, when you’re not driving in a blizzard, which we were, so it was technically a 9 hour trip for us. Boo.) and it’s kind of just become a little tradition over the years for us to getaway in the fall (and sometimes the spring too!) to this beautiful area. This is probably the 5th or 6th time I’ve been to Moab and it just seems to get better each time! Before you know it, we’ll probably just move there. I kid, I kid. Kinda.

We stayed at a place called The Red Cliffs Lodge, which has become “our” place over the years. It’s absolutely awesome. It’s beautiful. It’s affordable. It sits right on the river and in the heart of some of the best places to explore. They have a killer on-site restaurant and a to-die-for Sunday brunch. They even have their own vineyards and winery too! Mmmm wine….

 It’s tempting to stick with tried and true hikes and adventures in this area. There’s 2 National Parks right here and an abundance of awesome trails that we’ve done before. But we decided this time we should try new stuff.

Our first day was a hike through Negro Bill’s Canyon to Morning Glory Arch. I’ve driven by the trailhead 40 times over the years but have never stopped to hike it. What a fun hike! There was very little elevation gain except for the very end. About 5 miles roundtrip and at the end is a beautiful arch called Morning Glory arch. We got to see a few people repelling down it, pretty cool!

It may be winter in Colorado now, but fall was in full force out in Utah. The trees were beautiful! Here’s a photo of Morning Glory arch above the yellow foliage. Beautiful!

After our hike, we drove around Castle Valley and Fisher Towers. These two areas are super popular for commercials and movies. There are dozens and dozens of movies that have been filmed in this area. Mission Impossible, Thelma & Louise, and pretty much every John Wayne movie ever.

On our second day, we headed over to Dead Horse State Park, which sits right next to Canyonlands. You get all the beautiful views of Canyonlands without all the motorhomes and RVs clogging the roads. David did a 14 mile mountain bike ride and I did a 5 mile hike along the eat rim. I picked a less populated trail in the hopes of finding a little solitude. My reward at the end was astounding. I sat on the edge of a cliff (couldn’t have done that 9 months ago with my vertigo!) and listened to the wind blow through the canyons below. It was pure silence and pure perfection. See the edge of the cliff in the photo below? That’s where I sat. Pretty cool!
 I snapped a few long exposures on the ledge
Our third day was probably my favorite of all. We hiked to Bowtie and Corona arch. They’re not in a park of any sort, just a standard trailhead and a 3 mile hike to see them. Wowza! What an incredible spot! I was also pretty jazzed because this made for my 3rd day of hiking in a row…a true sign that I getting back to normal after surgery! I’m not 100% yet and this trip gently reminded me of that. David caught the picture below where I was attempting to look up at the arch. I was soooo off balance, I had to keep my arms out and my feet super wide in order to not fall over. Haha! Nothing to worry about, but looking straight up like this isn’t a regular part of my vestibular therapy. I suppose it should be if I want to ever look up at arches again without falling over. 🙂
 Can you spot David?

Here you can see both Bowtie arch (left) and Carona arch (right)
After our hike out to Corona arch, we headed back to CO. Thankfully our drive home was less eventful with no blizzards to speak of. Our long weekend to Utah was one of the best trips we’ve had in a while. I’m so lucky God gave me such an awesome travel partner, hiking buddy and best friend like David. We have so much fun on trips like this, I’m just the luckiest girl to have him!

Spontaneous Joy

We are fresh off one of our best weekends of the summer!

I’m the least spontaneous person that ever lived. It’s so hard for me to roll with last minute invites, cancellations or quick ideas. I need a solid 24 hours to think about things. So when my friend Jenn sent me a last minute text to come hang out Friday night at their fire pit, it took me a minute to get on board. David and I had both had looong weeks and we were just starting to unwind. Turns out, accepting their invite was a GREAT idea. We relaxed all night (when I say all night, I mean aaaaallll night. We went to bed at 3am haha!) with our sweet friends, talking about life and drinking wine. It was perfect! And can I just say that I love that these friends happen to have 4 children, but are so incredibly faithful to continue reaching out to David and I to build and maintain our friendship. In the midst of us navigating how so many of our friendships seem to have changed recently, these guys most certainly will never sail away from us, and I’m so grateful for them!

Saturday, we were supposed to head to Copper with another couple so we could spent the weekend together. We had reserved a 2 bedroom condo for the weekend so the boys could hike a 14er while the ladies spent the day in Breckenridge. But at the last minute, our friends cancelled on us and we were left wondering what in the world we were going to do. David lost his hiking partner and we were both feeling a bit lost as to what to do. We had already paid to upgrade our condo and there were no refunds, so we decided to just roll with it. It dawned on me that it was my sister and brother in-law’s one year wedding anniversary this weekend, so I thought they might like to escape to the mountains to celebrate. Thankfully, they accepted the invite and we spent an awesome weekend with them!

Sunday, we rolled out of bed and strolled Copper Village. Grabbed coffee and breakfast while soaking in the mountain air and sunshine.

View from our balcony
 Haha, I made my sister and her husband get in this giant chair for an anniversary picture 😉

 While my sister and brother in-law hiked, David and I took the chairlift to the top of the mountain. We wandered into this beautiful field of wildflowers and decided we should probably just sit in the middle of them and soak in the beauty. We didn’t move for a loooong time. Just enjoyed the beauty.

We headed back down the mountain with no clue what our plans were. And then we stumbled upon an awesome concert and so we spent the entire afternoon relaxing on a patio and listening some awesome music in the village. I can honestly say it was the most relaxed I’ve been all summer! David and I both enjoyed it so much, neither of us wanted to leave. Yay for spontaneously enjoying good music!
 
Eventually we had to leave our little slice of free music heaven. Somewhere amid all our fun this weekend, I also managed to photograph a wedding and an elopement, so duty called and we left the concert so I could run around the mountains with my clients. David fished while I worked, so he had a pretty good evening too!
This was where I took bride&groom portraits…crazy beautiful 
Seriously!!! How incredible would this be as the backdrop to your wedding photos?! Hands down, some of my favorite pictures I’ve taken. I’m a lucky girl to get paid to take pretty pictures in places like this! It’s a little bit ridiculous.
All in all, it was an amazing weekend thanks to our ability to throw plans out the window and be spontaneous. Rolling with unexpected punches, while really hard for me to do, often has pretty big payoffs. I loved getting to spend time with my sister and brother in-law and I really loved my time with David. This weekend was proof that I need to try to be more open to last minute changes, because who knows what lies on the other side of saying yes! This weekend was full of joy I didn’t expect, spontaneous, family-filled, laughter-filled, beautiful, amazing joy.

Snowmass

I love July!! For lots of reasons, but primarily because it is serving as a way for me to remember how faithful God has been to us. The past 12 months have been some of the happiest David and I have known in a very long time. I look back on the last 12 months and I smile, because every month has been a blessing. It’s pretty remarkable how your life can change in just a few days. July 2013 was truly a turning point for us and I’d hate to forget where we came from, lest we start to think that our current state has anything to do with our own efforts.

We were in some pretty deep water last year around this time. David had lost his job. That same day we also learned of the negative results from our 6th and final IUI. We were distraught to say the least. But there was also so much to hope for. David had been invited to interview for another job. An incredibly promising job with great benefits, a raise and stability, something we had not known in 7 years.  We were in this odd holding pattern. One job was gone, a new job sitting on the horizon. 

I don’t remember a time in my life where I had so earnestly sought after the Lord. I was in the Word for hours, praying without ending. I felt very strongly that God lead me to Deuteronomy during this time. I won’t quote every verse that struck me as I read through chapters 5-8, but my take away was this from Deuteronomy 8:
Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God”

I felt like the Lord was gently telling me, “I’m bringing you to a better place. Everything is going to be ok. In fact, it will be better than ok. It will be great. All I ask is that you don’t forget what I’ve done. Remember my faithfulness.”

And boy did He bring us into a better place. The call came, the job was his. And just like that, things turned around. July 22nd marks his one year anniversary of starting this new job. God is so faithful, I can hardly stand it sometimes!

We went back to Snowmass this year, as a way to celebrate this past year and remember all that God has done for us this year. We were there last year to celebrate too, so it seemed fitting to return again this year. We had a wonderful long weekend! We spent a lot of time on the river, we hiked and also got some 4-wheeling in on our way home. It was a great way to spend some time reflecting and thanking God for all He has done for us. Grateful doesn’t even touch how we feel!

 Dinner at the Woody Creek Tavern, which was Hunter S. Thompson’s favorite hangout spots. David’s a pretty big fan, so we just had to stop! 🙂

David is the best. He spent an entire evening with me just so I could photograph the sunset over the Elk Mountains. We didn’t know the area well, so we spent quite a bit of time flying down back roads looking for the perfect spot for me to grab some photos. We finally found the perfect spot just across the valley from Snowmass. It was so pretty!


We drove to the top of Hagerman Pass, which was named after my great great great uncle who was a mining and railroad bigwig in Aspen back in the 1800s. So cool that there’s remnants of my family all over this gorgeous state! And it was soooooooo fun to take the 4Runner off trail! I was definitely in my element on top of this mountain! It was the perfect ending to a beautiful weekend!

Landscape Life Lessons

When David bought me my first camera, I remember him taking me to a lake near our home so I could practice taking pictures. I had only the basics down but I remember being so excited to just get out there and try. I took this picture below and immediately decided my calling in life was to be a landscape photographer. Ha! How naive I was…

About 30 seconds later, reality set in. In order to actually make a living as a landscape photographer, you have to like…get people to buy your work and stuff. And you have to sell a lot of it. Like, a lot. So I opted for the next best thing that was actually profitable. Wedding photography.

In the years since that first Pentax K100 was in my hands, landscape photography has sort of sat on the back burner. I focused so much on growing my business and building a client base that my first love got a little neglected. But this year, since I have decided to focus more on elopements and take on less stressful weddings, I’m finding myself with more time to focus on my original passion.

I stumbled across Ben Horne’s YouTube channel where he documents his landscape photography adventures throughout the west and I was immediately hooked. He’s like the Bob Ross of photography. I could watch his videos for hours, they’re so relaxing and inspiring. Something about watching those videos lit a little spark inside me. Made me think, “Hey, I could start pursuing this a little more seriously now that I have some time on my hands.”

I don’t think I’ll ever consider myself a “real” landscape photographer. Let’s face it, there’s a lot working against me: 3am wake-up calls, hiking in the dark alone, my unwillingness to carry 50 lbs. of gear up a mountain etc. I admire the real guys too much to even pretend to be like them. Whenever I’m running out the door to catch a sunset, I yell to David “bye babe, I’m off to to be a fake landscape photographer!” I’m a total wannabe and I’m perfectly fine with that. But I’m having a lot of fun pretending. And I’m learning a lot too. I’m learning about myself, my gear, nature, light, timing, weather patterns, all sorts of stuff.

One of the biggest things I’ve realized is that landscape photography is quite solitary. I mean really, how often do you see a big group of landscape photographers heading out into the wilderness together? It’s not really a group activity. And so you wind up sitting by yourself on top of a mountain to watch the sun set. Or you wind up hiking alone, as I’ve been doing frequently. Or you wind up driving around for hours trying to find the perfect spot. You’ve got to be good with being by yourself. Thankfully, I am. But landscape photography has brought it to a whole new level.

I’m learning a lot about patience too. You need a lot of patience to watch the weather and lighting patterns. And you have to be attentive too because sometimes the ideal shot lasts for just a few seconds. I find that I keep trying to rush things. I’m eager to get in, get the shot and get out. About a dozen times now I’ve set up a shot, waited a while for the light to be right and then given up because I didn’t think it was going to happen, only to look in my rear view mirror 20 minutes later and see the shot I wanted. I always thought of myself as a patient person (thanks, infertility!) but landscape photography is showing me just how much room I have to grow.

I’m also learning about being ok with walking away empty handed. Take today for example. I woke up early to hike up to a waterfall I had always wanted to see. But when I got there I discovered that the lighting was really poor and it would be hours before I could get a decent photo. Plus the location was tricky and I couldn’t find a decent angle to shoot from that didn’t cause me to get wet or fight with willow branches. So I bailed and figured I’d catch a good sunset tonight instead. I had been watching these cute little puffy white clouds pass by all day long, our sky was full of them. I thought that they’d illuminate well at sunset tonight so I packed up my gear and drove to a spot about 30 minutes away that I had scouted out earlier. When I got to the spot, all the clouds had moved out east and nothing was coming over the western horizon. The sun set. Nothing. I waited. Nothing. I waited some more. Still nothing. The end. It was a total flop of a sunset. I drove home without a single usable picture. And I’m trying to learn to be ok with that (operative word is trying).

I half jokingly tagged one of my Instagram photos last night #landscapelifelessons as I was talking about this whole patience thing. It got me thinking about all the things landscape photography has been teaching me lately and man, there are a lot of life lessons in there. I would guess there will probably be a few more photos of mine down the road that have that hashtag! I still have a lot to learn and a lot of mistakes to make. But since I’m only pretending to be a landscape photographer, there’s no pressure. I can just sit back, relax and enjoy documenting God’s creation. It’s a never ending supply of inspiration!

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;

    where morning dawns, where evening fades,

    you call forth songs of joy. You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly.”
Psalm 65:8-9

Zion

Oh Zion, where to even begin…..

We had an incredible trip to this beautiful desert oasis. The entire time, we felt God’s hand on our plans. We encountered His favor everywhere we went. From keeping us safe in the backcountry to allowing us to see some of Zion’s most spectacular and popular locations all by ourselves. Amazing doesn’t even begin to describe it. This was easily one of the best backpacking trips we’ve ever done.
All in all, we hiked just over 32 miles. At least 16 of those miles were spent hiking in water. If my feet never get wet again, I’ll be happy! 🙂 I reaalllly debated whether or not to bring my professional camera equipment. I so badly wanted to photograph this area with my camera. But ultimately I decided it wasn’t worth the risk to carry thousands of dollars worth of gear through so much water. I would be beside myself if anything were to get damaged. So I’ll have to settle with iPhone photos and pictures from our point and shoot. 
My only complaint is that we didn’t spend enough time there. There were just too many things I wanted to see and do. But I feel like I have unfinished business with Zion and it’s compelling me to go back. I doubt I’ll have to twist David’s arm to make that happen 😉
I feel so lucky that this beautiful area is just a day’s drive away from where we live. It’s a long drive, but still doable in a day. We opted to drive halfway there on Tuesday and stay in a hotel that night to help shorten the drive on Weds. Our arrival on Wednesday was nothing short of spectacular. We spent the afternoon setting up camp, hopping on and off the park shuttle (the only way they’ll let people see Zion canyon), doing little hikes to see some of the main attractions, taking pictures, eating at Zion Lodge and watching the stars come out at our campsite. Not a bad first day if you ask me!

The beginning of The Narrows, one of the many reasons we want to go back is to explore this area more. We simply didn’t have time to do more in this area. I need to see more of this place!

Cruising on the shuttle bus




Our second day was one that we had been anticipating ever since we won a spot in the lottery for The Subway hike. It’s a gorgeous 9 mile hike starting at the top of a canyon. The trail descends at a very steep rate down to the Left Fork Creek. The trail stops there! The creek becomes the trail. So it’s kind of like choose your own adventure as you navigate all the obstacles in your path. There are waterfalls to circumvent, logs to cross and flood debris to cross over. You hike upstream for several miles until you reach The Subway. It is a beautiful narrow area that looks just like a subway tunnel. The tunnel is full of pools of deep water and a waterfall at the end. We were brave and went swimming all the way to the end at the waterfalls. You only live once right?!

9 miles took the better part of 8 hours for us to hike due to the amount of zig zagging around you do in the canyon with all the obstacles in your way. On your way out, you have to climb back up the canyon. I’d say it’s probably 1000 ft. elevation gain in less than a mile. Steeeep! It was brutal, we were so tired by the end!

 

Our swimming hole for the afternoon 🙂
 


 After getting to the car, we ate a quick dinner in the parking lot, packed up our backpacks and headed into the Wildcat Canyon area to set up camp for the night. We found a nice spot in a meadow beneath some pretty sandstone and called it a night. We were soooo incredibly tired. We had moments while packing where we were so tired we could hardly form a fluid sentence.

 Friday morning we set out on a longer backpacking trek through Hop Valley into the Kolob Canyon area of the park. This area is a bit more remote and less visited by people because it’s on the north end of the park, away from the main areas people visit. It takes a lot of effort to get into the canyon, which weeds out a lot of day hikers and leaves the area for backpackers and crazy people who don’t mind a 15 mile day hike. 

 

The trail descends into a beautiful valley with a stream running through it. You follow the stream for about 2 miles until you reach the canyon edge and then the trail descends into the Kolob Canyon area. We got rained on but we didn’t mind because it made for a beautiful, mystical setting. We half expected to see dinosaurs roaming around, it felt so otherworldly.

 

Eventually we made it to La Verkin Creek, which runs through the bottom of the canyon and parallels the trail. We knew that our campsite was nearby! We saw a sign that pointed to our backcountry site on the north side of the river and so and we began to set up camp. It was a small site, but doable. After about 15 minutes, David looked around and saw a sign across the river pointing to the real backcountry site on the other side of the river. Arg! David decided that rather than break down the tent, he’d just carry it across the creek 🙂

The new site was even better, with a great view of the river and the canyon walls. It was the perfect place to spend the next 3 days! 
Our camp was half a mile away from Kolob Arch, which is the world’s largest freestanding arch. After we set up camp, we took a quick little hike up to see it. Pretty cool!
Saturday was probably my favorite day. We did a day hike up La Verkin Creek into Beartrap Canyon to see Beartrap Falls. The entire hike was gorgeous. The falls were so peaceful! I could have stayed there all day. 
 
 

He could’t seem to help himself 🙂

We got back to camp and spent the rest of our afternoon hanging out in our camping hammock, which was maybe our best purchase yet. This thing is awwwweeesome! We just snuggled together, spying on people hiking, watching the sunset on the canyon walls, listening to the creek. It was perfect!

Against his better judgement, David decided that it would be worth carrying the extra weight in order to have a couple beers with us on our trip. I have to admit, it tasted pretty good after all our hiking. The creek was nature’s perfect beer cooler!
Sunday, we woke up with the sun. Had a vanilla latte (yep, we keep it classy in the backcountry) and packed up. The hike out was much tougher than it was coming into the canyon. We had almost a 1,000 foot elevation gain on the way back to the trailhead. It was slow going at times with our heavy packs on, but we made it to the car. Then we packed up and headed back to CO with happy hearts.
David saying his goodbyes to Zion

This was me celebrating my last few steps of walking through water. I was so happy to have dry feet again! With as much water hiking that you do in Zion, footwear is pretty tricky. It’s tough to wear normal hiking boots because they don’t drain water very well. I opted for open Keen sandals, which drain water pretty well but aren’t quite as sturdy as hiking boots. David did about 14 miles of hiking in his Chaco sandals, I was so impressed!

My sister happened to be in Moab for the weekend, so we took a quick detour to say hi to her before a torrential rain storm settled in. The rain was intense but quick, leaving for some really beautiful cloud formations in Castle Valley as we drove through on our way back to Colorado.

We made it to Grand Junction for the night, got pizza delivered to our hotel room, enjoyed hot showers and crashed. Monday morning we headed back home and managed to avoid the holiday traffic. It’s good to be home for sure, but I’m pretty sure I left a piece of my heart in Zion. I’m already plotting our return trip 😉

Under The Stars

*Warning, this post is mainly a trip report and me geeking out over backpacking gear. Feel free to just scroll through the pretty pictures. 🙂

2014’s first backpacking trip is under our belts! We had the nicest weather last weekend so we decided to head for the hills! We went to a state park that’s just a 30 minute drive for us, very close to home. This time of year is mud season in the high country, so staying below 8,000 feet was a must if you want to avoid snow, which we did considering some of our previous attempts to backpack through snow. Since we were so close to home, we were able to take our time getting there and we had a really nice hike in. And then we got to spend some time setting up and getting acquainted with our new tent!
Ok, so maybe it doesn’t make sense why I’m making such a big deal about this tent, so let me explain. With all the camping, backpacking and adventuring we do, our tent becomes a little bit like a second home during the summer and fall months! We have had our current 2 tents for 11+ years, virtually the entirety of our relationship! So getting a new one is like… a really big deal for us 🙂 We spent weeks researching tents and going back and forth deciding between what we wanted. We wanted something that was light enough to backpack with, but also something that was also a bit roomier than a standard 2-man tent (which is what our old tents were) and something that was durable. Typically, backpacking tents are made of really thin material and they are uber expensive, neither of which we were crazy about. We’re rough on our gear and an ultra thin tent made me nervous. All you have to do is sneeze and you can rip a hole in it1
We ultimately settled on the Kelty TN3, a 3-man backpacking tent that is a bit more durable than most backpacking tents. Kelty just released this tent as part of their Trailogic series, so it’s only been out for about 4 weeks. Definitely not long enough to read any reviews on it, so when we bought it, we were kind of hoping for the best. Thankfully, it lived up to our high expectations! This thing is pretty sweet! First, it’s HUGE. A 3-man tent is perfect for both of us to have a little elbow room and also store some gear. Yay! Second, the tent itself is made entirely out of mesh, almost like mosquito netting, which makes for some amaaaaaaaazing star gazing at night! Third, the rainfly (waterproof cover than protects the tent during a rainstorm) rolls halfway up and clip to the top of the tent, so you can maximize your views when you want and then you can just roll down the rainfly and clip in if you want privacy or if the weather turns. And you can do it all from inside the tent! No getting out in the rain to put the rainfly on, no stumbling around in the dark trying to make sure the tent stays dry. Yipee! I can’t tell you how many times David and I have put the tent rainfly on in the pitch dark during a freak thunderstorm. So this was a big selling point for us!
We still have a summer’s worth of trips ahead of us, so the jury is still out on its ultimate performance. But for now, we’re happy with what we see!
Enjoying the views. David was clearly worn out from our trip up the mountain 🙂

 The state park we were at overlooks one of our nearby cities. It was so neat to be up so high and look down over our area! We could see downtown where David works, a local reservoir where we like to hike, and I’m pretty sure we could even see Wyoming to the north! 🙂
 Making dinner with our JetBoil, the greatest invention ever! It boils water in about 60 seconds. Perfect for coffee too!
 It was SO cool to look out over the city lights at night from our tent. Not your typical view when backpacking!

 The next day we broke down camp, had some coffee and bagels and headed out for a nice little 5 mile loop hike that would take us back to the car. It was such a beautiful morning, we had a beautiful hike with great views!

The highlight of our hike was on our way down the mountain we spotted 3 bears! There were 2 cubs (maybe 18 months old) and a momma (can you spot her hanging out in the trees?). We got to watch them play around, eat lunch and even climb a tree! They were making their way towards us, and eventually they got to a point where their path intersected the trail we were on. They came pretty close to us and I think the momma got a little freaked out by us. She started running around and standing on her hind legs….eeek! Thankfully, with bear mace in hand, we were able to get around the little family and circumvent their path. Phew!

And with that, our first trip of 2014 is done! Lord willing, we’ll have a few more nights under the stars this summer!