Saturday, July 28, 2012

Our Zion trip -- day 4

On the fourth day of our trip, we decided to poke around a bit in The Narrows.  We had no intention of really hiking The Narrows; the previous day had been quite adventurous enough.  But we did want to venture up the river a bit and see what the hike was like... so once again we found ourselves on the Riverside Walk Path (which you may recall from my journaling about Day Two, led to the beginning of The Narrows).

Here is Shawn, armed with a pair of water shoes (he insisted on wearing his hiking boots and carrying the water shoes).  We had cheap watershoes, not the sturdy water boots the real hikers were renting.  We also did not rent poles, even though everybody else seemed to.

Here I am in my water shoes.  I was very matchy-matchy that day, and felt pretty stupid.  I cannot imagine what possessed me to buy hot pink water shoes in the first place.

On this day, we ran into an inordinate number of kind strangers offering to take our picture.  This was the only day this happened.  It was strange, but in the end, we wound up with quite a few pictures of the two of us together, pictures that are not even what Laura's photography teacher would call, "armpit shots."  I do not know why this day, of all days, was so filled with kind strangers.  We had walked the same trail both previous days, and received no photographic offers.  Maybe I really stood out in my psychedelic pink or something.  How mortifying.

Another couple picture, taken by another kind stranger.

And yet another couple picture, taken by yet another kind stranger, this time right in The Narrows.  The lady who took this seemed like a nice Mormon mother.  She was particularly sweet, and we took pictures of their happy, blond family for them, too.  I was nervous at this point, because Shawn had taken off his hiking boots and left them on the rocks where the Riverside Walk trail ended and The Narrows began.  There were literally hundreds of people coming and going at that point of the trail, and I was worried somebody would take Shawn's nice boots.  The whole time we picked our way up the river in our water shoes, I was thinking, "We really ought to get back, before somebody makes off with his boots."

This is just a perspective shot, to show what The Narrows was like.  You can see a guy with a walking pole.  Most people seemed to have them.  It really was pretty hard to keep your footing.  We saw one grandmother and granddaughter coming back down from above, and the grandmother was kindly encouraging the little girl, "Just one step at a time.  Just take one step at a time."  And the little girl emphatically replied, "Yes!  I am being careful!  I don't want to fall again!!"

Here am I, standing in The Narrows.  I like the way this picture shows how the water comes right up to the sides of the canyon.  It was very cool and refreshing in there, miraculously so.  You could forget how hot the rest of the desert was.

Shawn went out deeper than what I was hoping.  I had to remind him that our snack was in the fanny pack, and it was not a waterproof snack!

Eventually, we turned around and returned... and got Shawn's boots back.  Then we found a nice rock, sat down on it and availed ourselves of that snack.

There is not much in life that I enjoy more than sitting on a big, shady rock in the middle of a beautiful rippling stream, surrounded by majestic canyon views, drinking cool water and eating carrots sticks, grapes, almonds and Triscuits.



Well, I guess you need at least one armpit shot in a post like this one.

Then we headed "home" to our lodge...

We did some interpreting of signs along the way.   "Blind Curves" means different things to different people.

Back at the lodge, we cleaned up and had a lovely, simple dinner on the veranda.

The blueberry parfaits were particularly tasty, but the smoothies weren't half bad.  We ate, and then we took pictures...

 ... of our Adirondack balcony loveseat ...

 ... of ourselves...

... and of our view of the moon.

It was another lovely day, maybe even my favorite day, although the day before was pretty fantastic and so, come to think of it, was the day after.

Friday, July 27, 2012

How to Participate on Facebook

I am taking a break from the memoirs of my 25th Anniversary vacation with Shawn to bring you this public service message.

Here is an explanation of how Facebook should be used.  Many of those of us over the age of, say, 30, do not have the same intuitive ability to navigate an internet site that our children have.  My children are teaching me all the time (they know these rules, people), and I am willing to share the knowledge with you.  So, without further ado...


You may notice that there are many different ways in which you can communicate on Facebook.  The four most commonly used are:

(1)  Writing a status update on your own wall.

(2)  Writing a wall post on somebody's wall.

(3)  Commenting on a status update on somebody's wall.

(4)  Sending a private Facebook message.

***We will cover each of these phenomena  in turn.***

(1)  Writing a status update on your own wall.

You write a status update when you type in the box that prompts you with, "What's on your mind?"

Status updates are for when one has something to say.  Some people also update their statuses when they have nothing to say, but we try to be patient with them.  Status updates should not be a place where we air dirty laundry and complain about other people in our lives.  It is unbecoming to write status updates that are chronically complain-y or negative (although it is perfectly acceptable to ask for prayer in appropriate instances).  It is also unbecoming to brag; think carefully about how people will read your update before you post it.  Inspiring quotes can be uplifting.  Most people appreciate reading something that makes them laugh--self-deprecating humor is pretty safe.  The best status updates are the ones that cause people to think and respond, creating an interesting dialogue. 

I usually try to refrain from posting more than one status update in a 24 hour period.  It is generally acceptable to post an update every 6-8 hours.  If you regularly find yourself needing to update more often than that, you might be better served with a Twitter account.

(2)  Writing a wall post on somebody's wall.

You are writing a wall post on somebody's wall when you go to that person's wall and type in the box that prompts you with, "Write something."

We write posts on each other's walls when we have something innocuous to say to someone.   This should be something we don't mind everyone seeing ("innocuous"), as it is obviously a public post.  Examples would be, "Hey!  I enjoyed running into you at the park yesterday!"  or  "Did you know that avocados are on sale at Aldi this week?"  or  "What time does the concert start at church tonight?"

This is actually, among the older demographic, a very rarely used form of Facebook communication.

It is mostly good that we rarely post on each other's walls... when we are being cautious and send the sentiment in a private message instead.  I will discuss this further in the section on private Facebook messages.

It is mostly bad that we never write wall posts... when we just write what really should be a wall post, but we add it to the comments of somebody's status update, even when it has absolutely nothing to do with the status update.  I will discuss this further in the section on comments on status updates.  Speaking of which...

(3)  Commenting on a status update on somebody's wall.

We comment on a status update when we read the status update and have something to say about it.  A box appears after the status or at the end of the thread of comments, inviting us to: "Write a comment."

If a lot of people are commenting on a given status update, you should read the other comments before you add yours; otherwise, you may just say the same thing everybody else said.

When commenting on a status update, please keep in mind that every other person who has already commented on this status will receive a notification of your comment and see what you said.   Make sure that you are actually adding something to the conversation at hand.

Sometimes some of us older folk just peruse our homepages, and we see the status update of someone (for our purposes, let's suppose a hypothetical friend named Trisha) followed by a long thread of comments.  Rather than reading the status and the thread, we simply think, "Oh!  I haven't spoken to Trisha for a long time!!"  Then we type into the comment box, "Hi Trisha!  What have you been up to lately?  I just bought a brand new car!!"

Now, this comment (a) has nothing to do with anything, (b) will appear as a notification to every other previous commenter on the status, and (c) is even slightly boastful and off-putting.  So:  Do not do that.

Make sure that whenever you type into the box that prompts you with, "Write a comment," you are actually commenting on the post connected to that box.  If you have something else to say, please write a wall post or send a private message!  Yes, you have to visit the person's page to do that.  It requires one click on their name, and you will be there, perfectly positioned to use excellent Facebook etiquette.

(4)  Sending a private Facebook message.

You can send a private Facebook message by going to a person's page and clicking on the box that says, "Send a message."

The nice thing about private messages is that they are private.  They are just between the person and you.  You should choose this option if:

(a) There is anything of a confidential nature in the message, or any information you need to keep secure.
(b) The message would be totally boring and irrelevant to the general public.
(c)  The message is about a social event or something else that is somewhat exclusive and might have the capacity to be hurtful to people who are not included.
(d) You are unsure of whether it is appropriate to post your message in full public view.

You might be tempted to think that you should only ever send private messages on Facebook.  Indeed, it is the safest way to go.  However, it is nice to write on people's walls when an appropriate occasion presents itself.

Everybody feels loved when they get a wall post.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Our Zion trip -- day three, the Anniversary proper

 This is actually a photo from the previous day.  
Shawn snapped this shot on the Riverwalk, and I really liked it, so I wanted to share..

 Also from the previous day, I think this photo quite effectively captures the hot, dry, sunny, relentless heat of the Pa'rus trail that we took back to the visitors' center.

The following photos are a montage of our attempts to use the timer 
on Shawn's camera to get a picture of the two of us together 
on the Pa'rus trail...

 The first time, the camera fell over right before it took the picture.

 The second time, it went off too early 
(note Shawn's hand near the camera and me standing all by myself).

 Third time's the charm.  Thank goodness!!

OK--for real, we are at the third day of the trip now!

This is Shawn on the morning of our anniversary.  He is wearing the fanny pack that we purchased the previous day.  We will not be caught in Zion Park without water again!  And... today, we have an agenda planned!

The first item on our agenda: a visit to Weeping Rock.  This is a very easy hike up to a shady glen where an outcropping of rock weeps and sheds a mist down over lush growth on the side of the mountain. 

That's me up there, sitting among the moon lilies, of which you also see a close-up.  
They were just beautiful.
They are also incredibly poisonous.

This is the view looking straight up.  
Of course, in real life, you can see the background mountains better.  
It is so amazing when you see all that growth on the vertical sides of the canyon, 
growing right out of the rocks.

These tiny columbine were blooming under the mist, like a fairy land.  
I loved how beautiful they were,
but I also loved how respectfully all the park guests treated them.
It was an amazing thing on so many levels.

After Weeping Rock, our agenda directed us to a slightly longer hike,
the hike to the Upper Emerald Pool.  It was only a 2 mile hike.  
That's nothing, right?  And just look at this gorgeous canyon view!

Off to a nice, fresh start!

On the way.

Further along the way.

The trail became steeper, rockier, and hotter as we went along.  I noticed in our picture files that we took fewer and fewer pictures as the hike progressed and the going got tougher.  A rocky, uphill hike in full sun on a 105 degree day is not an easy hike.  It just isn't. 

And then Shawn got a nosebleed.  We don't know whether it was the altitude or the dryness, but something broke loose, and the nose, it began to pour out blood.

Shawn had one tissue.  I, being the organized and prepared mother of four that I am, had zero.  At this point, I was not taking any pictures at all.  We tried to figure out whether to turn back or continue to the Emerald Pool where, conceivably, Shawn could rinse himself off.  It was also almost certainly the closer destination at this point.  I begged a tissue off a fellow hiker who was already on her way back down, and we trooped on.
Funny, how all our photo choices are of the lush green areas 
that were not particularly typical of the desert terrain.  

Finally, we reached the Upper Emerald Pool.  And this is the only photo we have of it.  I suppose I was trying to capture it when it was not full of people.  Every hiker seemed to need to walk out into the water and cool off.  Some sat in it, splashing their faces.  Shawn rinsed the blood off his hands and face.  Then we sat down in the shade for a snack.

Ha!  We are getting better at this camera-timing thing!

Before we began our descent, Shawn wet down his shirt in the pool, and both of us wet down our caps.  It was a very hot day.  I was  a little nervous because we were getting low on drinking water.  But what goes up must come down.

I post this picture to show how, on the right side of the path, you see the tops of trees because of how steep the drop-off is.

This is the path down, and it was much easier going down than going up.


At one point as we descended, a mother and her daughter passed us going the other way.  My husband, being a self-denying-gentleman-type, stepped out to the right to allow them to pass him easily on the inside.  

In so doing, he lost his footing and began to fall down the side of the canyon.  I screamed.  He threw his body back to the left, trying to get his center of gravity over solid ground, and landed hard on his left shin, scraping a fair amount of skin off.  Grasping the solid ground, he pulled himself up and back onto the path.  This, while I stood and screamed.  The woman and her daughter stopped to watch and see if he was all right.

I held tight to his hand after that, and told him over and over how sad I would be if I became a widow on my 25th anniversary.

He limped, but made very light of the situation.

We decided to go back along the Riverwalk path that we'd done the previous day.  Surely we'd find a place where he could rinse the dirt and blood off his leg, and we could relax and have a little snack.

Shawn, getting ready to have an energy bar.

Soaking his feet, having a drink, taking a break.

Then we got back on the bus.  (Thought I'd include this shot since we actually spent a lot of time on these buses seeing sights like this.)  The day's agenda had one more item: The Patriarchs.  We rode until the bus narrator told us, "This IS the Patriarchs."

The patriarchs are three peaks named by the Mormons after Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.   
Shawn took this lovely shot of the view.

I took this shot of the cacti behind a fence at the lookout point.  I thought the sign was funny.  You have to tell people to stay off the cacti?

Later, we cleaned up and went out for our anniversary dinner.  We tried out a Springdale restaurant called the Whiptail Grill.  Oddly, people mostly all want to eat outside, even though it is 98 in the evening as it cools off.  It really is not uncomfortable in the shade, especially if you have a cool drink.

Shawn waiting for his food...

and me, waiting for mine...

Our appetizer, seriously the BEST guacamole I've ever had.  Our server told me, "We make our own salsa, too, but nobody ever says anything about the salsa, only the guac."  He looked really sad.  I tried to reassure him: "The salsa is fantastic.  It's just hard to compete with an avocado."

My entree: a green chili filled with goat cheese and deep fried, with a side of chicken, garnished with pico de gallo and cucumber pico de gallo.  You can't even tell how huge it was.  That was over a cup of sliced chicken.  And it was so incredibly delicious, I ate it all.

Shawn's entree: a whiptail steak burrito.  These photos don't give you any perspective on how huge these dishes were.  This food was so good!

Unfortunately, Shawn got his second nosebleed of the day in the restaurant, and could not get it stopped.  The staff was very kind about it, but eventually, after burning through about 40 napkins, we made a getaway.  Fortunately, we had a microwave back at the lodge, so he enjoyed his dinner later, when he felt better.

And that was our 25th anniversary.  Perhaps it was not Shawn's best day ever.  My tough day was yet to come...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Our Zion trip -- day 2

The other day I was out picking blueberries at the berry farm with Jonathan.  He picked over 11 pounds, and I picked over 10.  It was a hot day, but beautiful, nonetheless.  I love blueberry bushes, and the berries.  They get big, plump and powdery looking when they are perfect.  There were so many perfect berries today, it was quite stupendous.  You could gently grasp a large cluster of warm, ripe berries, and they would fall off into your palm, and presto, a whole handful to add to your bucket.

If you got hot, or thirsty, or hungry while you were working, you could easily pop a berry or two into your mouth for some relief, the pick-up you needed to keep you going.

At one point, while popping a berry (or two, or three) into my mouth, I thought back to our Zion trip.  The "countryside" out in Utah (if you can call it "countryside") is nowhere near as hospitable as the countryside here in NY.  There are no blueberry bushes in Zion National Park.

Day Two of our trip was really Day One, for all practical purposes.  Day One had been entirely consumed by travel.

The morning of Day Two, after a lovely breakfast on the balcony, facing the mountains, we decided to head out and get a feel for Zion Park.

Across the parking lot from our room, a river flowed, the Virgin River.  It runs through the canyon and, in fact, formed the canyon.  The far side of the river hosts campsites you can rent through Zion National Park.

This is if you like to camp.

I was quite happily satisfied with my own side of the river.  On our side, the lodge provided a few picnic tables and gas grills, as well as a sidewalk which led straight to the park gates.

 Picnic table and grill.

We walked to the park gates and bought our week-long pass.  We entered the gates, and there we were, at our destination, official Zion National Park visitors.

We only wanted to start getting a feel for things, not to do a big hike or anything.

We did not even have any water.  This became significant later.

In the blistering, oven-like heat of the day, we poked around, read a few signs, and began to figure it out.  There are trams that drive up and down the canyon all day long.  You get on or off them at whatever stop interests you.  We decided to ride the tram to the end and orient ourselves to the park.

Here is a picture of tourists getting on and off the tram.

A cheesy recording plays all the way up the canyon, filling everyone in on information about the park.

Shawn says, "The guy sounds like your prototypical super-dorky Forest Ranger, a skinny guy in a hat and spectacles with a whole lot of white sunscreen on his nose."

I say he never had a speech coach.  I should have taken notes, but essentially, if it was a preposition, a conjunction, or a form of the verb "to be," he emphasized it.  He never emphasized the interesting words, like devastating flood, or peregrine falcon, or even beautiful view.  He droned on and on: "The canyon was formed BY the Virgin River," and, "You will see squirrels, deer, AND even some humans on the trails."  He reminded us over and over again, "You safety IS your responsibility!"  I truly wanted to offer to re-read the script for them.  For free.

Shawn said they did it to mess up the non-English speakers, of whom there were many.

The crowning habit of the narrator was to announce at each tram stop:  "This IS the grotto..."  and "This IS Zion Mountain Lodge..." and "This IS weeping rock."  (After a few days of riding the tram, listening to this same recording over and over, Shawn took to pre-empting the announcement of each stop by asking me -- for example -- "I forget, is this stop the grotto??"  To which the recording would reply, "This IS the grotto!" And I would dissolve in tears of laughter.  I'm glad there were so many foreigners there; native Americans [and I am not talking about Native Americans] would have been very annoyed with me.)

The trams were not air-conditioned.  They had openings in the tops to let the heat out (presumably).

We rode to the end of the tram line and took the Riverside Walk.

This is an easy hike that starts at a nice building with bathrooms and plenty of water for drinking and filling bottles (which we did not have).

We saw many squirrels.  They were incredibly tame; "aggressive" is the word the rangers used.  We watched them pilfer more than one person's lunch.

We passed some natural alcoves where water wept down out of the mountain, forming tiny terrariums of growth.

Here you can see the water trickling down.  Water like this is a big deal in the desert.

I kept thinking about God, perhaps because we've studied a lot about the Israelites in the desert recently.  All of Zion Canyon is a sort of oasis in a very dry land... you get a stone's throw from the river, and everything is hot, dusty and parched, with only the odd cactus breaking up the lifeless terrain.  Within Zion, cottonwoods grow along the river banks, and a variety of plants grow in the alcoves where the rocks weep.  "He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs."  (Psalm 107:35)

We also saw deer climbing up the sides of the canyon.  I didn't get any great pictures of them, but in real life, the sight made me choke back tears.  I'd never seen a deer making its way up the sheer side of mountain before.

Habakkuk 3:19 sprang to my mind, "The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the high places."

Here are some other favorite pictures from the hike:

There was usually light on one side of the canyon or the other; except, of course, at noon.  Over the week, we learned to plan our hikes for morning or afternoon, depending on which side of the canyon they were on:  right side (east) in the morning, and left side (west) in the afternoon.

A view of the river from the shady side of the canyon.

This particular hike ended at the beginning of a very famous Zion Park hike:  
The Narrows.  

People who hike The Narrows actually hike right up the river between narrowing canyon walls.  In some places it can be quite deep, although during this dry summer, it was not very deep.  The Narrows is an 8 hour round trip hike, and most people who do it rent special shoes, walking poles, and sometimes even water-proof suits.  We saw a lot (a lot) of walking poles.

I thought it through:  an 8 hour round trip hike up a river... with no stops along the way (read: no restrooms -- for eight hours).  I made the logical deduction and decided that this hike was not for me. I would explore the beginning of the hike a bit on another day.  But I was not going to hike to a water depth that met any of my body orifices.  Nope.  No more than I would put my hand into a public toilet.

An interesting root.  You could tell it was a low-water year.

Me beneath an outcropping on the way back.

We hiked back to the tram stop, slurped up a drink at the fountain, and boarded the tram.  The tram was hot and sweaty.  And it seemed so slow.  Of course, by now our light breakfast of fruit, coffee and tea had worn off, so we were a bit low on blood sugar (read: slightly impatient and perhaps a bit carsick).  Since we were now headed down the canyon, the recording was no longer playing.  The tram pulled in at one stop and the driver said, "This is the head of the Pa'rus trail.  It is 1.5 miles from here to the visitor center."

Pish, thought Shawn and I.  We are always walking 3-4 miles in our neighborhood, every day.  A mile-and-a-half is nothing.  We could probably beat the tram with all its stops.

We got off.

This was nothing like the Riverside walk we'd been on earlier.  The canyon was much wider, and there was no shade.  No shade.  105 degrees.  18% humidity.  A mile-and-a-half can seem longer than a mile-and-a-half.

After awhile, I started to feel panicky.  At least the trail followed the river, and although we could not always see water, we could always see the row of cottonwoods.  We didn't talk too much; I think both of us were trying not to freak out the other.  Now and then, I ran my tongue around in my mouth to see whether there was still any saliva.

The trail cut closer to the river and we saw some people swimming in a swimming hole, jumping out of a tree.  It looked so refreshing!  I was tempted to try it, even in my clothes!  
Here are the swimmers we passed.

I whispered to myself, "It is going to be OK.  It is going to be OK.  You can't die of dehydration this close to a river."

Eventually, we made it back to the visitors' center, where we got drinks again at the fountain.  Then we went back to our lodge where we got crystal cold bottled water out of our refrigerator and drank it in the coolness of our air-conditioned rooms.

When we had quite recovered, we ordered lunch at a little cafe and then walked over to the local theater to see a complimentary IMAX movie about the park.  After that we drove an hour to WalMart and bought a fanny-pack with two water bottles.  Also, food for the week.  We saw the gorgeous mountain scenery we had missed the previous night when we drove up in the dark.

Following a simple dinner of sandwiches and fruit, we headed back to the theater and saw The Hunger Games... on an IMAX screen nine times the size of a regular screen.  I explained it all to Shawn, who had never read the book.

It was day, and it was evening, the second day.  A good day.