Sunday, July 19, 2009

Albion Basin

Six months ago Uncle Salty Pants had the foresight to schedule a group campsite at Albion Basin Campground for this past weekend. I don't have time to write a lot, but will say this:
  • More wildflowers than you ever have the right to see in your lifetime: check
  • Great alpine hiking: check
  • 105 degrees in Salt Lake Valley, 78 degrees at the campground: check
  • Ptarmigan anxiously watching her chicks crossing the road: check
  • Rufous colored Marmots: check
  • More ground squirrels than you can throw a rock at trying to steal your lunch: check
  • Giant moose with velvety antlers: check
  • Mountain lake to dip your toes in on a hot day: check
  • Happy children and very good company: check
  • 24 blissful hours without thinking about work: check

World's cutest camper, right there.

White Columbine at the campground.

The cousins and Devils Castle.

The Campers.

The Lunch Thief.

Cecret Lake.

Cousins holding hands. Cracks me up.

I can't tell you how much I needed that this weekend. I am ever thankful for those tender mercies.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Its Happened

Well, the bomb dropped at work this week: Flying J plans to "merge" with Pilot, its chief rival in the truck stop business, whose headquarters are in Knoxville Tennessee. Pilot's management will control the company, and as they say, "legal is a headquarters function." So long job. Don't know how long it will take, but I am deeply sad. It has been a great place to work, and I have had more fun being inside a company managing challenging issues than I have ever had in a workplace. It is hard to think you have finally found a home only to see it move away. Please keep my family in your prayers.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sequoia National Park For Three Amazing Hours

A recent business trip took me and a work colleague, Fred, to Fresno.  About an hour and a half away was Sequoia National Park, and when business finished early, neither of us could resist. In truth, it is one of the most unique places in the world.  You see, there are all other trees, and then there are Giant Sequoias.  At first sight they make you think perhaps Paul Bunyan really did exist, because that outsized tale in all its glory fits easily into these outsized trees.  

There simply is no way to really portray a Sequoia in a photo.  The seemingly tiny, thin trees surrounding the spiral giant above are in fact 150 feet tall. It would take several men with arms outstretched just to touch at middle finger-tips and surround the bases of those smaller trees, which have pine cones the size of my forearm.  To realize that at one time the Sierras were covered in the far larger Sequoias is to feel the world primeaval.  The fact that these living things were also around at the birth of Christ imbues the trails among them with a reverence I have experienced only in very sacred places.  

In this place you are tempted to look up all the time, but I am thankfully here to tell you that it would be a grave mistake. As we walked among the tall trees in the early evening, the fellow below jumped out about forty feet away, and began shredding a tree of its bark like cotton candy off a paper stick.  Happily, grubs are apparently more interesting than people, and as soon as it was done with them, the bear walked briskly away, leaving us to continue our walk.

A forest like this will breathe life back into you, and both Fred and I were in deep need of that salve. These trees survive searing fire and direct lightning strikes with a shrug, and that tangible resilience and permanence literally emanates from them. It feels like cool water in the blowing desert sands of the world.

The tree above is the General Sherman, known as the largest tree in the world by mass.  Yet for all their size, and the exaggerated wrinkles in their bark, Sequoias are smooth and soft to the touch, with a fine fuzz finish on the outside.

Your neck may creak by the time you are done, but you will never tire of looking up.

Perhaps the best part, though, is that critters notwithstanding, we were virtually alone on our Tuesday evening walk. Apparently, people don't go out of their way to see trees.  If you haven't been, you should go. You will never regret doing it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Drive Up the Street

If you drive up our street to the top, about a quarter mile, and take a left, you enter a road which quickly becomes dirt and ascends Ward Canyon. Twenty-six white-nuckled miles later, you descend Farmington Canyon. In between lies a VERY narrow road, a lot of fun, and some of the most sweeping views of the Great Salt Lake you can find anywhere. We decided to drive it last Sunday afternoon, and were not disappointed, except, perhaps, for the one of us who was trying to sleep as his dad drove the washed out road.

During one particularly bouncy stretch, there was a tense exchange:

Keegan: "Whoa, what was that?"
Dad: "Sorry, it is a very bumpy road."
Keegan: "That means you have to slow down, dad. SLOW DOWN!"

Whoever heard of a 2 year old backseat driver? Well, I have one. Lucky me. Here he is in all his glory.

Kate and Alden were much more tolerant, and generally didn't let the bouncing get in the way of watching Scooby Doo episodes on the DVD player, or enjoying the views along the way.

After a bit, even Keegan began to have fun, walking amongst the alpine flowers and clinging to binoculars every step of the way.

Of course, there is nothing like a beaver pond to make any trip, no matter how bouncy, a success.  We found a really great one about 2/3rds of the way through, and the kids had a heyday, wading, throwing rocks, and making friends with some boys who caught a salamander in the pond, and were kind enough to share.  

No sign of the beaver, but his handiwork was evident everywhere.  Farther along, up Francis Peak, there were some wonderful wildflowers.

The photo below is a view from the top.  The near peak is Bountiful Peak, and in the background lies the much higher mountains that tower over Salt Lake City and give us our great skiing.  

 I want to send the photo in to Chrysler with the caption "There is Only One Jeep."  Maybe it would even help them pay back that loan from my tax dollars. Win, win there.

Here is the family hiking up an un-named peak with Bountiful below to the left and the Salt Lake Valley in the background.   It was a hazy day, but the views were spectacular nonetheless.  In any event, I plan to come back a few times, because the sunsets are simply amazing.

All in all, a great afternoon.

Has it Come to This?

We went to our local, small town (Centerville) parade on the Fourth of July, and they were handing out little American Flags for all the kids to wave.  Kate, excited and jumping up and down, ran to get one for each of our family.  On her way back, she looked down, suddenly wrinkled her nose all the way up, and exclaimed: "MADE IN CHINA?!" 

I think Kate was the only one who noticed. I wish I could convey the confused disappointment her tone contained.  Surely, we can and must do better for our children, can't we?  If we don't, I fear it could be a bumpy ride for them. Here's hoping that Made in the USA stages a comeback.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Bee-Loud Glade

I love the phrase that is the title of this post. Wish I could take credit for it, but it belongs to W.B. Yeats, from his poem, The Lake Isle of Innisfree, which I first read in Cambridge, England in 1986. It has stuck with me since, and, as I was in need of my own place of peace on Friday (work has taken a marked turn for the worse), I went to Soapstone Basin in the Uinta Mountains. There, for a time, heavy-heartedness left me, as I surrounded myself with what I feel is miraculous evidence of a loving God. Here are more photos, interspersed with the poem. Hope you enjoy.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:

Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
and live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
and evening full of linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand in the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.