Friday, October 23, 2009

"Holbrook" Canyon

Sunday I drove home from checking on my folks' house, in nothing more than sandals, shorts and a T-shirt, and passed by Holbrook Canyon (above), home of Barton Creek, looking fall-worthy as a place could be. Of course, anyone who knows anything understands that it is really Bailey canyon and Brett's creek. I literally grew up here. We lived in a small house that my parents rented for $75 a month. It was the highest house on the hill near this canyon, and you could only access the house via a dirt road and an old stone bridge that crossed this creek. There were no neighbors, just my brothers and me. Mom was courageous enough to let us roam absolutely free, so from the time I was 4 until junior high, almost every waking day found me in this canyon, building dams or forts, throwing rocks, hiking, chasing lizards, fishing, dodging rattle snakes (we never told mom) -- you name it.

Given all that, I couldn't resist an impromptu late-afternoon hike, lack of shoes notwithstanding. Within minutes, magical colors surrounded me and drew me on. I ended up hiking for several hours, higher in the canyon than I had ever been.

The photo above is the spot where I camped the very first time I backpacked -- with my best friend Doug Folsom, at age 12, with nary an adult in sight. I don't know if times were different then or if we are just more paranoid now (thank you, TV news), but between fear of child abductions or the risk of them starting the next great conflagration, it would be hard for me to let a 12 year old son out like that. Which is a shame, because those were very formative experiences and are some of the best memories I carry. We used this same fire-ring to cook tinfoil dinners our mothers had prepared. Amazing it is still there, 35 years later.

The second time we went camping alone (probably the next year) we stayed here. It is a perfect camp spot, with overhanging, protective trees and a soft grass bed. (That fire ring also has at least 35 years of use.)

The technicolor trails were everything you could ask for: quiet but for the sound of the babbling creek; cool, crisp air flowing down the canyon; and a damp earthy smell that I swear exists nowhere else. I smiled ear-to-ear the whole time I was there, and walked with a bounce and exuberance not altogether familiar to these aging legs. As I snapped away, I realized that more than any other place in the world, this was home for me. I was finally home, after a long time away. That is a really good feeling.

I was footsore and blistered by the time I wandered out at dusk, but ever-grateful to have broken routine and explored what was, and still is, my back yard. It rained and blew hard the next day, and I have no doubt many of these leaves did not survive it. Change is omnipresent and merciless. But every so often, for a moment, it can be cheated, with past and present colliding in a happy confluence of memory and beauty that recharges the soul. Those are rare and great days indeed.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Antelope Island Sunset Part 2

Not possible to take enough pictures of Great Salt Lake sunsets from Davis County, if you ask me. I really missed them while away from my Utah home all these years. They bring an at times inexplicable affirmation that all is right with the world after all, no matter the craziness that surrounds me. For whatever reason, I feel compelled to share that small bit of sanity. Sorry if it is too much and too often.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

So Cal Part Deux: Sea World and Laguna Beach

After the nirvana of Legoland, we braced for letdown at Sea World the next day. We need not have worried. I know that among certain sectors these places are controversial. I can respect that, though I would note that none of the people in those sectors have really lived in the kill or be killed wild. A nice cozy abode with plentiful fish may well be the preferred alternative of most sea life. Even if it were not, as the images below show so plainly, the cause of preserving wild things in wild places has no greater friend than this land of captives. (Sometimes, life is paradox.)

My children were enthralled. Light shown on their faces, wonder and glee from every pore. Scientists use the cold, hard, over-involved term "anthorpomorphization" to characterize this reaction; I prefer the warm and simple "empathy." And in my book, there is nothing wrong with that.

All that said, we had a blast. Thank you Sea World, keep up the good work.

Kate could not have been more in her element.

Hard to decide who has the bigger smile -- the dolphin thinking about fish or Keegan watching him think about fish.

Check out that tongue!

Love those cheesy poser grins. Shamu did not disappoint, though. Check out the photos, and then the reactions of my kids at watching her.

Next up, the Ray pond. Alden was fit to be tied when we got there. Check out the transformation.

Easily the most beautiful smile on the planet, right below.

Handsome little guy there, no? He got all confident from the fact that he touched the Rays without any obvious consequence.

Turtle Dude knows how to spend a warm afternoon. We could all take a few lessons on that.

Kate and Colieus. Isn't she great!?

Lucky for us, Sea World had its own water park, and that is where we ended the day. Needless to say, any place with a water park is "the best!"

At least until you get cold, anyway. Look at that poor shivering little guy.

Alden in his element. Has loved playing in water since his first bath.

After spending the following day lounging at the beach, we hit the tide pools in Laguna. Kids had a blast with the Hermit Crabs. Crabs, not so much (see kill or be killed, above . . . )

Reluctantly, we finally had to leave to catch a plane. Thanks again to our good friends Paul, Marilyn and family (below), who let us crash Le Hotel Jagerhaus. We had a great time!

Monday, October 12, 2009

SoCal Part 1: Legoland

We used the school vacation/UEA Conference to go visit our dear friends the Jagers in SoCal last weekend (and we would visit and say that about them even if they didn't live so close to Laguna . . . really we would!). The trip was a success from the moment we stepped on the airplane. Alden, who is steeped in all things Star Wars, was fascinated by the airplane. He insisted on the window seat, and watched every second of the takeoff ("Dad, this is the fastest plane ever!").

For 45 minutes he made not a peep, staring out his window. Then he gently nudged me on the arm, and said, "Dad, to you want to watch the wing with me?" How wonderful it is to vicariously see the world with four year old eyes again, and remember what an amazing miracle it is just to fly.

Aldy is also a certified Lego and Star Wars fanatic, so first stop had to be Legoland. We had never been there before, and I must say, if you have kids between 3 and 9, it is a riot. Just look at what greeted Alden at the entrance:

Can you say "nirvana?" Even his cheesy, I am posing grin can't hide the happy little boy he was.

The trip was filled with firsts, including first fake car drive (below) and first roller coaster ride (above). After the roller coaster, he said "Mom, that first one was just a LITTLE bit steep." You should magnify the picture and look at his face. Priceless.

The real hit of the trip, though, was the water park. We had been warned to take a change of clothes, and it was a good thing we did. The kids played for hours. Here are a few photos.

After the water park, we made a symbolic visit to the old homestead. Still can't believe that whole thing is made of lego.

A few calmer rides and long walks later, we were done, but not without a good farewell to Bob and Albert.

We finished of the day with a trip to California Pizza Kitchen, where Keegan dug into everything with gusto. After eating a bite of their artichoke spinach dip, almost the whole restaurant heard him exclaim, "Ooh, I love that! I love eating. Eating is very fun!" A while later, he said of the pizza "That was tasty!" Now there is a little man after my own heart.

Still to come: Sea World and Laguna.