Adventures at the Heber Valley Camp

It’s a busy weekend Chez Johnson. Bode just left on his first winter camp-out with a winter storm advisory in effect (pray for him) and Hadley has a volleyball tournament 1.5 hours away. This is the first time she is attempting to play since her accident so we’ll see how much she’s able to do. My twin nieces are getting baptized tomorrow and did I mention that big winter storm that is bearing down upon us? It should make for a crazy time.

All the Scouts are going to Heber Valley Camp this weekend. The LDS Church owns a smattering of camps throughout Utah and rents them out to the public in the off-season where it’s a madhouse trying to get a reservation. My brother-in-law Jeremy managed to score a one-night stay in one of the cabins and was generous enough to invite us along last year. I can’t believe I didn’t blog about it and just looking at the pictures makes me really sad because it was such an epic snow year. The rustic cabins and yurts aren’t heated but we sure had fun sledding, hiking and playing in the snow!

View from Heber Valley Camp of our little valley

The sledding races (we’re highly competitive)


I’ve been poking fun regarding how cold it will be this weekend but decided I’d better start getting Bode excited about the campout.

Me: “You know I’m just kidding about the cold, right? I’m sure you’ll have a blast this weekend!”

Him: “Do you mean a blast of heat?”

Me: “No, definitely not that.”

When I dropped him off at the church all the 11-year-old Scouts were loading up. Prior to departure, Bode was asked to say the prayer. Now, as a bit of background, Bode has always said THE BEST prayers. When he was younger, I kid you not–his nightmare prayers went on FOREVER–and even now when he’s blessing the food at dinner, he can sometimes ramble on a bit long (I mean, sometimes you just wanna eat). But you know in the book of Matthew when it admonishes against using vain repetitions? That is NOT Bode.

He gave a nice prayer for them to be safe and have a nice time but at the end, my friend Julie and I could barely contain our laughter as he prayed, “Please bless us to think twice before we do anything.”

I hereby vote THIS should be the new Scout motto.

 

Hernias, Abstinence and Guardian Angels on the Move

I was searching through my archives at Mile High Mamas for some content and stumbled upon this 10-year-old gem. Enjoy!

Last weekend, my husband Jamie helped his brother move to Utah. It allegedly went smoothly. Well, if you can count the U-haul’s brakes catching on fire going smoothly. Jamie called it a minor inconvenience.

It is a drive we did many times while we were dating. I lived in Salt Lake City while he called Denver home. Prior to our wedding, the plan was for him to fly to Utah and help me move to Colorado.

Until he got a hernia.

He had the choice to have the surgery before or after our wedding. We were holding out for Operation Consummation on our wedding night and call me crazy but a hernia just did not seem like a viable part of the process. “OF COURSE YOU WILL HAVE THE SURGERY BEFORE!” I yelped. I think I even used all-caps.

And for all those naysayers who do not believe abstinence is feasible in today’s society, throw in a hernia. Trust me, it works.

This left me to execute the move by myself. I threw the biggest, baddest going-away party around – one with loads of food…and boxes (hence the badness).

I was feeling like an empowered woman of the 2002s as I set out on the highway with my Grand Cherokee towing all my treasures. My trip was going well until the weight of the load blew out my tire in the middle of nowhere.

So, there I was stranded somewhere between Green River and Grand Junction when my guardian angel pulled up beside me. Actually, he appeared in the form of a financial analyst who was going through a painful divorce and was returning from a trip to Las Vegas.

He not only helped fix my tire, but followed me to the nearest gas station where we parted ways. A few miles down the road, he flagged me over, concerned about the different levels of air in my tires. He then slowly tailed me all the way to Grand Junction until I was safely in the care of a tire center. Evidently they breed guardian angels in that town.

Too bad he didn’t stick with me the rest of my drive. There was the blizzard atop Vail Pass that delayed me for two hours. Then when I was about two miles from Jamie’s condo, I looked out my window to see something that looked suspiciously like the bar-end on my bike. Turns out the storm had massacred my bike rack and I drove about 10 mph the remainder of the drive as my bike flopped like a dead fish off the side of my Jeep.

When I finally arrived at the condo, I collapsed into Jamie’s arms, blubbering about my ordeal and cursing his hernia.

I later got my revenge: I was exempt from moving and painting our new house because I was eight months pregnant.

Though I don’t know if I can call a weak bladder, killer heartburn and a 40-pound weight gain retribution.

 

New Year’s in Zion

We have lived in Utah over a year and have not explored Southern Utah at all. We spent last New Year’s Eve in our beloved Colorado so this year, I was NOT going to be stuck here without plans (we would later get invited to two parties) but I’m glad spent our long weekend with good friends, Dave and Rebecca, in St. George who make us look like homebodies. They adventure almost daily, just returned from a trip to Kenya, are going to Hawaii next month and then to Australia and Fiji later this year. You’d think with those itineraries they would be extremely wealthy and while they do well, they’re also minimalists and have very few material possessions. It’s all about priorities, folks.

Snow Canyon State Park

When we arrived, we hiked the Hidden Pinyon Trail in Snow Canyon State Park, a wonderland of ancient lava flows and red Navajo sandstone.  This 7,400-acre scenic park’s majestic views of lava-capped ridges was our perfect introduction to the desert.

Zion National Park

When I was a Utah-based travel writer many years ago, some of my favorite adventures were in Zion National Park. Angel’s Landing. Observation Point. Backpacking the West Rim Trail. Truly, it’s like no place on earth and I was saddened to see just how overrun it has become. In the peak season, shuttle buses run to help with the congestion and lack of parking but on this busy holiday weekend in the off-season, there were no such options. Dave is the ultimate trip planner and insisted we had to wake up at 5 a.m. to get a parking spot. We whined and complained but he was correct–by 6:45 a.m, all the parking was full. It was a COLD morning so we stayed snuggled up in their van until the sun warmed the red rock cliffs. Sadly, Jamie had a rheumatism attack all night long so stayed behind to sleep.

Angel’s Landing is the most iconic hike in the park (besides the Narrows) and my kids were both dying to do it…but Dave’s youngest daughter was wary of scrambling on the vertigo-inducing precipitous cliffs with only a chain to hold onto. We instead opted to hike to Scouts Landing, which took us to the base of the Angel’s Landing and though I’m sad we couldn’t knock this one off the kids’ bucket list, we were just happy to be there. And I was particularly happy my knees withstood Walter’s Wiggles’ steep switchbacks and the descent.

 

Walter’s Wiggles

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Following our hike, we took a lovely southeast detour to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park’s shifting sea of soft red sand.  Formed from the same iron oxides and minerals that give us spectacular red rock country, the tired kids came to life–racing, jumping and rolling down the rippling arcs of rust-colored sand.

New Year’s Eve

The LDS Church is true all the time but especially true in St. George. Because it was New Year’s Eve, we only had one hour of meetings as opposed to three + a speaker didn’t show up so we got out early. We took our family to tour Brigham Young’s Winter Home, followed by a hike. We were looking for something low-key because it was the Sabbath and stumbled upon the coolest area in St. George, the Red Cliffs Desert Preserve with slot canyons, an arch and the coolest sandstone formations that felt like we’d be dumped off on Mars.

New Year’s Eve was just as memorable. We had full-contact fondue and Rebecca had pulled together some fun Minute to Win It Games. I had gained the reputation with their daughters as “the fun one” so they fought to have me on their team, which they later regretted.

You win some, you lose some. Or in my case, you lose them all.

We watched The Rookie. Jamie and I went to bed shortly after midnight while the kids all stayed up until the movie was over. Sweet Bode would later tipdly knock on our closed door for family prayers, only to have sleepy Jamie growl “kill him.”

Because every New Year should begin with a death threat. Here’s a “killer” 2018.

Relationship Dynamics

Fifteen years ago, the Pumpkin Man and I were married in the Denver LDS Temple for time and eternity.

Every marriage has ups and downs but the challenges we’ve have been faced with the last couple of years have been staggering. The last month has been particularly difficult but I’m so grateful to have such a steady, loving, strong and funny man by my side. Despite his own suffering and pains, he has risen to uplift and support the rest of us and I’m forever grateful.

I found this gem from the archives and it still rings true today

=====

This may come as a surprise to you but I can be high-strung.

Or maybe this is not so shocking to those who know me.

I married a great man who is easy going. I have known from the get-go part of what makes our relationship work so well is how we balance each other out.

* I blog.

* I love eating pumpkin.

* He grows giant pumpkins.

* He blogs about his pumpkins.

See? Match made in heaven.

But it wasn’t until our recent ski trip to Keystone that I had an epiphany about it all. We had arrived at the resort and were unloading the car to check-in. As usual, I was stressed about something. Because that is what I do. And as usual, he tried to calm me down.

I have just accepted that this is the dynamic of our marriage. Sometimes I am appreciative. Other times, it annoys me. What if I don’t want to calm down? What if I am completely validated in freaking out over this?

But last week, I was struck withgratitude that he always talks me off the ledge. And I wondered what my life would be like if I married someone who was not a calming influence in my life. Someone who fueled the fire instead of harmoniously extinguishing the flames.

It would not be pretty.

I have been in relationships like that. I once dated a guy who was exactly like me. I know–it is alarming that this is possible. His strengths were my strengths, his weaknesses were the same. We were both journalists, loved the outdoors and were passionate souls ready to conquer the world. In the beginning, we were on such a high–we were the perfect match. I was so thrilled: I was dating myself!

But then we hit the wall. We didn’t compliment each other in the least. We didn’t learn from one another nor grow together. And then I woke up with dread one morning: I was dating myself. Worst. Thing. Ever.

How grateful I am to have married a man who appreciates my strengths and buoys me up from my weaknesses. Happy 15th anniversary, my love!!!

The bobsled and my ride of death

As you’re watching the track events at the Olympics, here’s a bit of perspective for you. Eight years ago, I rode the bobsled in what I later called “the position of death” and it was craaaazy. Not because of the speed but due to a little thing call G-force. For this reason, most of the athletes’ training is spent off the track–they usually only spend two days per week on training runs. Enjoy my stroll down memory lane.

 

I’ve done some crazy things in my life.

I won’t expound upon them because my mother sometimes reads my blog.

Riding in the 4-man bobsled at Utah Olympic Park was the craziest thing I have ever done.

We all know bobsledders go fast—upwards of 90 mph. I was equipped to deal with speed. What I was not prepared for were the excruciating 5 Gs of force weighing down upon me.

To put this into perspective: astronauts only feel 3 Gs during maximum launch and reentry in the Space Shuttle.

It was the first time even my Afro could not defy the forces of gravity.

Some background: I was in Park City that weekend. I was a part of Park City Mountain Resort’s cutting-edge social media site Snowmamas and my fellow Snowmamas and I congregated for a glorious weekend of skiing, tubing, eating and brainstorming.

Fellow family travel writers The Vacation Gals (Kara, Jennifer and Beth) were also in town. On Saturday afternoon, we toured Utah Olympic Park, which consists of the interactive Alf Engen Ski Museum, the inspiring 2002 Eccles Olympic Winter Games Museum, and a fascinating bus tour of the aerials, ski jump and the combined track venues.

I have done all this before. What motivated me to act as a fourth-wheel was the opportunity to do the bobsled at no charge (a $200 cost).

I figured it would be a roller-coaster on steroids. I did not anticipate it would be like gold medalist Steve Holcomb described as a “minute-long car accident” on one of the fastest tracks in the world.

Jen, Kara and I were assigned to Sled No. 9 and underwent a 30-minute orientation. The room was predominantly filled with chest-thumping, testosterone-oozing men.

And then there was us. But how serendipitous was it that my helmet and sled totally matched my outfit?


In a 4-man bobsled, there is a pilot (driver), positions 2 and 3, and the brakeman in the back. Our instructor Jon described that fourth position as the most aggressive and the one that bears the brunt of the force. For the public ride, the pilot would serve as both driver and brakeman.

You know. Because the person in Position 4 is consumed with a minor thing like not dying.


And who would be insane enough to volunteer for said Position of Death (POD)? Me, of course. Kara and Jennifer gushed gratitude and vowed they would owe me for life. After what I endured on the Comet bobsled, a proper display of indebtedness would be naming their next child after me. Or, in the very least, their favorite goldfish.

The sled follows 15 curves at speeds only 10 seconds less than the professionals. We were the final competitors. In the public rides, no one does a running start so Jen leisurely entered through the back of the sled, followed by Kara and then me in the POD.

After straddling the person in front of you, the strategy is to shrug your shoulders the entire ride to prevent your head from bobbling around. We used the handles to hold ourselves upright and hang on for dear life.

We were gently pushed off the starting line and that was the final placid moment of our ride. I’m still at a loss for how to describe the sensation of having 5 Gs of force crushing down upon you. It was painful. It was fascinating. It was thrilling. But mostly it was just excruciating.

When I watched bobsledders on TV, I always assumed their head bobbing was due to the velocity but it is more attributed to defying the forces exerted by gravity.

Upon finally coming to a stop, my first thought was, “That was the most unbelievable experience of my life,” which was followed by “WHY THE CRAP DO BOBSLEDDERS SUBMIT THEMSELVES TO THAT INSANITY DAY IN AND DAY OUT?”

And then all thoughts were overcome by severe throbbing. Dazed, we posed with our cutie pie pilot Jake.


See my smile? I did not mean it.

When I woke up the next morning, I had a severe case of whiplash and could not move my neck and shoulders. The blood vessel in my right eye had burst and I looked like I got my butt kicked by the neighborhood bully.

Which, in reality, I kind of did.

His name is Bob.

The one-legged gingerbread man

Things have been a bit serious on this blog lately so lest you’re worried we’ve become saints, I assure you we’re still as cantankerous as ever.

Following our friend Porter’s ski accident, I was at a loss as to what we could do to help while the ambulance whisked him away to the hospital. He was originally going to stay in Park City so I offered to bring them their shoes (they were obviously still wearing ski boots). But then they opted for Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City in case his leg was broken. I offered to watch their younger children but Julie’s in-laws took care of them. She left her van in the resort’s parking lot and I volunteered to bring Jamie back and drive it home but she told us to hold off. I called guest services to tell them not to tow the car if she needed to stay there overnight but I still felt at a loss.

What could we do to help this poor family? Food. Food is always the answer.

So, I came up with a plan to make Porter some cookies but not just any cookies but one-legged gingerbread men because what more could a kid want when he busts his leg, right? We did a terrible job decorating them and Hadley made a memorable card to commemorate when Porter ran into the SLOW sign:

When you have lice at Christmas, the Johnsons come caroling at your house wearing hairnets.

When you’re skiing and hurt your leg, the Johnsons bring you one-legged gingerbread men because we’re those kind of people.

Hostages

See this guy? 

He’s going through a late-in-life crisis. We’ve been traveling the last few weekends. First, to Salt Lake City for Christmas, then to Zion for New Year’s and then again last weekend for Jamie’s grandpa’s funeral. Compound that with the fact I’ve been gone a lot lately–and it’s about to get worse–and this guy is needy, needy, needy. We try to give him as much attention as we can when we’re around but his anxieties are manifesting themselves early in the morning.

Apparently we’ve made a bad choice in feeding him kitty treats after we wake up because he’s become downright obsessed with them, so much so that he desperately needs them at 4 a.m. And 4:30 a.m. And sometimes at 5 a.m. I normally love having him sleep at my feet but these early mornings are killing Jamie and me, especially because he hasn’t been sleeping well anyway (sometimes he doesn’t fall asleep until 1 or 3 a.m.) So, we started locking Fat Kitty out of our room and while he’s happy to go to sleep with Bode, he has made it clear we are his No. 1 choice. The other morning, he stood outside of our door meowing. I tried to shush him away but he kept right on going. In a desperate attempt to get him to shut up and not wake everyone else, I got up but didn’t give into him by rewarding him with kitty treats until much later. If it works for kids, it works for cats, right?

Nope. Fat Dude has a food quota to reach every day and he doesn’t go down easily. So, last night we made a new plan: to let him “meow it out.” The problem with that is it wakes us up but unlike when we let our kids cry it out, we aren’t worried about something being actually wrong.

Last night was night one of Operation Meow It Out and we cranked our humidifier to high so we wouldn’t hear him. I had to go to the bathroom at one point in the night but told myself, “Don’t do it. HE’LL KNOW YOU’RE AWAKE AND WILL START MEOWING.” At 4 a.m., he came calling but I only heard him meow once…likely because I was in my own stupor from lack of sleep. I went on to feverishly dream about him but was wracking my brain about the word he used to express his displeasure.

When I woke up, I remembered that word loud and clear: “MEOW.”

Heaven help us all. We’re being held hostage by a fat cat.

The poisoning

OK, I don’t know if I was really poisoned but for 24 hours, I had a really bad case of food poisoning, Norwalk Virus, or something wicked this way came. I barely left my bed yesterday except for my memorable jaunts to the bathroom. Exhausted and starving, I was awake all night because I’d slept all day and “woke up” feeling even worse when I saw the tornado that had been unleashed in our house.

I’m not sure if my family has some sort of physical ailment that prevents them from putting dishes or anything else away so I spent the morning cleaning their C-R-A-P and doing the laundry.

When I complained about it to Jamie, he told me,”It’s our way of showing just how needed you are around here.”

It’s sure nice to be loved.

November: It’s a wrap (except I have yet to wrap up August, September, or October)

It would appear I’m down to weekly updates these days so I’ll take what I can get, especially with the busy holidays coming up. In 2018, my resolution is to do better! Here’s the ’411.’

Thanksgiving was great despite the fact it’s probably my least favorite holiday. Football. Food I don’t like (except for the pies and rolls). But it’s sure nice to have Jamie’s family in Salt Lake City. We had a nice, leisurely day eating, playing Pictionary and watching movies because nothing says “Happy Thanksgiving” like watching Poltergeist. For Black Friday, Jamie’s mom took Hadley shopping (bless her heart) while Jamie and I hit a few stores. No, we’re not those crazies who get up at dawn to fight the crowds but went to stores like Ross and TJ Maxx that were ghost towns. We need to take full advantage of every opportunity when we’re in the “big city.”

After shopping, I took Jamie’s sister hiking with Jamie, Bode and me. I lived in SLC for five years after college and was a trail-running beast–I knew every single trail along the Wasatch Front during those glory days. I was going to take them up one of my favorite hikes, the Living Room, but Lisa doesn’t hike much so we opted for something a bit more mild behind Red Butte Gardens. Until Jamie and Bode thought it would be a good idea to take a sketchy trail straight down to the base. Lisa did fine; I almost died (worst knee pain ever). I didn’t take any pictures because I was too busy yelling at Jamie but this is a collage Lisa posted.

I’m still actively searching for a part-time job. Business is still going well for Mile High Mamas and I’m loving all the VIP holiday invites and travel gigs I continue to pass up.  I’m not good in this waiting place–I’d rather delve in head-first, particularly when we’re under so many financial strains like needing to buy a new car. We’ve proven we can mostly get by as a one-car family but winter driving and my out-of-commission Pilot will be another story completely. My friend Kelly is a Presidential Diamond doTerra rockstar who is drowning with work and a move next month so I offered to help out in December. It’s a win-win. She needs assistance, I need some extra cash.

Related: Remember that BYU job they assured me was mine? I was curious to see who they hired instead. They were looking for a writing ventriloquist (someone who could write in several voices for different shows/series, be engaging, funny, etc.) so I tracked down some of their material and it was so bland, boring and BLAH that I could’t believe I was beat out by such a terrible writer. I’m not sure if that makes me happy or sad. Mostly sad because it really was the perfect position for me.

We moved into our house a little over a year ago and I still miss our Colorado friends like crazy. We have friends, even some good friends, but they just don’t socialize like we did in Colorado. I’m not sure if it’s because people have larger families or are busier here but I’ve struggled that we don’t have adventure buddies. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m the one doing the inviting and I’m burned out from always being That Person. So, I was thrilled when my friend Sarah invited us and another family to her Uncle Brandt’s cabin overlooking the Tetons in Idaho. That trip deserves a separate post unto itself but it has been one of my favorite adventures since moving here.

BYU has had one of its worst seasons in their football history so we didn’t buy tickets (and really, who could top last year’s AMAZING EXPERIENCE?) However, my friend Julie called me at the last minute and offered up her tickets. The conversation went like this:

Me: “Jamie, how busy are you today?” Him: “Really busy.” Me: “That’s too bad because Julie just called and wants to know if we can use her BYU football tickets. The game starts in an hour.” Him: “EVERYONE GET READY. WE HAVE TO GO NOWWW!!!”

 

Fortunately, BYU’s basketball team is doing much better. Jamie’s dad has season passes so we recently enjoyed a nice date night. I really like this guy despite the fact I’m a sports widow when both football and basketball are in season. And that he takes me down precipitous cliffs. 

Utah has no snow. I won’t expound any further upon my displeasure. A few weeks ago, we attended the Winter Kick-off Party at Park City Mountain. The free eats and alpine coasters confirmed we’re THOSE people who scream at anyone ahead of us who dares to brake. 

I’m trying to make lemonade despite my lack of lemons. Jamie and I did a lunchtime hike at Soldier Hollow this week (where Bode is supposed to start ski lessons in a few weeks). It’s lookin’…BROWN.

This photo was taken moments before the wipeout of a lifetime and a sprained arm from playing Pokémon Go a.k.a. Blood Sport.

Some of my favorite hikes are the ones no one knows about and my friend Mindi is the Queen of Off the Beaten Path! I was so happy to hike Sid’s Canyon with these fellow Colorado-turned-Utah gals…even if the steep climbs kicked my butt.

And today, I went mountain biking. I have a map that says there is a perimeter trail around Jordanelle Reservoir but my explorations navigating broken bridges, streams, mud pits and ice in the Rock Cliffs area testified otherwise.

 

“That Amber, she sure is a smart girl.” #saidnoonever .

P.S. I’m totally bringing my kids back there.

Small Town Living at its Finest

Some of the things that attracted us to Midway were its small-town appeal, charming Swiss architecture and mountain living with easy access to city life. Unfortunately, a lot of other people feel that way and Midway is experiencing a population boom. We’re part of the problem but my gosh, if we’re not going to join the fight to slow down development.

Charleston is bordered by Midway to the North, Heber City to the east, the Wallsburg Rise to the south, and Deer Creek Reservoir to the west. It is a mostly rural community (last census in 2000 listed a population of 378 but it’s grown since then) and they have smart measures in place to prevent over-development.

Midway just elected a new mayor and I was reading the results in our newspaper, The Wasatch Wave (albeit a week late because, you know, it’s a weekly). And I LAUGHED OUT LOUD at this funny announcement: “Due to Charleston’s Mayoral Election ending in a tie, a coin toss will determine the winner.”

The plus side: At least it wasn’t a duel.