Winter 2019 is a wrap!

I was supposed to publish this on March 20 but never finished it and hit publish. How quickly this month passed!

How did winter 2019 slip by so fast? We have had a lot of stress with my mom’s health the last few months (and my passport problems added to the panic in case I needed to get home) but after an extended stay in the hospital, she is home for now.

But we’ll focus on the fun parts of Winter 2019 because there were plenty in one of my snowiest winters since I have lived in the U.S.

Snow. So much glorious snow. Oh, wait. I already mentioned that. I truly can’t remember enjoying myself so much in years. We’ve had almost constant snow since Christmas which is pretty funny because very few people around town have taken down their outdoor Christmas decorations and it’s totally OK (edited to note: they finally came down April 17). We haven’t had very many huge snowfalls but rather, just nice and consistent almost every week. After two grueling years of landscaping our yard (and we’re still not finished), we had a great winter where we were finally able to play with lots of snow days.

Jamie, Hadley and I went to the Midway Ice Castles preview party. Translucent blue, green and red sculpted waves danced on the walls, showcasing our very own aurora borealis…without the Arctic temps. 

That night was a win for all except for Bode who winter cabin camping with the Scouts.

Luckily for Bode, he got really sick the following month when they did their winter cave camping trip. He wasn’t disappointed to miss it.

DOWNHILL SKI

Lots and lots of ski days. Bode is totally rocking the slopes, Hadley is still struggling with PTSD, Jamie is skiing stronger than ever and I’m getting worse in my old age and am the slowest of all. But we still love it!

Day date!

I only had one girl’s day this year but it was memorable. As we were driving to Park City, I realized my ski boots were SOAKING wet on the inside, which was particularly suspect because I hadn’t skied in over a week. My girls Rachel and Julie to the rescue! I went through an entire roll of paper towels trying to soak up the moisture during the drive and in a stroke of brilliance, we picked up plastic bags that I wore as booties to keep my feet dry.

Girl’s day with Rachel and Julie

Redneck ski boots.

On Saturday, we did a Couple’s Day Out with Jamie’s college friends, Jim and Lindsay. First and last on the slopes, zero drama/whining, gorgeous conditions and a leisurely 1.5-hour Legends burger lunch. That day was a rare glimpse at the fun side of adulting.

NORDIC SKI

Bode and I Nordic skied twice a week after school at Soldier Hollow. This will likely be our third and final year of Kickers and Gliders ski program because he wants to try their DEVO ski team this summer and next winter. The first year we did the program, it was epic because of the incredible snow. Last year was horrible due to the lack of slow and the man-made 5K icy track we looped over and over again. But Bode didn’t mind. Whenever it did snow, the groomers made these huge piles of snow to later distribute that the kids called “snow whales.” They looooved racing down their steep slopes.

This year, Bode got bumped up to the advanced class while I happily stayed back with the intermediates who, by the end of the season, were skiing some pretty crazy stuff. I love the uphill and flats on Nordic skis but if you’ve ever attempted the downhill, you know the terror I’m talking about with no edges and the inability to turn. Regardless, it was fun seeing Bode fall in love with cross-country skiing as well.

Hula hoop obstacle course racing

He did DEVO “tryouts” last week where they could try out the team and I saw his competitive edge kick in as he raced to the top and came in second.

For the first time in his life, he is actually trying to get into shape and goes on the elliptical in the basement…except for when there are spider webs because THAT, my friends is a deal-breaker. I hope he enjoys their summer training program!

Hadley and Jamie, on the other hand, hate cross-country skiing. We planned to ski on my birthday but it was brutally cold that Wednesday morning and I was told the ski crowds would be bad. I let Hadley skip her state testing that day and she promised to do anything I wanted…so she made me crepes for breakfast and we went cross country skiing at the golf course at Wasatch Mountain State Park for the first time. Hadley hated every minute of it but bless her heart, she tried to be *kind* of positive because it was my birthday. Jamie didn’t even bother coming. :-)

The Duck Whisperer

I went back a few days without her and discovered a secret network of trails that climbed for miles and miles in the foothills. I went about a half hour before reluctantly turning around because 1) remember how I’m not great at the downhill and I didn’t want to get stranded? and 2) due to the high snow levels, we have had a lot of cougar and moose in the valley and I didn’t want to get attacked. I’m already chomping at the bit just thinking about exploring this next year:

SNOWSHOEING

During our first winter in Midway, I organized a memorable couple’s full moon snowshoe night. We skipped last year due to abysmal snow but this year, we reintroduced Soup ‘n Snowshoes with these crazies under a full moon, followed by wart removal New Year’s resolutions, and late-night game night with leg wrestling champions, pumpkin-orange diarrhea and the very salacious Song of Solomon. #WhyParentsShouldn’tStayUpLate 

And of course, there was our memorable Valentine’s Day overnight yurt retreat!

I had quite a few fun outings with friends, none of each involved plastic bag booties.

Big Springs

Wasatch Mountain State Park

 

North Fork in the Uintas

2) Jamie’s parents are celebrating their 50th anniversary later this month and that will be a different post unto itself.  Last weekend, we drove 45 minutes to the Art City Trolley because Jamie was craving the best wings ever. Little did I know that just two doors down was the home his parents rented the first four years of his life: 107 Main Street, Springville. For being so young, he remembered quite a bit. Winning a fish at a competition at the church across the street. Burying the fish in the backyard. Visiting the lady next door who ran a headstone company (it’s still there) who would give him hard candies. The huge lot across the street where his dad would garden (it’s now a 7-11). Progress, folks!

Now, let’s hear it for our rainy and snowy spring after our glorious winter!

A Backcountry Yurt Couple’s Retreat for Valentine’s Day!

Jamie and I spent one of my favorite Valentine’s Days ever in a backcountry yurt with five other couples.

The adventure started long before it began. A steady stream of storms threatened to derail our plans but the grandparents came a day early, for which I’m so grateful because they were able to take care of Bode when he got sick.  Then I-80 westbound closed but thankfully we turned off at the exit just before the closure.

Trip organizer Rob is Bode’s Scout master so I’m attuned to his craziness. I was a bit wary when he said it was a flat-ish 3.5-mile snowshoe into Beulah Vista a brand-new yurt on the east fork of the Bear River that is maintained in a cooperative venture between the U.S. Forest Service and BRORA in Uinta National Forest. I mean, I really like Rob but this is a guy who is a juxtaposition: he is a caring, encouraging Scout leader but has also been known to toughen them up when he takes picture if they cry during their expeditions. Would I be his next victim?

The Mirror Lake Scenic Byway is 78 miles between Wyoming Highway 150 and Utah State Road 150, but the middle portion is closed in the winter so we drove to Evanston. The freeway was still closed and it was a bit eerie as we wound through a tight tunnel of hundreds of semis parked along the road. We carb-loaded at Jody’s Diner before driving to the Lily Lake trailhead 45 minutes away in Utah.

(Andrew, Jessica, Me, Jamie, Jed, Nicole, Kristen, Rob, Leland, Lindsey, Jenny, Rod)

The piercing wind was biting when we arrived. We strapped on our snowshoes, grabbed our backpacks and slowly broke trail through huge swathes of wild coniferous landscape. As our heart rates increased, our body temperatures warmed and we shed layers…until the next time we left the trees and were exposed again. I have been snowshoeing. I have been backpacking. But I have never backpacked with snowshoes and though the trail was only moderate, I had just enough sensory bandwidth left when we arrived at our yurt 3.5 miles later as the wind and cold were being unleashed.

The yurt was cozy and clean, equipped with six bunk beds, a large table, propane stove, kitchen utensils and plenty of firewood for the wood-burning stove. It took a while for the yurt to warm up so we shivered off the cold as we unpacked and prepped for dinner. Rob served his mission in Thailand and served up a gourmet batch of yellow curry and rice for our Valentine’s Day feast….and a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs and hashbrowns.

He is the most organized person alive but in his words, “I don’t do games” so he put me in charge of the fun. We played an ice-breaker, followed by a VERY revealing Newlywed Game that lasted until 10 p.m. where we laughed ’til we cried.

A few truths revealed:

Jessica and Andrew lived in Dubai for three years and most recently returned from a year abroad with their five kids where they traveled to 20+ countries. Favorite family tradition: throwing hard-boiled eggs at each other for Easter.

Rob and Kristen. Apparently Rob once kissed his cousin (on the lips). But the real show-stopper was when he was asked what would be his first purchase after winning the lottery. His response? A knife.

Jed and Nicole. Though they have been married almost 17 years, they bombed the Newlywed Game but we did learn he was the worst (black) Baptist minister ever and has a deep love for all the Rocky movies.  He was also great comic relief when he picked Jamie every time for the ice-breaker and when he played the Rocky theme song as our wake-up call the next morning.

Lindsey and Leland. He once peed on a pregnancy stick, she once owned 200 shoes and don’t ask either of them to perform “Sneaky Snake” in a talent show.

Jenny and Rod. She likes peace in the morning, he’s a wildman who mountain biked the Alps. We also learned getting busted for “make-out face”  by your parents is a bad thing when engaged.

Jamie and me. We were in our element with many incriminating stories but nothing brought down the house quite like his Meet the Parents: Sleepwalk Edition. “Don’t worry, I’m Jamie Johnson” was the inside joke the rest of the trip.

Some other memorable moments:

  • Leland terrifying me as I walked back from the outhouse. It was pitch-black and he was grabbing snow for water. Not wanting to alarm me, he spoke from the darkness, “Don’t worry, I’m over here.” Good thing I had already peed because I let out a blood-curdling scream that freaked everyone else out as well. I haven’t laughed that hard in years.

Leland: the predator

  • Jamie brought his disco globe nightlight and Jessica hung a string of white lights above her bunk for some mood lighting while Jed, a Tony Robbins-certified coach, led a discussion on forming meaningful connections in our relationships.

  • Rob (a prolific musician) serenaded us to sleep with his violin. Fiddler on the roof…errr. yurt.
  • It snowed all night, the perfect setting in our cozy yurt. I worried I would freeze but had the opposite problem and slept poorly because it was so warm from the wood-burning stove.
  • Kristen’s alarm went off at 6 a.m…and she was the only one who didn’t hear it because she was wearing earplugs. Bless Rod who climbed off the top bunk to turn it off–and bonked his head twice on the ceiling. Fortunately, we fell back asleep until 8 a.m.
  • We celebrated our 16th anniversary with the most stunningly pristine bluebird day with fresh views of Deadman Pass.

    • Rob rolling up his sleeping pad. I swear, it as smaller than when it arrived from the manufacturer.
    • Jessica and Andrew brought two sleds and hit the deep powder behind our yurt.  Rod hit a tree in a very memorable way; good thing they’re done having kids.

Our trek out was a lot different than the previous day. The temperatures were milder, the sun shone brighter and our packs were lighter so it was much easier to appreciate the scale and connectivity across our powder-perfect playground.

Our Valentine’s Day Retreat 2019 was one of those experiences that can be recreated but never relived.

Here’s to creating more experiences and to saying “yes” because you just never know when magic will happen.

December fun!

I worked from home yesterday after a controlled avalanche closed Provo Canyon (my commute) and deposited 30 feet of snow across four lanes of traffic. But you won’t hear any complaints from me after last year’s dismal snow. Bring it on!!!

I’m woefully behind on updates from Thanksgiving (Colorado and The Broadmoor) and Christmas (Canada).  I set the goal to blog more because this is really my journal but between working (and my daily 1.5-hour commute), Mile High Mamas, freelance projects and family, there isn’t a lot of spare time.

So, a few quick updates that I will hopefully expand upon another time.

Thanksgiving

My contact at The Broadmoor just retired so I HAD to get one more story assignment for the magazine. Thankfully, she bit and assigned me to cover their over-the-top Thanksgiving buffet and White Lights Ceremony. We had the time of our lives (as always) and the good news is I get at least one more return trip as “payment” for the article, so we’ll return in May for Hadley’s birthday. I probably spent 30 hours interviewing, researching and writing it but what I get in return (two glorious stays) is so worth it. I love that The Broadmoor will always be my family’s happy place because it is truly special.

December

December was busy with Bode’s sax concert and Hadley’s art show. We invited some friends over for a cookie exchange prior to going to Midway’s Creche exhibit and Jamie and I had a fun time getting dressed up for the Heber Chamber’s formal Christmas dinner. We went caroling with friends and were invited by the publisher of Heber Valley Life Magazine; it was so fun to network and meet new people. I skipped out on my big baking extravaganza since we were leaving for the holidays but made approximately one gazillion gingerbread cookies.

Our annual ward Christmas party is always fun. This year, they had a photo booth where Hadley volunteered by taking photographs. The best photos of the night were undoubtedly our photos with Bonnie Jean, Paige, Lynn, Jana and Jen.

We had a couple of great snowfalls and my first snowshoe adventure with friends Jana and Sarah was pretty epic. So so so beautiful! Have I mentioned I love snow? :-)

Ski Days

Bode and I are cross-country skiing twice a week at Soldier Hollow after school. We were in the intermediate-level group until he got bumped up to the experts and I’m very happy to be left behind. He’s become a great skier, both downhill and Nordic.

It seems like since we moved here two years ago, weekends and evenings have been so full of drudgery and yardwork. But guess what: when your yard is buried under a foot of snow, Jamie can’t make you haul 61 tons of rocks so we’ve been hitting the slopes every chance we get.

Hadley is really struggling with PTSD after that snowboarder slammed into her last year. I totally get it. I was hit from behind two years ago by a skier and I’m still on edge whenever I hear anyone coming up behind me which is a nice way of saying I yell at a lot of reckless people.

On our first day of the season, I posted:

Great early-season conditions for our first day on the slopes! While the rest of the old-timers were rusty, after one run Bode boasted. “That was awesome. I feel like I’ve been skiing all season.”

Jamie: Only brought one ski boot for reasons that aren’t entirely my fault but I will take the blame because it’s his birthday weekend and he had to drive home to get it. I was stuck in the season ticket office about the same amount of time so we’ll call it a draw.

Me: Told everyone we should stick to intermediate runs so I could ease my knee back into it. By the third run, they made me go down a black diamond with bumps. As Jamie was trying to coach Hadley down a tricky section he told her, “Just do what your mom does.” “What? Complain about my knee?”

Hadley: Did great despite post-accident PTSD. Had the best quote of the day when an avalanche gun was shot and she declared: “A tribute has died.”

Christmas

I had resigned we wouldn’t be able to go home but was thrilled when a friend informed me she had found $300 tickets to Calgary, which is unheard of.  Our trip was full of the good, bad, ugly, hard, glorious and dramatic all wrapped into one and I’m so glad we were able to go to spend time with my mom. The weather has been pretty mild in Canada so I was unsure if we’d be able to skate and do some of my favorite winter activities but thankfully, the lakes and rivers opened for skating right before our arrival so we had a great time on Lake Bonavista and Bowness Park, as well as spending a day in Banff.

Top 9

2018 was one of our toughest yet as we navigated some very tough teenage issues.  But looking back, it wasn’t all bad. The highlights according to my most liked pictures on Instagram:

1) My daily commute to BYU

2) Hadley winning the middle school art show.

3) Jamie terrifying Hadley in Goblin Valley

4) Color wars at the middle school with friends Ali and Katelyn

5) Snow Canyon State Park with the Hardymans

6) Celebrated our 15th anniversary

7) Hike to Troll Falls

8) Moraine Lake

9) Waterton Lakes  (my favorite place on earth) with my kids and Dad.

Here’s to 2019!

Mount Timpanogos or Bust!

Bode’s final adventure of the summer was an overnight Scout adventure up up up Mount Timpanogos. Jamie joined him on this tedious climb–a 15 mile-round-trip trek that is not for the faint of heart…or knees.

The boys left Friday morning, hiked for 8 hours, and set-up camp a couple of hours from the summit. The plan was to wake up in the middle of the night and summit at sunrise–what a memorable way to experience this iconic peak for the first time!

Meanwhile back at basecamp (a.k.a. our house), Hadley and I had a restful sleep in our beds (though were worried about the storm brewing over Timp, which made for an interesting night for the boys). That morning, we hiked the Silver Lake to Ontario Loop at Deer Valley, which was a fabulous blend of aspens and gorgeous views of Jordanelle Reservoir at the summit….and the FREE chairlift down. We then lunched at Zupas and back-to-school shopped ’til we dropped. 

As for the boys, they woke up at 4 a.m. for a sunrise summit and put in another exhausting 8 hours on Saturday. There were boys of all ability levels and not all of them summitted but every single one of them was pushed beyond their limits and they should be darn proud. Jamie said Bode didn’t complain at all and was one of the fastest hikers, which is pretty amazing because this was by far his toughest hike ever.

And I’m convinced there is a special place in heaven for Scout leaders; ours carried his backpack and someone else’s near the end. Now when Bode and Jamie look at the view from our back deck, they can be proud they climbed that beast…and they hope to not do it again anytime soon.

Summer 2.0

It was a busy summer! For Bode, he had Junior PGA Golf League, Little Shredders Mountain Biking and Sailing Camp (with Hadley).

For Hadley, she had Girl’s Camp (with yours truly as Camp Director), BYU volleyball camp, and not to be forgotten: pioneer trek. Our good friends, the Homers, were her Ma and Pa and they put her in charge of their family’s flag which turned out AWESOME! 


She enjoyed herself with the pre-Trek square dancing and had a great time on the trail. Their family was the first to round the final bend so who would be the crazy girl who RAN the last mile? In her pioneer skirt? After a few days on the trail?
She came in first but let’s just say she walked like a cowboy for the next two days. #C-H-A-F-I-N-G.

The kids and I put in approximately a gazillion hours of yardwork while Jamie did at least two gazillion. But we finally seeded it and have a lawn! This is the before shot; after will will be next summer.

When you’re bored…you grow (or draw) wings.
When we moved to Midway, I thought my dream of having a cabin in the mountains was realized…until we visited the Kuch’s cabin in Oakley that is only accessible via snowmobiles in the winter. This place is sheer magic.

There were some awesome hikes with friends, including this gorgeous loop with Rachel to Lackawaxen Lake and Bloods Lake.

Fat Kitty. Still Fat. Still fabulous.

And not to be forgotten: A glorious reunion with Jamie’s family in Yellowstone. Our brother-in-law’s family owns two cabins on the Henry’s Fork, a tributary of the Snake River. For three days, we Yellowstoned (with a gazillion other people), played games, ate delicious food, kayaked, SUPed, Jackson Holed and chilled on the glorious deck. 

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Next up is the final adventure of the summer: Summitting Mount Timpanogos.

Fall Happenings in Midway

Day 4 of my knee-surgery-induced incarceration. We shipped the kids off to Grandma’s for a fall break at Hogle Zoo, Dave & Busters, and Fear Factory. Fat Kitty was my greatest supporter, refusing to leave my side and desperately mewing when I spent a half hour in the bathroom. A shower made me felt like a new woman and while I still need to rehab the knee, I’m hopeful we’ve turned the corner and am so grateful for my health. Friends have cooked dinners and Jamie has been a champ, bringing me fresh ice every couple of hours and after a particularly sleepless night, I called down to tell him I was awake and he appeared in my doorway with a warm peach muffin. SCORE!

The weather has been gorgeous this week, which makes being stuck at home a real bummer but now that I’ve weaned myself off my opioids, now is as good of time as any to get caught up on my long-neglected blog! Here are a few happenings:

Uinta Recreation

Need to rent an ATV, snowmobile, motorhome or waverunner in the Heber Valley? Uinta Recreation is the place to go! Jamie has been doing some web work for this awesome company and worked out to have payment done in trade.  On General Conference Saturday, we joined our friends the Homers and Fotheringhams for a gorgeous adventure in Wasatch Mountain State Park. Our friend runs a boat/recreation dealership so gave us a taste of the hundreds of miles of off-road trails as we climbed rocky precipices, flung mud, forged through puddles, and gawked at the last of the golden leaves under a sulky sky. Bode (our forever voice of reason) only told us to slow down twice so I’m calling that a win. It was truly one of my favoritestestest experiences since we moved here!

First Snow

“Suck it up, Buttercup.” Those were my parting words to my friend Lori when she commented the weather for last week’s hike didn’t look so swell. As we were driving up Guardsman Pass, it started raining and then it was complete white-out at the summit and our trail was covered in snow. But my gosh, how breathtaking is this?

We drove down the road a few miles just as the sun started peeking out and were greeted with sheer mountain grandeur on our hike. And then we drove to Park City where I introduced Lori to the mountain grandeur that is “crack bread.” Here’s to not sucking, Buttercup.

 Mountain Mornings

Our first snowy winter in Midway was unmatched but fall and foggy mornings = my second favorite season.

Fall Soccer

Bode wrapped another fun season of playing rec soccer–averaging three goals per game–with Jamie as coach. We went undefeated until the final two games and it’s so fun to see these kids thrive! And see that “kid” next to Jamie in the back row? He’s in seventh grade, 6’4 and weighs 230 pounds. I’m sure the football coaches are salivating.

Bode has also been keeping busy with coding, piano and catalyst math, his advanced math class that crams seventh and eighth grade math into one year. He gives seventh grade a “5 out of 10″ but is chugging along in his typical Bode way. He and Jamie are going on their father-son overnighter to San Francisco next week as a reward for reading the Book of Mormon. I’m thrilled for him. He’s a kid who demands very little and is grateful for everything…it’s nice for him to get some well-deserved recognition.

Hikes

Though the colors haven’t been nearly as spectacular as last year (thanks to that big snow year), we’ve had the chance to enjoy some beautiful hikes. Jamie took me on a date to Park City where we dined at Handle (best steak I’ve had in Utah) and spent the night at the Chateau Deer Valley. Hiking at Park City Ski Area wasn’t the best due to really bad air quality from forest fires but any day spent with my man is a win! 

On one of my Fridays off, a few friends and I drove to Brighton where we hiked three lakes in one day: Lake Mary, Lake Catherine and Dog Lake.

Though high school has had considerably less drama for Hadley and she’s doing really well with all of her classes, it’s tough to see her fumbling through it all without any clear direction or solid friend group. The one good thing about getting cut from the volleyball team is she has turned back to art and spends a lot of time painting (she is taking a painting class this semester and pottery next semester). She still enjoys photography and I just wish I could find someone who could really teach her to do it. For now, she enjoys our casual outings. After she had been sick for a few weeks, she and I snuck away to Cascade Springs for for a much-needed reprieve. She’s a lot like me—when she is outdoors she relaxes, unwinds and heals.

Final Fall Fling

The Church owns several private properties so when the opportunity arose to go to Aspen Lakes for the evening, we joined several friends for a fun night of canoeing, paddleboarding, ziplining, and obstacle coursing.

All this, just 30 minutes from our house. That is what we call a fall win!

Swiss Days 2018: Survived!

I had heard of Midway’s annual Swiss Days celebration when I lived in Salt Lake City after graduating from BYU and was intrigued because I served a mission en Suisse but never attended. Little did I know it would become such a huge part of my life.

This is the second year Jamie and I have been booth managers for the largest food booth at the festival: The Swiss Tacos. Last year was our apprentice year, this year, we were in charge and next year, we will be the consulting couple. And then after that, we will be able to enjoy Swiss Day in much smaller stints. All the meetings leading up to it, the week of set-up and then two 14-hour days are enough to do anyone in.

But overall, we loved it! Well, the kids and I love it; Jamie only kinda tolerates it. Large crowds and chaos aren’t really his thing. They’re not mine either but this year, I caught a glimpse of why Swiss Days is so beloved as I saw an entire town come together and many generations reunite to volunteer because it is tradition.

When I was 12, I started working at my mom’s restaurant and I love seeing my family work in the booth….

Hadley was awesome slinging dough while Bode was a great “runner” and threw the dough in the sizzling oil vats

Booth manager extraordinaire

Our youth were assigned to garbage duty and had a great time hanging off the kubotas….

How I love the Swiss Days Parade! To be clear, I hate big-city parades with their fancy floats and lack of candy. I grew up attending the Canada Day parade in Raymond and loved the small-town feel with friends and neighbors. This year, the kids tossed out candy for our friend Mimi’s “float,” Love 4 Mia in honor or her sweet daughter who passed away. They’re all about giving back to the community and it was an honor to be a part of it.

Polly and Hadley leading the charge

It was fun to see our neighbor’s Thai exchange student throwing out candy with Bode and the kids

Some other things I want to remember:

  • 80-year-old Clarence insisting upon being the tomato slicer each morning. He was elbow-deep in tomato guts when I asked if he wanted an apron and I got roped into tying it on him..and giving him a back rub.
  • The Swiss Days Committee asked if they could bring some volunteers from the Half-way House to our booth. They were really hard workers and I’m so grateful for how loving and accepting the other volunteers were of them.
  • Clean-up duty on Monday is pretty thankless except for all of the leftover treats and drinks. There was a huuuuge spread this year.
  • On Sunday, the owners of Dairy Keen opened up their restaurant for the booth managers and other key volunteers for a private dinner. It’s super fun to have a behind-the-scenes glimpse and to have so many people pitching in to take orders and cook up the food. Peach cobbler shakes for the win!

What a gift it is to be part of a small town that exudes charm and true community…and I’m glad I have an entire year to recover from it all.

Valley of the Goblins

Though we are knee-deep in our 43 tons of rock with the goal to get the backyard grass seeded by early June, we booked an overnight camping trip at Goblin Valley State Park several months ago and despite what seemed like imperfect timing, it actually could not have been more perfect.

We’re limping across the eighth grade finish line (just two weeks to go!) We had just had one of our roughest weeks with Hadley (parents who whine about how difficult parenting their honor-roll teen who can be moody and disrespectful make me scoff; we’re deep in the trenches here with real struggles). But if there’s anything that brings me hope is pulling her out of her environment and into where she thrives–the outdoors! We were only able to book a one-night stay but that turned out to the be perfect amount. We woke up early on Saturday, drove a few hours south, had a full day of adventure, camped out, and made it back in time for 1 p.m. church.

San Rafael Swell Whenever I spend time in Southern Utah, I’m bombarded with memories of my many years as a Utah-based travel writer. What wonderful adventures I had backpacking and camping with Kristy, John, Dave, Ray, Telford, Karleen, Joseph and Jed. My photojournalist friend John traveled with me more than anyone. We had many moments together but none more memorable than getting stuck in Ding and Dang canyon; another story for another day.

The desert drive is desolate (despite Hadley’s “gazelle” sighting) until the San Rafael Reef appears in the horizon.  Early settlers used the word “reef” as a comparison to oceanic reefs and the difficulties of traversing through the 2,000-square miles of arches, deep canyons and rock towers.

Our family headed to Little Wild Horse Canyon, a gorgeous slot canyon in San Rafael Swell that is part of a larger loop back through Bell Canyon.  Little Wild Horse is the perfect introductory slot canyon that allowed us a few hours of adventure. Scaling the walls. Forging through water. Climbing boulders. Snaking through tight spaces. The weather was perfect and our souls were filled with exuberance to be exploring something so epic. I loved seeing my tween and tween become like little kids again!  We had planned to also explore nearby Crack Canyon but we emerged from Little Wild Horse around 3:30 p.m. so figured we would go check into our campsite and chill a while. The campground’s backdrop was massive gothic cathedrals, which Bode, Hadley and Jamie delighted in exploring while I rested my knee. We started a campfire (Jamie and his lighter fluid scare me), grilled up burgers, roasted potatoes and had delicious watermelon.

Goblin Valley

Before dusk, we drove to the main portion of Goblin Valley State Park. The crowds of the day had petered out so we were practically all alone in the maze of twisted, stunted “goblin” hoodoos.  The park is divided into “First, Second and Third Valleys” and the best way to explore is to have no plan at all. Jamie won Dad of the year by playing hide-and-seek with the kids  in the ultimate outdoor playground. I conjured up their imaginations as we saw shapes and forms in every hoodoo: goblins, Jaba, mushrooms, Fat Kitty, clouds, spaceships and whales.  I was initially sad I didn’t take a video of Jamie scaring Hadley in tag but this progression is downright hilarious: We ventured over to the Third Valley and gazed in awe at the cathedral buttresses’ commanding presence. As we hiked back near the Observation Point, we perched on an overlook as the ebbing sun set the valley on fire.  Jamie answered Bode’s questions about great places and events in history. Back at the campsite, we roasted s’mores, read from the Book of Abraham about the stars, how we have always existed as “intelligences” before we were spirits and the eternal nature of our souls.  Then, I went on to sleep horribly all night. I love everything about camping except for restrictive sleeping bags and pads (despite Jamie’s best efforts to buy the latest and greatest) and noisy neighbors. When the sun rose the next morning, I noticed Bode cuddled up near me with HIS SLEEPING PAD ON TOP OF HIM. We all need to be like Bode. We packed up early while Bode and Hadley set out on one last adventure. They had fallen just short of summitting the buttress behind our camp. Cautious Bode gave up after a while but Hadley emerged triumphant! Which is how we all felt after a much-needed weekend of adventure, laughter and healing.

The winter of my discontent

This is the winter of my discontent. Last year was so incredible for winter adventures and this season has constantly come up short…and so have I!

Nordic Skiing

We finally got some snow on my birthday weekend and for the first time, we were able to Nordic ski the majority of Soldier Hollow. For most of the season, we were only able to ski on a 5 km loop of man-made snow. However, I was extremely impressed with the resort’s snow farming. Every time there was a storm (which was’t very often), the resort collected huge mounds of snow the kids nicknamed “the snow whales.” As the snow would start to melt, the groomers would spread the snow from the whales all over the loop. The conditions weren’t always optimal but I’ll tell you what: those kids had a BLAST climbing and skiing down those steep snow whales.

Bode has turned into a great Nordic skier and officially surpassed me this season, which really doesn’t take much. Though I love Nordic skiing and grew up skiing the track on the golf course near our house, I’ve never been very adept at skiing downhill on Nordic skis. In fact, I’m quite a hot mess. Case in point: There was a REALLY steep hill I nicknamed the hill of death along this 5 km track. The first time we did it, I barely made it down in one piece and last week, I crashed and burned. Big time. The hill was steep and icy and unlike downhill skis where you have glorious things called sharp edges and the ability to turn, your only method of slowing down on Nordic skis is to snowplow or telemark (the latter of which I do not know how to do). And so I tried the trusty ‘ol “pizza” and even that didn’t work on the icy slope as I barreled down at top speeds. As I neared the bottom, I thought “Maybe I CAN do this,” and then I wiped out…my worst ever on Nordic skis.

I was sore for days and in my former, stupider years I would have said YOU’RE MINE, MOUNTAIN and jumped back on that horse but since I’m older, wise and more injured, I took the opposite approach: I bypassed the hill entirely and cut across to the bottom of it. The instructor, Evelyn, waited for me at the top with everyone and asked, “Bode, is your mom really that far back there?” and then they noticed me already at the bottom, poised to take pictures.

I have no shame.

I was one of the fastest in his class last year but this year, he was in the “Snow Leopards,” the top level. I was among the slowest on the downhill (though the uphill climbs were definitely my strength). Thank goodness for Ethan who lagged far beyond the class and was my excuse for falling beyond.

Last week was the final week of class, which was really sad because we finally have snow for the first time all year. We had a beach party and the kids had a blast doing obstacle course races and climbing the snow whales. Bode has gotten really good at skate skiing and was the very last one in the group of 30 kids to be tagged in “Infection.”

Bode and his buddy Henry

Conquering the snow whale

I’m not sure if I should be proud or a bit worried.

Downhill Skiing

Last year was such an epic one with downhill skiing and I truly couldn’t get enough time on the slopes–between SkiUtah Board meetings at Solitude and Sundance to our memorable “Interlodge” experience at Alta (we thankfully had two awesome ski days), to frequent ski outings with the ladies and Bode. I loved skiing Utah!

But this year?  From Hadley and our friend Porter’s ski accidents to dismal snow, the odds have not been ever in our favor.

Last Friday, Jamie and I both took the morning off work to finally hit the slopes together. We were right in between two storms and we figured we had perfect timing.

Oh, how wrong we were.

The problems started in the parking lot. As we were putting on our gear, Jamie got an urgent call from a client. After waiting for him for 15 minutes, he waved me ahead to start skiing. The snow was OK but the wind and resulting cold were HORRIBLE.

By the time we finally connected over an hour later, I was ready to call it but I wanted to give him the chance to ski. We headed over to our favorite run, Powder Keg, and the conditions were sub-par and I wasn’t skiing the moguls very well. They vacillated between being icy to having weird powder stashes and branches sticking out. It was not my best run.

Silverlode is the chairlift we usually take back up but the lines were so atrociously long–almost all the way back to the lodge. And then we found out the reason.  The 7,300-acre resort consists of two sides–the Canyons and Park City. We were skiing Park City but due to the brutal winds, the Canyons never opened so all those thousands of displaced people drove over to Park City. I motioned Jamie to bypass Silverlode and keep skiing down to King Con Express, which typically has smaller lift lines. Lo, was I wrong. All the lifts ended up having Disneyland-esque lines, worse than any holiday or weekend I’ve ever skied.

As we waited…and waited…and waited to board, we decided to call it a day. The way we traditionally return to the base is from King Con to Silverlode and then back down but a helpful French man on the lift told us we could take Erika’s Gold that would bypass the lines at Silverlode and shortcut to the base.

What this nice French man failed to note was that Erika’s Gold was an expert NIGHTMARE with steep, icy moguls. Literally, I had to peer over the edge just to see where the drop-off led, it was that steep. 

“I’m not doing this,” I announced to Jamie. “Let’s go back down and wait in the Silverlode line.”

My husband coaxed me to follow some people who were traversing across to another moguled run that didn’t look quite as steep. He lied. Instead of being a 90-degree slope, this one was 88 degrees. But we had passed the point of no return.

I tried to traverse across the slope as much as I could but it was so steep anytime I turned, I lost control.  My knee ached, and I freaked out about injuring it even more. And so I did what any woman trying to survive would do: I did the slide of shame and slid perpendicularly down the slope, which is two steps up from taking off your skis and walking down and only one step up from sliding down on your bum.

I have no shame.

I was fuming at Jamie for taking me down it but eventually made it down to a more reasonably pitched mogul run and we skied the rest of the way down. I officially announced my retirement from steep moguls.

Worst date ever. But I refuse to let that be a season-ender for me so I will go back.

Maybe I do have some shame after all.

 

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.