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.

 

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.

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.

Lessons Learned in 2018

We’re only a week into 2018 and already, the future is much brighter and more challenging than ever! In addition to starting a new job next week, here are a few lessons learned in 2018:

1) Grandpa Smith. We found out on New Year’s Eve that Jamie’s 90-year-old Grandpa Smith passed away. He has been steadily declining for some time now and when you’re so advanced in age, death becomes a celebration of life, not a time of mourning. I’ll write a separate post about some of the sweet moments from the funeral but he truly was such a man of honor with a tremendous legacy.

2) President Monson. A few days later, our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, passed away. He was also 90 years old and there have been so many remarkable tributes flooding the news and my social media channels. His entire ministry was dedicated to the motto “To the Rescue,” a lesson he learned early-on:

 More than half a century before he became the 16th president of the LDS Church, Thomas S. Monson, who died at 10:01 p.m. Tuesday in his Salt Lake City home at age 90, was an inexperienced, 23-year-old Mormon bishop with a distressing problem that would define his life.

He had the distinct spiritual prompting to leave a priesthood leadership meeting as his stake president was speaking and visit an elderly member of his congregation in the hospital. It seemed rude to stand, shuffle over 20 people and exit as his presiding leader spoke. Instead, he sat uncomfortably until the talk ended, then bolted for the door before the closing prayer.

At the hospital, he ran down the corridor. He stopped when he saw commotion outside the room of the man he was to visit. A nurse told him the man had died, calling Bishop Monson’s name as he passed away. Shattered, the fledgling bishop went outside and wept, sobbing. He vowed then, in the parking lot of the old Veterans Hospital in Salt Lake City’s Avenues, that he would never turn a deaf ear to another prompting.

“It’s the most impressive story I know from him about his ministry to the one,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “As far as I know he kept that promise ever since. It became fundamentally characteristic of his life and what sets him apart from others, that he committed to this idea of following a prompting, and the focus almost always was a single person.” -Deseret News

3) Porter. Our season passes for Park City Mountain have black-out dates during busy times that included Christmas. The first chance we got to hit the slopes also happened to be the last day of winter break so we invited our good friends to join us. Their two children, Porter and Kallie, are around my kids’ same ages and ability levels so it’s a great fit!

We were about 1.5 hours into our ski day racing down Kokopelli when I noticed a child had crashed in a sign. I quickly slowed down and was horrified to realize it was Porter and he was badly injured. He’s a tough kid and an incredible athlete so I knew if he was crying, it had to be serious. His mom Julie and I quickly went into action. I called 911 while she embraced Porter and whispered a prayer in his ear. He immediately calmed down and Park City’s Ski Patrol was there in minutes to administer to him and take him down the mountain in the toboggan. He was raced to Primary Children’s Hospital and they were relieved his femur wasn’t broken and he had a deep muscle contusion diagnosis, which means 1-2 months of healing but no surgery.

During all the chaos following the crash, my kids and I patiently stood by for a long time, unable to do much besides calm Kallie down and steer skiers away. Julie tried to send us home but I refused in case she needed additional help. Later that night, she texted me:

Thank you for saying ‘I am not leaving you.’ That was just what I needed.

My response to her was:

And thank you for making it a sacred moment by fervently praying over your boy and so beautifully showing us how we should all react to hard things.

One crash, two very important life lessons learned.

 

Alta Ski Area to the Max

Do you remember last year when we were maximum interlodged (a.k.a. snowed in) at Alta Ski Area due to avalanche danger? That article is live today!

We are holed away at Alta Ski Area in Utah as the wind and snow howl, the only visibility the distant light of the snowcats grooming the 36 inches of snow from the latest storm…and more is expected the next day. The kids are nervous; they’ve never skied conditions like this. When we arrived, tales were flying from real-life storm chasers of epic powder and the previous day’s “interlodge” where people were required by law to stay indoors as avalanche crews blasted the hanging faces of Little Cottonwood Canyon. One thing is for sure: these kiddos will never forget their first time attempting Alta’s legendary powder.

Many years ago, I worked as the publicist for Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort but here’s my secret: I always preferred skiing its next door neighbor, Alta. Located 45 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport, Alta is literally a mountain with a skier’s soul and is one of the fewest remaining resorts that bans snowboarders. It’s also one of the oldest ski areas in the country, opening its first lift in 1939 and continuing to evolve while staying true to its roots: deep, unadulterated snow without the fancy bells and whistles. Alta is for purists who don’t care about 5-star accommodations and the nightlife; its magic happens during the day. CLICK TO KEEP READING

 

Two Years Ago Today

Today’s Facebook memory brought me back to when it all began.

Two years ago today, I woke up thinking it was just another day. It was a Saturday and our dear friend Anna, who had been baptized the year prior, was going through the temple for the first time.

Two years ago today, I was standing in the Celestial Room surrounded by dear friends and thought my heart would burst with how much I loved them all…and how perfect our Colorado life was.

Two years ago today, I was sitting at my computer later that afternoon and received the very strong prompting to look for real estate in “Soldier Hollow.”

Two years ago today as I did that preliminary search, I already knew this was to be our new path.

Two years ago today as I sat at our ward Christmas party that night, I sobbed knowing it would be our final one with the dearest friends and congregation I had ever known.

It would take almost another year for this prompting to come to fruition.  What has awaited us in Utah has been an eye-opening, life-altering, trajectory-yanking journey that has been so thoroughly challenging yet filled with faith and miracles as we’ve been launched into a new world with emergent teenagers.

And I can’t help but wonder where we’ll be in 2019, two years from today.

 

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.

Stanley B. Visits Utah!

On October 8, we celebrated our 1-year anniversary for moving into our house. It was also Canadian Thanksgiving so nothing says “Happy Thanksgiving/1-Year Housewarming quite like our favorite dish from our local Mexican restaurant: The mighty Molcajete.

My mom is no longer able to travel and my dad has been her full-time caregiver for quite some time. My brother Jade, his boys and his new bride moved back home while Jade looks for a job so there was a small window of opportunity for Dad to come visit. My sister-in-law Jane helped in the evenings after work and I’m super grateful to everyone who pitched in because we had a really wonderful visit. My dad spends so much of his life taking care of everyone else so it was nice to give him a break.

The great thing about my dad is he’s super low-maintenance and we both love the outdoors so he was easily entertained. The colors were peaking in the mountains so he witnessed some serious fall splendor.

Day 1

Arrival, tour of Midway and drive up Memorial Hill.

Day 2

The weather forecast was iffy for the first several days so when we saw a window of opportunity, we took it to bike Provo Canyon Parkway to Bridal Veil Falls. Some of my favorite memories with Dad are of biking Calgary’s extensive network of bike paths so it was fun to share with him one of mine. That night, he treated us to dinner at Tucanos Brazilian Grill in Orem. 

 

Day 3

The Pumpkin Party!!!!!!!!!!

Day 4

The pumpkin weigh-off. Jamie took us to dinner at Tarahumara Mexican Restaurant to celebrate. And yes, that’s a giant pear. Pumpkins aren’t the only things that can be grown BIG!

Day 5

Church and SNOW?! This put a damper on our plans to see the Kokanee salmon run that afternoon but believe me when I say it worked out for the best.

Day 6

This was my favorite day! Due to our weather delay, we decided to drive up to Strawberry Reservoir on Monday to catch a glimpse of the Kokanee salmon run. If we had gone at any other time, we would have seen some of the salmon in the Strawberry River next to the visitor center (pretty cool) but because we went at this exact time, we got an in-depth look at the process in the Catch House (really cool).

There are only two mornings open for the public to access their fish trap station and it was FASCINATING to see the hundreds of bright red fish. We piggy-backed on an elementary school’s tour and listened as DWR biologists talked about the peculiar life cycle of the fish and how the Kokanee usually spawn when they are four years old and die quickly thereafter. As the fish instinctively swim up the river, they are caught in the trapping station and the male and females are separated until they’re ready to spawn. Since the females are going to die anyway, they are cut open and the eggs are squeezed out. They then take the males and squeeze the milt out of their bellies and fertilize the eggs.  In the wild, the average female has 1,200 eggs but only two survive in the wild. Through this process, there is a 98 percent survival rate that helps guarantee the survival species in Strawberry Reservoir.

eggs

One of Dad’s must-do activities was a leisurely soak in the Homestead Carter, a geothermal spring hidden in a 55-foot tall beehive-shaped limestone rock formation so the kids joined us after school.

To top off the day, we participated in the final Monday Midway Cruiser Cruise of the season. Every Monday night May through September, people in our quirky town gather for a casual bike ride on the beautiful country roads. For the final ride of the season, organizers christened it “The Bike Prom” and it was so fun to see all the awesome costumes. Jamie called me a flamingo but Hadley’s friend Zoe said I looked like a 1980s princess with this ugly outfit I found at the local thrift store.

Day 7

For Dad’s final full day, we did the Park City tour! We drove up Guardsman Pass with the oaks and maples positively on fire, cutting over to Park City where we strolled along the Poison Creek Trail past Shoe Tree Park and cutting over to historic Main Street. We had a late lunch at Cafe Zupas before heading back to Midway.

I love love love showing off our beautiful cut of paradise and I’m so grateful my dad was able to catch a glimpse.

 

iFLY Utah: Indoor Skydiving at its Best

In early June, I planned to surprise the kids with iFLY Utah: Indoor Skydiving but then Hadley broke her arm. I held onto the secret and finally surprised them a couple of weeks ago. We played 20 questions leading up to our visit.

“Is it outdoors?” No.

“Is it adventurous?” Yes.

“Does it involve heights?” Well, kind of but I said “no” because heights were minimal compared to the real thing.

On the 1.5-hour drive to the iFLY Utah location in Ogden, I finally told them so they could take that time to mentally prepare. They were both enthused. “I’ve always wanted to try that,” Hadley raved as we watched a YouTube video of kids in flight.

iFLY indoor skydiving is the perfect way to experience the freedom of flight without jumping from a plane. This indoor flight facility in Ogden offers the simulation of true freefall conditions in a vertical wind tunnel, with room for parties, meetings and even lessons. Upon checking in, we went through a brief training session where we were tutored on two important things: 1) Keep your chin up and 2) Hold still, which is no small feat in a flight chamber with up to 150 mph winds. We learned four hand signals our instructor would be using to communicate and got outfitted in our flight suit, goggles, helmet and earplugs.

Prior to our session, we watched experienced indoor skydivers flip, twist and spin and I was excited to make my own attempts…until I realized as a rookie, my challenge was just to learn to simply fly on the wall-to-wall cushion of air. Our group entered our “wind tunnel” waiting area and one-by-one, we were given a 1-minute turn in the flight chamber. As I stood at the open door to the flight chamber, I suddenly felt anxious but my fears were assuaged when my instructor motioned for me to lean forward…and I was immediately flying as he closely monitored my every move.

A traditional freefall out of a plane lasts anywhere from 45-60 seconds and we had that amount of time to make our own attempt. Initially, I felt like a failed superhero as my arms and legs flailed in the wind but I quickly remembered to keep my chin up and relax…and I was able to fly on my own. It was one of the most exhilarating feelings in the world to give up control and just trust the wind.

For our second attempt, our instructor had a surprise for us–the first 30 seconds we flew on our own but for the second half, he grabbed onto us and we soared up, down and around the chamber with giant sweeping motions. I felt like a bird in flight dive-bombing for my food and just as we were about the hit the bottom net, we effortlessly soared to new heights again.

My kids had very different experiences. From the moment my 13-year-old daughter entered the chamber, she felt empowered and electrified as she quickly learned to surf the wind (and is now begging me to take lessons). Eleven-year-old Bode, traditionally more cautious, struggled to fly on his own and the instructor was constantly tweaking his position (which happened with most of the younger kids).  He was fighting off tears as he waited for his second session and he divulged his frustration: he couldn’t understand what his instructor was telling him to do. I advised him to just relax and let the wind do all the work. On his second attempt, he did much better and finally caught a glimpse of what it felt like to soar.

We were not able to take bring our camera into the wind tunnel so be sure to bring someone who can take pictures for you or buy the $15 DVD of your experience (so worth it). Really, the only downside to our adventure is we did the introductory 2-flight package for $59.98, which sounds like enough until you realize each “flight” is only one minute long.

But rest assured, it was two minutes we’ll never forget.