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.

 

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.