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Sunday, August 13, 2017

14th Anniversary Vacay to Captiol Reef

 I love that we have been able to take trips to celebrate our anniversaries for the last several years.  It seems to be a much needed respite after the stress of end-of-school-year testing for Steve, and to be honest, for me too.  Our anniversary isn't in the summer, but we celebrate it in the summer so we can spend a few days somewhere.  So, anyway, this year we chose to revisit the place we went for our first anniversary, Capitol Reef National Park!  It truly is picturesque and a lesser-visited national park, although we noticed that it has increased quite a bit in popularity since the last time we were there 14 years ago!  Nonetheless, it did not disappoint.  We spent 2 nights and 3 days there.

 We stayed at a nice little one bedroom apartment I found on AirBnB that was about 10 minutes away in the town of Torrey.  It had access to the internet and satellite TV and a full kitchen where we could prepare meals.  It was actually a walk-out basement that faced the Fremont River, and was quite comfy.  Interestingly enough, although the owners live in that house, while they have guests they live in their camper so that there won't be any upstairs noise.  Pretty thoughtful people, right?

So, we had a nice place to stay, but we didn't spend a lot of time there.  We did fix breakfast (for me, since Steve doesn't eat breakfast anymore) and dinner there and it was nice to have a kitchen.

At Capitol Reef, we hiked a lot, took scenic drives, broke out the fancy cameras for pics, and got to see lots of beautiful landscapes, wildlife, and history.
There were lots of wild turkeys that apparently are aggressive and kicked out the indigenous turkeys from the park.  I spoke with a park ranger and they said these turkeys were scheduled for removal from the park in a few days.  They have chased and bit at visitors and rangers.  I thought it was funny that the turkeys didn't seem to care a lick that we were there taking their pictures.
 Steve is teaching me photography.  It is taking me way longer to learn these camera techniques and operations than what I expected, because it is like learning a foreign language, but I think I have a really great mentor who is mostly patient with me and my zillions of repeated questions.

Here's one of my photos

I feel like this picture has a very zen-like balance of color.

 We hiked to Cassidy Arch which is much different from the arches you hike to at Arches National Park.  When you reach this arch, you don't even know you're there until you almost fall down the hole where the arch lives.  Steve got brave and convinced me to be brave with him and walk across the arch.  When we did that same thing 14 years ago, it didn't seem so frightening, but this time it seemed way scarier.

Mr. Lizard is having his photo shoot.

 To round out our day of heavy hiking, we drove 45 minutes across the Devil's backbone (Hwy 11) to Calf Creek Falls trail.  It was a pretty hot hike to begin, but the way back was nice.  It was a 3-4 hour roundtrip hike through annoying sand and surrounded by towering cliffs that radiated heat, but the payoff was the beautiful waterfall. We were lucky that we had the waterfall practically to ourselves for 10 minutes or so.  There was only one other guy there and he took our picture.  It was so serene to be there without a bunch of people around.  It felt so good to let the falls be our air conditioner and the icy water soothe my swelling feet.

 We found a little cafe to eat at on our way back.  My burger was beautiful but dry as the desert I just hiked through.  Steve's roasted cauliflower over cheesy grits was pretty yum!

 One of the most romantic things my husband does for me is cook me breakfast.  He makes the best eggs over easy, just perfectly for me.  And he knows how to make a plate sing with a handful of fresh berries.
 After our big hiking day, we took it easy the next day.  We mostly took pictures and we even spent a couple hours just relaxing in the shade of the tall trees in the picnic area.  Our lunch was wonderful and we even had deer come hang out with us and literally sit next to us.

 I thought this next picture was a little funny how it made Steve look like an apparition photobombing my selfie.
 So, Steve took it one step further in post processing and gave us this lovely shot:

 Our last day there we ate brunch in Torrey and had a heavy meal right before we traveled back to our children who were staying with their grandparents on the Wasatch Front.  I had the huevos rancheros and Steve ordered the bagel with eggs and red potatoes.  What a way to end our wonderful vacay!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Aspen Grove- Blad Family Reunion

I did not expect that I was going to love Aspen Grove family camp as much as I did.  It was so much fun.  I would go there every year with our family if I could.
I have been to Aspen Grove on a tour when I was in college.  I thought about applying to work there because your food and lodging comes free, but I didn't think I could swing college classes and driving up there and everything, so I decided against it.  However, my family used to drive past that place all the time when we would go for Sunday picnics at the Theater in the Pines, so I knew exactly where it was.  

Let me tell you, Aspen Grove hires stellar people to be your friends!  My kids LOVED their counselors and all the activities!  The adults didn't have counselors which I thought was really dumb.  I know that we could've schooled all those little twerps at all the competitions.  (Just kidding, in case you couldn't hear my sarcasm.)  Actually, the planned activities were awesome for the kids AND the adults.  Lily did a great job on her blog telling about all the fun experiences she had up there.  Here are the links to her posts:

My experience as an adult up there is a little different than Lily's.  Let's talk food first.  It was AWESOME!  We were never hungry.  They have a large cafeteria, you come at your assigned time to eat.  They say a prayer before they open the doors, then they let you in.  There are 4 main buffet lines with hot food which you could go down both sides (so, 8 lines), and on the opposite side of the cafeteria there was a salad bar/ healthier options buffet (2 lines), and there was another buffet that always had bread, peanut butter and jelly, applesauce, and little kid foods.  You never had to wait in line very long.  And there were fruit baskets always available too.  The staff waited until all guests had gone through the lines before they brought out desserts and put them on the buffet.  Condiments were at a few differing locations.  There was a large wall lined with drink options- soda pops, juices, hot cocoa, water, milk, etc..  

Fajitas (chicken or ground beef), black beans.  Also- Fish and Tomatoes.
Penne Pasta (marinara or alfredo), sausages, breadsticks.  Also- Soup
Pulled Pork sandwiches. Also- soup

Fruit cobbler
Ice Cream Sandwiches

Build your own ham or turkey and cheese sandwich
Hamburgers, chips
and something else I can't remember

(There was also a cereal bar available everyday for every meal.)
(Also available during breakfast- Oatmeal, Yogurt parfait bar, Hard boiled eggs.) 
Pancakes and sausage. 
Biscuits and gravy, bacon

Next, let's talk activities!  The kids were put into groups and were in good hands with a pair of counselors.  They were gone doing activities in their age groups from right after breakfast until lunch.  Then right after lunch until dinner.  We were always together for all our meals, and the evenings were filled with family-togetherness activities.  While the kids were gone, the adults could sign up for sporting competitions, or choose to do another activity like go on a hike to Stewart Falls, check out board games, play pool or ping pong, paint at the craft house, woodwork at the woodshop, climb the ropes course, free swim, or go to classes.  

Some of the things I really enjoyed were the classes given by Hank Smith.  He's a BYU religion professor and his classes that we attended were captivating, insightful, and inspiring.  Alex (Heather's hubby) is actually in one of his classes, and Hank kept quizzing him, which was kinda fun.
selfie with Hank Smith
We also played laser tag with the Blads in the wilderness!  Steve and I were just going to watch, but they let us play even though we never signed up for a time.  I remember just running through the woods and hiding and waiting for anyone to cross my path so I could start shooting.  I was by Amy and she took a wrong step and fell all tangled up in a tree.  I had to break a branch to free her ankle, and she was fine, just embarrassed.  Near the end time, I was trying my best to hit Andrea and Steve, but I didn't get them even once.  I think I took over 300 shots and I had zero hits.  I was hit 3 times.  After 5 hits, you're dead.  Guess my gun skills are not very war-worthy.

Steve and I also took a hike to the falls on Monday, which happened to be Memorial Day.  That was the most crowded trail ever!  We got to the falls, took a picture, and headed back as fast as we could so I could catch another of Hank's classes.  We literally jogged down the trail any chance we got.
We missed half his lecture, but had a great time anyway.

Now let's talk about the evening activities.  Friday they had an opening ceremonies/skit program put on by the counselors and the children.  Our kids went up and performed their skits.  Saturday night was Frontier Night with lots of Western-themed activities.  I took the girls to do some painting with me, so we were a little late for the frontier night, but we have awesome soveniers.  
Amara's cat she painted with acrylics made to look like Smokey.

Lily's plate painted with a glaze.

My cute owl salt and pepper shakers I painted with glaze.

Steve attempting to whip the balloon off
 Sunday night was your choice of a fireside or movie night.  Steve and I attended the fireside and the girls went to the movie night where they watched "Once I Was A Beehive."  Monday was only a half-day, so the family activity was Aspen Follies, a series of short competitive games where you compete against other groups.  They ended with catapulting waterballoons at a crowd and if you caught one, you won a free drink.  Uncle Trent ended up catching a few balloons and he gifted them to some of the little kids.  It was all so much fun!
 Before we ended our time there, we stopped by the ice cream shop and got good ol' BYU creamery ice cream!

We loved Aspen Grove!

Note fore next time- I'll bring a blanket for the evening ampitheater programs!  And if we can afford it, we'll stay in the lodge instead of the cabins for more space, better temperature control, and our own bathroom.