September 24, 2018

Zion National Park | Observation Point Trail


We woke up on a bleak Wednesday morning in our Airbnb for our first full day at Zion National Park. All night it was raining hard, thundering loudly and lightening too. Yangkyu and I had planned on hiking The Narrows on this day but due to heavy rains the trail was closed (dangers of flash floods). We had signed up to have breakfast at our lodging at 7 am and afterwards we headed out to Zion. Even though it was still raining we wanted to see if we could still hike Observation Point Trail, which was slated for Thursday. 

Parking inside Zion can get incredibly crowded but we had no trouble finding ample space because we began our days very early. For one, we wanted to beat the crowds and two, we didn't want to take the shuttle into Zion (the Springdale Shuttle), which is easy and accessible if you are staying in any of the lodging at Springdale. There are multiple stops where you can get on and off. We just wanted to pack our gear inside our car and be in the comforts of a familiar vehicle after a long day's hike.

I'd say if you are inside the park by 9:30 to 10 am you'll still be able to find parking (by this time though it is almost full). On this particular day, we were parked at the Visitor Center by 8 am (possibly less people because it was still raining) and the following day, even earlier. There are a handful of hikers who start this early and so you won't be completely alone but if you are like us, it definitely is a lot better than dealing with the crowds later on (it gets very very crowded). 





We checked in with a ranger inside the Visitor Center at 8 am (Visitor Center opens at 8 am - but shuttles inside Zion start running at 7 am) to see if Observation Point Trail was good to hike despite the rain. We were given the green light and some pointers and tips. Rangers are incredibly helpful at Zion and checking in with them and asking any questions would be your best bet instead of trying to figure things out on your own.

The Zion Canyon Shuttle (which is different than the Springdale Shuttle I mentioned earlier) is convenient, easy to use and educational too. When it gets crowded it's difficult to hear the information shared through the speakers, but early mornings when there are less people, it's worthwhile to take a listen. Here is a video I viewed to get a feel for the shuttle system and this page also has really good information including a map of the stops. You can also always ask a ranger! 






Observation Point Trail starts at the Weeping Rock Trailhead, which is the 7th stop on the shuttle. We were on the shuttle by 8:30 am and reached the trail entrance by 9 am.

The trail is 4 miles one way (8 miles roundtrip) with 2100 ft elevation gain along the trail. It is considered a strenuous hike as there is a constant incline with just two areas where it flattens out, one of them being at the very top before you hit the observation point.

Yangkyu and I began our hike a 9 am, reached the top by 11:30 am, began our descent at noon and finished a little before 2 pm. There were people who were just beginning their hike when we got back down and even during our descent there were lots of people making their way up, many asking "are we almost there yet," (our response almost always was "umm.. not quite"). This was one of the reasons we wanted to get an early start to beat the crowds.

One other point - you can us the restroom at the visitor center before you get on the shuttle to get to the Weeping Rock Trailhead but there is also a bathroom at the start of Observation Point Trail. They are single stall bathrooms (2 available) and it does not flush.



  // On top of Observation Point Trail - the view is breathtaking and the look down frightening! // 


Yangkyu and I took a few breaks during our time on the trail as it is a strenuous hike. Because of the constant uphill, your legs and your lungs will definitely feel it. Just as a point of reference - Yangkyu and I are on the fitter side - we run, do yoga and some cardio on a more regular basis than not. 

Observation Point Trail is Yangkyu's favorite out of all the hikes we ever did. It even beat out Old Rag circuit at Shenandoah, which is 9-miles and has a crazy rock scramble starting at mile 3. For Yangkyu though the views you get along this trail and up top was just too incredible. He kept saying how he wanted his mind to remember it forever.

For me, while the views were amazing, it wasn't a favorite hike of mine - not even while we were in Utah. Mine was The Narrows as it provided a bit more fun. Nonetheless making it to the top is always a goal when we hike and standing 6608 ft. above sea level felt pretty awesome. Once we got there, we dedicated the hike to our boys, Piri and Bartles across the rainbow bridge (we dedicated Old Rag to Piri as we hiked it just after he passed. It may sound silly but it's a way to always remember them and keep them in our daily doings and happenings).




  // Can you spot Yangkyu? There were many, but this was one of my favorite spots on the trail // 




People on the trails are incredibly friendly. I can't count the number of times I said, "Hello!" But even for this introvert, the exchange was always welcome and felt good. We also got to converse with a few hikers, sharing stories and jokes too.

And as always, when you are visiting public lands, leave it better than you found it and leave no trace. There are plenty of information online about this and you can do your part to educate yourself before visiting.

Our next post will be all about my favorite hike - The Narrows. Hope you'll come back for that adventure.


Related Utah posts:


September 14, 2018

Rebellious teen


Lately I've been dealing with what can only be the equivalent of a rebellious teenager. I have never had issues with Lady taking her medicine and supplements and eating her food but ever since she has been on oral antibiotics for an ear infection everything's been turned upside down. I've been resorting to pilling (sticking pills down her throat) because she turns her head away at everything or puts it in her mouth only to drop it realizing that I had stuffed pills inside what was once her favorite wet food (or raw food, or cold cuts, etc.).

This morning was an all out war. Lady not only knows how to spit out pills when it's wrapped in something, she now knows how to spit them out when I pill them. 

After wrestling with her and getting her to take everything, we kind of stared at each other, obviously unhappy, at the situation and maybe at each other as well. But you know, we can't stay mad at each other forever. She is currently hanging out in our room as I write this blog, staring at me with her half sleepy eyes. Yesterday she opted to stay far away from me and not wagging her tail when I went to check up on her. That was heartbreaking because if you know Lady, her tail is always wagging.

I know she's currently unhappy with all the new medicine and supplements I've added to her routine. I worry about her heart and her arthritis and so a part of me wants to add new things to her regiment because I don't want her to feel pain or discomfort. But other parts of me thinks maybe I should just pass up on them if she hates it that much.

I've gotten great suggestions from friends on Instagram on giving medicine to finicky dogs and we're going to try a few different types of pate style wet food to mask her pills and I'll be putting her back on a freeze dried raw food diet for her food. The thick soupy consistency has worked in the past in masking some of her liquid-form supplements and so I am hoping that we can find our normal again. 

Have a good weekend. And to our friends who are in the path of the hurricane, please stay safe.

September 13, 2018

Where we stayed at Zion National Park


Our first day at Zion National Park was spent getting a taste of what the park has to offer, checking in at our Airbnb, grabbing dinner and getting some much needed rest before all the hiking we were going to do for the next couple of days. 

We drove down from Bryce Canyon National Park, which allowed us to drive through Zion in the most gorgeous and scenic route (we stopped to take a few photos) before we exited to the town of Springdale. Our Airbnb was located in Rockville which is just one town over. 

There are many many places you can stay at Zion. You can actually stay inside Zion National Park at the Zion Lodge but there are also plenty of lodges at the town of Springdale as well. We just happened to go through Airbnb and found a wonderful place called the Heller Inn. The place is incredibly clean, the host friendly and there is also a host dog on the premise for any dog lovers out there.

When planning our trip though I didn't think through the type of lodging space we would need. I knew I definitely wanted to stay someplace clean but I realized that once we got to our Airbnb, not only was it clean but incredibly chic as well.



Yangkyu and I went to Zion to get all the incredible hiking experience. We didn't go to relax, sleep in and have a comfortable day in. We got up super early to beat the crowds, got sweaty, dirty and tired. While we never trudge in dirty and muddy shoes and clothes to any place we sleep, I think this was the first time where we were super careful not to get anything dirty inside our room and the common areas as well (I mean literally scrubbing our feet clean after coming back from outings, etc. One of the things - and there were many - that I loved about our Airbnb  though was that you are asked to leave your shoes off outside). In that sense, it made our stay a bit on the uncomfortable side but it's also because of my personality where I just get super comfortable if we leave the room messy when clearly it's kept incredibly clean. (There is also a charge if you get red dirt the bed sheets or clothes because red dirt does not come off even after washing).

The other thing that made me realize that perhaps we chose the wrong type of lodging for the kind of stay we were looking for was that the first night we were in Zion it was raining and thundering and lightening like mad. We had planned on hiking The Narrows the following day but due to the weather and flash floods the trail was closed. We still planned on going inside Zion early morning to see what we can do but our host offered other suggestions like staying at the Airbnb and watching movies. Yangkyu and I kinda thought - we didn't come all the way to Zion to stay in and watch movies. We wanted to hike even if it was raining and that was what we ended up doing. We just switched up our schedule and ended up hiking Observation Point Trail and The Narrows the following day.

We also didn't plan on eating breakfast there but we did once and it was amazing. But also very fancy. Yangkyu and I also planned on just getting tacos or something quick to eat for dinner our first night (and every night) but our host had suggested a restaurant to us and we went as a courtesy (the restaurant menu was in the Airbnb and I thought maybe she had a partnership with them and wanted to be supportive as her clients). Yangkyu and I had a wonderful meal and saw the most gorgeous rainbow but it was also a bit on the pricy side. I don't mind pricy dinners but again, it wasn't really something we were looking to do while in Utah. But in the end we decided to consider it as a belated anniversary dinner for us and enjoyed it.



The host at the Heller Inn is incredibly helpful though. She gave us information on The Narrows (rental gear, etc.) and checked the weather for us and just was available to us all the time to be as helpful as she could so that our stay at her place and at Zion would be a good one. And I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. The only thing is, if you plan on being a bit hard core (in terms of getting up early, hiking in all weather conditions, etc.) it may not be the best fit. 

Our last night in Zion we ended up staying at Under Canvas Zion, which was amazing. I'll do a more extended post about it a little later. We stayed inside the Stargazer and while I enjoyed my time, Yangkyu wasn't really all that impressed. And while I enjoyed it, to be honest, I don't think I would stay there again. It was just one of those things you want to experience at least once. Our big thing was that we wanted to stargaze while out in Utah but we didn't get to do that much and we realized that it wasn't the right season to do so. 

Perhaps our next trip out we will be better prepared to choose a place to stay that fits our needs the most.

So lodging was a bit wonky for our trip, but nonetheless great places to check out and consider.


September 5, 2018

Bryce Canyon National Park


On a very early Tuesday morning, Yangkyu and I left for Southern Utah to explore and hike on our own. Our friends packed us with some essentials and off we went on some highways where speed limits were literally 80 mph. 

The weather wasn't the greatest. It was raining on and off during our entire ride down but we did get to see some amazing lightening up close. They were big and imposing and flashy and beautiful at the same time.

Our final destination on this day was Zion National Park where we had reserved a cozy AirB&B just a few miles away from the park entrance, but we made a stop at Bryce Canyon because we couldn't pass up on the chance to see it on our way down.

I did a lot of reading and research to see which hikes we could do in the time we were given and since it was just a short stop for us at Bryce before needing to get to our lodging at Zion by 7, we chose to do the short 1.3 mile Navajo Loop Trail.



  // Thor's hammer // 

The Navajo Loop Trail starts at Sunset Point. We took our car right in to the park and didn't utilize the shuttle system that was available (we didn't need to since it was just a stop for us). I am not sure if it was the weather, but finding a parking was not bad at all. We found a spot without having to wait and in general it seemed like parking spots generally freed up quickly.

For a longer hike, people usually combine the Navajo Loop Trail with Queens Garden but Yangkyu and I decided to just stick to our original plans and go on just the Navajo Loop Trail. 

I do have to say, we almost didn't get to hike it at all because it was thundering loudly when we were there. Right where the trail starts, there were many tourists who stopped to take pictures but it didn't seem like there were many hikers on the trail. The park ranger also told folks to stay smart as the weather didn't seem like it was getting any better. 

It was only after we did spot some hikers who were just finishing up their hike (they must've started from Queens Garden) that Yangkyu and I decided to venture on. And we are so glad we did.





The trail itself isn't a hard hike, but there are switchbacks that can make your legs feel tired (probably not for a seasoned hiker or someone who works our on a regular basis). The switchbacks were actually my favorite part of the trail. 

Yangkyu and I might have lucked out with the not so great weather because while there was a crowd of excited tourists at the top (lots of selfie sticks) the trail was practically empty for us to enjoy it just the two of us and all that nature had to offer.





While the Navajo Loop Trail was amazing to experience, Yangkyu and I enjoyed even more the Visitor Center learning about the rock and hoodoo formations but most importantly learning about the people of Bryce Canyon - the Native Indians. 

There is a video at the end of the whole educational section devoted to the people. You'll learn about the Paiutes and some of the traditions that are still kept today, the hardships they faced with pioneers   moving out West and land struggles and the way they have the utmost respect for the land, spirits and earth. I think it's something everyone who visits Bryce and other landmarks should take time to learn and embrace. There were so many times (including us because we didn't know any better) where we didn't leave any traces behind and left the parks better than we found it. Because it isn't just us that inhabit this earth.

If you are ever at Bryce, stick around and watch the whole video. It's a little on the longer and there isn't anywhere to sit, but it's worth all your time and more.



Yangkyu and I left Bryce Canyon for another 2 hour drive to Zion National Park at around 4 pm. There is still so much that we didn't get to explore but we will just have to go back another time. 

Sometimes I want to go away to far away countries, but there are amazing things right here at home. 




On the way to Bryce Canyon, there are the Red Canyons. There are trails and also beautiful rock formations in that beautiful red color that is seen all throughout Southern Utah. Yangkyu and I stopped on our way to Zion. Again, not enough time to explore everything but we're glad we got to taste just a little of it. 

Utah, you're beautiful.

The next few posts will be devoted to Zion National Park. I hope you'll come back for those adventures.


 // Antelope Island State Park

August 30, 2018

So this is my issue


I bought a food processor a couple of months ago because I was really into exploring new vegan recipes and they all seem to require a food processor to mix everything together. I was somehow getting by without one but the more serious I got the more I thought I needed it. I've been also on a mission to buy less this year (or only buy things I absolutely need because you know the whole materialism thing has gotten me thinking a bit differently) and so I waited and waited until I finally bought one. 

I must've it used it like twice. This is another reason why I held off for so long because I hate when I buy something (usually on impulse) and end up using it only once or twice. I was a bit surprised that I haven't gotten around using it often because I had been careful to think on it before purchasing it. Oh well. 

But you see, ever since I bought it, I've been seeing more recipes that require... a blender! Like this morning, I saw something on the Minimalist Baker - creamy artichoke dip, totally vegan - and it requires you to blend everything together. Of course I Googled things like, "Can you use a food processor as a blender" etc, but you know some recipes you just can't wing on an alternative appliance (or maybe that's just my inexperience talking - like when I tried to make a smoothie with a food processor - that was a hot mess).

Anyhow, I'm not about to purchase a blender because that would be silly. Instead I am going to dig up those old recipes that requires a food processor and start from there.

It's always a bit harder to get back into the swing of things after a vacation. My mindset changes a bit as I am introduced to new ways of living and thinking and so finding my balance again takes a bit more time. I'm also learning to maybe switch things around a bit - that maybe my way of doing things can use a healthy change. 

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On a different topic, it's currently 10 am and I am waiting for our contractor to come and finish this dreadful shed project that has been delayed for more than 2 weeks. It was supposed to be the simplest one day job. And the whole stress of it was exacerbated more because when Yangkyu gets annoyed and angry he comes off a little rude (in my opinion). Or more like, he comes off like the annoying client, which I guess in our position we probably have more than a right to be? It doesn't happen often but when it does I guess he can't control it either. 

We once had an issue with one of our water pipes which caused us to have sky high water bills. When we had someone come check it out, Yangkyu patiently waited for him to finish inspection upon where the inspector said, "You are a patient man. If I were you, I would've come out cursing, yelling and demanding that I not pay this bill." Yangkyu just smiled and said it doesn't the inspector's fault that this happened and so it wouldn't make sense to take out his frustrations on him. The inspector in turn introduced us to someone he knows at the water company and had our bill reduced. 

Anyway, in this case of the shed though, the week leading up to our Utah trip, which was when the shed job was already delayed and was the week supplies were supposed to finally arrive, we didn't hear a word from our contractor nor from the company. No updates, no rescheduling. Nothing.

So starting early/mid-week, Yangkyu texted the contractor every morning, "What time are you coming today." I don't even think he started his text with a good morning. I was annoyed and angry at the delay but I cringed when I read his text because it came off so rude and especially to a person who probably had no control over the delays (perhaps I am more intuitive with this because as someone who runs Piri's Place I think I know when things are out of my hands but at the same time, I think I would keep my communications channels wide open). 

I asked Yangkyu if I could take over texting asking if we should leave our back gate open in case supplies come while we were away in Utah and we finally got a reply saying yes to please leave the back gate open.

Well, the job wasn't done when we got back. But we did get a call yesterday from the company this time that hired the contractor saying they can come today. But of course it wouldn't be so cut and clear. No, no. That wouldn't be fun. They were supposed to come between 7:30 am and 8 but Yangkyu got a call at 8 am saying that our contractor had van issues and is currently getting it fixed and will let us know when he can come. 

Wow.

So it's 10:20 now. I'm sitting here, un-showered, waiting for the guys to come to see if it can actually get done today. 

It's been an issue taking Lady out for her pee and potty sessions because of all the junk that's out in the backyard and I also have been waiting to finish the dog urine area, which I have been holding off until the shed work is done. I am just waiting for this to finish before we start having guest dogs again. 

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Welp. WE finally heard from them and the contractor's van is broken and we have no rescheduled for next week.

Guess life is saying we need a bit more chaos in our lives.


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