October 15, 2018

You, me and the dogs

Our little home is currently visited by Spootie and Clover, our most frequent guests to Piri's Place.
Is being warmed by space heaters and warm slippers.
And filled with music and podcasts and of course barks, too.

Every year I have a hard time transitioning from summer to fall. It's those first few weeks of the new fall season that makes me sad and moody. This year, we were going through some hectic days and nights with Lady and her incontinence (controlled now thankfully) that I didn't really have time to go through my usual emotions. Although it's hitting me now, perhaps because I have more bandwidth to take notice of them.

I'm thinking about visiting my crafting area again. I broke out my sewing machine to sew together two thick incontinence pads together (pictured above) and thought it would be nice to make something. Something useful for the home. Then I thought about my neglected yarn and knitting needles and thought about making a hat. A simple patterned hat. 

I look back just a few years ago and saw that I was so much more busier with my hands - making and baking and cooking. I don't know where all that motivation went. I feel as though I've been searching for it for the past two years.

Yesterday was two years since Piri crossed the rainbow bridge. I can't help but think again and again that my motivation died too the day we said good bye to him. And I've been desperately trying to find that spark again.

I know it's somewhere.
I'll find it soon.

In the meantime, I think I'll bring back my daily task list again.
I've been doing without them for the past year and came to a realization.

I'm a task-list kind of person.

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

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