The Family Practice

family life is a practice in balance and flow

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Southern Utah Getaway Pt 2

For day two of our Southern Utah trip we were surprised to wake up to snow. I opened the slats on the blinds early Monday morning so that I could watch the sunrise come across the canyon walls but to my surprise I watched the sky light up and a flurry roll in. Wasn’t expecting that!

I had seen that the temperatures had dropped quite a bit from when we were researching and putting the trip together, and I had even seen that there was a chance of a light snow in the forecast for Sunday night but I just thought OK no big deal, we’ll wake up to this beautiful dusting of snow and we’ll be on our way.

It was beautiful, that’s for sure, but it did change our plans and commute for the day.

We stopped for coffee in Springdale to warm up before we drove into Zion National Park.

MeMe’s Cafe is super cute and their breakfast menu looks amazing. We’re more of the coffee to go type, but if you’re looking for a great place to dine in – this would be my recommendation.

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With caffiene in hand we made our way through the park and to the trailhead for the Emerald Pools.

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We took about a million photos on the short hike up to the lower pool, and about a million more on the short hike back to the car.

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From there we had thought we’d head over to Weeping Rock but there were so many trails closed with winter wash outs and ice warnings (and the snow was still coming down) that we thought we’d be better off getting on the road to Bryce before things got any worse.

Even just getting out of Zion is an incredibly photo worthy journey.

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Once we were through the Mt Carmel Tunnel, the road conditions really changed. We were no longer driving in wet slop that was easy to navigate, we were now in full on snow – a couple inches on the roadway and big patches of ice. FUN!

That was a really stressful forty minutes of driving and I was so so so happy when we arrived at the Mount Carmel Junction (PS take a right here and you’ll be headed to the Grand Canyon). We stopped in for a nerve settling break at a giant gas station/gift shop before heading north on 89 for our destination of the day: Bryce Canyon National Park.

The remainder of the drive was a lot better – wet and bare roads for the most part – a few sections of ice that we got through without issue. Nonetheless I was so grateful when we finally reached our turnoff for Bryce and the hotel came into view. We made it!

We decided to trek out to the park before checking in at the hotel and arrived at Bryce around 12:30 pm.

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A large section of the park was closed because of the heavy snowfall (almost two feet!) but we were able to get to the section I most wanted to show my mom anyway – Sunset Point. Sunset Point is the trailhead location for the Navajo Loop. Instead of doing the downhill loop, we walked along the Rim Trail from Sunset Point to Inspiration Point, and then the full length of the rim of this amphitheater back to Sunrise Point. The Rim Trail actually goes a lot farther than what we did; from Fairyland Point to Bryce Point is something like 18 miles but we did cover our section of the amphitheater pretty well.

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It was like trekking through the arctic (in capris and trail runners :) ) but it was worth it for so many reasons. 1) I never really got cold 2) the view was incredible 3) the silence of snow combined with the vastness of that open canyon…unreal.

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We also stopped in at the visitors center to get some information and watch the video about the park history.

Bryce Canyon gets it’s name from Ebenezer Bryce, a pioneer who settled in the area and people who came to visit jokingly referred to the “canyon” in his backyard as “Bryce’s Canyon” – fun fact, it’s not really a canyon :)

When we finally did check in at our hotel, our first priority was getting something hot to eat!

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We chose to eat at our hotel, Ruby’s Inn which has kind of a cool story; a couple named Reuben (Ruby) and Minnie Syrett established a ranch near where the hotel is back in 1916. They moved their family out to Utah and set up shop before they even know about Bryce Canyon. Another rancher came by and told them about the canyon and the Syretts started inviting everyone they knew – eventually setting up a lodge right by the canyon. As the operation grew, the lodge was moved to it’s present location and 100 years later it’s a Best Western still owned and operated by Ruby’s family.

The hotel has a great pool and hottub space which we thoroughly enjoyed before calling it a night.

Planning a trip of your own? Here’s some additional info:

DIRECTIONS. From Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon, we took the east exit from Zion through the Mt Carmel Tunnel and drove on HWY 9 until the Mt Carmel Junction. Take a left to head north on 89 which takes you through the small town of Hatch. A right onto Scenic Byway 12 and you’ll see the signs for Bryce Canyon National Park. Total miles: 73.

LODGING. Ruby’s Inn was great and really affordable. It’s also incredibly close to the park entrance and has a general store, gift shop and whatever else you might need all right there – even a tire shop. If you’re looking to camp, there are really cool camp accommodations in the Red Canyon area although as the weather gets warmer, these areas fill up quick. We’ve camped in Hatch before, which was lovely and perfect, it’s just a longer drive into the park to do things.

ATTRACTIONS. If the road is open, you should definitely drive the full rim of Bryce Canyon via the main park road. My top recommendations for “must do” hikes along that route include the Navajo Loop Trail and/or the Queens Garden Trail -Queens Garden is one of the easiest trails in the park and is at a significantly lesser incline than the Navajo.

NEARBY ATTRACTIONS. Red Canyon is just before you get to Bryce – you’ll know it from the two very distinctive red rock overhanging tunnels you drive through. I would love to ride my bike on the paved trail and there are several hikes here listed as “not to be missed” in the local guides: Thunder Mountain Trail and the Casto Canyon Trail are going on my list for “next time.” Mossy Cave Trail is still considered a part of the national park but you get to it from outside the main park area. Going all the way back to HWY 12, you take a right towards Escalante and you’ll see a trailhead just as you’re rounding the bend in what feels like “leaving Bryce.” The trail is less than a mile and relatively little climb but is pretty magical.

The next town over “Tropic” is where you’ll find the historic Ebenezer Bryce Cabin and the accompanying heritage center.

Scenic Byway 12 – if you’re heading to Moab there is a faster way to get there but I have to recommend taking the scenic byway – the 45 minute delay is worth the wonders of the world you’ll drive over, through and by on your way. Just absolutely stunning.

And that’s where I’ll end it for today because in the morning, we’re headed down that very road. HWY 12 to Capitol Reef – here we come!

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Southern Utah Getaway Pt 1

Last year I flew my mom out to Utah and took her on a much needed vacation/exploration of Southern Utah. On that trip we decided that even though we talk on the phone throughout the year and see each other over the holidays, it’s really nice to have time together – just us – and this trip needed to become an annual thing.

For that trip we stayed in Springdale for two nights, hiked in Zion and made a trek out to Snow Canyon State Park. It was sunny and warm and delightful.

My mom bought a bunch of touristy stuff like guide books and photo calendars and has lusted over the remainder of Southern Utah ever since. For this years trip we’re doing the whole enchilada (not to be confused with…The Whole Enchilada)

We started with a night in Springdale and a visit to Zion National Park but by the end of our trip we’ll be on the other side of the state in Moab, UT.

We are sort of following this route from when Nick and I took the boys to Southern Utah – except in the backwards order AND adding Zion.

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So imagine this map had a little marker “F” where it says “Zion National Park” – for day one we drove from “A” to that imaginary “F” where we checked in at the Pioneer Lodge. Now here’s a little tip for you, the Pioneer Lodge was on Groupon for $39/night. Whenever we plan a road trip or getaway I always search a couple places before booking. My favorites: Priceline, RueLaLa Getaways, Groupon and LivingSocial.

PS>that RueLaLa search left me daydreaming of this 7-night getaway to Palm Island…ay yi yi!

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But back to the trip at hand…

We checked in at the Pioneer Lodge around 3:30 on Sunday afternoon and decided to go into Zion NP so we could grab a map and take a quick glance at the park. We wound up driving the length of the park route (there’s no shuttle service in operation during the winter and that means the roads are open to personal vehicles). No matter how many times I’ve been here, it just blows me away every time with the grandness of it – the towering rock walls at every turn. I’d love to camp out for six months so I could photograph the everchanging lightscape, mist and shadows. It’s something that a thousand photographs can’t relay to a person who has never been. Simply incredible.

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As we were driving into the park there was this heavy mist rolling off the steep canyon walls.

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It was almost as if the canyon was growing taller as we drove deeper. Pretty cool feeling.

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Here we are at the end of the park drive – in the Temple of Sinawava – this is the farthest you can go by vehicle but it is the starting point of the popular “Narrows” hike up the Virgin River. Given that it was 34* out – and that even the Riverwalk Trail (a cement boardwalk) was closed – we skipped that :)

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I have a brand new camera (a FujiFilm Finepix ← that links to a refurbished model that is under $200!!) that I am learning how to use. I just opened it up on Valentine’s Day and this trip is the perfect playground to try out all the settings and options. I don’t think I captured this very well but I’m sharing anyway – the bright red loose sand, the river and then the hardened red rock/sandstone walls of the canyon behind.

Back in Springdale, we walked through the town a little even though most everything is closed for the season. We managed to find a few stores open and we of course went back to Oscars Cafe for dinner. And we ordered the exact same meal as last year. It was that good you guys! Why deviate from something you love?!

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Their Top Sirloin: comes with avocado butter, twice baked mashed potatoes inside a poblano pepper, black beans and some guacamole.

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We also started with some appetizers beforehand. The chips with house made salsa and guacamole were spot on. And even though that salad looks pretty simple, the dressing is something I would eat with a spoon! My mom and I were trying to place all the flavors – definitely a lot of dill and some lemon, maybe sage? I need to play around and try to recreate that. The beer you see, that’s an award winning local brew: Wasatch Fiesta Lager.

We found ourselves back at the hotel pretty early on which was great. We have both been under the wire to finish projects before making this trip happen and it’s nice to suddenly find ourselves with all this extra time.

In the morning we’ll head into Zion for a couple hikes and then we’ll take the east exit through the tunnel and head towards Bryce Canyon National Park.

*This is not a sponsored post but it does contain a couple affiliate links – thanks for your support!

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Weekend Update – Banff

*Just ignore the construction taking place on the site this week. I had a corrupted file and since this is just a hobby, well, tech issues move directly to the back burner. It should be resolved shortly :) *

Like most of you, we celebrated Valentine’s Day this weekend. Even if you’re single, I think Valentines’ Day – aside from the consumer nonsense that surrounds every holiday – is a great time to reflect on and appreciate the love around you – whether it’s love for community, your significant others, kids, or the homeless guy that waves hello every morning as if he’s never seen you before.

Nick and I generally don’t do big gifts for V Day but he broke the rules this time. He bought me a camera!

I’ve been working on the dining room and have been sending cell phone photos to my mom and mother-in-law. I was really excited to use the camera to get a decent photo of the dining room. Ha!

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For the big celebration, Nick and I went to a great dinner at Restaurant 1107 which is at the top of the highest building in downtown – all eleven stories of it :)

We’ve eaten there once before and I remembered it being a great meal but every time I have suggested going since, Nick has been all loose-y goose-y let’s go somewhere else. He finally gave in and made us reservations. Nick is super picky about salmon but ordered it anyway and…drum roll please…. he loved it! He admits that he remembered this place really wrong and that our meal was incredible. We enjoyed the view, the food and we chatted through the meal about all manner of things.

We do date nights rather frequently but for some reason the “big deal” dates still make for a nice change up in pace and we end up talking about things we usually don’t. I love it :)

After dinner we walked across the street to the historic Egyptian Theater for the Banff Mountain Film Festival.

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Neither of us have been to the festival before and we weren’t really sure what to expect. As it turns out, it was nine selected films and they were all very inspiring. If I had to pick a favorite, I think it would be Sufferfest 2 (<–links to a preview) but it’s hard to criticize any of the films. They all offered a great perspective and just make you want to 1) travel everywhere 2) be a badass athlete 3)drop everything and get outside. Sufferfest happens to take place in Utah for part of the adventure and that makes it especially fun to watch as well.

We saw nine films in total and it was just…wow.

The film they ended with was Afterglow which has been out for a while now and I’ve seen half a dozen times but is still so incredible. That one was filmed at Alyeska Ski Resort in Alaska.

Coming up…

One of my big goals for Sunday was to book the hotels for my upcoming trip to Southern Utah with my mom. She’s flying in on Thursday and we’re heading out together on Sunday for an adventure.

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You may remember that my mom came out last February and we did a mom-and-me trip down south as well. It’s crazy because last year it was mid-thirties and we left here hoping for temps above 60. This year it’s hovering high-fifties/mid-sixties here in Ogden and it’s been mid-seventies in lower portions of the state, although this week is predicted to be a bit colder.

The trip with my mom will be four days, three nights. We’re starting in Zion/Springdale and heading east to Bryce Canyon and even farther east to Arches/Moab on day three. We have three hotel nights and a lot of miles to cover and places to see along the way. I can’t wait!

You might also be interested in:

My Guide to Zion on a Budget

The Time a Car Rolled Into Us on the Way to Zion

And for those of you with kids:

Our Family Trip to Southern Utah: Day 1 and Day 2 (these have some nice maps I put together that could be useful in planning a trip of your own)

PS: this post about my mom’s first trip to Zion was a total foreshadowing of the failure that came during the marathon, it’s almost comical reading it now. I should have known…

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Mid-Day Date Escape

Well, as promised, yesterday was pretty jam packed and pretty dang awesome!

I worked through some random details on a couple projects yesterday – isn’t it always the tiny details that take the most time? – and then I picked Nick up for our fun adventure in Salt Lake City.

You might remember the group from the Chocolate Villa retreat I have worked at over the past two summers now.

Side note: When I went to find the link back to the Chocolate Villa event, I realized that I never got around to blogging about it this summer. I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised since that was the September from which I am still suffering PTSD (Post-traumatic-September-Disorder).

Anyway, Villa Leadership is the group that puts on Chocolate Villa and they reached out to me about attending a mystery lock-in which they are considering adding to their programming.

Nick and I were both able to attend and I thought it would be a fun, if not incredible random, mid-afternoon Thursday date :)

We arrived at The Gateway a little before 2pm and found out that our session wasn’t until 2:40 so we had quite a bit of extra time and wound up sneaking in a quick sushi date before the mystery began.

Our group met up at Mystery Escape Room just a little before our program was supposed to start and we got a quick rundown on the rules: don’t climb on things, don’t take things off the walls, we’d be watched the whole time and we would get some clues from time to time if we got stuck.

The theme for our adventure was pirates and to be honest, when they first sent us into the room I thought oh man this is going to be so easy and lame. Well, it wasn’t easy and we had to work as a group to solve several riddles, discover padlock codes and search for hidden keys, etc.

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You have only an hour to work through the puzzle and hoist your flag and we were able to solve it about 51 minutes in. The room we were in has about a 30% solve rate and now our group photo is on the wall with the other successful entrants. And yes, my eyes are closed :(

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Mystery Escape Room offers three difficulty levels of which ours was the easiest. They rotate the rooms out monthly so there’s always something new to try. Nick and I both agreed that this would be a fun thing to do for a birthday party or with a group of friends, and possibly even young professionals.

Which speaking of… we had OYP last night at the iFLY in the Salomon Center. Our group was talking about facing fears and after our group discussion we were able to “sky dive” in the fly tunnel. If you haven’t heard of iFLY before, it’s an indoor skydiving facility utilizing a vertical wind tunnel.

A VWT is a wind tunnel that moves air up in a vertical column. It’s mostly for purposes of recreation, but also serves as a valuable training device for skydivers and the military.

iFLY simply put is flying; you will soar on a column of air inside a vertical wind tunnel. iFLY uses the SkyVenture tunnel who is the world leader and most experienced company when it comes to vertical wind tunnels. SkyVenture has superior technology and is unique with multiple fans located at the top of the flight chamber which produces a wall-to-wall airflow that is smooth and fun to fly in. The air flow is totally controllable this combined with our professional instructors makes for the most exciting flight experience in a wind tunnel possible.

Nick and I have both done the iFLY before but we thought it’d be fun to do it again with our group. And it sure was!

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I didn’t get a picture of us in the tunnel so I grabbed this one of the iFLY Facebook page instead – it’s a fun one :)

If you’re interested you can find a recap of Ogden Young Professionals and also see when/where our next meeting is.

Today, I’m working from my office for a bit – I have an online training starting in a couple minutes so it’s time for me to sign off but I want to wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day and to let you know that my Misfit Flash arrived in the mail yesterday and I’m now tracking my life via a tiny fit gadget. I’ll be giving a review on Monday once I’ve had a chance to wear it to the gym (this afternoon) and put in a long run (Saturday), etc. Have a great weekend!

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Weekend Update Superbowl Edition

Well since the word Superbowl is in the title of this post I may as well come out and say it – that sucked. It was a great game and way more fun to watch than last year’s Superbowl which was a complete joke but it was hard to believe that last play and it was just…over.

We still love our Hawks but man, ouch.

Backing up a bit though, let’s start with Friday night. Our friends at the Lucky Slice are opening a new location a few miles down the freeway and we were lucky enough to attend their soft opening. Twice.

Friday night, Nick and I went just the two of us as a mini date before picking up the kiddos.

And on Saturday we went again after exploring on Antelope Island for a decent chunk of the day.

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Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake and features a beach with swimming area (not that I recommend it), a historic ranch and exhibit area, and free range bison – a couple hundred of them.

We’ve been on the island plenty of times but we have never really hiked out there. Spencer is just getting to the point where I feel comfortable letting him venture around and we aren’t taking turns on who is carrying him when his legs get tired. He loved climbing on the rocks, jumping off, running the trail and finding new rocks to jump from.

Mack was more introspective throughout the day, taking photos on his tablet, making notes and studying the trail map. I have a feeling that he’s taking after his grandpas who do very similar practices on their hikes. :)

And what post about Superbowl Sunday would be complete without a look at the food?! The party we went to had an appetizer challenge: bring an appetizer, put a numbered stick in it, everyone tries everything and then you get to vote for your top two picks.

I very quickly made my cranberry chicken skewers from my Superbowl Cookbook. I was in a hurry and Nick was eager to get to the game and the kids were running wild and…. well, Nick did some parts, I did some parts, and the communication wasn’t quite there so we wound up with something like the cranberry BBQ skewers, but not quite. Oh well.

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The appetizer competition was super fun and I loved seeing everyone’s creations – and eating all of them :)

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No.7 there in the back, that was the overall winner. Any guesses on what it is? Spoiler alert: apple crumble. The secret? See that bowl to the left? Chocolate covered bacon to garnish, as well as homemade ice cream and a chocolate stout beer to drizzle over the top. OVER THE TOP indeed. Superb!

And these deserve a mention for creativity for sure. Do you get the joke??

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And these…

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Silly, silly.

It was a great weekend despite the Seahawks loss and I am so, so happy we got out for an adventure on Saturday!

PS. Remember how it’s Spring now? Spring in February!