Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Narrows

The Narrows

When I was in high school We had to do a report on a National Park, and I picked Zion. That is where I first learned about the Narrows. The Narrows is a hike that can be completed in one of three ways:

·        First you can start at the bottom and hike in a few miles and then turn around and hike out
·        Second you can take a 90 min shuttle to the top and then do the 16 mile hike down over the period of two days. They have 12 designated campsites where you can stay overnight and continue your journey in the morning
·        Third you can take the 90 min shuttle and do the complete hike in one day without stopping.

Originally I wanted to do the overnight version, but then the idea of backpacking in all my overnight gear, and carrying it for the full duration of the hike intimidated me. The majority of the hike is through water so the thought of needing everything to be waterproofed just seemed complicated… Anyways, to move this along, after nine long years and two babies all the stars aligned so I could go on my dream hike. I had it all planned for the end of August with my mom. As I said before we opted to do the one day version, which left us with 14 hours to complete the hike in order to catch the last shuttle at 9:30pm. Well, long story short the weather did not cooperate and once we arrived to Zion the rangers strongly discouraged us from going through with the hike due to the risk of flash floods. I was extremely disappointed so I rescheduled my trip for October when Morgan could come with me. There were a few disadvantages to October. First, the air temperatures were much cooler; second, the water was much colder; and third, the days were much shorter. The last shuttle in October leaves at 7:30pm so you only have 11 hours to complete the hike. They say that the most experienced hikers can usually complete the hike in 12-13 hours. If we missed the shuttle we would be stranded there 4 miles away from any electricity and cell phone reception. The ranger strongly advised us to reconsider doing the day hike in October because completing it in 11 hours is pretty intense, but of course we thought we could do it. This is where my adventure begins:

               Morgan and I arrived to Zion Monday afternoon, and decided to squeeze in a hike to the top of Angels Landing before going to bed. Morgan had never done that hike before so we did not want to miss the opportunity. 

Top of Angels Landing

Tuesday we woke up at 5:00 am to get ready and catch the bus. We then had a 90 minute bus ride to the top of the trail head. The high temperature in the canyon was 53 degrees for the day with a low in the high 20s. Our shuttle ended up getting us to the trail-head 30 minutes later than expected (because they waited 20 minutes for a late couple who had stopped to pick up some carry out food and coffee, another 15 minute delay came because our bus driver passed one of the stops on the way up and had to turn around to drop someone off). Once we finally arrived at the trail head we tried to walk the first three miles as fast as we could because you start on level path that leads you down to the water where the hike begins. Crossing the river the first hour was pretty intense. Even though we were wearing high quality canyoneering shoes and neoprene socks, your feet still burned from the cold. They hurt pretty bad but eventually our feet numbed out and the burning went away. This early part of the hike was my favorite. The leaves were changing for the fall, and were absolutely stunning. I honestly don’t think I have ever seen anything so beautiful. I was obsessed with the leaves, I just cannot get over how amazing they were. Anyways, we tried to move as fast as we could because we knew that time was not on our side. It was really hard to not stop and take pictures every five minutes because the views were stunning. We had a map with some land marks to help gauge our time and make sure we were keeping a reasonable pace. When we passed the first one we were 20 minutes ahead of schedule. When we reached the second, which was a waterfall, we had fallen 15 min behind. I wasn’t surprised because we had been stopping and taking lots of pictures with the leaves. That was the last time we would see the map because sometime after the waterfall the map fell out of our pocket never to be seen again. That was also the last time we would see any other people along the trail. This hike has a limited number of permits handed out each day so there are a limited number of hikers passing through. I guess this day there were not many out because every campsite was vacant. We kept hoping we would bump into somebody so we could take a picture of their map but, unfortunately, we saw no one.

We were walking as fast as we could at this point, only stopping if we had to take something out of our packs. I literally think the only time we sat down was to take off some of our layers when the weather warmed up. We ate our lunches while we walked along the river. After walking for 8 straight hours, we were completely exhausted. We kept trying to remember the details of the map, but neither of us had a clear memory of any of the landmarks. So we really had no idea how close we were to the end. We just kept pushing forward trying to walk as fast as we could in hopes that we would not be stranded in the narrows overnight. Morgan was trying to rush me along, but my body was hurting so bad I did not think I could move much faster. Both of our knees and ankles were just throbbing. Walking on river rocks for 16 miles really does a beating on your feet. It was starting to get dark and we had been walking for just under 11 hours. I felt like I was never going to get out of the water. I was so tired and exhausted and just wanted to give up. Finally we stopped to put on our head lamps because it was completely dark. Once we put on our headlamps we crossed the river one more time, and that is where Morgan saw some stairs. He climbed out of the water and yelled to tell me this was the end.

I told him to run ahead and try to catch the shuttle, as we were only ten minutes past the time of the last shuttle. Morgan limped ahead and once I climbed out I just lost it emotionally and started crying. I think I was really getting worried that we would be stranded in the water over night and that was making me very nervous. We both limped down this long asphalt path, and arrived to the shuttle stop at 8:00pm… thirty minutes after the last shuttle had gone. We sat on the bench and waited hoping there would be a ghost rider shuttle, or that a ranger would do a drive by and check to see if people were at the shuttle stop. While we waited we decided to eat, since we hadn’t taken the time to consume much food. As we sat on the bench I remember that my mom had forced me to bring two of her 99 cent emergency blankets. In the past I have always made fun of my mom’s obsession with these blankets. She uses them for everything, but in this moment we were desperate to be warm. So we laid on one of the blankets, and put the other one over us. We sat and waited on the bench of the shuttle stop for three hours. Eventually the wind got worse and the temperature continued to drop. We had the option to walk to the lodge about 4 miles away but we did not think our achy bodies could handle another four miles of walking, especially in the cold. Out of desperation we moved into the family bathroom. We laid an emergency blanket on the floor of the bathroom and laid on top of that and used the other one to cover ourselves. This was not my highest moment, but we were so grateful for a closed building. The low for the night was below 30 degrees, and we did not have a good assortment of warm clothes. We left a flashlight on the bench with hopes that somebody would drive by and know we were there.

Nobody ever drove by and at 7:00am we went out to wait for the morning shuttle. At that point a ranger came by and saw us sitting there. She asked if we had been there all night and we told her that we had. She apologized and said normally a ranger comes by and checks to see if there are any people waiting but for some reason the ranger must have got caught up doing something else and never made it. Just our luck….

I want to conclude my story by saying this was by far the most beautiful hike I have ever done. The scenery was unbelievable. The pictures hardly do it justice. Even if I had known the way the trip would end I would still do the whole thing over again. It was such an incredible experience. I feel so proud of myself for not quitting or giving up and the memories I made are priceless. It was such a cool one-of-a-kind hike. The views in the canyon walking along the Virgin River are just incredible. There is no other way to fully appreciate the beauty that is there other than to do the full hike, but it is defiantly not easy. Next to child labor I would say it is the hardest thing I have ever pushed my body to do. I will also say, for any of you considering this hike, you would have a much different experience if you opt to do the overnight version. I think if we had done that it would have eliminated all the stresses and pressures we felt throughout the hike. I definitely plan on doing this hike again but this time would like to camp in the middle, so that I can really soak in the amazingness this hike offers. This is a hike everyone should do in their lifetime but it is important to be prepared. It is definitely doable in one day, especially in the summer, but don’t plan on much time to stop. I strongly believe if we had the map and could have seen how close we were to the end, I think we could have pushed ourselves a little harder to catch the shuttle. Bottom line…everyone add the Narrows to your bucket lists!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

San Diego Trip Part 3

So we ended up in Orange County at some crazy hour in the night. The first thing we wanted to do was get the kids beds’ set up so they could go to sleep. Unfortunately, Levi woke up as soon as the car stopped and was following me around as I unloaded the car, and he tripped on these stone steps and banged his head pretty hard. He had a huge lump, and as you can imagine he was pretty upset. We just took out the minimum things we needed and then headed to bed.

The next morning we spent most of the day unloading everything from the car and getting all the sand out of it. We set up the tent and hosed it off, and then we let it dry. Later that day Ariel and her family came up. We played lots of board games, and at the end of the day we had a campfire in the backyard. It was a lot of fun!

The next morning we woke up and headed to the beach. Ariel’s family came to and all the cousins were able to play together in the sand. It was nice to spend time with everyone at the beach and just relax. It had been such a crazy week, and it was nice to just have a little down time.

When we got back we took a little nap, then we got everything packed up because we had to drive down for an interview. We had applied for a trip to Israel and our interview to see if we qualified was that night. We dropped the kids off with Wendy and then headed down to San Diego. Everything seemed to go pretty well, and it was nice to just go back to Wendy’s and go to sleep. We were pretty wiped.

The next morning we woke up pretty early and headed to Sea World. My brother spoiled us with free tickets into the park. It was so fun taking the boys to Sea World. I have been countless times but going with my own children made it a whole different experience. We wanted to take full advantage of our tickets so we made a goal to do a little bit of everything! We started off going to the artic exhibit where we saw polar bears, penguins, walruses, and many other cool animals. We then headed over to the sharks. Levi seemed pretty fascinated with the sharks. I think he had a fun time.

Later we went to the Dolphin Show. We didn’t get to there too early so seating was pretty limited. The splash zone however was full of front row seats! Somehow I convinced Wendy and Elizabeth to sit in the splash zone with me and Levi. Morgan was not quite man enough to brave the splash zone, so he took Parker and moved to dryer ground. I will be honest I was pretty excited to be in the splash zone, but I was a little worried as to how Levi was going to handle it. At the beginning of the show there was a little splashing and we got a little spray of water. It definitely startled Levi, but he showed no emotion. He didn’t seem to get too upset, and was able to continue watching the show. Later the Dolphins came out and did lots of splashing. Levi did not really enjoy this part, and he did get a little upset, but he was immediately distracted watching the rest of the show. Towards the end of the show I notice out of the corner of my eye that they opened the gates for more animals to come out. I can see a big dark shadow of a whale coming through the bottom of the pool. At this point I knew that a tsunami was about to be coming our way. I try to grab Levi and shelter him from the wave of water that was coming towards us, but it was not enough. We were soaked and Levi completely lost it. The poor kid was traumatized. I instantly knew this would be out last soak zone experience of the day.
By the end of the day we saw all the animals, fed the stingrays, saw the Shamu Show, Pets Rule Show, Cirque de la Mer Show, rode Atlantis, rode Manta, rode the gondolas, and pretty much did everything the park had to offer. We made it a very full trip. It was so much fun, and we are so grateful for the experience.

The next day we woke up pretty early to get ready for a fun day at the San Diego Zoo! Mike’s sweet mom planned a beautiful gathering at the zoo so that the two families could sit and have lunch together while celebrating Wendy and Mike. It was fun to have some more time to visit with both families. Before lunch we got a private bus tour of the zoo. This was pretty cool, and Levi loved being able to ride on the bus. After the delicious feast we had several hours to walk around and enjoy the zoo! At this point in the trip we hadn’t had much time with Aaron and Gina so we planned on spending the rest of the day with them. The first thing I wanted to do was see the zebras since those are Levi’s most favorite animals. Little did we know that in order to get to the zebras we were going to need to encompass quite the hike! We walk all the way down this crazy hill, only to find Levi asleep in the stroller upon arriving at the zebra exhibit. Since I do not believe in waking a sleeping baby we decided to hike back up the hill to head to the next animal exhibit. Of course Levi wakes up shortly after we make it to the top. We made the unanimous decision not to go all the way back to the zebras, although we did consider it.

We walked around the zoo for a while. We saw the bears, gorillas, Pandas, monkeys, and lots of other fun animals. Once we decided we had seen enough of the zoo we decided to head to dinner. We all seemed to agree on trying this cute little Greek restaurant. It was my first time having Greek food, and it was my first time trying lamb. It was a fun experience. My favorite part was the company. It was especially nice to spend time with Aaron and Gina. We really enjoyed spending the day with them.

Finally we get to the big day! The whole purpose of this trip! The grand finale! The wedding! Elizabeth and I woke up early to go and join all the bridesmaids in Wendy’s hotel room to get ready for the wedding. Once we were all beautified, we headed out for pictures. I drove everyone to designated picture spot, and somehow we ended up being the last to arrive. It was ok though because we had the bride so technically we were not late. After pictures the other bridesmaids and I boarded the boat first to set up, before all the other guests. I guess I forgot to mention earlier that this wedding was to take place on a boat! So cool! I took Parker on the boat with me so that I could nurse him before everyone else started boarding. Levi also came on the boat early. He was so excited to ride the boat. He kept saying “Levi ride the boat” over and over again. It was so cute!

We stayed on the bottom of the boat until all the guests were seated. As soon as everyone was seated the ceremony started. I stayed back to help the kids down the aisle. I guess I should specify that Levi was the ring bearer and Amelia was the flower girl. Levi had his pillow all ready and Amelia had her basket of rose petals. Amelia loved her flowers and her basket. That leads into the next part of the story. As we were walking up these very steep stairs to the start of the aisle the wind blew Amelia’s petals right off the boat. To say she had a meltdown does not even begin to describe the devastation she felt as she watched all of her beautiful roses blow away. She threw herself on the floor screaming, until finally her dad went and picked her up. I am sure this is a story we will look back at and laugh at one day. Levi on the other hand walked down the aisle and would not even give the slightest smile. He just stood up there with a very serious expression. I guess you could say he took it job a little too serious. Haha, that’s Levi for you.

After the ceremony we ate and partied on the boat for a couple more hours. It was a lot of fun to be surrounded by so many friends and family. When the ceremony was over Wendy and Mike were carried off in a horse and carriage just like Cinderella. It was very sweet.

We went home to Wendy’s after the reception and immediately changed into sweats. We lounged and watched TV with Elizabeth and we all took naps. To say we were pretty wiped would be an understatement.

The next day was also pretty full. We drove up to Orange County to return the car we were borrowing. On the way home we swung by the Rainbow Outlet and bought ourselves some new rainbows. That was definitely a highlight. Our old rainbows were four years old so we were due for an upgrade! After that I needed to go and find myself something yellow to wear in our family pictures we were going to be taking that night. I was not originally planning on taking family pictures when I went out to San Diego so I did not plan out matching clothes for pictures. Wendy and I drove all over town searching for something yellow for me, but we were having pretty poor luck. Finally we decided to try Target before calling it quits. I walked into Target and searched everywhere and could not find a single item that was yellow in the women’s or juniors section. Finally right as I was giving up Wendy suggested I check the children’s section. So I did, and of course I find a yellow shirt in the little girl’s area. Luckily I am small enough that it fit, because if it didn’t, I was out of options. We rushed home changed and headed to the beach to take our family pictures! They turned out great! I could not have hoped for a better photo shoot.

As soon as we finished the pictures we rushed over to Chins to meet my Dad and Denice for dinner. It was fun to be able to squeeze in one last visit with my dad before we were going to have to fly home.

Finally it was time to go home! We woke up the next morning, and packed all of our stuff. We helped Wendy clean her house so that we did not leave her with a big mess, and then we rushed out to meet my grandma at her house because we were all going to be heading out to lunch. On the way over Levi fell asleep in the car. We transferred him to the bed at my grandmas and he stayed asleep. My grandpa said he would stay and keep an eye on him in case he woke up. This was a great idea because the poor kid was so exhausted from this crazy busy trip. Morgan, Parker, Wendy, Grandma, and I all headed to the garden center for lunch. It was nice and relaxing. We enjoyed and valued the time we were able to spend with Grandma before leaving for Texas. We went back to grandma’s house and picked up Levi. Turned out he had slept for most of the time we were gone, and enjoyed playing some ball with grandpa when he woke up. Grandpa is really excited for him to become a left handed pitcher!

After that we picked up our luggage and headed to the airport. It was a very busy and fun trip, but it felt so amazing to be home. Glad we had the opportunity to do so many fun things!