Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Taylorsville Dayzz

Yes I know what you’re thinking, and yes I do realize that adding two ‘Z’s is not the correct way to pluralize the word “day.” I know that because of the little red spell checking line that popped up under the word Dayzz as I was typing it. If it wasn’t for that line, then I would be just like every child growing up in Taylorsville who for that last few months has been taught by city-wide signs advertising the city’s celebration that the correct spelling of “days” is “Dayzz.” Now the fact that this entire town is confused about proper spelling is not surprising news, a quick google search for information on Taylorsville schooling reveals that only 55% of students at Arcadia elementary in Taylorsville are proficient or better at language arts. The curse of the double-z pluralization clearly has a grip on this community.

That being said, Taylorsville dayzz is clear evidence that the abilities to spell and to throw are party are not correlated in the least. Honestly my 5 hour trip to Taylorsville could not have been a more awesome and wonderful experience for one reason alone: the excellent quality of the people I met there.

The true Taylorville experience began as we made our way through the mazed streets of the Salt Lake suburb to pick up Lacey, our local Taylorsville tour guide. The first item on the tour agenda was a stop at Papa Murphy’s to decide on what type of pizza would serve as our dinner. Upon entering I knew we were where the locals came to buy dinner. It suffices to say that the company joining us in Papa Murphy’s wasn’t your classic Provo fare. This was good because I have a theory on travel: try to go to the local hot spots, not the real touristy places; try to blend in with the indigenous people and have the most authentic experience possible. In order to increase the authenticity of the experience, I asked Spencer, the local high-schooler working behind the cash register, what kind of pizza to get. He recommended the stuffed chicken and bacon pizza with the garlic sauce. I could tell by the look on Spencer’s face that he was honored to be asked his opinion on pizza as this is a topic he clearly holds dear to his heart. There is no other conceivable reason he would have taken that job. With respect to his expertise, we got the stuffed pizza, which is really like a giant calzone with cheese and sauce on top. Lacey ordered a veggie delite pizza as well. Apparently because her family was all girls they hadn’t yet discovered that you can get meat on your pizza. Preston and I also bought a bottle of lemonade to present to Lacey’s parents Terri and George, formally known as St. George and Mother Teresa respectively. We then headed back to Lacey’s house.

When we got to Lacey’s home, I got to meet Mother Teresa and St. George in person, which was an honor. Then I had Melissa, Lacey’s new roommate/semi-unofficially adopted sister take me on a tour of the clocks St. George has collected over the years. These were some amazing clocks! In preparation of this trip I had studied up on my clock facts. The only one I can really remember is that the mechanical clock was invented around 1300 a.d. Pretty fascinating stuff!

After the clocks, it was time for the photo tour. There really isn’t a better way to get to know someone quickly than by seeing the photos of their past. These windows into someone’s history are really worth a thousand words. I made Lacey explain to me all the photos of her adorning the walls and shelves of her home. Mother Teresa offered to break out the photo albums to show off the really embarrassing pictures, but Lacey refused to allow us that privilege. Fate also refused us the opportunity to watch the Powell home videos as they had loaned out their video camera and had no other way of playing the videos.

Dinner was full of sparkling conversation as the Powells dispensed their wisdom upon us. We learned that sometimes it’s okay, even necessary to propose on your first date and that if you think of eternity in terms of billions of years, it suddenly seems really, really long. We also learned what it feels like to look across a crowded room and see the way the light attaches to a special girl. In the words of St. George, that’s called “only having eyes for her.”

After dinner we got a tour of the Powell garden. As an avid mental gardener (I currently have no place to garden other than my mind), I really enjoyed the tour of different vegetables used in making magic Powell salsa. At least four types of peppers are used in the salsa which magically transforms between sweet and spicy flavors, kind of like how kettle corn goes from sweet to salty. I also learned that there is a type of tomato called Mr. Stripey, a name I would have reserved for a clown on a children’s game show.

We finished up our evening with the Powells by hearing a few stories about the devious local raccoons that haunt the neighborhood. Now if I ever have any sort of raccoon problem I know exactly who I’m bringing in as my senior anti-raccoon strategist. St. George has great technique.

We jumped in the cars and drove over to the local rec center behind which Taylorsville Dayzz was taking place. The crowd was already growing rapidly as blankets covered the grass claiming the best fireworks viewing spots. We were greeted by skydivers falling out of the sky carrying American flags as a Beatles tribute band informed us that they are Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
After marking off our territory for the fireworks we went to go explore the fairgrounds and meet up with some people that Lacey knew. That morning Lacey had run in a 5k and had a sore knee from it. In an action deeply rooted in chivalry, I offered to allow her to ride on my back rather than stumble around painfully on her hurt leg. When she accepted the piggy-back ride I took advantage of her severely limited mobility to have the face-paint artist paint “kiss me” and big set of lips on Lacey’s cheek. She was not nearly as appreciative of this as I expected her to be. She said something about “having to see people from her home ward and what will they think of me.” It was thoroughly entertaining watching her try to cover the side of her face with her hair.
One of the many booths set up at the fair was for the UQA, or Utah Quidditch Association. These people are serious about the sport. The tried to recruit Preston and me to be on the team after we told them that we are both fast and strong. Check out the website, if anyone wants to start a Provo team, The Drick has already suggested the name: Provo Prefects.
Before too long it was time to head back to our blankets and get ready for fireworks. What I did not know at the time was that I also needed to prepare for a brawl. Sitting behind us were two rambunctious little boys who were having fun throwing a foam ball back and forth. Then one of them threw the ball at our group. My competitive edge came out, and I grabbed the ball in a sort of taunting manner. Immediately both boys pounced on me. Encouraged by Preston they began using all sorts of WWE moves to dislodge the ball from my hands and my spleen from my abdomen. This sequence happened repeatedly throughout the evening. At one point during the fireworks one of the boys even managed to sneak up on me and give me a noogie. These kids were definite bullies.The fireworks themselves were awesome. There is nothing that epitomizes summer more that lying on a blanket on a warm night watching the dark sky explode with color and light. Patriotic tunes filled the air as we were mesmerized by fantastic display above us.
Yes summer time is officially here in Utah. To celebrate that fact we ended the night with milkshakes from Iceberg, home of the biggest “mini” sized shakes ever. I still have half of mine waiting in the freezer. I’ve been asked several times what my favorite season is. I always hesitate to answer because there is so much great stuff that happens all year. Fall, with its natural colors and mild temperatures, Winter with the beautiful snow and Christmas celebrations, and Spring with its rebirth and release from school all are wonderful. But after a summer night like Taylorsville Dayzz, I can with confidence say that none of them can hold a candle to the beautiful torch that is summertime, when our spirits are high, stress is low, the nights though short offer endless fun, and the long days welcome us with the sun’s bright rays.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Because my mother could not be out here in Utah for my talk last week in church, i have taken the text of my speech and presented it here. My assigned topic was keeping our covenants.

The Book of Abraham teaches us the purpose of our mortal existence: “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” It is that challenge, our exact obedience to the words of God, which forms the foundation for each covenant we make with God. From the Book of Mosiah we are taught the importance of entering into covenants by the people of King Benjamin as they said, following his great discourse, “And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.” Benjamin then explains, “And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.”

Our salvation comes through the covenants we form with God, and us striving to live up to those promises throughout our lives. It is through these covenants, especially those formed in the sacred ordinances of the temple that we learn how to become like God.

The Doctrine and Covenants teach us “And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh.” Covenants and their associated ordinances are vital to our eternal progression, we simply cannot reach our potential with them.

As we enter these covenants we become key players in battle of Good and Evil. We have upon us a solemn obligation to keep the commandments of God and serve his children. Said Jeffrey Holland:
“The war is on, and we have conspicuously enlisted. And certainly it is a war worth waging. But we are foolish, fatally foolish, if we believe it will be a casual or convenient thing. We are foolish if we think it will demand nothing of us. Indeed, as the chief figure, the great commander in this struggle, Christ has warned us about treating the new testament of his body and his blood trivially. We are told emphatically not to pilfer and profane, prevaricate and fornicate, satiate ourselves in every indulgence or violation that strikes our fancy and then suppose that we are still "pretty darn good soldiers." No, not in this army, not in defending the kingdom of God. More is expected than that. Much more is needed.”

The prophets of old knew what dedication the covenants would require. Nephi learned that lesson as he went back to get the brass plates to fulfill the commandment of the Lord. After having his property taken and life threatened, in order to live up to the Lord’s command, Nephi was required to take Laban’s life, an event that no doubt was a struggle for someone raised by goodly parents. In discussing this Book of Mormon story, Elder Holland comments:
“’I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded’ (1 Nephi 3:7). I confess that I wince a little when I hear that promise quoted so casually among us. Jesus knew what that kind of commitment would entail, and so now does Nephi. And so will a host of others before it is over. That vow took Christ to the cross on Calvary, and it remains at the heart of every Christian covenant. "I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded." Well, we shall see.”

Yet despite the refining fires of affliction and trial that surely await all of us who declare our allegiance to God, we can have confidence that because of our covenants, we need not fear abandonment.
From Isaiah we read, Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.

George Q. Cannon adds:
No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, [God] will never desert us. He never has, and He never will. He cannot do it. It is not His character [to do so]. He is an unchangeable being; the same yesterday, the same today, and He will be the same throughout the eternal ages to come. We have found that God. We have made Him our friend by obeying His Gospel; and He will stand by us. We may pass through the fiery furnace; we may pass through deep waters; but we shall not be consumed nor overwhelmed. We shall emerge from all these trials and difficulties the better and purer for them, if we only trust in our God and keep His commandments.

Brothers and sisters, we have taken upon us covenants of eternal consequence. We have promised God, the creator and ruler of the universe, that we will obey him. We have taken upon us the name of Christ as a symbol of our dedication to the kingdom of God as we turn our lives over to the Savior. In return we have been promised guidance, help and support throughout our earthly journey back to our Heavenly Father. We must live up to the covenants and promises we have made. Christ, as our supreme example did so. For the Joy that was set before him, Christ endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. That eternal joy can be ours if we will but put God first in our lives, obey his commandments and keep his covenants.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cheers to my little sister!

Today my little sister Megan graduates from childhood! Well, not legally, that won’t happen for about another month when she turns 18, but socially, she will no longer be a little school girl. I am quite proud of all my siblings, they have followed my glowing example very well, especially this sister. A lot of people comment on how she has followed my footsteps in having stunning good-looks, a charismatic smile, and a personality that can light up a room. My mom was also quick to point out that she actually surpassed me in scholastic performance, and gets to wear all sorts of academic bling as she walks for graduation. I am also pleased to announce that she will be joining me this fall in the hallowed foothills of Provo, Utah to further her education at Brigham Young University. I will be sure to take advantage of her meal plan dollars in exchange for rides in the car. Megan, I am very happy for you and proud that you choose to stay in school even though I know how badly you wanted to drop out. You will never regret that decision you made so long ago to stick it out and get your diploma. I know Mom and Dad are proud of you too. We all love you and wish you the best summer followed by an even better freshman year!

Monday, June 14, 2010


Last night I took a glance at our apartment wall calendar to see what we had scheduled for the next week. There were only 2 things written on there for the entire month. One had just passed: June 12 – Kendrick’s birthday. The other arrives at the end of this week: June 18, which is designated on the calendar as the worst day of our lives.

Now to the average person, June 18 is just another day, in fact it will probably be better than a normal day because it is a Friday, and everybody is just working for the weekend. However, for us at apartment south seven, that is the day everything will fall apart.

June 18 marks the end of the spring term here at BYU. With its conclusion, over half of the people in my group of closest friends will leave Provo. Some will be back in just a matter of months, ready to rekindle our relationships with new stories and experiences, while others will remain only as cherished memories and the focus of an occasional wishful thought as they move on to perhaps bigger and better things. Our lives will become more quiet and less full as close knit ties will, in a sense, unravel. I take the following from a song (the title of the post) by Carbonleaf, a great band from Virginia that everyone should listen to, especially every song on their album Indian Summer:

Let fondness be our souvenir
To keep it warm it we’ll keep it near
Otherwise with no heart to recall
A memory’s just a memory after all

I feel blessed to have so many great people in my life. Sometimes life doesn’t make sense, but there always seems to be someone close to us that can make it a little bit clearer. And so, if I were a drinking man, I would raise my glass to friendship, and hope that it burns forever bright, not as a candle sheds its lights, but a glowing torch in the darkened night.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


This past Friday, the stars, against all conceivable odds, aligned. My roommate’s fiancĂ© was out of town, which meant that we got to spend some time with our long lost friend, Jared. Jared happens to be currently enrolled in a golf class, a skill he has used to impress his impending inlaws. He has to play a few times out of class as part of the course requirements, so we decided that this would be good opportunity for us to go.

There are two aspects of golf. The first is of course hitting the ball into the hole. The second, the part in which I excel more, is looking like a golfer. I grabbed my argyle socks to go with my plaid shorts. I probably should have also thrown on a newsie’s cap, but I like to think I would have still made Payne Stewart proud. Good form on the practice swing

We went out to the Links at Sleepy Ridge, a beautiful course near Utah Lake, in the west end of Orem. Pulling up to the course, you are immediately greeted by the massive club house. It is a mansion of a building that plays host to weddings and other catered events, as well as housing the pro shop and Magleby’s restaurant.

Because he is in a golf class at BYU, Jared was able to get us 9 holes at about half price. They threw in my club rentals for free and gave us a cart for only 5 more bucks. For that I commend the folks at Sleepy Ridge. Very friendly people. We grabbed our clubs and strapped them onto the back of the cart and followed the GPS to the first of 9.

The extent of my golfing lessons mostly comes from reading P.G. Woodhouse’s The Coming of Gowf. There we are instructed by a true scot, “Use the interlocking grup and keep the staunce a wee bit open and slow back, and dinna press or sway the heid and keep yer e'e on the ba'.” With thast in mind I approached the first tee. We played through 9 holes. My highlight was getting par on the 8th. Chipping onto the green, I somehow managed to hit the ball right where I wanted to. It landed on the slope and rolled straight towards the hole, stopping one inch away from the lip. I leapt into the air, swinging my club in celebration.

We only lost about 8 balls between the two us, less than 1 per hole. I also managed to find 2 new balls in the various water hazards while looking for my own. I finished the front nine 10 under double par, one stroke behind Jared. Not bad, not bad at all.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wherein lies happiness?

In that which becks
Our ready minds to fellowship divine,
A fellowship with essence; till we shine,
Full alchemiz’d, and free of space. Behold
The clear religion of heaven!
-John Keats

So around 11 o’clock last night, I was lying in a field being sprayed by sprinklers. I was completely soaked and the cold night air shot chills down my spine. Yet, I couldn’t stop smiling. There, by myself I was really happy. I began thinking about the sources of happiness in our lives. I’ve long be of the opinion that the people around us bring us joy. I believe that memories often aren’t worth forming unless we are sharing them with people we love. But last night, I realized that sometimes we let too much of our happiness rest on the acceptance and opinions of others. Sometimes we put in too much energy trying impress those around us, and if we don’t see the result we desired, we cannot be happy.

I think that is an unhealthy way to live. To constantly seek the attention and approval of others and not be happy without it is a dark road. There is an immense freedom available to us when we can be happy with ourselves; when can see what our true value is in this world, our true potential, and our opinion of ourselves isn’t swayed by the doubts of others. The people around us should enrich our lives. They should be an integral part of our existence, enhancing the experiences we go through. But we must have a base on which they may stand. We must have our own platform of confidence and self worth that establishes a happiness intrinsic to our lives. Without that, we will constantly be questioning our relationships, unable to trust in others because we cannot trust in ourselves. As Keats said, our happiness lies in fellowship divine. I believe that fellowship begins with ourselves. Once we have mastered that relationship, we can fully reach outward and magnify our happiness by the divine fellowship of others.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Moab part one

I just got the last few grains of sand out my ears and hair, finally ridding myself of the last unwanted souvenirs from my most recent trip to Moab, Utah. I suppose the campfire musk will continue to follow me for a few more days, but that only adds to the manly image I try to project. (For the record I have been told on several occasions that I am a man’s man. I think that that is a compliment, though I’m not entirely sure what it means. Also for the record I do hope to someday be a woman’s man.) That being said, the trip south can officially be labeled an immense success.

This idea of going down to Moab had been rolling around in my roommate Preston’s brain for sometime. Of course I was immediately on board with the idea signed on as co-planner. We circled Memorial Day weekend as the time to go, and then decided that in the spirit of adventure, we would wait until the last possible moment to do any further planning. In fact, when we eventually arrived at the campground, we weren’t even sure who else would be showing up. We had been advertising the trip to our friends for a few weeks, never giving any details aside from “trust me, you’re gonna love it!”

About 11 o’clock the night before we were leaving, Preston and I sat down around our planning table, which was really just a couple of concrete steps a few doors down from where we live. There we hashed out the details: we will drive to Moab, find a campsite, and live there until we get tired of it. While there, we will do fun things. We will not sleep in a tent, but rather hope that it doesn’t rain. The only actual activity we knew we would do was go mountain biking on the world-famous slickrock biking trail. I had even bought a new bike so I could participate.

The next day, about 4 hours before we planned on leaving, I called a campground and asked about availability in the sandflats recreation area. The guy on the other end informed me that though the campground was currently only half full, he expected it to reach capacity by that night, and that it would be best to arrive as early as possible to guarantee a spot. He also told that there was a sand storm going on down there, but I decided to keep that detail to myself, lest anyone who was planning on going suddenly have a change of heart for fear of being sand-blasted. Since we needed to reserve two campsites to cover our estimated group size, Preston and I decided it would be best to bump up our departure time an hour to 4 o’clock. It was a good thing we did so because we ended up having an hour delay in leaving which put us right back on the original schedule.

The drive down was uneventful, which is good because with driving, I like to think that no news is good news. We just rolled along in Preston’s suburban, enjoying the scenery and a giant bag of pretzels. Eventually the greenery of central Utah faded into the red-rock terrain of the southern desert and we finally reached Moab. The road took us through the small downtown strip of gift shops, restaurants and trading posts, across mill creek and into the sandflats recreation area where we began our search for camp sites. The goal was to find two campsites next to each other, so every time we found a new spot, we would leave someone behind to guard it while we searched on for an even better location. Finally, at the end of cluster H, we found our version of El Dorado, the city of gold. Preston left me behind and went back to go pick up the girls and gear we had left at various spots along our trail. In the mean time, I decided to explore our new home. I climbed the nearest rock, a place we would later name sunset hill because of what I found on top: one of the most incredible views of the western skyline I have ever beheld. It also turned out to be the only spot near our campsite that offered cell phone service. There I sat and watched as the sun sank below the horizon, the clouds above reflecting its bright rays, echoing the rich colors of the dirt and rock that lay before me. The wind from the dust storm I had failed to warn my fellow travelers about pushed on my back as I waited for them to return and we could begin to set up camp. The sunset got me excited for the rest of the weekend.

As Preston’s headlights turned into our campsite, I scrambled down the rocky face of sunset hill and we began establishing our camp. We put up the girls’ tent first, a sturdy dome borrowed from Liz’s uncle. Then we turned to putting up Preston’s tent as a decoy to claim territory as well as to store our supplies during our expeditions. It turned out that the tent, given to him by a friend who bought it for two dollars and Deseret Industries, was missing one of its main poles and therefore was not nearly as sturdy as one would hope their shelter would be. It also didn’t have any stakes, so we filled it with small boulders to keep the heavy winds from turning our experience into an outdoorsy remake of The Wizard of Oz. Once camp was established, we jumped back into the suburban and headed into town for some late night eats.

The night life in Moab isn’t very established. Much to our chagrin, there were no advertised dance parties or karaoke going on. Instead, there was a lot of advertising for the best green chili in Utah, served at the Moab diner. We are very influenced by such advertising gimmicks because we only eat the best, so the decision of where to go was simple. We arrived at the diner at 9:58. Once seated, we found out that they close at 10. There was a certain amount of annoyance exuded by our server with the prospect of having to take care of four poor students who are probably not big tippers this late at night, but still the service was good and food delicious. I had a Chili Burger, which is just what one would imagine with that description: a burger on which you pour world famous green chili. The fries were also very good: thick cut and crispy. It’s hard to go wrong with a local joint in touristy town. Their reputation is their life blood. We drove back to camp fairly exhausted and quite excited for the next day’s adventures. Anxious to get to sleep, Preston and I laid out our sleeping bags on the sandy ground and closed our eyes.

However sleep would be far from us as the wind continued to howl in our ears and sand was blown into our eyes and mouths. The ground on which we were lying was steep enough to elicit us placing large rocks at our feet to stop us from sliding down into the next site. The wind and sand continued all night as we struggled to get any rest. I ended up turning my sleeping bag around and zipping my head inside to protect it from exposure to the elements.

The sun came early, rudely tearing us from our hard fought sleep several hours before my usual rising time. The first thing on the day’s agenda: slickrock bike trail. A quick google search of slickrock shows that this trail is the most popular in the world, has singlehandedly made Moab the Mecca of mountain biking, and is absolutely exasperating. Really the perfect place to introduce yourself into the world of mountain biking for the first time. In fact, this was the first time I had ever ridden my new bike, the first bike I have owned since middle school.

I began riding the trail rather tentatively. I was already sure that I was going to crash at some point, I had the whole thing envisioned in my mind: the cracking of bones, the flash of light as my head slammed against rock, the blood flowing across the already red dirt. So I was just waiting to make a fatal mistake. It wasn’t 30 minutes into the ride that I made that mistake. The accident wasn’t fatal to me, but rather to my shorts. While attempting to climb a very steep section of hill, I leaned too far back as I pressed on the pedals. I popped a wheelie and immediately bailed off the back of the bike. I landed on my feet, but the crotch of my shorts caught on the bike seat and tore clean through. It looked as though I was wearing a skirt with an extremely high slit up the front. Not my best look, and certainly not better than me riding the rest of the trail in just my spandex. Good thing I’ve been doing a little P90X.

The ride itself was mesmerizing when I had a rare opportunity to look up from my tires. The Colorado river was below us carving out its canyon deeper and deeper. The rolling rocky hills seemed to flow on like waves across a desert sea out to the horizon. We had to take several breaks to regain strength in our legs and to eat the cliff bars we had packed in. The dry air that surrounded us parched our mouths with each breath; I drank water bottles as though they were shot glasses. We kept biking on, up and down the rocky hills until I made my nearly fatal error. Coming down a steep section, I failed to pop up my front tire as I hit a rock at the bottom. I flipped over the handlebars of the bike, my legs staying tangled with the pedals as I tried to push myself free of the wreckage. Unable to pull away from the bike, my swinging legs flipped the bike over me again and I came to a halt. My arm and legs were scraped, but besides that no harm was done. I jumped back on my bike and we continued on.

In total, the entire loop took us about 3 hours to complete, not bad considering 4 hours is the recommended time to set aside on the state website. By then end, my legs burned with a fire that could have melted Thor’s hammer. We rode two miles at a very relaxed pace along the road back to our campsite for a cool down. I was already beginning to feel sore.

Preston and I understand one principal: you have to keep women happy. We have learned this through much trial and error in our own lives and knew that with having girls on this trip, efforts would need to be made to keep them smiling and not complaining. So with that in mind, we all went into town to go to all the gift shops because everyone knows that nothing makes women happier than shopping. It’s a strange and inexplicable phenomenon. Personally I don’t know where the female endurance for shopping comes from. I could spend all day walking up mountains, riding bikes and jogging, but put me the mall for one hour and my legs begin to falter. For women, it appears to be the exact opposite. I think we went through 5 gift shops and one trading post. We read hundreds of slogans sprayed onto t-shirts, all of which had something to do with dirt or rocks. There were bumper stickers galore, Preston’s favorite was “Hike Naked: Moab.” I don’t know what kind of person broadcasts that message from the back of their car, but I’m sure they’re a special breed, and I’m not sure if I would like to meet them. After getting our fill of shot glasses and Indian trinkets we went over to the Moab visitors’ center. This was two pronged mission: one, we wanted to find out the best hikes available in the area for that afternoon, and two, the center boasts the best bathrooms in the city.

Staffing the visitors’ center’s information desk was a member of the Canyonlands historical society. You could tell the length of this man’s beard that he knew everything about the area. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had been raised by wolves out in the Moab wilderness. He gave us some recommendations for the afternoon and we decided to think about our options over lunch. Now for anyone heading down to Moab, I would highly recommend Paradox Pizza. It’s a pizza by the slice joint that serves delicious, gourmet, gargantuan slices. I had the pesto veggie pizza, and the jalapeno Hawaiian. Both, I thought, were superb.

Energized and invigorated we headed off for the day’s next adventure: Corona Arch. Corona arch is a huge arch located outside of arches national park. It has become famous because Tim Martin, a local bush pilot, flew his plane through the arch back in the 80’s. (You can order the video of this and other of Tim’s low flying feats at the following website: http://www.swaviator.com/arch-enemy/)

We began hiking as the sun started its descent from high noon. The temperature high for the day was in the 90s and we could feel it. Feeling it even more were the various dogs sharing the trail with their owners. I didn’t know dogs could stick their tongues out that far. There were even people carrying their over-heated dogs over the last stretches of the trail. I tried the tongue hanging technique to cool down, but found drinking more water to be a more effective alternative. After posing a few times by the arch, we turned back towards the car to go for hiking round two. We followed some European hikers down the trail and watched as they stopped every 10 steps to snap another picture. Honestly I don’t know how these folks were still functioning: the heat was approaching 100 degrees and they were wearing long sleeves and zip-off pants that they hadn’t zipped off. What’s the point of the zipper if you’re not going to use it? Either they must have been really embarrassed of their legs or the un-zipping instructions were in English only.

Along the road to the next trail was a huge wall of rock featuring petroglyphs drawn on by the ancient indigenous people of the area. This sparked a conversation on the merits of graffiti. These pictures could have simply been drawn on the wall by a bunch of prehistoric punks as a way of defacing the local corner store, and now they are considered priceless artifacts of history. After a few moments of observation we drove on to the trail head for observation point. The sign said 1.5 miles, so we weren’t expecting too much difficulty in reaching the end. After we had hiked for that mile and a half, we found that the sign had simply meant that the trail begins in 1.5 miles and from there it’s 2 more miles until you get to observation point. Still undaunted we pressed on, the trail finally breaking away from the road that had been running parallel to us about 20 feet away the entire time.

After about 30 more minutes of walking up the mountain, the heat began to catch up with us. Our bodies were exhausted and observation point sounded like less and less fun. The turning point had come, as well as my opportunity to be hero. I volunteered to run back to the car and drive it up the road that followed the trail and pick everyone else up. Honestly it was a selfish offering because I find nothing more fun in the hiking world than scampering downhill like what I imagine a mountain goat would look like on two legs. I arrived at the car drenched in sweat and covered in dust, ready for what we had previously dedicated as our next activity: bathing in the Colorado River.

The Colorado River is not especially known for its cleansing properties. The water is a dirty brown color, but when combined with a bar of Irish Spring soap, it can still do miracles on a filthy camper. The river is also notoriously cold, so to get ourselves ready for the deep chill we would encounter we put up all the windows of the car and turned off the air as to create a sort of dry sauna to ride in. We arrived at the river gasping for air and desperate for relief from the stinging heat. I quickly threw on my swim suit, grabbed my Irish Spring and ran into the river. Goose bumps immediately formed all over my now shivering body as I scrubbed my away the dirt and sweat that covered me. The wind was still blowing at hurricane strength so the bathing was cut short as we tired of chasing our towels as they blew away.

After bathing, the next basic human function was to eat dinner. In order to keep our outdoor experience authentic, we decided to pic-nic. The local city mart, aka Kroger’s, has these delectable deli sandwiches they sell premade, but still fresh. They are roughly the size of my lower leg and only cost 6 dollars. Preston and I each got one and the girls got one to share. We found a little city park to eat at and relax as we waited for more of our friends to show up that evening. Sharing the park with us was the Rocky Mountain Adventures group having a huge barbecue. I don’t know what the requirements are for joining the group, but it actually looked like an older crowd, middle aged and higher, who probably just can’t get enough of the outdoors. Definitely something to look into for the future.

The park we found featured a rather unique xylophone section. I had never seen anything like it before, but it certainly fit the hippie-vibe that Moab puts out. There were ten different xylophones of different sizes and styles, complete with mallets and everything. The sounds of our masterpieces carried above the trees into the clear sky. As we played, the first car of fellow campers showed up. It was the group I will designate as the new guys: Ryan, Nick, Freddie, and Grant. Freddie we’ve know for a while, but Ryan and Nick just moved into the ward a month or so ago. Grant is their old roommate who came down on his way to California for an internship. We started playing a little Frisbee, which led to an experience that has no doubt changed lives.

While playing Frisbee 500, a little boy came to join in our game. His name: Gavin. Just mentioning that name for the rest of the trip would cause an eruption of thunderous laughter. Gavin was one of those athletes with simply more hustle than skill. We would try to gently toss him the Frisbee and he would miss it. Anytime the Frisbee would land on the ground, Gavin was after it like a hound on a fox. He would slide, dive or lay out trying to grab the Frisbee in order to have the opportunity to throw it back. Unfortunately he could only get the Frisbee about a quarter of the way back to his target. This elicited the question, “So do you play sports?” The answer: a clarifying “No.” After playing and laughing with Gavin for a good 15 minutes, it was time for us to head to campsite to watch the sun sink down from sunset hill. As we were leaving, Freddie jokingly asked Gavin if he wanted to go camping with us. Gavin’s eyes lit up, especially when he heard that we had candy at our site, and he ran off to go ask his dad if it would be alright to go with us. Not wanting any legal trouble we jumped in our cars and drove off before the question could be posed.

Once again I was back on top of Sunset Hill for the 8:30 display of natural magnificence painted across the darkening sky. For some reason there is something sublime about the sky and watching it change colors as the spectrum bends and breaks. There is some connection it has with the human soul, stirring the deepest part of our emotions, reminding us of what is beautiful in life and rekindling our aspirations. So with the sky burning up before us, we watched, thought and felt. Headlights lit up the road below us as evening turned to dusk. It was more of our group. We went down to meet them.
Almost everyone had now arrived. We built a campfire and sat around telling stories of the past and talking about plans for the next day and for the future. It was the embodiment of summer. The last car we were waiting for arrived. We talked and laughed. The wind stopped and the air cooled. We laid out our sleeping bags and closed our eyes.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

There are things that drift away like our endless, numbered days

Here is the first summary of my recent trip to Moab. This isn’t the fun report, this isn’t the description of the memories I made or the laughs we shared around the campfire. These are the melancholy, sobering thoughts that came to me while watching the stars from the dusty desert floor.

The first two nights of camping kept the stars hidden behind a thin veil of clouds, so it wasn’t until the third night of sleeping among the red rocks and dark skies that the stars came out in such an impressive display of cosmic beauty as to evoke the pensive state of mind in which I found myself. There, laying on the hard, rocky surface, I was wrapped up in a blanket of celestial lights so immense that I could feel myself being lost in the sheer grandeur of all that surrounded me. And that feeling of being lost brought with it a consciousness of how easily our lives can drift by us.

I realized that everything we had done that weekend, all of the fun things, every smile, every sunset, all of it, was drifting away from me and from reality into some other realm of the past. By tomorrow, everything might as well been a dream. I would have pictures to show that it happened, but those would be images of ghosts, depictions of times that have already passed away and drifted out of my life. I can’t go back to the beauty of the first desert sunset I saw on that trip. I can’t go back to the excitement of my freshman year at college or to the thrill of my first kiss. All of those experiences are gone and the scary part is that though for now we think that these days are endless and our opportunities unlimited, in fact they are quite numbered and with each passing day, that number grows smaller and smaller.

Sometimes you can almost feel life slipping through your fingers. You can see what you want be, how you want to live and who you want in your life, but you don’t know how to get there. It’s like being covered by that starry blanket that is so large that you cannot find the edge. At times it can feel overwhelming. It gives me such a sense of urgency to figure out my life and find what it’s missing as I continue to drift further and further into the future.

Yet despite these fears of the future, of losing and missing opportunities, the stars inspire a sort of confidence in what the future may bring. The vast expanse of magnificence in the desert sky brings out such a sense of awe as to seemingly whisper to us that everything will work out, and then gently coax us to sleep, just as any good blanket should. With that in mind, so begins a new day, a new opportunity and a new vision of what life can be.