After spending a day in Salt Lake with Peter's brother eating good food and swinging on this miraculous swing he put in his front yard, we drove to Boulder [near Escalante] and camped in a crummy [read: crowded] little state park in Escalante for the night. At least there were chukars there. The next day we hiked Lower Calf Creek Falls, a hot but way-worth-it 5.5 mile hike up [and back down] one of those ubiquitous gorgeous mini riparian corridors southern Utah is so famous for. The waterfall and pool at the end of the hike up were so idyllic that we almost never left. View the pictures at a leisurely pace to get the feeling for this afternoon.
We had tons of fun in Calf Creek. Later we ate at Hell's Backbone Grill in Boulder with Daddy's brother and his daughters [whom Little adores] and his friend, the owner. It was fantastic, some of the best and most creative food we've ever had. If you're ever anywhere near there, it's definitely worth a super meal or two for roughly what half a french fry costs here in the Bay Area. Mommy even enjoyed some kind of bizarre-sounding but yummy trout pate despite her normal aversion to anything fishy. We slept on public land somewhere off the Burr Trail and enjoyed perfect skies and complete privacy. Insomnia wouldn't exist in such a place.
The next day Daddy's brother drove us up Hell's backbone and we shot rifles [.22, .30-30, .270] until Daddy's shoulder started becoming detached from his torso and Mommy started to give him the Impatient Look. Daddy took it as the time to leave and we all drove off for Salt Lake to meet Daddy's other brother and his family.
Daddy's Other Brother has a bunch of kids, and Little loved just about all of them. We hung out and went swimming, then we went on a small hike in "The Canyon" [not sure where that was] and Little just insisted that she hold Mack's hand the whole time. He was very tolerant.
Little and her closest cousin Pinkleberry decided it would be cool to use their pockets. They just loved it. Nothing cuter.
Then we drove to Arches National Park near Moab for Mommy's family reunion. After camping at a gorgeous campground deep inside Arches [nearly Mommy's whole family; more than enough nuttiness for one National Park! But it was great], we went on a rafting trip down a stretch of the Colorado. No pictures [you can guess why], but it was a blast. Mommy and Daddy even got to go off on their own in a little inflatable raft/canoe/kayak hybrid called a ducky. Super fun all around. The canyon was stunning. Mommy's parents looked after Little and Littler in Moab while we were gone, giving Mommy and Daddy their first really free time since Little was born. Can't stress enough how cool that was.
We went just south of Moab for the rest of the day, to a little man-made creek and reservoir called Ken's Lake.
Little and Manda's brother Gobot, one of Little's favorite people.
It was the 4th of July, by the way.
The all-time greatest picture in the history of the universe, says Daddy. Little was waiting for Gobot [guffaw haw haw] when she slipped on wet sandstone near the creek and became just a little distressed.
Daddy went nuts over the lighting at Ken's lake. Must have taken a hundred pictures. We waded, swam, tried to catch bass, and generally screwed around happily until it was late enough that we could eat dinner.
There was lots of rock throwing. Little's cousin Mark went nuts with rocks several times his weight. We were all scared for our lives. Gobot threw rocks halfway across the lake, maybe 6, 7 million feet. It was a sight to behold.
We camped again that night in Arches [at the group campsite]. In the morning Mommy's sister's husband Ereeek hooked up some rappelling gear so that Mommy could practice. Littler was a sandstone-eating spectator.
Ereeeeek and his wife [Manda's sister Gordita] took all of us off-the-beaten track on a couple-mile loop hike to a perennially wet canyon west of Arches. There were a few waterholes but not much more.
See the irony in this? Little is cleaning her shoe because she doesn't want to be dirty...
One of Mommy's brothers found a whole population of red-spotted toads. This is one of the distinctive southwest riparian amphibians and they were superabundant at this water hole. This one was no larger than Daddy's pinky nail.
We spent a couple hours swimming in and rappelling into this waterhole. It was a blast and a great way to get out of the heat.
When we got back to the campsite that night, everything was covered in sand. A sand storm had ripped down our tarp-tent and most of the group's tents had traveled quite a distance in the wind. A ranger told us that she had found some of our tents rolling across the road. Our 2-man tent was fine, but our 1-man [where Mommy and Daddy sleep, without a fly] tent rolled into a tree. Somehow one of the tent poles bent at a 45-degree angle from the force. We still have no idea how the wind managed that much force acting on our flimsy tent; it took huge amounts of force to bend it back to seminormal.
We camped again at Arches that night. Daddy had been excited to photograph the bugs that are attracted to the lanterns at night. There are some fantastic little creatures out there. Unfortunately, the flash ran out of batteries so Daddy had to use the little dinky flash on the camera. At any rate, Ereeeek and Mommy's other sister's husband Glen helped corral and photograph the few bugs that would cooperate.
This, we discovered, is an antlion. Very cool eyes. With our tripod [which we left at home because of space issues], extension tubes [not used on these pictures] and the real flash we could have taken some fantastic pictures of this bug's eyes. But this will have to do.
This is the beetle Daddy's the most interested in. The antennae are lamellate antennae, which is a kind we've never seen before. Daddy searched for a long time and decided it was some species of polyphylla in the scarabaeidae family. So it's a june beetle of some sort. Daddy even emailed a scarab specialist and he confirmed it. It was quite common around the lanterns at Arches. The antennae are apparently a sophisticated sensing apparatus to detect female pheremones. So that makes this wacky beetle a dude. Daddy, Glen, and Ereeek spent quite a bit of time observing these beetles interacting and acting nutty.
The next day, Ereeek found a long-nosed leopard lizard in the morning near the campsite. The red coloration means it's pregnant or ready to become so. So our [possibly] preggo lizard is a gal. Ereeek and Glen and Daddy caught it and took pictures. Glen got bitten by the lizard, which was pretty exciting.
One of the persistent problems that we had on this trip was the great beauty of the sandstone in Utah. It was so big and so grand that it was almost impossible to wrap a lens around. Our 28mm lens isn't even close to having a prayer of being nearly wide enough for Utah. Daddy spent many hours trying to find the right scenic shot but ended up with very little, including this shot taken at our campsite.
The next day we hiked up Negro Bill, another wet tributary of the Colorado. It was an incredible hike! At one point, Daddy [with Little] and Ereeek hiked up a side-canyon into a forest of poison ivy. Daddy was very careful to avoid getting any poison ivy on his clothes in case the kids happened to rub against them. Once they got to the end of the canyon [a gigantic amphitheater of red sandstone much too large and grand for any lens, of course], Daddy felt something rubbing against the back of his neck over and over again. Since Little was riding in the backpack, Daddy asked her what she was doing. "Daddy have a leaf!" she said. So Daddy reached back and took the proffered gift: a clump of poison ivy. Good thing Daddy was so careful avoiding the plants, right? Thankfully neither of them got itchy, though daddy has these mysterious inflamed lymph nodes on his neck that began right after this hike and persist still...
Negro Bill is probably the perfect example of the classic Utah red sandstone riparian zone. We hiked in the water as much as we could, in the tradition that Mommy and Daddy started back when they were dating in Arizona.
Daddy chose to include the picture. Suppose he thinks he looks cool?
We stopped for an hour or so on the way up the canyon to catch crawdads for dinner that night. We never ate them, but at least we removed 40 individuals of an invasive species from the river. That, and, of course, it was lots of fun [Daddy is very proud of the 20 he caught... even the miniature one he caught just to move up from the boring number 19]. Ereeek got pinched by a crawdad, which was pretty exciting.
This is the rediculously fantastic arch at the end of Negro Bill. Again, we couldn't wrap the lens around it. But picture this: a full natural sandstone bridge suspended over a deep and cold blue water pothole inside of a towering cathedral of red rock. The creek starts in a hole in the rock just above head level and there is even an active raven's nest built on a ledge on the arch [next to Littler's ear in the picture]. Stupendous place, like something from a very purple fantasy novel. We'd go back there any day.
We went back to the campsite and left the next morning. 17.5 hours later we were in Stanford again! It was well worth it-a trip to remember for sure. But Little is still crying out the stress she accumulated from the trip so we figure we'll keep the rest of our summer a little less exciting...
Special thanks to all those who made the trip great: Vonn, Keht, Hanuhbari, MerGrec, Blakers, Izzy, Tashi, Christofferson, AD, Ambrosia, Wire-D, Yahn-Bahn, X-baby, Clavinator, Maggum, Ponkle-bye, Periwinkleberry, Mom, Dad, Bobert, Chisnap, Yosh, Barb, Glen, Seth, Cammie, Mark, Gobot, Josie, Gabe, Eric, Keenan, Ereeek, Gordita, Izzy, preggo lizard and wacky beetle.