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Month: April 2012

Zion National Park day 2

Zion National Park day 2

On Sunday, April 29th, we headed back into Zion for our final full day in the park.  Below is a shot looking back at the quaint little bungalow village we stayed in on our trip.

We couldn’t decide which trails to visit as we felt that most that were left were easy.  However, after some debate, we decided to try Hidden Canyon.

The way up was mostly made of steep and wide switchbacks.

Below I’m pretending to boulder up one of the steep canyon walls on the switchbacks.

And below I’m holding a loose boulder from falling on the tourists below. If only they knew…

There were many cottonwood trees on the path.  The leaves of the tree feel like soft cotton (which is why I’m assuming they have the name).

At the end of the switchbacks is a staircase in stone.

At the top of the stairs starts the harrowing chained path blasted out of the side of the mountain that wraps around to the actual entrance to Hidden Canyon.  We saw a few other hikers turn back when faced with this, but after conquering Angel’s Landing this was a piece of cake for us.

This video sort of describes the experience:

After going up and around the corner one comes to a pool of water that empties out of the canyon.  This is the real trailhead for the canyon part of the Hidden Canyon hike.  The hike begins with some scrambling up boulders, but after that is mostly just walking through a pleasant shaded valley of sand between two high canyon walls.

We had heard that the canyon keeps going for a long time, gets more perilous and eventually ends at a steep cliff drop off.  However, we turned around at the half mile point when we saw the famous green arch.

Below are more shots of us coming back down the chained bend.  It’s always less scary going down, so we got slightly more foolish and posed for photos out on the cliffs.

In the below photo looking out from the switchbacks you can see the “big bend” and Angel’s Landing to the left.

After finishing the hike we agreed to go back into town and shower up before getting some dinner and ice cream.  Later Sam and I came back in to try and catch the sunset on the trail up from the Grotto.  We didn’t make the sunset but we found a curious fox while we waited for dark.

We both tried to take some night shots after the sun went down, but due to the twilight lingering and the moon being so bright, neither of us got anything usable before we had to scuttle back down the trial to catch the last bus out of the park.  Back in the Zion parking lot I tried to get a few more night shots.


Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

On Saturday, April 28th, we hopped in the car and headed northeast to Bryce Canyon National Park.  Sam was greeted at the lodge by an Asian woman (Filipino we think) who asked “are you Japanese?!”  Apparently the Mormon Asians don’t see a lot of other Asian folk round those parts.  Sam and my mom signed up for a mule ride through the canyon and we ate lunch while waiting.  While Sam and my mother headed off for their adventure my father and I walked to Sunset Point and then down into the valley.

While we were walking up half of Navajo Loop (half of it was closed) Sam and my mother were not far away, a little further out on the horse trails.

We all met back up at Sunrise Point.  To break the silence (the Longs are a quiet people) on our hike dad and I started talking about politics.  By the time the below photos were taken we were on the topic of gun control and the Kennedy assassination.

From there we headed to a lookout point which seemed like one of the highest points in the park.  you can see the point in the photo below (and many after it) if you follow the rim trail up from the end of the tree going left.

Finally we made it to the observation platform.  The sun was dipping down on an already cold and crisp day and the wind was rushing harshly at us.  It may look like a sunny comfortable experience in the photos, but it was really cold and our noses were dripping.

We left the park an hour or so before sunset and ate dinner at the C-stop pizzaria in Panguitch.  It seemed to be the only restaurant open at all in the small town.  Later when we were back in Zion we drove through the mile-long tunnel through the mountain.

After coming out on the other side my fellow travelers were generous enough to allow me a few minutes to try some night photography.  It was very dark and the longest exposure my camera allows is 30 seconds.  That’s not nearly enough to get detailed exposures in near pitch-black night.  It was, however, too long to ask my parents to stand still, as you can see by their blurred appearance in the shot below.

Back at the hotel I walked behind the complex and tried more shots, but with poor results.

Zion National Park day 1

Zion National Park day 1

On Friday morning, April 27th, Sam and I got up a little later than my parents.  They were up at their normal Ohio time, but Utah is in the Mountain time zone.  They went into the park ahead of us after eating breakfast somewhere.  Sam and I ate breakfast at the Sol Cafe at the entrance to the park and bought roast beef sandwiches to eat on the trail for lunch.

Our goal for day 1 was to conquer Angel’s Landing, one of the most strenuous and dangerous public hikes in the park.  In the photo above you can see the Virgin River at the bottom and the peak of Angel’s Landing at the upper left.  Before getting to the final ascent you have to hike about two miles up from the canyon floor on fairly steep trails carved into the mountain, then walk through a “valley” between two mountains.

Afterwards the final trek to Scout’s Lookout is a Lombard Street looking series of 21 switchbacks called “Walter’s Wiggles.”

Thankfully the park has installed outhouses at Scout’s Lookout, which is where the below photo was taken.

Scout’s Lookout also includes a sheer cliff hike where you’re only chance of survival is clinging to the chain going up the cliff, as seen below.  This isn’t quite as dangerous as the ascent to Angel’s Landing’s peak, but it is a warning of the dangers to come if one is so inclined to go “all the way” to the end of the trail.  There are very ominous warnings about six people falling to their deaths on the final ascent since 2004, and this chained climb is your final barometer to gauge whether you’re fit to go the distance.  We met my father coming down the chain, he had chosen to refrain from making the final ascent while my mother surprisingly soldiered on alone.

After climbing the chain you’re greeted with a clear view of Angel’s Landing.  The final ascent goes along the narrow ridge you can see in the photo below.

Sam chose to stay at that point and wait for me to return.

There are plenty of desert chipmunks to entertain the waiting folks at Scout’s Lookout.

Below is a zoomed in photo of me hiking up the narrow trail to the top.

Shortly after this I met my mother coming back down from the top.

Below is my view looking back at where Sam was sitting.

View of the ascent looking back.

On either side there is often a sheer drop off to the bottom of the canyon thousands of feet below.

Sometimes there is a chain to hold on to as you steady yourself, sometimes not.

Once reaching the top the final eighth of a mile or so is an easy (although still dangerous) walk along the flattened top of the peak.

Below is a shot from the peak looking down on “big bend” below.

Apparently “don’t look down” is actually bad advice for me.  I felt really nervous hiking the narrow path going up looking into the sky feeling the wind rush over me.  Coming down looking down into the canyon I was passing people by and hopping my way down the path, often ignoring the chains altogether.

Below is a picture Sam took of me at the narrowest (and probably scariest) portion of the trail.  This “bridge” has nothing on either side but a drop down into the canyon and one chain to hold onto.  In the photo below I was politely waiting for some hikers to pass by.  You can’t actually see the “bridge” in the photo, it is a single rock about 25 feet long and four feet wide.

The below video is a short but good sample of what it’s like (the real hike to the top takes maybe 30-45 minutes).

One of the panning shots at the beginning of the video is taken from one of the surrounding mountains, the trail that leads to Hidden Canyon.  More about that one later (we hiked it on Sunday).

Back at Scout’s Lookout we regrouped and ate some food before heading back down the same trail we’d come up.

As we went back down the trail, specifically in the switchbacks, I started to experience pain on the sides of my knees.  Sam related she was having the same feeling.  I’ve never had joint problems before, but I guess this just means I’m getting older.  My knee pain would be a constant problem for the rest of the trip and on 2 of the 3 days I ended up taking pain killers.  My theory is that I blew something when I was jumping down the perilous Angel’s Landing descent and my adrenaline was too strong to notice.  I hadn’t hiked or climbed since we went up the stairs in Griffith Park with Cindy a few weeks ago, and before that it had been even longer.  I rarely play raquetball anymore either, so my knees weren’t used to so much jostling from jumping.

After getting back to the Grotto (beginning of Angel’s Landing trail) we hopped on the park bus and rode it in the loop until we came back to the Lodge stop.

From the Lodge we hiked to Emerald Pools.  After going to Angel’s Landing this was not as spectacular as we imagined.  The waterfalls were little more than a trickle.

The crew was tired, so they stopped at the middle falls.  I didn’t want to miss the upper falls though, so I soldiered on up the path another twenty minutes or so (a one mile hike round trip).

In the photo below you can see the upper Emerald Pool and waterfall.  It’s really little more than just mist spouting off the top.  It’s like a much larger version of the little waterfall and pool in Malibu.

On the way back down to the bus stop there was a narrow place where I climbed up and Sam took a picture.

As we continued down to the Grotto we kept stopping as every clearing had an even clearer and more breathtaking view.

The two shots below were taken from the bus window heading back to the entrance of the park.

At the main entrance to the park there is a 3D topographical map of the park.  I’m pointing to Angel’s Landing.


Utah vacation day 1

Utah vacation day 1

On Thursday morning, April 26th, Sam and I boarded a plane to Las Vegas.  Once there we met my parents, retrieved our 2012 Toyota Camry rental car and headed on our way to Utah.  We stopped at a few spots along the “scenic route” that my mother had picked out that meanders around before meeting back up with interstate 15.  At the first stop we saw a lake and wondered if this was Lake Mead.  In the flat valley in the desert it was extremely windy.















Our second stop came at the beginnings of the red rocks.  We got out and walked around, they were mostly walking and I was mostly bouldering.


We made it to Springdale Utah, just outside of Zion National Park, in the early evening.

My mother and her hidden heart of gold

My mother and her hidden heart of gold

This was on the front page, above the fold, of my hometown newspaper this morning:

(photo by Ashley Rittenhouse)

Marietta resident Rose Murray reviews paperwork with Adele Long, a nurse practitioner who volunteers with the Washington County Free Clinic. The clinic provides free primary care for Washington County residents between ages 19 and 64 who do not have health insurance and whose personal income is less than 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines. It is located in Marietta College’s Physician Assistant Training Program building on Third Street in Marietta.

I knew my mom was doing this, and frankly it didn’t surprise me.  However, I only found out because one of her patients a few months ago at the clinic was an old friend of mine from high school.  Even more interestingly it was only brought up because we were arguing with someone else about how hard it is to get healthcare in America.  Otherwise I wouldn’t have found out until my father posted the link to the Marietta Times article on facebook today.

Of course I called her after seeing it and she was immediately embarrassed about being in the paper and even more embarrassed that my dad was posting it on facebook (she’s not on facebook – thank god – so I think she might not grasp how benign what he did was).  Even when she’s finally recognized for basically what amounts to volunteer charity work she doesn’t want credit for it.

I hope one day our healthcare system won’t need someone like my mother to donate her time, because I don’t think there are a lot of Adele Longs out there.

This is just another thing to add to the list of how my mother inspires me.   Her kindness and generosity are not just limited to her own family.




On Saturday Sam and I met Cindy and J for breakfast at Siam Sunset in Thai Town.  Afterwards we hiked up to Amir’s garden.  Sam and I had gone last summer, but Cindy and J had never been before.

Afterwards Sam and I drove all the way to Corona to drop off a check (more on that next month). Across the street was “goodfellas cafe.”  We split the country fried steak.  For about $13 we had a salad plate, garlic toast and a gigantic plate of mashed potatoes and chicken.  The chicken itself was the size of two giant chicken patties sewn together.  The single plate was really more food than the both of us could eat.  I found a video review of the place on youtube, and the portions look SMALLER in the video.



Because I’m running out of space, and I might be moving somewhere with less space eventually, I decided to try and sell some of my old paintings on Etsy.

I put them up a week ago and , needless to say, nothing has sold yet.  However, when I logged in today I saw some interesting things had happened.  Some people had added my pieces to their “treasury” and “favorites.”  I’m assuming the “treasury” is sort of like Etsy’s version of pinterest?

I suppose I should be flattered that anyone likes my work at all, but what I’d really want is to actually sell these things.  I started out pricing them at $25 per square foot (with some exceptions) and then dropping $5 off the end (prices that end in 5s or 9s are more attractive to buyers than 0s).  However, the high cost of shipping is probably going to prevent me from selling too many at that price.  How low should I go?  It may be worth it to practically give away some of these just so I can make space in my home.  I’m reconsidering this whole “I like to work in large format” thing.

In other news, my best friend heard that I had been lax in doing creative things for the past six months, so for my birthday he sent me some inspiration.  In the last week I received a 300 page hi-fructose collection book and another book of one of my favorite painters, Beksinski.

These would also make great coffee table fodder… if I need coffee table books in the future.  Which I might.  More on that possibly as early as tomorrow… but possibly as late as never… depending on how things shake out…

birthday food

birthday food

Sadly, this weekend, Sam’s month of birthday cooking came to a close.  On Friday Sam gave me a gift inside a custom cut paper card.   Breakfast on Saturday morning consisted of cheese omelets and toast.

After breakfast we headed to Marina Del Rey for my secret birthday gift.  It turns out Sam had booked us a tandem parasailing ride.  Unfortunately, when we finally went out on the boat the weather took a turn for the worse.  It was cold and rainy and the “homebase” forced the boat to turn around and offer us a rain check after three other couples in line before us had nearly froze to death up high in the rainclouds.

It actually was good that it happened, as the ambient temperature of the air over the water will be much warmer by our new date in May and we’ll have a much better view of the shore, etc.

After coming home and warming up Sam cooked a dinner of salad, lobster, potatoes au-gratin and a bottle of Moscato.   Of course, following the meal, Sam had one of my favorite deserts available; angelfood cake covered in melted berry sauce and ice cream.

The next morning Sam used the lone leftover potato to make hash browns.  She made another cheese omelet, but this time secretly stuffed it with onions and peppers.

For dinner on Sunday she mixed the leftover salad, potatoes and moscato with steamed crab legs.

I feel very lucky to be with a culinary masterful woman that is so continually generous to my stomach!