Scenes from Utah

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, my kids and I traveled to Utah early in September, and we had a fabulous time. The trip reminded me for the second time this year (the first was our visit to Joshua Tree National Park this past spring) how much I love the western United States and how much I love the desert especially. Next time I travel west, I hope to visit some or all of the five National Parks in Utah. I’ve been to Arches, but it bears a return trip, especially now that I’ve read Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey.

But even staying in and near Salt Lake City, we had a blast. Some photos from our adventures, curated to remove anything unpleasant—like my son’s epic nosebleed and almost-very-bad head wound—because that’s what blogs are for:

Tracy Aviary, Salt Lake City:

Soldier Hollow Classic Sheepdog Championship, Midway, Utah:

Salt Lake City Public Library:

Around Salt Lake City:


Minimalist Packing

Earlier this month, I went to Utah with my kids. It was our first trip back to Utah since we moved away more than six years ago, and it was my first trip by airplane on my own with my kids. Without my spouse to lug things, I decided it was time to practice minimalist packing.

Here’s what I packed (including what I wore on the airplane):


One dress, one hooded sweatshirt, one pair linen pants, one sun shirt, one skirt, one tank top, two t-shirts.

Not pictured: undergarments, socks, one set of pajamas, footwear (one pair walking shoes, one pair sandals), and one swimsuit.

Also not pictured: the shorts I forgot to pack.

I realized I’d left the shorts in Massachusetts almost as soon as we stepped through the door of our rental apartment at crazy o’clock PM after enduring a lightning strike to our airplane and a ridiculously long wait at the rental car counter with my daughter at my elbow saying, “Mommy, I think I might throw up.” There was only one couple in front of us at the counter, but they appeared to have never rented a car before. (“Should we get the extra insurance coverage, Bill?” “I don’t know, Edna. What do you think?” “Well, I’m not sure. We should have him explain the options again.” Me: “NO, you don’t want the extra coverage! It’s a racket! Just take the keys and get out so I can get my car and get outside before my kid tosses her cookies!”)

At any rate, I was in a bit of a state by the time I realized that I had no shorts. I texted my spouse in a panic, and he reminded me that if I really needed a pair, I could probably find a store in Salt Lake City that sells shorts.

But it turned out I didn’t need the shorts. Nor did I need the dress, the swimsuit, or the sandals. I walked all over Salt Lake City and even hiked in Little Cottonwood Canyon in my skirt, which was a first for me and something I would never, ever do in New England because ticks. But in Utah, it was fabulous! Highly recommended.

We did laundry once in the middle of our week-long trip, which, with the 97-degree heat, probably made it less unpleasant for our friends to hug us during the second half of the trip. Without a washer in our rental, things might have been a little more complicated, but as it was my exercise in minimalist packing was a complete success.

Maybe next time I can even get by without checking a bag.


My Spouse and I Talk About Jason Bateman

Me: Did you know that Jason Bateman was born in Salt Lake City?*

Spouse: No, I didn’t. I would not have guessed that.

Me: Me, neither. But he does have that kind of clean-cut look.

Spouse: That Salt Lake City look?

Me: Did you know that our son was born in Salt Lake City?

Spouse: Wait, what was Justin Bateman in?

Me: Jason Bateman. Justine is his sister. She was on that show…Family Ties.

Spouse: What does Justine Bateman look like?

Me: Like Jason Bateman only with long hair.**

Spouse: Was she the real tough girl?

Me: No, she was—

Spouse: Was she Tootsie?

Me: Tootie? No, that was that other show. What was that called?

Spouse: Diff’rent Strokes?

Me: No, but there was a Diff’rent Strokes tie-in. It’s the one with Charlotte Rae. You know, [singing] “You take the good, you take the bad, you take ’em both and there you have—”

Spouse and Me Together: The Facts of Life!

[thumbs ups and high-fives]

Spouse: Wait, so Jason Bateman was on Facts of Life?


*Turns out I was incorrect about this. He was born in New York and moved to SLC when he was four, according to the internet. Of course, the internet is also where I got the notion that he was born in SLC. But facts aren’t really important in this particular conversation.

**Justine Bateman also doesn’t look like her brother with long hair. Well, maybe a little when they were kids, but not so much now.

Getting to Know the Hand That Feeds Us

NaNoWriMo Day 6 word count: 10,074

We love the farmers market. And we’re sad that it’s done for the winter.

The market in Salt Lake City runs from mid-June to mid-October, and during that time, we make the most of the market. We make it part of our weekly routine, and we’re rewarded not only with superb produce, but with the relationships we’ve developed with the farmers. They remember us as “regulars” and greet us with enthusiasm every week.

By visiting the farmers outside of the market, we manage to extend the season a tad and ease the transition to winter.

This morning, we made a trip down to Draper to meet up with Diane and Jerry Jones of Cottage Greens Farm (confession: until this morning we didn’t know their names. We referred to them collectively as “Fu Manchu Guy” because of Jerry’s facial hair). They sent out an e-mail earlier this week letting everyone know that they would be harvesting the last of the crops for the year and would be selling them at a field in Draper today. We planned our day around this trip to Draper, but Diane and Jerry were our first stop.

We pulled into the field and parked the car. Diane was behind a folding table laden heavy with baby beets, turnips, apples, bok choi, chard, kale, celeriac, kohlrabi, daikon, baby carrots, salad greens, and other items. Their dog, Layla, greeted us first, excited but wary, especially of the baby. Usually he’s in a baby carrier on my husband’s chest, and it seemed to confuse Layla that he was down at her level.

Diane finished working with the customer who was there before us and then she turned to my daughter. “Look who came to visit us! It’s the beautiful girl!”

Diane gave us the run-down on prices, which items were individually priced, which were per pound. As we began making our selections, she said, “This is where we’re growing next year!” and indicated with a sweep of the arm the field in which we were standing. “Isn’t it beautiful?”

It really is a pretty field. It’s located on a fairly busy road off of Bangerter Highway in Draper, but the trees surrounding it give it a somewhat secluded feel.

“There are lots of deer, too,” Diane explained. “They bed down right in this clearing.”

I was fairly certain this wasn’t a positive thing for a farm field, and I wasn’t sure what to say. I think I settled on something non-commital, like, “Oh!”

“We brought the plow down this morning and my husband’s back there building a garage for the tractor and the plow and things.” We could see a pickup truck and some movement at the back of the field.

We filled our sack with greens and a curly zucchini-like vegetable called a trombetta (I think. I retained the name of it with confidence for about 15 minutes before it started morphing in my brain). As a side note, I love the greens I get from Cottage Greens Farm. They are so fresh and tender and tasty. I’m so glad we get this bonus bolus of leafy greens before winter sets in and I have to make do with store-bought greens.

As we were settling the money part of the transaction, Diane told us about a plan for next year about which she is very excited.

“We’re building high tunnels!” she said. After asking for clarification, we learned that a high tunnel is a kind of long, unheated greenhouse. Diane explained that some people put black water barrels in them to attract the heat of the sun. They will still need to put frost blankets and tarps on some of the crops to protect them when it’s very cold. They won’t be able to grow year-round, but they’ll be able to extend their season to start in March and end in late November. They will be able to grow bok choi, spinach, and other cool-weather vegetables.

Another exciting part of this plan: 90% of it is being funded by government stimulus money. Diane applied for funding through NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of the USDA) and their High Tunnel Pilot Project, and Cottage Greens Farm got the funding!

I am so excited for Diane and Jerry. And I’m so excited to know personally people who are benefitting directly from federal stimulus money. It’s so different than it is to just hear on the news about stimulus money going towards different projects around the country.

There’s also something about knowing the people who grow our food. I used to hear people talk about how important it was to know where your food came from, but it’s really only been this year that this has really meant anything to me beyond just an intellectual exercise. This morning, standing in this empty field where next year some of the food will grow that will feed me and my family and that will help my children grow strong and healthy, it hit me. Talking to the people under whose care this food will grow and through whose hands this food will pass to us, I was struck by the sacredness of this relationship. It’s like we’re really in Utah now, and even if we move away, we’ll be taking a part of the land and the spirit of the people with us.

We said goodbye to Diane and Jerry, after I got permission to write about them on my blog. Then we went on to the next stop on our itinerary: In N Out Burger. There are only eight in Utah and none all that close to Salt Lake City. There is one in Draper, though, so we took the opportunity to drop by for a GF/CF fast-food meal (well, GF/CF for me. The kids and my husband enjoyed buns and milkshakes and cheeseburgers). My daughter only liked the bun of her cheeseburger, and made a meal of that, french fries, and a chocolate milkshake. My husband got to eat two bunless cheeseburgers and a Double-Double. My son chowed down on french fries and ketchup. I enjoyed my protein-style hamburger with onion and the fresh and yummy and not-too-greasy fries.

Mess-o-Fries, In N Out Burger, Draper, Utah

Hamburger, Protein Style. In N Out Burger, Draper, Utah

Then we went up to Ferguson Canyon for a final hike before winter sets in. We made it past the granite slabs, but just past where the trail crossed the creek, there was a steep ascent and the surface of the trail became rock and slippery gravel. When our daughter slipped for the third time in about ten feet, we decided to call it a day and head back to the car rather than risk sliding back down the hill on our return. Although 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Salt Lake City said that the trail was under-utilized and so we’d see more wildlife than people, we found the opposite to be true. The trail was hoppin’, and not with bunnies and chipmunks. Well, what the book actually says is, “Although it teems with life, humans are a minority species, making it easy to enjoy the canyon’s cozy solitude.” I suppose that’s open to interpretation, but we didn’t experience much that I’d call “solitude.”

A few maple leaves cling to the branches in Ferguson Canyon.

Rock climbers scaling a "granite slab." Apparently, Ferguson Canyon is a popular destination for rock climbers.

All-in-all, though, it was a very enjoyable day, aside from my daughter skinning her knee when we were within sight of the car on the way back. In the evening, we made nut burgers (from Feeding the Whole Family, of course), which my daughter declared “much better than In N Out Burger.”

Best. Hike. Yet. – Renewing my Spirit With a Walk in the Woods (Week 9 Review)

I’m tired and I’m dusty and I’ve got a neck-ache from wearing the backpack, but I’m in a much better mood than I was last time I posted. And it’s all thanks to a great hiking experience.

We love hiking. I used to take my daughter on once-weekly Sierra Club Family Hikes when we lived in California, and I loved showing her Nature and getting fresh air and chatting with the other moms with whom we hiked. But since we moved to Utah, we’ve not had great luck with hikes. In fact, for a while we were almost convinced the state was out to get us. Before scrapping the idea of hiking altogether until we moved somewhere less rugged, I decided to make my best effort to find what everyone else loves about hiking in Utah. I made my proclamation: We would hike every Sunday this fall until it snows. My husband shrugged his shoulders in assent and I went in search of hikes.

Armed with the book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Salt Lake City by Greg Witt, I set about listing all of the hikes described as “Family Friendly.” I prioritized them by altitude (we’d do the highest ones first in order to extend our hiking season as long as possible), distance from Salt Lake City, and whether they allowed mountain bikes on the trail or not (we avoid mountain bikes when hiking with little hikers). We give the highest priority to hikes that end at water features, particularly waterfalls.

Each week we choose a hike, and I e-mail the information about the hike to a group of friends who have expressed interest in walking with us. We did three nearby hikes, all around 2 miles round-trip, or less. Encouraged by our daughter’s enthusiasm for hiking, we decided to go for a longer (about 4 miles, round-trip), more distant hike that promised to have a spectacular payoff: Stewart Falls in Provo Canyon.

We were not disappointed. Just the drive up the canyon was worth the hour in the car. The fall colors were beautiful; golden-yellow aspens and orange-red maples stood out bright against the deep green of the conifers. The 2-mile hike to the falls was a little steep at times, but no steeper than the other hikes we’d been on. Our daughter walked the whole way, gathering rocks to throw in the creek when we got there and listing all of the things she would draw when we got home. Our son rode on Daddy’s chest in a wrap carrier (a blue-and-white Indio Didymos, for those who keep track of these things) and played with the leaves and rocks that my husband handed him.

The trail was well marked and led us right down to the bottom of the falls. The falls themselves were gorgeous, with several tiers of rock over which the water cascaded and eventually splashed down into a shallow creek at the base of the rock wall. We stopped and ate a snack and lamented that we’d forgotten our camera. One of the other hikers there offered to take our family’s picture in front of the falls and e-mail it to us, so we sat together on a rock on the edge of the stream and had our picture taken. The kids threw their rocks into the creek, the baby wading right in, shoes and all, and sitting down in the water. After a cursory cleanup, we headed back the way we’d come.

The trail began uphill, then went downhill to the falls, so when we returned, we first had a significant section of uphill, which elicited a fair amount of whining from our daughter. My husband saved our sanity by giving her a piggyback ride until the trail leveled off. He was quite the tough-guy with a 14-month-old on his chest and a 5-year-old on his back. Once the trail leveled off, my husband let our daughter down to walk again. We motivated her with talk about the picnic lunch we would eat back at the trailhead and a game in which she and I pretended I was a mother mountain lion teaching her cub how to stalk and pounce on prey. We ran up ahead on the trail, hid behind some foliage, and then jumped out when my husband and the baby came near. The baby laughed his little tush off at this.

On our way back, the trail was quite busy. We speculated about whether it was so busy because of people in town for General Conference, or if it was because of the fall colors, or if it was just always this crowded along the Alpine Loop. Whatever it was, Stewart Falls appeared to be a very popular destination this afternoon.

After lunch, we drove the remaining portion of the Alpine Loop to see more scenery. It’s trite to say, but the mountains and rock walls and fall colors really were breathtaking. And…we saw a moose! We didn’t even get to see a moose when we visited Glacier National Park before the kids were born! I was so excited. I kept scanning our surroundings the rest of the way to the highway, but I never saw another moose.

Back at home, I started dinner and did some more decluttering in the kitchen while my husband played outside with the kids. I found some Easter candy stashed on a high shelf. Apparently that was an effective method for getting our daughter—and us—to forget about the remaining peanut butter eggs and half-eaten Tootsie Pops. I’m relieved that no other creatures found them before I did.

I knew I enjoyed taking our weekly hikes, but today’s experience really brought it to another level. I started out feeling very discouraged and disheartened about the whole decluttering project, and I came home tired but more realistic about the task in front of me. I got some fresh air, a beautiful and mildly challenging walk, and I felt a connection with the landscape of Utah. For the first time since we moved here, the geography didn’t feel inaccessible to me. We’re already planning to return to Provo Canyon to hike—and maybe even camp—next summer.

Hopefully I can hold onto this peaceful feeling until next week’s hike.

Stewart Falls, from Sheryl McGlochlin's blog,