Thursday, July 31, 2008

Down The River With Bryce

So last June my oldest brother, Bryce, called me up to say he was going on a river trip and thought that I should come along...oh yeah and it's next week. I'd resolved that from now on if it was ever at all possible to go out on an adventure I wouldn't say no. I'd just received my tax rebate check for the same exact amount the trip would cost and I had plenty of vacation time so I debated about it for a day or two and then said yes. The debate was really about whether I'd feel safe or not. I went repelling with Bryce once and found the experience a little reckless. Plust the last time I went rafting with Bryce he was the guide and it seems like he fell off the boat a dozen times at least. That was a long time ago though and I think we've both gained a little more experience since then.
The trip was amazing! No words really to describe how fun it was. It consisted of 4 days rafting down the Colorado River from Moab to Lake Powell through Cataract Canyon at peak high water. In fact it was higher than it'd been in years. We got a deal since one of Bryce's friends had a son working as a guide. Bryce flew in and we picked up a few last minute things for our trip like head lamps, hats, etc. Then we drove down early the next day with Doug and his sister. When we got there we saw how high the river really was since it had come over the banks and flooded the playground in the back of our hotel. We'd watched a few youtube videos of cataract canyon at high water and I was getting a little nervous...and excited too.
The first couple days were spent floating down the river. It was pretty relaxing. For the most part all the people in our group were pretty cool. Bryce and I enjoyed making up funny nicknames for the ones that annoyed us...well the one that annoyed us. We had 3 guides, Bryce and I, his friend Doug and his sister, a rich but super fun family of four from Sacramento, 3 old guys who'd been college buddies, an older couple from Taylorsville, and a friend of one of the guides who had a crush on the other guide. Camping at night was as much fun as the time on the river. The first day Bryce and I explored a little side canyon for quite a ways before it rained all night. It rained all the next day too and we had to build a make shift shelter on the raft out of tarps. It was still fun. Later that day we hiked "The loop" where you get off the raft and hike up and over a horseshoe bend and the raft picks you up on the other side. We saw a few granaries which were cool at first but all started to look the same real quick. We hiked up to see some petroglyphs and pictographs...and granaries...which pretty much look the same up close as they did from the raft.
The next night it didn't rain and we saw the most amazing stars. It was dark enough that you could even see the whole moon due the moonshine even though it wasn't full. We hiked up to "The Dollhouse" in Canyonlands and climbed around some little slots and saw some amazing views. It was a pretty good hike going up from the river and when we got back they had a big bowl of shrimp cocktail waiting for us. They seriously fed us so good. Cesar salad wraps for lunch, steaks, banana pancakes, lasagna, it was great! We even had crackers and hummus for appetizers and dessert every night.
The rapids on the third day were incredible. Bryce went in the small boat with the one guide on the oars. I stayed in the big boat where you didn't need a helmet. I think if I start talking about the rapids I may never stop. There were walls of water 30+ feet we'd go over and would smack us in the face. Not waves, walls. Huge deep pits we'd go into almost totally vertical. Usually cataract is a series of large rapids with cool names like Satan's Gut, Hell To Pay, etc, but at high water it all turns into one big boiling mess that looks like the sea during a hurricane. Bryce and I made it through safe but about 50% of the boats flipped that day. We helped flip a couple back over and saw one that went all the way to Lake Powell upside down. The people on it had to hitchhike rides on other rafts. Google "Cataract Canyon Highwater" for some good videos of what it's like.
Our last night we camped in the Tamarisk and it was kind of boring. Bryce and I passed the time playing scrabble and wishing we had a deck of cards but I stayed late on the raft that night and we slept without our tents which was pretty cool. We ate some good steaks and used the "groover" for the last time. That's the "toilet". Bryce and I renamed it the McGrubber after the SNL sketch and surprisingly a number of people were calling it that by the end.
The last day of rapids were pretty fun. I got to ride on the very front of the raft and even though the rapids weren't as big that day I got a much closer look at them. We had a nice float down through what used to be the mouth of Glen Canyon but what is now the tip of Lake Powell. Bryce and a few others took a cold flip into the water. It was my first time ever seeing any part of that lake and it wasn't much. We got out at Hite, took a quick group picture, got on a van and headed up to the huge airport they have there... not to be confused with just an ordinary picnic table. Soon three little planes arrived and we got on them for an amazing ride back to Moab. They flew us up over the river and the confluence where we'd gone the previous 4 days and then all over Canyonlands. It was incredible and I couldn't take my eyes off the view... even though I puked at least 6 times. After a nice dinner in town it was back home and back to real life.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Eating Cheese and (not)Cleaning House

I can't be out having fun all the time so what do I do in my spare time at home? Eat cheese and not clean my house of course!
You'd think that living alone would mean I could keep my house pretty clean, but surprisingly I can't. I spend all my time eating cheese... and then frantically cleaning the house right before someone comes to stay with me. That usually means transferring the piles of stuff that are on my table and counters in my bedroom. After a few months of this my room has started to look less like a bedroom and more like a storage unit...after a tornado. Even so, after everyone leaves I always manage to find something unusually gross that makes me embarrassed and wonder if anyone else saw. Usually it's something from the cats like a giant hairball/tumbleweed. Yesterday it was this: Can you even tell what it is? This is my kitchen window where my black cat Bentley sits and looks out every afternoon. He's got a wet puppy like nose that makes these cute little prints when he presses it up against the glass.Cute...yes. But it's still cat snot and I'm embarrassed I forgot to wash it off. Hopefully no one else saw it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Cabin

With a lot of family coming in town recently we've been taking advantage of staying at our family cabin up in Brighton. My grandpa built it when my dad was a kid and it's always a great place to be and it brings back so many memories you can't even separate them from each other. My favorite spot is the screened in porch that you can't see. It's just to the right of the picture and has in my opinion the most comfortable bed in the whole place plus it's like you're sleeping outside in the cool mountain air. The only disadvantage of it is that you don't get to wake up to the smell of bacon and sausage in the morning. It was a great week up there with my parents and two of my brother's families. My sister is spending a couple days there this week and I can't wait to go up again...even if my nephews always try to take the porch bed from me. They've probably already claimed it and I'm too late. Oh well, I guess I'll enjoy the smell of bacon this time instead.
Here's another shot of some of the flowers out in front. Dad and Andy played a few games of horseshoes but Andy just couldn't seem to beat him.
The hikes used to be a little more adventurous to the surrounding Brighton peaks, but around the time I got old enough to enjoy those everyone started having babies and stoped taking them. Last week the farthest we got was Lake Solitude. It was still great though, I've never seen the wildflowers looking so good! I couldn't get enough pictures of them. This picture shows the early lupine that was out along the trail. My sister-in-law Carrie up there in the background too. Plus at the lake we saw the tiniest little baby moose getting a swimming lesson.
When I wasn't looking a the flowers this was my view during most of the hike. Kind of cute.
These were some flowers next to Solitude. Can you believe this is natural? I've never seen so many of the wildflowers out at the same time. I even saw a couple that I've only seen in the flowers of Brighton books.
I got some really good wildflower pictures during our Solitude hike. This isn't one of them but I thought it was so cool that I caught this big bee coming in for a landing. The whole hillside was covered in these flowers with their big broad leaves and as you walked by you could hear the whole thing buzzing and humming with all the bees in it. It was kind of like walking next to one of those big power stations and hearing all the electricity.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Things to see before you die

Well I thought I'd get back on track and make another post about cool things I've been able to do since being re-single.
I have this list in my head and the more I talk to other people I find that most people have a similar thing. It's a list of things you want to see before you die. I've been able to check a few things off this list in recent years. I saw the tulips in Holland and I saw the Hoh Rainforest in Washington, but my number one thing to see was still patently waiting...till now. As you can guess, Christmas when you're in the middle of a divorce can seem a little daunting. My parents kindly recognized this and suggested it would be fun to go on a trip. None of us had anywhere to be and no one we were required to be with so we figured why not? I was thinking England would be fun for a Charles Dickens theme, or Germany since I'd heard a lot about the little Christmas street markets. I think a cruise was suggested once or twice, but when my mom casually mentioned going to Alaska to see the Northern Lights my dad and I jumped on it and much to my mom's regret we didn't give up. It was expensive, cold, dark, and completely worth it. I've wanted to see the Aurora Borealis ever since I did a book report in 3rd grade on my Grandpa Hales favorite poem. The Cremation of Sam McGee. (was a strange child I must have been) Here's a link to Johnny Cash reading it.
We flew up to Fairbanks and then up to Bettles Alaska above the arctic circle. I can't even go into how little this town is. I think the population is something like 60 people. The flights in the tiny 4 passenger plane with all the supplies were amazing.
We had jacuzzi tubs in our room and even had them fire up the sauna one night. (Literally fire up the sauna since it was heated by a wood stove only.)
We went dog sledding one day and I am still shocked to this day that I have all my fingers after that that experience. I was so cold I wanted to cry because I thought my fingers were frozen solid and were going to be cut off. The best part was when our sled crashed and into a tree and tipped over with mom packed inside of it like cargo.
I got to stand on the back so it was no problem for me except the for the insane coldness. No wonder Sam McGee whimpered and whined so much.
The only wildlife we saw was a bunch of Ptarmigans which my dad had a problem pronouncing correctly after seeing how it was spelled.
On the winter solstice it warmed up to something like -20F instead of the -40F that is was when we arrived. I thought that was weird since that was the day the sun never came up. My dad and I took advantage of the heat wave and went cross country skiing over to see the Anaktuvuk River.
I had one short molment of fear when I realized I skiied a lot faster than dad and I was now alone in the arctic and was going to be eaten by wolves. After about 10 mintues though dad showed up. video
It's amazing what a difference that change in temperature made. I took my gloves off once to take a picture and my fingers froze to my camera, not to mention the frost on my glasses and how the inside of your nose freezes solid every time you breath. The lodge tried to get a Christmas tree but every time they cut one down the tree would shatter cause it was so cold.
The highlight of the trip of course was seeing the Northern Lights. I know what causes them. The whole magnetosphere and particles...blah blah blah. That all makes sense but when you see them in real life there's just not anyway to describe them. One Eskimo legend is that they're spirits lighting the way to heaven and I think that description seems the most descriptive of how they really look. I want to say we didn't see any award winning displays but the lights are so neat you can't really say that. They're all amazing.
We had to be driven out to a little hut in the middle of no where at 2am to see them so I didn't take any pictures. I was too cold. I searched the Internet for a picture that looks like the lights we saw and this is the one that was closest.
We headed back to Fairbanks for a couple days where we did some fun stuff like driving over the ice bridge, find a bunch of geocaches, visit North Pole Alaska, see an ice sculpture contest, and ride an ice slide.
video
These were all taken in the afternoon but since the sun even though you can't tell since the sun was only up a couple hours that day. We flew home on Christmas Eve and Nate and Carrie had a tree set up at my house all ready for Christmas morning.
I guess I should check off the Northern Lights from my list now that I've seen them, but they were so amazing I don't want to. I think I'll just check them off from being the number one thing and put them near the bottom as See the Northern Lights Again. Thanks again for the trip mom and Dad!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sundance Film Festival

Every year my friend Duc Pham makes his way to Utah to work as a volunteer at the Sundance Film Festival. For the past 3-4 years I have picked him up when he gets in, (whether it be by hitchhiking, bus, or plane) taken him back to my place for the night and then helped him get to Park City the next day for the start of the festival. Usually his visit includes me trying to cook him some fancy new food he's never tried before and then listening as he updates me on all the crazy adventures he's had around the world over the past year. I don't know why but that used to be where the visit ended. This year however he was gracious enough to let me join him for some of his time at Sundance. I got to meet a bunch of other volunteers, bum around main street, stay at a posh Park City rental house, eat gourmet hors d'oeuvres at various press rooms, pick up free loot and swag, attend awards parties, see famous people like Quinten Tarantino, hitchhike rides from foreigners, and best of all I got to go to 5 screenings. They were all fantastic movies, documentaries, shorts... etc. I had so much fun hanging out with Duc too and I can't believe I've lived here for so long and never gone up to the festival. Now that I know how everything works I don't think I'll ever miss it again if I'm in town.
The only really bad part of the whole thing was the drive home. It dumped so much snow the morning we were leaving. The plan was to go down to Salt Lake, catch a movie at the Broadway, grab a bite to eat and have Duc and his roommate to the airport in plenty of time to catch the plane. It ended up being a 5 hour drive strait to the airport. The freeway got closed, snowplows were sliding off the roads, we had to camp out at Wild Oats for an hour or so before driving through the canyon at about 5 miles an hour. I got them home safe though so bravo to me and my fantastic car. (I appreciate that car more every time it snows.)
Also a note on the picture. Duc and I discovered a new great way to take those self portrait arm length shots you have to take when there's only two of you and you both want to be in the picture. This is how we took this shot and I think you should all try it. I held my arm out at arms length with the camera while Duc looked at the screen and positioned it so it would be a perfect shot. Then I kept my arm still while he came around to get in the shot. Presto! We're both in the shot with a great background even. You can compare this stellar photo to some poor attempts I've had in the past. This little one in DC was the 6th and best try. Can't you see the improvement?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Skydiving

My adventures alone started with this fun little number. I was sitting at work one Saturday morning stewing and fuming over Bryan's latest hijinks. I was so mad and depressed I was wishing I had something like a reset button. I couldn't imagine ever being able to feel better and be happy again. I wanted to just clear everything and start over. I was wishing that something would happen to me that would just scare me so bad all I could think after would be, "Well at least I'm alive and that's what matters." I was thinking a bad car accident or something along those lines. Then I thought, why wait around for something like that to happen, why not go out and make it happen for myself? The only thing I could think of to do that was go skydiving. Besides I figured when in my life will I ever be in a possition again where I have no obligations to anyone but myself in case I die and when will I ever be this indifferent and apathetic to the possibilty that I could die. I looked up skydiving places and picked out this one up in Ogden. It also helped that it had a Geocache out front that I could use for my 100th find. (Another thing I like doing that Bryan didn't). It was too late in the day to drive up and go and my sister was going to be in town the next weekend so I decided I'd go for my half birthday on November 17th. I don't know how I made it 2 weeks without telling anyone my plan but I did. I thought about it everyday. It really helped get my mind off things because I would get really nervous just thinking about it, but I knew I wasn't going to chicken out. Not a single person knew what I was going to do. I didn't go with anyone. I just drove up to Ogden that Saturday, paid my money, and jumped. I think I was trying to prove to myself that if I really wanted to do something, no matter how crazy it was, I could do it on my own. I didn't need another person to come with me.

The guy who I got to jump tandem with me was the owner of the place so I felt pretty safe...even though it looks to me like that parachute is coming off my right shoulder doesn't it? He was super nice too. He let me steer the parachute and everything. You can't even tell that someone is attached to you.

I look like I'm screaming in this shot but I never really screamed. I was yelling because it was so fun at first but you'd never believe how windy it is and your mouth is pretty much bone dry as soon as you open it. I was almost disappointed with how scary it wasn't. I wanted to be scared out of my mind, but I was really calm about it and wasn't nervous at all. It was just so much fun it made it not as scary as you expect it to be. (Although, one of my coworkers, Aaron, went about a month before I did and they had to cut away the parachute because it didn't open right and then pull the reserve. His experience sounded a little more scary than fun.)

The plane ride up was really cool. The free fall part was about a minute and you fall for about a mile. It was so loud you can't hear a thing. You don't feel like your falling at all, it's like you're flying. It was fantastic. Then they pull the parachute and I was glad I'd taken a Dramamine at the last minute because it made me SICK! It's super quiet and slow and peaceful. He wanted to show me how you can make the parachute twirl around and go in big loops and circles but I wanted to just go strait down which we did. As soon as we landed he sent someone to get me a gingerale.

In the end skydiving accomplished what I wanted it too. I really felt like after that I can do anything I want. It didn't hit me till later that day how crazy and exciting it was and how cool it was that I did it on my own. I called my brother for some help finding the geocache and told him I'd just jumped and he asked if I'd written some kind of note in case I'd died. It was fun to tell people when they asked what I'd done over the weekend. I think everyone should do it. It's not that expensive and it's so worth it. I think the scariest part is signing the waiver that says you realize you could die. They even make you write out in your own handwriting a sentence that says something like, "I know that what I'm about to do is dangerous and could result in my own death." We all die sometime though so what's the big deal? If anyone wants to go and doesn't want to go alone, I'll go again.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I changed my name

Yesterday in the mail I got my new social security card with my new name on it. Which is actually my old name. It was kind of a nice feeling to once again be Katie Rockwood. I think when you get married you become someone else, not in a bad way, it's just what happens when you start a new life with someone else. You compromise and change and adapt to being half of something bigger than you were before. Sometimes though that other half doesn't quite do their part in adapting and compromising into what it should so you have to get rid of it and try again. Divorce is a pretty sad, depressing and down right sucky experience. I can't even begin to describe how awful it was and I don't really want to either. The whole thing still stinks and it still makes me sad but I've learned to put it in the past. Next Monday will be one year since my now ex-husband spilled the beans about what kind of life he'd really been living and the whole process began. During the time I was alone and sitting in my closet under my clothes going temporarily crazy I thought a lot about how I'd changed since I'd met Bryan and I decided I liked the person I was before better. So, when I finally decided to eat something and leave my house I pulled out one of my old hippie purses and started doing all the things that I used to like doing. I did stuff that I'd always wanted to do but for whatever reason had never gotten around to doing. I tried to not say no to anything. The more I did the more I remembered I liked to do and the more I realized I'd given up. I've been having so much fun on my own being myself. So, I changed my name back to Katie Rockwood and started a blog. I figure I could write about some of the stuff I've been doing and keep people up to date and let them know I'm no longer crazy and sitting in my closet. I thought I could also share some of the things I really like. I personally don't think blogs from single people are very exiting since I don't have pictures of my kids to post up or funny things to write about when they say silly things, but I'll try not to write anything too boring. That also means my first few entries will be about past things I've been doing. Enjoy.