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Twenty Januarys ago, the flat monotony of I-80 delivered us to the foothills of the Wasatch Range of the Utah Rockies and the threshold of the Big Cottonwood Canyon.  As Dad eased to a stop at the intersection leading to the canyon road, we saw a disheartening sign spray-painted on the face of a rock. Tall red letters issued a desperate plea: Pray for snow. Those were the days before weather.com and the Weather Channel’s easily accessible ten-day forecasts and tales of doom. It was winter. In the mountains. Of course there would be snow. There was. Sort of. The {Continue Reading}

For This August: Remembering To Be Thankful

A trail’s name hints at what lies beyond. Usually it’s the destination: Mallard Lake. Sometimes it’s that the trail won’t be level: Mount Washburn.  Occasionally it’s a warning: Seven Mile Hole. Hikers need more than a hint. We need to understand the trail. We need to know how many miles we’ll be hiking, how long it will take, and how hard it will be. Trail guide books are the best place to get that information. I’d like to say that I want to hike Seven Mile Hole, but I would be lying. I don’t. What I want is to be {Continue Reading}

When We Make Our Way Back

The last fight between my brother and I involved a fun-size Snickers bar. We were on our way out for a day of downhill skiing and both had our eye the same treat. He was twenty. I was twenty-four. We fought over candy. Travel has a way of bringing it out in people. It is important, according to travel writer Tim Cahill, to avoid psychotic travel companions. This is the first of his long list of travel rules. He claims that even the most carefully chosen travel companions may become psychotic. We don’t choose our companions. We travel with family: opportunities {Continue Reading}

A Hiker’s Tale

On a lovely day, when our family was driving from one place to another, we detoured through a state park. It was a good day for a hike, so we got out of the car and onto the trail. It began atop a meadowy ridge where we walked together until the trail turned downward. Not far into our descent, I made the unsettling discovery that my feet were moving faster than they should have been. Worse, I was accelerating. My horrified family looked on helplessly as I sped down the hill toward the forest below. In an attempt to avert {Continue Reading}

Waiting for the Pool to Fill

We wore the road to Norris thin. Home to a geyser our family favored, it was a must-stop. Every time. Echinus’ eruption cycle was short, thirty-five to seventy-five minutes. A half-mile path through the woods led to the broad depression in the earth that was its pool. Draining at the completion of an eruption, it would fill again as another approached. Eruptions were short, lasting about four minutes, but they were spectacularly explosive.  Echinus did not disappoint. Even a winter’s trudge over somewhat packed snow to wait for an eruption in the cold was worth it. The pool was empty {Continue Reading}

Part of the Journey

Even though Mom and Dad first took us to the mountains when we were little, little enough that my brother and I had matching blue and white jackets, it wasn’t until we went to Yellowstone that we really hiked. Our early forays on the trail were not entirely successful. We attempted the peak of Mount Washburn but turned back either because of the snow covering the trail or the complaining which it elicited. Honesty requires me to own that the complaining came from me, not from my brother. Our quest for the Petrified Forest, a destination not situated conveniently next {Continue Reading}

A Tree’s Tale

My husband is a mountain goat, climbing and clinging to the unlikeliest of spots with ease. Our children take after him and as soon as they are able, they scramble after him. Those poor, sad souls who aren’t yet able to climb with their daddy stay behind with me, and I shepherd them around the base of whatever the rest are climbing. Once, when we stopped the HooDoos, a large outcropping of rock formations near Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone, the mountain goat and his offspring leaped from our vehicle, sprinted toward the rocks and started climbing. I followed behind {Continue Reading}