Monday, August 31, 2015

Ireland--The Emerald Isle--Eire

A couple of years ago, Casey and Anika were having a discussion about when, if ever, she'd get the chance to visit Ireland, a place she'd been fascinated with ever since a childhood exposure to the Irish accent in a PBS show called Jakers! The Adventures of Pigglywinks. I was surprised to hear him say to her that when she graduated from high school, we'd take her to Ireland. The surprise came from the realization that if we took Anika on a graduation trip of that magnitude, we'd pretty much have to take the other four kids as well.

I love being in other places aside from two things--getting there, and getting home again.

Day 1--We left Salt Lake City Sunday morning. We arrived in Ireland Monday morning after eighteen hours of traveling, including layovers, and an eight hour time difference. We were supposed to travel to Texas, then Chicago, then Dublin, but when our flight from Texas got delayed, we were rerouted to London, and then to Dublin. So Anika got an extra country thrown in free. Of course, all she saw of London was what we could see from the airplane on our descent--Tower Bridge, the London Eye, the Thames . . . . Also, we got to queue in proper British fashion through immigration, customs, security, etc. . . .

Dublin: Ireland's largest city and capitol. Settlement goes back more than a thousand years! For a long time it was a Viking stronghold, and was built on an even earlier Christian settlement. We began and ended our stay in Ireland here.

Day 2, Monday--It was about 11:30 when we got out of the airport and into a cab. Our cabby was completely silent and had the radio playing. As we rode towards our hotel, I kept falling asleep. They allowed us to check in early, and it was with great difficulty that we didn't immediately lie down and go to sleep.
Instead we got out and started walking toward city center.

First stop: A fish and chips shop--We just ordered one to share, in case Anika didn't like it. It arrived SO hot, we couldn't actually taste it. When it cooled down, Anika tried it, and liked it. She ended up eating fish and chips several other times in Ireland, and we all ate a lot of chips. Of course, chips in Ireland mean thick cut fries. And they are delicious. And they are served with brown vinegar. And they throw them in as a side with everything, including pizza.  I went back to the counter and asked for extra napkins. "What, now?" "Serviettes?" "Oh, sure." --This is not my first trip to Ireland.

On our way to the city center, we passed through St. Stephen's Green, a large park complete with bridges, duck pond, fountains, lawns, people sleeping on lawns, etc. Then we walked down a posh pedestrian shopping zone, listened briefly to a busker from Australia (of Irish descent) and then to the River Liffey to walk over the Ha'penny and O'Connell bridges.

Then we went to Trinity College to have a brief tour of the campus given by a just-graduated student named Gavin. He gave us all sorts of juicy details, such as how the college commissioned an architect to design one of the buildings on the central court, but never paid him. Then they built the identical building across the court--"Two for the price of none." Also, there are are two Oregon Maple trees in the courtyard that have grown much larger than such trees usually do, perhaps because they were planted in the old monastery graveyard, whose inhabitants were never removed--"consecrated fertilizer." Some of the buildings are really lovely, and some of them, especially the modern cement ones, "have been hurtin' our eyes since 19--." He left us at the entrance to the Book of Kells display. 
looking toward center of college green

Gavin is just over Anika's left shoulder. 

The lighting in the room where they keep The Book of Kells is so dim, it wasn't worth taking pictures. But here is a link to Trinity College's website, where you can view digital images. In person you only get a couple of pages, so feast your eyes.

The old library where we sat down on a bench for way too long. So tired.

We realized we'd missed our chance for the day to have a walking tour of Dublin but we ended up walking a lot all by ourselves. Here are a few more sites we saw today. Several of them closed around 5, but we made ourselves stay out so we could adjust to jetlag as quickly as possible.
 The statue of Molly Malone. Anika is strategically placed in this picture.

The place where we ate the second half of our lunch--a different kind of shwarma or kebab than we'd had before--Ani didn't go for it.

Dublin Castle--we didn't go inside. It's a government complex these days.

Behind the castle is a lawn/helipad where people catch the sun when they can. Across the way is a design college. We went inside and looked at a student exhibition. We heard a lot about Irish designers while we were in Ireland. They've had style since before the pyramids. (see tomorrow's post.)

Christchurch Cathedral

Finally, we decided to have dinner. We knew we'd be having a fair amount of traditional Irish food over the next week, so we thought Anika would appreciate pizza for dinner. We got it from a shop that also sold every kind of kebab, as well as burgers and salads. While we waited, Casey got this picture.

I hadn't even realized I was asleep until I heard him taking the photo.

We went right back to the hotel after that and were in bed by 8:00 pm.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

50 miler

Last year Anderson went on a 50-mile hike with his scout troop.  There were a lot of boys and a few of them couldn't really make it so the troop ended up only going 37 miles.  This year one of Anderson's friends decided that he really wanted to make it a full 50-mile hike and invited Anderson to go with him and his dad.  Anderson didn't want to go without me so he eventually talked me into going, even though I had used up most of my vacation days for this year with all the other stuff we had done.  It was going to be just me, Anderson, his friend Hunter Harris, and Hunter's dad Randy.  So we borrowed a bunch of great from the Harrises, and we ended up buying a bunch of gear and food the day before we left for the Hale reunion, and packing up late into the night we got back from that reunion and leaving at 4 AM the next day.  Not a lot of preparation time but things went pretty well.  We left at 4 AM on Monday, Jul 27 and got back around 9 PM on Saturday Aug 1.

Day 1:
Miles hiked: 10.47
Time hiked: 6:35:20
Climb: 1968
Lowest elevation: 9104
Highest elevation: 9931
We had to drive for over 5 hours before we got there so we got started hiking around 9:30 from the Big Sandy trail head.  Anderson and I weighed our packs before we left and mine was 40 lbs and his was 37 lbs.  It was heavy but wasn't a big deal for the first several miles.  About halfway into the first day Randy started getting blisters and started packing moleskin on them.  He basically had huge blisters the whole trip but just used a lot of moleskin and aspirin and kept hiking. We stopped for lunch next to Boulter Lake.  Basically all our lunches were crackers, jerky, dried fruit, and trail mix.  In the afternoon the trail kept disappearing so we wandered a little bit and had to use the map and compass to get back on track.  Towards the end of the day we had a huge windstorm that nearly blew us all away.  It looked like it was going to rain so we all pulled out our ponchos.  Anderson's got ripped on a branch and the rest were flapping in the wind.  We eventually made it to a lake that we were considering stopping at for the night.  Turns out it was really shallow and didn't have any fish but we were all tired and had already unloaded our packs so we stayed there for the night.  We basically went to bed as soon as it got dark around 8:30 or so since none of us had gotten much sleep the night before.  It was cold and windy and there was ice on the tents in the morning.  I didn't sleep well because I had a little bit of a cold.
Starting from the parking lot

Anderson and Hunter during a rest stop

Day 2:
Miles hiked: 9.77
Time hiked: 6:25:26
Climb: 1855
Lowest Elevation: 9872
Highest Elevation: 10560
Woke up and hiked north to Silver Lake.  It was windy and cold in the morning and we ended up wearing our jackets even though we were hiking.  Silver Lake was way down from it's normal height so we hiked through a bunch of boulders to get to the shore.  I lay down on Anderson's pad behind a boulder out of the wind and it was nice there in the sun.  I didn't quite fall asleep but at least I got warm.  Anderson fished and ended up catching a brook trout.  He tried to let it go but it was snagged with all 3 hooks and died before we could get it off the hooks.  Anderson hooked it back in and put it in a ziploc bag to eat later at dinner.  Anderson really didn't want to gut it so Randy ended up doing it for him.  After Silver Lake we hiked up a few really steep hills that really took it out of us (but at least we weren't cold!)  We stopped by a cold stream for lunch and to pump water.  The two families got separated for a while but found a map somebody had dropped in the meantime.  The last bit of the hike was up a steep valley with a river running down it.  We had to cross the river at one point and Anderson, Hunter and I all slipped on mossy rocks and fell in.  Randy was the only one to make it across unscathed.  Luckily we were almost there but still had to hike another mile or so in wet boots and wet socks.  We made it up to the lake we wanted to camp at (Maes Lake) and were very tired but still had to hike around it and find a good spot to camp.  The best spot was taken by some other hikers that we saw several other times during the week.  We finally found a spot and I built a fire while the rest fished.  Anderson caught 2 more fish that he released but also lost 3 spinners that day.  We had dinner of fish and Mountain House lasagna and went to bed.  Pretty much all of our dinners were Mountain House.  Slept a little better but not much.
This was the view most of the first and second day.  Grassy hills with a few rocks and trees.
Anderson's first fish.  It was cold!
Anderson during our lunch stop

Day 3:
Miles hiked: 4.52
Time hiked: 3:35:19
Climb: 1124
Lowest Elevation: 9992
Highest Elevation: 11172
Anderson lost his 4th and final spinner fishing in the morning, though we didn't fish very log because we had to get on the road before it got too hot.  As were leaving to go Randy got a fishhook in his finger and we had to perform some surgery to get it out.  Decided to have a shorter hiking day since we were going over the continental divide.  Even though we were going over the continental divide, it wasn't the highest elevation we got to.  But it was pretty steep going up and even steeper going down.  We had a mini snowball fight at a glacier on the way up and saw plenty of other glaciers and really cold looking lakes and waterfalls near the top of the pass.  It was very beautiful though.  Coming down the pass was really sleep (more than 45 degree slope) and the switchbacks were scary because they were full of really lose rock and you slipped a bit with almost every step.  It took half an hour just to get down the 500 feel to the bottom.  We decided not to stop for lunch but just keep going until we made it to the campsite.  It took much longer than we thought because we had to cross rivers and clamber over huge boulders to get where we were going.  But we finally made it to the northern side of Grave Lake where there was a really nice campsite.  We were all glad to get out of our boots and kick back and eat lunch in the shade.  We just hung at the campsite and fished in the lake.  At dusk, Randy caught a few fish fly fishing.  Anderson tried fly fishing since he was out of spinners but he got really frustrated and didn't have much luck.
Our camp the second night.  Notice the socks trying to dry out near the fire
Lots of rocks and snow
Snowball fight in the glacier
View near the top of the pass.  If you look close you can see Randy coming up the trail
This was the descent from the top of the pass.  If you look closely you can some other hikers at the bottom of the pass that look really tiny since it is far down.  Hard to get perspective from this picture.
Cool waterfall that we hiked past on our way down to Grave Lake

Camp at Grave Lake

Doing some fly fishing at dusk at Grave Lake
Day 4:
Miles hiked: 5.48
Time hiked: 3:25:22
Climb: 1264
Lowest Elevation: 9936
Highest Elevation: 10457
Got up early because I wasn't sleeping.  Went down to watch the sun on the lake and saw something sparkling out there that looked like a spinner.  Since Anderson had been complaining so much about losing all his spinners I thought I might wade out there and try to get it.  It looked like it was maybe only a couple feet deep.  Anderson woke up and came down to the lake as I was taking my socks and shoes off.  He thought I was crazy but chanted stuff like "You can do it, spinner king!" as I waded out there.  Turns out it was up to my waist and I had to go back and take off my shirt and jacket.  It was too cold for me to bend down and try to fish it out with my hands but I just dragged it back slowly across the rocks with my feet and then with a stick Anderson threw me.  Eventually I got it and he went to fish with it and I went back to change and to hang my shorts out to dry.  Anderson caught a big fish with the new spinner and they had fun fishing most of the morning.  Then we packed up and hiked out.  This was the top of the circle so from here on out we were heading mostly back towards the car.  At one point we had to cross a really shallow but wide stream and tried to step on rocks but got a little wet.  So the boys decided they wanted to gather really big rocks and make a better path across the stream while Randy changed into dry socks.  Then we hiked the rest of the way up to Valentine Lake.  We found the best campsite yet which had a huge fire pit and was only 25 feet away from the lake on a giant rock that jutted out into the lake so you could fish from there.  It was fun to fish when we got there because with the sun where it was you could see the fish following the bait as it came past.  There were some really big fish in there (20+ inches) that swam by but none of those guys were interested in flies or spinners.  Anderson caught 2 small fish with his spinner before it came loose on a cast and he casted it into the middle of the lake.  He then caught one small fish with Randy's fly rod.  I tried Randy's fly rod since I'd never fly fished before and caught one small fish.  Harris's made a really good strawberry pie dessert with Nilla wafers, dehydrated whipping cream, and freeze-dried strawberries.  I heard something big crashing through the trees (probably an elk or moose or something) but it made me sleep even worse than usual.

Fishing in the morning, caught with the spinner I found
Crossing a stream
Hiking up the valley
At the crossroads
Finally made it to the campsite for lunch
Great fishing spot where we could see the fish following the lures
Anderson's last fish on his last spinner

Anderson after casting his last spinner into the middle of the lake
Dinner at our really cool campsite with "benches" and "table"

Day 5:
Miles hiked: 9.06
Time hiked: 5:28:15
Climb: 2149
Lowest Elevation: 10013
Highest Elevation: 11862
We spent most of this day at really high elevation.  Because we knew it was going to be exposed and a long day of hiking, we left fairly early (8 AM) and started hiking up.  We basically hiked straight up for the first 2 hours and got up to 11,800 feet.  It was really windy up there on the top of the mountains and we could see really far in every direction.  My nose was running the whole day with my cold so that was really annoying.  We then hiked along the top of the pass for several hours, stopping in the middle for lunch.  It was pretty cool to eat lunch on the top of the world, being able to see in all directions and the wind blowing.  We finally started going down and that was the hardest part.  It was several hours of step declines that were hard on our knees and ankles.  We finally made it down into the valley and hiked a mile down to the river where we camped for the night.  We were tired and didn't do any fishing but just sat around and told stories.  I hardly slept at all that night since my cold was getting worse.

Nearly at the top, looking back at where we hiked up
Crossroads at the top off the pass
Lunch at the top of the world
View of the Cirque of Towers from across the valley and up on the Lizard Head pass
Anderson being epic with Lizard Head in the background
We spent a lot of time together in this tiny 2 man tent

Day 6:
Miles hiked: 10.65
Time hiked: 5:37:15
Climb: 1680
Lowest Elevation: 9115
Highest Elevation: 10774
We again got an early start to get up and over the pass and we were anxious to get home.  The first two miles were easy and we made good time.  Then we had to go up and over the pass near Lonesome Lake.  We somehow got off the right path and ended up going around the wrong side of the hill.  We met an old guy who was hiking solo (he told us he hadn't been home for 107 days) and he showed us how to get back to the path but we tried to take a shortcut.  We ended up on the top of the pass looking down on Arrowhead Lake.  We could see the real path to out left but it went up and was really steep.  We considered just going down and around the right side of Arrowhead but were later glad we didn't when we saw all the boulders would have had to climb over.  The next two miles were a lot of up and down and we had to rest a lot.  Randy couldn't go uphill very fast because of his blisters and Anderson couldn't go downhill for very long because his knees would hurt.  And all of us were tired.  But eventually we reached Big Sandy Lake and everything was a gradual downward slope after that.  We stopped at the bottom of Big Sandy Lake to eat lunch and then just talked while we made the last 5 miles back to the parking lot.  We downed a few Gatorades that were in the truck and drove off.  Stopped for a "Big Cone" in Farson and at dinner at the Wendy's in Evanston.  I-84 was closed but luckily we checked Google before we got there and were able to get off in Morgan and get around most of it.

Lonesome Lake in the middle of the Cirque of the Towers
Anderson hiking up the final pass with the Cirque peaks in the background
Final big ascent with more Cirque peaks
Back at the parking lot.  No more hiking!!

Miles hiked: 50
Time hiked: 31:06:57
Lowest Elevation: 9104
Highest Elevation: 11,862
It was a good hike.  Amazingly beautiful scenery when I had time to break away from watching my step and thinking about my pack.  I was really glad that Anderson and I didn't get any blisters and nobody had any major injuries.  We saw some bighorn sheep, elk, marmot, and tons of squirrels and chipmunks.  Luckily no bears (we were careful to hang our food up each night, but there aren't a ton of bears there).  I didn't get any good nights of sleep because of my cold, and the lack of sleep and all the exertion and cold probably made my cold much worse.  By the time I got home I was really sick with aches and cough and it took me 4-5 days to get over it.  But luckily it didn't prevent me from making the hike.  It was great to spend time with Anderson and I think he really enjoyed it a lot.  I'm hoping it is something he'll remember for a long time.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Family Road Trip--Days 19-20--The Sprint Home

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Miles Traveled: 590 miles (4709 total)
States Visited: South Dakota, Wyoming
Cost of Gas: $2.79 (Chamberlain, SD) and $2.56 (Custer, SD)
Breakfast: Hotel breakfast
Lunch: Subway in Kadoka, SD
Dinner: Little Caesars in Casper, WY
Sites: Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Jewel Caves (sort of)
Lodging: Best Western Plus in Casper, WY

Thursday, June 11, 2015 

Miles Traveled: 397 miles (5106 total)
States Visited: Wyoming, Utah
Cost of Gas: $2.66 (Rawlins, WY)
Breakfast: Hotel breakfast
Lunch: Leftover pizza and snacks in the van
Dinner: Home!
Sites: Home!
Lodging: Home!

By now we were getting anxious to get home. We stayed in two different hotels between Des Moines and home. One of them was damp--the more expensive one, where we splurged on two rooms instead of one family room.

Sights we saw on our way home:
Driving by--various metal statues--bulls head, skeleton man walking skeleton dinosaur, metal cut-out of a stage coach being chased by metal cut-outs of Indians.

And 400 miles of Wall Drug Billboards! 
After about 200 miles, I was really curious to see Wall Drug. After 300 miles I decided I just couldn't give in to the relentless propaganda. So we left Wall Drug unseen.
(Since getting home, I looked up Wall Drug on the internet. The advertising is even bigger than I thought. )

Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse--Looking back, we should have skipped Crazy Horse. You can't get very close yet, as it is far from finished. We could have taken pictures from the road that were nearly as good. If we'd had more time, we could have appreciated the exhibits enough to justify the fee. Still, I like to think our 28 dollars might help them finish the carving that much sooner.

We then headed just up the road to the Jewel caves. Unfortunately, they were half an hour from closing the visitor center, and no more people were allowed into the caves.
So we used their restrooms and drinking fountains, and then left. 

Note: The Black Hills of South Dakota really do look black. It's because they are covered in some kind of dark evergreen trees and through the humid air at a distance, they are black.

We were pretty worried about our van the whole time, but it seemed to run rough mostly when we drove slowly or tried to idle. Pushing it up hills, or driving at freeway speeds it did better. As part of trying to check for problems, I discovered that the air filter was packed FULL of cat food and bird seed. I've since learned that it is not that uncommon to have rodents nesting in your engine. Just one more problem with the van....

The next day we climbed up to the high elevations of Wyoming--7300+ feet. I had not realized before that we would drop down into Utah on the way home. Wyoming was so empty, it's a good thing our van never got any worse.

We stopped at Little America, Wyoming for ice cream.
And then we drove all the way home. Through the worst rainstorm yet, according to me. Casey says it was worse the night he drove in Missouri. Regardless, it was so bad that I had to pull over and I wasn't the only one. It was made a lot worse by the semi trucks rushing past and spraying everyone. It was a relief when that was over and a bigger relief to finally get home! We had a great time. 
A final thank you goes to the kids for being pretty happy travelers. It was a wonderful trip!