Spontaneous backcountry camping in Zion

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Whoa, long time no see! It’s been a while. The semester wrapped at up UVM, my friend Eric from Ireland came to visit (first time to AMERICA!), and after a long dark winter in Vermont the sun came out, so I’ve been outside on walks OR sipping negronis OR eating ice cream.

But I keep talking about my Zion trip to friends and strangers. Unorganized hilarious magicalness would best describe it.

It was a bit impulsive. Liza (North Carolina), Peggy (Chicago), and I (Vermont) essentially got tickets to Las Vegas with no real plan as to where to go from there except get out of town.

We thought we’d camp. None of us have been “camping” in a while though. Our group texts looked something like this.

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I had to test whether I could still properly set up my tent.

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Then my cat, who has started to hate it when I go on trips, peed on my hiking gear. The night before. Soooooooo after laundering and repacking everything, I happily said good-bye to a still frozen Lake Champlain.

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The first day we all didn’t get in until late and spent the night at the Excalibur, which I deemed a grungy Game of Thrones, haha.

A quick pic of some slot machines.

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We stayed up late in Vegas catching up and eating Popeyes chicken until 3 a.m. Liza still wanted to get up early to head to Zion, so we thought we’d camp in a campground at the park and do an easy day hike or bike ride that afternoon.

So we rented a a car, which ended up being a giant white Texas SUV (random), and drove a few hours to UTAH!

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Then we got stuck in traffic for forever. Zion was a TOTAL zoo. It was Easter weekend so I guess we should have known…

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The park ranger laughed when we rolled up at 2 p.m., telling us that all the campgrounds filled up around 7 a.m. that morning. Although unprepared – and still in Vegas clothes – we thought we’d see about getting a day-of backcountry camping permit.

Best quote from Liza, who was decked out in leopard print & dripping in rhinestones: While I love my outfit, I really wish I wasn’t wearing it now.

After initially telling us there weren’t any backcountry spaces available, we pleaded, and she said that they had one cancellation on the West Rim Trail that we could use for the next three days (broken up between campsite #6 and campsite #3) but it was very remote, 8 miles away, and up a steep canyon with some treacherous switchbacks.

We said we’d take it.

And then we (okay, I) panicked because it was late in the day and we were unprepared. Liza had to tell me to go back to my “place of yes.” We quickly drove to an outdoor gear store in the town next to the park to buy a map and water purification tablets. I also bought like ten Cliff bars and extra batteries. We packed and changed in the store’s parking lot, and I scarfed down a corn dog from the gas station like it was my last meal before we started hiking just before 5 p.m.

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The hike was gorgeous but suuuuuuuuper hard. I had to laugh because we thought we’d take it easy and ended up on this crazy backcountry trek. The West Rim trail is a 16-mile long stretch that goes from the northern part of the park at Lava Point down to the Grotto inside Zion. Most people start the West Rim Trail up at Lava Point and hike down because otherwise it’s over 3,000 ft of elevation gain. WE started at the Grotto because of time/location and hiked up. It was intense – we hiked up part of the popular Angel’s Landing trail (Walter’s Wiggles 20 steep switchbacks in the beginning were killer in a heavy pack!) – and I occasionally was like, WTF am I doing? But the light in the canyon was one of the most gorgeous things I’d ever seen.

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It got dark on us – even taking the Telephone Canyon shortcut – but luckily there was a full moon, a real God-send since my headlamp broke (um, right?) and there were some super steep drop off points on the narrow trail.

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It took about five hours to get to our campsite. At that point it was 10 p.m. and freezing outside, so we quickly set up one tent, drank some rum, ate a bit (sardines for Peggy & Liza – ewww – and peanut M&M’s for me), and zonked out for the night.

The next morning we made instant coffee and macaroni and cheese for breakfast (and pretty much ALL meals thereafter, haha). We saw more deer than people and after a harrowing journey to get there, it was totally chill on the plateau. We lazed around our campsite reading for most of the day, except for our excursion to get water (interesting experience).

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At Cabin Spring, aka our beloved little mud hole for fresh water.

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The next night we moved from campsite #6 to campsite #3. The first campsite was in a wooded area, so we were like YOWZA with our new view. A.W.E.S.O.M.E.

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The next day we hiked 8 miles out, which was mostly downhill:) Check out this blue blue blue blue blue sky too <3

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We decided to make a spontaneous trip to see the Grand Canyon on Easter for sunrise, so we booked it to our car, stopped at Subway’s for sandwiches, and beelined it for Williams, Arizona. Made a quick stop at Lake Powell for an ice cold lake dip!

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Which then brings this recap up to date –> All about Easter @ the Grand Canyon.

Tomorrow I’m heading to my favorite city stateside – NOLA! – for Alison + Jason’s wedding. I’m staying in New Orleans for two days with my youngest sister who is tagging along, and then spending two days in Baton Rouge with LANEY <3 It’s like 90 degrees so I’m packing sundresses, swimsuits, hats, and plenty of sunscreen. Wee!

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Alternative Easter Sunday in the Southwest (\ /) <–my attempt at bunny ears:)

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Last Sunday was the last day of a three-day backpacking trip in the southwest! There’s a crazy story involving our spontaneous backcountry camping trip, but thought I’d start with a quick recap of our Easter day. Started with sunrise @ the Grand Canyon. Epic.

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Followed by huevos rancheros, biscuits & gravy, and a big ass cinnamon roll at a diner in Williams, AZ (super cool town). Please note that I did not eat a vegetable at all unless you count salsa – but it’s a condiment, right? – on this vacay.

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Three hours later we were back in Vegas for the afternoon. Whisky & David Bowie temporary tattoos by the pool.

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Sushi dinner at Jjanga.

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Red-eye back to the CHILLY east coast:(

P.S. Happy belated birthday Mom!

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Homemade bowl, Homemade pad thai

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Homemade bowl, homemade pad thai 👊

Last weekend I made Thai Tom’s (my obsession in Seattle) pad thai noodles. I’ve never made pad thai, so I had to go out in search of tamarind paste to a few places, which ended up being found for a hefty $7 at Burlington’s City Market. But George said taramind paste, and by golly, I was going by his recipe. I bought the paste, rice noodles (soaked at room temperature!), chives, and had everything else at home.

A few teeny-tiny changes: I did halve the recipe, and still had loads of leftovers. I also stir-fried up some peppers and onions to amp up the veggie content; otherwise, it’s as is.

It’s also DELICIOUS. I wowed myself. There were more than a few nights when I found myself standing in the kitchen eating cold leftover pad thai noodles, thinking, okay this tastes LEGIT.

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Spring Break in Seattle <3 x 1,000,000,000

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This was last Sunday’s view, the infamous gum wall near the Public Market in Seattle. Jen and I ran down and took some pictures sandwiched between an afternoon gazing at Mt Rainier from the top of Crystal Mountain and a gorgeous sunset at Discovery Park. It was epic.

I spent five days spent in Seattle, my very first trip to the Pacific Northwest, and get this: no rain, days full of blinding sunshine. My vitamin D level skyrocketed. And hot damn, Seattle is just the coolest city. I always remember my mom telling me that when she was working at a hospital in her early twenties in Ohio, someone once said to her, “Why aren’t you in Seattle? Whyyyyy?” (She has yet to visit, but I now know she’d love it.)

I brought a black and white film camera instead of my Nikon, but haven’t developed them yet. For now, iPhone pics!

– – – –

Obsess about the giant tree trunks and actual flowers blooming in March and just the smell of the PNW. It smells good, woodsy and fresh and floral. If that was a perfume, I’d bottle it up and buy it.

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Funnily, cherry blossoms look different in Japan (at least to me) and I had to ask what they were in Seattle. Haha, yeah, that happened.

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– – –

God, the sun and that blue sky. I just experienced, like, the coldest February in 80 years in Vermont. Hands out of sun roofs. Sleeping in parks. Sunsets. Shortsleeves for hiking. Basically crawling like a lounge lizard from one sunny spot to the next.

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– – –

Best lunch ever. Jen and I drive out to Crystal Mountain, pay $20 to ride the gondola to the top for lunch on top of the mountain with sweepingly-epic-mind-swirling views of Mt. Rainier. ShaZAM. We stay for hours.

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– – –

NATURE. Waterfalls in Snowqualmie. Hikes up Rattlesnake Ledge. Rock hunts. Boats to Bainbridge. Sunset walks on Alki beach.
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– – –

AROUND TOWN. Public Market. Fremont Troll. Dive bars. Dear old college friends. Bike rides around lakes thinking, “Boats and boys, so many here!” Jen playing “Stay” by Lisa Loeb to me with her guitar.

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Me & Carolyn!
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*So thrilled to have gotten to hang out with Jordan and Carolyn on this trip too!

**One of my favorite meals was at Thai Tom. Making THIS over the weekend!

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My favorite apple crisp on the planet.

My Favorite Apple Crisp!
My Favorite Apple Crisp!
My favorite apple crisp!
My Favorite Apple Crisp!
My Favorite Apple Crisp!
My Favorite Apple Crisp!
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I made THIS for dessert for a dinner party last weekend, and while it’s not apple season which people take serious up here, it totally hit the spot. The dark depths of sub-zero February felt like Fall for a night.

I’ve also been obsessed with reading Thought Catalog. Every article.

Did anyone see that epic Madonna fall?!?!

Happy Thursday!

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Countries + Capitals

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Found! My country/capital flashcards. I played this a lot in Japan with other teachers, and ironically, just had a professor do a lecture for some students on his Fulbright in Ulaanbaatar of all places.

Happy weekending:)

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THIS WEEK: “Lampshades on Fire” / “Morning”

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Happy Valentine’s Day! I’ve been working on some new mugs in pottery class, very V-Day appropriate. I’m so excited that I FINALLY got my hanko (a stamp of my name in Japanese) back because now I’m using it as my name ‘stamp’ on my new ceramic pieces.

Popping in for a little THIS WEEK update.

MUSIC

“Lampshades on Fire”

Beck’s “Morning” for my mornings! (Also digging “Blue Moon” and “Heart is a Drum”)

EATING

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After reading Gillian’s post, I thought, I gotta get it together like her. I cleaned out my fridge and made a big batch of The New York Time’s Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma and have been eating it with salads or I made a flatbread with caramelized onions and tomatoes. It’s delicious and so easy. I’ll definitely make it again!

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Breakfasts were usually eggs, English muffin, and grapefruit.

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Tried snacking on peppers instead of potato chips this week…

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Also, I’ve been starting my day with a big glass of water with chlorophyll and two fermented cod liver oil capsules. I KNOW. I dig weird healthy morning routines though, I do I do.

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And vitamins, rocking the pill box just like my parents. I’m not sure if vitamins do much, but psychologically, I feel like I’m being healthy. I take a multi, D, calcium, C, probiotic, and something for joints.

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Oh oh oh my HERBS came in! I’ve got a tincture, a tea, and a decoction to make. I’ve never done a decoction and going to tackle it on Monday. (Pictured next to my incense, I feel so hippie.)

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WORKOUTS

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Snake Mt!

Swimming (this class is so hard!), yoga, roller skating, and hiking. I went for a run on Monday on the indoor track, just for 30 minutes. It felt sooooooo good even though I know it’s bad for me. Interestingly, since I’m doing way more yoga than ever before in my life, I could feel one hip was tight from the indoor track. I’m kind of wary of those tight corners, even for walking, which I do a lot of nights there in this bitter cold.

Have a great weekend! I’m going skiing soon, kind of not looking forward to the super cold temps, but hey it’s Vermont so whatcanyoudo?!

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