3.24.2013

3 nights in Zion

Spring Break 2013!!!!!!

We yelled that for days.  Yes, I'm in my 30's.  Yes, I teach college, but it was Spring Break and I had the opportunity to take a trip with some colleagues to scout out a Geography Field Studies trip to Zion and Bryce.  We happened to do it over Spring Break......

I have a fabulous job that is a 10 month contract (so I get summers off) and get a Winter and Spring Break.  I know this gift is part of my job and I am very grateful for the contract I have.  It also made me realize I should enjoy my Spring Breaks and take some trips once in awhile.  When this trip came up I was happy to sign up to help.  Mo and AC (of Russia 2012 fame) were two people on the trip and Zion Bob (not his real name) was the fourth coworker to join us.

The trip was broken down into Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Vegas.  These are my first three nights of being in Zion National Park.

The crew before heading out:
Mo organized the trip to Zion and Bryce as she was thinking of offering a field studies class and we needed to check out hikes, campgrounds, and anything else she might need.  Zion Bob's Mom lived in the town outside Zion called Springdale and he said we could stay with her.  Score.  The four of us left on Friday afternoon after school and drove to Springdale, Utah.  It was dark when we arrived and Zion Bob's Mom showed us the apartment above the garage at her home.  It was a very cute two bedroom and we were soon fast asleep.

The next morning I woke up and waited for the sun to provide enough light so I could go for a run. Springdale was on Mountain Time and the sun didn't rise until after 7am.  When it did get light out I saw this view:
The picture doesn't do it justice, but the red rock canyon surrounding Springdale was pretty fantastic.  I headed out for a run to see what I had missed on the way into town.

(Disclaimer.  The picture above of my view from the apartment was taken in the afternoon).  The sun on the morning of my run took it's time lighting up the area.  It wasn't until I returned that the sun finally started lighting up the red rocks of the canyon.

When I returned the crew was eating breakfast with Zion Bob's mom.  They had been discussing our options and come up with a plan.

The city of Springdale was celebrating St Patty's day that day (a day early as St Patty's fell on a Sunday and Utah had a big population of Mormons) with a parade and jello eating contest.  The crew had decided to to go to Zion in the morning and make it back for the parade at 2pm.

The week we visited Zion was the last week they let cars in before starting the season shuttle service.  I realized on this trip that my experience with National Parks had been somewhat limited.  I have visited Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Death Valley, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Haleakala, Crater Lake, and the Olympic Peninsula.  In my mind, these parks have been huge!  It seemed like I was only seeing a small part of each park when I visited.  Zion was a little different.  It was the first time I thought of being able to see a park on a bike.  The main scenic loop in Zion (where the shuttles run) has amazing hikes of all levels.  There is a bike path in the park and biking  and hiking the scenic loop seemed very doable.  As a slight disclaimer,  Zion has much more to offer than the scenic loop, but the majority of that requires back country permits.

Our day in Zion started at the Visitor's Center and then we explored the Watchman campground and checked out the group campsites with Mo.  From there we took the scenic drive to the end and took the Riverwalk trail with ends at The NarrowsHere is a photo I took on the Riverwalk trail.
I'd like to think we would have hiked The Narrows if the water had not been so cold (it was snow melt)  and I can see why it is a popular hike in the summer when Zion is hot.  For the Riverwalk trail you walk along side the Virgin River.  Where the Riverwalk trail ends is where The Narrows begin and to hike The Narrows, you basically start out by hiking down the middle of the river.  Definitely a hike I would like to try in the future.

After our hike we headed back to Springdale for the St Patty's day parade and festivities.  We made it right before they shut down the street and found Zion Bob's Mom and a place to watch the parade.
There is something special about small town parades.  The people in the parade are your neighbors, or you have eaten at the restaurants who contributed to the parade.  Zion Bob's brother and niece drove one of the fire-trucks and his Mom knew so many people in the parade and walking by.  The jello eating contest was cute and the live band was fun to listen too.  The beer garden was very contained (as in you couldn't walk out of it with your beer) but close enough to everything that you still got to enjoy the festivities.

Zion Bob's birthday was during Spring Break (!!!!) and his Mom was making his favorite dinner for us.  We got to try meat pie and chocolate cake with cement icing.  One of his brothers joined us with a niece and nephew.  It was a great evening and I am glad we got to spend it with his family.  Here are the famous Meat Pies.

The next morning we got an early start to do some hiking in Zion.  AC and Zion Bob were going to hike Angels Landing and Mo and I were going to scout some hikes for her class.   Angels Landing was a hike that Zion Bob used to do all the time, one of his favorites, but he had not done it since knee surgery a few years ago.  AC heard about it and decided it was a bucket list hike.  Mo and I decided to scout the hikes for her class and dropped off AC and Zion Bob at Angels Landing.  We met up with them four hours later and they said it was amazing!

Mo and I headed out and hiked to the Emerald Pools and then to Weeping Rocks.  Parking was a bit of a problem at Weeping Rocks but we ended up parking at a look out point and getting to hike through the valley along the river.  When we stopped to have lunch AC and Zion Bob had just finished their hike and we had lunch together.  On our way out we stopped at the Zion Museum and watched the film there.  Here are some photos of Mo and I on the Emerald Pools hike.
We then headed to Grafton and saw the ghost town and cemetery there.  Very interesting and beautiful.  I would recommend the short drive if you are in the area.  That night we ate dinner at the Bit and Spur.  Zion Bob's sister and brother-in-law owned it and it was amazing!  Another must stop in Springdale.  The next morning we said our goodbyes and headed for Bryce Canyon.

Zion was incredible and I can't wait to go back with my bike and some more time!

Next stop: Bryce Canyon.

3.21.2013

Zion on St. Patty's

Coming soon: 3 days in Zion National Park!

3.11.2013

Agua Fresca: take 1


This past Saturday T and I had the family over for a taco night. The weather had been so nice that I thought tacos might be a good change from our traditional Italian suppers. I was trying to figure out what to drink and was inspired to make Agua Frescas after having lunch at Taco Mesa on Thursday.

I had never made Agua Fresca before and turned to the internet for some inspiration. After weeding through some sites, I found these two to be pretty helpful when it came to recipes.

Agua Fresca Recipes: 10 Refreshing Drink Ideas from the Huffington Post
Try these 'fresh waters' for summer drinking from DailyCamera

I adapted the Cucumber-Lime-Mint Agua Fresca from the Huffington Post and tried the Strawberry-Jamaica (hibiscus) Agua Fresca from Daily Camera.  

Here are my thoughts after my first attempt at Agua Frescas:
  1. I will be making these all summer!  Great BBQ drinks that can be served alone, with sparkling water, or with alcohol.
  2. If I was making these just for me to drink I would/ will not add the sugar.  I have been steering clear of most sugar and I am thinking I will make a batch of these and drink them with sparkling water like I did all weekend.  To stay feeling well, having them with out sugar is the best bet for me.
  3. Linked to my comment above is my thought that the Strawberry-Hibiscus Agua Fresca would probably be much better in the summer when the strawberries are at their best.  The strawberries at the Farmer's Market are just okay right now and the Strawberry-Hibiscus Agua Fresca I made needed to be doctored a bit to taste good.
  4. The Cucumber-Lime-Mint Agua Fresca was amazing!  It was a very green color and had flecks of mint in it (I was afraid it would be in my teeth) but the combination of flavors was incredible and all the ingredients were at the Farmer's Markets and in season.  That one will be made again.
Overall I was really excited with the agua frescas I tried and am looking forward to trying new flavors.    I highly recommend them!  I even found a recipe with serrano chills in it.  Dare I try that one?

3.02.2013

I love meat

I love meat.

It is kind of a hard thing to say in today's society.  Kind-diets and slaughterhouse exposes have shined a new light on the meat I eat.  More and more people I know are eating less meat, becoming vegan, vegetarian, or just highly selective.  I'm cool with that.  To each their own.  I even gave up meat one year for Lent in high school.  It was really hard, and I only gave it up that year......

The truth is that I am a meat eater.  I feel better when I eat meat.  Lose weight when I eat meat. And I am sure T would say I am a lot less grumpy when I eat meat.

My sisters joke about it.  My Middle Sister is a vegetarian and has been her whole life.  She just doesn't like the taste and texture of meat.  My Little Sister jokes that I make up for all the meat the vegetarian Sister didn't eat.  She might be right.

Being a meat lover it was fairly "easy" to stay on the Whole 30 during the winter holidays.  There was meat.  And now that T and I are mostly sticking with that way of eating,  I find that I am liking what I eat.  And losing weight!

On a weight loss side note: I just realized I am 3.2 pounds away from being the weight I was when T and I started dating 14 years ago!  I think that is so cool.....

So back to meat.....I am currently loving flank steak, seasoned with salt and pepper, cooked in bacon grease in a hot (med-high) cast iron pan.  I cut up the steak so it will fit, season both sides and let each side cook for about 4 minutes.  What I get is a smokey house (we need to replace our stove fan) and a perfectly medium-rare (almost rare) steak.  It tastes amazing and might be battling the rib eye or hanger for my favorite steak.....

Meat. It's what's for dinner!