Thursday, May 24, 2012

We did it!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The end is near.

Tomorrow is the big day. The graduation of graduations. I will try my best to get at least one picture up on the blog tomorrow, but I make no promise. I will also be packing for a relaxing vacation to a remote corner of the globe. And when I get back from that, I promise lots of pictures.

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bruce the Birthday Boy

 Bruce had an awesome birthday: it started at 6 a.m., when we brought french toast into his room. He wanted breakfast in bed and had requested french toast the night before. After breakfast, he opened his presents: walkie talkies, a Lego Star Wars sticker book, and a Lego Harry Potter video game.
 We headed to New Hampshire for the Bedford 12K. It is one of a handful of races that is designated a New England Grand Prix race, which theoretically attracts the best runners in the region. The race was stacked and my legs felt sluggish (maybe last weekend's 24 miles? maybe my calf strain that had me running no faster than 6:15 pace the last two weeks? maybe from Phoebe climbing in bed with me at 2 a.m.?), so I finished in eighth place. After the race and a quick cooldown, we jumped back in the car, grabbed lunch at Bruce's favorite burrito joint, and cleaned up for the birthday party.
 This year's pinata was simple: a Death Star. I didn't get a great picture of it. The best part of it was Scott's surgical suture job that he used to secure the rope to it. It was a masterpiece.
 The weather was sunny and in the high 70s, so it was another great year for a party at the park. The splash park sprinklers randomly started going off during the party, and our birthday party instantly turned into a water park party. All the kids ran into the sprinklers in their clothes and shoes. They shed their shirts and shoes after a few minutes, and let them dry on the fence for the rest of the party.
 Phoebe was properly attired after a quick trip home. She was happy to run around barefoot in the sprinklers.
 The Death Star didn't last long. Last year we had to get really violent with the thick General Grievous, so I made the Death Star thinner. It made it through about a half-dozen kids before it exploded...
We had a droid army scavenger hunt, ate cupcakes that sat in the sun way too long, and Bruce scored some more birthday loot. Bruce had just enough time to play with his goodies before eating his requested birthday dinner - Phineas and Ferb-shaped macaroni and cheese - and heading to bed. Happy 7th Birthday Bruce!

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The funny lunch.

This photo somehow didn't get on the blog last Sunday, but it needs to be posted and remembered forever and ever more. Bruce was inspired by this book to make me a "funny lunch" for Mother's Day. He and Scott made this awesome creation: a mushroom-stuffed tomato-basil snowman with pretzel arms and olive eyes. It was delicious.

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Ragnar Cape Cod

 Last weekend I ran the Ragnar Cape Cod relay with 11 other fabulous ladies. We made up Team Road Hazards and took turns running the 200 miles from Plymouth to Provincetown.
 The whole Ragnar scene is very different from the typical racing scene that I usually hang with. Costumes are encouraged at Ragnar, so there were pink flamingos and pirates running around. Wearing earbuds and iPods were the norm, and no one else seemed bothered about the loose relay exchange zones or the lack of course officials.
 I ran three legs during the race. My first leg was 8.7 miles in Plymouth on Friday around noon. It was very hilly and warm enough to want some water. Unfortunately, the only water was on a table in a big jug with empty cups sitting next to it. Maybe the volunteers didn't show up? After the run and cheering on a few more runners, I snagged about 15 minutes of sleep in the van sometime in the afternoon. I tried to sleep at a campground later in the afternoon, but the noise of cheering and cowbells and trucks rolling by kept me awake. I went out for my second run around midnight. This time it was 9 miles through Barnstable. It wasn't as hilly, but the darkness was creepy, I was tired, there wasn't any water available, and I turned my ankles twice on potholes in the road.
 After my late-night run, I slept for just over an hour on a wrestling mat in a school gym. I was too tired to care about what grossness might be on the mat itself. I woke up and went for my last run around 7 a.m., this time a 6.3-miler through Wellfleet. The run itself was boring: it was on a paved rail trail that had every tenth of a mile marked. It ended by a gorgeous beach though:
 I ran all my legs at 6:30something pace, which helped me feel slightly vindicated about that whole Boston Marathon thing. All in all, it was fun because of the people I ran with, but if I do it again I want to either race it to win it or chill out and just run it easy.
Another account of our epic run is here.

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Catching up with the Raymonds

 I have so much to post, and so little time. Tonight I am catching up on the blog, so excuse the glut of posts following the famine.
 We went to the Children's Museum a few weeks ago. Bruce's school let out early for the day, so we spent all afternoon in a nearly empty museum (my favorite!).
If you ask Phoebe what her favorite exhibit is, she will tell you it's the potties that are just her size. They are pretty cute.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

And Happy Mother's Day to me...

...because nothing says I Love You like "It's still okay. I like you!"

Bruce said the big headed guy saying "no!" is him whining and that is me in the corner with hands on hips. He said he still likes me even though I scold him for whining.

Also for Mother's Day, I got breakfast in bed, an ice cream maker, a candle, and some peace and quiet.


Happy Mother's Day to my Awesome Mom

 Here is my biggest fan. You would think that with 10 kids, my mom wouldn't have time to make it to everyone's sporting events, plays, science fairs, scouting banquets, and parent-teacher conferences. Somehow she made it to everything for everyone (maybe she had one of these?) and then some (muffins for sick people, volunteering with the police and fire department, community activist, classroom parent for 30 years, etc.). She made it to cheer me on in the marathon this year and saved the day when Bruce and Phoebe both surprised me by being born six weeks early.

At the State Cross Country meet my senior year,  my parents led a fan club to remember. Many of my siblings, nieces, nephews, neighbors, and friends came to support me, all dressed with my signature nubbly hair-style. Some painted their faces and my older brother, Dan, even shaved "GO EMILY" into the back of his head. I won the race and still treasure it as one of my best moments because of the support from my family. 
When I went to the State Track meet the following spring, my mom led the troops again and cheered me on through one of the hottest meets of the year (I think it was almost 90 degrees). I ran the 4 x 800-meter relay one night, then the 1600 meters the next day, and the 3200 meters two hours later. While the 3200 meters was my strongest event, it was my last event when I would be the most tired. My dad took a video of the race - and someday when I am savvy enough I will post it - and the best part of the video is during the last 200 meters of the race. Another girl and I had been battling back and forth throughout the race and it came down to the very end. In the video, you can see me pull ahead while the camera jostles all over the place (before the days of image stabilization). You can hear my mom screaming "GO EMILY!" so loud that her voice breaks and cracks. You can tell she is so emotional but it doesn't stop her from yelling into a big stadium even when there is little chance she will be heard by me.

That is my mom: I know she supports me even when I can't hear it coming. When Phoebe was born, my mom came and watched Bruce, made meals, drove me to the hospital, and generally took care of everything. When Phoebe was still in the hospital, my mom brought me to visit her but would reserve Phoebe's limited out-of-the-isolette time for me; my mom did not even hold Phoebe the first time she came out. My mom was a mother first before a grandmother, I guess.

I love you Mom!

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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Travelogue: Death Hollow

The next day, we set out for Death Hollow, a lesser known and much more remote canyon in comparison to Buckskin, but well regarded by a number of trail guides and canyoneering books. We took the Hell's Backbone road up to the Death Hollow access point, a pullout in the road across from a faint trail that plunged straight down the drainage. About 200 yards from the road there was a steel box containing the trail register; I signed in - the last person had been there exactly a week before.

Before I begin, I should state explicitly that this is not a route that that I would recommend doing alone, because of the numerous known small drops (up to 18 ft) and innumerable deep pools requiring swimming. The temperatures for the first 2 days of my trip were high 60s, low 70s, making for a chilly jaunt. In fact, I hesitate to post this at all, because it would be a disservice to the canyoneering / hiking community to suggest that this hike should be done solo. While I was gone hiking, my wife and mother-in-law were reading about a woman who had gotten stuck one drainage over just a few days before and imagining the worst.

That said, I was well prepared with gear: 40' rope, harness, webbing for anchors, inflatable tube (more on that later), etc. It was an amazing trip.

My objective was to hike down the drainage to a small spring (11 miles?), which is the first source of water from the road. I was anxious about making it before dark, since it took many hours to drive up from Paria Canyon in the morning and I didn't start hiking until 1 PM. There was basically no trail, just bushwacking through the forest and then down canyon. After the first mile or so, the grade eased up and it was slow slogging across the bench, littered with prickly pear that kept barbing my legs, or dry, sandy stream bed, choked with large boulders.

The canyon quickly opened up to reveal that it was fenced in with sharp sandstone cliffs that would have been impossible to escape in the event of bad weather. At this point large thunderheads were rolling by with brief, intermittent showers, and I was starting to think that if it got any worse, I would have to climb back out of the canyon the way I came. The Death Hollow drainage is huge and it all funnels into a very narrow draw, so the risk of flash flood is significant. I continued to hike, resolved that if it continued to rain, I could camp the night by the spring and book it back out to the road in the morning.

A little after 4:30 PM, I hit the first small section of shallow narrows, and shortly thereafter rounded a bend and saw the tell-tale streak of brown on the left side of the canyon signifying water. I pumped a few liters and made camp across the draw from the spring. Although relieved to be on schedule, I slept poorly, worried about rain and the challenging day ahead.

I awoke to a chilly, clear morning, happy to be done with the night and eager to get started. I knew that ahead were the narrows of upper Death Hollow, which contained numerous small drops and deep channels, followed by a series of beaver dams after the perennial water started. I had a hasty breakfast, clogged my water filter with the bracken water at the base of the spring, and broke camp.

The narrows started almost immediately and were filled with numerous chockstones, sometimes necessitating a small down-climb. I lowered my pack over the larger drops with a 12' piece of 1" tubular webbing. There was one large stone with an overhanging drop > 10 ft that puzzled me for a bit - I put my harness on and was prepared to rap over it, but discovered a small rabbit hole when looking for a good natural anchor point and was able to scurry down the hole and under the stone. When I finally reached the well-described two-stage drop right before the confluence with the Right Fork of Death Hollow, I followed the cairn over the left canyon wall and bypassed it altogether.
Example of large obstacles requiring down climb

The narrows continued and the water started. The first few pools were just potholes, but eventually I hit a long narrow channel about shoulder width that looked pretty deep. I splashed ahead and after about 10 ft felt the floor of the channel disappear. My pack was surprisingly buoyant and lifted my hips off the ground; I made a thrashing attempt at the breast stroke with the pack on and eventually came to the end, about 100 yards in total. I had all of my clothes and essentials in a large dry sack in my pack, and was carrying the camera in a cheapo small dry bag around my neck, so most everything stayed dry except me. After this brief swim, I noticed a few drops inside the camera bag and had to transfer the camera to my pack. My watch, which Emily had just fixed, was ruined. In retrospect, I noticed the dark water line on the canyon wall indicating that the water had even just recently been 3-5 ft deeper.
Looking back at the channel; my walking stick, ~5 ft long, is on the right

After a few more narrows, I came to the last obstacle, a large chockstone with an 18 ft drop to a deep pool below. After seeing this, I had already decided to follow Canyoneering 3's recommendation to just walk around. After a quick scramble up the left side of the canyon, I could see that the canyon opened up below and lush vegetation began, suggesting the beginning of the perennial water below. I loped down the hill, laid out my clothes to dry, cleaned the ceramic insert of my MSR filter, pumped water and warmed up in the sun. The pool was full of frogs and pods of frog eggs. At this point, I broke out my inflatable tube, a ~ 4 ft diameter pool toy purchased at Target for 5 bucks and intended to float my pack so I wouldn't have to swim with a 50 lb backpack. It did not hold air, straight out of the package. Exasperated, I put it back in my pack, strapped the beast to my back, and charged down canyon.

Below the narrows, the canyon opened up and the walls stretched much higher, in excess of 400 ft. The swimming did not end - there were many beautiful deep pools, most ending in a beaver dam, that made progress slow. I became cold and was shivering until I found small trails onto the bench, which gave me hiking time in the sun and allowed me to dry off somewhat in between pools. I passed a sulfur spring, high up on the canyon wall, that resulted in huge red and brown algae plumes down stream.
Algae plumes near the sulfur spring

After many miles, I passed the western arm of the Boulder Mail Trail, an inland route to the canyon that cuts across the canyon from west to east. This was near the shooting spring, a remarkable jet of water from the hillside that shot out > 6", and an amazing sandy campsite under massive ponderosa pines. I was relieved to be through the obstacle course and knew that I was relatively home free from here on out.
Shooting spring

Poison ivy.

Day 3 I hiked from the Boulder Mail Trail down to the Escalante Highway 12 bridge over about 9 hours. The day was clear and warm, and the hiking was fantastic. From the BMT down to the confluence with the Escalante, the canyon was fantastic, with high walls, soaring alcoves, and a short section of narrows. Much of this was hiked in the stream which ran over slickrock. As advertised, there were thick patches of poison ivy, but these disappeared by the time I got to the Escalante River.
One of many beaver dams.

After about three hours of hiking, I came around a bend and saw these three guys in BYU caps, the first people I had seen since my dad left me at the trailhead. They had hiked in on the BMT and must have camped just downstream from where I stayed the night. While we were talking, one of them caught a 12" trout. I asked them to take my picture. In my defense, I chose to wear clothing that was long-sleeved, would dry quickly, and was bright colored in the event that I had to be rescued, hence the traveling circus outfit.
About 1/2 a mile down from the fishing hole, I encountered the lower Death Hollow narrows, where the river runs over deep slick rock pools. The walls closed in and I had to shuffle sideways on a submerged ledge to avoid swimming in the deep water. This area was spectacular and worth the entire hike.
From there, it was another couple of hours to the Escalante confluence, and then 3+ hours of slogging over deep sand on the benches to reach the Highway 12 bridge / trailhead. The canyon gradually widened and there were expansive vistas, a natural arch, and a natural bridge. About 4:30 PM, I had exhausted all 3 L of water and was super sweaty and tired, so I changed into my swimming suit, took a quick sponge bath in the river, and then started back on the trail. I thought that I was close, but with the loss of my watch and unclear mileage in the trail guides, I was just running on fumes hoping it would end. About 5 minutes from my bath, I met a couple who guaranteed the trailhead was only 20 minutes away, and with that inspiration, I hiked as fast as I could to the end. My shoes were full of sand and my feet were pretty shredded from all of the gravel / sand of the last 30 miles.
Highway 12 bridge trailhead.
After changing into some clean clothes, I drove up US 12 to Boulder and had the most amazing meal: fried polenta and the Red Rock hamburger, a quarter pounder with quac, chipotle mayo, cheese, and fresh salsa. I was so blown away that I could barely move, but somehow I dragged my body into the rental car and drove 3.5 hrs back to Provo through Capital Reef and Dixie National Park. Epic.