29 October 2022

Utah: arches national park — courthouse towers and petrified dunes

After getting back to the car, we headed to the Courthouse Towers, which was just on the other end of the Park Avenue trail. You can walk the whole way and back to the Courthouse Towers from the Park Avenue viewpoint, but we opted to only go half-way since it was just the beginning of our day.

Courthouse Towers

The Courthouse Towers viewpoint is a parking lot surrounded by impressive sandstone features, features that seem different to each visitor's imagination. The three gossips (below) were the most recognizable to the three of us, as well as sheep rock. 

the three gossips

the tower of babel
From the parking lot you can easily see the possible "fallen arch", as well as sheep rock on the right. Here we learned more about the life cycle of arches, and what makes these monoliths living, breathing wonders of nature. 

" Underneath Arches National Park lies a salt bed layer, which was deposited some 300 million years ago when the area was part of an inland sea. When the sea evaporated, it left salt deposits; some areas collected over a thousand feet of these deposits. During the next millions of years, the area was filled with debris deposited from winds, floods, streams and oceans that came and went. Over time this debris compressed into rock. The weight of the rock layer caused the salt bed below to become fluid, allowing it to thrust up and create domes and ridges.

What happened after the movement of salt molded the landscape? Erosion went to work on the surface rock layers and ground water began to dissolve the underlying salt deposits. Water seeped through cracks in the weathered rock and ice formed, further expanding the crevices and weakening the rock. Eventually, the domes began to collapse leaving a maze of vertical free-standing rock walls known as fins. Wind and water continued to assault these fins until they eventually wore through and pieces began to fall away, creating the amazing arches you see today. "
Moab Adventures
It is in this process where the same way arches are formed will be the same way they are, inevitably, brought down. Because of this, it's important to be respectful of the parks we are fortunate to visit in our short lifetime. 

Petrified Dunes

Next was the petrified dunes viewpoint. This location highlights an area that used to be a vast desert rolling with fine-grain sand dunes. As time wore on, other sediment covered the sand, compressing and cementing it into Navajo sandstone. Erosion then exposed the original shapes into what we see today. We were curious to find out why the dunes were "petrified," imagining the way wood becomes petrified, but the name simply referenced the process of the sand cementing into rock.

Utah: arches national park — park avenue

Maybe thanks to the exhaustion of getting here, I slept early and woke up right at 6AM after what felt like the best sleep I've had in a long time. The three of us went down to eat breakfast in the hotel, then got ready for our full day in Arches. Our first stop was the visitor center and the park avenue viewpoint.
Our car was completely frosted over!
We stopped by the visitor center to check out the displays and any further information we may need before continuing our drive.

the arch installations ramped up our excitement!!
the view outside the window.
We learned yesterday that from the Navajo Sandstone to Chinle Formation there have been many dinosaur fossil discoveries.
Found some friends! To our pleasant surprise, we discovered ravens are incredibly common around Utah and were frequently seen all throughout our trip. 

Breathtaking view of Route 191 in the early morning as we made our way up the cliff.
All throughout Moab we were surrounded by cliffsides bursting with rich browns and reds. Every turn, every angle there were natural formations that captivated us.
Upon reaching the park avenue viewpoint, we couldn't help but stay at the lookout for a good while. In the distance you can see the Courthouse Towers, which is connected to Park Avenue by a primitive trail. We decided to walk down the trail for about half of it.
Stone stairway leading down.
Cairns created by park rangers to guide visitors along the primitive trails. It's important to stay on the designated paths due to the nature of the terrain. It takes significantly longer for life to grow in this arid climate, and stepping on the living soil can set back growth by years, even decades. 

Under the best circumstances, a thin veneer of biological soil may return in five to seven years. Mature crusts can take 50 years to strengthen. Lichens and mosses may take hundreds of years to recover. — National Park Service 

You can read more about cryptobiotic soil here.
The sun peeking out from the overcast morning.
The view from the bottom of the stairs. It's quite steep!
Textures of the desert.
The twisting bark of the juniper trees along the path felt very appropriate for our late October trip.
Further down the path.
We decided to stop around here and head back, since our day was just beginning! It's important to bring lots of water and salty snacks in general, but even moreso for a national park in the desert. Stay hydrated! Stay safe!

Thanks for reading!

27 October 2022

Utah: day 0 and the importance of being flexible

After months of anticipation and years of trying to plan a trip together, it was finally time to get on our flights to Utah! Or so I thought...

I got ready in the early hours of the morning, what always feels like the time where the rest of the world is still sleeping, and headed to the airport. On our drive over, I received a notification that threw a wrench in my entire travel day. My plane was delayed for 6 hours and 30 min due to technical problems. It was a good thing I wasn't dropped off any earlier, so we parked the car and headed over to the airline agents. The line was long, I felt dizzy with worry and lack of sleep, and I kept praying they would take back the announcement so I could get on the plane and finally see my friends. Unfortunately, the delay also meant that I would miss my connecting flight from Denver to Moab, which was the last flight of the day for that connection. We worked it out with the agent that I would continue with my original flight, stay overnight in Denver at a nearby hotel, and then catch the earliest flight to Moab at 9AM the next day. I then had to call our hotel and make sure that Grim could check-in without me — as our hotel was booked with points it was on another system that could not be accessed or modified online. Everything seemed to have resolved smoothly, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Since we had so many hours to kill, we drove back home and had a full breakfast at our favorite diner. 
Chicken fried steak! My favorite. :)

After breakfast, I took a nap until it was time to leave for the airport again. While I was asleep, my itinerary changed to a flight leaving at 2:30PM, however on my text notifications I was still listed on my original (now delayed) 3PM flight. I didn't want to think about it and just prayed everything would go smoothly. Because of the connections and erring on the side of caution, I decided to bring a weekender carry-on bag and my usual backpack. It was probably the worst decision I'd made, as I was struggling to carry them through the airport. My fitbit was off the charts and I was getting zone minutes like crazy.

While waiting for my flight, I looked at my two different itineraries. The gates were right next to each other, and on my boarding pass I was still scheduled for my original flight, however it did not have the new time on it — the worries kept bubbling under the surface. While I was ordering a panini at a nearby restaurant, the call for final boarding on the 2:30PM flight rang out. Panic hit full force. What if they actually changed my flight? I decided to forsake my panini and ran as fast as I could to the gate. The agents at the gate asked me in a panic if I was supposed to be on that flight and, while catching my breath and fighting my asthma and in equally panicked tones, I told them I didn't know. Thankfully they looked me up and I was still, in fact, meant for the gate next door. This whole situation was extremely stressful, and my heart couldn't stop pounding in my chest. I tiredly walked back to the restaurant and grabbed the panini I'd initially abandoned and ate it solemnly at the gate. It seemed most people had opted for earlier flights to Denver, not having to worry about a small town connection to Utah. The flight crew was sitting nearby, and the pilot himself came over and asked if I was on the flight. He reassured me that they'd get us to where we needed to go, and I felt much calmer. It turned out there was a hydraulic leak and it needed a lot of cleanup. 

I got my hotel accommodation voucher, booked my hotel, and was even bumped up to first class as a result of the delay! They also gave me two meal vouchers, which I kind of wish I could've used on the panini (lol). Boarding time arrived, so I gathered my things and headed on for the next leg of my long, long day.
So spacious!
Not sure if I've ever been so close to the door!
There were only about ten people on the flight now, with some addons seeking earlier flights from their original bookings. A majority of us were bumped up to first class, and I got to eat a nice, full meal.
A familiar mountain view as we departed.
The flight over was breathtaking, with lots of snowy peaks stretching as far as the eye could see.
In the distance you can see the sunset reflecting off of a lake. I wonder which lake it was? It was so beautiful.
Clouds blended into mountains.

I arrived at Denver Airport and my god, the place is long. I struggled so badly getting through the long stretch of gates with my heavy backpack and weekender bag. At one point I stopped just to catch my breath, which ended up being a bad idea as I had a strange encounter with someone who approached me. There was a young guy who, while carrying two cups of coffee, picked up an otherwise unattended McDonalds bag and set it down near me. He then asked me directly, "do you like coffee?" I was still catching my breath, exhausted and not wanting to be sociable, I told him no thanks. Then he looked around nervously and set down his second cup of coffee and started to walk away. I decided to pick up my things quickly and keep walking — do people not pay attention to the rules? Don't leave things unattended, especially not move them near complete strangers!
I managed to arrive at the trains and made my way to the terminal, clinging to the poles as if I would collapse without them. Finding the shuttle pick-up/drop-off for hotels was easy, and I was able to hitch a ride with a shuttle that'd just pulled in. The inside was blinking with Christmas lights, which I thought a little out of place for the end of October. Still, it was a comforting atmosphere, and the drivers were very kind. They mentioned they were bored at the front desk, and figured they'd go to the airport and see if anyone needed a ride. The serendipity was of great comfort, and I zoned out watching the dark scenery fly by.

I was the last stop on the impromptu shuttle, and got checked into my hotel with great ease. The room had a small kitchenette, so after getting settled in for a moment I started looking at nearby places to eat.
I ended up at a pho restaurant across the street. The walk was a bit awkward, it was dark and very cold. The place was packed! I wish I could say I liked the potstickers, but they weren't my favorite...
The pho was amazing, however! And the portions were huge... I also got black sugar milk tea. After tip, my meal ended up costing me $41 in total. Yikes! I tried to eat as much as possible and took the rest back to the hotel. 

After taking a shower and getting settled into bed, the loneliness started sinking in. I always imagined I would do fine traveling alone, but since the pandemic and laying Nibbles to rest, I've become an even lonelier person than I ever was before. When there's no one to meet you at the end of a long day of traveling, I found the emptiness and solitude almost too much to bear. I wondered if I should have given up, and I thought about cancelling the trip and hoping Grim and Veera would have a good time without me. I couldn't sleep alone, let alone in the dark, so I let the TV play Kimagure Cook (the irony of one of my favotire YT channels being about food I can't eat due to allergies) until I fell asleep. Despite the first class, the kind shuttle drivers, and everything working out after such a disruption, I hoped the next day would be better than it was today.

09 April 2022

Until we meet again someday


I'd be lying if I said I wasn't taking everything extremely hard. Habits you don't realize you had when you shared a space with your companion for so long sink like pebbles in your chest, followed by the faintest "oh, right..." Little things piling up, like tiptoeing in the morning to quietly open the fridge, tilting my glass to softly add ice to my water — things I did so I wouldn't wake her up. The hardest one is not seeing her out of the corner of my eye anymore, because she was never too far away. She loved sitting in my lap, hanging over my arms or resting her chin on my desk while I worked. As soon as I got in bed, she would jump right up and immediately start sleeping next to me. Nibbles was the perfect companion for a lonely person like me, and I miss her terribly.

I picked up her ashes from the hospital today. The staff who greeted me took the time to say such tender words about her, about how everyone in the hospital felt her loss and will miss her chattiness. I told her how I genuinely believed she lived so much longer than her initial diagnosis because of their love and care, and I really meant it. As much as I try to fight back what-ifs and the beginnings of regrets and guilt, I think I, and they, did everything we could to make sure she was as comfortable as possible. I try to hold onto that these days.

On the day we laid her to rest, they gave me a couple options beyond cremation or burial. One of the options was a communal cremation, where her ashes would be scattered along with other families' beloved companions. There's beauty in scattering ashes into the wind, the forests, the ocean, and apparently for us it's at the top of Mt. Rainier. It's my first time giving a pet something proper, and while the idea of that was so achingly beautiful, I ultimately decided on a private cremation. 

I wasn't sure what to expect, so I worried about how everything would arrive once her remains were ready to be picked up. Once I sat down to look at everything, my worries softly faded away and I began to cry. Everything came packaged beautifully, the urn itself delicately delivered in a velvet navy blue pouch.
Her urn is everything I could have ever imagined, and caught me completely by surprise. The delicate hand-carved flowers, the rosewood... I didn't think it would come personalized, let alone engraved. 

The clay paw print really drove home just how small she was for a cat. I'll treasure these forever.

Thank you to the veterinarians and specialists who make this process kinder. I think I can sleep a little better knowing she's home.