Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Thank You, Stephen King!

I know that you all might be wondering what in the world A. wants to say today, with this picture, or why this picture, now? Well, this thought matches my life now as you would not believe! It matches it and wakes me up to my core, with a jolt!

Some days, recently, all I want is to quit. Some days I just want to resign: from life, from the world, from just ... going on ... And this reminded me why it's so important to just plug on through. Because, at the end of a shit shoveling day ... I am still absolutely sure, in all my conceitedness,  that I do good work. 

So, I shall not stop this piece of work ...

Thank you, Sir, for your infinite wisdom!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Roads Less Traveled: Zion and other Hidden Gems

So many people tell me “Oh, you travel so much!”. But I feel that I don’t at all, in the grand scheme of things. At least not as much as I wish I did. Driving a couple of hours in whatever direction from where we live, and spending the weekend nights in a hotel or campground don’t constitute, I guess, the kind of “travels” that people would notice. But I suppose if it’s away from home, no matter how far, you’re traveling. A matter of perspective?! Perhaps.

We kept our tradition of taking a trip around our birthdays (mine) and/ or anniversary – they’re both this month – and we drove to Southern Utah, to spend last weekend in and around Zion National Park.

As you might remember, Zion is one of my favorite places on the planet. It’s one of those spots that elevates me and reminds me why there is order in the universe. In a few words and a lot of pictures – here’s how the trip went this time.

Aa. discovered a cool new place to have breakfast: Oscar’s. Think Asheville, NC hippy meets Mexican cuisine. The portions were insane, too, and the coffee came in these locally made, very coarse (think naïve art) clay mugs. Just too cool! 

Breakfast al fresco, at Oscar's

The Zion Canyon Overlook trail was challenging but so rewarding at the very end! I was shocked that there was almost no fencing along the trail, and one side of it opened up in a very steep and very rocky precipice. There was hardly any vegetation to hold on to, should you have slipped. Dogs were not allowed on the trail but kids were, and I thought that was not a good idea, either! After all, we live in America, where people sue for slipping on their own bathroom floors! I was surprised that the trail was not more “protected” or at least “warned”. It is a listed as a moderate trail, and if you’re not too sure footed, or are afraid of heights, I would not recommend it. However, it is only a half mile (one way) walk, and as I have said – completely worth it!

So many times in Utah, you feel like you're walking on Mars: on the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail

On the trail: spring is definitely here!  

On the edge! - shooting into the valley below ... 

The trail was mostly narrow and rocky, but some of it was sandy and thus slippery as well. It was littered with lizards. At the very top, we saw tons of chipmunks, but there were ever so elusive, so … they shied away from pictures. The view from the top of the trail, down, into the winding roads inside the Zion Canyon is amazing! It’s one of the few spots in Zion where you can look at the canyon from the top down. Mostly, the ride in this park allows one to be at the bottom of the majestic formations. So, this was really a treat!

On top of the world! Finally, at the of the trail, looking into the park road below. The Zion - Mt. Carmel Tunnel is behind me, through the mountain on my right

"How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountain!" (John Muir) - Zion Canyon

Dinner at The Spotted Dog Café was another new experience to us. Usually, in majorly touristy towns, I don’t like eating at very posh, very high end establishments. I like mingling with the local crowd, in hole-in-the-wall places that hold the charm of the area strong. But The Spotted Dog Café, aside from the neat name, had a charm all of its own, despite the high end flair. The place is like  a giant sun room – all wood and glass.  We sat outside, on their back patio, under tall elm trees, shedding their blooms right into our water pitcher. The red cliffs of Zion were guarding us all around. 

On the patio: the rocky mountains of Utah reflected on the Cafe's windows

My dinner: fresh mountain trout, crusted with sunflower seeds, over dirty rice, asparagus and spaghetti squash

If you ever happen down those parts, make sure you pay a visit to this place! They have a pretty impressive (for Utah) wine list, and everything they serve is simple food made deliciously. 

Springdale, UT - Southwestern architectural detail at Amigos

The weather was perfect all weekend, so we could have almost all the meals outside. If the trail climb was the highlight of Saturday morning, a stroll through Springdale, visiting art galleries and swanky boutiques was the pastime of the evening. For a quick break, we stopped at Amigos, a Mexican restaurant, and we just had some chips, three kinds of salsa, and some beer. This was a revisit from our first trip to Zion. We love the casual atmosphere there, the salsas are amazing and the hostess is so low key and welcoming! Just pure goodness! 

Snacks at Amigos

On our way back home, I wanted us to drive through the Kolob Canyons, as there was a brown sign on the highway announcing them. If you lived long enough in The Rockies, you know that any sign of a canyon will immediately offer breathtaking views and peaceful corners, and almost always a surprise or two. This was no exception. 

Kolob Canyons vistas and details

Unlike other canyons, we could not drive through the big “cuts” in the side of the mountain on this one! We could only drive along the side of them, on the 5 mile long park road, and look at the formations to one side. They were spectacular, however, as you can see from the pictures. This park is definitely for those with a love of hiking – to get inside the steep valleys, and see some of the formations (arches and bridges, etc), you have hour long or several hour long hikes – something we didn’t have the luxury of in a couple of Sunday afternoon hours. 

" 'ello, Mate!" - click on the lizard to see the whole album