San Juan River Float

Recently we got a chance to head to south east Utah and float on the San Juan river again. It’s such a great, mellow stretch of river that we love doing. It’s perfect for kids, the scenery is beautiful, there are some really great hikes, interesting geology and some boating challenges…

Those of you who’ve done this before are probably laughing at that last one. Sure, it’s a mellow river with a quick current at first and a few minor rapids. But it does have Government rapid, which is a good one to scout if you don’t know to enter center-right and push away from the rocks on the right to hit the slot. It also has a new rapid, of which we couldn’t find any info. Fortunately, it’s an easy one to read-and-run. On a curve, constricted from a side canyon flash flood.

The other challenging part at this time of the year is the lower part. It’s gotten so silted in that when the water’s low, there’s narrow channels that meander all over the place that you have to find. Sometimes it’s challenging, but it’s always pretty slow and easy to get spread out.

Evergreen Flooding

Here in Evergreen, we’re extremely fortunate and grateful to not have anywhere near the same damage as other parts of the state. Bear Creek and the dam at Evergreen Lake are definitely high and impressive. You can see that Cactus Jack’s is flooded, especially the back deck. When they open again, we’ll be sure to come down for a burger!

I took these pictures 2 days ago, but when I drove by the same place tonight, it was at least as high and getting higher.

Here’s a video of the high water crashing over  Evergreen Dam covering the island directly below; and some pictures further down.

Hiking Aspen Mountain

A couple weeks ago we were in Aspen for a friend’s wedding and I had a spare hour for a hike up Aspen Mountain that I turned into 3.  I know that hiking up Aspen Mountain isn’t any real big deal, but it sure was fun.  We didn’t know it until we got there, but they had reopened Aspen Mountain for skiing this weekend because the snow was really good up at the top. So, my hike just went up until the snow started.  Then I turned around and went back.  It was a great day, a great wedding and I look forward to returning to this beautiful valley.  A few pictures are below.

We went to the John Denver Memorial Garden, which was beautiful!

Then a hike up the ski area

Then I was playing with Adobe Lightroom again on an image at sunset on Independence Pass.  I don’t know it well enough yet to describe exactly what I did to make it look this way, but much like tying knots where “if you don’t know the knot, tie a lot” I tried a lot of things…


Independance Pass Before

Independence Pass Before


Independance Pass After

Independence Pass After

I’d love to know what you think.

Grand Canyon Trip: Part Three

Today started out fairly early, as did all of our days on the Canyon. We were told that Spring Break on the South Rim was about as busy as it ever gets and that they can have up to 50,000 people per day there, and there are less than 1000 rooms available. I can’t imagine there’s more than a couple hundred campsites, so, I’m sure a large percentage of visitors are Griswolds.

It’s worth it to get up and out early at the Canyon, mostly to miss the crowds, but also to escape the heat of the day (which wasn’t really a problem this time of year). We were very grateful to miss the crowds and get out as the sun was rising and see things many people miss. When you stay in one of the rim lodges, they deliver the daily USA Today to the door of each room. It’s somewhat interesting to see how late into the morning some papers are still in the hallway in front of the door. I’m somewhat of a night owl usually, but on this type of vacation, it’s worth it to get up early.

Grand Canyon from the South Rim

Grand Canyon from the South Rim

With our down coats and mittens on, we headed down to the shuttle bus, which is about the only way to get out to Hermit’s Rest and the stops along the way by vehicle. We made a couple short stops on the way out, but decided that it would be easier to get out to the end early and then casually make our way back and this was definitely a good decision.

Hermit’s Rest is a nice place to stop, rest, enjoy a cup of coffee, and hang out and enjoy the view for a while. I decided this was a house that I could live in if the opportunity ever arises (I won’t hold my breath).

It was somewhat windy out there and with it being a little chilly, the kids weren’t all that interested in hiking a lot. But, Lynn and I were. So, we sent the kids back on the shuttle bus with the grandparents and Lynn and I kept going. Beyond Hermit’s Rest lies the Hermit Trail which leads down into the canyon on a much less used trail than say, the Bright Angel trail. It’s a really beautiful trail and it’s not to miss if you can help it. It starts out a bit rocky, but then quickly drops off the edge and get’s less rocky and, fortunately, less windy! We didn’t have a lot of time, so we only went down a mile or a little more, but only saw a few people and were treated to some pretty great views, ricks and trail engineering as you’ll see in the slideshow below.

After a snack on a nice overlook, we had to turn around and head back up as we couldn’t count on being away for too long. We hiked back up, our legs remembering the happiness that comes from being on a trail, yet sad that it was a short hike today.

Back up at the top, we hopped on the crowded shuttle as close to a door as we could be since we knew we wanted to get off somewhere and it was crowded and only gonna get more crowded. We rode in silence most of the way, listening to the other conversations that seemed fairly pointless while in this amazing place and fighting the sleepys caused by the sudden stop in activity and the hot bus. We didn’t want to ride it back the entire way so at Hopi Point, we hopped off and cruised the rim trail for the last couple miles back to the rim and the kiddos.

I wasn’t sure what I’d think about the shuttle bus, but ultimately decided that it’s a good thing. There’s just no place for all the cars out there and this seems to be a working solution to get out there. Of course, you can walk or ride a bike and they do make exceptions for the handicapped so all in all, I think it’s a good part of the park management plan.

Dinner that night was at the Bright Angel Lodge which I would only recommend if there was nothing else. It wasn’t very good. The service was poor, the food was sub-par and it was too expensive. It’s hard to believe that this restaurant is run by the same company as the Arizona Room and the El Tovar. Xanterra really needs to do something to bring the quality up here.

In Part Four, we head the other way to Desert View and the Watchtower.

Learning Adobe Lightroom

Our Grand Canyon trip, was really fun, and somewhat hazy, chilly and breezy the entire time we were there – well, except the day we left when it cleared up and calmed down.  That didn’t keep us from taking lots of pictures with the new Nikon D3200, which, while not the highest end camera out there, really is fun to use and play with.  I’m a big believer in the theory that the camera matters less for good photography than it does the subject, but it sure is nice to have!

Last year during Spring break, we took one of our thrice a year trips to Moab and headed to Dead Horse Point for sunset.  On the rim were all sorts of folks with really high end cameras on tri-pods and shooting hundreds of pictures, and me on, elbows on the railing, with my iPhone snapping away. I think I did pretty good.


So, I thought I would try to edit this in Adobe LightRoom and I’m still learning, but a few edits later and I’m fairly happy with the results.  To me this just feels richer with more depth and texture.  It’s how you make photography feel more like being there.

Dead Horse Point - from iPhone, edited.

Dead Horse Point – from iPhone, edited.

So, back to Grand Canyon and it’s hazy views. I was somewhat disappointed that the pictures weren’t coming out very good.  They were dull and lifeless.  That’s when I stumbled upon Wilderness Dave’s post about Editing photos in Lightroom. I was suddenly inspired!  So, that night, I decided I needed Lightroom, ordered it and downloaded and started playing. Many times I turned the canyons purple and the sky red, but as I’m getting the hang of it, I’m finding it really powerful. Here’s an original photo:

grand canyon first look original

Grand Canyon First Look Original

After importing this image into Lightroom, I discovered that it can see through the overcast haze and distance to see what the camera sees and bring it out easily.


Grand Canyon First Look Edited

Original and Edited Side by Side

The crazy thing is I don’t really know all that much yet. Seriously, between reading Wilderness Dave’s post and watching the video below, I’ve figured out a great deal.  I can’t wait to learn more as I know I’ve still got a lot to learn.  But, so far, I’m pleased!  And while the camera might not always be the most important part of photography, sometimes some really good software helps.

New Thanksgiving Tradition

For several years now, I’ve been incredibly lucky and grateful to have spent Thanksgiving with close family and friends away from the crazy, massive, gluttoness consumption of Black Friday.  And, with Black Friday expanding earlier into the actual Thursday of Thanksgiving, it makes me sad to hear of the stories of employees having to be away from their families and go to work in mostly the big box retailers.  It makes me even more sad to hear of shootings and fights that happen in store lines, or when people can’t get their discount on their flat screen TV or computer. And really sad to hear of the masses of people believing that this is the only best time to buy stuff!  (Reminds me of a quote from Thoreau: “There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men.”)

But, what REALLY bothered me is something I read in an article via the AP today about Black Friday called: Black Friday Deals Lure Shoppers Earlier Than Ever.

The entire article is about consumption and people trying to buy their happiness with products.  This this small section summed it up perfectly (emphasis mine).

You have to have these things to enjoy your children and your family,” said Jackson’s friend Ebony Jones, who had secured two laptops ($187.99 each) for her 7 and 11 year olds.

Why must we buy? To demonstrate our love for others? To add a few more inches to our televisions? To help America recover from a vicious recession that itself was born of the desire for more?

Such questions make Jones wince. “It shouldn’t be that way, but in a sense there’s no way around it,” said Jones, a nurse. “Everything ends up with a dollar amount. Even your happiness.

I can’t believe people think they have to buy laptops or other thneeds to enjoy their children and their families.  Seriously, people spending money on things to bring their families together, when really, it will more greatly isolate their children and family!

This is why I’m eternally grateful to spend time with family and friends in a remote location in Wyoming where there’s no stores, malls or movies and sometimes questionable cell service and internet.  What there is plenty of, of course, is food, friends, family, fun and sometimes fly fishing.

This is really what Thanksgiving is about, not rampant commercialism.  A new $187.99 laptop isn’t buying happiness – at least not true happiness that brings a family closer together.  Products don’t bring families together and make them happy.  Experiences do.  Opportunities to experience life together do. Finding things to do together brings happiness and families together.  Fly fishing with my good friend in the icy current of the Platte River in Wyoming on Thanksgiving day makes me eternally happy (as do hikes, campfire lunches, hanging out and sunsets).

Next Thanksgiving, take a break from Black Friday and do something fun as a family, and maybe save your shopping for Cyber Monday…  I’m sure you’ll be much happier!

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