Root Family

Root Family

Mar 30, 2015

Red Breaks & the Cosmic Navel March 2015

Last March (2015) I demanded a do-over of a canyon for two reasons.  I really wanted to show it to my husband, and I wanted to visit a geographic feature that had eluded me before.  Some call it the Cosmic Ashtray, some argue this is a derogatory name, an ashtray is a dirty thing, so it also goes by the Escavolcano, the Cosmic Navel, the Islomania Dome, etc.  Regardless, the landmark is intriguing to say the least, and I'm not into arguing over semantics.  Personally, I think there are landmarks all over the world with derogatory names, none of which I see any reason to change, but I prefer the Cosmic Navel for this because it just sounds sexier.  And sexy is exactly what I think the desert is.  

The first trip was back in late October of 2012.  It was a combination trip, being in complete awe with the slot and utter frustration with members of the group, something I'm kind of ashamed of but have to admit it's true.  

Because visiting both the slot in Red Breaks and the Cosmic Navel makes for a super long day, we left our younger kids at home and brought our teenager and some adult friends.  

The first day we drove down the Hole in the Rock Road to set up camp near Harris Wash and then weighed our options.  We really wanted to see Zebra slot but according to the data we had, we were a little short on time for that so we went to the nearby Big Horn canyon to check out some striping in the west fork.  This didn't disappoint at all.  The stripes resembled bacon and the curves were beautiful.  It was a short section but pretty perfectly suited for our time frame and at least letting us climb around a bit on the sandstone.  Only drawback was a dead cow in the wash we happened by.  

We rendezvoused with one last member of our party and headed back to camp for the night.  

In the morning we started on the Red Breaks route.  I was beyond thrilled to be doing this slot again and I seriously can't wait to take my younger kids!  It is so beautiful and so tight and so red and so secluded.  It is full of challenging stemming and up climbs and beautiful surprise turns and everything.  

We made it through much faster than I had last time, and even though it demonstrated our competence, and no confusion this time at the forks about how to get into the Big West Fork, I was sad that it was already over when the canyon opened back up. 

Nevertheless we were on our way to the Cosmic Navel.  This time I had even loaded the GPS points, I just let 2 others in the group take charge of navigating though I had a pretty good idea of how to head there.  

It was still difficult.  Two guys watching their waypoints and route finding and still we had to backtrack a few times to find a more suitable route over various fingers.  I knew we would make it, but I started having concerns about if it would really pay off or not.  We had to cross 3 other minor canyons, but were trying not to have to get too far down in them so we didn't have to climb back out.  All of the hiking was over slickrock so there were lots of beautiful viewpoints and a few steep climbs, a few sandy areas.  

Then we found a complete surprise.  We saw a pool.  A pothole filled up with water and it wasn't all murky and bug-filled and stinky as can be common in places that don't get much rain.  It looked so refreshing.  We walked down to it and most of us promptly jumped right in.  Cold, but seriously, it ranks among the most perfectly-timed hiking discoveries of my life.  I felt amazing after my dip and we were all ready to continue our search for the Cosmic Navel.  

I don't think it was too much longer after this.  We came into a big bowl that was very wide and open and then one more climb up and we were looking down into the Cosmic Navel.  Larger than I imagined, and totally tucked away unless you're right on top of it.  

We got right down into it thanks to some Moki steps.  Full of fine sand, the big rock outcrop in the middle, a tiny tiny little puddle on one edge of the circle.  The sun was coming down.  It was warm, my heart was warm, I wanted to stay there forever.  I want my bones to rest there when I die.  I seriously felt full of peace and love.  I wouldn't have minded having a few private minutes with Tyler there to be honest.  

But eventually we had to get back.  An uneventful walk on an old sandy road led us back to camp and a night of relaxing, crackling fires, and more.

I seriously can't wait to re-visit the Cosmic Navel.  I would love to bring my kids there and also they would love the Red Breaks Slot but overall they're still to small for so many miles.  I'd also love to go up the Big West Fork and come down the technical Main Fork sometime too to see that.   

The final day of our trip we took everyone through the Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch loop.  It was the first time for many of them and though I broke my rule of "not doing something kids can do with me on my adult trip" (my kids love Peekaboo / Spooky) it was still a total blast.  Very scenic slots with a great arch, and very tight spots.  I was a little sad for a couple in front of us that turned around when the first pothole in Peekaboo Gulch had a little muddy water in it.  They didn't want to get muddy but they seriously missed out on a great hike.  

This trip was too perfect--good thing Tyler had forgotten our tent poles, otherwise, I would be deeply superstitious of the perfection on this trip.  

Mar 1, 2015

Capitol Reef February 2015

Last February we were having some unusually warmer weather and I could no longer fight the urge to get out and get away.  Tyler was out of town for work and had been for over week and I was feeling restless and bored I guess.  I knew the nights would still be too cold for tent camping with my kids so I booked a room in Torrey for 1 night and took my kids and one of their cousins to Capitol Reef.  

With a close to 4 hour drive I usually demand that we stay 2 nights but when budget and time is tight and weather was great enough to seriously spend the entire day time outside, it worked out pretty well.

At that point in my daughter's life, and sometimes still, she is pretty sure that she doesn't like hiking, and suggesting it to her is a major disappointment.  However, seriously, once you're outside or on the trail she's just gone, especially with a friend.  So we first just ran along the little boardwalks to see some petroglyphs and then I suggested playing by the Fremont river.

At the river Bailey and her cousin made fairy homes in the sand and Waylon buried his little owl Beanie Boo.  They threw rocks in the river and got plenty sandy.  We stayed in the same small sandy spot along the very cold and rapidly moving river for close to 2 hours.

Then we headed over to the Hickman Bridge trail.  We definitely took our time covering the 1 mile to the arch but really because I gave in to the kids desire to explore and play and to put in use our common practice of placing a baby rock in every little nook in the rock walls.  We finished the hike shortly before it was beginning to get dark.  

We went back to the hotel and they had a little time to swim at the pool before bed. 

The next day we drove back into the park just to check out a few quick things before heading home.  I was a little disappointed that the Nature Center and the Griffin House were not yet open for their busier season.  I hadn't thought about it when I planned the quick getaway and they are not big attractions but add a little fun for kids.  We visited the picnic area and made numerous trips across the big bridge there with towering sandstone walls on each side.

On our way out we did the Goosenecks Overlook short hike.  I was under-impressed with the view for this because the only place you could actually see Sulphur Creek was a really small fenced in rock outcropping.  (I'm hoping to do the top-down Sulphur Creek hike with my kids sometime next year, it's a total winner!)  Otherwise, we mostly again played around on the rocks that were on that trail, with each child claiming various groups of rocks as their little home complete with bedroom, kitchen areas, hot tub, etc.  

absolutely love doing these kinds of trips with the kids.  I have to admit that suppressing my need for daily intense aerobic activity is really hard, but when the kids are clearly loving what we're doing I can do it.  I could see how free they felt to just play in their environment and have no pressures really.  I want them to enjoy being outside and sometimes I want to push them more so they recognize the return, but that time will come.  

Jan 28, 2015

Alaska 2013 Trip Day 6: Going Home and Looking Back

Before we left I started feeling kind of panicky.  It is dumb, but I felt like I just hadn't really had a chance to talk with Cade alone and I only wanted to assure him of how proud I was of him and how much I loved him.  Tyler kept urging me to find the time to express myself, he knows me so well.  So I finally just sort of asked Cade right in front of everyone if we could go on a walk or outside for a few minutes together that morning.  

We went in his backyard and I just stumbled through telling him exactly those things I wanted to--I was so proud of him; how the neighbors at the soccer field spoke so highly of him and how his parents spoke so highly of him and his grandparents and his aunts and uncles and his friends.  How cool I thought it was that he worked on the reindeer farm and ran a marathon that summer and backpacked and all that cool stuff he did.  But mostly he was so cool because of how he made people feel, how friendly and kind-hearted he was.  I told him that I loved him and looked forward to many more chances to be together.

Lori and Cade dropped us off at the airport and then we went home.  I wasn't working at the time and I still remember my kids sleeping til 10 or 11 am for a week after we got back catching up on sleep.

In my head I certainly started planning more trips, some where I went there without my kids and we'd go backpacking together, some where Cade was in Utah going to college and he'd go on a desert trip with us, and some with all of our families together, barbecuing, picnicking, whatever.

It had been an emotional trip for me.  And yet I wondered if I hadn't been emotional enough--had I shown him how much I loved him and thought about him all the time?  Had I shown his parents how grateful I was for allowing me to be part of his life?  Had I gotten know as much more about him as I could in that week?  I know I tend to think everything should be meaningful, I crave it, and I get disappointed too easily when I feel like a conversation lacked a deeper connection.  I am constantly seeking that kind of fulfillment and wish I was better at just enjoying life.


After Cade's funeral last January there was a huge gathering at the church.  I saw a group of boys I immediately recognized as Cade's friends, from pictures, stories, and by the devastation on their faces.  In the past week I felt like I had learned so much more about Cade from his friends and family posting to Facebook, on which I had been glued for 9 days totally lost in Alaska.  I started talking to one of his friends and was telling him exactly what I said above--that I had such a wonderful time on our visit the previous summer but I'd left wishing I had learned even more about him.  His friend looked at me and said: "He said the same thing about you."  It warmed my heart so much to hear those words.

I am forever grateful that I got to spend that week in Alaska that summer.  Tyler and I have had countless discussions recounting how I had insisted that we went that summer and how fortuitous it was that we did.  I am forever grateful to Cade's wonderful family for giving him such a wonderful life and for letting us be part of his and their lives, and I look forward to many more visits with them.  I am so grateful to know how much they love him and miss him and what a big part of his whole community he was.

I love poetry and this is one of my favorites about adoption.  I don't mean to discount the role of all of the wonderful men that helped Cade become who he was, but this poem is about two mothers and is just beautiful.  I love to see the pictures of him with Lori and know how deeply he loved her and she him.  Our families will always be connected through him.  

Despite numerous internet searches, I believe the author is unknown:

Legacy of an Adopted Child
Once there were two women Who never knew each other.
One you do not remember, The other you call mother.
Two different lives Shaped to make yours one.
One became your guiding star, The other became your sun.
The first gave you life And the second taught you to live it.
The first gave you a need for love And the second was there to give it.
One gave you a nationality, The other gave you a name.
One gave you a seed of talent, The other gave you an aim.
One gave you emotions, The other calmed your fears.
One saw your first sweet smile, The other dried your tears.
One gave you up - It was all that she could do.
The other prayed for a child And God led her straight to you.
And now you ask me Through your tears,
The age-old question Through the years:
Heredity or environment Which are you the product of?
Neither, my darling - neither, Just two different kinds of love.

Some pictures from my trip last January / early February:

Palmer is still beautiful in the winter.

Cade's organ donor flag flying high at the hospital next to the Alaska and American flag
The organ donor flag his family was given.

Some of Cade's original writing through the school years, his race shirt and medal, his 4-H ribbons for his prize-winning reindeers.

Just a few of the things he loved.

Some more of his hobbies and work.

Cade's latest reindeer, Yukon Buttons, that he got in the fall of 2013

Jan 26, 2015

Alaska 2013 Trip Day 5: Thunderbird Falls, Eklutna Lake, and Anchorage

Our trip was almost over, this was our last full day.  I was kind of feeling anxious about everyone enjoying themselves.  We had sort of planned a hike that day but I couldn't tell if anyone was up for it and somehow I felt like I had to make the decisions on this trip.  One of my kids had mentioned not wanting to go hiking, and I didn't want to push them into doing what I wanted, but I also didn't want to waste the opportunity for unique experiences we couldn't have at home.  And, often with my children, as with others I believe, they have a hard time actually leaving the house / where they are comfortable, but then really enjoy the activity.

We went ahead with the plan for the hike.  A short hike--just long enough to satisfy my hunger for a chunk of time spent walking, and short enough for the young ones to tolerate.  Actually it fell totally short of the time I wanted to spend hiking but that was okay, I know my limits with a toddler : )

We went to Thunderbird Falls which is found somewhat between Anchorage and Palmer in Chugach State Park.  It was super lush and green.  Lori's younger kids came along too and Bailey and Ellery had lots of fun finding numerous "picture spots" along the way for us to photograph them.  

We didn't hang out at the waterfall for long because it was a little muddy and slippery and nowhere to hang out.  You can see how pretty the trail was though and this hollow tree trunk all the kids had a turn hiding in.  The kids had tons of fun.

From there we drove just a little further into the park to see Eklutna Lake.  I don't know the name of the peak behind it but it looks lovely with that cloud sitting halfway up the mountain.  What was cool about this trip was all of these beautiful places we went, and none of them were crowded!  There was literally no one at this lake but us I think.  Cade showed us his awesome rock skipping skills and the kids played for a bit--the girls were building some kind of fairy fortress or something with rocks, and we all just kind of soaked it in for a bit.  


That night William and Lori took Tyler and I out in Anchorage.  First we did some souvenir shopping downtown and then met up at the brewery.  We had local seafood (well I did, Tyler steered as far away from that as he could) and we loved their original rootbeer and cream soda.  

After dinner we went to Ship Creek to see if we could see any of the salmon run.  The picture below was taken around 11:15 or so p.m., lots of fishermen still out but no one was really catching while we were there.  From a bridge Lori and I thought we saw a big fish coming our way, or at least a big ripple, when we realized it was a tiny critter.  We were in love when we saw that it was a tiny little beaver who literally hopped out of the water to put a stick in its mouth and swim away with it.  

Back at the house I had left Cade in charge of my kids that night.  He said they were perfect which made me so happy and then I realized how bizarre he probably thought it was that I told him to put Waylon to sleep in the guest room closet!  That is where we had had him sleeping since he (at that time--not now) actually didn't sleep well in bed with us and was comfy enough there on a big blanket.

It was so beautiful and strange that that opportunity ever existed for me to have Cade put his actual half-siblings to sleep and it pains me that they won't remember that.  Lori has often shared with my how tender Cade can be with his siblings and I have definitely seen their love and admiration for him.  Cade is actually quite shy also and one of the few things I actually remember him saying to me on this trip, I mean, not responding but initiating, was one time in the car he said about Waylon--"He's really smart."  It was such a small thing, and I'm not sure Waylon was exhibiting any real "smarts" at this point, but I sort of sensed that Cade was really enjoying the opportunity to get to know these kids too.    

Jan 24, 2015

Alaska 2013 Trip Day 4: Hatcher Pass and Independence Mine

I think this was my favorite day of our trip and yet kind of hard to put into words.  It wasn't just that the Hatcher Pass area was so beautiful--it was magical too it seemed, and from the sound of it, it's pretty magical for locals too, they all love it!  I can't remember how far it was, but I'm pretty sure this drive was under 45 minutes.  We pulled over here by the Little Susitna river to take some pictures.  It reminded me of many Montana rivers, and was also just what you picture when you imagine where grizzly bears might come fishing in Alaska.  

Little Susitna River
Then we got to Hatcher Pass.  The wind socks made me to think of prayer flags in Tibet--it really seemed we were in another place.  The paragliders made me think of my Dad.  It's so weird how much I thought of him on this trip and how much he would love seeing and doing this stuff.  So much of his life he talked about flying, first in small planes for which he had his private pilot's license when I was little, later on he would talk about hang-gliding, flying gyrocopters, and finally, ultralights.  I would have never guessed that in less than a year both my Cade and my Dad would leave this earth and now I can't seem to think of them separately.    

After walking around a bit, Cade was crazy enough to jump into this little glacier-cold lake at Hatcher Pass.  I don't even remember why.  I am a straight-up wimp when it comes to cold water but I don't know, I wasn't entirely surprised he jumped in.  It was crazy, but seemed like something my brothers might have done at 15 years old too, and even later, and in fact, I did once waterski on a 40-degree day in Montana.  I definitely saw some of my family in Cade, but loved seeing more of his individuality, who he really was.  Still so shy that he hardly talked directly to me yet seemed so approachable, so good-natured and friendly, adventurous, and admired by all--especially his siblings and family.  


It seemed like we were too quickly running out of time up there that day though.  Even with long summer days in Alaska, that Sunday was getting cooler than it had been earlier that week, and you can tell there was a good wind there.  

We headed back to our cars and then debated making another stop.  I'm so glad we did.  I studied archaeology for my undergraduate degree and have had a passion for ruins of any kind as long as I can remember.  Something about the juxtaposition of nature and man-made stuff and how nature always wins just gets me.  

I'm pretty sure it was after 9 pm or so when we headed out to Independence Mine.  Lori took our younger kids back to the house so that Tyler and I, Caiden, Cade, William, Haylee and Heath, could explore a bit.  I think my younger ones would have actually really enjoyed this but were equally happy to go back to the house to hang out and it would be late then anyway.

These were the views he had just as we approached Independence Mine.

I loved how the clouds hung low and gave an air of mystery to everything around the village.  I loved being able to explore and talk and get to know everyone better.  I just loved being there.  It seemed so heavenly.  Like it was haunted with the stories of the people who lived and worked there, eerie, but not creepy, haunting, but inspiring.  I felt really alive there and really good.  Like we were all just part of the universe there, just as we always are, but the feeling was amplified by the energy there.