Oshkosh Oh My Gosh!

Last summer, Stephen was in Afghanistan when his MATV hit an IED. He and his fellow soldiers were thankfully perfectly fine, but it was a jarring experience none the less. Fast forward to this summer – the good people at Oshkosh Defense, where MATVs and other military vehicles are made, read my story and invited me out to see where the magic happens at their factory in Wisconsin. I was hesitant at first. I’m not really a fan of putting myself in situations where I don’t know what to expect. I prefer the routine, the familiar, the quiet and comfortable. Before I could talk myself out of it, I agreed to attending because I knew I’d regret it if I missed this opportunity. The good people at Oshkosh paid for my travel and hotel (and treated me like a queen!), but as always everything you read here is my opinion.

downtown

Sunday I flew on two small planes from El Paso to Denver and from Denver to Milwaukee, where I was greeted by a man holding a sign with my name on it. I’ve always wanted to be one of those people at the airport getting picked up with my name on a sign! I spent most of the 90 minute drive to Oshkosh, WI snoozing in the back seat. It was late, and I knew the next day would be a long one. Sure enough, I was up bright and early on Monday.

Factory Tour

I was picked up by Alex, who works for Oshkosh and spent the day with me. Together we hit a local coffee shop for some early morning caffeine. I loved how friendly the people of the town were. Even strangers were saying hello and wishing me a happy day! I knew we were off to a good start.

oshkosh ecoat

The first stop at Oshkosh was the E-Coat factory. This is where all the materials used in the vehicles are painted and treated. There is a very technical chemical process. It looks like a giant carwash that unassembled parts are run through. I even got to see screens where they monitor and make sure everything is running smoothly. The special treatment used on the parts helps increase their durability. It was explained to me that even if they are scratched, the scratch won’t spread because of the chemical process. I thought it was so cool to see the care taken even in regard to the teeniest parts.

We then toured a different plant located right next door where the vehicles are assembled. I got to walk along the factory store and see the chassis turn into MATVs (or other vehicles – I saw cement trucks, fire trucks, all kinds of things) ready to roll off the lot. I was most surprised that everything is put together by people. In my mind, I envisioned an old school conveyor belt whirling and whizzing with machines doing all the hard work. Once again, I saw the passion and care used to put these great products together. I thought it was touching that the thing that keeps my husband safe when he is down range is carefully put together by a person and not a robot.

The Course

Peek-a-boo! Checking out the view from the turret.

Peek-a-boo! Checking out the view from the turret.

The next portion of the day involved me getting to ride around in a MATV on the test track! Stephen thought it was pretty funny that I went all the way to Wisconsin to ride in a MATV when they are all over Fort Bliss and are really NBD to him. The irony wasn’t lost on me. I still thought it was pretty awesome. I strapped into the front passenger seat (the seat belt is a 5 point harness – I kept calling it the car seat) while an experienced driver did the driving. It was bananas! We went up a 50% incline. Then we drove down the 50% incline. To me, it looked straight down. The driver kept warning me that gravity might take over and instead of stopping we’d go fast fast fast. Thankfully that didn’t happen; he seemed in control the whole time as far as I could tell. There was also a 60% incline (eep!) but it was mercifully too muddy for us to drive on. We drove sideways on a 30% incline, we bulldozed over rocky terrain, we even drove up and over an 18 inch vertical wall. I had no idea that MATVs could do all that!

Then…drumroll…we switched seats! I buckled into the driver’s seat and they let me drive! To say I was hesitant is an understatement. After all the inclines and bumps and thumps and scariness of riding in the MATV, I wasn’t up for much. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t at least try. So I drove less than a quarter of a mile before putting it back in park. Haha! The driver encouraged me to drive more and told me I could go over any part of the course I wanted. I had had my fill! That little bit was plenty. I was already impressed with the company and the assembly process and the MATV in general.

The Interview

Oshkosh poster child.

Oshkosh poster child.

The final activity of the day (other than lunch!) was a brief interview. There was a cameraman with legit cameras and the fuzzy microphone. (They even had little cameras inside the MATV a la The Amazing Race! I was living the dream!) I was asked a few easy breezy questions about who I am and my affiliation with the Army, the pros and cons of military life. I then spoke about Stephen’s accident. I hope that I came across sincere because I really do appreciate the hard work of the Oshkosh employees. It was scary knowing that after his truck hit the IED, he had months remaining in his deployment and many similar missions ahead of him. I had the peace of mind knowing that if he was in his vehicle, he had a certain level of protection. (Let’s be real, I always worried about him and never felt he was safe, but at least I knew the truck could take a hit.) It means even more seeing that each part is assembled by an individual. I’m sure they (like everyone else) have days when they aren’t loving their jobs. I just hope they know how much what they do means to families like mine. It’s because of them that Stephen’s accident is a non-story instead of a tragedy.

I was treated to lunch and then was whisked away back to the airport. This is hands down the coolest thing that has happened to me as a result of my blog. I’m so thankful to Oshkosh for what they do day in and day out, as well as hooking me up with this awesome trip!

Amy Reads: The Longest Night

I was so happy that when I returned from vacation to see that The Longest Night had arrived at my doorstep.

longest night

You see, this book was written by someone I consider a dear friend (even though we haven’t met): Andria Williams. Andria is the genius behind Military Spouse Book Review. As the name implies, her blog is a compilation of book reviews written by military spouses. While I’ve written a few reviews myself and I enjoy the posts by others, what I really really love is reading Andria’s writing. She is so smart. (One of my favorite recent posts was this one about Mad Max.) She has a BA in English and an MFA in creative writing. It’s palpable when I read her writing that she loves language. And her deep thoughts on military life always make me think and often touch my heart. When I found out that she was writing a fiction novel (!!), I knew I had to get my hands on it. I was lucky enough to be sent an advance reader’s edition (the book doesn’t come out until January), but all opinions are my own.

The Longest Night opens in Idaho Falls in 1961. Paul and Nat Collier are at a crossroads in their relationship. We don’t know what has happened between them, but we do know that Paul is driving away with a carload of his belongings. As their marriage is crumbling, something is going terribly wrong at the reactor where Paul works. The first page ends dramatically:

Here were the swirling lights of all the vehicles, the steam pumping in a white cloud into the air, Nat watching him drive away, his daughters in their beds, the fire chief waving his arms at Paul’s car and calling something – and he felt the sinking sensation that he was too late for all of it, for Nat, for the boys, for his daughters, for everyone, and it was just as he had always feared: When the time came it would happen before he knew it, it would happen without him there; despite everything he had always done to be ready, he would be too late.

The next page rewinds us back to June 1959, when the Collier family is first arriving in Idaho Falls, when the wheels start turning, when everything is set in motion.

I don’t typically love adult fiction – it’s so serious, but I loved this book.

1. I loved that Andria wrote about things she knows with familiarity. At one point, Nat and Paul are separated for 6 months by the Army. Nat feels his absence acutely. I dog-eared this section: “He was the only one in Idaho who knew her at all, the only person on earth who did, maybe, and how he was gone, and his absence was like a suction in her chest.” I know that feeling, I’ve lived it. I don’t think I could have put such beautiful words to it.

2. I loved that Andria wrote about things (I’m assuming) she’s less familiar with using that same familiarity. The nuclear reactor is central to the story, and Andria describes it as though she herself has worked there! And she made it interesting. I never would have thought I’d want to read about a reactor, but it drew me in. I held my breath as I read about the core and the rods and the boron. And I was eager to read more.

3. I loved the time period. Military wives meet Mad Men. The Cold War. The veneer of perfection. Nannies, Jello molds, that pearly coupe de ville.

4. I loved the pacing. The story never felt sluggish, it never dragged. Something was always happening to propel the story forward. Even with the character development, the pace was strong.

5. I loved the characters. I found both Paul and Nat, the young military couple, to be relatable. Even if you don’t have a military background, I think the fact that they were both trying to figure themselves out, doubting their life choices, worrying about the future – those are universal feelings. I thought the young guys Paul worked with were so realistic. I’ve seen firsthand how young enlisted guys act at a party. Yeah, nailed it. I even liked Paul’s nasty boss and the boss’s prickly wife. They were fun to hate.

I could list 500 things that I loved about this book, but I’ll resist and stop with just one more: Andria is an immensely talented writer. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and I know I’m not even doing her work justice. She has written a touching, interesting, smart 375 pages. Put this one on your to-read list, y’all!

Twin Cities Marathon Training Update

I’m already five weeks (!) into marathon training, and I’ve hardly written about it at all.

Eep!

Eep!

Like I have previously, I’m once again using the Run Less, Run Faster program. (This method combines two sessions of cross training per week with one interval run, one tempo run, and one long run. I’ve written about it more here if you’re interested.) Let’s take a looksee at how these past few weeks have been:

Week 1: A strong start! I nailed the interval and tempo run, and felt solid on my 8 mile long run. I actually added this week because I knew I’d be on the road when training was supposed to start. I’m so glad I did this! It was a mental boost to start off on the right foot.

Week 2: Kick butt interval run, shortened treadmill tempo run (I was out of town in Dallas for a work conference and had to squeeze it in), sucky 8 mile long run the night before we left for our big vacation.

Week 3: Interval run on a treadmill at the Grand Canyon, Tempo run on a treadmill at Zion, and no long run. I did two really long hikes, though. Does that count?

Week 4: 6 miles of hills in Moab, 10 mile long run, 4th of July 5k.

The view on my Moab run. What a treat!

The view on my Moab run. What a treat!

This week

Interval: I was kind of dreading the interval run. It was 5 rounds of 1000 meters. 1000 meters is .62 of a mile. It really bothered me (probably to an irrational level) that .62 makes for every uneven numbers. I prefer my intervals to be even, like .5. (OCD much?) I worked out all the math before the run and wrote it in a note on my phone. This made it so I didn’t have to do any math on the run. Because I was not excited about this work out, I did it first thing in the week. I’m so glad that I did because I destroyed it! I kicked off the week on a high. I felt awesome, the intervals, for the most part, went by quickly. I hit my goal pace or very close to it every time. Success!

Tempo: The tempo run was rather simple. One warm-up mile, which I ran with Geronimo, 4 miles at 9:07, one cool-down mile. This was my easiest run of the week. I was able to zone out and really enjoy myself. The gorgeous El Paso sunrise didn’t hurt either.

Geronimo. Checking out the sunrise or refusing to pose for a picture mid-run? You be the judge.

Geronimo. Checking out the sunrise or refusing to pose for a picture mid-run? You be the judge.

In fact, I’m finding that I love waking up extra early to run. I’m not sure what will happen when school starts. My school day is very early (I usually arrive around 6:45, and the first bell is at 7:30), and I just don’t think that I have enough time to run, shower, etc. and be at work as early as I like. Hrm.

Long run: 11 miles. Part of me feels like I should be running farther by now. The other part of me (the smart part!) is saying to trust the plan. So that’s what I did this morning. I headed out the door by 5:30, I followed the prescribed paces exactly, and I ran 11 miles. The humidity nearly about did me in. I think it should be illegal for it to get to 90% humidity here. I live in the desert! I didn’t sign up for humid weather! I was sweating a lot, and I was very hungry by the end.

Obligatory phone on the ground timer pic.

Obligatory phone on the ground timer pic.

Cross-training: I got in two hours of yoga, 1 hour on the stationary bike (11 miles!), and 30 minutes on the rower (I hit 5k!) I’ve never been so consistent and focused on cross-training ever. I don’t feel any difference in my running now, but I’m hoping I’ll see long-term benefits.

I’m still working out my fueling. I’ve been using the Waterlogged app to keep tabs on my hydration. I love a good graph! Pre-run, I usually eat pb toast, and that’s working well. My issue is more with what to eat during my run. I’ve tried an assortment of chomps, chews, and beans. I like them, but I don’t love them. On my most recent run, I finished feeling hungry. That won’t do! I’ve used gu in the past, but my stomach isn’t a fan any more. I also did the Swedish Fish thing, but I’ve eaten so many, I don’t know if I can bring myself to eat any more. This will definitely take time and trial and error. (Feel free to throw any suggestions my way!)

I’m also thinking about the logistics of race day. I booked my hotel in Saint Paul! That makes it feel much more real. I’m anticipating that there will be a fair amount of time from when I leave my hotel and to when the race starts. I want to replicate this at least a few times in training. (I didn’t think about it during El Paso Marathon training, and it threw me off on race day.) My plan is to drive across town for a few long runs. That extra time driving to my destination will be as close as I can get to the waiting around on race day.

Overall, I feel solid. I wanted to throw myself completely into training this summer, and I’ve done that. I have fallen back in love with speed work. I’m enjoying cross-training, which is a totally new phenomenon for me! I go back to work a week from Monday (yes, already). I know that will throw a wrench in things, but I know that my foundation is strong. The biggest challenges will be fitting everything in and giving up napping! At this point, though, I’m too determined to be defeated.

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Westbound: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque was the final spot on our tour of the southwest.

moab to abq

We’d already visited Grand Canyon, Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands. Albuquerque happens to be about halfway from Moab to El Paso, which made it an ideal spot to stop. We didn’t just want a stop over in a hotel, though. After a false go months ago, we used this opportunity to ride in a hot air balloon.

balloon ride

One more early morning that was totally worth it!

While the helicopter ride was bumpy and nervous-making, the balloon was completely smooth. When we moved, it felt like gliding. When we hung suspended, it felt so serene. Even though our basket was full of 8 strangers, it was roomy enough. Plus, everyone was pretty friendly. Our pilot had over 10 years of experience and was formerly in the Air Force. He had a great dry sense of humor that I really appreciated. If you are looking for a balloon ride in New Mexico, I highly recommend Rainbow Ryders!

Stephen helping to inflate the balloon!

Stephen helping to inflate the balloon!

balloon

balloon

The balloon deflating upon landing.

The balloon deflating upon landing.

Upon touchdown, we were treated to a champagne toast and breakfast snacks. From there, it was a quick trip to the hotel to check out and only a four hour drive home.

abq to ep

Oh, and does it ever feel good to be home! This was the vacation of a lifetime. I loved just about every single second of it. That’s way more than I could ever hope for. The experiences I had, the trails I hiked, the views I took in, it was all so sweet. Alas, I’m glad to take it easy for the next few weeks until school starts.

Westbound: Moab, Utah

Stephen and I took our time getting out of Zion before making our way to Moab.

springdale to moab

I instantly fell in love with the town. It’s bigger than Springdale (outside Zion) and Tusayan (outside Grand Canyon), which meant better prices, more shopping, and utter cuteness. I also loved that the Colorado River cut right through it. I seem to have developed a slight river obsession. The idea that a peaceful river flow can create the immensity of the Grand Canyon is inspiring. Talk about persistence.

Arches National Park

delicate arch

Arches is perfect for 1 full day, which is how much time we spent there. Our first stop was the iconic Delicate Arch. This hike was billed as strenuous, but it was nothing compared to what we faced in Zion. There was a bit of crawling up slick rocks, but at no point did I feel unsafe. I think it helped that we never really got too high. We made it back to our car still early in the day, and I decided to brave the other strenuous hike at Arches: Double O.

On Rock Fin. we had to climb up and down this thing to get to the remote Doulble O Arch.

On Rock Fin. we had to climb up and down this thing to get to the remote Double O Arch.

The first mile gets you out to Landscape Arch and is very easy. From there, however, it gets dicey. There is a lot of slick rock and scrambling. The arch at the end wasn’t all that impressive. (I heard a little girl saying, “Dad, I’m underwhelmed, very underwhelmed,” haha!), but this was one of the hikes that made me feel impressed with myself. I took on the slick rock and I scrambled with the best of them. Between Double O and Delicate, we hiked nearly 8 miles. By then, the heat was getting unbearable. Stephen and I took a reprieve until sunset when we returned to check out what’s known as the Window Section.

Here we enjoyed Double Arch, North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch. We also made friends with another couple. The husband happened to be a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel! How bout that? We said goodbye to Arches (and our new friends) at sundown after having hiked more than 10 miles that day.

arches

Canyonlands National Park

Instead of waking at the crack of dawn like most other days, we opted to be a little lazy on our Canyonlands day. I think the total miles plus the heat were taking a toll on both Stephen and me. Our gung-ho attitude had faded into “meh.” Still, we managed to eventually make the 30 minute drive to Canyonlands. This part is huge and is made up of three large sections: Island in the Sky, The Maze, and Needles. We stuck with Island in the Sky being that it was closest to Moab. It seems like the hikes here are either very short and easy or very long and difficult without much middle ground.

Our first interesting stop was Upheaval Dome.

upheaval

Was it formed by a meteor or the salt from a former ocean? Scientists are divided. I vote meteor just because it’s more scandalous. Visitors have the option of hiking all the way around the dome, but we did the short out and back to the overlook instead.

From there, we stopped to look at the River. Both the Colorado and Green rivers are visible from the park. We didn’t get to see the spot where they converge, but apparently that’s a kickass whitewater spot. Finally, we made another short trek to Mesa Arch.

mesa arch

This spot is really known for its beauty at morning. After spending a day at Arches, it wasn’t quite as special. Perhaps that was just my exhaustion speaking. We spent only a few hours at Canyonlands and hiked only 2 miles. I think we would have enjoyed it more if we hadn’t been at the end of our trip. I mean, how can these canyons compare to the Grand Canyon? I thought it was beautiful, but I wish I would have had more energy.

Birthday Celebration!

birthday

Our day spent at Canyonlands also happened to be Stephen’s 30 birthday! We couldn’t let the day pass without a little celebrating. We got ourselves a little cleaned up, and headed out to a swanky resort 14 miles up the Colorado River. Even though the food was just okay, the atmosphere was perfect. We got to stare out at the river, red cliffs, and green grass for the entire meal. Before heading into town for some froyo, we checked out what was dubbed the “John Wayne Museum” in the basement of the restaurant. It was really more like a gallery with pictures and movie posters from everything filmed in the area. It was a fun end to the day for my John Wayne fan nonetheless.

The view from our dinner table.

The view from our dinner table.

We had planned to spend another day in Moab, but both of us were just too tired to make it worth it. After going over every single option we could think of, Stephen and I decided to travel halfway home.

Next stop: Albuquerque, New Mexico.

4th of July 5k race Recap

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blogging to give you a race recap! And to wish all of you a very happy and safe Fourth of July. This used to be one of those holidays that I was all “meh” about. In the last few years, however, I’ve changed my tune. The 4th is one of my favorite. (No pressure to buy the perfect gift, beautiful fireworks, and all the summer foods I can eat. Sign me up!) This time last year, Stephen was in Afghanistan. This time three years ago, he had just come home from his first deployment.

Gratuitous welcome home picture from 2012.

Gratuitous welcome home picture from 2012.

When my alarm went off at 5 am, I let Stephen keep sleeping as I tip-toed out of the bedroom.

The Up and Running 4th of July Run starts at 7:04 on the dot (so appropriate, right?). That meant leaving my house before the sun came up to make it across town. I had plenty of time, and got to spend a good half hour chatting with my Wear Blue buddies.

wear blue

Jennifer, seated, just came back from a DENTAC deployment to the Pacific! Welcome home, Jennifer!

My hope for the race was to beat last year’s time of 25:30. With marathon training, I’ve been doing lots of speed work (read: 2x a week). However, I didn’t consider the fact that I haven’t been doing much (read: zero) hill work. I guess I tend to be a greedy ambitious runner. If I’m racing, I want to place or PR. My 5k PR of 24:21 is 3 years old (!), and I haven’t come close to it since the day that I earned it. (Maybe I was body snatched during the race.) Yet some part of me thought that maybe I could go sub 25 today.

Mile 1: 8:08

After a stirring rendition of the National Anthem and the countdown to begin, I took off like the dickens. I mean, I hauled my cookies like nobody’s business. It took me a quarter of a mile to realize I had probably gone out too fast as I was hitting a 7:00/mile pace. That will only lead to crashing and burning. I tried to reign it in to as near to 8:00 as I could. Of course, then the hills appeared. Some of the people I had passed in the initial starting sprint had already passed me right back. I knew I wouldn’t PR, and I doubted I could even beat last year’s time.

002

Mile 2: 8:16

I ran a little slower, but I actually felt good during this mile. Perhaps because it has more of the downhill. :) I even walked a bit to hit the water stop before I continued on. I have yet to master the ability to run and drink, and I needed that water! It was actually cooler out this morning than I anticipated. It didn’t even make it to 80 while I was on the course. The cloud cover was a nice touch too, but that means humidity – my nemesis! 50% humidity plus hills = way more challenging than I was prepared for.

Mile 3: 8:26

I’m convinced that the final mile of any 5k is mental. I repeated over and over in my head “One more good mile. Just one more good mile.” I also used this time to puzzle over the fact that my half PR was on a hilly course. How did I do that? I felt like I was sucking, but I was still passing people. I thought I might have been going fast enough to at least beat my time on the course, but I wasn’t sure. I couldn’t quite seem to figure out the math – all my brain power was going toward convincing myself not to quit.

finish

The final .25 is uphill (damn hills!). I gave all I had left and ended up with final .1 at a 7:26 pace.

My stats:

  • 3.1 mile finish time: 25:17
  • Average pace: 8:09

13 seconds faster than last year and good enough for 4th in my age group. I was immediately disappointed. I feel like I’m faster than I was last year, and I worked a lot harder than “just” 13 seconds faster. Alas, the clock doesn’t lie. Stephen reminded me when I got home that my goal isn’t a 5k PR; it’s a marathon PR. #Truth. The next race I run will probably be the 10 Miler in the Heat, another repeat race. Once again I’m going to aim to beat my time from last year. I’ve got plenty more marathon training between now and then to prepare me. But I’m keeping my eye on the real goal: Twin Cities.

I want to once again wish everyone the happiest of holidays. Thank you to all those who have fought for our freedom. If your loved one is in harm’s way, know that I see you and I’m praying for you.

Westbound: Zion National Park

We said adios to the Grand Canyon at dawn, and hightailed it to Zion.

tusayan to springdale

We had big plans to camp, but all the reserved sites at Zion were booked up. That meant we had to arrive as early as possible to see if there was space available at the first-come locations. Even though we made it through the park gates at a time we thought was pretty early – 10 am – it took forever to actually get to the dang park! The road winds back and forth down thousands of feet before you get to the good stuff. When we pulled up to the tent camping site 45 minutes later, it was all snatched up. In a very un-us moment, Stephen and I drove from hotel to hotel looking for vacancy. We got turned away at a few places before landing on a La Quinta in the center of town. I didn’t really like Springdale, the town at the edge of Zion. The prices are ridiculous, customer service sucks, the buses aren’t as good as at Grand Canyon, it feels like everything takes forever to get to. Still, the beauty of Zion is undeniable and it’s worth putting up with all the other stuff.

The drive into Zion.

The drive into Zion.

The Narrows

We had two full days at Zion, and we opted to participate in two big hikes. The first was The Narrows. The trail is a slot canyon following the Virgin River for miles. Much of it is in the water in varying depths and on slippery rocks. After the 40 minute bus ride from the visitor’s center to the trailhead at the Temple of Sinawava, we were anxious to get started.

Here we go!

Here we go!

Visitors have the option of hiking all the way down the river over the course of two days, but it requires a permit. Only 6 are granted in advance and 6 more the day before. We were pretty tempted, but instead did the round trip known as “Bottom Up.” We started early and with a handful of other hikers. As the day went on, it got more and more crowded. I didn’t mind so much as I felt safer with so many other people around. (Other than a rowdy group of boys that were throwing rocks and jumping into the water raucously.)

The water was a cool 60 degrees. It was a little jarring at first, but once we got moving, it felt refreshing. The canyon, being mostly in shade, is also relatively cool. I was wearing a new pair of pants that zip off at the knee. It turned out, they were water-resistant pants! How convenient! The trail, even though it’s nice and flat, is really slow going. I took care to be cautious on all the slippery parts. Even with my walking stick, which is strongly recommended for this hike, it was tough. Stephen and I stopped a few hours in to eat the lunches we had packed. It was so nice to sit in this narrow canyon on a dry rock eating my PB&J. After lunch, we pressed on. My favorite part was a section of deep water. It was as high as my shoulders, forcing me to swim-walk briefly with my backpack floating behind me.

narrows1

Bottom Up hikers are only allowed to go 5 miles before needing to turn around. There was no way to know how far we had gone, though. My Garmin was useless in the canyon, and there weren’t any kind of markers. We ended up hiking out for 4 hours before turning around and heading back. The sun was now overhead and beaming through in lots of places. The closer we got back to the beginning, the more crowded it was. Apparently, lots of families with small kids just hike up a mile or two and hang out and play. The return trip was a bit faster, and our total time was 7 hours and 15 minutes. I have no idea if we went 10 miles or not.

As soon as Stephen and I got out of the water, we were hot, hot, hot. The wait for the bust and 40 minute ride back felt forever long. It was heavenly to get back to the hotel and shower!

Observation Point

Even after our exhausting day at The Narrows, we decided we couldn’t miss the chance to hike Observation Point. We had originally planned to hike Angels Landing, but after talking to a park ranger, we set our sights on Observation Point. It’s higher, going up 2,000 feet, and significantly less traveled. Stephen and I would guess that we saw maybe 50 people total in the five and a half hours we spent on the hike – by far the least busy of anywhere we went on the entire trip.

Only a mile in, on a flat portion. We saw another couple coming down and they graciously took our photo!

Only a mile in, on a flat portion. We saw another couple coming down and they graciously took our photo!

The trail is extremely steep (it has to be to get you up that high!) but instead of gravel, it’s mostly stone. Thankfully, I felt completely confident in my hiking shoes. The hike varied between shade and sun. Just when I would feel like I couldn’t take the heat any more, we’d turn a corner and find some shade or a nice breeze. I was patting myself on the back for all the water I drank. It was easy to forget to drink in The Narrows because of the cool water and shade. This hike, not so much.

The view from the top of Observation Point is unmatched.

The top!

The top!

We spent a good hour at the top enjoying the view, shooing away the chipmunks, eating lunch, re-applying sunscreen, and working up the nerve to go back down. I had been taking note all the way up of the places that I knew would frighten me on the way down. I definitely had some shaky legs. The first mile took me forever. I figured going slow was my best option, and I tried not to look over the edge. Halfway down I was finally able to exhale and woosh through the final miles. We clocked more than 8 miles total on the hike. I felt pretty badass (and sweaty!) by the time we were back safe at the bottom.

Next up: Moab, Utah for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks!