May 2011

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By Katharine

Recently we’ve been posting a lot about our Zion trip, but one of the reasons the posts have been rather infrequent is that we’ve actually been doing a lot of work for the wedding. Now that there are officially less than 3 months left, we have to wonder: (1) where did the time go? and (2) how can we get it all done??

Luckily our school semester has finally ended, so that should reduce some stress and free up some more evenings and weekend time.  And we now have a list of all the must-do’s on a white board in our living room to make us feel guilty if we procrastinate too much.

But we really have made some progress. Over the past few months we checked a lot off the list:

– Reception food tasting (yum!)

– Rehearsal dinner location and menu is set

– Picked a hotel for out of town guests

– Designed and mailed save-the-dates

– Made a wedding website for guests

– Registered for a lot of items (which was actually more stressful than I thought it would be, and we still aren’t completely done!)

– Had engagement photos taken

– Flowers and decor research – still working with a florist

– Met with and selected a DJ

– Planned and booked the majority of our honeymoon in Alaska

– Nathan picked a tux and got fitted

– Designed our invitations and printed some proofs (more on that later)

– Selected a couple special songs for the reception

And for some of the above, we have family and friends to thank for their help and support.

But as you can imagine, there is still sooo much to do and so many decisions to be made. Everything seems to require research, discussion, more research, budget calculations, more discussion, and finally a decision.

But we’re learning about ourselves along the way and we know it will all be worth it in the end. Still, I’m very glad there is a final deadline for all of this because it truly could be a never-ending project!

Linda and I showing off our hard work – we did some centerpiece trials with Nathan’s parents

We celebrated Easter Sunday by heading to Charmlee Wilderness Park with our photographer, Phoebe of Phoebe Joy Photography, to take our engagement photos. I can’t believe it’s already been 3 weeks since then, and we haven’t managed to post them on our website!

The weather didn’t exactly cooperate so it was cloudy and really cold, but we (and Phoebe!) toughed it out and still had fun. We started with some camping/hiking themed photos.


Then we did some more formal ones in the meadow.


We ended the evening with a few artistic inspirations from Phoebe.


There are a few more photos on Phoebe’s blog, but we will also go through the raw photos at some point and try to post some more later.

We have to thank Phoebe for the beautiful photos – we can’t wait to see how she captures our wedding!

All week it had been calling for rain, but we had escaped up until our fifth night. Finally, the weather report came true and when we went to sleep in the tent, we could hear the rain tapping on the tent.  Around midnight, in my sleep, I brushed my arm across the top of my sleeping bag…it was soaked.  I immediately woke up and then woke up Katharine.  We scrambled for our head lamps to try to asses the damage.  My sleeping bag was pretty wet as was the floor of the tent where I was sleeping.  The water was dripping through a vent that is near the top of the door, it purpose is to let the humidity out to avoid condensation, not so funny at the moment.  We managed to re-position the vent so the water would run off, then soaked up the remaining water with dirty clothes.  Then we went back to sleep, just another night camping.  We then woke up to a funny sound, it wasn’t rain but we had heard it before (Yosemite).  It was still dark out and my eyes were still a little blurry as I sat up looking at the tent walls.  Then I heard the sound again like someone brushing the rain fly, and I realized it was snow!  The snow would build up on the tent then slide down in large sheets.  I grabbed my camera and went outside to grab some photos.


The clouds were low in the sky blocking the surrounding mountains and the large flakes were gathering fast.


The snow was building up on our three season tent, so I cleared the rain fly and cleared the snow from the base of the tent before it soaked our gear.  After lying in wait for about an hour for the snow to stop I went out again and took some photos of the mountains near our camp.  Keep in mind these were the same mountains seen in the first photo of the post from the previous day.

Without Snow

With Snow

Being a photographer and an adventurer it’s always funny because when everyone else is running around packing their cars, you’re there setting up your tripod snapping photos.  A Colorado couple camping nearby who were pretty hardcore by our standards, because two days earlier they were literally splitting their own firewood, were packing up.  I talked to one guy from Montana who the day before was free climbing cliffs, and he was also leaving.  We thought about it an looked around at the deserted campground and decided today would be our last day.  We took the shuttle to far end of the canyon and walked around taking photos of the red rock covered with white powder.



When the rain and snow stopped the animals came out of the woodwork.  The interesting thing was when the snow started up again they didn’t seem to mind.

Wild Turkey Running

Curious Mule Deer

Then the snow started again blocking the view of the mountains, so we packed our things and headed up the road toward the East Rim Trail head where our trip began.  We took the road because it climbs up the mountains to a possible better view of the snow covered landscape, but then we came across something ten times better…

Big Horn Sheep!

Not only was there a herd of them, but they were close to the road.  We stopped rolled down the window and took some video and photos.  I quickly attached my 70-200mm lens and shot some beautiful shots over Katharine and through the passenger window.

Canon 40D, 140 mm, ISO 400, f/10, 1/320 seconds

It has always been my goal to take a photo of a wild animal and have its head fill the frame of the photo.  What I didn’t realize is how close you would have to be even with a decent telephoto lens.  The female sheep kept a close eye on us as their young were eating grass near by.

Canon 40D, 122 mm, ISO 400, f/7.1, 1/400 seconds

I couldn’t believe how close they were, finally I achieved my goal! To see the full effect, click on the photo to enlarge it and see the fine details (click the photo again to close).  I got a tiny glimpse into what wildlife photographers must do to capture the perfect shot.  I can’t imagine how close one has to be to a grizzly to get a similar shot, I hope it would include an 800 mm lens.

Even though they were so close it was hard to get the right background considering they are well camouflaged with the sandstone.


I didn’t even realize their wet fur texture until I was going through my photos.  I thought it added some character to the youngsters.


The young ones were definitely more skittish and would jump to small ledges 6 to 10 feet off the ground.  It was amazing to watch them jump from ledge to ledge.


After a while they vanished into the cliffs but we left with the biggest smiles on our faces.  The weather wasn’t the best but that moment was unforgettable.  We then drove home, 8 hours, sharing stories about the week and how fun, scary, amazing, and memorable it was.

At the end of the 6 day trip we had clocked over 37 miles, 8,276 feet of elevation, 786 photos, and countless memories.

As you can imagine, we took a lot more photos than we can fit in the posts, so check out more photos from the trip!


Another day of crappy gray and cloudy weather but luckily no rain.

Mountains Surrounding Our Campsite

On our fifth day we planned to hike Hidden Canyon which is a slot canyon near Weeping Rock and where we returned from the East Rim trail.  Hidden Canyon was discovered in 1927 while rescuing a climber who fell off of the Great White Throne.

The hike is a strenuous 1.1 mile, 1,000 foot gain to the entrance of the canyon.  The hike is once again lined with chains, but after Angel’s Landing they didn’t seem necessary.


String of Pearls, Notice the Waterfall in the Background- Nice Shot Katharine!

A string of pearls, or a series of pools, were at the entrance to the slot canyon.  Beyond this point the trail isn’t maintained and it’s up to each hiker to determine how far they hike/ climb.  During our visit, since there was so much water, there were more obstacles than usual (unless you were willing to wade! We thought it was too cold for that.)

What Isn’t Pictured is a Pool of Water Below Katharine

We climbed rocks and used fallen branches as bridges making out way into the canyon to find the free standing arch.  After almost a half mile of boulder hoping and climbing we reached this small arch, almost hidden against the steep canyon walls.

We did have someone else take this photo of us

Surprisingly only 2 photos on the entire trip were taken by someone besides us.  We continued quite a ways further until we were faced by a high wall of boulders and debris.  We also started feeling rain drops but weren’t sure if it was from the moist canyon walls or the clouds above.  We took some final photos of the canyon and headed back.


The orange sandstone walls were impressive as usual.  It was hard to capture how massive they were when we were trapped in the canyon.


The walls also make for a good background for portraits.

After we returned to the trail head the wind was picking up and it was drizzling on and off.  We didn’t have much more planned for the day considering the weather threw us off our original plan to backpack Kolob Canyon and our trip was threatened to be cut short by a federal government shutdown.  So we walked to Weeping Rock and stood under the waterfall as the wind blew mist into our face. In the summer, this rock is always dripping with water that seeps through the rock even when the canyon is over 100 degrees and very dry. But at this time of year, the Weeping Rock was somewhat overshadowed by the huge waterfall pouring off the cliff.

We then decided to hike a short ways to Emerald Pools.  The wind was picking up and we could see the trail passing around the backside of the waterfall but with the wind it was like an unmanned fire hose.  You could hear the screams of kids getting soaked echoing through the canyon.  We videotaped a couple groups getting soaked like they were on a amusement park ride- it was quite entertaining!  We then made a run for it ourselves and managed to get through getting to wet.  We hiked to all three pools then headed back to the shuttle.


Because of the uncertainty with the weather and the park possibly closing we didn’t know what to expect, so we just headed to bed early.

Trip Stats (Running Total, 5 days): 37.3 miles, 8,276 feet of elevation, 652 photos

As you can imagine, we took a lot more photos than we can fit in the posts, so check out more photos from the trip!

It was a pleasant morning but gray clouds had rolled in overnight giving a gloomy feeling to the canyon.  Today we were going to attempt Angel’s Landing, which is a day hike to the top of the 1,488 foot peak overlooking the canyon.  The rock formation gets its name from some early settlers that described the peak as so remote only an angel could land on it.  Of course this became a challenge for adventurers of the time, and in 1926 a trail was carved allowing hikers to climb the rock. Now it is the most famous hike in the park. Even though a trail has been developed, the last 1/2 mile is treacherous with steep cliffs on either side.  There are chains to hold on to in some areas, but the rocks can be slippery even when dry so extra caution is required.  Every description of the trail warns hikers of the sheer drop offs, so we were excited but a little hesitant as we headed out on the trail.

We started up the switch backs and kept our eyes fixed on the top wondering where is this trail headed? And how are we possibly going to make it to the top?  There were only a few people on trail since it was still still pretty early and the tour buses hadn’t started dropping off large groups yet.  We wanted to make it up and down the rock before large crowds of unprepared tourists made the narrow trail too crowded.

View of Angel’s Landing from below

We soon were behind the rock and made our way up Walter’s Wiggles which are 21 steep but short switch backs.

Katharine headed back down Walter’s Wiggles

Once we got to the top we looked across the spine that led to Angel’s Landing.  We could spot people like ants crawling up the rocks.

The spine of Angel’s Landing


As we started making our way to the spine, we ran into an old volunteer ranger who was coming down. We asked him for any advice and he was very supportive and encouraging. Turns out it’s his favorite hike in the park, and he’s done it 41 times!! We figured if he could do it, so could we and so we headed toward the peak with confidence.


It started off fairly easy and there seemed to be a ledge not too far from the trail that might catch you if you fell.  But soon the ledge became shorter and we found ourselves climbing up rock faces.  We stayed close together letting others pass if needed.  Katharine didn’t like the feel of the swinging chains and chose to hold on to the rock instead.


We became more comfortable with the insane cliff and just focused on the next step or link of chain.  We took turns in some areas letting people come down then we would head up.  Everyone was calm and respectful of each other giving each other time and space to make the climb.



When we finally made it to the top 40 minutes later, we realized that there wasn’t really one part in particular that was the worst, nor was it as scary as we thought it might be, but it takes some mental strength to keep climbing for a full 0.5 mile.

Katharine at the top


We managed to walk to the point and position ourselves across the ridge to have lunch.  The view was amazing but the sun remained behind the clouds and the wind started to pickup forcing us to add more layers.

The Virgin River wandering through Zion Canyon

While eating lunch, chipmunks would run around us with no  fear of humans or the cliff edge.  They were begging for food and would climb in your lap if you would let them.  Battling chipmunks and wind on a thousand foot cliff made us both nervous so we took some photos and headed down before the weather turned any worse.


Heading back down the spine was a challenge, it was like a salmon swimming up stream…kind of.  People were now heading up the trail in large groups and not always respectfully waiting for others to pass.  The kids were the scariest because they had no fear of the edge and were rushing to get to the top.  Some parents were yelling at them to stay on the chain while others had given up trying to corral them.  There were also many people from different countries and at one point,  miscommunication caused two people to get temporarily trapped/stranded in a narrow part of the trail.


Climbing down while looking at the ground was daunting.  It was also hard and awkward to figure out the best climbing method, do you turn toward the rock or do you slide down on your butt?  At one point I decided to video tape Katharine climbing down but then looked behind me to find a group waiting so I scurried ahead with the camera recording in one hand.  I became more comfortable climbing with one hand while filming with the other.  I haven’t had a chance to look at the video, but I hope it captures the feeling of being on the trail.


We made it off the treacherous section just as it started to sprinkle.  We couldn’t imagine finishing that section in the rain with all the crowds! We put on our rain jackets and headed down the switchbacks with a feeling of accomplishment.  On our way down we ran into another couple who were finishing a backpacking trip on the West Rim Trail (we did the East Rim).  This wouldn’t be so impressive except that they were backpacking with their 2 year old daughter! We can’t imagine the challenge of backpacking with a small child… we’re struggling to reduce our pack weights as it is!

When we reached the canyon floor, we headed to the famous Narrows which is normally open for hiking but was closed with the fast moving Virgin River.  We hiked a mile in on the paved trail that was open and took some photos but didn’t stay too long since it wasn’t too impressive (compared to the photos you see from deep within the canyon). We’ll definitely be back when the Narrow are open though!

.Virgin River rushing through the canyon


Sunset at Our Campsite

Trip Stats (Running Total, 4 days): 30.3 miles, 7,076 feet of elevation, 550 of photos

As you can imagine, we took a lot more photos than we can fit in the posts, so check out more photos from the trip!

We woke up again to frigid temperatures but we knew we were hiking to lower elevations and warmer temperatures.  We didn’t have much planned except to hike 9 miles, and  2,000 feet down the mountain so we waited for the sun to warm up the tent before we crawled out of our sleeping bags.  We packed up our gear and said goodbye to the peaceful solitude.

Once again the trail was full of switch backs leading us close to the edge.  Of course this time the trail had patches of ice and snow to keep us alert.


After descending into Echo canyon, the trail somewhat disappears as it traverses the slickrock of the canyon floor. We followed the cairns across the sandstone until we got to a split in the trail to Observation Point, a popular destination for day hikers. As we were carrying so much and pretty tired already, we decided to continue heading down to Zion Canyon, leaving Observation Point for another day.


By this point, the trail was crowded with day hikers. As we passed them we were often greeted with looks of awe.  It’s always fun to be the one of the toughest on the trail.  Most people couldn’t believe we were carrying all our gear and had camped through two freezing nights. One person even commented on how “fresh” we looked considering our nights in the backcountry.


As we followed a small river down the mountain it began to carve it’s way deeper into the rock creating amazing slot canyon walls.

Olympus Stylus Tough, 5mm, ISO 64, f/3.5, 1/50 seconds

It also made for some interesting water crossings.  In some areas we were wading through knee deep water.  Luckily this was our last day backpacking and we knew we could dry out our boots next to a campfire. In the summer I think this trail is almost entirely dry, but given the huge amounts of snow melt this spring, there was quite a bit of water flowing.


We hadn’t packed water shoes/sandals because we weren’t expecting river crossings or much warm weather, but the carved sandstone walls made it all worthwhile.  We spent most of the trail looking up in awe of the shear walls surrounding us.

Canon 40D, 28mm, 200 ISO, f/5.0, 1/200 seconds

We then hiked out of Echo Canyon and looked down on the many daunting switch backs leading down to the main canyon. It was a very impressive way to enter Zion Canyon for the first time.

The small switch backs lead to Hidden Canyon, which we hiked 2 days later

When the view is this amazing, you forget about the switch backs

We hopped on the shuttle, which is the only form of transportation in and out of the main canyon during the spring and summer.  We then staked our claim to a car camping “walk-in” site.  We grabbed dinner in town (Springdale is actually a pretty cute and very convenient town right outside of the park), and then went to the local grocery store and picked up firewood and ice cream because we were so exhausted and hot from our hike.  It was quite odd to be sitting around a campfire while eating ice cream knowing the night before we slept in freezing conditions.


It was the perfect night; ice cream, campfire, and too many stars to count. Sadly it was the last clear night of the trip.

We also had some fun with ‘light painting’ using a long exposure, 10 seconds

Trip Stats (Running Total, 3 days): 24.3 miles, 4,100 feet of elevation, 355 of photos

As you can imagine, we took a lot more photos than we can fit in the posts, so check out more photos from the trip!