Monthly Archives: March 2011

Outdoor Post #3: Mt. Newcomb

This third post comes to us from my little brother, Garin.  This is actually a scholarship essay that he shared with me.  I was so moved by his depiction of possibly one of our biggest family traditions that I immediately asked him if I could post it.  A high school senior with hopes of attending Stanford, his response was: “Lol, OK”.  What do you think?  Should he get the scholarship? 

(I took the liberty of adding the pictures/captions)

***

I grew up in Nebraska but I am far more a Californian.  Certainly I am content here—it is not the situation but what you make of it—but mountains call to me always with whispers and screams that reminisce fond memories.   These magnificent beasts, tame to no one yet always welcoming, have become in me a place of solace and comfort.  Where leaves fall and time drifts slowly away, the mountains never shift.  They hold me in their powerful grasp, waiting as long as necessary until the world is right again.  They are all unique and beautiful in my sight, but I hold one above all the others: my mountain.  Or rather, my family’s mountain.  It was named by its discoverer for a great uncle of mine, Simon Newcomb, and we have since made tradition of climbing it.  Its significance lies in its beauty, as well as its sanctity, family connections, and symbolic nature.  

 

The pose my father is executing will forever be the Newcomb gesture for: "I just conquered this beast"

My father and grandfather at the summit of Mt. Newcomb in ‘71

My father spent much of his childhood and adolescence in the Sierra Nevadas.  As it happens, his father took him on the first of our family’s Mt. Newcomb Expeditions.  When we moved to Nebraska before my first birthday, he knew it would be difficult to raise my brothers and me with the same appreciation for the mountains he had grown up with. Still, he made every effort possible, taking us almost annually to the Rockies and somewhat less frequently to the Sierras.  If there was ever a time I did not enjoy these trips, I cannot remember it.  The backpack I carried was not so much a burden as a tangible symbol of my growth, maturation, and ascent into adolescence and adulthood.  The exhaustion that came with it only made everything more vivid and complete.

 

Haha, '06 the days I actually would have worn a hemp necklace backpacking...

Mt. Newcomb training expedition, CO ‘06 

Over the years, the mountains began to represent the good that I knew of the world.  There was a peace to be found there that was complete and entirely untainted.  There was a natural beauty that drew you in, enticing all your senses: views that were unreal, the smell of pine needles, the feel of the thin, brisk air as it comes into your lungs, the sound of the wind as it rustled through meadows, and the ever-delicious taste of food, no matter how deplorably nasty its reality on any other occasion.  Mt. Newcomb, in particular, became in some respects a second home.  It required overwhelming efforts to conquer, but in conquering it I realized a long held dream of mine.  With that came the knowledge that so it would be with every other dream I ever had.  Though not physical climbs, every one of them could, in their turn, be realized through the application of the same force of will as in reaching the top of that mountain.  Clichéd as it may sound, my challenges yet loom before me, mountains.  Nonetheless, a single step yields another, and though my heart races, my breath slows as the peak breaks violently into view.  Truly climbing is what we humans were made to do—truly we yearn and fight for our dreams as surely as we do our mountains.   

 

That valley on the left is the one we stumbled down with the waning light after the climb.  

In social matters, mountains have always united my family to unbreakable strength.  When we climb, we climb together.  The struggle of reaching the top of a pass, or even taking another step, becomes a common struggle that bonds us and molds us into a single unit.  That it is our mountain we climb further relates to us the familial nature of this activity.  I and my brothers climb as our father did before us in his youth, and he as his father before him.  We are thus individual, yet tightly connected.  In one particularly strong example, we were hiking down from a pass with a rather steep cliff nearby.  In seating myself on a loose boulder a few feet up from the trail, I ignited its fury and it tumbled down to meet my waiting calf.  Leg pinned between boulder and ground, I stood helpless, my boot the only thing preventing the violent shattering of my ankle.  Though drastic, the situation was of no real consequence: my brother was present throughout, and though lacking the means, he lifted the boulder enough to allow my fervent escape.  This is a clear representation of my family’s relationship: bendable, but unbreakable.

The mountains have also developed another relationship of mine. It is the goodness I see represented by the mountains, along with their vividly real tangibility, that forever intertwines them with my own spirituality.  Indeed, to me, the good they represent is due to their pure reflective nature.  Like their creator, they stand unchanged and uncontrollable.  They hold beauty overwhelming and power over all men.  The peace they afford those who seek them replenishes and gives life.  Thus, I feel closer to God when I am there than at almost any other time.  I am but a human, standing before towering mountains as I stand before God.  Yet by His grace, here I am healed and rocked in His embrace. Mountains unite physical and spiritual, giving vast insight into the heart and nature of God.  In the presence of mountains, it is this insight I seek above all else.

 

I guess nobody did it quite right...

Summit of Mt. Newcomb ‘06 

It is a bittersweet moment climbing down from Mt. Newcomb.  It was a great victory won; a challenge conquered through drive and little else.  Though exhausted, I am peaceful and contemplative.  The inevitable pain is yet abated by rushing endorphins, and I carefully acknowledge my quiet bliss.  I thank God for the wonder of my surroundings, knowing that I am cared for in my second home.  I look around to see the faces of my family members and seem to know their thoughts as they know mine.  We are a family, forever united.  As I turn toward the vast valley beneath me and the sparkling lakes therein, my mind is now engulfed by a single flame: this mountain is conquered, but the next lies just across the horizon.  I take a step, then another.

 

My father won.

My father and Ben demonstrate how to protect oneself from a bear cat in the wild.

Top 5 Birthday Posts on My Wall

Let me preface this by saying that I enjoyed each and every post on my wall in honor of the day of my birth.  These are the posts that were either the most creative, made me laugh the hardest, or both.

 

5.  Happy Birthday snow demon—Pastor Eric

4.  happy birthday Mormon—Kiranbir

3.  i still have “Dusty & The Andrew” in my phone contacts. I wonder who would answer if i called that dorm room now. 🙂 THANKS FOR BEING BORN!!! hope you have a great one!—Kettelhake

2.  It was about this time 25 years ago that your mother woke me up and said “it’s time”. “Time for what?” I replied sleepily. Happy 25th, Andrew!—My father

1.  May the fleece of a thousand Gideons become wet with dew and commemorate you as a mighty man of valor, on this, the day of your birth.—Gavin

Outdoor Post #2: Geocaching!

Post #2 in the grand outdoor series comes to us from family friend Kara.  Having just written a novel in a month, she’s right on track to become the next Stephanie Meyer, although probably with less vampire love triangle, and more quality writing.  She also maintains what you might call a “mommy blog”, that definitely hasn’t made me paternal a single time…

***

 

Hello out there, faithful followers of Absolutely Andrew (and Tara too!). Back in November, I asked Andrew to write a post for my blog on Thanksgiving memories. I agreed to write a post for his blog in return, and he has finally gotten around to collecting.

I am a former classmate of Tara’s from grad school, and happen to be one of those Mormons Andrew warned you all about last month- I fit numbers 4, 6, and 8. I’m not a number 1 though- I happen to be a transplant to Utah. I am not a native “Utard”. Actually, I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, which is just as cool as it sounds. A lot of people from Alaska are really into outdoor sports, including snowboarding, hiking, hunting, fishing, etc. You may actually be wondering if Andrew and Tara are from Alaska, based on the number of outdoor sports they participate in. I, however, am a terrible snowboarder, and have never caught a fish in my life. (I did, however, manage to snag my sister’s hair with my hook the one and only time my dad took us fishing.)
My poor dad. No one to hang out with outside. No one to go cross-country skiing with. No one to go on long walks with during the endless summer days that Alaska is so famous for.
Until the summer of 2006, that is. That year, my parents bought a GPS unit, and, puzzled as to how they could use their new toy, took a beginner GPS course at REI. That’s how my family learned about geocaching.
Now, to get really in-depth in to what geocaching “is”, and to appreciate the scope of how popular it is, you really need to check out www.geocaching.com and read the how-to/what is it pages. Basically, people (MANY people) have hidden small containers all around the world, and have posted the latitude and longitude of these containers on the Internet so that other geeks people can go find them. The Huelin family was officially hooked.
 
This is me and my mom with the first geocache ever found by our family. Check out the wind!
 

My dad and my sister
 
One of the great things about geocaching is that it gets people like me outside and moving around. I always hated hiking as a teenager because there was no point- it was just walking! (Adult Kara cringes sometimes when she listens to Teenage Kara whine) Geocaching, however, is walking with a purpose- you’re out in nature trying to find something. The “something” can vary in size from an ammo can to a film canister (remember those?). It can be totally wacky like this cache we found recently near the University of Utah:
 

It had a zombie theme, and the box was decorated on the inside with plastic zombie figurines. Now that’s going above and beyond.
 
 

I found this geocache hiding in plain sight in the woods across the street from the middle school I attended. The bottom of the plastic owl was a cap that popped off to reveal the contents.
 
A geocache is usually big enough to hold a “logbook” for visitors to sign. This could be anything from a small notebook to a strip of paper wound around a pin (no lie). Signing the log is the ultimate proof that you found the cache. You can also record your finds on geocaching.com, but signing the physical log makes your find legit.
Later that fateful summer, my mom’s family came to visit. Her parents, brother, sister-in-law, and my five cousins were all excited to learn about our new fun activity. My dad and I planned out an epic geocache race through Kincaid Park. We split into three teams, and had to find three geocaches in the park in a specific order, then be first back to the cars.
 

The members of my team- cousins Matthew, Steven, and Brian, and Grandpa.
 
I don’t remember who won, but I remember we got locked in the park and had to call someone to let us out. I also remember sprinting through the woods, GPS unit in hand, laughing and shrieking with my cousins.
When I went back to school that fall, I tried to infect all my friends with the geocaching bug. My parents bought a fancy GPS unit, and I got to take the old one with me back to Colorado.
Less than six months later, I started dating my husband. He was excited to give geocaching a try, and we went on our first geocache trip together on St. Patrick’s Day, 2007.
 

Ryan’s first geocache. Ignore his hair, please.
 
Thirteen months later, Ryan and I went geocaching together in Denver, where he had moved for a job. Our third geocache that day was right in front of the Denver temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Unsuspecting me was soooo excited that someone had hid a geocache in front of the temple!
The “someone” who hid it was Ryan. Yep, my husband asked me to marry him by hiding the ring in a geocache. How could I not say yes?
 

The inside of Ryan’s proposal geocache.
 
Okay, who just said “Awww!” inside their head? I know, right? He’s pretty much amazing. My parents bought us our own fancy GPS unit for our first anniversary. They are pretty much amazing, too.
Anyone woman who has ever been pregnant and gone past her due date knows that you will do ANYTHING to get that baby to come out. My mom came to Utah for the delivery, and she was a big proponent of long walks to inspire labor. And you know my attitude towards walking… there better be a point to it.
 

This is me, six days before my son was born, out geocaching.
 
After my son was born, we flew up to Alaska to stay with my parents for a while. When my grandparents came out to meet Sammy, we took them (and baby Sam) out geocaching!
 

Ryan, Sammy, and Grandma
 
Now that my son is old enough to walk, he loves geocaching. Running around outside, getting to hold the GPS unit… toddler heaven.
 

 
I guess what I’m trying to say is, geocaching is an important part of my life. Being from Alaska, I’ve always wanted to be an outdoorsy type of person, but never really found my niche until my family discovered geocaching. It’s great for people of all ages and physical capabilities, and guarantees that you’ll have something to do no matter where you go. Give it a shot. You can borrow my GPS unit. Use it to create your own fun family memories.
Like it says on the geocaching.com website: The world is our playing field.

The Respect of a Moose

I’ve decided with warm weather nearly upon us, now would be a great time to do a series of outdoor-themed posts.  You might be thinking: “But Andrew, aren’t like all of your posts outdoor posts?”.  Yeah, I guess they are, but this time I’ll be featuring guest writers sharing their favorite outdoor experiences.  It’s going to be EPIC!  My first contributor is Andrew.  You might know him from his other posts on this blog.

***

 

Two years ago, when Tara was living out here and I was still in Nebraska, I came out to visit for a weekend in mid February.  One of the highlights of the weekend was our run on Antelope Island.  I’m sure I’ve said it before, but Antelope Island is one of our favorite places out here.  As the name implies, it is an island out in the Great Salt Lake that you can drive out to.  It has an abundance of hiking trails and wildlife, including bison that roam free throughout the island.

Since we were both training for a half marathon at the time, we endeavored to tackle an eight mile loop trail run on the island.  The run started off amazing.  Not too cold, spectacular views, and some really challenging hill climbs.  However, probably a little more than halfway around the loop, we encountered a herd of bison right on the trail.  Still quite hopeful to complete the loop, and not be forced to turn back the way we came, we attempted to leave the trail, and take a wide detour around the bison.  However, as we came even with them, they began to amble towards us.  Thoughts of all the horror stories of people getting charged by bison in Yellowstone rushing through our heads, we quickly retreated the way we came and the bison promptly stopped their approach.

 

That vest I'm wearing actually used to belong to Tara's mother.

Antelope Island, shortly after the run with the bison.

 

Discouraged, but still determined, we tried to cut an even wider swath on the other side of the bison, this time down the ridge out of sight from them.  But again, as we came even with them, we saw their heads appear over the ridge, this time coming at us at an alarming jaunt.  Nothing short of terrified, we again retreated the way we came, relieved to see the bison stop their charge the second we crossed some invisible boundary known only to the beasts.  With that, we recognized defeat, bowed our heads, and took the run of shame back the way we came.

It was not until we had put some distance between us and the territorial creatures, and my pride had some time to recover, that I came to fully appreciate that experience in the wild.  We had encountered these remarkable beasts in their habitat, ourselves basically naked, nothing to protect us.  And we said: “Screw you, bison, this is our run, and we will tread on your turf!”.  And they said: “No!  You will not”.  With our civilization and our technology, it is easy for we humans to cheat nature.  This is fine.  This is what makes us the dominant species.  But we can’t fully appreciate our roots unless we venture out and take risks from time to time, and walk with the beasts.  It’s in experiences like these that the primordial part our our brains comes to life, and we find we don’t need to learn the rules of nature—we’ve actually known them all along.

Last summer, Tara and I were on a backpacking trip in the High Uintas here in Utah.  Our first night out, we set up camp on the edge of a large meadow with a stream meandering through it.  After dinner was finished, and the tent was pitched, we spent the last part of the day sitting down by the stream watching the stars begin to appear in the darkening sky.  Presently, a large moose emerged from the trees no more than 100 yards from us, ambled down to the stream, and began to drink.  That, to me, is respect.  That an animal that huge and that powerful can basically say: “I trust you enough to come have a drink with you”, is an incredible thing.  You might counter that the Moose is simply tamed, and unafraid of humans due to the large volume of hikers that travel that trail each summer, and you’d be exactly right, but that’s not the point here.  The point is that feeling just as vulnerable as that moose does, and developing a mutual respect for one another is a soul-changing experience that everyone should enjoy from time to time.  Get outside!

 

Bloody mosquitos...Christmas Meadows 

 

And yes, Robert Redford, Jon Krakauer, and Jack London are my heroes, but so is the moose.

Random Thoughts Regarding Music

1.  Will.I.Am of the Black-Eyed Peas is credited for being a creative mastermind that dissects hit songs, analyzes them, and then uses elements from each to create his songs.  This is all well and good, but seriously, how much “mastermind” does it take to know that a song targeted at a young adult audience will automatically be a hit so long as it is about drinking and girls with large behinds with a catchy tune that you can grind to?  Sir Mixalot already showed us that!  Personally, I’m still trying to figure out how the line “Wacha gonna do with all that junk inside that trunk?” can be used as a come on without being accused of calling her fat.

2.  Chad Kroger of Nickelback wrote the song Animals when he was 36.  A song about sneaking around with a teenage girl, this either makes this a song of statutory rape, or quite possibly one of the biggest sellouts in the history of music.  I’m surprised Bob Dylan hasn’t slapped him in the face.

3.  Larry Norman might have been the only Christian artist to produce real, quality music.  As turbulent as the Christian walk can be, you’d think that artists could implant the same edge, soul and angst into Christian music that makes secular music great.  Not the case apparently.  You might be thinking: “What’d you do, Andrew? Listen to 3 Christian artists and then come to that conclusion?”.  Well I did.

4.  2 things I took from Katy Perry’s Firwork music video:
     i.  Fat girls can be sluts too.
     ii.  Katy Perry can shoot fireworks from her cleavage.

5.  Anybody still wondering how Justin Bieber talked Ludacris into recording Baby with him?  Last I checked, Ludacris still had a career.

6.  In 10 years, the Beatles released 12 albums, each progressing into new territory, and then broke up.  Staind is going on 15 years and still singing about pain.  That in itself is inspiration for a Staind song.  Also, I just discovered that Staind recently released an album called The Illusion of Progress.  Is that not the most delicious bit of irony you’ve ever seen?

Proverbs 1

I’ll admit, I’ve never been big on Bible blogging.  I don’t have anything against it, I just don’t care for it.  That being said, I’m going to make an exception.  I started reading Proverbs recently.  I suppose I’m just excited about it because it’s been years since I’ve opened my Bible.  I love Proverbs because you don’t have to read far before you come to something that really strikes you.  For me, this happened just a few verses into the very first chapter.

For waywardness kills the simple,
and the complacency of fools
destroys them;
but those who listen to me will be
secure
and will live at ease, without
dread of disaster.

–Proverbs 1:32-33

The “me” in the passage is actually not intended to be God, but rather, wisdom, whom in this case, appears as a woman.  Interesting.

Bryce Canyon in the Snow

Ever since we moved to Utah, Bryce Canyon has been high on our list to visit.  It has special significance with me as it is probably my family’s favorite national park.  In fact, my brother Ben’s middle name is Bryce, after the canyon!  Thus, I convinced Tara of its awesomeness, and she immediately agreed that we needed to go there. 

It took longer than it should have, but we finally managed to make a trip over Presidents’ Day weekend.  We did NOT camp, it was a “wimpout” as we used to call it in the Boy Scouts.  We stayed in a hotel literally less than a mile from the park.  Situated at 8000 feet, Bryce Canyon is a popular cross-country ski and snowshoe location during the winter.  In fact, the weekend we were there was their annual “Winterfest” complete with photography clinics, guided snowshoe and ski tours, and a cross-country ski race.

We got in around 10 on Friday night, slightly concerned at the lack of snow on the ground.  We had been looking forward to exploring snow-covered red rock, not mud covered.  We need not have been concerned.  18” fell that night and we awoke the next morning to near whiteout conditions.  Driving anywhere in our small Dodge Stratus was out of the question.  Fortunately, there were trailheads right across the highway from the hotel, so we stuck to those for the morning.  We needed the snowshoes just to get to the trailhead!  Snowshoeing through the fluffy powder amidst the evergreens while the snow quietly fell was simply amazing.  There were a number of people out cross-country skiing, most of whom were clearly inexperienced and renting their equipment from the hotel.  One guy was basically just walking in his skis.  He’d have been better off in snowshoes.

 

Those mittens are Dakine, and I highly recommend them.  Your hands will never be cold again.

Tara with Queen Victoria’s Castle in the background

That afternoon, the snow lightened up enough that we drove into the park and snowshoed down into the canyon.  With the snow continuing to fall, the visibility a quarter mile at best.  It was surreal.  Distant rock formations almost seemed imaginary while the closer ones allowed much more attention to detail with the rest of the view blocked out.  Down into the canyon we went, undulating through the hoodoos towering above us, their tops disappearing into the snow and fog.  The trail ended at a formation called Queen Victoria’s Castle.  We stopped to take it all in, and I found a boulder to jump off of. 

 

So much fun.Getting Air! 

We arose early Sunday morning, initially hoping to go skiing at Brianhead, but discovered that the highways to the resort were still pretty sketchy, so we opted to snowshoe instead.  This proved to be an outstanding decision.  The sun emerged for most of the morning and the conditions were absolutely perfect.  We made slow going—every several hundred feet I saw something that I had to take a picture of.  I was rocking my new polarizing filter.  I love what it does for shots in midday sun that would be completely washed out otherwise.  I have noticed however, that when using the filter at my lens’s widest setting (17mm), vignetting occurs.  If anybody knows why that is, and how to avoid it, please fill me in.

 

You can kind of see the vignetting in this one.Hoodoos from the lookout 

We did a ton of exploring that day, even venturing off trail a few times.  Snowshoeing through fresh powder is really hard work, but the feeling is incredible.  Something about the way new, untouched snow blankets the landscape is so inviting. 

We found a perfect place along the trail to stop for lunch under a rock overhang.  There was a nice dry log to sit on—an uncommon find in the snow.  So we sat down and pulled out our sandwiches, but no sooner had we done so that a jay came from nowhere and perched itself on a branch 20 ft. away.  Tara and I have had plenty of experience with jays, and we know that, when food is involved, they can be the most obnoxious of creatures.  Prepared to ignore the bird, we started on our lunch, but within minutes, the pest flew in and landed on the log within feet of Tara.  She was having none of that.  In an effort to protect my bride, I clapped and yelled, managing to send the creature retreating back to its initial perch in the tree.  He was clearly not happy, however, and persisted in glaring down at us making angry cries.

 

If only I had my blowgun... The Poltergeist

In all our encounters with jays, we had never seen one actually act mad when it was not given food.  We began to suspect that we had inadvertently  sat down dangerously close to the bird’s nest in the rocks and he was behaving this way to defend his home, not take our food.  We were thus inclined to pack up our partially consumed lunches and find a new place to eat.  A quarter mile up the trail, and the pest nowhere in sight, we found a new log to sit on, albeit not nearly as nice as the first.  We again sat down and pulled out our sandwiches, and again, unbelievably, the second the food was out, we could see the jay flying up the canyon towards us.  He again perched obnoxiously close to us, but this time I kept him at bay with snow balls.  It only took a couple warnings to keep him out of our hair and we were able to finish our meal in peace.

That afternoon, we were pretty tanked from all the snowshoeing, but wanted to make full use of our time there, so we rented skis from the hotel and set out on the groomed ski trails.  This too was a good time, and the snow covered trees with the bright blue sky above was simply stunning.  We capped off our epic day with a trip to the hot tub.  There was a bit more teenage angst in there than we’d have liked, but it was still wonderful.

 

Use this for your background! On the cross-country ski trail

Monday we checked out of the hotel and headed it to Brianhead.  This was a new resort to check of our list, and it was a good day to be out.  There was still plenty of powder to be had.  It was an awesome day of skiing/boarding and a great way to finish off the trip.

 

Quite possibly one of the coolest pictures I've ever taken. Taken right outside the hotel at sunset

 

Utah National Parks we have now been to:

  • Arches
  • Capitol Reef
  • Kolob Canyon (lesser known portion of Zion)
  • Bryce Canyon

 

Utah Ski Resorts we have been to:

  • Snowbird
  • Brighton
  • Solitude
  • Park City
  • Canyons
  • Brianhead
  • Sundance