Utah: Land of Skiing, Land of Canyons, Land of People-Actually-Live-Here

I reckon it’s about time to write a blog post that’s not Christmas-related *sigh*. Things in Laramie, Wyoming have been pleasantly not-too-cold and not-too-windy, about which I could, admittedly, be happier. We always find reasons to complain, don’t we? There may be no wind and it may be 30 degrees Fahrenheit, but it just so happens to be cloudy and there’s dirty snow all over the road and people’s front lawns. I still won’t venture into our icy, snowy backyard to clean up the strewn mess Laramie’s wildlife has made of my attempts at a compost pile. (Thank you, Matt, for pointing this out to me, as I haven’t been back there.) And it gets dark too early. And I can’t wear T-shirts. So there.

I can’t complain too much, since I emerged from the holiday season with an electric blanket and a crock-pot, both marvelous modern-day inventions for which I have electricity and my mother to thank. Thank you!!!

Last month Matt and I drove to Salt Lake City to add on to the UNC reunion that was slowly forming there. Though it may seem we are forever away from Utah, I-80 actually crosses southern Wyoming from Laramie directly to Salt Lake City, so it’s only a 5.5-hour drive. Again, that may seem like a lot, but an all-interstate drive for us is a rarity, and it means both minimal animal crossings and well-maintained (aka plowed) roadways.

Windmills on the drive in southern Wyoming

Windmills off of I-80 in southern Wyoming

(Side note: in case you didn’t know, Matt totaled his car last summer hitting a pronghorn on a state highway coming back into Laramie. Pronghorn are colloquially referred to as antelope. They are one of the fastest land animals to tread this earth. Matt maintains that the pronghorn ran into his car, and not the other way around. I am inclined to believe him, for a multitude of reasons.)

We stayed in Salt Lake City with our fellow-UNC-graduate-and-climber-friends Kyle and Tallie. We actually visited them on the exact same weekend last year, which I wrote about here. This time, other UNC folks joined us as well – Dylan from Hong Kong/San Francisco (he just moved back to the states!); Kevin from Boulder, Colorado; and Sara, who lives in Salt Lake too. We also briefly met up with our friend Jon who lives in Durham, North Carolina, and happened to be in town for the semiannual Outdoor Retailer show, which is a huge trade show for the outdoor industry where companies like Patagonia, Mammut, Prana, Outdoor Research, Marmot, Black Diamond, MSR, High Sierra, and Big Agnes show off their upcoming goods (outdoor clothing and gear) for the spring season. We were in town the weekend before the show began, so as we were departing, all the hotels and ski areas began to fill up with people in town for the OR show.

Just driving around Salt Lake City is scenic – you are surrounded on almost all sides by beautiful chiseled peaks.

Matt on the road in Salt Lake City, UT

Matt on the road in Salt Lake City, UT

Kyle, Tallie, Matt, and I went climbing on a warm and sunny Saturday at American Fork just outside of town. The approach (climber-speak for the hike into the climbing area) at the bottom of the canyon was still snowy, but the snow on the trail was packed down enough that it didn’t require snowshoes.

Matt on the trail in American Fork Canyon

Matt on the trail in American Fork Canyon

Once we switchbacked our way up to the base of the sport climbs, the sun was shining enough to keep us toasty.

Kyle rappelling down after competing a climb at American Fork

Kyle rappelling through blue sky after completing a climb at American Fork

The rock at American Fork is a heavily featured limestone, and its white coloring allows you to more easily see holds for your hands and feet as they generate shade in direct sunlight. Unfortunately, a fair amount of the rock is still loose, meaning that both rocks can fall onto climbers from above, and that climbers can accidentally knock or pull off chunks of rock while climbing, creating potentially dangerous situations. In climbing areas where loose rock is prevalent, you’ll see climbers knocking their fists against blocks of rock in order to listen for a hollow sound, ideally indicating the looseness of the hold.

As you can see from the pictures, despite warmer temperatures, there was still snow in upper parts of the canyon elsewhere.

American Fork Canyon, UT

American Fork Canyon, UT

On Sunday we met up with Sara, Kevin, and Dylan to ski at Brighton Ski Resort, just outside the city. Matt and I endeavored to ski through the trees a little bit this time, which requires more technical prowess but also more brainpower, like mountain biking single track versus road biking.

Dylan, me, and Kevin at Brighton Ski Resort

Dylan, me, and Kevin at Brighton Ski Resort. Yay helmets!

The view from the top of a mountain at Brighton

The view from the top of a mountain at Brighton, naked aspen trees below

Brighton is a lot bigger than Snowy Range Ski Area, our local ski mountain outside Laramie, so the runs are a lot longer. You therefore spend comparatively less time on the lift getting to the top of the mountain, which I appreciate, as I tend to freeze my butt off on the ride up.

Riding the lift at Brighton, photo by Sara Leung

Riding the lift at Brighton, photo by Sara Leung

It’s been a relatively dry winter out here in the west, so there wasn’t much new snow at Brighton. We still had fun on packed powder! No ice, thank you very much.

On Monday morning before driving back home, Tallie, Kyle, Kevin, Matt, and I went climbing at Big Cottonwood Canyon (I’m fairly certain of this, although there’s also a Little Cottonwood Canyon, so feel free to correct me, everyone). Unlike Saturday at American Fork, this was cold and cloudy climbing, which is hard on your little fingers as they grasp at chilled rock.

Kyle belaying Kevin up a sport route at BCC. Do they look cold?

Kyle belaying Kevin up a 5.12 sport route at BCC. Do they look cold?

Techniques for keeping hands warm in cold climbing conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Whining about it
  • Bringing a hot drink in a thermos
  • Hand warmers in your fleece-lined pockets
  • Alternate placing hands on warm parts of the body, such as the back of the neck, the collarbones, or the armpits
  • Bringing a dog along so you can place your hands in their armpits (legpits?)
  • Go skiing instead?

After a couple hours, Matt and I said our goodbyes and drove to Brighton again to meet up with Jon who, like I said at the beginning of this post, was in town for the OR show. We bought a one-run ticket, which allows you just one ride up the ski lift, and skied down with Jon before heading back to Wyoming.

Now if we could only convince everyone to reunite in Laramie this time… what do you think, guys?

Love to all!

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This post was not sponsored by Black Diamond. (We just like their helmets.)

 

Christmas in North Carolina

Christmas is definitely my favorite holiday – smell of balsam and pine, clove and cinnamon; sharing food and drink with loved ones; watching a child’s face light up with joy upon opening a long-desired gift; huddling around either a lit Christmas tree or a crackling fire in the fireplace out of both reverence and a wish for warmth.

Log cabin Christmas

Log cabin Christmas

These things all have a special meaning for me now that I live across the country from my family. Coming back to visit is so special. I get to put Sam, my ten-year-old brother, to bed every night – sometimes via a game of Boggle, sometimes a game of soccer between two puppets ensues, and sometimes I start reading paragraphs of an educational book on cartography in a Liza Minnelli voice.

North Carolina was rainy, which was strange, as I hadn’t seen any rain in several months. In fact, just before I left Laramie, it snowed enough that, on the drive down to the Denver airport, the pines in Medicine Bow National Forest were covered in dustings of snow.

Frosty forest

Frosted forest

The wind hadn’t yet had its chance to strip them free of frost.

Landing in Raleigh, I could immediately detect the difference in temperature. My older sister Margaret picked me up and I requested we stop by CookOut, a North Carolina-based fast food chain with dank milkshakes.

On Christmas Eve, my mom made a delicious vinegar-y bratwurst and red cabbage stew while Sam and I attempted to assemble a gingerbread house. We learned icing is very sticky.

Even blinking Sam is adorable

Even blinking Sam is adorable

That night my uncle and grandparents came to town for Christmas festivities. Dark beer and bourbon-spiked egg nog were had while we caught up and opened presents. Because there are six of us Indermaur kids, to save us from the problem of needing to find gifts for each sibling, each year we are secretly assigned one sibling for whom to find a gift. Otherwise, Sam would probably give us each a pack of gum or something.

On the morning of Christmas Day, Sam appoints himself the sorter of presents under the tree and stocking deliveryman. We each have our stocking, full to the brim with candy and other small goodies, personally delivered to our beds.

After partaking in cinnamon rolls, coffee, and candy, we drove to Greensboro to meet up with the Indermaur side of the family. We had lunch at a delicious Thai restaurant (after all those sweets, savory curry was a welcome change) and went to Opa’s house afterwards for dessert, caroling, and presents.

Uncle Tom, Aunt Morgan, cousin Catalina and baby cousin Maxime couldn’t join us from their home in California, so we sang Christmas songs to them over Skype. We were all wearing the matching T-shirts Tom and Morgan gave us.

The Incredible Indermaurs!

The Incredible Indermaurs!

The next day we headed to what my mom has dubbed the “Creekside Cabin” in rural central North Carolina.

Ben fuels up on the way to the cabin

Ben fuels up on the way to the cabin

Mmm nothing like a fresh jar of pig foot

Mmm nothing like a fresh jar of pig hooves

The cabin is a restored tobacco barn plus a newer addition surrounded by some wooded acreage and fenced-in areas. We’re trying to convince our parents to get a pet donkey. Or some goats. Really, anything will do. Rabbits?

The cabin

Welcome to the cabin!

There is a tire swing, a little creek (true to its name) – perfect for crawfish hunting and splashing and panning for gold – random abandoned treasures (an old tent? mason jars?), and a neighbor with a donkey and llama farm.

Sam enjoys the tire swing

Sam enjoys the tire swing

Sam panning for gold

Sam panning for gold

The old chinking and pine walls in the main room are just lovely.

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Cabin living room

But of course, the best way to experience the cabin is to wander around the woods.

And the best way to wander is via piggyback

And the best way to wander is via piggyback atop your younger but taller sister

We spent the night at the cabin, wandered and played a little more, and made s’mores around Dad’s campfire before driving back to Raleigh through beautiful little Chapel Hill.

Will chomps down on his half-charred marshmallow

Will chomps down on his half-charred marshmallow

Libby, Will, and I saw the excellent movie “Wild,” based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, about a young woman who hikes the Pacific Crest Trail solo. IT’S SO GOOD AND YOU NEED TO SEE IT. NOW. YES, YOU. YES, NOW.

I wish I’d had more time to see all my friends in North Carolina, but I’m so glad I was able to catch up with my family and to warm up a little before returning to Wyoming just in time to experience several days of negative double-digit temperatures.

Happy New Year, readers, and may it be a beautiful one.

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