Monthly Archives: October 2012

A weekend in the desert

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Sorry for the quietness on my end. This month has turned out to be busier than September and I’m glad it’s almost over! I’ve had a lot of fun though, and I have about 5 blog posts swirling around in my head waiting to be written. Here’s the first.

My senior year of college, I participated in a program called Semester In the West. From the website: “Whitman College Semester in the West is an interdisciplinary field program focusing on public lands conservation and rural life in the interior American West.  Our objective is to know the West in its many dimensions, including its diverse ecosystems, its social and political communities, and the many ways these ecosystems and communities find expression in regional environmental writing and public policy.”

While that description sounds a little vague, what SITW really was for me was an opportunity to explore the unexplored places in the American West through a lens of ecology, politics, and literature. We traveled through eight states and part of northern Mexico over the course of 3.5 months speaking with locals about various environmental, political and humanitarian issues that were affecting their homes. In addition to the wonderful opportunity to connect with grassroots issues and causes, it was also a time of deep reflection on home, creation of everlasting friendships, and the discovery of a region (that contained my home) as something more beautiful, more mysterious, more contentious and more community-based than I could ever imagine. Throughout our time on the road, we were tasked with putting the puzzle pieces together into coherent (and sometimes not-so-coherent) writings about our experiences, the issues we were seeing, and the solutions we agreed and disagreed with.  The program accepts 21 students for a semester every other year and has been going since 2002. So that’s the background.

Two weekends ago we had a reunion of all participants in Bluff, UT, a place that many of us connected to during the semester. It’s hard to explain why Bluff is so special. Our campsite is at the foot of Comb Ridge, a 120-mile long monocline that gradually rises from the east side to an 800-foot drop off at the west end that overlooks badlands unlike any other landscape I’d ever seen. It’s spectacular, it’s the first place where the sandstone seems to have topography, the sunrises and sunsets have two completely different backdrops, and it’s the first place the desert starts to feel like home. This is the comb looking north. You can see the beginnings of the slope that heads east for about a mile before you reach the ground near Bluff, UT.

 So there we met, nearly 100 “Westies” new and old, to reminisce, catch up with old friends, meet new ones and glory in the beautiful fall weather of southeastern UT. I have so many reasons to be grateful for this program. It set me on the course of the next three years with homes, jobs and explorations, it taught me the value of compromise, of listening to people who you have nothing in common with, of finding common ground. I’ve returned to many of our campsites since the program ended, but this one is always the most special. Here are some more photos from our time there.

Some dear friends, myself and Kyle on our way up.

 

Kyle and I hanging out in camp.

I love this picture. This is everyone from my year of SITW (2008) that was able to attend the reunion.

Overall, this weekend was extraordinarily therapeutic. Not only was it wonderful to relax in the desert for a few days during my busy season at work, but the love and kinship that I feel for and with these people is like a warm blanket on a cold winter night. I felt so comfortable, so at home, and surrounded by family. Thanks to all who made the huge effort to get to Bluff, UT and here’s to the next 10 years!

 

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Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

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I found this incredible looking recipe at My Love for Cooking. This looks so amazing that I may give up on Paleo to try this, either that or find a substitute for the yogurt. Plus, I even have pumpkins from the garden that I need to process – this is the perfect use for them! Check it out:

 

Here’s the recipe:

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
Author: My Love for Cooking
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 2 cups Pumpkin puree
  • ⅔ cup Vanilla Yogurt
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs Maple Syrup
  • 1 cup Vanilla Almond or Coconut Milk
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to the blender.
  2. Blend until smooth
  3. * You can adjust sweetness to your taste and use Cow’s milk or Soy if you prefer.

I’m writing a post to properly update you on the happenings of my weekend. Let’s just say it was the best college reunion ever. Seriously.

A weekend in Salt Lake City

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Last weekend was the ONLY weekend in September or October that wasn’t scheduled with something specific. Between work, hunting and a relatively busy social calendar, the fall is a busy time for us! But last weekend the only plan we had was to find some fall. We live in Colorado, after all. Thursday night we got a call from Kyle’s dad: “Hey, I’m going to be in Salt Lake this weekend, you guys want to come out?”

So we packed up the dogs and the car and made the 4 hour trek over the mountains to go see some family. Turns out Salt Lake has fall too!

Fall color – beautiful box elders!

First photo taken looking straight into the sun.

A better picture taken in the shade with pretty leaves in the background.

Riding into a tunnel of colorful trees!

At the top of Catherine Pass

On a run through the lovely leaves!

What a fun weekend! We biked, hiked, ran, ate, window shopped and hung out with Kyle’s dad. I’ve always been a little skeptical of SLC – one of two cities in the Great Basin, a fairly prominent Mormon presence (I don’t have anything against Mormons, I just don’t like having too much of any one thing), a 3.2% alcohol limit from the tap (not an alcoholic, just love myself a good beer!), overall a lot of rules. But I was pleasantly surprised by our time there. The foothills around the city are FULL of trails – mountain biking, hiking, running. There are funny rules about even numbered days being dogs off-leash days, odd numbered days being mountain biking days, etc but what can you expect in a city? On Sunday afternoon, we went up to Snowbird for their Oktoberfest which involved a lot of beer, some delicious sausage and kraut, and a rowdy yodeling competition. But the most important thing of all happened on Saturday night after we arrived.

I found THE BEST pumpkin beer I’ve ever had. Usually pumpkin beer is disappointing. The flavor is either fake, or it’s not strong enough to carry the beer. But because I LOVE LOVE LOVE anything with pumpkin in it, I keep trying. And I was finally rewarded. This beer is brewed with pumpkin puree and pie spices that really bring out the flavor of the pumpkin. I don’t know if it was the aroma that pulled this beer together, but there was a distinct pumpkin-y character to this beer that most pumpkin beers lack. If you find yourselves in Salt Lake City in the next month or so, I highly recommend stopping by Squatter’s to taste their pumpkin beer (the salmon caesar salad wasn’t bad either!).