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Friday, June 25, 2010

Utah Trip Day 2-We actually do Something

The drive features a whole lotta this.

We woke up in our 16 dollar a night room at Buffalo Bills and I realized that I probably had 4 hours of sleep. Between the air conditioning starting and stopping with the frequency of an illegal aliens leaf blower and the dry desert air which sucks any detectable amount of moisture from your skin it was not one of my better evenings. I took solace in the fact that Tomoko also slept poorly....what can I say there is without a doubt comfort in the equal sharing of misery when it comes to your spouse.

I hit the casino with my legendary blue coffee cup on the guise I would bring some back for Tomoko while at the same time using my free 5 dollar play for joining the Buffalo Bills playuers club. They had a promo where all new members to the club would get a free spin and land $5 to 1 Million dollars. Would you believe out of all the prizes between $5 and a million I got the 5 bucks? What are the odds that of all of the different ways to win I ended up with the minimum prize? I blew threw that in about 20 minutes and found humor how the 1cent slot used to be the oddball slot at Slots O Fun but now the 1cent slot actually meant betting 15 to 30 cents a pop per spin. The marketing genius of Vegas never ceases to amaze.

We left Stateline and hit up the Vegas Costco for gas and supplies. It was a thing of beauty as a gallon of gas was $2.77 and the water and juice was not only tax free but CRV free as well. We went to the Utah Costco as well to find gas was 10 cents more and a 3% sales tax....which still trumps CAs 8% monstrosity for Sales tax.

Along the way we saw the coolest building in Vegas....Melting Building Art.

While in Utah we saw a sign for Dinosaur Tracks Museum and upon offering the query to the Costco worker found it was a 5 minute drive away. Being I passed up a bevy of early man sights, museums, Zyzzx road, the house of mud, and the ball of twine I figured this is something we should check out.

We found the museum and Tomoko was tempted to drive off when she saw they were charging admission. It was less then 20 for the 4 of us and I didnt want to drive away having the kids wondering what they had missed.

Me with a Dinosaur track.

It was amazing as well to see huge footprints dating back 200million years ago. They even had fossils that had dinosaur skin where some gigantosomethingsauraus had leaned on a mound of mud and left a very distinct impression of its skin pattern. It probably wasnt worth the price of admission and Tomoko and I both commented on how we probably enjoyed it more the the kids did. The real highlight came when an elderly volunteer for the museum started chatting me up mentioning he was originally from Northridge. I asked him how he liked Utah as to which he point he did the old “look both ways to make sure no one was in ear shot” and leans over and says “It would be so bad if not for all these damn LDSers. Its a cult I tell you...a goddamn cult.”
I would be a liar if I didnt think it somewhat odd to see them in Costco wearing the standard dress and a hairdo that makes Marie Osmond look like Amy Winehouse. For the record-the Utah Costco has no alcohol and did have a roughly 20% of its patrons wearing the LDS clothes and hairstyles. For the ladies it meant a 50s era buffont and a little house on the prarie dress in pastel colors- and while it may sound politically incorrect the clothes and hair made them also seem slightly stricken with Downs Syndrome. I wish I was being cunning and clever but honestly that was very much the impression I got where I could not determine who was a normal LDS vs the oddball LDSer. For the men it meant a blue button up long sleeve shirt and a hair cut that would have made Moe Howard proud. I coudnt but help but think of the movie “Kingpin.” It was not until we sat down to a chicken bake and hot dog that I realized Tomoko was probably the only asian in a 10 mile radius.

Driving from St George to Zion Alex said “You know Dad they think a big meteor hit the earth and that killed the Dinosaurs. Is that right?” To which I replied “they did it to themselves.”
He looked a bit a puzzled so I elaborated on my ruse, “some scientists speculate that most dinosaurs relative sedantry lifestyle along with their heavy pro red meat diet led to cardiovascular disease. Some were also rumored to be heavy smokers who spent hours on end playing video games.” By this time Alex knew I was pulling his leg and I was once again happy my oldest son was pretty smart for his age and didnt need to spend the next half hour explaining the joke and/or the truth.

Driving to the town I recognized how this small town in Utah reminded me a lot of the area near Joshua Tree. I saw some of the cutest, quaintest little homes and thought what it may have been like to live there. As much as a cute little cottage in the middle of nowhere was appealing I couldnt help but think apart from setting up a fantastic garden and getting a motorbike to explore the numerous trails this would probably be one hell of a boring existence.

We arrived at our stop, the Desert Pearl Inn. It had received great reviews online reviews and even driving through the town I imagines this as being very similar to what Sedona may look like. Having never been to Sedona It was all speculative of course and the topic was brought up with Tomoko and I both discussing how we would like to go to Sedona and see if the whole “power vortex” thing was all it was cracked up to be. Alex overheard this and fortunately the Desert Pearl was a minute away which spared me the 30 minute discussion on Power Vortexes with Alex.

As exhausted as we were from the drive it was 4 oclock and we knew we had to get moving if we were to get a sneak peak of Zion and its offerings. We unloaded and while the kids begged us to hit the pool we promised to do it at the end of the day and with that saw us riding the free shuttle to the park gate. As a matter of fact there is a free shuttle for the entire town as well as a shuttle inside the park. Seeing the behemouth plateaus and mountains my first impression was one of wishing we could have stayed 3 nights instead of two. After a short chat with the park ranger he suggested the emerald pool trails would be a good starting point. We made the first pool in pretty good time and while it wasn’t Chings Pond on Maui it was still nice hearing and seeing the drops from the rocks above forming a small pool. Alex took off his Angels Hat and put under the drops and tried to put the water on his head. It was close to 100 degrees so I said nothing but did find a nice trickle of water from the rocks above to fill the cup of my hand and throw the water on him and Dustin.

Being there was still plenty of light we trekked on for the Middle Pool which was really a puddle. From below I envisioned an oasis but once we arrived it was a thin shallow trickle no more no less. A sign in the area said the upper pool was only .03 miles away so we figured why not. Only trouble was this .03 miles featured lots of verticals and lots of stone hopping whereas the first 2 pools were wide smooth sandy stretches. Then Dustin decided he was not going to hike anymore that day so myself and tomoko alternated giving him piggy back rides. Good times.

We arrived at the top pool and it was the best of the bunch, cooler and larger then the others it was deep enough to swim in ,though no one was, with most hikers electing to wade and splash around. One of the other hikers caught a small frog which was a hit with the kids and while I am no frog expert this variety of frog had a very loud croak and at first actually thought it some type of mountain goat. We took in the huge cavern the view so full of vistas it actually kind of looked like a 360 circle view type lens. With the blue sky and white puffy clouds jogging over them at a leisurely pace I didn’t want to leave. Then I heard a commotion and turned to see Alex and Dustin engaging in a wet sand/mud throwing fight at the most grandest of the emerald pools. It was a sign that it was time to leave.

Me and the Kids at the Upper Emerald Pool...shortly before the mud fight began.

The trip down was noticeable in that the as we went back down to the Zion Lodge our trip originated from, there was a good 15 degree difference in temperature. While the 3rd pool felt like a nice 80 degrees- reaching the bleached sand trailhead felt everybit like Corona in July. I was glad we had our first hike in our back pocket and looked forward to a cool shower, cool air conditioning, and a cold beer...yes there is a theme there.

One of the numerous waterfalls, pools, and streams that dot all several of the trails.

Taking the free shuttle back we went through the camp ground area of Zion and I took one look and said-I have to camp here once in my life. There can be no better campsite setting then the rugged mountain vistas and cool water of the Virgin River that flows through the park. It looked like any campsite you have even been to but I couldnt imagine how quiet it must be at night and how many stars there must be. I always love a good night trail hike(or Quest as we used to call it) and once again I could not imagine a better locale for a night quest then this. Tomoko and I did a pinky shake and vowed that we would camp here one day.

We made it back to the hotel and tomoko prepared a microwave lasagna we bought at Costco and I ran to the store for some salad fixin’s and a bottle of wine. Surprisingly-the local Utah Market was very fairly priced across the board. I always tend to think there is going to be a bit of the "gouge factor" but there was none of that here. I picked up my stuff, made it back in time to crack open the wine and settle in for a good nights rest that was sorely overdue.