The Last Jaunt in Utah

As we were preparing to leave Texas, we were once again faced with the long drive to Salt Lake. We weren’t looking forward to the AC-less, summertime, two day drive through the southern bits of America. So instead we decided to leave at 3 AM and make the 23 hour drive straight through. When we needed gas we’d stop and relieve our legs and bladders and switch drivers. And when it became dark outside we both stayed awake and made sure the other wasn’t even thinking about wanting get sleepy.

It wasn’t as bad as either of us thought it was going to be. We’re both pretty fun when we get to the car-crazy stage and the weather never got too hot.

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Hillary and Joe were gracious enough to let us stay at their apartment until it was time for us to move. And I’m so glad they let us because we all had lots of fun together. Many powerless nights were spent playing speed, slap, Farkle, and rummy. We also spent many hours watching movies and Modern Family together. They both had work, though, so for the rest of our time Billy and I had to make up stuff for us to do so we wouldn’t go stir crazy. Lucky for us they lived right across the street from Liberty Park. We’d head over there for a short morning run, or sometimes for Pokemon or Sunday walks, or even occasionally solely for people-watching (since there’s a lot of strange people that like to hang out there).

One day we went to the beautiful Draper Temple. It was my first time.

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Another day we decided to hike Mt. Olympus. It might have been the worst decision we’d ever made.

Here’s us before we knew we were fools.

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Billy had hiked this a couple times before when he was younger. He remembered the hike lasting a maximum of 4 1/2 hours. Wrong. One morning we woke up and decided to go hiking. The trail is 6.6 miles (not too bad) of steep (harder, but still not too bad) elevation gain. You have to climb up about 4000 ft to the top. Our first mistake is that we started too late. Another mistake is that we picked one of Utah’s hottest days of the entire year. And lastly, our final, dreadful mistake is that (once again) we didn’t bring enough water.

Here we are at the top.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

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The day was a scorcher, and neither of us were smart enough yet to have bought sunscreen, so my skin was screaming at me by the time we reached the top. It took us 4 1/2 hours just to reach the summit. We were still pretty fine by this point. I was starting to get scared, but what can you do about it? The only thing you can do is march on. And the faster you hike, the faster you finish. So on we hiked. We started involuntarily stopping at all the shady spots to regain some muster. It was torture because I kept thinking we had to be getting close to the end soon, but every time I looked we were still so high up and had so much left to go. I knew from experience that Billy needed more water than me since he sweats more. So I started pretending to take sips while we still had some water left. By the time we got to the last stretch, I was crying. About what, I couldn’t tell you. But this hike, to me, felt worse than the bad one we’d done in Canyonlands. By the time we got in the car I was shaking and couldn’t think straight. To get out of the sun and to drink fresh water were sweet miracles.

We were both pretty done with hiking after that.

Another interesting thing that happened was the firework show for the 24th of July. For those that’ve never lived in Utah, it’s a weird holiday where they celebrate Pioneers. To me it feels like a second 4th of July. Anyway, Hillary, Joe, Billy and I were sitting in our chairs in the middle of the street that was blocked off for the show when all of a sudden a little ways down we see people leaping to their feet and running. Much like a domino effect, the next people got up and ran, and the people next to them… After a couple seconds of that my heart started beating from the adrenaline rush and I grabbed my chair and Billy’s hand and started walking quickly to the apartment. A guy with his three children in tow in a red wagon came from that direction and all he said as he passed us was “You’d better take cover.” We saw policemen on bicycles rushing down to the problem source.

It wasn’t until the next day we found out someone had pulled a gun and shot someone else in the leg. Supposedly it was all gang related.

It was the most exciting Pioneer Day celebration yet.

Another weekend we drove down to Provo to say goodbye to our friends. Janea took us to a yummy Ramen shop that we all enjoyed.

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It’s going to be really weird because I’ve always lived close to her. We grew up together (obviously), and when I left everyone else in my family to go to BYU, she announced that she was coming too. We lived nearby with lots of visits my three years in Provo and she was always the one I could call to bail me out or take me grocery shopping or let me do my laundry for free, but now I’m moving to New York and she’s staying behind. I’m going to really miss having her close.

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Another thing we did was a quick little “Northern Trip.” One Saturday afternoon we decided to go to Yellowstone and the Tetons the next Sunday morning. We called up Clint, Billy’s uncle, and asked if we could stay the night on our way up there. He kindly said it was fine, and we had a fun time meeting his new son and catching up with him.

The next morning we drove into the west entrance into the park. It was so much better than I was expecting! Everyone had talked it down for me so I was pleasantly surprised by just how awesome it was.

We’d decided to only do the southern circle since the northern one was more for seeing the animals in the spring time. It only took a few minutes of driving past the entrance before we were pulling over to get out and take pictures.

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This place is a completely immersive experience. First there’s all the things to see. There’s the colorful, lively springs, or the bleached land, the meadows full of green plants and streams, the dreary, bubbling mud pots, the huge animals that walk across the road, the spewing geysers, the brittle crusts surrounding the rumbling hot springs. People always complain about the smells, but I actually enjoyed them. Where else can you find such potent smells like that in nature? And the fact that they were natural made it really impressive. Some smelled like rotten eggs while others smelled just like firecrackers.

There were a lot of people there. It’s a very popular place due to Yellowstone being the first National Park and all. And it’s a great park to bring children (as long as they don’t fall into a geyser).

As I mentioned, my expectations were pretty low. I was expecting a few spurts of water from a few geysers and maybe a bubbling pot of steam, but there was so much more.

One of my personal favorites was the mud pots.

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Not the prettiest by any means, but I could’ve sat there and watched them pop all day long. They made the most satisfying noises, and they all plop these big bubbles and splurt their mud around, almost like a fat pimple popping and spewing on its own. It was fascinating to watch. Everyone else thought so too, apparently, because there was always a crowd just standing and watching. These pots alone made the whole trip worth it.

Next in line were the innumerable, colorful hot springs.

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We have many pictures I’m not going to share, and there were so many more that we didn’t take a photograph of at the park. I was pleasantly surprised by how unique each one was. There were so many different colors and structures that each one felt like you were seeing a hot spring for the first time.

Once we were walking along the path, and I was again surprised by just how immersive Yellowstone is. As I was walking I could smell the pungent smell of rotten eggs (which I will argue is not a bad smell outdoors). I could feel the huge clouds of hot, wet steam land on me and twist away in waves leaving the chilly air to settle back on me. I could see the beautiful, colorful formations of the hot springs and vents that were letting off the steam from the volcanic activity just under the surface. It made me think about how stunning this park was and how lucky I was to be able to see it.

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We spent the whole day there. We’d only been planning on a half day, but we were having so much fun that we decided to extend the stay.

Plus, Yellowstone is huge. We spent a whole day there and still we only saw a fraction of the park. I definitely want to come back someday.

We saw some bison walking across the street.

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Another thing we saw that I seriously have put on my Most Beautiful Things I’ve Ever Seen list was this waterfall and canyon. I could’ve stayed there forever. It’s so much better in person.

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We saw the iconic Old Faithful. We were told that it used to go off every hour on the hour, exactly. But some volcanic activity a while back had shifted something, and while still being close to “on schedule,” it wasn’t truly “faithful” anymore. We walked around and saw more hot springs while we waited until it was time.

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And then we watched Old Faithful erupt.

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I’m not gonna lie. I was kind of expecting something cooler.

The whole park had been so vibrant and colorful and expressive that when I saw a jet of water squirt into the sky, I wasn’t too impressed. I still liked it though, and I’m very glad we got to see it.

We also kept laughing because there were signs everywhere reminding us to have our bear spray ready and to be Bear Aware. We luckily/unfortunately saw no bears.

We saw the Dragon’s Mouth Spring, which Billy remembered from his youth as one of his favorites.

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The algae mats were really cool to see.

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We had a great day at Yellowstone. The sun was quickly leaving us, so we hopped into our car and drove to our next destination.

The Tetons.

Well, actually we stopped off first in the Teton National Forest. We drove down a long road looking for a place to stop and sleep, and I loved every minute of it. It was beautiful in that forest! Especially compared to Yellowstone where the acidity of the springs leaves large patches of land barren, the forest was vibrant with life. And mosquitoes.

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We actually slept in our car. I’d come up with this plan at the beginning of the summer where you move the seats up as far as they can go and then take all your camping things and fill up the foot holes of the backseat. Then you lay your mats down over the stuff with your sleeping bag on top of that, and whammo! You’ve got a spacious bed.

It wasn’t the best, but it also wasn’t the worst. The only problem is we woke a few times because our knees were tired of being bent in a certain position. But all that was needed was a quick re-positioning and then we’d both fall right back to sleep. I wasn’t worried about me since I can sleep anywhere at anytime, but it passed the test with Billy, too, and we both woke feeling well rested. So we drove on to the mountains.

Every time I drive through Wyoming I state how ugly and worthless it is. Yellowstone and the Tetons helped me to see otherwise. (Idaho is now number one in my running “Which State is the Ugliest” contest).

Driving up to them was surreal. They are breathtakingly beautiful.

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Something I didn’t know until we got there- you can’t really hike up the mountains. I was looking forward to/dreading the idea of climbing to the peak of one of those majestic peaks. Billy informed me that we’d be walking around a lake, so I questioned why, and that’s when he told me that they’re a touch too steep and new to have trails on them. I was disappointed/relieved.

Jenny Lake is the adventure we chose to do. We had the option of shaving off two miles (four round trip) by taking a ferry across, but we’re too cheap for that so we went ahead and hiked around it. On the other side is a trail that puts you atop a perch that overlooks the whole lake and gets you closer to the mountains. It was a really beautiful trail. I don’t remember exactly how long it was, but I think it was roughly seven miles of hiking. It wasn’t bad at all though because the first part was only hilly and the ending, while steep, wasn’t too long.

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We got some beautiful views.

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After we sat and talked for a while we decided it was time to go. Neither of us were too keen on the idea of more hiking. We’d hiked enough this summer. So we headed back to the car and said goodbye to this beautiful park.

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As we were driving home I convinced Billy there was somewhere we needed to stop by first.

Preston, Idaho.

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Let’s just say we had a lot of fun driving around and finding everything from the movie.

Some final things we did in Utah:

We had lots of great times picking the ugliest outfits out at Goodwill and DI. Evidenced below…

We ate for the last time at Leatherby’s. Goodbye cheesy poofs.

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We visited Vernal, Utah and saw some friends who have the world’s ugliest dog. Billy also got to teach a lesson. And we also got to go to the Vernal Temple.

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I discovered an ulcer on my gums. Except it wasn’t an ulcer. It was a tooth. So I went to the dentist on Thursday and had them sliced out of my mouth on Friday. It’s okay though. I only had my top two, so it wasn’t nearly as bad as most people’s experiences. I did get a couple of really great videos, though. I had them taken out Friday afternoon, and that night I was eating Cafe Rio with the rest of them. The next day I was even hiking!

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The day before my teeth were taken out Melissa had me hike Moss Ledge and Donut Falls. That time it was Melissa, Heidi, Alex and me. After my teeth were out it was us four again, plus Billy, Joe, and Hillary hiking just Moss Ledge. It was beautiful both times.

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Billy performed in his last Music and the Spoken Word. We both agree it’s kind of nice being done with those. They were wonderful while they lasted.

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We test drove a Tesla. Billy is obsessed with them. And I have to admit, after driving in one and hearing how completely awesome they are, I’m a little obsessed with them too. There’s Billy driving on auto-pilot on the highway. No hands!

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We sold our car! It was really sad saying goodbye to our first car. But we won’t need it in New York and selling it in Salt Lake made so much more sense than any of the other options. We really loved it, though.

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Also one of the things I really loved about our time in Utah was how much family we got to visit. We drove up to Farmington and visited Grandma Mary Ann, Johnny, Cheryl, and all of their awesome kids a few times. I love their family and I someday hope to have half as awesome a garden as Johnny does. And Grandma Mary Ann gives the best hugs and she’s the sweetest.

We got to visit with Vera a couple times when she wasn’t in India helping people. We also got to water her garden and visit a house-sitting Grandma Mary Ann while she was gone.

I loved talking with Rhonda while we almost got into a crash on the highway and Skyping with Billy’s parents in Brazil.

I love love love the Perry’s house. And the Perry’s. We went over there a lot. So much that I kind of kept expecting them to pretend they weren’t home because we came over so often. Actually I think all our visits had the opposite effect. Right before we were moving they left on a family vacation to California and asked if we could house sit for them. We couldn’t have been happier to. I love their home and their cat, Sox (even though he really, really hated us). I loved getting closer to Billy’s (my) cousins and Julie and Mark are the best. I’m going to miss them all a lot. Age of Empires, real time chats with Melissa (also let’s not forget Melissa taught me to sew), Brandon Sanderson information from Heidi, how funny Alex is, all the food, Sister Act 1 and 2. I’m really going to miss having them close by. They’ll just have to visit us often 😉

All in all it was a great ending to our summer. We were anxious the whole time to get started on the next chapter of our lives, but who could complain about the summer we had? From graduation in April up to this point had been packed full of amazing adventures, amazing friends, and best of all, amazing family.

I feel very blessed, to say the least.

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