Favorite Finds in Moab

Favorite Finds in Moab, Utah

Since returning from Moab, Utah nearly a month ago, several friends have expressed interest in making a trip of their own. It is for their benefit, and perhaps for yours, that I am now sharing some of my favorite parts of this beautiful place.

Our Travels
We chose to fly in and out of Denver due to the fact that Charlie would be staying on and working in Colorado for a few days at the the end of our trip. Grand Junction, CO or Salt Lake City, UT would have been closer starting points, but also more expensive. The six hour drive from Denver to Moab was easy and beautiful and we were able to spend the final two nights of our vacation in Glenwood Springs, CO on our way back to the airport.

Where We Stayed
The Aarchway Inn is located between the entrance of Arches National Park (2 miles in one direction) and the town of Moab (two miles in the other). Anyone who has more than two kids knows how difficult it can be to find hotel rooms that fit the whole family. We picked this place  because it had large rooms with three queen beds. It also had a nice pool for our afternoon hiking breaks from the hot desert sun and an included hot breakfast (which my teenage son put to very good use).

Oh, and a view.


Favorite Food
Let me preface this by saying that we don’t do fancy meals on vacation (because we want to be able to afford to fly home).  We also try to avoid chain restaurants (because we want to try things that we couldn’t get anywhere else). My favorite meal of the trip was a Navajo Taco from The Moab Diner. It was served on incredible Navajo fry bread and topped with homemade green chile sauce.
Sorry. No time for a picture with the scarfing and the chewing.

Favorite Drink
Not what you think.

Matrimony Spring is located just outside of town with a continuous flow of clean water from snow that melted in the nearby La Sal Mountains. It took 200 years for the water to travel through the rock into our awaiting mouths. We stopped by twice to fill our bottles with the clean, cold water. Both times we encountered locals filling their jugs to bring back to their homes. We were all fairly convinced it had magic powers.

Favorite Adventures
We spent a day rappelling and rafting with Red River Adventures. The guides were competent and patient and friendly. I found it so interesting to hear how they live their lives. It is a subculture all its own – one that my teenagers found to be very cool.

Rappelling in moab

Favorite Shopping
Aside from the National Park Visitor Center Gift Shops, we don’t really shop while on vacation. This time we made one exception. Our rafting guide told us that the local Rock Shop was worth a visit. We had driven by it several times before hearing this and had dismissed it as a tourist trap. We had some extra time on our final evening in Moab and decided to give it a chance. I really wish I would have taken pictures of this place. On the surface, it looked like a mess – unorganized tables containing piles of rocks, some glass display cases, tons of hand scribbled signs warning you DO NOT TOUCH, and old newspaper clippings hanging on the wall.

Looking closer at the labels on some of the bones in the display cases and actually reading some of the newspaper clippings made this place a lot more interesting. The owner of this little shop discovered the first raptor bones ever found in Utah, a whole stinking dinosaur, and the Moab Man.

I am always awed by someone with such single minded relentlessness and devotion to a “calling,” even if that “calling” is rocks. This guy is a legend. He’s also kind of grumpy, but I’m pretty sure he was 816 years old, so I am willing to cut him a break on that one. He talked to us briefly before heading to the back room. I would have loved to sit down with him and hear his stories. I did ask him how he knows what he is looking for and he mumbled something to the effect that he is looking for everything. The evidence of that truth was sprawled out in every direction of that shop.

Favorite Views
There were magnificent views everywhere we went on this trip – down Rte. 128 coming into Moab along the Colorado River; in Canyonlands National Park; and from Dead Horse Point State Park (where Thelma and Louise took their final leap). But if I were to pick spots to sit with a cold Stella and a good book, those places would all be inside Arches National Park.

The Windows Section

Turret Arch, Arches National Park


Delicate Arch at Sunset

Me under Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch at Sunset

Park Avenue

Park Avenue, Arches National Park

Favorite Hikes
This is my favorite part. I will never be Cheryl Strayed hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, but spending a few hours on a hiking trail every day of our trip is blissful, especially when I get to have a good meal and shower and sleep in a bed at night.

Devil’s Garden Primitive Trail

This is a loop trail if you choose to go all the way around (7 miles). Most people hike to Landscape Arch a mile in and then turn back, thus making the beginning and end of this hike fairly crowded. We chose to go as far as Double O Arch and then turn back making our roundtrip just over five miles. The Arches we saw along the way were worthwhile but the best part of this hike was the hike itself. After passing Landscape Arch and leaving the tour bus crowd behind, the trail climbs up several rock paths until you find yourself at the top of the “fins.”

Primitive Trail, Arches National Park

I wish the pictures did it justice, but it feels like you are walking atop the Earth’s spine.

Devil's Garden Arches National Park

Corona Arch Trail

This trail is actually outside Arches National Park, thus decreasing its traffic. We went on a weekday and in the evening and had the trail mostly to ourselves, just missing a couple of scout troops. It’s a fairly easy hike (3 miles RT) with a few spots to climb.

We spent a lot of time here.

At Corona Arch


At Corona Arch

Corona Arch, Moab, UT

I hope that all who wish to will get a chance to visit Utah someday. Call me if you want some help planning your trip.

Okay. I’ll stop talking about vacation now.

Wait. One more thing. On our last night in Moab, we took a walk across the Colorado River on the pedestrian bridge. I asked the children to pose for yet another photo and this is the IMMEDIATE response to my request.


The two older dropped simultaneously to the ground and Cheerio plopped her foot right on her brother’s back.  The glory of that place will someday fade from my mind. But I really hope to remember this.

Okay. Now I’m done.


Lessons From Moab

I’ve been reluctant to write about our most recent family vacation. I’ve shared some photos through other posts and social media, but I just can’t seem to find the words. Either that, or I’m keeping them to myself, cherishing the memory of that week a little longer.

I could easily take you through where we stayed and what we saw, and I will in a future post, but those aren’t the words I’m grasping for.

No. I’m looking for words to describe seven days of this.

Family Selfie in Canyonlands

There have been many vacations together over the last decade. We’ve been fortunate enough to fit one into the budget nearly every year, albeit to varying degrees. There were city visits and Disney World and beach vacations with extended family. All of those trips hold deep value and beloved memories.

But the time spent on the Mist Trail of Yosemite, or at the edge of the Grand Canyon, or hiking through the rain forests of Costa Rica, or walking among the giants of Sequoia have bonded my family of five in a way that I find difficult to describe. Each one of these adventures has fed my spirit and fueled my family in invaluable ways.

I think our most recent trip to Moab, Utah ranks near the top in my mind. Here are some reasons why:

1. Their Ages

At 11, 15, and 17, my children can do hard things.
They can hike further,


climb higher,


and ride faster.

This was actually in Colorado on our way back to the airport.

This was actually in Colorado on our way back to the airport.

Unfortunately for the food budget, they can eat a lot more, too.

The greatest gift, though, of vacationing with teenagers plus one is their mere presence and attention. No school. No practice. No friends. No work. I mean, really, how often does this happen?


I will admit that by the seventh day, we all needed a break from the togetherness. My girls were ready to sleep in separate beds and the very full back seat of the rental car was beginning to cramp my son’s six foot frame. But a whole week spent together, just the five of us without distractions, is rare and appreciated.

2. The Fear Factor

I made a discovery on this trip – an Aha! moment of sorts. Accomplishing something physical and difficult and scary together is like super glue for families.
Two examples: Rappelling and climbing Aztec Butte.


The idea of backing over a cliff attached to a rock by a string and a fish hook made us all a tad uncomfortable. As you can imagine, 11 year old Cheerio felt it the most. As the guide suited her up for the first rappel (90ft) and she started her slow, labored descent, her sister stayed by her side, anchored to the neighboring rope, and offered her words of encouragement the whole way down. Her father and brother cheered her on from below and I waited my turn at the top holding my breath because MY BABIES!!

Rappelling in Moab

The second rappel (120 ft) found us all a little more comfortable, including Cheerio.

Rappelling Morning glory in Moab Utah

Until she got her hair stuck in the metal device holding her to the rope. (Side Note: If you intend to rappel, wear your hair back)


As she hung in the air (and kept her cool, I might add) and waited for the guide to feed her some rope so she could remove her hair, I stood on the canyon floor feeding her words of encouragement. Meanwhile, back at the top, her brother said “Hook me up” in that deep manlike voice he insists on using and nearly hurled himself down the neighboring rope so that he could comfort her while she waited.

I left that experience feeling an exhilarating surge of gratitude for the strength of the rappelling equipment and the strength of the sibling bonds.

Aztec Butte

While visiting Canyonlands National Park, we hiked to the top of Aztec Butte. It wasn’t a particularly long or hard climb, but I NEARLY DIED. Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. But I did “freak the crap out” (hat tip to Kari).

Climbing Aztec Butte

As we approached the top of the butte for our final ascent, I stood last in our line of five. We were the only people on the trail that day because everyone else in the world is smart enough not to climb buttes on windy days. The oldest two made it to the top with little difficulty. When Cheerio expressed some hesitation mid climb, I encouraged her to continue, thinking that it didn’t look so bad. Charlie was next, then me. It was at this point in the vacation that I lost my shit.

This point. Right here.

Aztec Butte

I won’t go into specifics but there may have been a few swear words interspersed with the DON’T LET ME DIE’s.
We took plenty of time to enjoy the top, mostly to avoid the going down which is always harder than the going up.

Did I mention it was windy?

Ontop of windy Aztec Butte, Canyonlands

Upon reaching the bottom, we put our hands in for a little family cheer.

Oh yes, we did.

These are the experiences we will relive for years to come. This is the stuff “remember whens” are made of.  This is where the stories are born.

3. The Nature

We have seen many beautiful places together, each of them with their own merits, each of them awe worthy. But there is something about the red and orange massive rocks under an overwhelming sky that has me hooked on Utah.

Double Arch, Arches National Park

Sitting beside people you cherish and looking in the same direction towards something none of you have ever seen before, something that makes you all gasp – well, I doubt there is any better feeling in the world.



4. The Fleetingness

I think the main reason this trip struck me so deeply is the thought that I carried with me the whole time – How many more of these will there be? How many more times will the five of us get to spend a week’s adventure together?

Next summer we will be packing the car up with all the dorm room essentials and there will likely not be room in the calendar or budget for a week’s long adventure. Our family time will change and evolve with all of the ebbing and flowing and growing and the things that were will be replaced by the things that are and they will be good things.

But still, I found myself taking an inordinate number of pictures of her this vacation.


Arches National Park, Park Avenue

Because, you see, we think…

She Hung the moon

I learned some valuable lessons during our time in Utah. As always, the lesson standing paramount among the others is gratitude.

Gratitude for the new experiences.

White Water Rafting on the Colorado River

For the abundant beauty.

Windows Area, Arches National Park

For the bonds strengthened.

IMG_3916 (1)

And for the time. Every last second of it.

Family at Delicate Arch



July 1st

Part I

Today we celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. We are physically apart from each other, as he is in California for work. That is okay. We learned long ago that “together” means a whole lot more than “in close physical proximity to one another.”

It means knowing that another person is always on your side even when he’s not standing by your side.

Our First Trip Together - 1994

Our First Trip Together – 1994

We were two broke college students on a three day trip to Niagara Falls sleeping in the bed of his pickup truck and roasting hot dogs on a fire for more meals than should seem acceptable. We were adventurers armed with a hundred bucks, a bag of generic groceries, and a blowup mattress.

Our next vacation (after the honeymoon) upgraded us from the bed of a pickup truck to the floor of my cousin’s apartment in Washington D.C. We brought slightly more than $100, bought Jeno’s frozen pizzas at the local grocery store, and still slept on a blowup mattress. This time we were accompanied by a Rosebud in bloom, otherwise known as the bun in the oven. The adventure had only just begun.

Ignore the expression on my face. It was hot and I was pregnant. Also, ignore the overalls. Thank you.

Ignore the expression on my face. It was hot and I was pregnant. Also, ignore the overalls. Thank you.


Jump ahead to last month – our most recent adventure. Here we find ourselves back around a fire pit, this time in the courtyard of a hotel as our three children roam the grounds together.

IMG_3983Our Rosebud, now nearly an adult, will be off on her own adventures soon, her brother and sister quickly to follow. I can now see a time rushing towards us when we will again be adventuring as two. I visualize this through eyes clouded by tears shed for a time that has passed so quickly, but also with anticipation for the adventures that await me with the comfort of him by my side.

Together again. Together still.

But with fewer hot dogs and blowup mattresses, please.


Part II

Today he turns fifteen.


Today we celebrate him and the 5,478 days made brighter because he is here.


Happy birthday, son. Your mother loves you. To infinity and beyond.


Happy Gram Day!

Delicate Arch at Sunset

“I found a happy stone for Gram,” said Cheerio as she walked away from Delicate Arch. “It was lying on the ground under the Arch.” I breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that my daughter had not just made the iconic symbol of Utah any more “delicate” than it already was.

My mother keeps a jar of “happy stones” collected from places that she, or we, have visited – places that brought us joy. My kids don’t go anywhere remotely special without bringing happy stones back for Gram.

My mother raised me in the same small town where she was raised. She has never been wealthy or famous or traveled around the world. Perhaps some would believe her life to be small. Small like each of those tiny stones.

But when you add all of those stones together, that jar, that life, looks full to me. It carries weight.

Each time my children stop and stoop down to pick up a stone for their Gram, they smile – not because of the stone, and not because of the place, but because, in that instant, they think of their Grandmother’s smile and how her face lights up when they walk into a room. I think of it, too.

My mother is not perfect. She did not do everything right. THANK GOD.

What she does do, is make moments special merely by enjoying them – no stone too small or too plain.

Mom, today on your birthday, I wish you a jar full of happy, for that is what you have given to me, to all of us.

Happy Birthday, Mom.


So Far

I know.
It’s been a while.

So far, this summer has found me doing a little of this,

Rappelling in Moab

a little of that…

Canyonlands National Park

A whole lot of this…

I was so busy taking this picture that I forgot to start the washer. Multitasking is not my thing.

I was so busy taking this picture that I forgot to start the washer. Multitasking is not my thing.

and this…

Summer Break = higher grocery bill.

Summer Break = higher grocery bill.

and this…


and some of this.


But one thing I haven’t done much of so far this summer is this.

It’s okay. September will be here soon enough.


I hope to be back soon to tell you all about our family vacation to Utah and Colorado and all of the other words that are floating around in my head. But for now, I’m waving hello from the pool.






Slow Down

I have walked Cheerio to school everyday for the past three years – just her and me and the dog. I am a fast walker, especially with a four-legged engine attached.

Many mornings I heard her say “Slow down.”

Today I walked her to school for the very last time.  She looked beautiful in her black dress as her stride matched mine. I swear her legs grow longer with each step.

Slow down.

He will walk to high school in the fall and I just signed him up for Driver’s Ed.

Slow down.

She’s a Senior now. I plan to stare at her a lot over the next 365 days.

Slow down.

If I could freeze time, I wouldn’t. If I could go back to when they were babies, I wouldn’t. But, if I could press rewind every now and then – to see the way she hopped when she was happy, or hear the way he used to pronounce his R’s, or feel the way her head rested on my shoulder when she slept – to relive those moments for a few short seconds? Well, that would be nice.

I wouldn’t mind a slow motion button either.



My home’s pulse quickens and slows with the rise and fall of each day.

It is messy and loud and peaceful and silent.

It is socks on the floor, the slam of the door, and lazy paws click-clicking across the wood floor.

It’s flowers on the table and a book beside my bed.

But most of all…


HOME is today’s prompt for #ThroughTheLensThursday with Alison and Greta. I walked into this scene in the kitchen yesterday after school knowing that this week’s prompt was “home” and I thought: This is it. This is home. 

What images come to your mind when you think of home?