April 23, 2023
This week I didn’t take the camera out much for fun exploration. Sometimes I find it difficult to focus on my hike and taking photos so I just leave it behind to make climbing easier and lessen my concerns about damaging the camera in the process. I did however take some professional photos of a nearby retreat center/hotel that has put up some Mongolian yurts over the past year. The yurts are super cool looking and the owner has several properties in Boulder, UT that I hope she also would like photographed. It was a windy day, but photography projects are never without their challenges which sometimes can be part of the fun. I had never been inside a yurt before and these yurts may have set the bar for me. Yurts are a circular building which maximizes the internal space with a minimum amount of building materials. The internal wooden structure is collapsible which was helpful for nomadic cultures throughout history. Yurts have been around for at least 3,000 years and the design is believed to have originated in central Asia. They are specifically designed to resist wind. Only the door is vulnerable and is typically made of heavier more durable materials. The outside of the yurt is covered in sheep wool for insulation and the the inside is highly decorated, especially at the crown with symbols from the family or culture that built it. The walls are typically made from a light wooden lattice that can break down easily and be carried by pack animals. Yurts have become popular for glamping and many companies sell kits for building your own yurt. Here are a few photos of the yurts that I had the pleasure to see.
If you are coming to this area of Utah and you want to check out these yurts, you can find them at Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch. If you do go there or eat at their restaurant, Sweetwater Kitchen, say hello to my friends Gabby, Marisol, Ben, and Sully.
We had a campfire at our friend Ana’s campsite even though it was cold at night. Lindsay brought some aspen and cottonwood which burned slow and hot so it kept us comfortable for a few hours. There was some music around the fire which just makes us all so happy. Finding a music community here has definitely been very enriching for our lives. Luke has had frequent band practice in preparation for the Escalante Wild Potato Day festival here on May 27th. I’m sure I’ll have more to tell you about this festival next month, but for now I can tell you what my research has informed me of. Escalante used to be called Potato Valley in about 1866. There was a potato native to this area known as the Four Corners Potato which provided sustenance for people living here throughout known history. This potato is surely worth an annual celebration featuring a baked potato bar, potato sack races, potato missile launches, potato print art, information and education, music and vendors, and a chance to purchase tubers so you can start cultivating your own. Now that I have learned all of this, I have great expectations for Potato Day. The best part is that Luke will be playing lead guitar and singing onstage there. Our friend Ana also is planning to do a song.
We also did some exploring on Smokey Mountain road in search of Native American ruins this week. We started out finding some pictographs and felt like we were on the right track.
Then we found some petroglyphs on a piece of rock slab that had broken off the ledge and some cowboy pictographs that Ana posed with. We also found this Elvis glyph I posted as our cover photo for this week.
We also found some fun swiss cheese rocky ledges to climb around in. We stumbled upon a very elaborate campsite as well. This particular desert dweller was not home so we didn’t want to hang around or disturb their things, but we did notice that they had both an Instant Pot and microwave along with many many other things. It looked as if the contents on someone’s whole home were set up outdoors. I am the dark figure in this shadowy hole below.
We stopped to notice the first blooms of spring as well as interesting rocks and twisted trees.
We did not find any ruins on this hike, but we climbed quite a bit in our search and were rewarded with this view. Most of the time, it’s not really about the destination for me anyhow.
Luke got the new drone he’s been wanting for months now and took it out for his first few test runs. Here’s an image he captured with it on the first test flight.
We learned about a funny YouTube video from many years ago that somehow we missed entirely when it was very popular, but we are happy that now we know about it.
I am progressively getting more dreads in my hair each week. Each week I hope I am getting closer and closer to having less maintenance to do with my hair though some have warned me that dreads actually require a lot more maintenance than regular hair. I somehow believe that I’ll just be a lucky one who finds an easy way to have great dreads while hardly ever having to mess with them.
I learned last week that there’s a free Yale course available online called The Science of Well Being. This is not a brand new concept as Martin Seligman coined the term in 1998 when he was president of the American Psychological Association and decided that it may be more beneficial to study well-being over the current practice of studying mental illness and maladaptive behaviors. If we want to feel better, we should study the things that make people feel better after all. I have only completed the first week of this 10 week course and while I may have no new great insights here, it is interesting and uplifting. The basic premise is that there are behaviors and habits that can be formed to increase joy for people. I am already fairly high on the joy and happiness scale, but it’s free and I can always find an hour or two of free time each week to do something that may improve my well-being. For week one I completed some surveys to develop baseline metrics of my happiness. I also completed a survey to determine my top 5 strengths. My homework for this week is to do something each day to utilize those strengths. So easy as they are things like love, hope, honesty, kindness, and gratitude. I find myself especially expressing gratitude quite a bit these days.
It was Earth Day yesterday and I had not organized anything really substantial, but we treat every day like Earth Day here and pick up trash when we see it and we can. Sometimes, one person’s trash is another’s treasure. We pulled an old rusty car grill out of a wash and handed it off to a friend who makes a killing selling these things online. I did spend a bit of time walking around town with a trash bag cleaning up trash along the road. Luke and I set up cameras in a last minute plan last night to capture the meteor shower. We decided we could leave them taking interval photos at the nearby reservoir and go to sleep. I set an alarm to go back and retrieve them before sunrise. We looked at the shots this afternoon, but we aren’t sure if we have anything really special in there yet. It was cool to be able to see the progression of meteors and the Milky Way across the sky though as the cameras were shooting all night taking shots about once every 16 seconds. Luke just read that the aurora borealis will be visible in 30 states tonight including Utah so he is going to see if he can capture it here. I’ll be going to bed early for my road trip tomorrow down a scenic back-way I’ve been interested in for a while now.
Jennifer MacNeil is currently traveling the US with her husband and two dogs. She loves to have adventures, explore, meet fascinating people, and see amazing places. She strives to learn every day and spread kindness to others. She documents her journey through her photography and blog to share with others.