Harley hikes Sheep Creek Canyon

We spent a weekend in the Flaming Gorge area recently and took a drive to one of my favorite places in this part of the state, the Sheep Creek Canyon Geological Area, also known as Sheep Creek Canyon Loop. Chad took me here on one of my first visits to Utah and I was awed by the fascinating geology. So I was looking forward to returning – this time under a beautiful blue sky and bringing our dogs along with us.







The geological loop is one you can enjoy entirely from your car should you choose to. In winter part of the loop is usually closed due to unsafe conditions. So when we reached the gate and could drive no further, we got out, found a nice spot near some conifers, had a picnic and sat, enjoying the scenery.












I loved the variety of textures and colors offered by the geology in the canyon and kept looking in amazement when I’d notice something new: striations, cliffs, landslides, jagged peaks, diagonal layers, pinnacles. This area is a visual feast.



After our meal, we decided to hike up the road that was closed off. I thought to myself that we’d have to see how far Harley could go, and might have to cut the hike short if he seemed like he was struggling.

Harley is our elderly dog. He’s 13 or 14 and has been having a few issues lately because of his advanced age, yet he remains amazingly sweet, patient and good-natured. He still jumps excitedly when it’s meal time and often bounces eagerly along on our daily walks, but there have been times lately when he looks up at me with his big sad eyes and lets me know he’s too tired to go on those walks.


On this walk, Harley surprised us all. Not only did he have plenty of energy, he took the lead, and I had to keep adjusting my pace to keep up with him. He strode along the road looking like he knew exactly where he was going – and was in a bit of a hurry to get there! He only got sidetracked to munch on patches of snow a few times. Chad and I kept laughing at what an amazing job Harley was doing hiking with us, making this one of those special memories we’ll always cherish.




The views along the road were amazing, and Chad, who usually likes to bushwhack off-trail, was as happy as I was that we decided to hike along the road instead of in a dense thicket of saplings.





Leo and Charlie obviously had a great time too. They had noses to the wind the whole time, no doubt taking in an exciting array of wild aromas.









By the time we made it back to the car, the clouds had started rolling in, covering the beautiful blue sky, and we were all well-exercised and feeling good. The dogs snoozed happily in the back seat as we made our way back towards Red Canyon Lodge, although sadly, we did not encounter any yaks along the way.





Head in the clouds

All of us need reasons to relax. Life gets wound up and so do we. Sometimes the only reminder we need is something awe-inspiring from Nature to lower our heart rate a bit and take the edge off of the stress. Chad has an eye for noticing these moments, and also for capturing them – especially when they’re in the sky. He usually takes more cloud portraits than I will include in one post, but here, I decided to dedicate a post just to some of his clouds. Enjoy!


Why wild food?

My first gardening experience came when I was a teenager. Back then “gardening” for me was an after school job at a small, family-owned garden center, lugging around a heavy, interminable garden hose to water, each in their turn: the herbs, the perennials, the shrubs, and the flats of annuals. Out alone among the plants, I felt a sense of peace. It was one of my first realizations that I felt much happier being outside, even in the stifling humidity of summer. My moments in the herb section were my favorites – I would rub the leaves of the different varieties while I watered, discovering the incredible secret fragrance each contained.

Twenty-something years later, I have graduated from plant-waterer to full-fledged gardener. Once you’ve discovered the pleasure of watching your own zucchini grow from seed, stickered and packaged grocery store produce loses much of its charm. And yet, this isn’t quite enough. Perhaps falling in love with plants opens one’s curiosity about them to more than just those found in a plant nursery. Becoming a gardener may be a slippery slope for some of us; many of us eventually start to ask, why not wild food? Why not eat weeds and edible native plants too?

Considering the incredible amount of food waste we generate in the developed world, and the resources that go into growing, packaging, transporting and retailing most food, it feels like an act of rebellion to source even part of one’s food needs from what nature is willingly offering instead of what we must beat out of it. Many weeds and other wild foods grow without watering or other maintenance, so harvesting these edibles also appeals to those of us who prefer a lazier approach to bringing food to our tables.


Beyond the environmental and economical benefits, I also like to incorporate wild food into my diet for the nutritional advantage. Fruits and vegetables start to lose their nutrients shortly after being harvested – just how much depends on the fruit or vegetable. The best way to get the maximum amount of nutrition from your produce is to eat it quickly after harvest. When we overlook the wild edibles growing in our yards, we’re missing out on free vitamins and minerals just there for the plucking.

Chad and I have harvested fruit from a neglected apricot tree in town, nibbled on sweet, candy-like huckleberries in the Uintah mountains, tasted milkweed pods, spiced things up with sumac, savored little mallow seed heads while weeding our garden, and cooked up pots full of delicious lambsquarters, pigweed and amaranth.

I am not a wild foods expert, but I’m slowly working on it. If you are interested in beginning to eat wild foods, find people in your area who are knowledgable and experienced to help you get started. You will certainly be able to find a few easy to identify weeds, preferable in areas that haven’t been sprayed and don’t have run off from roads. Dandelion is one that most of us can recognize, and beyond the fun of blowing off the puffy seed head while you make a wish, you can eat the greens as a salad and harvest the root for tea. Why buy dandelion tea at Whole Foods when you have dandelions growing by your front step?


Idaho sheepherder wagon

One of the most interesting spots we’ve stayed in during our travels together was in a little sheepherder wagon in Idaho. We were on our way to the zone of Totality during the 2017 Eclipse, and this ended up being a nice stopover on the way to our destination. And yes, everything else was already booked.

We arrived at the wagon after dark so the next morning we enjoyed discovering our picturesque location. Chad was excited about getting up with the sun to take photos. I was excited about getting some extra sleep.

While I snoozed in the wagon, Chad wandered around taking photos and found some chokecherry trees, with berries much bigger, juicier and more delicious than the ones we have at home, so he grabbed some for the road! They obviously get more rain in Idaho than we do here in Utah.

Chad also did some wildlife observing next to a little stream.

I finally got out of bed and then we enjoyed our breakfast at the fold-up table and chairs we’d brought.

Until we got there I didn’t think to ask where the bathroom was going to be. As Chad pointed out, if you’re used to camping, this little portable toilet is a nice step up from squatting in the bushes.

Sleeping in this little wagon was a fun experience, very cosy and intimate. Good thing the hotels and campgrounds were full and we were able to try it out!

Airbnb listing: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/14656207

Intentional Spending Plan

As mentioned here before, Chad and I try to be creative about what we do for our weekly date night. The beginning of a new year always feels like a great time to do a life assessment, so we sat down together just after the turn of the year to discuss our goals for 2018 as a couple.

I heard a radio show about one of my favorite authors’ “year of no shopping” and  mentioned this to Chad. During our date night discussion I brought this up again and asked if there was some way we could be inspired by this idea. We ended up coming up with our own version of it and had a lot of fun doing so. We’re calling it our “Intentional Spending Plan,” aka, “Voluntary Simplicity.”

Rather than make a blanket statement that there would be no shopping at all, we came up with a list of categories, then discussed whether we could do without buying anything at all in certain categories or whether we wanted to allow ourselves a limited number of purchases.


Leo is on board for less shopping and more play!

Considering these potential purchases in categories helped both of us to see purchases in a new light. While neither of us would consider shopping a recreation or hobby, we both admitted that there are times when we buy things just for fun rather than out of need. Even when you shop mostly at thrift stores or antique shops as we do, you can still end up with more clothes than you’ll ever wear or more doodad’s than you have shelves for.

My personal weakness is books, which I tend to buy very liberally, ending up with a backlog I need to read. By creating a limit of how many books I will buy this year, I will have to choose my purchases more carefully and can finally get to reading some of the ones that are already on my shelves.

One of the other areas where we are both no-holds-barred spendthrifts is on seeds. While working on our intentional spending plan we made what we thought was a very frugal allowance for the number of seeds we would buy for the upcoming planting season. After making an inventory of our seeds and discovering that we already have, for instance, over 50 winter squash varieties, we ended up reducing this even further.

All in all the point of the exercise for us is to keep moving away from a consumer mindset. Consumerism as a way of life can be very hard to avoid. TV was once advertisers’ medium of choice, but now the internet and especially social media are littered with advertising. It can be a challenge to resist these highly personalized marketing attempts – they know what we have been googling and what our weaknesses are.

Stuff requires resources, and both of us would rather leave resources in the natural environment and dedicate our own funds to charity, experiences, and savings. And as a new couple still laying the foundations of our relationship, this was a more entertaining way for us to talk about finances than sitting down and coming up with a traditional budget together.

As we start 2018, we both have our intentional spending plan checklists and are excited about using this to make spending choices throughout the year. We’ll report back to you in 2019 and let you know how it went!