About 5 years ago Mel and I were invited by our good friend Elton Blackhair to help take a group of Ute kids up in the high Uintahs. This area was once part of Ute land and is an important part of their culture. This year our usual spot was closed so at the last minute we were forced to find new country. I am glad we did. Elton scoped out the area of the Reader Lakes which are about 11,000 feet above sea level. It was amazing. We had a great group of kids this year. They all did great.Lonnie with Lower Reader lake in the background. Lonnie has done a lot to help this program.
Larry Blackhair is a large part of why we do this. He and I spent some good time chatting about the old ways over the camp fire. He told me some amazing stories about his grandfather who was a medicine man. Amazing.
Eton braving the cold.
Elton Blackhair has been a good friend of ours for about 12 years. He is one of the most generous people I have ever met and is the reason we do this camp out every year. He works hard to get the funding and get kids out in the sticks so they can have a great adventure they can remember forever. I have learned a lot from him and admire him greatly.
Mike Johnson’s backside. This is the view I have when I hike with Mike. He kicks my butt.
You have got to be hardy to live up there.
It is easy to get lost on this trail as it doesn’t seem to get visited very often. Without these cairns we would have been toast. Even with them we managed to get lost more than a few times.
Selena and Haven
Elton headed back. Larry telling scary stories.
Lakes at 11,500 feet are generally not very warm. Last year after spending two weeks with my family in Yosemite and Sequoia we spent a lot of time in freezing cold water. We decided as a family that the best policy is to just jump in without thinking about it. Mel and I at North Pole Pass 11,800 feet just before a big hail storm hit. COLD!! I was sitting by the fire one morning and Larry walks up and throws a couple of his shirts he had worn the day before onto the fire. I had never thought about it but this is a great way to save on weight in your pack and get rid of old shirts. The birth of a new ritual. I went down to get some water and turned around and bam, there she was. This is Sami’s (my daughter) second year with us in high country. Fording the crick.
Huntsville is such a charming little city! Lisa and Danny were married at an earlier date so I was only present for the reception which was held at the Huntsville Square in the center of Huntsville. The lighting was beautiful because of the large trees. The buildings and ambience were amazing! Loved the venue! Lots of fun with this couple and their guests. Best wishes you two!
These two are nomads droning from one beautiful location to another. Check out sky tripping
When I was 16 my dad saw fit to send me off for the summer to work in Las Vegas on his friend’s concrete crew. Being away from home with new people in new surroundings changed my perspective on life. I can’t tell you how glad I am that my parents sent me off on that adventure. I came home more grateful, more focused in school, and I loved my family and my hometown more than ever. You have heard the old saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”?
If you are a parent looking for a good experience for your teenager I want to recommend a great week long opportunity in Guatemala on a farm run by a good friend of mine and his family. We have stayed with our friends on this farm two times and I promise this would be a life changer.
The farm is located in the hills of Solola, Guatemala in Mayan country. It is a beautiful and safe location away from just about everything we call modern. Greg and Lucy have worked to help local families learn modern farming techniques so they can be self sustaining. It is really amazing! As part of this expedition your child will take a boat across Lake Atitlan, eat local foods (delish), and help on the farm and meet locals. You can look at the weeklong itinerary here: https://cultivainternational.org/expeditions/
Mel and I just returned from a weekend trip/service project in one of the most isolated places in America. It’s known as Short Creek which borders Utah and Arizona, Hildale on the Utah side and Colorado City on the Arizona side. We were there with the Fern Foundation helping rebuild a zoo that once had a bear, a zebra, and a camel, etc… When Warren Jeffs ( I am making an assumption you know who he is) took over many of the basic things this community enjoyed were outlawed and the animals in the zoo were sold. It appears that things are on the mend now after many years of crazy leadership!
On Saturday we helped to build a new outhouse, re-landscape nearly an acre, plant a bunch of new plants, put up a pergola, etc.. The kids in town are out riding bikes, running around on 4-wheelers and playing sports again. All of these things were forbidden under Warren Jeffs. We were told that the minute his brother Lyle Jeffs fled after the food stamp scandal kids began riding bikes again.
I can’t pretend to know the slightest about this community. I do know however that there is a division here between those that still follow Jeffs and those who have left the FLDS community. Many of the people who have left the church are hoping to rebuild this community and put the nightmare in the past.
Warren Jeff’s old home is now vacant but under the control of one of his ex wives. It’s hard to believe that it once housed dozens of children and dozens of wives. Each night Jeffs would stand at the end of a large room and his wives would wait in line and each in turn would give him a peck on the lips and then go to bed. Ugh! It’s creepy yes but we had a blast in a creepy kind of way sleeping in one of those rooms.
We met many ex-FLDS and some who are still followers of Warren. Say what you want about Warren, these people are some of the most kind people I have ever met. Words cannot describe how much we loved this experience with all the friends at the Fern Foundation and We absolutely fell in love with the people in this community and hope to return again soon. Here are some of my favorite pics.
Colorado City is gorgeous!
I asked these two what they do for fun. They said they had been camping three nights in a row and stayed up till midnight washing eggs to sell our volunteer staff. They said someone rustled their tent and it spooked em.
Flower bush in front of Warren Jeffs home. You can find some kind of symbolism there, maybe?
A morning road in Hildale.
The pond at the zoo. The wave runner is not fully active but when it is the kids can putt around on it.
These ducks were donated by the Fern Foundation. I think.
Fern Foundation leadership. They did an amazing job of getting this all together.
Andrew was our tour guide on a beautiful hike on the back side of Zion National Park. The kids in the above picture have hiked this canyon so many times they can’t remember. They were all a pure delight.
I made Candice pose to look like she was working. 🙂
We had some wonderful talks with many great people. Edna has seen some hard times. Her dad was banished 5 years ago and was only allowed to shake their hands before he left. She was so fun to talk to and very open about her experience.
This is Warren Jeffs front door and one of the many hall ways. Many of the homes in Short Creek having the word “Zion” written over the door. You would be surprised at the pink, blue and green carpet we found in there. Not to mention the secret door leading to a vault.
One of these girls is getting evicted this month. She told my wife they are best friends and will miss each other. Warren Jeffs is still communicating from prison and is not permitting the faithful FLDS to sign documents that would allow them to stay. These families are among the faithful.
My wife slipped near a water hole and literally was baptized by complete immersion, a funny joke while hanging out with ex-flds. Baptized at Short Creek!
It is green finally so I am saying goodbye to the snow till next winter! It’s actually is a lot of fun getting up in the canyons of Utah in the snow and the pines…. but after 5-6 months the spring green is a beautiful thing. I thought I would just post some of the recent and last snow shoots of the year.
I know I am going to sound like a brat but I didn’t want to go to Hawaii. I have really wanting to take my sister Holly to Jerusalem because everyone should go to Jerusalem at least once in their life for many reasons which I won’t go into. My other two siblings have been already so the urgency isn’t there for them. Holly has had a tough year losing her husband and raising three kids and she really wanted to just chill and Hawaii was on her mind so after all of my persuasiveness we ended up in Oahu which was for the better. For some reason I have had this strange first world aversion to Hawaii. I think it is cause my dad hated tourist traps and has always been very vocal about avoiding crowds. I knew I would like it once I got there and what I found was that for it being a really nice place for tourists the beaches are incredibly public and accessible. I won’t go into it since I know everybody on the planet has been here but me.
Here are a few of the best things Oahu has to offer besides warm weather:
Korean food in abundance
Public beaches with easy parking
Road side Banana Bread
Great pie at Ted’s Bakery (who knew?)