Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween 2006

We had a fun night on the streets of Tuscany -- there were more children out than recall seeing for several years despite the -10 degree weather. Gracie dressed as a "glow fairy" (I'm not really sure what that is), Matt was dressed as superman, and Hannah as Piglet. See my Flickr Halloween photoset.

Halloween 2006

We went around the doors next to our house, then to the Freibergs, then to my folks place -- Matt fell asleep in the car on the way to my folks place.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Atlas Shrugged

I've been re-reading Atlas Shrugged, and am thoroughly enjoying it. Rick suggested I read this book several years ago, and it honestly changed my life -- or rather it enhanced or clarified my thinking on philosophy and on the concept of objective values, the meaning of words, the importance of doing what you say, the importance of intellect and ability etc...

It's good to read this sort of book more than once, there's so much to it, and over the years I now have more/different experience by which to understand the book.

I noticed Judy's post on the possibility of an Atlas Shrugged movie being produced staring Angelina Jolie as Dagny Taggart. I've heard this rumor for years -- but I bothered to do some research, and was able to confirm it (also here). I looks like Brad Pitt is actually being considered for the role of John Galt. Like Judy, I've also had fun giving consideration to who I think would do well in the movie.

Over the past few years, I've been casting the movie as I read the book. Here's what I've come up with (this is subject to change as I give it some more consideration):
  1. Dagny Taggart -- Jennifer Connelly (younger) or Catherin Zeta-Jones (older).
  2. John Galt -- Orlando Bloom (younger)
  3. Hank Rearden -- Clive Owen (drop the accent)
  4. Fransisco D'Anconia -- Lou Diamond Phillips (they'd have to make him look South American)
  5. James Taggart -- James Woods
  6. Lillian Rearden -- Sigourney Weaver
  7. Eddie Willers -- Ewan McGreggor or John Cusak
  8. Ragnar Daneshold -- Heath Ledger
  9. Bertram Scudder --
  10. Orin Boyle -- Allan Rickman
  11. Wesley Mouch -- Geoffrey Rush
  12. Paul Larkin --
  13. Dr. Floyd Ferris -- Matthew Broderick
  14. Robert Stadler -- Kevin Spacey
  15. Hugh Axton --
  16. Wyatt Ellis -- Matthew McConnaghey
  17. Midas Mulligan -- Nicholas Cage
  18. Quentin Daniels -- Christian Bale
  19. (able train worker guy) -- Josh Duhamel
Others I would like to see in the movie but not sure exactly where they fit in: Rober DeNiro, Cate Blanchett, Parker Posey (as James Taggart's bride).

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

2006 Annual Pumpkin Giveaway

On Saturday Grace, Matt and I went to the annual "Great Pumpkin Giveaway" which is held by a local real estate agent. This event began four or five years ago, and to my recollection, Gracie and I have been to every one (Erin took Grace last year because I was in Halifax).

I love the expression on Matt's face in the photo below. He was so focused on getting this pumpkin to the car.

Matt's Pumpkin

Here's Gracie selecting her pumpkin.

Lifting the Pumpkin

You can view my Flickr photo set to see all the photos.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Trouble By Two

Matt and Nathan sitting on the Ritchie's front step.

Matt and Nathan

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

October 18, 2006

We had some excitement on Sunday when Matt went over the handle bars of his bike and knocked his two front teeth out of thier sockets.

Matt's Fat Lip

It began on Saturday when he went over the handle bars of his bike for the first time and got an inordinately large fat top lip. It looked really strange, and was quite painfull, but his teeth stayed were un-affected. The thought occured to me to take a photo of his lip, but at the time I couldn't muster the energy.

On Sunday morning after a good nights rest the swelling in his lip had decreased dramatically, and he was looking almost normal. After returning from chuch the kids got on thier bikes and begged me to come outside to watch them ride (as yet, even though they can ride thier bikes un-assisted, they for some reason are not able to ride un-supervised). I got up to go outside, and the moment I opened the garage door (literally) I saw Matt, who was riding his tricycle for some reason, turn sharply uphill towards the house on the driveway. The sharpness of his turn caused the trike to fall over an Matt fell teeth first onto the pavement.

He began crying instantly, and from the steps in the garage I could see blood pouring out of his mouth. I ran down to him and somehow knew that this was worse than the fall he took the day before. I scooped him off the ground and rushed him into the house to clean the blood out of his mouth and inspect the damage. I felt sick when I saw one of his front teeth pushed abnormally back toward the inside of his mouth about 4 millimeters, and down towards his bottom teeth about 3 millimeters -- it looked really painfull and (now that the episode is over) quite strange.

I held Matt tight in my arms and got him into the van. Erin woke up Hannah (who was napping innocently) and put the two girls in the van so we could drop them off at Lara's house and get Matt some medical attention. My first thougth was to go to the children's hospital, but thankfully Sean was able see Matt at his office.

In the car ride to Sean's office Matt started to calm down somewhat, but would randomly burst out in tears of pain. It made me feel sick to think of the strange, painfull discomfort that he must have felt when he relaxed his jaw and his mouth began to close on teeth that weren't set right.

Fortunately, when we got Sean's office and sat in his dentist chair Matt's teeth had already set back in thier sockets. Sean said that it's likely that Matt pushed them back into thier sockets by pressing his tongue on the back of his teeth. We're just glad we didn't have to anesthetize Matt and push the teeth back in manually.

When all is said and done, his teeth, now back in thier sockets, are noticably lower than they were before the accident. Before his accident, Matt's teeth had molded around his pacifier so that his bite formed an eliptical void in the center of his mouth. Today, his front teeth have droped down, and the elipse is no longer visible. Also, the pain in his mouth caused him to not want to use his pacifier. Strangely this accident has corrected his bite, and gotten him off his binki (pacifier).

Monday, October 09, 2006

Grace and Matt Learn to Ride a "Two Wheeler"

While we were vacationing in Utah, Matt and Grace both learned to ride a two wheel bicycle. Matt learned first -- probably by watching his older cousin Nathan. Matt got on Nathan's bike and I pushed him up and down the street not more than three times before I was letting go and Matt was pushing himself. In another 20 minutes, Matt was able to ride the whole lenght of the street on his own, and only needed my help to turn the bike around at the end of the street to start pedaling back.

Matt & Grace

See the flickr photoset (detail)

The next day, Gracie showed some interest in riding the two wheeler. I think she gained confidence by observing Matt. I asked her if she wanted to try, and she nodded yes -- half hesitant, half not wanting to be shown up by her younger brother. Gracie learned more quickly than Matt. She was pedaling unassisted on her second attempt, and was able to turn the bike around within a few minutes.

Since returning from Utah, all the kids want to do is ride bikes. It's driving me crazy. We spent about 3 hours outside riding bikes yesterday, and more than an hour this morning (in 10 degree Celsius whether).

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Grand Canyon 2006 (GC06)

On Monday October 2nd, 2006 I fulfilled a dream I've had for almost ten years -- I hiked into the Grand Canyon.

Two years ago, on the Ribbon Creek trail with Sean, Mike Gedlaman, Randy Fibke and Derek Kearl, I suggested that we do our hike the following year in the Grand Canyon. My suggestion didn't get much support, but I sort of resolved in my mind that I was serious about going, and that I would find a way to make it happen.

Last year, on the same Ribbon Creek hike, I suggested it again (with the same group of hikers) and Sean and Mike agreed to go. I started to do the research, and learned that a backcountry permit was required to spend the night in the Canyon, and that backcountry permits could be obtained on a first come first serve basis not earlier than four months before the desired start date. As the four month mark got nearer, the four or five people that had shown interest began to drop out one by one. Sean booked a trip to Hawaii, Mike spent his vacation allotment in other ways and didn’t have enough vacation time to make the trip. Kevin was totally committed in the beginning, but through some miscommunication between he and I, he ended up deciding against it (he thought I had decided not to go, and then he made other plans). Jeff Shipley and JD Taylor also couldn’t come – Jeff got a new job, and JD ended up have to make two trips to Utah in 30 days.

In mid September I still had not obtained a backcountry permit, but was resolved as ever that I was going to make it to the Grand Canyon. Erin made me promise that I wouldn’t go alone, and I’m glad it didn’t come to that because I may still have gone – even on my own. This trip had become a bit of a promise to myself that I had to keep.

In mid September I called David Waite (a missionary companion of mine who grew up in Bunkerville Nevada, and who now resides in Salt Lake) to ask if he was interested. I regret not calling David earlier – I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me earlier in the trip planning stage. Had I called him in March, I likely could have obtained an overnight permit in time and would have had an overnight stay at Phantom Ranch. Regardless, David agreed to come but required some careful planning as only 30 days earlier his parent’s home in Bunkerville, the home he grew up in, was burned in an electrical fire.

On Thursday September 29th Erin, the kids, and I got in the car and started the 15 hour trip to Salt Lake City where I would attend the LDS General Conference on Saturday and Sunday, then leave my family in Salt Lake with Erin’s sister Amy and continue on to Knabb, Utah (40 miles North of the Grand Canyon) with David Waite to spend the night on Sunday evening before entering the Grand Canyon. On Sunday morning while sitting the LDS Conference Center waiting for the conference to begin, I struck up a conversation with a fellow seated next to me who coincidentally had been to the Grand Canyon. He gave me some advice, and ended by saying that if we could at all spare the time, we should get to Zion National Park. He told me he enjoyed Zion’s more that he enjoyed the Grand Canyon. This was very intriguing to me, and I decided that on our way home from Bunkerville, I would suggest to David that we drive through Zion National Park. My seatmate at conference proved to be right about which Canyon was more amazing.

Matthew had a major breakdown when I left on Sunday evening, and when I got into the car I had private teary moment. It was so hard to leave Matthew in that condition. I tried not to let David see me like that, but David knew, and kindly offered to cancel to trip. As hard as it was to leave – I knew Matt would be over his fit only a few minutes after I left, and I couldn’t break my promise to make it to the Grand Canyon. Honestly, I wanted to cancel the trip and stay with Matt.

We arrived in Knabb late Sunday evening. David and I visited for the entire 4.5 hour trip. It felt like about 45 minutes. It just flew by.

Monday morning we woke up at 6:30 AM and were on the road by 7:00 AM. We arrived at the North Rim entrance to the Grand Canyon at roughly 8:30 AM local time, and we were hiking the roaring springs trail by 9:30 AM. We visited with the park ranger at the entrance to the park for about 20 minutes and explained that we only had the 1 day in the park and had to be to St. George Utah by dark. She recommended the Roaring Springs trail, and suggested we stop at Supai Tunnel, then hike back out and drive to Imperial Point and head south and stop at each of the lookouts. She further recommended that we do the 4 mile hike out to Cape Final, and she told us that this was the most spectacular view in the Canyon, North or South Rim.

Park Ranger

We took the rangers advice and started hiked Roaring Springs and Cape Final and stopped at 3 overlooks in between.

Roaring Springs Trailhead

We started out down the roaring springs trail, and after about 20 minutes of downward hiking, we came to Coconino Lookout – our first real view of the Canyon. I did it. I made it to the Canyon after 10 years of thinking about it. It was an amazing feeling to actually be there. The vista was amazing, but the sense of accomplishment was far more satisfying. I could have turned around at that point and gone home a happy man.

My First View of the Canyon

The Canyon is amazing. I can’t describe how vast and majestic it really is. The best views of the Canyon were actually not from down inside the Canyon – but rather from the several lookout points (Imperial Point, Angels Lookout, Cape Final and Cape Royal). I got lots of great photos, although there was a fire at the South Rim which sent smoke and haze through the whole Canyon -- unfortunate, but not devastating.

Imperial Point

After spending the day in the Grand Canyon National Park we packed up and drove to Bunkerville, Nevada just outside of Mesquite (a popular golf and gambling destination) where I met David’s family for the first time after having heard stories about them since 1994, 12 years ago.

David’s family is remarkable! We stayed in his brother Stephen’s home, as his parents home is uninhabitable as a result of the fire. I was greeted very warmly by everyone, and David’s mother called me “Scotty” the whole night (I loved it!). We had pizza for dinner and a lovely family home evening after dinner. Stephen and Emily Waite have a beautiful home inside and out. Emily is clearly a very talented home decorator and mother. I also met David’s sister Krechele again (I had met her at BYU almost 10 years ago, right after my mission), and Krechele’s husband Craig, and children Sarah and Matthew. Krechele’s Matthew reminded my own Matthew.

Krechele, David and Matthew Watie

The next morning we arose at 6:30, had breakfast, and then David gave me the penny tour of Bunkerville. Which, as I had suspected, didn’t take long. I hugged Mama Waite and we were off to Zion National Park.

Main Street Bunkerville

In a word, Zion National Park is AMAZING. Truthfully, it proved to be far more spectacular than the Grand Canyon, and I am so glad we decided to spend some time there. We arrived and went to the visitor center and spoke with a park rangers about what hike we could do in just a few hours. He recommended Angels Landing, and told us that it fit our time constraints, but the last half mile was difficult and not for the faint of heart. The trail description in the trail guide says this about Angels Landing,
Strenuous. Long drop-offs and narrow trail. Not for anyone fearful of heights. Ends at summit high above Zion Canyon. Last 0.5 miles follows steep, narrow ridge; chains have been added.
We boarded the shuttle and took off for Angels Landing.

Angels Landing

We kept pretty a pretty fast pace for the first mile or so, hiking quickly and passing dozens of other hikers. We hiked quickly because I was trying to be back in Salt Lake at 8:00 PM and it was a four hour drive from Zion to Salt Lake. It also been my experience that I’m no more or less tired after the mid-point of the hike regardless of the speed of the hike. This may seem illogical, but I think David would agree.

After slowing our pace and taking a brief rest, I spotted the mountain peak and became a bit nervous and a bit excited about arriving there. The trail is beautifully maintained, and paved for most of its five miles. I kept commenting to David that I had never hiked such a well manicured trail of this difficulty. There were decorative retaining walls, and paved trails, and friendly signposts etc… The trail was full of switchbacks, that wound back and forth along the perimeter of the mountain, frequently taking us out to the edge of the Canyon for some spectacular views. The weather was excellent, about 30 degrees Celsius.

Switchbacks on Grotto Trail

As we approached Scouts Landing we passed a group coming down the trail who heard us make a humorous complaint about the increasing pitch of the trail. One of the men in the group, in his late twenties said something about how it only gets more difficult the further up you get. I commented back that we love difficulty, and that’s what keeps us hiking. He sarcastically said something like, “we’ll if you’re that comfortable with difficulty, you’re going to love it up there – you’ll be so at ease you’ll take a nap.” Sensing that it was going to get difficult, I stopped and had David promise me he wouldn’t let me back out if it got steep, or if my fear of heights started taking over. I said, “David… we’re going to get close to the top and I’m going to start getting afraid of heights. Don’t let me chicken out – get me to the top and I’ll get you to the top.” We promised each other then we continued on.

Not five minutes after our empty promise to each other we came to Scouts Landing and could see the last half mile to the summit. My heart sank. Instantly my fear of heights took over and I began to doubt that I’d make it to the top. I could see why the trail guide said that this hike is, “not for anyone fearful of heights”. From Scouts Landing the trail narrows to less than five feet wide in most places, and becomes very narrow with 1488 foot sheer drops on either side.

Scout Landing

There are chains punched into the horizontal parts of the trail that continue from Scouts Landing to the top at Angels Landing. I could see people who looked like little sheep moving slowly along the chains, bending over and crouching down to hold on. I felt sick. David moved over to the side of the rock to look over the edge. I felt sick. David asked for the camera to take a couple of photos of what he could see off the side. I felt sick.

We agreed to have some lunch to and wait to see if I could acclimatize to the height. I couldn’t. We ended up spending about 30 minutes at Scouts Landing and in the end I didn’t have it in me to make it to the top. I admit I was a bit frustrated when I spotted a woman who appeared to be roughly 70 years old coming off the chains after having successfully been to the top. My frustration was compounded when I saw a nine year old boy bounding down not even holding the chains. I did manage to crawl over to the edge of Scouts Landing and peek over the edge for about five seconds. I quickly returned to the middle of the rock, and re-centered.


The hike down was very enjoyable. We stopped frequently for a picture and I just couldn’t get over how amazing the Canyon was. I decided that I really wanted to come back to Zions and spend more time hiking the Canyons, and maybe attempt an Angels Landing summit again. David and I spoke about making this a yearly trip and spend some time at Bryce Canyon next time.

Zions Canyon

We got in the car and started the trip back to Salt Lake (only after a stopover in St. George for something to eat at Café Rio). We arrived in Salt Lake at about 8:30, pretty close to our forecasted time. Matt came bounding out of the house and hugged me for about three minutes. I hugged him back.

So I made it to the Grand Canyon – I did it, and I was pleasantly surprised by Zion Canyon National Park. I can scratch the GC off my life’s list of things to do. Next up, Florence.

Scott at Zions Canyon

David and Scott at Scouts Landing