I am so, so behind in blogging, which really stresses me out. I got behind, then I knew I was behind so I kind of avoided the blog, then I was working on finishing my 2013 blog book in time to use a killer coupon code I had, then I finished the blog book and was out of excuses so I finally decided to come back. So here I am, playing catch up once again, and hoping to find more consistent time to post on this little blog. Because, while I know not many people read it, I love having it. Just this morning the boys and I pulled out our 2012 blog book (the only one I have completed, ha) and read and read and read until we were almost late for school. They love hearing stories about themselves and it's fun to look back and see how they have changed!
Anyway, after our fun week in St. George for Ben and Kayla's wedding, we started the best road trip we've ever been on! We drove to Provo Sunday night, where we stayed at Mandi's place (thanks, Mando!). Then we got up bright and early Monday morning and met Nick and Lyn and crew at Mt. Timpanogos Cave National Monument! I knew the hike was going to be tough but, well, I didn't realize just how tough it was going to be! You hike 1.5 miles in switchbacks, gaining over 1100 feet in elevation! We were lucky that it was an overcast, kind of sprinkly day--I really can't imagine this hike in the hot sun. And really, the views on the hike were just ridiculously beautiful.
I really, truly wasn't sure we would make it to the top. We kept telling the boys we knew it would be hard but the caves would make the trip worth our effort. About halfway up, Reed asked, "Are you sure this is going to be worth it?" And poor Ryan--we brought his inhaler and LEFT IT IN THE CAR. I'm not joking. We huffed and puffed and stopped a lot! At one of our stops, Reed was showing Ryan a loose tooth he had. The tooth was crazy loose, hanging on by like one "gut" (as Reed calls roots) and Ryan somehow talked Reed into letting Ryan pull it out. The last time Ryan pulled a tooth for Reed kind of traumatized Reed and Reed swore he'd never let Ryan pull a tooth again. But, weighed against the worry of having his tooth fall out and losing it somewhere on the trail, he went with the pulling option. The tooth came out in less than 30 seconds, Reed was totally fine, and we safely stowed the tooth in an empty water bottle. The tooth fairy visited Reed at our hotel that night and left him a $2 roll of nickels!
One other item of note: when we made it halfway up to the top, I thought that maybe we could actually finish the hike. Then the trail got steeper! Ha. But I will say that the kids were really good sports and I really can't remember them complaining! And after a very long time, we found ourselves at the entrance to the caves! We had missed our assigned tour time (apparently most groups hike a little faster than us). but busied ourselves with a snack while the rangers worked out a spot for us. And finally, we were in the caves!
Reed almost immediately decided that the caves were, indeed, worth the hike. We got to walk through three separate caves and each was amazing. We saw stalactites and stalagmites galore. We were all impressed by the rocks you could shine a flashlight on and see glow green (no joke). We also loved the weird noodle-y looking growths we got to see. The heart of timpanogos (a gigantic, pinkish stalactite) was another fun formation to see, as was the "lake" in the first cave. Apparently, to qualify as a cave lake, the water only has to be around a foot deep--or something like that. This is the problem with taking forever to blog, you forget details. Hearing the story of how the second cave was discovered was also super interesting--apparently two fifteen-year-old boys were out hiking and saw a large crevice. They used their 50-foot rope to lower themselves down into it, and found that they weren't even close to the bottom! Eventually they made their way to the bottom, without lights (I am still not sure how they survived this, the part of the cave they discovered was completely black, like your eyes don't even adjust black) and found the cave! Wow. Eventually, explorers discovered that all three caves in the system connect.
After our awesome tour, it was time to hike back down! I must say, the hike down was quite a bit easier than the hike up. But it was also twice as terrifying because we were going fast and there were very steep drop-offs everywhere. I am very afraid of heights and found myself constantly reminding the boys to stay on the "mountain side" of the switchbacks. Funny side note: we were hiking a few weeks after this and Lila kept yelling to the boys, "Mountain side!" Haha.
When we got to the bottom, we stopped in the visitor's center. The boys were dying to know how many switchbacks were on the trail--and no one knew! We did get to hear the legend of The Heart of Timpanogos personally as told by Ranger Nancy, who has been working at Mt. Timp for years, and were promised that she'd count the switchbacks the next time she went up. We tried calling her a few times in the days that followed to hear the count, but she was always up the mountain when we called!
(The cave lake)
We were soon on the road again and, after a quick stop for lunch, on our way to Vernal! We made it there without incident and got checked into our hotel. After a little relaxing, we were on to our next stop of the day: the Burkes' house! Dan Burke was one of Ryan's mission companions--he was actually Ryan's "son" (a missionary Ryan trained). Despite just having moved THAT DAY, Dan and Faith were so gracious and invited us over for dinner, which they provided. The kids ran like crazy around the house and out in the yard and Ryan and Burke got to catch up. I really loved meeting someone who I've heard so much about and I think we all had a good time visiting.
And finally it was time for bed!