Glen Canyon — 200 feet above the bottom

For you geographically inclined, the title should indicate to you that we visited Lake Powell! Jen and I haven’t been there for over 10 years, which was a crazy thought for my wife since she frequented the lake as a kid and teenager. I’ve now been three times, all under the influence of Jen. Typically, I’d have no interest because I don’t water ski or wakeboard, nor do I like 100+ heat with no shade.

We strategically chose the week after Labor Day to avoid some crowds, get cooler weather, yet still have great water. We succeeded on all accounts. We were only on the water two days (Friday and Saturday) but bookended our trip by spending the night at the Ranch in Bicknell to split up the driving and to relax a bit.

We used the Bullfrog as our launching point both days but largely played in Halls Crossing Bay. We had such a great time swimming, jumping off 15-foot cliffs into 190-foot deep water, riding tubes, boogie boards, and skiing. Jen and her dad both slalom ski (I drive the boat in those cases), and my girls were fairly successful getting up on skis for the first time. I am lucky to have in-laws who 1) own a ski boat and 2) are very generous in allowing us to use it as long as it’s not already being used.

By the way, we made the drive from the Bullfrog Marina to Bicknell on Saturday night. We left the lake just before sundown and were treated by one of the more gorgeous drives I’ve ever taken. The 50 miles from Bullfrog to Hanksville was stunning with the setting sun, mixed clouds, dramatic mountains, and red rock.



Always Busy

August ends today and it’s been a fantastic month. I should qualify that: the weather. We’ve had a lot of rain (over 2 inches) and very mild temperatures (average max of 82; average low of 60). I’ve been in love with this month. One week of school is in the books. The kids seem to be generally happy. Not thrilled, but not crying about it. Jen is having Lagoon withdrawals. Jen used the emptier house this week to paint the playroom in the basement. Guess it’s time to finally start thinking about that room. It’s only been two years.

Leah (4th), Abby (6th), and Lauren (2nd) in very colorful outfits for the first day of school.

Leah (4th), Abby (6th), and Lauren (2nd) in very colorful outfits for the first day of school.

Yesterday was a pretty productive day. I largely finished the cold storage partition. We made a room that is about 10 feet long and 8 feet wide. Yesterday I hung sheetrock, a door, and insulated the wall. This picture was taken from inside the partition and does not show the insulated wall, but you get the picture. We’ll add some shelves here and store some long-term food storage. I also replaced our dishwasher (inspired by Rural Ways) and was amazed at how quickly it went. Within about 45 minutes the old one was in the garage and the new one was in and running through a cycle. I also replaced headlights on two of our vehicles who had orphan lights.

The door is hung, drywall hung, and things insulated. Progress

The door is hung, drywall hung, and things insulated. Progress

Sunday mornings are pretty relaxed around here and the kids love to use me as a punching / kicking / scratching / tickling bag. It amazes me how much they like to “wrestle.”

The kids love nothing more than when I'm on the floor with them so they can beat on me.

The kids love nothing more than when I’m on the floor with them so they can beat on me.

Here Comes School

Well, school is finally upon us. I think we milked summer as much as we could and will officially kick the three girls out of the house tomorrow morning a little after 8am. Abby starts 6th grade, Leah 4th, and Lauren 2nd. Austin still has a few years at home, which makes Jen very happy but Austin is a bit bummed that the girls are leaving him every day. Despite summer officially ending with the beginning of school, we are going to take the girls out of school for a few days in a few weeks to go to Lake Powell. Jen loves to boat and she went once all summer (despite the offer of “any time!” from her dad),  much to her chagrin. We just had too many other fun things going on!

We went to the Ogden LDS Temple open house last week. We’ve now taken our girls through the Oquirrh Mountain, Draper, Brigham City, and Ogden LDS temples via an open house. The kids can’t officially enter the temples until they are 12, so this is a fun opportunity for them to see the inside before they are of age.

Outside the Ogden LDS Temple before the tour. This temple was built in the 50's but recently renovated.

Outside the Ogden LDS Temple before the tour. This temple was built in the 50’s but recently renovated.

All three of our girls are playing a sport this fall. Abby and Lauren are both playing soccer (Lauren’s first time) and Leah is playing comp-league softball. I’m selfishly a bit nervous about the time (and money) commitment to comp softball. After two practices, Leah is still happy. That’s a good sign. She hadn’t even picked up a softball since her rec-league team won the championship in the spring so I got her and Abby up early one day last week before work, dragged them to the softball field, and made them practice a bit. it’s a good thing we all enjoy the sport. I ain’t no tiger dad, so I’m mostly in observation mode right now to see how Leah reacts to the pressures, time, and energy of a competitive league.

Early morning practice

Early morning practice

Over the last year I’ve been participating in a Office of Personnel Management-hosted leadership training. It’s been a once-a-month training for a year and we’ve covered a myriad of topics, from personality types, to conflict resolution, to emotional intelligence, to diversity and inclusion, to communication, to … well, you get the point. It’s been a fun class and I’ve learned a lot and spent the last year around a bunch of great leaders throughout the state of Utah. We “graduated” last week with a ceremony at the State Capitol with a luncheon, keynote speaker, and a reception following. The keynote speaker was Shannon Bahrke-Happe, a three-time US Winter Olympian (2002, 2006, and 2010). She spoke about lessons learned from Olympic training and performance and how it relates to leadership and business. It was a fun listen. I even got to hold the silver medal she earned at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

An official silver medal from the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

An official silver medal from the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

It’s Nearly Over

Summer officially ends in a week when my kids go back to school (August 25). We’ve had a fun and busy summer and it felt like we haven’t been able to sit still for longer than a day or two. We didn’t go on any official “vacation” as an entire family this summer, but we tried.

Jen and the kids have taken advantage of season Lagoon passes. They’ve been a fun opportunity to go have great experiences with the kids. It’s a riot sitting next to Austin on a roller coaster and having him hold his hands in the air for the entire ride. We’ve been to Lagoon 12-15 times this summer (I’ve only been about 5 times … dang job).

We went to Mackay, ID, for the 4th of July holiday. Then the very next week I began a series of three business trips in 5 weeks. I spent three days in the field gathering data for a project I’m doing. Two weeks later I spent the week in McCall, ID, on the Payette NF. Two weeks later, I flew to Portland and then drove the 110 miles south to Eugene for a meeting. While these were all great trips, the rapid timing of all makes things tough on me and the family back at home. I have no trips planned as of now.

Abby celebrated her 11th birthday this week by getting sick. She actually threw up the morning of her birthday (like, 1am) but still felt well enough to open presents. One of the presents? Wicked tickets. See Abby’s reaction to getting the tickets below.

We went to the BYU football scrimmage a week ago and then enjoyed a lunch with the team under the auspices of the “Thursday’s Heroes” program. After lunch we went around and took some pics with some players, including starting QB Taysom Hill from Pocatello, ID. Austin fell asleep (oddly) so we had Taysom sign his hat. When Austin woke up, he was a bit concerned that some “boy” wrote on his hat.

The family with Taysom Hill, QB.

The family with Taysom Hill, QB.

Finally, I’ve started a bit of construction in the basement. We have a large under-porch storage room that should be an ideal cold storage room. However, the entire room ceiling and about 2 feet of the outside wall is exposed to the sun, making it pretty susceptible to environmental influences. We decided to take the ten feet at the end of the room (the end that gets more shade and is a bit more temperature stable) and partition it off from the rest of the room. I used rigid foam insulation and stuck it to the walls and ceilings with liquid nails. Last night I framed in the wall that will hold insulation and a door. Once all that’s done, we’ll be able to free up some space in our main-level pantry because we eventually want to make that a mud room. Ah, it’s never done, is it? Always doing something to the house. Oh yeah, I still have a gutted bathroom on the second floor. Lame.

Wall is framed in!

Wall is framed in!


I had the cool opportunity to visit McCall, Idaho, this week. One of my former bosses is now the Forest Supervisor of the Payette NF, headquartered in McCall, and I spent the week shadowing various people (supervisor, district rangers, program leaders, staff officers) in their work. I was also the recipient of excellent and gracious hospitality from my former boss and his wife, who was also my co-worker 10 years ago.

Payette Lake Pano 2

On the BeachMcCall is at the southern edge of Payette Lake and is very touristy — one of those towns that doubles in size during the summer. They have long, snowy winters, but man, the summer sure seems nice. We had a cold front flow through while I was there that brought the temps down to a high between 65 and 70 (low of 41). Seemed a bit cold to be swimming in the lake, but I saw plenty of people braving the temperatures. They also have this chalkboard on the beach where people can share their thoughts about their own bucket lists, I guess.

Sawtooth Peak BeargrassKeith and I took a drive up the Lick Creek drainage and were rewarded with some great vistas. This area burned in 1994, which created some great open views of the mountains. The white whispy plants are beargrass.

World Cup WorthyElbow Agony of Defeat Keith and Karen have a 7-year-old son Bryce, who plays on a summer soccer league. Apparently, Keith has taught him the most important thing: elbow your opponents in the face when things aren’t going well. I guess that’s better than teaching him to bite his opponent, ala Luis Suarez. Unfortunately, the agony of defeat was just about all Bryce could handle.

Smokejumper Plane Chute InspectionI spent two hours touring and meeting employees in the McCall Smokejumper Base. That was a cool experience. The work these people do is pretty awesome. They get called out to the very early stages of some fires, get on a plane, and then parachute down to the mountain — with their gear (chainsaws, pulaskis, shovels, food, water, etc.) — and provide the early initial attack efforts on wildfires. Talk about a rush. After each jump, the chutes are hung in this tower and inspected very carefully. If they find defects, they mend the chutes themselves to make them airworthy again.

New Shed

It isn’t exactly the perfect “before and after” shot, but here are two photos that represent some of the improvements we’ve made in the yard.

BeforeThe yard was pretty overgrown — except for the grass. They hadn’t pruned a bush in ages and hadn’t been watering the lawn, either. I doubt they ever used their backyard.

Garden and ShedThis picture was taken while standing on the cement pad shown in the first photo and to the right a bit. Except for paint, we just finished assembling this 8’x12′ shed next to our garden boxes. The shed came in a kit from Home Depot and I had to just follow the instructions. For the most part, the instructions were spot on and the cases where they differed, it was easy to adjust. I had to separately purchase the plywood floor, the drip edge, roofing felt, and shingles, and I’ll have to caulk and paint. Everything else came with the kit.

Glad to be making some progress in the yard.

Working in Utah

I’ve traveled for work over 50 times in the 12 years I’ve been a “professional.” Some of the trips were to far-off exotic places (Rome, Alaska, Brazil), some were to some pretty awesome US places (Boundary Waters, Washington, D.C.), and many have been somewhat benign (Albuquerque, Sioux Falls, etc.). About a third of those trips were “field” trips, where the objective was to actually work in the field gathering data, either for map validation or for training data for future modeling efforts. It’s not very often I get to work in the state in which I actually live: Utah! This week I took the opportunity to do just that.

I’m working on an idea where we’d use remote sensing (satellite imagery) to model/predict the amount of vegetative cover present on a burn scar within a year or two or three of a fire occurring. The impetus of this project was a call from a hydrologist in Washington asking if I had any data to help them decide whether it was safe to open a campground at the base of a burned hillslope. The local forest gets pressure to open public land for public use, but the public rarely seems to consider the imminent danger posed by western thunderstorms and the repercussions of the sudden burst of water on a burned slope.

I’ve now visited 8 burn scars, took photos of the recovering land, and am working on building a model that will use satellite imagery to accurately predict the amount of cover present, therefore giving land managers actual data to help with their decision making.

This trip entailed a visit to the Clay Springs fire (between Oak City and Scipio), Lost Lake fire (on Boulder Mountain south of Teasdale), and the Wood Hollow fire (east of Fountain Green).

Thousand Lake MountainThis was the view we had all day on Thursday … working on Boulder Mountain while looking across the valley at the red rock and trees of Thousand Lake Mountain. There are worse places to be, that’s for sure.

IndianolaThis was on the Wood Hollow Fire. They didn’t really burn much “timber” in the sense of large Ponderosa Pine or Doug Firs … mostly just juniper and cedar.

BlowdownWe came across entire hillslopes that previously held lots of juniper trees. They burned in the fire and must have experienced a good wind storm, because they were all knocked over. It was just weird enough that I kept on trying to figure out if they were mechanically knocked over, but there was no evidence of that.

No CoverWe put a camera on a telescoping monopod and put it up in the air 25 feet looking down at us. These photos will be interpreted and we’ll have a % cover present number for each photo. This plot, even two years later, had little activity present.

Lots of CoverThis plot had a very active Aspen regeneration. None of these green trees existed in this form two years ago. Aspen frequently comes in after a fire and takes over the site for a number of years (like 20) until the conifers have time and opportunity to regenerate. This doesn’t always happen, of course, but is frequent.