A Bit of Catch Up

I’m working on about 1.5 years of service as a Scoutmaster in my neighborhood. I feel like things are going fairly well — we’re camping 9 or 10 times in a year, we’re learning new skills, the boys are advancing, and we’re having fun. Our numbers are growing, too. When I became the Scoutmaster, we had about 4 boys in the troop. We’re at 10 now, with 6-8 more joining by the beginning of August. More boys is great and difficult. When we go camping with 10+ boys, there are more logistics to manage now (do we have enough vehicles and seat belts? do we have multiple trucks to haul all their gear? how do we not blow our budget on food with all these young mouths to feed? and etc.). Luckily, there are two other adults who serve with me and we make it work.

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A successful lashing exercise. These fellas can now cook with a dutch oven over a fire if they had to.

With spring, comes softball. All three of my girls are playing this year. Our plan was for Lauren (first time!) to play in an 8U league, Leah in a 10U league, and Abby a 12U league. I’ve coached Leah’s volleyball team twice and softball team once, so I decided to coach Abby’s team this spring. In the 12U league, they have the girls try out and participate in a draft. Everyone who signs up gets drafted and the girls are not privy to the actual draft, so they don’t know whether they were drafted first or last. The tryouts and accompanying draft were last Friday (while my troop left on a campout that I later joined) and I actually was awarded the first pick due to dumb luck. I ended up drafting 10 girls and, based on the skills I saw at tryouts, decided to play Leah up into the older league. Now she and Abby can play on the same team, therefore saving Jen and me the logistic headache of getting three girls to three practices and games. We’re all looking forward to playing again.

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It’s softball and baseball season! My kids are lucky and happy to have some great neighbors who are close friends.

I participated in the WatchDOGS program at school last week and, like last year, chose St. Patrick’s Day. Except for a Scout shirt, I literally don’t own any green clothes, so my kids made me embellish my beard so I wouldn’t get pinched all day. Needless to say, it was a hit with all the kids.

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A little St. Patrick’s cheer

Finally, my brother Jason is visiting from Iowa for the weekend. Of the 11 Clark kids, only 3 actually live in Utah (one in Utah County, one in Salt Lake County, and me in Davis County), so having him here was a treat. My sister Chelsey and I met up with Jason in Provo and hiked the iconic Y to enjoy the scenery and awesome weather. It was a fun few hours on the mountain. And about 200 other people. (Way too popular a trail for me!)

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The Y on the mountain was formed by volunteers in an assembly line handing buckets of lime and other materials up the chain. The hike is short, but steep, and offers a great view.

Open Gym

Abby’s rec league and all-star softball coach (with whom we haven’t had contact for many months) recently texted us and alerted us to an opportunity  regarding off-season softball practice. Viewmont High School in nearby Bountiful apparently hosts an open gym every Saturday from 12-2pm for aspiring softball players. The high school’s head softball coach and one of his assistants run the girls through a bunch of drills and even make them do conditioning.

We decided to show up yesterday with Abby and Leah, since both plan to play 12-U fast pitch softball this spring (I’ll supposedly be their coach). I was impressed by the time these coaches put in to working with a wide variety of players, age groups, and abilities. The head coach even tried to get me to have Lauren stick around, although we’re not sure what we’ll do.

They had throwing drills and a number of hitting drills off the tee and also in a cage. I couldn’t help but think how lucky these girls were to be getting skilled coaching during this offseason as they prepare for the upcoming season. And all for free!

I will admit that I love watching these girls play softball, practice, and get better. They have a real love for the game. Jen and I aren’t really anxious travel/comp team parents due to the time commitment and cost, but we’d love to see our girls chase this passion for as long as they can.

We have some friends who have a large barn where they’ve set up a batting cage and pitching machine. We were lucky enough to use it a number of times last summer and it was a blast watching these girls pitch and hit to each other (picture here). Great times!!

Gliding Through the Snow

It wasn’t until I was in college that I ever did any snow sport more ambitious than sledding. While a student, I borrowed a snowboard and boots and went snowboarding. My first experience was skiing at Brighton on a cold, icy night (hey, two for one lift tickets for night skiing!). I didn’t venture far from the bunny slope.

Over the next two winters, I went a total of five times. I went to Sundance, The Canyons, and even went to Steamboat Springs on a road trip with some friends. I was finally starting to get the hang of things and felt somewhat comfortable carving a bit. Then I got married before the next season and never went again. I never tried downhill skiing and never tried cross country, either.

Yesterday was my first experience with skis strapped to my feet. We went to a “Winter Trails Day” hosted at Ogden Valley Nordic Center in Liberty, UT (about an hour north of me). They waived trail fees, had free gear rental, and also had some vendors demonstrating equipment, waxing techniques, providing free food, etc. I took five Boy Scouts with me so we could complete the Snow Sports Merit Badge.

Being neophytes to the sport of cross country skiing, we all stuck to classic style (where you essentially glide in a track with your skis always parallel and never leaving the ground). I had a blast. I really enjoyed the aerobic side of the sport, and the opportunity to be out in the snow in something besides snowshoes. I look forward to doing this again, but with fewer people — it got pretty crowded due to the free nature of the event.

One funny thing: the boots you wear when cross country skiing aren’t rigid like they are for downhill skiers. This is probably because you need some flex in your shoe when cross country skiing — you actually lift your heel with every glide and rigid boots wouldn’t allow that very comfortably. Well, to click in to your ski, you’re supposed to put the toe of your boot on a latch, push down, and watch it click in place, therefore connecting your feet and the ski. Since I essentially only have half a right foot, I couldn’t do that very easily. I pushed the toe on that right ski but the boot essentially compressed / collapsed (imagine you’re wearing shoes too big — now stand on your tip toes and see what happens). I actually had to ask the other adult who came with us to help me by pushing down with his hand on the toe of my boot so there was some weight/structure to force the boot in place. Things you don’t think of… Sigh!

Group of skiiers

Five Boy Scouts and two leaders at Ogden Valley Nordic Center in Liberty, UT.

Snowshoeing with the Girls

There’s a great little park near our house. It’s called East Mountain Wilderness Park and is roughly 130 acres of scrub oak, grass, and trails. We frequent the park in all season to hike, run, mountain bike, snowshoe, I’ve even made the Scouts learn about orienteering in the park.

With a series of storms this week, we’ve had a ton of snow. The ski resorts up Big Cottonwood Canyon are reporting 63″ (over 5 feet!) of snow in the last 72 hours, and we’ve had close to two feet here at the house in the last week.

These storms make for excellent opportunities to create new tracks in fresh snow. Today I took the three girls while Jen and Austin stayed behind to work on a Secret Santa gift. We did a loop that took us only about a mile and a half, but it was enough to wear everyone out. Along our hike, we found opportunities to summit close hills so the girls could try their hand at snowboarding (they dragged some plastic snowboards along on their hike).

It was a spectacular bluebird day and a great way to formally kick off my Christmas break away from work.

 

Capitol Spiking

I made my fifth trip to Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago. While my trip was business in nature, I spent a few extra days visiting my brother and his family in Fairfax before they packed up and moved to Los Angeles. I really enjoy visiting the nations’s capitol and, even though I’ve seen many of the major monuments, landmarks, and many museums, it’s still a rush to take it in and this trip was no different. This was my first opportunity to go to the top of the Washington Monument, and the views it afforded were spectacular. It helped that we had an overcast day for some great lighting. I also made my first visit to the Holocaust Museum, which was pretty incredible. I have an entire gallery of photos of my trip linked here.

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While our spring time is filled with softball, our fall fills up with volleyball. This year all three girls are playing and loving it. Each only has a single match left (it’s a 6-match season over 8 weeks of time) and they are all bummed it’s ending. I’ve had the opportunity to coach Leah’s team, just like last year. This is the third time I’ve coached Leah in a sport and I’ve yet to be a head coach for one of Abby’s teams. I think when Abby started, I never felt confident that I knew how to coach whatever sport and age division she was entering, so I backed off. At Leah’s ages, however, it’s mostly about motivating the kids and making sure they learn basics while still having enough fun to come back next year. I can do that. I really like volleyball and wish I’d played it growing up or even as an adult.IMG_20151205_130900

 

Weekend of Champions

Let me tell you about my weekend.

Friday

  1. I only went to work from 8:15am to noon. On Monday I start a temporary position for the next four months (into February, 2016) as a program leader in my office. In federal parlance, it’s called a “detail.” It’s a promotion while I’m in this acting capacity and should be a good experience.
  2. I went home and leisurely prepared for a round of golf with my next-door neighbor. We hit 12 holes of golf at Hill Field Golf Course. My neighbor is retired but he mows the grass at the course once a week to get him some free golf. He invited me to accompany him for a round. All I had to pay for was the cart fee and then we played as many holes as we wanted.
  3. Shortly after our golf, we turned on the World Series and watched the Mets (yay, National League!) finally win a game against the Royals (boo, American League!). My girls are the drivers behind getting the game on and watching it — Abby in particular.
  4. At 9:45pm, we welcomed a babysitter into our home to make sure my kids were safe in the event of an emergency while Jen and I drove to downtown SLC. Earlier in the day Jen’s cousin called and said, “Hey, I’ve got two extra tickets to watch Garth Brooks and Tricia Yearwood in concert – from a suite! Do you want to come?” Jen jumped at the opportunity and told me I was accompanying her. No problem. He’s got a bunch of good, timeless country songs and we had a great time at the concert. Free food, comfortable seats, and a hot date! The concert actually started at 11:30pm and we left at 1:30am to release our high school-aged baby sitter. By the way, I’m old. Going to bed at 2:30am is difficult for me.

Saturday

  1. We slept in! Kinda. We tried our hardest to convince the kids to watch TV, find some food, do whatever until we could wake from our slumber. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any easy-to-deal-with food in the house (like, cold cereal) so they wouldn’t let us sleep in long.
  2. After breakfast, we mowed the lawn and raked leaves. But not in that order. Happy to have that done.
  3. At 1:30pm, I met a friend to go mountain biking. We went to Antelope Island — only half an hour drive from my house — and hit the White Rock loop and Elephant Head trail. In all, we rode a little over 14 miles in more than 2 hours of riding. I hadn’t done a mountain bike ride that long in a few years and my thighs cramped up. I also got a flat tire, but we were prepared to deal with that on the trail. It was an awesome day on the island.
  4. While I was biking, Jen and the kids made one last visit to Lagoon. It closes for the winter on Halloween and won’t open again until Memorial Day. They took good advantage of their season passes this year.
  5. Oh yeah, we celebrated Halloween. Kids and Jen went trick or treating while I manned the door here at home for the 10 or so knocks we got (we’re on a quiet street!).
  6. We watched more baseball as a family, read scriptures, said prayers, and sent everyone to bed.

Some pictures of the activities are below.

The costumed kids and their mother

The costumed kids and their mother

At the end of our trail -- time to loop back

At the end of our trail — time to loop back

Can you see why they call this elephant head?

Can you see why they call this elephant head?

Last day at Lagoon for 2015!

Last day at Lagoon for 2015!

Garth Garth

Good Samaritan

Recently I got a flat tire while driving on I-15. Luckily, it was a (somewhat) slow flat that didn’t blow out, creating a potentially disastrous situation. Additionally, it was a Sunday afternoon, so I had no problem moving over to the shoulder.

After parking on the shoulder, I proceeded to remove items from my trunk, such as the jack, crowbar, and spare tire. While doing this, a Good Samaritan — or so it seemed — pulled over behind me. This mid-60’s man walked out of his truck and approached me while I pulled the spare out of my trunk. He pulled out an road atlas and said, “I’m trying to get to Twin Falls, ID. Is this the right road? Am I close?”

Being an avid map reader, I was flummoxed he didn’t understand the basic principles of maps, scale, and contextual information present on any (decent) map. I reassured him he was on the right road and would be for over an hour still. I told him to catch I-84 to Boise when he saw the option and then he’d drive right to Twin Falls along that route.

He thanked me and returned to his truck without any acknowledgement of my situation. I chuckled, and then proceeded to complete the tire change.