Two Monumental Reasons To Fight: Grand-Staircase Escalante & Bears Ears

The 1906 Antiquities Act is under attack by the Trump administration. Help protect what's ours. What do the monuments mean to you?

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Life in Death Valley: The Super Bloom

Cracked Desert Earth - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Cracked Desert Earth - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Anyone who has been to Death Valley in Eastern California knows it can be a harsh, fearful environment.

I grew up in the comfortable climate of the Pacific Northwest, where the temps seldom rise above the mid-80s. The first time I came to Death Valley it was an instant shock to my delicate system. I stepped out of my car into the blistering 126-degree heat and nearly choked on my own stifled breath.

The second time I visited the park, I was actually blown over by a gust of wind, right onto my ass. Granted, I weigh in at just over a Benjamin (100lbs). But that’s 85% Grade-A lean meat of Benji. I'd expect a little more stability from all the time I put into my training.

As you can imagine, I fell in love with this place with a quickness. Every girl loves a bad boy who can choke her and knock her down, but still astounds her with awe and makes her cry tears of joy. Am I right?

Look, it’s a complicated relationship.

Dante's View at Sunrise in Death Valley - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Dante's View at Sunrise in Death Valley - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes at Sunset - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes at Sunset - ©️ Nicole Atkins

My point is this place doesn’t mess around when it comes to weather. I'm sure the variety of climate conditions contribute to the spectacular sunrise and sunsets you’ll see in the area.

Death Valley is a strange and beautiful place. The lowest point in the park is 282 feet below sea level, and the highest point rises to over 11,000 feet.

You can imagine there are a variety of landscapes you might not expect from a desert environment. That’s what you get for making assumptions. Shame on you.

One special surprise the park gifts us is the colorful display of wildflowers that spring up each year between the months of February and June.

The splash of color against the muted backdrop of sand create an appealing contrast usually reserved for oil paintings.

Desert Gold Close-Up - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Desert Gold Close-Up - ©️ Nicole Atkins

 

Once in a rare while, when the conditions are just right, the park will experience a Super Bloom. The last two Super Blooms were in 1998 and 2005, so the park hasn’t seen an event like this in over a decade. El Nino brought heavy rain to the area this year, making the once harsh environment fertile for another Super Bloom. We all waited in anxious anticipation to see what would happen, and the Desert of Doom did not disappoint.

Washes usually spotted with Desert Gold wildflowers are now blanketed in sheets of yellow. Just looking at it makes you want to roll around like a feline stoned on catnip.

Desert Gold Super Bloom at Sunrise - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Desert Gold Super Bloom at Sunrise - ©️ Nicole Atkins

You can actually frolic in the flowers like a happy child, waving your arms about, singing tunes from The Sound of Music. You can do this in the hottest place on earth (and driest in North America). Talk about a rare and splendid opportunity.

And let’s be honest. When you’re in a field of wildflowers the only appropriate action is to frolic gaily.

Desert Gold Super Bloom - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Desert Gold Super Bloom - ©️ Nicole Atkins

The Super Bloom won’t last long. Most of the flowers will be gone by late June or July. While they’re here, the surplus of vibrant blossoms is awaiting your deserved admiration. So go, see history in the making. Walk through the Valley of Death and see for yourself there’s no evil to fear. It’s a veritable gangsters paradise right now. Ah yes, that’s where I’ve heard that line. ;-)

Check out some of the great hikes while you’re there. Death Valley boasts some fantastic canyons and sand dunes. There's even a massive volcanic crater.

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes in Death Valley - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes in Death Valley - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Zabriskie Point in Death Valley - ©️ Nicole Atkins 

Zabriskie Point in Death Valley - ©️ Nicole Atkins 

Mosaic Canyon in Death Valley - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Mosaic Canyon in Death Valley - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley - ©️ Nicole Atkins

 

Have you been to Death Valley, or been fortunate enough to witness a Super Bloom? Tell us about it!

 

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The Chutes and Ladders of Life: Shortcuts to Change

The hands of the clock tick faster the older we get. The places around us never appear the same twice. This is more likely a result of change within ourselves, than our actual environment.

Those who know me well can attest to the fact that I don’t just welcome change, I seek it out. Change helps me grow and gain a more holistic perspective of the world. I’m always looking for new opportunities to expand my limited perspective. How? By engaging with those who have differing viewpoints, traveling to new places, or ingesting various forms of psychedelics. (Just kidding?)

Another way I like to seek change is by experiencing new things. One way to do this without too much risk is to visit the same place twice, under different conditions. It’s like a shortcut to a new experience. I’m not going to call it an “adventure hack” because I don’t like the word “hack.” To me, hacking life indicates you’re too lazy to put in the effort. A matter of rhetoric, really. We’ll call it a shortcut to excitement and adventure by way of subtle change.

Chutes and Ladders - ©️  Ben Husmann

Chutes and Ladders - ©️ Ben Husmann

The Chutes and Ladders of life, my friends. I always preferred the ladders, myself.

I recently moved to the fine state of Utah. I’ve always loved southern Utah but have never seen it in the winter. I’ve heard of the winter wonderland Zion transforms into and I've seen pictures of the snow-covered hoodoos of Bryce.

Map of Utah Road Trip - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Map of Utah Road Trip - ©️ Nicole Atkins

 

 

So, I took advantage of a long holiday weekend and planned a 1500-mile solo road trip.

My first stop was the Bonneville Salt Flats because it was on the way. Timed just right, I happened by this place as the blazing sun rose over the horizon. I’m not a big fan of salt. That’s a long story for another time. Seeing this place is the closest I’ve come to being near salt without cringing. I almost shed my own salty tear. Almost.

Bonneville Salt Flats at Sunrise - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Bonneville Salt Flats at Sunrise - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Zion National Park was my next stop. Zion has always been one of my favorite places. It evokes a sense of grandiosity that has a way of putting me in my in my place.

The contrast between the colored sandstone and the starkness of the snow bewitched me.

Snow Covering Zion's Valley Floor - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Snow Covering Zion's Valley Floor - ©️ Nicole Atkins

It took me three hours to get from one side of the park to the other. This time, it wasn’t due to traffic, because there wasn’t any (which was nice). It's the constant eyeball-busting beauty of the place, at every corner.

West Temple, Sundial, and Altar of Sacrifice in Zion - ©️ Nicole Atkins

West Temple, Sundial, and Altar of Sacrifice in Zion - ©️ Nicole Atkins

The new-yet-familiar feeling around me was comforting and exciting. And let me tell you, if you haven’t camped in sub-zero temps, you haven’t lived.

Next on my list was Bryce Canyon National Park, the best or worst place to lose a cow, depending on your personal convictions. Bryce shuts down most of their higher-level viewpoints in the winter but you can trek to them if you have time. Even better, you can snowshoe among the hoodoos.

Snow-Capped Amphitheater in Bryce Canyon - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Snow-Capped Amphitheater in Bryce Canyon - ©️ Nicole Atkins

The starkest difference visiting Bryce in the winter is the absence of tourists. I didn’t see 30 people there. No need to yell at anyone for feeding Cheetos to the chipmunks (true story). The solitude was welcoming. It was just me, the rising phalluses that make up this wonderful place, and the wildlife.

The sun shining on the fresh snow gives the amphitheater a glow that’s unique to the winter months.

Snow-Capped Amphitheater Close-Up in Bryce Canyon - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Snow-Capped Amphitheater Close-Up in Bryce Canyon - ©️ Nicole Atkins

My last major destination was Capitol Reef National Park. Most people drive right by it when they’re in Utah, which is unfortunate. It's one of my favorite parks in the state. The landscape definitely looks different in the winter.

Capitol Reef in Winter - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Capitol Reef in Winter - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Change is good. It’s restorative. A good step toward change is to find those valuable shortcuts. Something that’s familiar, that you can make subtle changes to. We don’t always have enough time in life to make big, dramatic leaps. We also don’t have enough time to avoid change altogether.

Don’t risk falling down those chutes and landing somewhere at the bottom. Climb the ladders. Be cunning, and proud. When you get to the top, you’ll know you put in the work without being frivolous. While you’re at it, play a game of Chutes and Ladders once in a while. It’s a great metaphor for life.

 

Have you ever had the pleasure of seeing a place you love in a different light? Tell us about it in the comments.

 

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Home is Where You Plant Your Boots: A Tribute to Utah

Apparently, I love to move.

It must be the process of packing everything I own, driving thousands of miles, and unpacking all those things again that excites me.

It could also be that there’s so much world out there to experience, even in our own backyard. I just have the wanderlust to experience it.

Welcome to Utah - ©️ Aram Kudurshian 

Welcome to Utah - ©️ Aram Kudurshian 

No, it’s definitely got to be the tediousness of carrying heavy boxes that gets me going.

Whatever the reason, I moved again. This time to the fine state of Utah. Therefore, this post is a tribute to Utah.

Shout out to Utah!

I’ve had a love affair with southern Utah since I first laid eyes on it. Birds were chirping somewhere in the distance. Lionel Richie’s “Hello” softly filling the air.

I knew it was mutual because the "Welcome to Utah" sign offered up a stylish wedding ring.

The contrast of the deep blue skies against the brilliant red sandstone is like nothing I’ve seen. In fact, I remember people accusing me of over saturating untouched photos. No, it really is that colorful.

Kolob Canyons in Zion - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Kolob Canyons in Zion - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Zion National Park is, by far, one of the most spectacular places I’ve visited. It’s a place that simultaneously reminds you of how important and insignificant you are.

The grandiosity of the massive canyon walls are astounding and humbling; the beauty unforgettable.

Zion Canyon from Angel's Landing - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Zion Canyon from Angel's Landing - ©️ Nicole Atkins

If the National Parks were my children, Zion would be the obvious favorite. It’s a good thing I don’t have children.

Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands. All places everyone should see in their life. If not for the views, mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, climbing, stargazing, or other outdoor activities, then for the rich history. Your life isn’t complete until you’ve seen these places. They're even more beautiful in the winter.

Amphitheater in Bryce Canyon - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Amphitheater in Bryce Canyon - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Fruita Valley in Capitol Reef - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Fruita Valley in Capitol Reef - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Turret Arch via  North Window in Arches - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Turret Arch via  North Window in Arches - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Utah loves its National Parks. And why shouldn’t it? In 2013, the federal government threw a temper tantrum and shut down. As a result, the National Parks closed. But Utah said, “screw you” and struck a deal to reopen their National Parks. Go Utah!

But wait, there’s more!

Utah isn’t just about Mother Nature’s slots and dried up valleys. Up north is a different scene. Just a few hours away are the Rockies. The Wasatch and Uinta Ranges offer even more opportunities for play. The Wasatch have some of the best skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing in the world. The Uintas have several peaks taller than 13,000ft. Who can resist such bountiful peaks?

Wasatch Winter - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Wasatch Winter - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Ruth Lake in Uintas - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Ruth Lake in Uintas - ©️ Nicole Atkins

That’s a lot of diversity. There’s no excuse for boredom in a place like Utah. What other state offers so much variety in one arbitrarily designated set of boundaries?

Utah’s nature is boundless, but it’s great for other reasons too. The people here are, overall, super friendly. A lot of people migrate to Utah for a good reason. Every time I visit, I meet people from one of the places I’ve lived before. In a coffee shop, on a hike, in the bathroom (don’t ask). 

I definitely look forward to planting my boots here for a while.

 

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