“Garden of the Gods”

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Two Christmases ago I gave my husband a card with a repeating pattern of camping tents on the front. Inside, I confidently announced my Christmas gift to him: a road trip to the national parks of southern Utah. It was on our bucket list! It would be our first road trip since our kids have grown up, leaving us on our own! We could start a new tradition!

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What I neglected to note as I wrote that card, however, was the actual fitness of my trip-planning skills to the requirements of the task. Was I confusing myself with someone else? Oh, THAT’S RIGHT. While this skill-set does exist in my household, it does not belong to me. It is my husband’s.

Hubby’s M.O: Go online and plan the trip.

My M.O.: Read a little, brainstorm (with hubby), go look up more stuff, bounce ideas (off hubby), write things down, float possibilities, write things down in multiple places, lose track, get overwhelmed, make impulsive decisions. Give hubby the impression that the plan is shaky. Does this sound even remotely Christmas present-ish??

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My guy was tremendously patient with me and allowed my slow, uncertain method to still be a kindness to him. I fumbled around just about as described in my M.O. above, with him providing only enough structure for my halting efforts to actually bear fruit. (I’ve mentioned before what a gift my husband is to ME.)

And in this manner it finally came to pass that we indeed took our two-week road trip to “The Mighty Five” national parks of Utah in September of last year. Two heads are better than one, and all that.

But about those parks! Have you been there? Do you live near there? IT’S MAGNIFICENT. The landscape makes you feel tiny but at the same time fills you up and enlarges you (somehow!) with its glorious spaciousness.

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In September I blogged an overview of the trip, including a handful of our photos. Then this last weekend we had some friends over for dinner and to see our pics from the trip (they’ve been asking!). And I realized I needed to share this blanket—a wedding gift and offshoot of our Utah road trip.

En route from northern Illinois to southern Utah, we stayed a night in Colorado (worth its own road trip, of course, but that will need to wait). We arrived at the end of a long day of driving, and our friends in Colorado Springs popped us into their car at dusk and drove us about a mile from their home to a favorite spot of theirs, the Garden of the Gods. It was our breathtaking introduction to the rich reds and vibrant greens we were about to see throughout the next 10 days. So as a very belated wedding gift to them and as a way for me to express our joy with the place and with them, I made a small throw/large lap blanket.

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My aim was to represent the land, the space, the juxtaposition of the brilliant colors that we stood over and under and among at all times. I experimented with some free-style stitching to capture the line and texture of the monolithic stones. And if you look just left and below the cloud, you can see my nod to Pike’s Peak, whose eminence is constantly felt in Colorado Springs.

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GO, friends. Look up The Mighty Five. Look up the US National Park Service. Look up AAA and get some old-school road maps that will rewire your brains. And if you need some trip-planning advice, you know who to call. I will hand my hubby the phone ;).

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“Garden of the Gods” (45″ x 55″)
This blanket has already gone to a good home.

The Mighty Five

Art in the Barn is at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, IL, next Saturday & Sunday,
Sept 24 & 25, 10 am-5 pm each day.

I’ll be in Tent 21 near the north entrance (see map here). If you’re nearby, call up a friend, come on over, stop by Tent 21 and say “hi”! It’s a beautiful setting and a fun way to spend an afternoon. Any shopping you do supports a really great hospital. Hope to see you there!

That was my public service announcement :). Keep reading for a brief round-up of summer fun–

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My husband and I just returned from a two-week road trip out west to see friends and to tour southern Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks. It was an incredible amount of loveliness to take in all in one pass. Though I have many photos yet to sort through, for now I thought I’d give a quick overview … in addition to the reminder above about Art in the Barn!

Stop #1: Canyonlands National Park

Highlight: We hiked a 6-mile trail through The Needles section (from Elephant Hill to Chesler Park) and had nearly all of this surreal landscape to ourselves. There are no trail markers but the stacked cairns, often over rock and slate, to point the way through the “needles” and the “mushrooms.”

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Stop #2: Arches National Park

Highlight: In the same way the mind finds whimsical shapes in clouds, my imagination was triggered by the interesting shapes of this park’s formations. Do you see the elephant head below? (In the second and fourth photos below, of Double Arch and the South Window, look for the tiny people in order to gain a sense of scale.)

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Stop #3: Capitol Reef National Park and the town of Fruita

Highlight: Through Airbnb we stayed in a home hand-built by a man who loves this land and loves puttering. In the evening we relaxed in his garden of thoughtful details and in the morning we awoke to sunrise on the bluff just behind the house. (Our hiking at Capitol Reef itself included the deep canyon of Grand Wash Trail.)517a430a596a 626a

Stop #4: Bryce Canyon National Park

Highlight: It was late afternoon when we finished our hiking in Bryce (Navajo Trail/Queen’s Garden loop). It seemed like the entire amphitheater was aglow in color!

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Stop #5: Zion National Park

Highlight: We climbed straight up the canyon walls, essentially, to gain an altitude of 1488 feet on a hike from the river at the canyon bottom to the top of Angels [sic!] Landing and back. In the first photo below, check out the steep switchbacks on the right. These were nothing compared to the next set of switchbacks, nicknamed Wally’s Wiggles. The second photo is of a broken-off branch of manzanita tree, I believe, that has been clung to by each and every passing hiker on the final steep ascent. Photo 3: my feet at the top of Angels Landing vs. the triangle of the park’s shuttle stop at canyon bottom. Photos 4 and 5: Zion Canyon and sunset.

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There you have it: my whirlwind summary. It’s a trip I highly recommend. We live in a country that has such interesting topographical diversity. With every curve we rounded in any road we were on, each mile looked new. (Well, maybe not in Nebraska. Sorry, Nebraska!)