Dan and His Inner Critic – KGUA #83

For April 4, 2022 KGUA Radio Writer’s Hour hosted by Peggy Berryhill and Mark Gross, we are asked to freewrite to the following prompt:

Your Inner Critic…  What does it tell you?

My Inner Critic and I are not on speaking terms.  I’ve pissed him off of late.  Let me explain.

Do you know Byron Katie?  She wrote Loving What IsRun, don’t walk to get this book.

Anyway, she’s all for accepting and embracing reality.  Stop with the negative self-judgment, dare I say letting the Inner Critic run rough shod over you.  Deal with life as it is, not how you believe you deserve it to be. 

Ergo, my Inner Critic has had less to work with. 

Take a recent case from this past week.  Hannah and I are traveling with our daughter Molly’s family of four to Utah in mid-April 2022.  Last May 2021, I booked a condo for four days in Moab, the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. 

And then this past January, I booked another condo for those same four days.  I totally forgot about the first booking.  Covid on the brain?  My advanced years?  Poor record keeping?  Living in the present?  Who knows?  I just double booked.  Sue me!

I realized the double booking just this week, less than three weeks before our departure for the Beehive State.  You see, at this point the first condo was now paid in full and the second half of the balance for the second condo was due on the first of April.

Different from the past, this time I gave my Inner Critic nothing to work with.  Stuff happens.   Without my Inner Critic muddling things, I went back and forth with the two condo owners and got it down to where we’d lose just $400 instead $1200.  That seemed like a win to me.

My Inner Critic is just so bummed. 

Oh, I stumble and not love what is all the time, but, in general, I’m starving my Inner Critic. 

Gee, it only took 74 years.

Words – 295

Dan Has a Road Trip Conversation – KGUA #82

For March 21, 2022 KGUA Radio Writer’s Hour hosted by Peggy Berryhill and Mark Gross, we are asked to freewrite to the following prompt: You’ve gotten into your car as a driver or as a passenger for a journey. Where are you going? Why?

My Conversation with my Inner Self About Road-tripping

The Inner Dan:  Let me get this right! You think a good road trip to the Mountain West begins by flying to Salt Lake City!  What are you smoking?

Dan Himself:   Here me out.  At my age, driving cross country from Maine is no longer in the cards.  Call me soft.   You see, if I fly to Salt Lake City, I can then rent a car and have my road trip start there. I’ll drive four hours to Moab in eastern Utah near the Colorado border.

The Inner DanHmmm, you are not as dumb as you look.  Go on.  Why Moab?

Dan HimselfYou know, I’m a little OCD and a little bit ADHD.  It’s a little like Donnie and Marie Osmond being a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.  To address my need to move and groove, I look for the wide open spaces of the west to get on my Outdoor Zen.  What better place than hiking the high desert of Arches National Park.

The Inner DanCome on, isn’t this really about your Fitbit obsession, dare I say neurosis of getting at least 10,000 steps every single day?

Dan Himself: Whoa big fella.  Settle down. That’s a little judgmental, wouldn’t you say?

The Inner DanPerhaps, but true nonetheless.

Dan Himself: You got me there.  But let me continue.  I’m not going alone.  In time, Hannah and I will take all of our grandchildren.  We’ll spend a portion of their inheritance traveling with them so they come to believe the outdoor life is as common as breathing and dreaming.

The Inner DanI had no idea you were this deep.  Can I come along?

Dan Himself: You know, I’d never leave you behind.  But you are flying coach.

Words – 264

Dan and Hannah and Robert Redford in Sundance, Utah – June 2011 Archive

Taking the Provo Canyon Road (Route 189) along the meandering Provo River, we then turn left onto the Aspen Scenic Highway (Route 92) towards Mount Timpanogos, past Sundance and Aspen Grove to the state park ranger station.  

Returning to Stewart Falls in 2017

In mid-June this year (2011), the road over Mt. Timpanogos is closed due to the snowpack.  The ranger warns us that snows will make hiking a challenge this afternoon.  Immediately after parking, we suit up with fanny packs of trail mix and water, and head to Stewart Falls, some two miles away.  Immediately we discover that a mini-avalanche has covered the trail.  Sixty foot pine trees have been toppled and are strewn about as we step over and under some serious trunks in this heavily forested part of the trail.

Hiking a meandering trail through pine forests, which is as much downhill as up, we spot a 100 yard snowfield that adds to the excitement of the trail.  We slip and slide across it helping others who pass in the opposite direction.  

Mount Timpanogos

One young woman said to me, I need your hand.  We connect as a community of hikers.  Today we are again aware that we are not alone and didn’t get to where we are going by ourselves. 

A popular family hike on this Sunday, Stewart Falls gives us many opportunities to interact with others.  Not 45 minutes after we start, we arrive at the soaring falls, majestically falling to the snowfield below.  

Once back to the parking lot, we look to Mount Timpanogos.  Wide and welcoming at the start, the trail up Mt. Timpanogos has us quickly sidestepping a boot-soaking impromptu steam and sloshing over mushy snowfields.  With another snowfield ahead, we turn back after 25 minutes of hiking.  Hiking in snow is akin to hiking in sand.  We step and slide, two steps forward one step back.  It’s joyless unless you are training for the Olympics or some insane ultra-marathon.  We side-saddle through the snowfields where we see a family “ski” down the snowpack in their boots. 

Pleased and satisfied with our afternoon on the trails in central Utah, we drive down the canyon and stop at Sundance to see what it’s all about.  As we stroll through the grounds, I can’t believe it, but I spot the Sundance Kid. The one and only Robert Redford is literally sitting twenty-five feet away being interviewed outside a screening room on this elegant campus for film folk that he has created.  Star struck, I can’t wait to tell someone.  Three women in their fifties approach.  I say, Have you seen who’s here?  They look and have such joy on their faces.  We are five teenagers.  

Once home I immediately borrow the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) at the York Public Library, released during Dan and Hannah’s senior year of college.   Initially the screenplay was titled, the Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy. But with Paul Newman the bigger name and playing the part of Butch, the title was reversed.  

Initially, Steve McQueen was wanted for the Sundance role, but he and Newman couldn’t agree on who would get top billing.  Let me tell you, the movie is timeless and features Katherine Ross riding on a one-speed bike with Newman to the Academy Award winning tune of Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head (B.J. Thomas). 

2021 Update – As you can see by the top picture Hannah and I returned to Stewart Falls in 2017. After Covid-19 postponed both a 2020 and 2021 trip to Utah with our daughter Molly’s family, we hope to once again hike to Stewart Falls with them in 2022. Today Robert Redford is 84 and lives full-time in Santa Monica, California but who knows where he might be in nine months.

Dan and Hannah Say Good-bye to Wayne Turley

Wayne and Nancy June 2017

Wayne and Nancy at home – June 2017

Our Arizona friend Wayne died this past Thursday (December 2017), after two years of “living” with dialysis.  Having lived a full life as father to seven kids and husband to Nancy, he was one helluva good guy.   No lie, he was one of the planet’s best.   Hannah and I met him and his wife Nancy 40 years ago; we last visited them this past June at their new home in Utah.  In fact, I began a recent blog about them.  And here it is to give you an idea of the man.

When I think of Bryce Canyon, I think of Wayne and Nancy.  Let me explain.

BC 1 Bryce sign

Living in the shadow of Arizona State University in the 1970s, Hannah and I were recently-weds when Wayne and Nancy came into our lives.  I was scuffling along as an elementary school teacher, looking to find my way – wondering if teaching was for me.  Hannah, too, was searching; she tried nursing school, but the paperwork and condescending doctors sank that ship.  Since tuition for us as in-state residents was $300 per semester at ASU back in the day, she, without much financial pain, gave the counseling program a shot.

In her studies, Hannah met Wayne, who was teaching a course in motivation for the Educational Psychology Department.  Hannah loved the class that fall semester; and then Hannah, being Hannah, invited Wayne and his wife Nancy to our house in Tempe for dinner.  We clicked and the magic began.

BC 1AA BC with no people

Bryce Canyon National Park (It is not technically a canyon but an amphitheater.)

Though six years later we moved from Arizona to raise our family in a small town on the coast of Maine, we have never lost our love of the West, its trails, its national parks, and its Nancy and Wayne.

In 1992 when our family of five traveled West, our four-cylinder Subaru wagon pulling a homemade trailer could barely climb the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona.  That’s when Nancy and Wayne came to the rescue.  Near their home in Mesa, AZ, they found a mechanic who diagnosed the problem as a radiator working at 30% capacity on a vehicle that was never meant to tow a trailer of any size. 

A few days later, leaving the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix Metro Area) at 1100’, they towed our trailer with their GMC Yukon to Heber at 8000’ in northern Arizona so we could roll downhill from there for home in Maine.

Turley Rothermel 1993 Bryce Canyon

Our joint family trip to Bryce Canyon National Park in 1993.  From right to left, Nancy Turley, Hannah, Ty Turley, Cara Turley, Janis Turley, Hilary Turley, Will Rothermel, and Molly Rothermel

The following year, Nancy and Wayne arranged for their family of eight (soon to be nine) and ours of five to camp side by side at the KOA (Kampground of America) in Panguitch, UT; we would then hike in Bryce Canyon National Park

Whenever we would fly to Arizona for a week, they would seamlessly add our five to their household, treating us as family; and all under one roof!

They are stunning folks; they think when we are together, what would make Hannah and Dan’s visit more enjoyable?   And they love playing card and board games.   As members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, they are the ones who taught us Mormon Bridge; now the Family Rothermel’s favorite card game.

Wayne and Dan in sunglasses

Two cool guys, Dan and Wayne (1991) when the Family Turley came to visit us in Maine

When Hannah and I saw Wayne this past June, I put the thought that he soon might die out of my mind, though I knew it was a possibility.  We talked, we played games, we laughed.

My life has been richer knowing Wayne Turley.  He was like a brother to me.

Hannah eulogizes Wayne below.

I was pregnant with our to-be-first born, Molly, when I sat in my first counseling class with Wayne.  I knew instantly that I had signed up for one of the best experiences of my life – because of the teacher, J. Wayne Turley.  Within weeks, we had invited him and his wife Nancy to our home for dinner.  From that moment on, dinners together became a tradition. Wayne was the most kind, thoughtful, sensitive listener/teacher I’d ever known. He believed each of us in the class had something to offer one another – we were all students and teachers, including himself. 

His wife Nancy turned out to be equally loving and love-able. Through the years, we’ve shared the births of kids, the deaths of parents, the illnesses and heartbreaks that come with children and life…and kept in touch when we left Arizona for Maine. At some point, the whole Turley family came to the coast of Maine – for further bonding. (A total of 9 kids later.)   

Now, 10 kids combined and more than a dozen grand kids later, we feel as close as ever….and as grateful as ever that Wayne has never stopped teaching us – by example – what  really matters. Wayne lives on because of the place he continues to reside…in my heart, in my mind, in my soul…in my life.

Thank you, Wayne. Vaya con Dios.  

Dan and Hannah Hike to Stewart Falls in Sundance, Utah


Physically, it has not been a good morning.  Wa, wa, wa.  Cue the violins.  In fact, bring on the whole string section.  I can’t be the only one whose body starts to turn on them in their late sixties.

My patellar (knee cap) tendon lets me know that he is not going to play nice today.  I admit I haven’t been easy on the ole boy, this being the sixth day of our seven-day hiking and pickleballing adventures in Utah.  At the neighborhood pickleball courts this morning, he showed me who’s boss.  I am hesitant in my court movements as Hannah and I play with our friend Nancy, her daughter Cara, and Nancy’s grandson Milo.

Then walking the mile back to Nancy’s place on the 90F morning, I walk haltingly, not quite limping, even with my compression sleeve.  Bad news is on the doorstep, I couldn’t take one more step.  (You got to love the appropriateness of this classic line from Don McLean’s American Pie.)

SF 3D falls alone

Stewart Falls above the Sundance Resort

The bad news is that our hike to Stewart Falls with our friend Dixie this afternoon is looking like it’ll be sans dear ole Dan.  There’s no way you should go and risk injury, my rationale side speaks up.  Don’t be an even bigger fool!  

By noon, with no improvement, it is clear, I will sit this hike out.  But things are never as simple as they seem.  Sweet as ever, Hannah lets me know if there is any way I could make this hike happen, she would love me to go.

SF 1C H and D

Dixie and Hannah

She offers the possibility that I drive out with them 25 minutes to the trailhead and just give it a shot.  If it’s a no go, I can take my iPhone and some reading and hang out at the trailhead while the others hike.  Who could say no to such a sensible option and that smile?  Pas moi!

Popping Tylenol and packing my compression sleeve, I suck it up and do it for the love of my life.  In fact, giving the hike a shot turns out to be no sacrifice at all.  If I hadn’t gone, I would have missed a sparkling afternoon with new friends.  Let me explain and show you in pictures.

SF 1D D S and D

Scot, Dixie, and the Ithaca Bomber

AL 2C AL in distance

Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park

Dixie arrives just after three with her bf Scot.  Hannah and I have not seen Dixie since February 2015, when we met her and her then 12-year-old daughter Jocelyn on Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park.  I mean, we were hiking the last half mile of the “hanging on to chains” part of the trail, 1500’ above the Virgin River Valley when we met them!   Click here for the link to that hike.  https://over60hiker.wordpress.com/2015/05/30/dan-and-hannah-wonder-about-angels-landing-in-zion-national-park/

AL 4D d and h at top to the east

Atop Angel’s Landing

As we four hiked the last half mile to Angel’s Landing itself that day, I was impressed with Jocelyn’s cool-as-a-cucumber-ness and with Dixie’s parenting, believing in her daughter and encouraging her along the way.  Think Seb to Mia in La La Land.

After the hike, Hannah and Dixie exchanged contact information, kept in touch regularly, and here we are more than two years later ready to hike together near Dixie’s home in central Utah.

SF butch and sundance

Robert Redford and Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

At the Emery Grove State Park, Stewart Falls at 7000’ is three miles above the Sundance Resort to the west of Provo, UT.  Six years ago, Hannah and I came here to hike in the area.   Once done hiking, we walked around the Sundance complex of studios, restaurants, and grounds.  Stunningly that Sunday afternoon, we saw The one and only Robert Redford being interviewed.  Respecting his privacy but star struck nonetheless, we stole glances and made excuses to walk nearby.  If you are of a certain age, Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) is about as cool as it gets.  He was then cool squared in The Sting (1973).

SF 2C mountains above the trail

Stewart Falls Trail with the falls (dead center) in the distance

The trail to Stewart Falls climbs a few hundred feet of elevation and then down to the falls 1.7 miles in total from the trailhead, which makes it family-friendly and, indeed, an enjoyable walk-in-the-park for those of us over-60.   In the distance, we see the majestic, snow-laced Mount Timpanogos at 11,752’.

Hiking in pairs through the forest, Dixie and Hannah up front, Scot and me trailing behind, my conversation with Scot is easy: first sports, then family, then work (him), retirement (me).  I then learn that he is a lawyer.

Sizing people up with uncanny accuracy, I take him for one who enjoys a good lawyer joke.  So, I jump into the deep end; my “go to” lawyer joke is from The War of the Roses (1989) with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.   What are 500 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

A good start.  Scot has his own go-to lawyer joke, why don’t sharks eat lawyers?

Professional courtesy.

SF 3A D H D closeup

Dixie, Hannah, and Dan

Once up the mountainside of pines, the trail levels off to aspens on this sun-dappled first Monday in June.  Within a half mile of the Stewart Falls, the trail descends as many happy waterfall seekers are returning to the trailhead.

The Stewart Falls are in their glory this first week of June after a rainy winter.  Then it hits both Hannah and me at the same moment!

SF 3E we four at falls

Scot, Dixie, Hannah, and Dan

We have, in fact, been to these falls before.  Six years ago, when snow forced us off the Mount Timpanogos Trail, we indeed hiked to Stewart Falls.

Sit down if you are standing because I am going deep, I’m talking Henry David Thoreau deep.  Hiking in the great outdoors can be therapeutic – mitigating sadness and depression; promoting gratitude and appreciating life; deepening friendships in a woodland setting.  Our love affair with Natural Utah has an apt ending with waterfalls and new friends – Dixie and Scot.



Falls with Nancy Turley early June

Battle Creek Falls in June

PS It turns out the next day, our longtime friend Nancy Turley takes us to Battle Creek Falls near Pleasant Grove in central Utah.  I love this artsy picture of mine.  Do I hear an Amen, brother?



Dan and Hannah Hike in Canyonlands National Park in Utah

With one full day of hiking under my belt without any left knee pain, I am giddy and ready to go for the gold in eastern Utah!  Prior to our hike, I’ll do my hammy stretches, take my Tylenol, and slip on my compression sleeve – a dream threesome of preparation.

Can map of five parks

Hannah and I have history with Canyonlands National Park.  In 1993, with our kids, Will (9), Robyn (11), and Molly (13), we drove cross country from Maine throughout the American West: putting up two tents each night (a tent for Hannah and me and one for the kids), we learned the inexpensive joy of hiking and Coleman stove cuisine.

Camping at Devils Garden Campground in the Arches National Park, we five took a side trip to Canyonlands National Park, hiked some forgettable mountainside of stone, and left without the Canyonlands making much of an impression on us.

Can 1 D and H at sign for Can

Let’s be real, we didn’t give Canyonlands a fair shake.  Today we are back to right that wrong; to make up for that dismissive disregard of this treasure of trails.

Can Currys

Think of the Canyonlands as the little brother Seth Curry, a successful pro in his own right for the Dallas Mavericks, but dwarfed by his two-time MVP, NBA champion rock star brother, Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors.   Though Canyonlands plays second fiddle, let me tell you, it’s a helluva stringed instrument on its own.  It is a national park on a modest scale, without the delays, long lines, and circus feel that comes with the Arches; its distinctive trails across stony landscapes rock the senses.  (You saw what I did there, right?)

Can 2D H tucked in rock

Hannah tucked away just off the trail

Arriving at the visitor center at Canyonlands, at 930A we meet a less than enthused ranger.  (Come on honey, fake it till you make it.  I get that you are probably recommending the same %#&*# hiking trails hour after hour, day after day; but choosing to be Debbie Downer? – how is that working for you?).   Despite her sullen demeanor, she does steer us to three of the park’s signature hikes.

Can 1A trail to Mesa Arch

Trail to Mesa Arch

By the way, Hannah buys post cards afterward and they ask her if she would like to round up her purchase to the next dollar as a donation to the park.  How cool is that!  So, a sweet $0.83 goes to support what Ken Burns calls our National Parks: America’s Best Idea.

Can 1B Mesa Arch

Morning at Mesa Arch

Five miles down the park road, we find a spot at the modest Mesa Arch parking area for 18 cars.  At 945A, we have a short and sweet 0.5-mile loop hike out to the arch, bustling with families of preschoolers and foreign guests, often from Europe. At the start of the trail, we see a tube with Mesa Arch brochures for 50 cents each.  Come on, who has coins in this day and age!  Ah, but the park service is wise beyond its years.

First, no one has coins!   Second, the park is encouraging patrons to reach out to fellow hikers and treat one another by buying two brochures for a dollar, then giving one away!  Brilliant!  So, with my shiny greenback, I look for someone to approach the tube.  Within 60 seconds, three folks from North Carolina approach.  At this point, I swoop in and say, I have a dollar to pay for your brochure and ours.

Can 1C D by cairns at Mesa Arch

Cairn on the trail to Mesa Arch

And then they do the unexpected.  They don’t say, No, no; they don’t say, We couldn’t let you; they say, Thank you.  A simple thank you.  I love me some Tarheels.

The loop trail to Mesa Arch is well-marked with red stone edges bracketing the trail.  Since it is such a short trail, it draws hikers of all shapes and sizes.  It begins a trend of great, family-friendly hikes in Canyonlands National Park.

Check out the video.  


Can 2 H on trail to Upheavel

On the way to Upheaval #1

Jumping back into the car (we can be quite the enthusiastic couple, hence the jumping), we head to the second ranger recommendation; Upheaval Dome Trails #1 and #2, two miles of hiking over red rock trails and massive stone formations.  Guided by cairns (i.e., piled rocks directing hikers over stony landscapes), we look out over the Green River here in eastern Utah.

Can 2 H on trail to Upheavel 2

On the way to Upheaval #2

Twenty minutes later on the trail, a woman says, Are you from New York?  Seeing my ever-present Ithaca College white shirt, I say, I married a New York girl and our son works at Ithaca College; to which she replies, I work for legal services in Binghamton (NY) and we have an office in Ithaca.

Can 2B D and H with Suzanne

Hannah, Dan, and Suzanne in front of the Upheaval Dome

Brighter than many assume, I put two and two together and make the connection that our niece Lauren (married to my brother Richard’s kid, Jon) works for legal services in Binghamton!  It turns out Suzanne has worked with Lauren for years.

Cue the Disney music of It’s a Small World After All…  The mini-moral of this story is pick your hiking gear appropriately to make the most of chance connections.  By the way, I make that sartorial choice of white when hiking because white stands out in pictures in the wilderness.

Can 3A H at Whale

Hannah in front of Whale Rock

Hike #3 is not a cranky ranger recommendation, but it’s a winner.  A mile down the road from Upheavals 1 and 2, we are taken by the massive Moby Dick stone monolith – the appropriately named Whale Rock.  Hiking a short mile round-trip up the spine of the massive stone behemoth, we have another family hike in a family-friendly park.

Can 4A D at Grandview point

Grandview Point before a storm

Weary in the early afternoon, we push on to hike #4, the Grand Dame of Canyonlands, the classic Grandview Point Overlook Trail.  With the gray/black storm clouds building across the canyon, Hannah and I have another red sandstone trail over stony outcroppings, guided by cairns.

Can 4B H on Grandview Trail

Overlooking the canyon on the Grandview Point Trail

With the storms moving our way, we wonder if we’ll make the mile out and the mile back before the deluge.  Check out this video from Grandview Point showing the enormity and isolation of this area.

Hiking along with Lady Luck today, we make it back to our rented Nissan Altima ten minutes before the rain has her way, this eastern Utah summer afternoon.

Dan and Hannah Come to Utah to hike its National Parks (4 of 5)

It’s May and in a month our plan is to hike the trails at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in Wyoming, then head south to Arches National Park in Utah.  Knowing it’s been a snowy winter in the West after years of drought, I call the ranger station at Yellowstone, just north of Grand Teton, to find out the conditions of the trails.

Intro Yellowstone

It seems all the rain we had in southern California in February has been part of the same weather pattern that dumped 600” of snow on the Yellowstone/Grand Teton area. (Normal snowfall for the area is 450” per year.  A very snowy winter in Portland, Maine is 100”.)   I learn that the trails have 3 to 4 feet of snow and may not be hike-able during our visit during the last week in May.   On to Plan B.

One of the great things about flying into Salt Lake City to hike in Wyoming is that it’s an easy pivot to the southeast to hike first in the Arches National Park near Moab, Utah, by the Colorado border.  From there we can head to the southwest for a trifecta of National Parks in Utah (Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Bryce Canyon).

But!  Days before our departure in late May, our travel and hiking plans are in jeopardy.   It all comes under the heading of “It’s a Bitch to Get Old;” who knew after nearly 70 years of daily (read: compulsive) physical activity that I would have tendinitis in my joints!   My wild tennis swinging ways when playing pickleball has led to a nasty case of tendinitis of the elbow.

Intro patellar tendinitis

But that’s not why our trip is in doubt.   The pain of patellar tendinitis (just below my knee cap) in my left leg has me walking haltingly.   The week before we leave, simple walks in the neighborhood have been painful; and what is the point of hiking in the West if I can’t, well, hike in the West?

With our departure for Utah just five days away, I wake by first light wanting to test out my left knee.  Walking our neighborhood, I find within a third of a mile that my left knee is pissed off, aching, and whines to turn back.  Meekly, I obey.

Intro YH physical therapy

Able to score a late morning appointment with my long time physical therapist Stephane, I learn my knee is structurally sound, but what is causing the inflammation and pain is perplexing.  Could it have something to do with his observation that my right leg is stronger, slightly bigger, and more solid than the left?

When he asks me to touch my toes, it is apparent that my hamstrings are very tight; when reaching for the floor I am still 10” away.   I have the flexibility of a log cabin chair.   He explains that the more the hamstrings are flexible, the better the quads have a chance to strengthen, helping the patella track along the femur more efficiently.

After 40 minutes, Stephane says if you were my brother, father, or son, I’d encourage you to go on your trip.  I’m all in now, for I have a plan to deal with my cranky knee.

One, to keep stretching for 25 minutes before any activity (hardly a sacrifice if it gets me back in the game).  Two, take Tylenol an hour before exercise to reduce the pain.  Stephane says, a slight amount of pain sometimes creates a reflex inhibition, thus preventing efficient contraction of the quads … this puts you at risk of injury.

intro compression sleeve

My compression sleeve from Rite-Aid

Three, and this is new and exciting, use a compression sleeve from the local Rite-Aid Drugstore for my left knee during walking and hiking; the sleeve gives bio-feedback to engage the quadriceps muscle more efficiently and gives you a joint position sense that helps you be aware of protecting the knee.

And finally, always ice after activity.  Icing will be a part of my active life forever.  And so, Hannah and I will leave for Utah and explore her national parks the Tuesday after Memorial Day.

Intro La La Land tv

My personal TV.  Thank you, Delta

Arriving at Boston’s Logan Airport for our 645A Delta non-stop flight to Salt Lake City, we have a gift from the universe.  Delta offers me two hours of uninterrupted joy in the viewing of La La Land and its message of the power of being encouraging.

Intro La La Land

The Ryan Gosling character Seb is so relentlessly positive and supportive with Emma Stone’s Mia; reassuring her that her playwriting and performing are fantastic.  He is her brass band and Hallejuah Chorus.  His encouragement and faith in her are just the push she needs to give it her all to succeed.  We can all use a Seb or two in our lives!

However encouraging, or not, that I have been with Hannah, our kids, and my students is a story for them to tell.  At this time, what I do have control over, is being Seb to our grandsons, our five kids, my friends, and especially Hannah over my next 20+ good years.

Intro Owen and Max

Owen and Max, giving them all the encouragement they need

Arriving in Salt Lake City at 10A, within the hour, we are on the road to Moab, four hours away.  As I drive southeast, I think about the presents I do and don’t give Hannah.

I give Hannah no flowers, no chocolates.  She picks out her own jewelry and clothes.  I plan the trips we take, but they are, in fact, gifts she gives me.  At home, I wash the dishes whenever I see them pile up, and wash and hang the laundry.

Intro map of moab

But today on route 6 on the backroads south of Price, Utah heading south to I-70 and Moab, I give her what I can – I let her sleep when it’s her turn to drive.   After 45 years together (July 1 is our anniversary), I have learned that the little things are not such little things.

Intro map of 5 nps in utah




*The four national parks we will visit are, in order, from east to west, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Bryce.  By the way, we only go to the fifth, Zion, in the off-season, say late February, early March.  71,000 people visited Zion National Park days ago, this past Memorial Day Weekend!

Mother and Son

Twenty-four years ago our son Will and Hannah had a moment, among many moments they’ve had.  It was the summer of his ninth year when we as a family were in the midst of six week cross country camping and hiking trip to the American West.

Angel's Landing

Angel’s Landing

Arriving at the Visitor Center at Zion National Park looking for a family hiking recommendation, we talked to a young ranger who immediately suggested Angel’s Landing.  What did we know?  We certainly didn’t know that hikers held on to chains on a mountainside 1500’ above the Virgin River Valley.

While our daughter Robyn had enough of the hike, completing 80% of it, Hannah, and I naively continued on along the mountainside with Molly and Will.  Soon our daughter Molly and I were in the lead while Hannah held back with Will.  Angel’s Landing is a daunting climb at any age, and certainly for an eight year old.

AL 3A chains behind us

At that time and in those circumstances, Will was cautious, similar to what I imagine his nephew Owen might be like.  But Will pressed on with Hannah at his side.

Stung by a cactus needle, Will now added pain to his trepidation.  Still Hannah hung with him, fully planning to sacrifice reaching the 25’x25’ perch of Angel’s Landing herself to be with him.  But those of you who know Hannah know that it would be no sacrifice for Hannah to miss the summit.  Her focus was Will and any choices of hers were made in love.

Hannah and Will Ithaca College

Eventually, together Will and Hannah joined Molly and me on that Zion promontory.  But today thinking back to that mountaintop in Utah, I believe Will felt it then and feels it often Hannah’s unspoken commitment to him and faith in him born from many such moments.

Dan and Hannah Hike Mt. Frary on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake, Utah

Just north of Salt Lake City, Utah lies Antelope Island (in orange in the inset Great Salt Lake map).  Having been through Salt Lake City maybe ten times, Hannah and I have missed this hiking jewel time and again.  With water five times as salty as the ocean, the Great Salt Lake is nearly 60 miles long and 30 miles wide.  Traveling a seven mile causeway from the mainland, we pay a mere $9 for this easy-access adventure.

MF  GSL map image

Taking the meandering park road to the top of a small rise in the desert landscape to the visitor center, we find a spry elderly volunteer who suggests Mt. Frary if we want a challenging hike.  It is the macho hike of the island and it has Dan and Hannah written all over it.

The road along the west side of the island winds along the salty shoreline to a paved access road to the Mt. Frary trailhead.  Though there is a 2100 foot elevation gain on this climb, it’s only three miles to the top or so we are told.  Promises of big horn sheep and buffalo lure day hikers to 6,600 foot Mt. Frary.

Causeway from the mainland to Antelope Island

Causeway from the mainland (in the distance) to Antelope Island

Immediately we are breathing heavily, thinking, Whoa! This is no walk in the park.  Strewn with sharp rocks, the trail has us stepping carefully.

MF Antelope Island State Park map

Busting our butts, we take the first half mile in 13 minutes as the trail now becomes mostly dirt through fields of grasses.  Dressed in tee shirts and shorts we have packed long sleeve tee shirts for the possibly windy, chilly summit.  Far in the distance we see a buffalo or technically bison.  Bison, despite weighing over 2,000 pounds, are able to jump over a six foot fence from a stand-still!  Plus, they can run as fast as 40 mph.  No lie.

The trail winds through fields and is challenging but not exhausting.  We soon see the radio tower at the promised three mile turn around point.  But alas dear reader, we have been deceived.  I know that is an inflammatory verb, but what we have is a faux peak.  It’s not the top.  The actually mountain top is in the distance, maybe a half mile away.

MF  trail to Mt Frary

From here, the trail descends quickly along the mountainside, and then climbs precipitously.  We soon spot two twenty-something’s 25 feet above us with expressions on their faces of how the hell are we are going to do to get down this steep slope.  I crack, You must be the mountain goats we were promised.  They smile and then start inching their way down feet first on what seems to be a 70% incline.

I reach for the girl’s hand and she extends hers to mine.  She’s made it.  Then I reach for her boyfriend’s hand to get him to level ground.  The human touch!  What a connection can be made by skin on skin, even when so brief.  Without words, it says, We’re not alone.  Someone is there for us.  Our climb up is just as perilous up, as we grab rocks and dirt and skirt the edge of the cliff (knowing all the time we have to go back this way).

MF island image

Atop, we have the classic 360 degree view of the Great Salt Lake.  With surprisingly little wind and pleasantly warm, it is only the no-see ‘ems that are a problem.  Knowing the inevitable hike down awaits, we begin our descent after ten minutes with Hannah in the lead.  Part billy she-goat, Hannah soon is sliding on her butt to negotiate the steep slope.  Inspired, I do the same.  And then she turns to go backwards on the 80 degree pitch.  I sidesaddle it and at times go backwards myself to descend this treacherous cliff mountainside.

MF Mt Frary from the base

Just having been unceremoniously dumped from our group health insurance when I retired from the University of New England, I again wonder why there is no national health insurance and what is in the fine print of our private pay health insurance that we just signed up for days ago.  A $10,000 deductible for each of us is not comforting.  I hope we never break a leg.


MF buffalo

We survive to hike on.  Once back at the radio tower of the faux peak, we descend as if strolling in the park.  On the way down we see two hikers in the distance covered with what it turns out to be are motel towels.   Once we meet them, we learn that this father and son had no idea how little shade they would encounter on this basically treeless mountain.   Unprepared, they willingly accept our trail mix and water.

At the trailhead again and not wanting to leave the island before we dip our feet in the Great Salt Lake itself, we drive to the lake shoreline.  The parking area is just 400 yards from the water’s edge.

Beach to Great Salt Lake

Beach to Great Salt Lake

Wading in water that never rises above our knees, we walk carefully on the pebbly lake floor as sand fleas swarm at our feet.  Sampling the water, I find it triple the strength of salt water I would drink for a really bad sore throat.

The hike to Mt. Frary is challenging, even perilous near the top, but most satisfying.   More than 20 people were on the trail this Saturday in June.  As always when hiking, know thyself, thy limits, and the conditions.  Be prepared.