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 Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah

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.

Hitch ASU

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 from Sunset Point

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 mountains of Wyoming, Utah, or 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.  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.

The following year, Nancy and Wayne arranged for their family of eight (soon to be nine) and ours of five to camp at the KOA (Kampground of America) in Panguitch, UT and hike in Bryce Canyon together.

Whenever we would fly to Arizona for a week, they would seamlessly add our five to their household, treating us as family.  BC 3A D and H in canyon

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

BC 5 D and H on rim trail

On this first Sunday in June, we return to Bryce Canyon National Park with memories of the Family Turley on our mind.  Years ago, both families hiked down the switchbacks of the Navajo Loop here in Bryce Canyon.

Turley Rothermel 1993 Bryce Canyon

Some of the hikers back in 1993 from left to right.  Nancy Turley, Hannah, Ty Turley, Cara Turley, Janis Turley, Hilary Turley, Will, and Molly

Today, the ranger at the visitor center at Bryce Canyon shows us that we can do that very same loop trail starting at Sunset Point, take the switchbacks to the canyon floor, and return up the cliff side to Sunrise Point.  Though just three miles in length, the trail at 8000’ elevation is a workout.

Being 945A, the ranger suggests we park our car at the lot across from the visitor center and take the shuttle.  Hannah sees the wisdom of such a move while all I see is waiting and more waiting.  Waiting to get the shuttle, waiting as we ride the shuttle all the way to the end of the park and then finally get back to Sunrise Point.  And that’s just the half of it.  Because we’d wait all again on our return.

BC 1 parking spot

The penultimate parking spot!

I hate waiting. I’d rather not go than wait.  Turning to Hannah, I and say, I’d like to take our chances of finding a parking spot by driving to Sunset Point.  No fan of waiting herself, she agrees.  Driving just three miles to the Sunset Point parking area at 10A, we enter to what appears to be a packed parking lot.  But… after circling just once, we find one of the last two sweet spots.  Faith, my loyal readers, faith.

BC D at QV

On the canyon floor heading to the Queen Victoria formations.  Not really a canyon, Bryce is an amphitheater of sandstone delight

Preparing to hike, I wonder how my left knee with its patellar tendinitis will hold up on this fourth hiking day in the last five.  Having stretched earlier, I take my Tylenol, pull on my compression sleeve, and give it a go.

BC 2 Navajo Trail descent

Descending the Navajo Trail

Descending through the red sandstone walls of the Navajo Trail, we are among the fit and unfit who think that this shorter 1.3-mile loop is something they can easily do.  It’s a fairly rapid descent of 600’ down and that same 600’ up!  The switchbacks do make for a family-friendly descent and, from time to time, the high walls shade us from the penetrating sun.

BC 2A bottom of navajo trail

Looking back up to Sunrise Point

At the bottom, we cross the canyon floor towards the Queen Victoria Loop, and eventually we see Sunrise Point high above us.  And then beneath my compression sleeve, I feel the first twinge in my left knee.  There is no shuttle service for aching hikers; I have little choice but to man up and climb to the rim.

BC 4C trail to sunrise point

Climbing the switchbacks to the rim at Sunrise Point, I am reminded of the August hailstorm (at 34F) eleven years ago that attacked us when we last hiked to Sunrise Point.  Today, the cloud cover keeps the temperatures in the low 80s, but it’s still a bitch of a climb.

Nearly to the rim, I realize I am feeling no pain at all; throwing caution to the wind, we decide to hike along the rim for a mile and a half to Inspiration Point.  In many places, there are no protecting fences, and any fall off the trail is sayonara.

BC 5 D and H on rim trail

Climbing from Sunset Point at 8000’ to Inspiration Point at 8500’ is relentless, but… the rich red in the rock formations makes every vista a moment for memorable photography.

Returning to the Sunset Point after three hours of hiking, over lunch, we toast Nancy and Wayne first, Bryce Canyon second.   We got to have our priorities.

Dan and Hannah Hike in Capitol Reef National Park in Utah

Can map of five parks

Ever been to the middle of Nowhere?  We have …and are loving it.  After hiking at the Arches and Canyonlands, then playing pickleball in Moab, we come this early June Saturday to Capitol Reef National Park after 24 years away.

In 1993, Hannah and I traveled the American Mountain West with our three kids, Will (9), Robyn (11), and Molly (13) in our GMC Vandura; atop our van were five bikes and a Sears cargo carrier with tents, sleeping bags, and pads.  That one score and four years ago, we camped at Capitol Reef, picked plums from the tree at our campsite, and hiked a forgettable mountain trail of stone, guided by cairns (i.e. stacked rocks to direct hikers).

CR 2A Hickman Bridge

Hickman Natural Bridge

By my calculation, Capitol Reef is the least visited of Utah’s five national parks:  Zion is the rock star with its Angel Landing death-defying climb (71,000 visitors came over this past Memorial Day Weekend);

#2 and #3, no matter the order, are the every populaire Arches and Bryce Canyon;

Number 4 is Canyonlands, for it does get the spill over from nearby Arches, just 25 miles away).

The black sheep is the out-of-the-way Capitol Reef National Park, some 160 miles to the west of Moab, and 125 miles northeast of Bryce Canyon in the little town of Nowhere, Utah (i.e. Torrey).

CR 1AA D and H by river

Trail to the Hickman Bridge begins

The signature family hike at Capitol Reef is the Hickman Natural Bridge.  Arriving by 930A this first Saturday in June, we get the last of the 20 spots in the parking lot.  Never fear if you happen to sleep in; cars and RVs soon are parking on the main road, which is also common practice at busy venues in the Arches and Canyonlands, too.

CR 2B H on trail

The difference between a natural bridge and a natural arch is how they are created.  Arches are wind-blown creations while bridges are formed from flowing water.  With not a cloud in the sky, I lather up with my Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen that my dermatologist says he uses, place my wide brimmed hiking hat from Georgia, and complete the ensemble with my Mr. Cool sunglasses.

CR 4B H tucked in rock

The rocky sandstone trail takes us along the roadside stream, but then we soon turn inland toward the mountains.  The one-mile trail to the Hickman Natural Bridge is well-marked and busy this morning, with many of us trying to beat the noonday sun.

CR 2 Hickman Bridge with D

Can you see the Hickman Bridge in the foreground?

Unfortunately, the natural bridge is tucked within the mountain so that there is no dramatic vista beyond to give the bridge depth and perspective.   Check out what I mean in the picture to the left.  The rock formations behind it make it difficult for the bridge to standout.  It’s not a difficult hike and we are back at the trailhead within the hour.

Turning at the Visitor Center, we take the Scenic Drive to the trailhead of Cassidy Arch; now 1030A, with 100F predicted.  For two tenths of a mile, we walk the Grand Wash.  Wash (i.e. dry riverbed) walking is like plodding along on a fire road in the forest.  No personality, just directness and tedium ; the wash trifecta of rockiness, sandiness, and stoniness make it difficult to catch a hiking rhythm.

CR 4C D at CA sign

But…very soon, we turn to the mountains and the lung-heaving switchbacks of the 1.5 mile Cassidy Arch Trail (named for Butch Cassidy who hid out in caves in the area).  The first part of the Cassidy Arch Trail is a tough rock climb, with some stone scrambling thrown in where we need both hands on the boulders to climb the mountainside.

CR 4D H on sandstone trail

The trail is popular but certainly not crazy busy as was the trail to the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park days ago.  Twenty-somethings and retirees are the ones we meet along the way.  The sandstone rocky trail requires us to pay attention to where we step.  Later we meet a ranger who hikes the trail by day being “boots on the ground” to be sure hikers are not in heat distress under such demanding conditions.

CR 4E D on stony trail with cairn

Cairns guiding the way to the Cassidy Arch

Just after halfway through our mile and a half assent, we see the Cassidy Arch in the distance.  At this point, we have done most of the 1000’ elevation gain of the hike, so there is less stress on my left knee and our breathing.  Thanks to Tylenol before we began hiking, regular stretching in our motel room, my compression sleeve, and serious icing afterward, I think little of my left knee.


Rappelling from the left at the Cassidy Arch

Within a half mile of the arch, we cross the sloping rock plateau where we are directed by the cairns that I remember from 24 years ago.  They are a godsend and direct us so we have just a bit of rock scrambling to get to the top of the ridge.

CR 5A D and H on CA

Atop Cassidy Arch

At the top, we spot college grads rappelling down from the top of the arch, and meet up with Janis, who turns out to be a fellow Wildcat (University of New Hampshire).  She offers, I’ll take your picture on top of the arch.  It’s not scary.  And right she is.  It’s a 25’ wide stretch above the Cassidy Arch, and turns out to be our favorite photo of the trip.

Descending 1000’ to the trailhead is tougher on the knees than going up, but we use a lot less energy on a cloudless day in central Utah.  We are so loving the out of the way-ed-ness of Capitol Reef and its potential as a hike for our grandsons, Owen and Max.  We look for them to add to the adventurous family legacy of their Mom as well as their Auntie Robyn and their Unkie (Will) here in Nowhere, Utah.

Dan and Hannah Pickle and Pick-up a Hitchhiker one June Friday in Utah

Hitch D and H with paddles

In addition to hiking the trails of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks near Moab, Utah during this first week of June, Hannah and I also make it a priority to play pickleball when we travel.  Thanks to the United States of America Pickleball Association website, we can find pickleball venues all over the country.  Today we join Moab pickleballers for a morning of play.

Hitch pickleballers

Moab pickleballers

With pickleball paddles always packed in our suitcases, we are ready to play on the taped pickleball courts superimposed on the indoor basketball courts at the Center Street Gym here in downtown Moab.  Throughout the morning we whack the hard plastic pickleball with a school bus driver, a saddle and rope tree trimmer, an Iraqi expatriate, and the pro at the local golf course.

Hitch 80 mph sign

Pickleball satisfied, we leave by noon from Moab for Torrey, the Gateway to Capitol Reef National Park, 160 miles away.  Over our stretch of Interstate 70 in Utah, there is an 80-mph speed limit; I channel my inner Dale Earnhardt, junior for an afternoon!

Arriving at Capitol (with an O) Reef National Park Visitor Center, we pull in this mid-afternoon Friday to learn of two fine trails for our hiking Saturday (i.e. Hickman Natural Bridge Trail and the Cassidy Arch Trail – you guessed it; it was named for Butch).  Returning to our vehicle, an athletic woman, who we later learn is the mother of two college age young men, asks if I can give her a ride to her car.

Hitch thumb 2

Hitchhiking?   That’s a blast from the past.  As a college student who was a part of a generation that didn’t have cars in high school or college as many do now, I had a rich history in hitchhiking.   In the late 1960s, my brother Richard and I would hitchhike from our colleges (he Kenyon and me Wooster) in central Ohio to our Uncle Bill’s and Aunt Carolyn’s in Toledo on the Michigan/Ohio border.   We’d use a large sign that said, It’s Mom’s birthday.  It never failed – though it never was.

Hitch ASU

Transferring from Wooster to Arizona State University in 1969 to start my senior year, I wanted to check out the Tempe campus before my September enrollment as an elementary education major.  Getting a ride with my college roommate Mule (born Jim Francis) to his home in Idaho Falls, I then planned to hitchhike the 870+ miles south to Tempe.

My most memorable ride was very early Sunday morning when two cowboys, who had been drinking all night, picked me up.  Only once in the backseat did I realize their inebriation and my predicament.  I tried to tell them I was only going to the next town, but they were good ole boys and would hear nothing of it; in their happy state, they couldn’t do enough for me and took me an additional 80 miles.  As you can tell, I lived to tell this story.

Hitch Tucson

While a student at Arizona State, with my dormmate, Rich Meyer, I hitchhiked the 120 miles from Tempe south to Tucson for Thanksgiving; as two Jersey boys, it was too expensive to fly home across the country for that November holiday weekend.   Picked up by two dudes and a young woman, we were summarily dumped off on an empty country road when they wanted money and realized we had none.  Hitchhiking from there took some time; while we waited, we were pelted with eggs from a passing car.  None of the rich Arizona hospitality we were hoping for.

Hitch knoxville

At the age of 23 in 1971, I hitchhiked for the last time, from Atlanta, Georgia to Knoxville, TN where I ended up in jail; that saga is chronicled in a six-part series on my blog.   Click here for this link.  https://over60hiker.wordpress.com/2015/09/26/dan-has-some-explaining-to-do-about-being-jailed-in-knoxville-part-1-of-6/

Hitch Hickman Bridge

Capitol Reef National Park

My instincts with the young mom this afternoon at Capitol Reef are to say yes and I do.

With Hannah in full agreement, we learn that Rebecka and her family have parked their car at the Chimney Tree trailhead, then hiked the five-mile Spruce Creek trail through a foot of water in places to the visitor center.  Custom is is that hikers than hitchhike back to their car.

HItch Rebecka and Hannah

Arizona Women, Rebecka and Hannah

During our ten-minute drive to her car, Rebecka tells us that her 19-year-old son picked me out as one who would likely give her a ride.  I guess being mild-mannered and unassuming opens doors.  It turns out she is from Tempe, Arizona, the same Tempe where Hannah and I spent the first ten years of our married life.  And get this, she taught at both Holdemann School in Tempe and Nevitt Elementary in Phoenix where I taught.

In ten minutes, Rebecka seems like the cool mom we’d all like to have.  Full of life, setter of boundaries while still making life fun and adventurous for her two sons and husband.  Here is the email she sent the evening after we met.

Dan and Hannah,

Thanks again for taking me back to my car.  It was nice meeting you both.   I’m pretty sure you will be taking highway 12 to Bryce Canyon.  This road is very scenic!  There is a crazy spot in the road after Boulder heading towards Escalante, beautiful scenery but steep on both sides of the highway.  After that part heading down there is a 6-mile hike to a 126-foot waterfall.  The hike is easy and well worth it (lower calf creek falls).  We hiked in and out in approx. 2-2 1/2 hours.    https://utah.com/hiking/calf-creek-falls-lower

Continuing on this road towards Escalante, there is a hike called Zebra Canyon.  You can access this off of the road Hole in the Rock.  5.2 miles round trip. After second cattle guard (approx. 7.4 miles from main road) park on the right and take trail to the left.  Can be tricky to find this slot canyon, and when entering the slot canyon, you get wet up to your waist.  https://www.roadtripryan.com/go/t/utah/escalante/zebratunnel

Hitch Bryce panarama

Bryce Canyon is one of my favorites!  Drive safe and have a fabulous trip! 



Though we took another road to Bryce Canyon, we now have a 126’ waterfall on our Utah bucket list.

Dixie and Scot, are you in?

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 Hike to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park (Utah)

Can map of five parks

Utah’s National Parks

How hard is it to google the name of a national park before you visit to find out the latest conditions?  This is an easy one – it’s not hard at all.  If you are now guessing that I didn’t google “Arches National Park” before our hiking trip to Utah, you pass go and get $200!  We got quite the surprise when we arrived thanks to my little omission!

Arches 3A Tapestry Arch 2

Tapestry Arch in the Arches National Park

Having five days ago gone to my physical therapist Stephane wondering if I would even go on this hiking trip, I continue to follow his advice to stretch my hammies, take Tylenol, sport a compression sleeve for my left knee, and always use a whopping big bag of motel ice on my knee after hiking.

Arches 6A DA 2

Delicate Arch mid-day

Pulling through the entrance to Arches National Park, just minutes from Moab, a little before 8A, we see no one is there collecting fees from the steady stream of vehicles entering the park.  WTF!
Even though we don’t pay because of our $10 lifetime Senior Pass (soon going to $80 – still a helluva deal), lots of greenbacks are whistling by as we are among 40 cars and RVs winding our way through the entrance and up the switchbacks above the visitor center this late May morning.

Arches 1A ANP sign

Unfortunately for us, since the visitor center doesn’t open till 9A, we have no map for the hiking trails; we do have memories of being here 11 years ago.  As such, we have no idea what awaits at the end of the park!   Winding our way up the mountainside, we reach 5000’ on our way to Delicate Arch, the iconic arch that has been on Utah license plates as long as I can remember.

Arches license plate

Being a part of a caravan of now 50 vehicles, we decide to skip following the horde turning right onto the road to Delicate Arch and head directly for the Devils Gardens with its eight-mile trail passing seven distinctive arches.  Can’t wait!

Arches 1 closed road signs

Much to our surprise, we find that the Sand Dune Arch parking area is literally the end of the road.  No Devils Garden!  Who knew?   Well, all those people that googled “Current conditions in Arches National Park” knew.  Later we learn from the signage that anyone going into the forbidden area will be prosecuted.  Whoa, the feds are thinking we might be some sort of latter day Butch Cassidy and Sundance Woman in hiking shorts.

Arches 2A Broken Arch 2

Broken Arch

Life is how you deal with Plan B, and deal with it we will.  Not hard to pull out your Zen, when you have few choices.  (Of course, there is the choice of whining, bitching, and reminding oneself how unfair life is. – And tell me, How is that working out for you?)

Taking the sandy trail through the shadeless high desert, I hardly notice my left knee in a compression sleeve on its maiden voyage.  The hope is building that I might just make it hiking through four national parks and playing pickleball in the coming week.

Arches 2 Broken Arch

Broken Arch

As you can imagine with the unexpected road closure, it’s busy on the trail.  Not Disneyland busy, but lots of people have been funneled into hiking to Broken Arch on a day going to 90F.

Arches 3 Tapestry Arch

Tapestry Arch

Fortunately, the Tapestry Arch lies beyond Broken Arch making our 2+ hours under the relentless sun a good morning of arch hiking.

Arches 6 DA

Delicate Arch

With the aforementioned monster bag of motel ice at the ready, I ice my left knee while Hannah drives us back to Delicate Arch.  Expecting a mob scene of cars, what with the road closure, we are committed to trolling the parking lot for a spot for as long as it takes!  We’ll even park down a side road not made for parking so we can hike the trail to Delicate Arch today.

Surprisingly, the ranger waves us into the Delicate Arch trailhead parking, saying there are plenty of spaces.  It’s just about 1130A and 92 degrees.  Let me tell you, that here in May and June (as it was in the Phoenix area when we lived there for ten years in the 1970s), there is such low humidity that 90F is the new 70F, well, okay 75F.

Arches 5 Bathrooms before DA

Welcome relief in 90F

Waiting in line behind ten others to do our duty in the three available port-a-potties, we know this is a very doable three-mile round-trip hike to Delicate Arch with just 500’+ elevation gain.  Summery, there are many people on the trail, a joyous mix of senior couples, younger, spunkier dating couples, and families (school ends in late May in much of the West and South).

Arches 5A trail to DA with H

On the trail to Delicate Arch with the sloping stone mountainside in the distance

The trail begins with red rock paving, which eventually leads to switchbacks; we then ascend onto a sloping stone mountainside climbing to Delicate Arch.  It’s not a walk in the park, dry heat or not, but a workout for a left knee with already five miles on its tread.

Arches 5B trail to DA w Da

Closing in on the Delicate Arch

Never perilous, the trail is without cliff edges until the final 300 yards; carved into the sandstone, the trail is safe for families and seniors, as long as you apply even the smallest amount of common sense.   As we hike, we ask parents how old their young kids are and how the hiking has been.  Looking forward to the day when Molly and Tip and our grandsons, Owen and Max, can come to the Arches with us, we find a family with a six-year-old who has rocked this heart-of-the-high-desert climb without complaint.

There is nothing like the visual of first coming around the bend and seeing the Delicate Arch.  With 50-60 people in the area, it’s happy people, pleased with their accomplishment.  It’s easy enough to get within 100 feet of the Arch and get a picture that is not cluttered with other people.

Arches 6B D and H preview

The rockin’ Delicate Arch

High desert hiking with a balky left knee in 90 degrees for eight miles is something I wouldn’t have thought possible five days ago.  Here’s one vote for stretching, Tylenol, and a compression sleeve; all of which give me a shot at hiking in Canyonlands National Park manana.  Merci beaucoup, Stephane.

Dan Loses His Mind While his World is Shaken, Rattled, and Rolled (part 6 of 6)

Prelude:  Many people have approached me in the three weeks since my temporary amnesia/aphasia event saying something like “It must have been scary.”  It was scary in 2002.  At that time, with similar symptoms, I had no idea what the future held.  It scared the sh%$ out of me.

Since it happened before, this time wasn’t so scary.   For the first hour in 2017, I had no idea what was happening.  Why would I be scared if I had no idea what was going on!

During the second hour I could sense I was remembering more and speaking a little more clearly.  I was not scared; I was encouraged, especially since I remembered that previously in 2002 I came out the other end just fine.

If it happened again in the coming year, now that would be scary!

So, what do we know with any certainty?   Not much.

Fact #1: On June 27, 2017, I had a temporary episode of amnesia (I didn’t remember squat) and aphasia (gibberish flowed from my mouth).

TIA or TEA are acronyms being thrown around as possible diagnoses.

TIA stands for a transient ischemic attack (ischemic relating to the heart).

Hitch D and H with paddles

Re: TIA.  My echocardiogram and carotid artery tests suggest that my ticker is doing just fine.  No surprise, my parents lived healthy lives into their 90s.  To cover all bases, the neurologist wants me to start taking baby aspirin daily, just in caseAspirin prevents blood clots from forming in the arteries. It can help certain people lower their risk of a heart attack or stroke.

I have no limit on my physical activity; pickleball, ping pong, and working out at the gym top my agenda.

Next week, the neurologist wants me to wear a Holter monitor for 48 hours, which will continuously record my heart’s activity as I go about my daily activities.  I’ll keep you updated.

But a TIA is not the neurologist’s first choice.

It’s the TEA.   TEA stands for transient epileptiform amnesia (which in my case might apply since the neurologist couldn’t rule out some form of epilepsy after reading my EEG (electroencephalogram).  So, there’s no certainty, but it’s the leading choice in the clubhouse.

YH bases

To cover all bases again, I have been put on a low dose (500 mg twice a day) of Keppra to prevent seizures, if some form of epilepsy is what I have.

The bottom line is that the neurologist doesn’t know what caused my temporary amnesia/aphasia.

YH safety net

So, a reasonably wide net has been thrown to cover a host of possibilities.  I get that and am thankful for the caution.

After such an event, by law I am not allowed to drive for three months.   I get that caution, too.  Not driving will be inconvenient but hardly a sacrifice.  I am retired.  Hannah and I regularly play pickleball and go to the gym together.   I have a modest social life (read: limited).

So, for three months, we err on the side of caution despite an uncertain diagnosis and no explanation for a cause.

YH dehydration

I wonder whether dehydration due to caffeine consumption and not drinking enough water (2002) and not drinking enough water (2017) might have triggered the temporary amnesia/aphasia.  The medical professionals never suggest such a connection.  And why this time, when I have been dehydrated many times before?

Without any explanation for the cause of my two events (2002 and 2017), I still wonder.


YH water

Whether dehydration had anything to do with my temporary amnesia/aphasia, I have become a zealot for drinking water daily.  Each morning when I awake, I drink two eight-ounce glasses of water.  Three more follow: mid-morning, before lunch, and with lunch.  Dehydration will not be the cause of any future such event.

I live in a town on the coast of Maine with a great community hospital and in a country with excellent Medicare health coverage for seniors.  I’d recommend York Hospital for its effective loving kindness health care.

YH David and Dan

David Stoloff, my department chair at Eastern, stopped by to check on me.

Since posting of these blogs, I have appreciated many people contacting me and wishing me well.

I heard from a childhood friend who referred to me as Brother Dan in his email of support.

Thank you, Brother Tom.

Dan Loses His Mind While his World is Shaken, Rattled, and Rolled  (Part 5 of 6)

As I am wheeled up to room 220 at York Hospital for the night, much is on my plate.

First, I love the ER staff, nurses and docs of York Hospital; even though I don’t remember their names, I thank them for their kindnesses.  Being more “with-it” later in the evening, I do remember Jo, Tracey, and Nicki, up on the second floor.  I felt their loving kindness and professionalism.   Pretty sweet combo for my nurses.

As I nestle into bed this Tuesday night, some five plus hours after coming into the ER, I am pretty much coherent, speaking intelligibly, and remembering how good life is.  One helluva far cry from a few hours ago.

Tomorrow morning, I have three bad boys lined up to see if there are answers for my temporary amnesia/aphasia; 15 years ago there were no answers.

The echocardiogram will look at how blood flows through the chambers of my heart, heart valves, and blood vessels.   Might some blockage be the reason for my short-term amnesia/aphasia?

The carotid artery ultrasound builds on the info from the “echocardio.”  It creates pictures to show how blood is flowing through my arteries.  When arteries become clogged with cholesterol (i.e. the technical term is “excess crap”), they can become dangerously narrow.  Could clogged arteries be a cause of my brief whacked-out-ed-ness?

The EEG (electroencephalogram) detects electrical activity in my brain.  The test diagnoses seizures and epilepsy, which could be the cause of my temporary-out-of-mindness.

As the Red Sox game ends this evening, I am with-it enough to appreciate the health care I have.   My mind takes a simple leap to the question – How many millions will lose such health care if Republican Washington has their way?  I’m begging you, Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), don’t be bullied.  I have my fingers crossed.

From 11P to 1230A, I flip between the Red Sox game highlights and ESPN Sports Center, but little is of interest and still I don’t fall asleep.

At 1230A, still wide awake, I buzz for some Tylenol for a slight headache and for a sleeping pill.  I never take sleeping pills, but I’d like to get a little sleep before dawn, less than five hours away.  The doc approvals Tramadol, but it does little and I muddle through the night, occasionally sleeping.

Sometime around 2A, I buzz the nurses for another pit stop as I am hooked up to a saline solution which keeps me well-hydrated.   And then, all of sudden, I am looking up at the faces of four beautiful nurses.  It seems my blood pressure was 65 over 35!   I got up a little too quickly from my bed.  Fortunately, one nurse caught me as I tumbled.  Unfortunately, I have to use a bottle to pee in from now on!

At 540A, I give up and turn on Sports Center; amazing how boring baseball highlights for 15 separate games can be.  I mute the TV, then text on my iPhone to pass the time.  Thoughout the morning, three angels visit: thank you, Corky and Scott and Tree.

My morning line-up of heavyweights:   electrocardiogram at 8A;  carotid artery test at 11A; and the EEG immediately thereafter.  Dr. Mark Graziano, my PCP (primary care physician of 35 years), will fill me in on the details tomorrow.   Does everyone get such prompt care?   I am guessing it’s the norm at York Hospital, here on the Gold Coast of Maine.   Rural and inner city America?   I’m not betting on that.

YH Owen and Max

Watching Dinosaur Train in style

After the 90-minute EEG test at 1230P, I am wheeled passed a waiting area where Hannah, Owen, and Max talk to Corky.   Delighted as I am to see them, I am chomping at the bit to transition home (discharge seems like such a disgusting verb filled with sewage and waste).

While I wait, Owen and Max lounge on my hospital bed and watch their favorite show, Dinosaur Train on PBS.

Released after 2P, I have instructions to take a baby aspirin once a day and don’t drive until the neurologist checks me out.

On Saturday, part 6 is a wrap (to use a Hollywood term); my temporary amnesia/aphasia saga concludes with the test results, what could be an explanation of what has happened to me, and the changes that are coming to me for the short and long term.

Dan Loses His Mind While his World is Shaken, Rattled, and Rolled  (Part 4 of 6) 

In a side room off the ER at York Hospital, dressed in my hospital johnnie, I am aware something is changing.   And that’s a good thing.  Having entered the ER in a haze an hour ago, now, just after 7P, I can tell the fog is lifting because I am starting to sense what is happening around me.  Though I don’t know the answers to the medical staff’s basic questions, previously I didn’t know they were even asking questions.  That’s progress.

YH YH logo

Earlier in the evening at home when all hell was breaking loose, Hannah had called Mandy with the apt summation that Dan is acting weird.  Mandy said she would come when Hannah needed her.  At this point, Mandy’s daughter Sammie said, Mom you can’t wait, you have to go now.  Is that a great kid, or what!

When Mandy arrives at our house on Chases Pond Road, Hannah has already taken me to the ER.  Mandy then drives on to the hospital where she watches Owen and Max while Hannah tends to her whacked-out husband of 45 years.

Once it seems that I will be staying for the night, Hannah asks Mandy to follow her home and then return to the hospital with my overnight bag.  While Hannah puts our grandsons Owen and Max to bed, Mandy returns with a change of clothes, my journal, my iPhone, my Scrabble dictionary, shaving kit, and latest Sports Illustrated.   But something much more.

YH Mandy and Han

Mandy and Hannah

Her presence.   You see, Mandy stays when I need someone.  As Woody Allen says, 90% of life is showing up.  And show up Mandy does.

What I need is someone just to listen.  After being totally unaware of what the hell is going on, things are now less fuzzy in my brain.  Slowly, pieces of information are starting to come into focus.

Something else is starting to happen – I begin drinking glass after glass of water.  Fifteen years ago when a similar temporary amnesia/aphasia occurred, I felt that dehydration might have been contributed to my problem.   After pounding my third 20 ounce plastic cup of water, I am feeling alert and aware.  Could dehydration be a connection the medical professionals are missing?  Or is my condition just running its course?

I spend the next hour sipping water and talking nearly non-stop to Mandy about things in my life that I am starting to remember.  My constant chatter is proving to myself that I am coming out of this rabbit hole of amnesia, aphasia, and confusion.  I know I am talking a lot, but Mandy gets it.  She understands that my words are going a long way in convincing me that I am going to be okay.

As I come out of the fog this evening, Mandy’s presence is a gift beyond anything material she could ever give me.

After 9P, Mandy steps out when Dr. Braden fills me in on what’s what.  I am staying the night and tomorrow there will be some big-time tests of my heart and brain.  Shortly thereafter, the nurse wheels me up to room 220.

Next Wednesday, part 5 highlights my overnight in the hospital and my road to recovery.

Dan Loses His Mind While his World is Shaken, Rattled, and Rolled  (Part 3 of 6)

In the fall of 2002, I was beginning my fourth year of commuting 150 miles from York, Maine to my position as an assistant professor of Education at Eastern Connecticut State University.

YH Zip's

Zip’s in Dayville, CT

On this mid-October Thursday, I left home as usual at 4A; after driving for two hours, I treated myself to pancakes and coffee at Zip’s Diner on I-390 south of Worcester, MA, 30 miles from campus.  On campus in Willimantic by 8A, I prepared for my day of office hours, a seminar in teaching Secondary English, a faculty meeting, and my 4P class of graduate students in the Teaching Reading course.

All the while my mind was pre-occupied with the keynote address I would be giving the following morning to 900 public school teachers in northern New Hampshire, 4 hours away.  To summarize, I’d finish teaching on campus by 7P that Thursday, drive to Littleton, NH by 11P, and give my keynote the next morning at 9A.  No stress there!

Well, it turns out there was a lot of stress there.  But, was that what caused what happened that afternoon?   Let me explain.

As my 4P class was approaching, I found my eyes couldn’t focus on the class roster; I couldn’t read my students’ names.   I didn’t feel well (later students said I looked pale); I decided to take a walk while my 25 students were organizing in groups preparing for their presentations.  Upon returning ten minutes later, I got everyone’s attention and told them that something was wrong and I was going to drive myself to the Windham Hospital (not a half mile away).

YH David and Dan

My department chair at Eastern, David Stoloff, checking in on me after my temporary amnesia/aphasia (circa 2017)


YH Windham Hospital

Fortunately, the students didn’t let that happen; a student got my department chair, David Stoloff, and he drove me to the hospital.  I was a mess.  I couldn’t focus, was losing my memory, was forgetting my own kids’ names and was barely holding on to Hannah’s image that seemed to be disappearing down a long tube.   I couldn’t speak.

The medical people ran me through the CAT scan and the MRI.  Nothing abnormal, but no answers either.  I remember being swallowed up by the CAT scan and thinking, am I going to have to learn to use a fork again?

YH Hartford Hospital

Since the medical staff was stumped, they shipped me by ambulance to the Hartford Hospital 30 miles away for their big-time neurologists to give me the once over.  And then a surprising thing happened in the ambulance, I started making sense talking to the EMT, just chit chat.   I was getting better, remembering more and more.  Not four hours later from the initial event, I was doing well enough to be considered for discharge.

YH Moll and Han

Molly and Hannah circa 2017

My department chair had called Hannah, and she drove the 150 miles from York to Hartford with our daughter Molly, a teacher in Rye, NH at the time.  By the time they arrived in the late evening, I was sitting up and ready to go home.  I had to pass one final test.

A nurse came in and mentioned three unrelated items (e.g. apple, water skis, Mount Rushmore).   If I could remember those three when she returned in five minutes, I could go home.  I nailed them.  You would have been so proud!

YH honda civic

Honda Civic Hatchback similar to the one I drove when I averaged 30K miles per year commuting to Eastern

Hannah drove us back to Eastern and then after midnight, I followed her home in my Honda Civic Hatchback.  Clearly, I was fine.  Perhaps, driving home was not the best choice.  I was young, well 55.

Home by 3A, I took the weekend off, received a weekend gift of a three-foot potted plant from the president of Eastern, and drove back the 150 miles on Monday for my full load of classes.

Dr. Brown, a neurologist in York, checked me out and said that of 10,000 patients, he had never seen a case like mine.  He didn’t think it was a TIA (transient ischemic attack (i.e. temporary amnesia related to the heart).  A GTA (global transient amnesia) never came up.  And that was pretty much that.  No limitations, just let him know if any of my symptoms return.  And for 15 years none had!  Until this afternoon.

Given that previous experience, I didn’t feel these symptoms were any big deal, but Doc Braden here at York Hospital, the attending ER doctor, did, and wanted me to spend the night in the hospital.

On Saturday, part 4 picks up on finding an angel in the hospital.