Sunday, January 31, 2016

Random Running Thoughts…. by Lily

I never get used to running with earphone plugged in. So for my early morning runs, it’s just me and my thoughts in the crisp air and fresh sun ray. As my runs get longer, more of my thoughts are focused on running and training and the life lessons within.

Training method.
Running is perhaps the simplest form of sport, all you need is a pair of shoes, some time, and of course the will J  However, like any other sports, to improve you need training. The correct training method will help prevent injury and ensure sustained improvement. Training method is especially important for time cramped me, with limited time I want to know what works better and what fits me. We all know the saying smart people learn from their own mistakes, wise people learn from other’s mistakes. In essence, do your research before you embark on a new “adventure”.

Listen to your body.
There is no one size fits all training method. Try it out, but importantly observe how your body reacts and figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. Same philosophy goes with diet, what works for others may not work for you J Understand the method and understand the why, then build upon it to make it work better for you.
Listen to your body is an essential skill we all need to master. Sure, a clean bill of health from annual physical is great. But remember normal and abnormal is not like black and white, it’s a range of things. With once a year visit would your doctor notice the small, gradual changes that may be happening over time? Only you know your body the best, that is if you pay attention.

The front runner.
I see two types of front runners. Some enjoy being in the lead, enjoy being ahead alone, and will maintain the lead and even widen the distance over time. Others will lead maybe for a short time then slow down to wait for others and join the crowd. What types of runner are you, in running, or in life?

Running in circles.
When solving a problem, running in circles doesn’t get you anywhere. But in running, it does get you cross the finish line! Sustained efforts will make you reach your goals! 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Walking in the Forest of Hoodoos - Queens Garden and Navajo Trails at Bryce Canyon

A park ranger will tell that you look down into the canyon from the rim at Bryce Canyon, and you look up from the canyon in Zion. Many visitors will stay above the Bryce Canyon. But hiking into the canyon will give one a totally different perspective and vista. Bryce Canyon offers several day-hiking trails. Because many of these are interconnected, the popular hikes are combinations of two or more of these basic trails.

The most popular combination 3 mile trail in the park is the combination of Queens Garden trail and Navajo Trail - claim to be the best 3 mile trail in the park. It is best to hike this loop trail clock wise - starting at Queen's Garden near Sunrise point, to hike down into the canyon, and to hike up to the trail head of Navajo trail near Sunset point, and continuation along the rim trail from Sunset point to Sunrise point closes the loop. It  is very steep near the Navajo trail head, and thus it is easier to hike up than hike down.

We hiked on these two trails in the afternoon of our second day at Bryce Canyon, after we cross-country skied along the east rim in the morning. It took us about 3 hours to complete the loop because we stopped constantly to enjoy and capture the beautiful hoodoos and spires at a leisure pace. 

trail map

Trail near Queen's Garden trail head - easy


On Queen's Garden trail

Forest of Hoodood

Natural Gate

balance rock

Two bridges

View of Amphitheater on Navajo trail (near trail head)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Trip Itinerary for Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks

Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks are very popular in 2015. Zion was ranked #7, and Bryce Canyon was ranked #14 among the most visited national parks. These two parks are very crowded in peak season due to their relative small sizes. In fact tourists have to take shuttle into Zion in summer. Because of this, we visited these two parks this winter in the last week of 2015.

As our visit to Arches and Canyonlands national parks in winter of 2014, It turned out to be a great time to see the spectacular vista there without a crowd, and to enjoy the mountains and intriguing  rock formations under the Sun without heat, though it was very cold at Bryce Canyon. We stayed 3 nights each at Zion and Bryce Canyon, explored and enjoyed both parks thoroughly.

Must haves for the winter trip - sunscreen, dark glasses, hiking boots, winter clothes

Day 1 Fly to Las Vegas from DFW

Late morning flight, arrived at noon time due to 2 hour time difference
Walked the strip after dinner
Watched Penn and Tyler Magic Show at night at Rio Casino and Resort.
Stayed at Treasure Island on Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas' Night

Day 2 Zion National Park

Drive to Zion (Springdale) in the morning , I-15 north – 163mile, 2hour40minutes
Arrived at Zion around noon, grocery shopping and lunch
Drive along scenic drive in Zion - stop along the way at vistas (partial)
Hiked Emerald pool trail and Hiked part of west rim trail
Hiked on Watchman trail to see Sunset
Dinner at Wildcat Willies

Zion Canyon

Day 3 Zion National Park

Hiking on Observation Point Trail/Picnic Lunch (5 hour)
Continue Scenic Drive from Weeping Rock
Hiked on River Side Walk (Temple of Sinawama)
Dinner at Spotty Dog Cafe

On Observation Point Hiking Trail

Day 4 Zion National Park

Hiking to Canyon Overlook Point on the east side of the park ( 1 hour)
Hiking to Hidden Canyon ( part of the trail has chains due to long drop off/danger)
return to hotel early (~ 4pm) to rest 
Dinner  - take-out from Thai Sapa

Canyon Overlook

Day 5 Bryce Canyon National Park

Drove to Bryce Cannyon from Zion in the morning (8am) along Utah 9/89/12) - 85 miles, 2 hour
Stopped at Check board Mesa on the way (inside Zion)
Arrived at Bryce Canyon at noon, Stopped at visitor center, watched park video 
Drive on the scenic drive all the way to the end (rainbow point), hiked a short trail Bristlestone Loop
Drive backward toward entrance stop at vistas, watch sunset at Sunset point
Dinner in the hotel room - instant noodle (!)

hindsight rainbow point would be good starting point for snowshoeing on lower canyon rim trail
there was only one restaurant open at Bryce Canyon city in winter - Best western hotel's - Ruby's inn 

Bristlestone Trail near Rain Bow Point

Day 6 Bryce Canyon National Park

Cross Country Ski in the morning 
Hiking on Queens Garden/Navajo combined trail loop - A MUST!

Cross Country Ski

Inside Bryce Canyon - Queens Garden

Cross Country Ski rental at Best Western Winter activirty center (Ebenezer’s Barn & Grill building)
Crampon on hiking boots are recommended for hiking on icy or packed snowy trails
Cross Country Ski or snowshoeing trail head are not well marked - start point 1  - in front of the building beyond the ice rink; starting point 2  - back of the left handside (east) of the building - follow the trail to trail head

Day 7 Bryce Canyon National Park

Watch Sunrise at Sunrise or Sunset point (check sunrise time the day before)
Hiking on Fairyland loop trail (8 mile) - starting from trail head near sunrise point
    - snowshoed for 5.45miles, hiked the remaining portion carrying the snowshoes
Star gazing at Sunset point after dinner - marvelous ! 

Snowshoeing on Fairland trail

It was not a good day for snowshoeing since the last snow was 8 days ago; better snowshoeing trail at this time should be lower rim trail at rainbow point

Day 8 Going home

Drive from Bryce Canyon to Las Vegas (late afternoon flight)

Stopped at Zion's Kolob Canyon branch
Lunched Rio Casino (KJ Kim Dimsum)
Walked lower portion of the Strip - Luxor, NewYork/NewYork
Fly home

Luxor - Sphinx 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sunrise, Sunset and Starry Sky at Zion and Bryce Canyons

While enjoying the mountains, canyons, cliffs, hoodoos, spires, blue sky and white snow, we also looked up heavens for inspirations  ... Sunset, Sunrise and Stars in the Sky.

The best place to watch sunset at Zion is at Watchman trail. The best place to watch sunrise at Bryce Canyon is Sunrise point. Since Bryce Canyon boasts the darkest sky in America  - far away from light pollution, and one can see 7500 stars on a moonless night compared to 2500 stars from most remote rural areas, no visit to Bryce canyon is complete without star gazing there.

The first day at Zion National Park, we drove along the scenic drive and stopped at viewpoints one by one and hiked some short trails. In the late afternoon, we were behind schedule for the hike on the watchman trail to watch the sunset. It was 5:10pm when we arrived at the trail head. The sun was low in the sky, and our shadows got longer with every passing minute. I noticed that our shadows on the trail side trees were close to our real sizes. So I asked the whole family for a group picture of shadows at  next tree (first picture below). I was the one on the left hand side, with only one leg in the shadow, Nicholas was half squatting, and his mom facing him from right,  Justin stood tall on the right. I did not realize that I dropped a glove while taking the picture until later, I had to call out to alert the family. The boys were far ahead of Lily when I caught up with her at the intersection of the trail and a service road in the park. The hue of sunlight started to change and our shadows were really long. As I took another picture of shadows, Lily gave a peck on my cheek. How lovely!

We got only to a half way point on the trail when the Sun set. It got really dark quickly in the mountain after sunset. Soon afterwards, we could barely see the trail on the way back but the silhouette of the trees at twilight was quite impressive. 


on the Watchman trail during Sunset


silhouette at twilight
Based on weather condition, we went to watch sunrise at Bryce Canyon on December 31, 2015. The sunrise was around 7:43am that day, so we got up around 6:30am, washed and had breakfast before heading to Sunrise point at Bryce Canyon. It was windy and cold (0 F) at this high altitude (8000ft) park, our fingers froze as we tried to take pictures! Th sky was blue, the snow was white, the air was crisply freezing  and clear. I actually felt the warmth of the sun seeing its light on the snow. It was worth the hassle to witness the grandeur of sunrise at Bryce canyon.

Bryce Canyon  is the "last grand sanctuary of natural darkness".  Star gazing is a must to true nature lover. We went into the park after dinner on New Year's eve to watch stars. we had never seen the sky full of stars! Milky way was easily observed. As our eyes adjusted to the natural darkness, we could move around with only the light from the stars! We stayed on the east rim of Bryce Canyon for about 10 minutes despite bone chilling cold. It was memorizing. 

Sunrise at Bryce Canyon

warm sunlight

Rising Sun over Bryce Canyon
Starry Sky over Bryce Canyon


1. Justin took a couple of decent starry sky pictures without tripod! He placed his camera on the top of the car.
2. Other great starry sky I observed include the sky over Big Bend, the starry sky over Yosemite, and the night sky over White Sand National Monument.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

A short stop at Las Vegas - by Lily

Las Vegas embodies many things that conflict with our life values, perhaps that’s why we haven’t been back for over twenty years. Yet it is a magic city that played magic for us twenty some years ago. It is the city where Allan and I shared our first road trip and eventually tied the knot. So when we made a stop at Vegas on Christmas day on our way to Zion National Park, Allan couldn’t help telling the “fairy” tale to the boys. Of course they paid no attention :).

We strolled down the strip, snapping photos here and there. The Sands hotel where we first stayed was long gone. But the pirates’ ship is still docked at Treasure Island. Mirage’s volcano is still active, and the "blue sky" inside Cesar Palace is still over our heads. 

Pirate's ship at Treasure Island 
Erupting Volcano at Mirage
'Blue Sky'
There are numerous new hotels and casinos. What impressed us the most is Bellagio. The lobby ceiling is filled with Chihuly’s glass sculptures. The atrium is decorated like a Christmas fairy land. Outside the hotel people gathered around a giant pond. We were there at perfect time to watch the water fountains dance to “sleigh ride”. The music, the lights, and the twirling water streams made a wondrous display.

Chihuly's Glasses
Dancing Fountain at Bellagio 



We ended the night by watching Penn & Teller, a magic show. Despite the late hours, the jokes and laughter entertained us till the end. It’s memorable Christmas day for us all.