Frands!
Climbing
Super cool clubhouse
Smallest fish on the block!
The Temple
MMMM gluten
The great salt lake
All shapes and sizes.
Western Medowlark
The herd

Salt Lake City

NATALIE'S WEEK:

After saying goodbye to Eric at the SLC terminal, I headed home to the trailer. Solo. Alone.

I had the whole place to myself in a swanky RV park for a whole 6 days. It was time for gluten, sleeping in the middle of the bed, and doing what ever I want! (mostly it was mindlessly walk around, nap, and hang with friends.)

The first night was the 4th of July, and I had no desire to drive into the city. When I was in college I worked some dance gigs for Disney and was treated to front row, lake side, top notch firework displays on the 4th of July and New Years. Ever since then, big firework events have been lack luster (tough to beat Disney) so I don't tend to seek out crowded events for just fireworks. I did enjoy peeking over the fence behind the 'campground' to view a few different shows going off in the area, and retired early.

I had a few main to-do's on my list while in Salt Lake City, including Antelope Island State Park, eat glutenous pizza, see the city center and the outskirts, and meet up with my old friend Sarah!

I was very excited for that last one. Sarah and I met through Outdoor Adventure at UCF, and unfortunately met towards the end of my time there. By the time I got to know her enough to realize we should hang out more, I graduated and moved to New Mexico. Luckily, like so many of the wonderful people from Outdoor Adventure, she was open to meeting up and we reconnected instantly! I appreciated the opportunity to talk with Sarah and John, and they were so kind to show me around some of their favorite spaces in the area.

These guys had some travel experience of their own, which was helpful and comforting to hear about their time abroad, and how settling back into a US life was for them. Also, it gave me another glimpse into what grad school life would be like. Sarah is going for her PhD in subjects way beyond my understanding, so it was nice to see the work/school/life balance between her and john and their two cute pups. Also, thanks to John's sweet work connection at Backcountry, Sarah so kindly gifted me an adorable dress and an awesome bathing suit (both already being put to good use!)

The time spent with these guys was appreciated more than they know. They took me on my first multi-pitch climb, which was also my first trad climb. They were knowledgeable, confidant with their skills, and extremely encouraging for my skill level. I felt very comfortable, even on trad equipment, and the views out in Cottonwood Canyon were stunning. I was excited to tell Eric that I actually would be open to trad climbing in the future. They also shared their stories of climbing in Viet Nam, their growth and comfort with different climbs and techniques, and a realistic vision of weekend life as a grad student. Thank you guys so much for your honesty, patients, and support.

I was also able to join Sarah, John, the pups, and a few of their friends for a hike. Everyone was wonderful, and one friend even remembered me from the UCF Tower. It really brought home how many lives I feel like I have lived over the last decade.

The outdoor activity areas of SLC were crowded, but not at Bay Area levels. Sarah and John also confirmed that they rarely get denied the hike or climb they plan to do due to crowds, so that was a plus.

Outside of hangin' with these guys I celebrated Glutenfest 2019! Complete with zebra cakes, chocolate cinnamon toast crunch, terrible chips, a whole pizza from The Pie (gyro and roasted garlic my new second favorite topping), and a fair amount of other trash food. I finally got some ice cream and a giant piece of cake downtown too. I also took myself out on a me-date for some dumplings. What can I say, I like to indulge a bit when left to my own devices. I had some kick-ass tacos at Lone Star Taqueria after climbing with Sarah and John as well, and they told me there were plenty of great food choices throughout the city. I spent some time doing chores and walking throughout the main downtown area as well, and it was interesting to see the heavily Mormon influences throughout the buildings, shops, and population. I have lived in the bible belt long enough to know that I have no desire to live in a area of any kind of religious majority, but it was interesting to see during my visit, though I did not pay to do the tour of the temple.

My last solo day was spent exploring Antelope Island State Park. Famed for wild herds of bison, this park did not disappoint. It had great bird watching and views of the Great Salt Lake, but the real star of the park was the massive bison herd. I hiked a few trails, but mostly I sat in awe watching and listening to the bison move about their habitat. Snorts, grunts, hoof stomps, dust baths, and brawls created a most unique soundscape. Old boys and young babes roamed freely on these salty marshes, and it was my first experience with wild bison. It was beautiful and made me really excited for the Yellowstone area to come.

The RV park had a club house which I enjoyed free hot coffee and crappy cable tv every morning. When Eric came back, we met up with Sarah and John one last time here as well. They came over for a tour of the trailer and a swim in the pool. It was a weird hotel-like park, but a great way to stay near a city for cheaper than a hotel. I got to shower every day, too, so that was neat.

All and all, Salt Lake City was just fine. It was a bit trashy, like Florida, a bit over religious, like Florida, but had mountains, forests, and 'beaches' to explore within the city limits. I would not seek out a life in the area, but if a perfect job, or a perfect school program was available in the area, I would not be too sad about it either.

It was good to have some time apart from Eric. I can still function just fine on my own, and he did just fine too. Sometimes you wonder when you live in a box full time if you have just fused into the same person, but it seems there is no need to worry...yet. Plus, it gave us time to actually miss each other. Dear future me: make sure you never stop going on me-cations and me-dates. It is very important.

Unfortunately normal life does not stop just because you are traveling on the road. Eric needed to fly home to Florida to renew his drivers license. This is that story.

ERIC'S WEEK:

Red eye flights always suck, fortunately Peter and Jess bought a house close to Orlando International Airport so getting in at 4 in the morning was much more pleasant than normal. It was awesome having them pick me up right after I landed and take me to their lovely house which had a guest room and a soft comfy bed. Peter and Jess were also awesome enough to drive me to the DMV to try and get my license renewed. They grabbed some chick-fil-a and waited about an hour and a half while I did exciting things like stand in line, sit and wait, and fill out paperwork. Thanks to them I was able to get my license renewed on my first day in the state and was able to hang out carefree with everyone the rest of the time in Florida.

The rest of the long weekend was awesome! The most difficult part of being on the road beyond the mechanics of how to live day to day is being isolated from family and friends. Beyond just physical distance and limited chances to visit, the lack of cell reception in the vast tracts of western desert prevents you from having any regular contact with your loved ones.

Even though my time was short, I got a good deal of quality time with my Mom, Dad, Brother, and soon to be Sister-in-Law. To make things even better, I got to spend quality time with Peter and Jess's golden retriever, Tucker. We watched TV, went to the movies (Spiderman: Far From Home), drank, and hung out over the long weekend. The only unfortunate thing that occurred was rainstorms started everyday at 11am and ending promptly at 7pm limiting the amount of time I was able to spend lounging in the pool. Life is cruel and unfair sometimes, I know. The weekend seemed to fly by and before I knew it I was saying my goodbyes and boarding a plane back to Salt Lake City to rouse Natalie from her food coma and continue on our adventure.

In summation:

10/10 would climb and hike with friends again.
9/10 would stand in line at the DMV to get a few days with family again.

Song: Most songs by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes for SLC and throughout Idaho.

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