Friday, July 12, 2013

Born on the Fourth of July

Brandon turned 40 this year, and every year for as long as he can remember, he has shared his birthday with America. It was kind of cute when he was a little guy, because he sincerely thought the fireworks were for him, but I think for maybe the last 30 plus years it's been kind of a drag having his birthday fall   on the only major summer holiday. (Not to mention we've had many moves fall on his birthday weekend as well. . .) 

Every year I try to balance the two birthdays (America and Brandon), but I usually feel like he ends up getting the short end of the stick. He never ever EVER says anything about it, mind you, but I know he feels like his birthday is an after thought more often than not. 

Which leads us to the big 4-0. Brandon was kind enough to take me up to Jackson Hole, WY and send me paragliding for my 40th birthday (a long standing wish of mine), so I wanted to make his birthday something special as well. I asked him over a year ago what he wanted to do for his 40th, and he said hike The Narrows with our two oldest kids. I kept it on the radar, and as his birthday got closer I started looking into it. Unfortunately, if you want to do it the way he wanted to (backpacking from the top down the entire 16 mile stretch and staying overnight half way), you have get online with a million other people and make reservations super early in the season for one of the TWELVE campsites. Long story short, we were too late in the game to get a reservation. 

Then I found out his family reunion was going to be the week of his birthday, so I gave up on the idea of doing it for his actual birthday. But THEN I found out our reunion was going to be at Brian Head (less than 2 hours north of Zion National Park where The Narrows are) so I started thinking of ways we could do it the weekend after (maybe send the little girls home with someone for a few days?). But THEN I found out everyone was leaving the reunion early so they could be home for the 4th. Sigh. But THEN I realized his parents and one other brother and family would still be in Brian Head on the 4th so I went ahead and asked them if they would watch the girls for us so I could give Brandon his birthday wish on his actual birthday. 

And so the stars aligned just this ONCE for Brandon, and he got his birthday all to himself this year. (We didn't even watch the fireworks, so THERE!) And none of us minded at all, because it was just about one of the most amazing places anyone of us has ever been (as the pictures will show). 

When you say you are hiking The Narrows, you are essentially saying you are hiking the Virgin River. If you aren't staying overnight, you just take the mile long Riverside Walk hike at the end of the bus line at Zion National Park and then jump in the river and start walking! You can go up about 5 miles without a permit before you have to turn back, but I think we just went over 2 miles up (about 5 total plus the Riverside Walk hike). It's pretty slow going since you are doing a lot of bouldering and also going through the water, but it's absolutely breathtaking, so going slow isn't a problem. 

The weather was over 100 degrees that day, so the bus ride and hike to the river were pretty miserable, but once we got inside the canyon and into the water (low 60's), it was just perfect. 

These pics are only about a fourth of what I took, but you can see why I couldn't stop snapping away. Since we had to swim parts of the trail, I had my camera double bagged in freezer ziplocks in Brandon's backpack, but even then I was kind of freaked out about it. Turns out, that actually works really well (double bagging is what they recommend for everyone going in there with cameras), so then I started wishing I had my wide angle lens. In any case, I couldn't resist getting the camera out of the bag every once in awhile to snap as many pictures as humanly possible, and I'm so glad I did.

So happy to be able to give Brandon his birthday wish this year and have so many wonderful pictures to remember this amazing time we enjoyed together. Happy Birthday, Brandon!








(Whenever someone had to "go", we would stop to "admire the scenery" . . . .)






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