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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Old Nauvoo

"Another trip?" you say...
"Of course!" says I...
But it's the last one before I leave on my mission....really, I promise. Would you like to hear a bit about it?
Well, too bad (or tad, as Jenae would say), cuz you're gonna! :)

After I drove home to beautiful, colorful Colorado, I had approximately 15 hours before I headed out once again in the car...this time, my parents and I were headed for NAUVOO, IL!!
There is a Nauvoo pageant every summer put on by the LDS church and my great uncle, David (well, he's not my great-uncle, but he is GREAT!), and 3 of my wonderful cousins, Sarah, Hollie, & Michael, were part of the cast - so we wanted to go out and see them perform!
On the drive we met up with my brother, Nate, and his family. Oh, and I found some interesting signs along the road...and I thought they only had cool signs in England! ;) I also learned that when you are driving on the freeway at night in the east, and a firefly happens to smash into your windshield, you will have a little blob of guts that glows for about 5 minutes...its pretty cool.

We then went to Carthage to see the Carthage Jail, where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were martyred. What an amazing place!
We ate at a cute little pizza shop with homestyle cookin' and service, then headed up to Nauvoo. Just driving into that city is...well, magical. I loved the feeling! And you know what we did first thing?! Yep, we ran around catching fireflies! Boy, Morgan is a PRO at that! Aww, the little joys in life... :D

The next two days were filled with loads of pioneer fun - making a rope...learning how to make bricks (and learning the origin of the phrase, "you can't hack it!")... gunny sack races...stilt walking...
(and being the competitive King's we are, of course that was a race too)...
and seeing the sights and history of Nauvoo (including the cemetery where Joseph, Hyrum and Emma Smith (and many others) are buried).(me at the cemetery with my nephew (Morgan) and niece (Emma))

One day, Emma decided she didn't want to let me out of her sight, so instead of holding my hand, she just stuck her hand in my pocket all day... reminded me a bit of myself ;)

We also got to go to the beautiful Nauvoo temple!What a place! I just can't explain how wonderful it was!

And the reason that we went in the first place....
We got to see it both Friday and Saturday nights and it was absolutely amazing both times!
And my uncle got us front row seats! It was perfect! Besides getting to see my wonderful family as actors, I also got to see a friend from England that I met this spring. He was one of the main characters (professional actor) and performed amazingly! He played a Scottish man whose wife joined the LDS church and came over to Nauvoo, so he came with her...As he lives among the people and helps build the temple, he gains a testimony for himself of Jesus Christ and His Atonement. It was so fun to see you again, Darren!
(David, me, Hollie, Michael, Sarah, my mum, dad, & Darren in front)
WELL DONE to all! And thanks for letting us enjoy your performances!

I can't say exactly how much I enjoyed being able to take this trip before I leave on my mission - what a power and spirit is in that city! I feel my testimony of Joseph Smith and the faith of the early saints of the church strengthened so much! I feel closer to them and I gain strength from their legacy of faith.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Come to Zion, Come to Zion!

Oh, my dear I love thee! There are very few people in this world who will ever truly understand just how much I love this great place (Zion National Park)...

And what a way to spend my last week in Utah before my mission! I wanted to spend some time there by myself before some friends joined me, so I drove down by myself Wednesday morning. I went to some of my favorite spots and just soaked it all in!

I went up the Narrows and found a nice little hole in rock to sit and read for a bit near Mystery Falls. The people walking by either didn't even notice me, or were quite surprised to see me sitting there so peacefully, reading a book. Someone even asked to take a picture of me!

Oh, I can't even explain how wonderful it was to be there and enjoy Zion the way I like really feeds my soul. I climbed up to the top of a huge rock mountain thing (I'm sure there's some geological name for those...) and watched the sunset. It was amazing...the sky was on fire!

Late that night, Cherise and John drove down and we camped out under the stars. On Thursday we hiked and explored in Hidden Canyon, while singing songs from musicals, talking in accents (well, John was doing a great job), and enjoying the beauty. Look at this awesome leaf we found!
Oh, the simple joys in life! That's why we celebrate life! ;) LOVE IT!

Then we went and played in a waterfall - which you will see later, as we went again on Saturday! As the evening was approaching, we decided to hike Angel's Landing, because John had never done it. And boy, that hike never gets old for me :) Bliss!

More friends joined us that night (Jenae, Amber, Troy) and we enjoyed another beautiful night under the Southern Utah sky. At 7:30am I was awakened by two more friends arriving who had driven all night (one from Rexburg, ID!) to come for the fun! For Friday, we split into 2 groups: Jenae, Troy, and Tyler hiked around in the park, and Amber, Cherise, Scott, and I went canyoneering in Mystery Canyon.

Here I am going down the first rappel

Amber rappelling down into Mystery Springs...this is one of the coolest rappels in the canyon: 120 ft off a traverse and straight into a fresh cool pool at the bottom!

Amber on the last rappel: Mystery Falls into the Narrows - look at the view of the Narrows behind her!
Scott heading down the last rappel over the waterfallSadly, no cool pictures of me on these last rappels - that's what you get for being the photographer ;) But I still had fun! On the last rappel, after I got past the rocky first part of the waterfall, I just sat down on the moss and slid down, letting the rope through my rappel device. What a ride!
The Chaco brigade ;)

On Saturday, Cherise left us to go home to AZ, and the rest of us hiked to Observation Point: my favorite view of Zion Canyon. You get to look down on Angel's Landing!
Which way do we go?

Eating lunch at the top...what a great view!

(and what a hairdo, eh?)

Then we headed over to "the great waterfall"...I love this place. It's a secluded little piece of paradise!

Tyler and I sliding down the waterfallWe ended the trip with a stop in at Pizza 'N Noodle in Springdale for their mouth-watering Thai pizza and drove home (but not before bailing Jenae's minivan out of the sand! woot woot!)

I sure hope that will fill up my Zion cup enough to last me 18 months! :)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Happy 4th! (...and 3rd)

My 4th of July celebrations actually began on Friday, the 3rd. A friend of ours, Curtis, invited us to Deer Creek Reservoir to play on his family's wave runners. We spent the day taking turns on the wave runners, swimming in the water, playing frisbee, eating a picnic lunch,
playing this game (where you push each others' hands and try to make the other person take a step - oh, Jenae and I have so much fun acting like 5-year-olds),
chatting, and just enjoying the sunshine! What a beautiful day it was! Thanks Curtis!

That night Cherise and I went mission shopping for me at good ole Deseret Industries - woot woot! - and I actually found a bunch of good stuff! Then we went out to eat and had a sleepover in the living room.

The next morning, Independence Day, we went roller blading down the Provo River Trail in our usual 4th of July garb.

We went swimming at a pool, and that evening we got dressed up for our 4th of July festivities.While Cherise went to a friend's party, Jenae and Amber came with me to my brother and his wife's party. We jumped on the trampoline and helped my brother "barbeque" the hamburgers. Actually, the BBQ was out of propane, so we snuck inside and got the George Foreman, plugged it into the extension cord and hid it behind the BBQ...except I think everyone knew the whole time. We just thought we were being so sneaky! ;) We enjoyed an awesome meal and fun times together, then we headed back to Provo to watch the fireworks from Stadium of Fire. What a great weekend!

We are OH so blessed! And I think we forget that a lot...thank goodness for reminders :)
Happy Birthday America! Let Freedom Ring!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

From the Mountains to the Desert

Two weekends ago, Cherise and I met up with some other friends down in Moab for a few days. I was so happy to be back in my good ole Southern Utah! On Friday, we hiked to Corona Arch and I climbed up and set up a rappel. It was quite the climb to get up there, but well worth it. I loved just sitting up at the top of the arch, while everyone else rappelled down. Then last of all, it was my turn! Once I got to the free rappel part (no rock), I turned upside down and lowered myself down. One thing I did forget was that I had my nalgene water bottle in a mesh pocket on the outside of my backpack, so that came out when I flipped upside down. It fell about 80 feet then bounced back up about 12 ft and rolled quite a bit. But, it IS a nalgene, and besides a few scrapes and scuffs, it was in perfect condition! :)

Corona Arch is 140 ft tall, and is located near the Colorado River in between Arches and Canyonlands National Parks ( = FREE!). It was beautiful!
just hangin' around

After that, we hiked up a canyon and played in the water for a bit (while it was raining). The water was so warm; it was amazing!
Then we grabbed a bite to eat and tried to race the sun to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. We didn't quite get there for sunset, like we wanted, but it was almost better. We got there after the sun had sunk below the horizon, but there was still a glow in the sky, the moon was out, and not another soul was there! It was perfecto! (yes, I'm practicing my espanol)
We camped out under a beautiful clear sky of stars, and I woke everybody up at 5am to go see the sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. We were the only ones there at first and just on top of the arch, watching the pink glow on the horizon grow. It was awe-inspiring! I love early mornings in God's creations!

This is us trying to pretend like we're fully awake :)

On top of Mesa Arch as the light builds

As soon as other people started arriving with big, fancy cameras, we decided to get off the arch since we figured they probably didn't want us in their pictures. And this is what we saw for the next half hour...
Me running across the arch

Next we drove a little further into Canyonlands out to Island in the Sky viewpoint...I love this place!

We went back to our campsite to eat breakfast and pack up, then we did a hike up Negro Bill Canyon to Morning Glory Natural Bridge. Its 243 ft long, the 6th longest in the United States!
We hiked back down, but instead of taking the trail which switchbacks across the river, we just walked down the river. It was great! Then we went swimming and sliding at a place where the rocks are all slippery. Then after some ice cream from McDonald's, we headed back up to Provo.

Monday, July 6, 2009

All over the Wasatch Range

From the North to the South, I've covered a lot of the Wasatch Mountain Range this past month.

#1: Wasatch Back Relay
Logan to Park City, Utah
188 miles
12-person team
3 running legs each
Mountainous terrain
Start: Friday, June 19, 2009 1:30pm

Finish: Saturday, June 20, 2009 2:24pm
24 hrs 54 min 55 sec
13th place Coed overall (out of 424 teams)
7th place in Coed Open Division (out of 318 teams)


This is me standing in the transition area, about the get the slap bracelet from my teammate on my 2nd run, in the middle of the night! Everyone has to wear a headlamp and reflective vest. Oh yeah, and check out my awesome outfit! :)
Trying to wake back up after only 2 1/2 hrs of sleep...gotta keep runnin'
At the finish: wearing our awesomely HUGE, orange medals, and holding our precious time card...Avg of under 8-minute miles! WOO HOO!

Trying to keep track on our Suburban window of all the teams we "toasted" along the way...but sadly, this is only about 1/3 of them :)

Thanks for all the fun, Team Fuego Brown! (its a long story)

#2: Hiking Mt. Nebo
Summit: 11,928 ft
Highest and southernmost mountain on the Wasatch Range
On June 30, I convinced my roommate, Jenae, to come climb Mt. Nebo with me...down by Nephi, Utah. And what a perfect day it was!!
the summit of Mt. Nebo behind us...almost there!

I have never seen so many lady bugs in my life, as I did on the top of that mountain. It is like a lady bug breeding ground! My victory dance :)

It was actually a pretty steep hike. It wasn't that long mileage-wise, but definitely steep, almost the whole way. The top half is all shale on a ridge, sometimes requiring some scrambling. But that's what I like! ;)

On the hike back down, Jenae and I made up a song about our hike. We made a video of it, but it didn't want to upload, so if you have facebook, check it out there. And if you know anything about Jenae's creative mind, you know you want to watch this video :)

And the day after...
My tan lines look like neopolitan ice cream (brown, pink, white), and Jenae was so burned she laid on the floor the next day wrapped in damp towels and applied aloe vera every 2 hours...poor girl :( But she is now molting, and will soon have a fresh coat of pure white skin! :)

I sure can't get enough of the Utah Mountains!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Being an aunt is great!

On the way home from the UK, I got to stop in North Carolina for a few days to visit my older sister, Michal, and her family. I only got to be there for 3 days, but boy, was it a fun trip! So I love big family reunions, but I am a very selfish sister, sister-in-law, and aunt, and I can't tell you how much I enjoyed having my sister's family all to myself for a few days! After you look at the pictures of these cute kids, you will probably agree with wouldn't want to share them :)
My cute 3-year-old niece, Ashlyn

16-month-old, Corbin - just helpin' out in the kitchen ;)

Dylan and Ashlyn begged me to teach them how to use my stethoscope - future healers in the making :)

And its quite impossible to go to the Thompson household and NOT wrestle...
Don't worry...I got 'em good. And, I got to listen to one of my favorite sounds in the whole world as I tickled them silly: Dylan and Ashlyn's laughter. Oh, that is bliss! You can't help but be so happy inside! I told Michal that all she had to give me for my mission was a recording of my niece and nephews' laughter :)

We played at the park, went running and biking on the trail, got very sweaty in the humidity (whew!), got pizza and went to the nature reserve (got to see fireflies!), found a really big, bright orange and yellow mushroom, and had lots of fun just hanging out together! My sister even took me mission shopping for my late birthday present. She's so sweet!

This is how my first day there went: went to the park, played tag with Dylan til he wore me out, came home, went running on the trail while pushing Ashlyn in the running stroller, came back, went on a bike ride with Dylan on the trail, his chain came off his bike (which is covered by plastic and cannot be removed without tools), walked all the way back home, fixed the bike, had lunch, and at Dylan's insistence, went back out on the bikes to do the whole trail. I finished off the day very hot, and very sweaty, but had so much fun with my nieces and nephews!

One day it was raining but we decided to go out an play in it anyhow! We went out and made a [very small] dam in the gutter, jumped in puddles, then got out the turtle-shaped kiddy pool.
(Ashlyn, Corbin, Dylan)
I love these guys!! I don't think I've ever been so sad to leave them as I was when Wednesday night came around! Good thing Ashlyn is a good hug-giver... She really makes you feel loved when she hugs you tight at the airport for 5 minutes straight.

And I really appreciated talking to Connor (brother-in-law) about mission preparation: we now have a challenge of who can read the most of Jesus, the Christ before my farewell. Thanks, Connor!

And of course, I absolutely LOVED getting to hang out with my only sister again. Even though she was going through her tonsillectomy recovery, she was still the perfect host! Thank you, Michal, for being my fun, silly, beautiful, selfless, tough, motivational, kind, righteous, loving sister! You are an amazing mother, wife, and sister! Thank you for your example! I love you!