After hiking around the Devil’s Garden and watching the sunset at the Delicate Arch, we thought our day in Arches would be tough to top, but the very next day proved even better. We drove down to the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park and spent all day out on the trails in Canyonlands backcountry. Not only did our day in Needles prove to be the best of the hikes we did in two and a half weeks in the Southwest, but also it will easily go down as one of our most memorable hikes to date.
Our favorite pastime in Kenya was going on self-drive safaris. We liked seeing the animals and birds, of course, but we also enjoyed the simple pleasure of cruising around nature’s vast garden, not knowing what wonder lay around the next corner. There was the time, for example, that we stopped in a wooded area for lunch and, after some deliberation, wisely decided to eat in the car; unbeknownst to us, there was a large pride of lions around the very next bend of the road. Southern Utah offers a different twist on the joys of safari.
“Learning French is a lot like joining a gang in that it involves a long and intensive period of hazing.” The words belong to David Sedaris, but one can hear similar sentiments echoed along FSI’s corridors by our fellow students. We have both committed to devoting the next seven months to the intensive study of this beautiful but at times utterly maddening language. The experience has not been entirely disagreeable thus far, but then again we’re still at the very beginning of our journey.
While our home leave travels play out across the pages of our blog, life has continued apace. We moved to the Washington, D.C. area at the beginning of this month, and we’re now in the third week of language training at the Foreign Service Institute. To say the transition was overwhelming might be an understatement.
Our last night in Salt Lake City we set an alarm before going to bed — not because we were in any particular rush to get to our next destination, but because we wanted to thank and bid adieu to our hosts and did not trust ourselves to get out of bed before they left the house for the day. Our first few days on vacation without our son we continued to rise more or less with the sun, but by this point in our travels a week had passed since we left him with his grandparents, and we were beginning to regain the ability to sleep in.
The directions for ascending Deseret Peak seemed pretty straightforward: hike through an aspen forest, head over several meadows towards the peak, follow switchbacks up the saddle to get to the summit. Sounds easy, right? We lost the trail almost as soon as we set foot on it, and though we had an enjoyable day hiking in the wilderness, we never reached the summit and there were a few sketchy sections during our ascent when S questioned the wisdom of our adventure.
Throughout our home leave travels, it felt as if we were moving westward to flee the impending fall weather. We left Europe just as the temperature began to dip, and the same thing happened as we neared the end of our stay in Maine. Before heading out to the Southwest, we made a brief stop in Chicago to attend a wedding and catch up with as many friends as we could on the margins of the celebration.
Talking with a friend whose son neared his fourth birthday around the time Munchkin just began crawling, D asked if his friend still found himself amazed whenever his son learned a new skill. “Every day,” the friend responded, “It never ceases to amaze me how his mind works — how he figures things out and masters the world around him.” In the short week since we’ve returned from our travels, Munchkin has found dozens of new ways to amaze us.