Our Ding, Dang (Damn!) Adventure

My employer gave me Veteran’s Day as a paid day off this year, so we checked the kids out of school (except Jake, he couldn’t miss a class), borrowed trailer, and drove down to Goblin Valley State park on Thursday night.

Because is was Thursday night, we didn’t have trouble finding a spot. So we setup camp in the dark in campsite (#20).

When the ranger came around Friday morning, he told us that site was reserved for the next night. The neighboring site (#16) was designated as a walk-in site, so if we moved next door we could claim it for the night. So we moved the tent and our few supplies and got ready for the day.

We had decided to hike Ding and Dang slot canyons. These are near Little Wildhorse canyon (which we’ve done a few times before), but a little more technical and a bit longer. However, we felt prepared having conquered Peek-a-boo and Spooky just a few weeks ago.

We drove 1.25 miles along the riverbed/road after passing the Little Wildhorse trailhead. There was one other car parked, but we essentially had the place to ourselves on a beautiful fall day.

We hit the trail at 11:30am. I had a map of the hiked saved in my phone. I knew we would like along the riverbed and then take a fork off to the right to head up Ding canyon. Our plan was to loop around and come down Dang. It was a 6-mile loop.

As you can see from the GPS map above, we took a wrong turn after 7 minutes of hiking. Not having gone near far enough along the main trail. We called this unimpressive trail Damn canyon. I suggest you avoid it.

The fateful wrong turn

With the benefit of hindsight, I knew better. There were lots of signs that we weren’t in the right place. I didn’t double-check the map, which was stupid. But we were having fun scrambling over the rocks. But it quickly turned uphill and into some pretty nasty terrain and it became obvious that we were off course. The kids ate lunch and said some prayers while I scrambled to a high spot and was able to get some reception, just enough for my map application on my phone to show me where we were. We retraced our steps and got back to the main trail, but it was a 2 mile detour that wore our kids out.

Back on the right path

When we got to Ding it was awesome. Cool terrain, deep slots with steep sheer walls and some fun semi-technical sections, and even some water.

A tricky obstacle in Ding canyon

The kids had a lot of fun, but we were worn out and losing daylight. After taking quite some time to shuttle everyone across a watery section we decided to turn back.

Cold water section we had to do twice because we turned around just after we completed it

As we drove back to camp, the full moon was rising.

It was a beautiful night. We roasted hot dogs over the fire, popped popcorn, baked cookies in the oven in the trailer, and all listened to some scary stories from the Snap Judgement podcast in the tent.

But everyone was wiped out. We were all in bed by 9pm.

Saturday morning we woke up and packed up camp. Then we drove over to the Valley of the Goblins and played tag for a while and snapped some pictures.

As we drove home we listened to the BYU/SUU football game on the radio and talked about how we need to go back. Ding and Dang got the best of us this time, but we will be back. And we won’t be making the (damn) wrong turn next time.

We bought a beater

Jacob has only been a licensed driver for a couple months. In the short time he has been driving, he has had the following incidents:

  1. First, he got a speeding ticket and tried to keep it on the down-low. That didn’t work out so well since the first thing the police department does with a traffic offense with a minor is write a letter to your parents.
  2. He had a collision with a deer. The deer pretty much hopped up onto the hood of the car leaving a nice dent and some scratches on the hood.
  3. His buddy backed into him at homecoming, denting the driver’s door and front quarter panel

Now, my car isn’t a great car by any means — it’s a 2006.5 Kia Optima with almost 115k miles on it. But, I bought it new and have taken good care of it. It should have quite a lot of life left.

But, with school starting and Jake having an early-morning class, he has had to drive almost every day to school. The Lone Peak high school parking lot is famous for dings, dents, and frequent accidents. I just can’t have him wreck my car any more. So, when Uncle Greg said he was getting rid of his Honda, we jumped at it.

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It’s a 1993 Honda Accord. The paint is peeling in a couple places and the hitch is almost rusted completely through, but mechanically it seems like it’s pretty good shape. If you look closely at the odometer, you’ll notice it has 340,763.6 miles on it.

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It passed safety and emissions with flying colors. The mechanic said it’s not uncommon for the engines in these Honda’s to go for 500k+ miles.

Since it is a manual 5-speed transmission, Jake had to learn how to drive a stick. At one point, he made Drew cry because he was scared he was going to die as Jake jerkily started through an intersection and then stalled it out. But, he’s got the hang of it now.

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We spent a whopping $500 on this car, so any miles we can squeeze out of it are purely bonus miles. Let’s hope this beater keeps going for many more miles.

Scoutmaster Emeritus

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On a Saturday morning a few weeks ago, I drove the scouts down to the airport so they could work on their Aviation merit badge. The boys each took a solo flight in a small Cessna 150m, even taking the controls for a few minutes. By all accounts, it was a great experience for each young man — something they will remember for the rest of their lives.

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On the drive home I was having a great chat with the merit badge counselor, Jim Olsen. Jim is one of my neighbors and a long-time scouter. Jim has done it all in scouting — an Eagle scout as a young man, then on staff at summer camp as a youth; he’s been a scoutmaster, been to Woodbadge (with my Grandpa Cryer, even), and he’s been a professional scouter and been a big part of the Utah National Parks Council. He asked me how I was doing as a scoutmaster.

I told him that I was loving it. That after four-and-a-half years I was finally getting comfortable in my role. I explained that I loved having an excuse to go camping, backpacking, or hiking one weekend each month. I said I’d much rather be spending my volunteer hours being outdoors and having great experiences than stuck in a series of coordination meetings. I told him about the cool places we’ve been as a scout troop and about the physical and emotional growth that I get to witness in the young men who go out and do hard things. I told him that I love seeing the young men develop leadership skills and go on to do great things. I talked about how rewarding it was to interact with other guys like Jim who come work with the young men on a merit badge and I get to learn right along side them. I went on and on about how awesome it was to be the scoutmaster in our troop because of the other leaders I have around me to clear the way so I can simply go out and have fun with the scouts. I gushed.

Jim said that he’d talk to our bishop and tell him how great it was that he’s left me in there long enough to get to that point. Jim said that too often, scoutmasters aren’t in there long enough to become fully trained, much less get their programs to a point where it becomes fun.

The very next day, our bishop asked Manina and I to come talk to him. I thought it was just a check-in meeting — you know, just to see how things were going. He’s done it before just about every year to make sure we’re not getting burned out. Which I wasn’t. I was ready to tell the bishop the same things that I had just told my neighbor Jim.

But, I didn’t even get the chance. After sitting down the bishop started off with, “Well, it’s time to make a change in our scouting program and we feel it’s time to release you as a scoutmaster.” He told me I had done an excellent job, but it was time for a change.

I’m not criticizing how the bishop communicated this to me, because he did it as well as he possibly could have. But it was still a shock. I didn’t quite know what to say. I was not – still am not – ready to be done.

I’ve been in scouting for a very long time. I spent about 6 years as an assistant scoutmaster, and then I’ve been serving as the scoutmaster for the last 4.5 years. That’s over 10 years of scouting experience. Every Wednesday night, every Sunday, one weekend a month, one full week of scout camp each summer. That’s a lot of time.

I recently learned that my friend Mitch Ogden is taking over my role as scoutmaster. Mitch has been the assistant scoutmaster for a couple years and I’m confident he will do a great job. So, that will make the transition a little easier knowing the young men are in good hands.

But, I’m still not too happy about not being involved. Bittersweet is a pretty good word to describe how I feel about this change, but it’s not a perfect description. Definitely more on the bitter side than the sweet. I’ll miss it.

Diagnosis: MRI

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SPOILER ALERT: Jacob is just fine. Totally healthy and nothing to worry about.

Jacob went in for his annual medical physical exam this week. He came out with some disturbing news.

We’ve been going to the same pediatrician for several years, and he’s always been a doctor we could recommend to others.

The doctor went through the usual battery of tests. He was wrapping things up and marking things down on Jacob’s chart and casually asked if there were any other problems.

Jake said, “Nope. I feel great.”

Then Manina jumped in, “Well, he does get some headaches…”

She then proceeded to tell the doctor about the (handful of) headaches Jacob has complained about (very rarely). The doctor jumped at the chance. He didn’t seem interested that the headaches Jacob experienced over the summer seemed to be the day after an all-nighter with his buddies, or after working out in the sun all morning and not drinking any water. He seemed in a hurry to prescribe some serious action: Jacob needed to get an MRI as soon as possible.

He was very insistent at the appointment, and he even called our home phone number an hour or two later to encourage us to get an MRI. You’d have thunk the doctor owned stock in MRI machines or had to fill some quota of referrals by the end of the month like a used-car salesman.

Unfortunately, that put us in a very awkward position as parents. We’ve never considered something to be wrong with Jacob, other than he typically doesn’t handle pain or discomfort very well. Yes, this caused us to misdiagnose a broken foot a while ago, but we were pretty sure his headaches were just that — headaches.

But, here we have a doctor pretty much insisting on an expensive procedure for a problem that was quite literally an afterthought. Should we? Or shouldn’t we? Is it a total waste of time and money? Could we live with ourselves if we didn’t do something now only to find out even worse news later?

With some serious reservations, we decided to schedule the MRI. We shopped around and went to Wasatch Imaging, where we wouldn’t get charged hospital prices.

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They gave us back a shiny CD with a bunch of pictures of Jake’s head. Like this one.

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Isn’t that a good-looking brain? At least we’ve learned one thing from this process—he does have a brain. His doctor, well, we’re still not so sure.

I wrote this entire post before the doctor phones us back with the results, I was that confident that this was a bogus diagnosis. But, yesterday the doctor got the images and he called us to give the good news: Jake is fine. There aren’t any huge tumors in the back of his brain causing occasional headaches. But, he does look like he has a sinus infection and should probably get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids for the next couple days.

The Forgotten Baseball Season

Drew was excited to start baseball season this year. He’s played teeball before, but this was going to be his first year of little league (it’s machine pitch at his age). He plays for the Cubs. Thankfully (for reasons which will soon become clear), Drew’s friend Micah is also on the team.

Unfortunately due to our hectic family schedule Drew has played many innings without his family there to watch the game, cheer him on, or give him coaching on how to play baseball. His season isn’t over yet, but so far it has been a forgotten baseball season for Drew.

This story kind of sums up Drew’s baseball season so far: Late one afternoon, Manina told Drew to be ready for his baseball game starting at 6:45pm. Drew was excited to play, so he ran and found his hat, uniform, and grabbed his glove. He got dressed all by himself and then ran out the door, saying, “Bye, Mom!” and he ran off to Micah’s house. Drew didn’t ask who was coming to his game, he already knew the drill. He would carpool with the Jensen’s and go play the game with none of his family there cheering him on. It’s a little sad, because we were always at the games for our older kids, but Drew already knows that doesn’t happen very much any more. He was totally OK going to the game with his team and having fun with his buddies.

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We finally got to a game as a family and it was fun to see Drew play and have fun. He put on quite a show for us. He went 3 for 3, and scored 2 runs.

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In the field, he still has a lot to learn, but did knock down a couple grounders (and had no idea what to do with the ball afterwards).

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Since Grandma Ria was visiting, she got to cheer on Drew as well. He probably didn’t know what to do with all of the support.