“Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been.”
Mark Twain

It’s been Thanksgiving Break- which means I haven’t been teaching. We entered the break with a band concert, visits with family, and a house with no power on.

In other words- we have literally been working non-stop on the house for the last 10 days.

img_7446Exhausted but otherwise well, I was determined to get outside for my birthday. I had decided months ago that I wanted to host my friends on a trip to the Fiery Furnace in Moab. 

I figured the time of year was right that we should go on my birthday- it makes a good excuse/reason, right?

So we spent Thanksgiving Day up on the Mesa at John and Jo Carole’s house, visiting with friends and drinking our homemade cherry wine. Then we all got up early to meet at the visitor’s center in Arches so we could get permits to hike the Fiery Furnace….since you have to be there in person to get a permit. And they tend to go pretty early in the day.

And by ‘everyone’ I don’t mean everyone. Jo Carole’s parents had shown up by surprise so she opted to stay with them. Joy had to work. Karen was with family. So it ended up being me, Matt, Chris, John, Pat (John’s friend from forever and always ago), and Pat’s friend Cheryl- a cheerful addition to the group.

Matt, Chris and I drove together and had a bit of a late start. We met the others at the visitor’s center at 8:15…and all of the permits for the Furnace were claimed for the day! I had NO IDEA it would be so busy! My experience was that on winter holidays you’re not likely to see many people in the national parks.

Unfortunately, this was a long weekend for most of the US, and those from without the US probably don’t celebrate the holiday anyway. And the clincher was this:

The weather was perfection.

It brought the people out in droves.

So instead of the Furnace, we opted for Delicate Arch and Devil’s Garden.

And it was wonderful, if crowded….


Here we are hiking up to Delicate Arch…img_7451

Chris, Matt, and I making shadow pictures.img_7458

My awesome shot from donut hole arch. Mmmmmm…donuts….img_7460

Matt. img_7461

Matt and I looking down at Chris who is looking up at us…img_7462

Another fun shot.img_7467

And another….img_7470

Matt laughing at me taking so many pictures.

Me laughing at me taking so many pictures.img_7473

Cheryl looking comfortable…img_7480


North window through Delicate Arch.img_7484


Me and Matt.


More Matt.

MattJanson.com, yo.

Once we made it down, had a snack, we headed over to find illusive parking at Devil’s Garden. We ended up double-parking in RV spots. It made me laugh pretty hard.

The hiking around was fabulous, and we did another 5+ miles exploring all the arches around Landscape Arch- Partition, Navajo, Pine Tree, and Tunnel arches.

On our way out of the unimproved trail area, there was a myriad of injuries: scrapes and bruises…a little girl smacking her face and splitting her lip….and one lady who fell off of a fin, hurt her knee and ankle pretty badly, and had a massive gash in her forehead.

Fortunately, I carry a pretty solid first aid kit and was able to be of some assistance before the medics got there! Woo hoo!

We finished the day by driving back to the Grand Valley via the Salt Valley road. The sunset was not shabby at all.

And now in a single day I now have to say I’m a year older. But I’m okay with that.


A vertical pano of Matt under Pine Tree arch.img_7546

Chris playing the third wheel. Seriously, we could hang out with him all day. We did. img_7539

Matt, eating the sun.img_7538

The shot I took for GQ Magazine. img_7536

Our group img_7522


Matt, posing like a champ. Can you spot the little tiny arch behind him?img_7524

This is looking down at the back side of Landscape Arch.img_7529

Looking toward the Salt Valley and Klondike Bluffs.img_7531

Looking toward Cedar Mesa and the Colorado Border. All 5 of us.img_7535

Just me and my Matt.img_7520

This was a snack break under Partition Arch. img_7514

I sure like these guys! What a pleasant group of mellow people to just chill out with two days in a row. Hey, John: What IS the 8th Wonder of the World? And Pat, or do you spell it “Patt”…how did you REALLY lose those fingers?

Y’all remember that big black bird that sat in the tree and serenaded us for half an hour. EPIC! img_7512

Looking UP at Partition arch


Matt, standing on the very highest furthest edge of a fin, with drops on all 3 sides. I couldn’t get further out than this shot, until we were on our way down…then I was determined to face my fear and DO IT!

I crawled the last bit and couldn’t stand to stand up, but I did it!img_7509

Matt looking down at the people. So many people. So few truly prepared for the wilderness.

We love the wilderness. We long for it. This is why I love him…among a thousand other reasons.