The Dig

The Dig by John Preston is a character driven gem of a novel. Here’s what I said about it on my Goodreads page:

In the summer of 1939, on the eve of WWII, an astonishing archaeological find is made on a farm in Suffolk, England. This is a fictional recreation of the Sutton Hoo dig, and my personal archaeologist assures me that the details Preston uses to describe the dig are credible. But really, the book is a character study, the story being told thru different viewpoints and it is done very, very well. Not for those who want a thrilling, fast-moving plot, but I loved this one.

I was aware that the Sutton Hoo dig and ship burial was a real thing, but this book didn’t leave me feeling like I knew any more facts after reading it than before. I actually wasn’t even curious about it until I started writing this post. I checked it out on google and Wikipedia, mostly just to see if the characters in the book were real people. Not only were the people real, but the author is the nephew of Peggy Piggott, one of the archaeologists on the dig and one of the “voices” of the book. Wikipedia was a far better source of information about Sutton Hoo than The Dig.

The Sutton Hoo Helmet, photo from Wikipedia.

Here’s the thing. I can only assume that Preston wasn’t trying to write a Wikipedia entry on the Sutton Hoo ship burial, that he was trying to write about people. And what an interesting group of people! Basil Brown was a local, self-taught archaeologist who first undertook the excavations on the property of Edith Pretty. Pretty was a widow with a young son named Robert. She and her late husband had often wondered about the mounds on their property, but it was the threat of war that made Edith decide to hire someone to investigate. When word of the findings got out, a more professional team of archaeologists was brought in, including Stuart Piggott and his new wife. Peggy Piggott was trying to prove herself in a profession dominated by men and well as embracing her life as a woman and wife.

The book wasn’t a lot of things. It wasn’t a scholarly work about the Sutton Hoo ship burial. It wasn’t a biography. It didn’t even really read as historical fiction. It wasn’t an adventure or a mystery or anything more than a simple story. Still, if you don’t ask this book to be all those things that it isn’t, it is sure to exceed your expectations. What can I say? This is my kind of book and I gave it 5 stars.

A feast for the eyes – part three

We left Moab feeling that it was a place we’d willingly visit again, but also realizing that we likely wouldn’t ever return to this corner of Utah. It’s not really on the way to anywhere and there are so many other places in the American West that we’d like to explore.

We rendezvoused with D#2 and not the son-in-law (ntsil) and went into Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest to hike the Donut Falls Trail. In drier times, the water gently falls thru a hole in the rocks creating a unique waterfall that you can hike up to and around. During the spring snow melt run-off, however, the stream is rushing and the whole effect of the donut is less dramatic. Still a pretty waterfall, however, that I don’t happen to have a picture of. (See previous comment about checking other family members’ facebook and instagram pages.) I do have this shot of the daughters-as-intrepid-explorers a little further up the mountain trail.

The daughters taking in the view.

From there we drove to the High West Distillery for an informative tour and tasting and then on to Park City where we met up with the extended family for our nephew’s wedding. The wedding was lovely, the mountains and the scenery were spectacular, and it was grand to reconnect with family that we don’t see nearly often enough. Northern Utah is a place we are much more likely to revisit, both because of its proximity to the airport in Salt Lake City and because our nephew and his new wife make their home there. We did have some time to explore a bit around the Park City area, but we’d happily spend more time there someday.

The best part of any vacation is the people you spend it with. These four make any vacation extra special for me.

Ntsil, D#2, D#1, and the Sil, ready to do some zip-lining at Sundance.

A feast for the eyes – part two

Moab is also the gateway city to Canyonlands National Park. The park is divided into three adjacent yet unconnected sections, separated by the Colorado and Green Rivers. We only visited the Island in the Sky section. When I think of canyons, I tend to think of water carved passages, but there are other factors involved in forming the canyons in this part of Utah such as faults, salt domes, inland seas, and, perhaps, even a meteorite (thought they haven’t been able to conclusively prove this.) We didn’t do any major hikes here, mostly just to various viewing spots. But what views!

LaSal Mountains in the haze

That’s the Green River down there.

Both the Green and Colorado rivers are fairly placid as they flow thru Utah, until their confluence within the park. Sadly, there wasn’t a spot to view the confluence from where we were. Looking off to the east from Canyonlands you can see the La Sal Mountains while to the west lie the Henry Mountains which was the last mountain range to be added to the map of the lower 48 states.

Arches National Park is closing early this summer due to road construction in the park, but we found an arch located outside the park that we could hike to one evening. After a near disastrous road choice, which earned  the s-i-l hero-for-life honors, and which I would tell you about in more detail except that we all promised it would remain the s-i-l’s story to tell and we don’t want there to be any chance of it getting back to the rental car company, we ended up on a lovely, paved road along the Colorado River just outside of Moab. And when a highway sign says “Pictographs” with an arrow, of course we pulled over.

The drawings can be seen for about 30 yards along the canyon road.

These were discovered when they cleared the canyon of rockfall in order to put in the road.

We continued to the Corona Arch trail. I have to say, tho we weren’t the only ones on this trail, it was really nice to get away from the crowds at the parks. We didn’t quite stay until sunset, mostly because I was nervous about tackling the ladder (I hate ladders!) and some rock scrambling sections in the dark. We were almost back to the car when the bats started coming out of the cliffs all around us! Which would have been even more wonderful if the mosquitoes hadn’t arrived at the same time. All-in-all that was probably the most adventurous expedition of the week.

Corona Arch. Worth the short ladder climb.

One neat thing about the Moab area is that it’s not all desert mesas and canyons. The Manti-LaSal National Forest is another great place to hike. D#1 and the s-i-l really wanted to hike a mountain, while the husband and I were happy to drive to the trail head with them and breathe some cooler, mountain air. The first choice hike was nixed when the snow melt stream was running too high and fast to cross in a car. When we got out of the car to assess the stream situation we were surrounded by hundreds of butterflies. On our drive out to a different mountain access point, we saw a bear along the side of the road. Best aborted hike ever.

While the two young-uns tackled a peak (sadly not making it to the top, but with stories to rival the Corona Arch adventure,) the husband and I hiked around the alpine lakes and meadows. In the future, the husband promises not to confuse a map with a topo map. Or at least not to promise me a relatively flat hike.

Alpine aspens.

Alpine meadows

 

Alpine stream.

Alpine view.

There is a bit more eye-feasting I want to share with y’all. Check back later for part three.

A feast for the eyes – part one

I had great intentions to blog thru our Utah vacation. I carried a small notebook with me at all times. I got off my last post from the airport and thought I had found some better ipad writing tools/strategies. Once arriving in Utah, however, my writing muse was just as taken with the sites as the rest of me. I didn’t even know where to begin taking pictures, so I pretty much left my phone in my backpack and let the family photographers snap the pics. They shared some of them with me and if you follow any of my family on facebook or instagram you can see more there (I presume.)

I’m not sure if I even had a preconceived notion of what Utah would look like. I knew it has the Great Salt Lake, I knew it has mountain ski resorts, I knew it has canyons and arches in National Parks, I knew it has Mormons and a tabernacle. But seeing the whole variety of the state in one week was truly a feast for the eyes.

We started in Salt Lake City. Although I didn’t get over to stick my fingers in and taste the Great Salt Lake, even from the air you can see that this isn’t your ordinary, midwestern, Great Lake. We toured Temple Square, mostly so the acoustical engineer could see the Tabernacle. It was interesting and impressive, even if we couldn’t time our visit to be able to hear any musical performance. Fortunately, we all were able to resist their conversion spiel.

On our way south to Moab, we hiked up to the cave in Timpanogos Cave National Monument, near Provo. It is a series of three caves that were all discovered independently and then linked with man-made tunnels so you can walk thru them all. The first was discovered by a man who was tracking a mountain lion. At least when he got to the entrance he was smart enough to realize that he couldn’t see the mountain lion in the dark cave, but the mountain lion could clearly see him at the entrance. Not sure when he decided it was safe to return, but apparently no humans were eaten in the exploration of this cave.

Almost up to the cave entrance.

The cave-iest picture of the bunch.

The green color, which is much more vibrant when lit, is due to nickel.

When traveling with nerds…this is a gauge that allows them to measure movement across the fault line that provided the right conditions for the cave to form.

On the way down with D#1

Someone told us that if we weren’t rafting and rock climbing out of Moab, then we weren’t doing Moab right. But we’re all hikers at heart and I am really glad that we didn’t try to squeeze in any more. We spent parts of three days in Arches National Park. Stunning. I don’t really know any other word that describes it better. There are approximately 2,000 arches in the park and although arches are found all over the world, nowhere else has them in this concentration.

A formation named the Gossips.

Husband and D#1 (with a cameo by s-i-l) posing with the Spectacles. On the front side, you can’t see both arches at once and they are known as North and South Arch.

Double Arch

Of course we spent plenty of time naming otherwise unmarked formations. Clearly, this is the Sloth.

Delicate Arch, the iconic picture of Arches National Park.

The ranger-led hike thru the Fiery Furnace was an incredible experience. It led me into places I never would have dared venture on my own, seeing arches and water-filled potholes and views that the average tourist would miss. The ranger was so matter-of-fact, “now we will all squeeze thru this crevice…just follow me along this ledge…you’ll need to wall-walk a bit thru here.” He also talked at length about both sides of the great debate between public use and conservation of our National Parks and other natural treasures. And of course he gave us great info on the geology, biology, climatology and any other -ologies we could think to ask him about the park.

 

The fiery furnace area from the overlook.

In the midst of the fiery furnace.

Arches everywhere!

Me stumbling out of one of the crevices.

The vista on the way out of the fiery furnace.

The vistas around the park were amazing, in every direction. From the visitor center, you drive up onto a flat, desert mesa. As in the picture above, you see incredible rock formations jutting up, and in the distance are the La Sal Mountains. I don’t have a picture of one of my favorite features in the park, the petrified sand dunes. From some vantage points, with the help of a map, you could see the canyon where the Colorado River flows just outside the park.

Arches National Park isn’t the only great hiking spot near Moab. I’ll continue with a feast for the eyes in my next post.

 

 

 

Two kinds of people

I’m traveling and trying out some different posting methods, so bear with me if this looks wonky. If it just reads wonky, well that’s all on me.

One of my favorite websites/blogs is called “Two Kinds of People.” It’s a graphical representation of some of the glaring, yet mostly inconsequential, differences between people. Idiosyncrasies that drive us crazy about people that we love and spend lots of time around. The site isn’t updated regularly, but I check in every once in a while and I always enjoy going back and seeing some of my favorites. The wrapping paper one always cracks me up.

The husband and I are definitely two kinds of people, especially when it comes to travel. Well, not so much the travel itself as the preparation for travel.

Here’s how it works for me and a one-week trip:

Our flight is on a Saturday morning. The weekend before, I start making a list of all the things I need to do before leaving town. On Monday, I start doing all the laundry, laying out my clothes, and planning what I can wear that week that I don’t want to take with me. All week long, I add and subtract clothes and gather together all the other stuff (entertainment, first aid kit, toiletries.) I worry about too much stuff and not enough stuff. I ponder different suitcase options. I make target, grocery, and petsmart runs. I check weather reports for where I’m going and where I live (When should I mow the lawn? Can I get the dog to the kennel when it’s not raining?) I stop mail and paper and let neighbors know we are leaving and do whatever else needs to be done to leave the house for a week (move the plants, wash the dishes, take out the trash, etc). I have several conversations with my non-husband traveling companion about what we are going to do on the trip. I worry. I pretty much have it all pulled together on Thursday and I am pretty much completely packed up by Friday afternoon.

Here’s how it works for the husband:

Our flight is on a Saturday morning. On Friday at about 8:00 pm he starts to make a packing list. Then he invites the new neighbors over to watch the bats come out of the bat house. Then he watches part of the baseball game. At 9:30 he goes up to pack. He yells at me for not washing one shirt that he wanted, but then he finds it (clean). At 11:00 pm he is mostly packed up. At least enough that he is finished in the bedroom so I can go to sleep. He doesn’t worry.

The two kinds of people syndrome continue right until we get on the plane.

Here’s how I plan for an 11:30 flight:

It takes 45 minutes to get to the airport, allow an extra 15 minutes. Plan to arrive two hours before the flight, Allow time to stop for gas and Starbucks on the way. So leave at 8:15.

Here’s how the husband plans for an 11:30 flight:

It takes 30 minutes to get to the airport. Allow 10 minutes for off-site parking. We are TSA pre for this flight, so get to the airport one hour before the flight. I guess we should allow some time for gas and Starbucks on the way. So leave at 9:45.

In a two kinds of people marriage, it’s all about compromise. I don’t nag him about packing and planning for a trip. I don’t include any items for him on my pre-trip to-do list. I don’t start yawning and dropping hints until at least an hour after my usual bedtime. He, on the other hand, leaves the house way too early and doesn’t complain while sitting at the gate.

Once we’ve actually left the house, we are more of a one kind of traveling person. Aside from the whole one-of-us-likes-to-travel-and-one-doesn’t thing. Good thing there are many measures of compatibility.