Hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park

We surrounded ourselves with hoodoos and red rock for an entire day in Bryce Canyon National Park.

After a while, some landscapes start to look the same if you spend enough time in a region. Bryce Canyon defies that – the rock formations and colors found here are unlike anywhere else. The drive into Bryce is amazingly picturesque as well. Red Canyon holds some of the reddest red rock we’d seen on our vacation so far.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Queens Garden Trail

Our first hike of the day was down to the Queens Garden via its titular trail. It’s a manageable two miles with only three hundred or so feet of elevation change. Our kids didn’t have any issues, aside from the upper 90s heat and arid atmosphere on the walk back up.

This trail has loads to look at, from the expansive views of hoodoos at the top to the arched doors carved through towering rock. No matter how far you go, the real treat of this trail is unlike most other destination trails – it’s the journey, not the end.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Queens Garden itself is actually fairly anti-climactic, with the trail ending unceremoniously at a small grove of shade trees and a sign marking “end of trail.” The hikers we met had to search around to find what the Queens Garden was. Even then, there was a distinct air of “meh” among folks who made it to the bottom.

Like I said, the views along the way are incredible though, and well worth it. Keep your eyes up!

Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, and Fairyland Point

After our short hike, we drove around the rim, stopping at several of the points available just off the main drive. This is a great way to see the canyon – and easy too. Just drive as far down the main park road, turn around, and all the overlooking points are on the right on the way back.

Bryce Point was my favorite, there was a full spectrum of colors from the white chalky arches of rock to the red and orange hoodoos that numbered in what must have been the thousands. Fairlyland Point was my kids’ favorite, probably in name, but the natural amphitheater affords a view of the hoodoos at eye level. So it’s easy to see why Pauite Indians believed these formations were people turned to stone.

Bryce Canyon National Park

“The Quantum Treatment” featured in James Gunn’s Ad Astra

Super geeked that the fine folks at James Gunn’s Ad Astra published my short story, “The Quantum Treatment,” about kids and quantum mechanics in their latest issue.

And bonus – it’s online and free so anyone and everyone can read it! Go check it out! Here’s an excerpt.

“Crystallized salvia,” Lee beamed, giving the bag a shake. “Tim gave it to me.” Lee took any opportunity he could to point out that his brother’s sixteen-year-old friends included him in their gang. But all they’d really done was make Lee their errand boy and punching bag. Whenever Dane saw them at school, Lee was always red-faced and sweaty, the other boys laughing at his expense.

“What’s it do?” Riley gave the bag a sidelong look, recoiling as if it might bite.

“Dunno. Let’s find out,” Lee grinned.

“Have you done your pre-work?” Riley rattled papers at him. Lee ignored her and offered Dane the bag, nodding as his friend took it.

“Smells funny,” Dane wrinkled his nose.

“You first,” Lee stared, transfixed by the earthy mixture tumbling inside the plastic. Dane licked a finger and dipped it in, coating his pinky like a powdered donut. Riley watched, pen paused mid-sentence. Dane smiled weakly and licked his hand, cleaning every crystalized grain off his skin.

“Give me some,” Lee snatched the bag and poured a bit into his palm. He licked it like a thirsty dog, not caring if some spilled into the dirty sewer pipe. Riley rolled her eyes and returned to her pre-work. She kept one eye warily trained on her two friends.

It didn’t take long for Dane to feel it. It started at his fingertips and toes — an electricity separating his body from his being. It spread to his legs, arms, and finally his chest. Everything below his neck belonged to somebody else, but he could still control that fleshy apparatus with his mind. He was invincible.

“Dude…” Lee drawled out the ooo sound, chuckling at the end. Dane poked his friend’s shoulder, enjoying how it took a few seconds before Lee realized he’d done it. Then Dane felt his own body twist, and was shocked to realize Lee had punched him back a few seconds ago. Lee laughed, and Dane joined in. They shoved each other, harder and harder, until Lee fell over, shaking with laughter.

“Stop…stop…” Lee choked, crawling through a broken section of viaduct. He disappeared for a moment. Dane tried to stop laughing, but it was just too hard. And why should he stop laughing anyway? “Dane!” Lee called, his voice distant and echoing. “Dane, come here!”

Dane waded to the man-sized hole in the cement pipe, leading past dead space and into a dilapidated storehouse. Lee stood over a bunch of white tubes, most stacked in an orderly pyramid, some cast askew.

Picking one up, Lee tested its weight. Lee placed both hands at the base, taking a few tentative swings before growing bolder with his strokes. With one final grin, he raised it high up above his head and smashed it onto the ground.

The fluorescent light bulb shattered to dust instantly. A coarse line of powder remained, a specter of what existed before. Even Lee’s hands still cupped in an “O” around the bulb’s ghost.

“Let me try,” Dane pushed him aside and picked one up. Raising it above his head with both hands, he slammed it as hard as he could, heart racing at the bright shatter of glass.

They both picked another, and squared off like two samurais ready to do battle. Both winced away when their swords crossed, afraid of glass shards in their eyes, but still desperate to see.

After all the bulbs had shattered, the boys were breathless. Standing above the chalky stains on the ground, neither of their appetites for destruction had been satisfied. Their eyes fell on a wheeled cart. The boys grinned with the same burst of inspiration.

Read “The Quantum Treatment” at James Gunn’s Ad Astra

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries ^ Jack Trout3 out of 5 stars

Billed as essential reading for any marketer, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout is a quick read. It has quite a bit more substance than the Buzzfeed-esque listicle tone the title evokes now. While it’s over a decade old, the principles still hold true, though some feel like they could use refresh. Especially given the fact that the internet has created more room for innovation and successful companies to carve out a niche.

Which, in a way, this book successfully predicted. Law number 1 is if you’re not first, you’ve got quite a bit of work to do. If possible, you should always strive to create your own category. Instead of computers, go for laptops. Instead of laptops, go for netbooks, etc. etc. What this book may have predicted is how many people have become hyper-successful at carving out niches on the internet.

Several of the examples are dated, but most are still relevant today. For the everyday marketer at a big company, it may be a challenge to make some of the advice in this book actionable, given how slowly many large organizations change. But entrepreneurs and those with more power in massive organizations will likely find lots to sink their teeth into and apply right to their everyday careers.

Buy The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

Hiking in the Grand Canyon – North Rim and Bright Angel Point Trail

Any trip to the Grand Canyon is worth it, long or short. It’s not the deepest, longest, or biggest – but it feels massive.

Our visit was an audible. We’d planned to make it a one-day excursion, but on the way to Antelope Canyon we realized we could spend the night, hit the North Rim on the way back, and add only two-and-a-half hours of driving instead of seven.

We were sold! Without a change of clothes or toiletries, we left our hotel in Page, Arizona and headed to this American icon.

North Rim
The drive to the North Rim iss one of the prettier approaches to a National Park that I’ve been on. It’s a quiet drive through secluded, untouched landscape – pine forests, hills covered with wildflowers, and vast meadows all roll by as you head south from Jacob’s Lake.

My guess is those meadows are often filled with herds of buffalo for those lucky enough to drive through at the right time, but we didn’t see any.

Early on in the drive, our kids were struck by a forest recently decimated by fire and in the process of regrowing itself. The impact of a forest fire is hard to fully appreciate until you witness it in person. When there’s nothing but charred, jagged trees as far as the eye can see, the loss of decades of life wiped out in a matter of days is inescapable. The forest will come back, but probably not in our lifetimes, which is something that no one should feel bad for mourning over.

Grand Canyon North Rim - Forest Fire

Bright Angel Trail
With young children, a hike deep into the canyon wasn’t in the cards, so we struck out on the super-short Bright Angel Point trail that leaves right from the Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim.

It’s only a half mile round trip, paved, and has little elevation change, but check your fear of heights at the door. Bright Angel Point is a narrow peninsula of land that juts out into the canyon. This is just like a ridge hike – which means it’s a long way down to the left and to the right. We kept a close eye on our kids, because the only railings on the trail are at the overlook at the end.

From there, we saw amazing views of Bright Angel Canyon, Walhalla Plateau, Zoroaster Temple and the South Rim. The coolest part of the Grand Canyon are all the layers – so many colors packed into too many striations to count. If you’re adventurous or have kids who love giving you gray hairs, better looks at all of these things can be had by scrambling onto some of the outcroppings and rocky rises along the trail.

Grand Canyon Bright Angel Trail - Overlook

After you’re done, make sure to visit the Grand Canyon Lodge. It was built in the 20s and is an iconic part of the park in its own right. There’s a massive room with floor to ceiling windows and lots of seating for a break and to take in views of the canyon. We stopped in the little café outside the main lodge, grabbed some ice cream, and sat on log chairs on the balcony.

Grand Canyon Lodge - Ice Cream

Family Las Vegas Adventure in 12 Hours or Less

Amidst all the hiking and nature we had to get our fix of being on the grid. Vegas was only 2 hours from our cabin, and no one except me had ever been.

So we decided to rip off the civilization Band-Aid and cram as much into a day trip as possible.

Hoover Dam

If you’ve got a car, I don’t see how you can’t take time to jog south of Vegas and see this engineering marvel. The tour through the inner workings of the dam is phenomenal, but a little on the pricey side. We skipped it this time, and chose to park ($10), walk across the dam, and participate in the novelty of standing in Arizona and Nevada at the same time.

Hoover Dam

A drought is tough to spot in the desert. After all, there’s not much water there anyway. But it smacks you right in the face at Lake Mead. A forty-foot tall strip of white collars the reservoir, marking where the water levels used to sit. Vegas will run out of water unless they do something. Like I said, there’s not much water around, so there’s no obvious backup plan.

The best view of Hoover Dam probably comes from the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (Highway 93), and not the road built on Hoover Dam. There’s no good spot to get a proper look at the size of the dam so if you’re skipping the tour, I’d recommend driving or walking across Highway 93 .

Luxor Pool

After Hoover Dam, we boogied back to Vegas and met friends from Phoenix who drove up for a long weekend. They were settled in at the Luxor and we had a couple hours to kill before our Cirque Du Soleil show.

Even though the Luxor is one of the older Vegas hotels, it feels updated. My first thought on the way up to their room was, “Are these elevators diagonal?” Yep, they are a little rickety but they go on an angle up the pyramid. Kind of like a poor man’s version of Willy Wonka’s Glass Elevator.

The pool is sprawling and features some waterfalls. But it’s basically a glorified spring break shallow end where bros, hung over girls and middle-aged men with gold chains hang out. Great people watching, and okay for families, there were plenty of kids splashing around.

We had two short scares in this pool – the first when neither of us knew our daughter was in the hot tub with the other kids. Then, when our friend’s kid vanished from right behind us. She was there one second, gone the next. While we were freaking out and running around the pool, she was calmly checking out a waterfall and walking back to the three pool chairs we claimed. Crisis averted.

Cirque Du Soleil – Mystère

The centerpiece of our Vegas adventure was the original Cirque du Soleil show, Mystère. None of us had even seen one, but the show had rave reviews.

Cirque du Soleil Mystere

Basically a bunch of weird stuff happens, a baby does a few goofs, and they summon a giant psychedelic snail at the end. Along the way the performers do incredible feats of strength and flexibility. Some are over the top, some are super stripped down. In fact, my favorite act featured two men, nothing else on stage, and a display of strength, control, and continuous movement.

The onslaught of color, sound, light, and spectacle was like nothing else our kids had seen and they were enthralled. They break up the acrobatics with several comic bits should get a chuckle out of anyone, so I’d say this was a great first show to take our family to.

The only downside was the frat bros we sat behind (Surprise! There are lots of bros in Vegas) – they’d had a few prior and loved their own running commentary. A lot. But it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be ignored.

Walking the Strip

You can’t visit Vegas without walking the strip. If the Cirque show was an onslaught of light, motion, and sound, the strip is a full on apocalypse. There are things to look at everywhere. No space is wasted. From all the lights, to the massive casino installations, to the buskers working the curbs, to the Hispanic men and women snapping their cards for escort services – it’s sensory overload.

If you walk the strip, be ready to walk. It may look like you only have two blocks until the Bellagio. But Vegas blocks are a half-mile long. You’ll fight huge crowds. And screw what everyone says about it being a dry heat. It is hot. Bring water or dollars to buy bottles off the vendors.

The walkway right before the Bellagio was particularly insane. Hundreds of people crammed onto a narrow walk above the road. It was like leaving a major sporting event just after the game is over. If you’re claustrophobic, skip it.

That effort to get to the Bellagio to see the fountains was worth it, however. When the fountain starts, the crowd quiets and a tranquil display of water and music cuts through the clamor. By that time of night, everyone was exhausted. That perfect moment of mental relaxation was exactly what everyone needed.

The Way Back

Our friends went back to their room, and we left in the early hours of the morning. The best part about the desert has to be the night sky. You haven’t seen the stars until you’ve seen them in the desert. Constellations and individual stars disappear. The Milky Way looks like the inside of a brain, with nerves and synapses spidering across the sky.

Stars in the Night Sky

At night out here, the animals come out. Hundreds of rabbits, literally crawling all over the road. Big ones, baby ones: they were everywhere. In the frenzy, I don’t know how the road wasn’t littered with carcasses. At the last moment, they all seemed to dart away from the light and return to nature.