As has been my tradition these last several years, I wanted to put together a bit of a digital Christmas card detailing some of the happenings of the past year. Obviously I don't use this blog for much of anything besides this these days, but it still seems like a reasonable way to write up my year for you all to peruse.
It feels like this year started off sort of slowly, at least in terms of fun stuff. I was involved in a pretty big project at work in January and February and that really did suck up a lot of my energy.
A few fun things I did do during this time were:
A fun concert featuring Twin Forks who I'd seen before, and a band named Jukebox the Ghost that really grew on me.
In February, I got another niece (Clara), amazingly, the first of all my nieces and nephews to be born in Utah, so that made it fun to go see her the day she was born.
For whatever reason, nothing really stands out from March....but don't worry things really picked up in April.
In April, I decided to go on a one-man tour of the southern half of Idaho and up in Oregon and Washington. I guess I felt like I needed a week away from work, and I'd wanted to visit a few friends who lived up that way so I decided to do it all in one go.
In addition to seeing my good friends Julie, Shelly, Tenille, and Jon, I ended up seeing some amazing things like:
All told I ended up driving almost 1900 miles over the course of 9 days. If I had it to do over again, I might not drive to Tri-Cities, since they DO have an airport. But all in all it was quite the adventure, one that I quite enjoyed.
In May, it was time for yet another trip to Hawaii. You'd think that since I no longer have family there I'd fine somewhere else to vacation, but somehow I keep ending up there. This time, though, I managed to get off of Oahu and see some of the other islands. We spent half our time on the Big Island (Hawaii), and the other half on Molokai, places where Ben had served on his mission. Some highlights included taking a helicopter flight over the active volcano on the Big Island, and seeing a zebra moray eel while snorkeling in Molokai.
Almost right after getting back from Hawaii, I took a quick trip to DC to talk about the death certificate stuff I've worked on jointly with the state health department for the last several years. We presented to a meeting of the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS). I literally got there one afternoon and flew home the next. I did have a couple hours to kill before my flight home, and checked out a few nearby things on the National Mall that I hadn't been to before: The United States Botanical Garden, and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.
On thing I really enjoyed doing this summer was getting out and doing a fair amount of hiking around the Salt Lake area. It seems like there are so many beautiful things not that far away, and hiking is a much more enjoyable way for me to get some exercise than just walking on a treadmill or around my neighborhood (though I do enjoy that as well).
Some of my favorite hikes around the valley included:
In addition to hiking around town, I also went a few fun road trips that involved a bit of hiking as well.
In July, I had a lot of fun going down to southern Utah and doing some hiking at Bryce Canyon (really my first time spending any real time there), and in Grand Staircase National Monument.
We did a nice loop across a few of the major trails at Bryce which was great, but nothing really topped the view from the rim. So picturesque!
In Grand Staircase we did the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike and I thought that one was totally worth the drive to get out there. The trail had a nice educational brochure and wayposts along the way to help you see cool stuff like some native american pictograms and other ruins. And the waterfall at the end was really great, too.
In August, I went back down south to hike Kanarraville Falls with some friends. It had just rained the day before so the water was a little muddier than last time, but thankfully still relatively safe. I'm always impressed by the beautiful colors in that canyon, especially as the sun comes down into the slot canyons in the middle of the day.
Toward the end of the summer, we had a family staycation spread across two separate weekends. My parents rented a place up in Cottonwood Heights and we hung out there for a day or two, and also drove down to American Fork canyon and went through Timpanogos Cave, something I hadn't done in a loooong time.
Then a couple weeks later we went to Lagoon. I thought that going with the kids was a good mix. I spent some time riding "big kid" rides (really though Cannibal was great, and it made the line for Wicked shorter too), and then when I was starting to get a bit queasy I could spend some time shepherding little kids through that part of the park.
Once again for Labor Day we went down to the Wintch ancestral mansion, aka the ranch at Spring Canyon. We all got our share of excitement riding horses and 4-wheelers.
Sometimes Natalie struggles to stay in the frame
With fall, comes football season. I had season tickets at the U again this year, and while we didn't always win pretty, we almost always won, finishing 10-3.
This was my 7th year having season tickets, and my 6th sitting next to these two characters.
My birthday also comes in the fall, and I was able to convince a bunch of friends to join me for birthday dinner at the Sizzler next to Sugarhouse Park. Turns out they don't have a ton of large group seating, but thankfully it wasn't TOO cold to eat out on their "Party Patio" (Ok, I made that name up).
Nothing says "Happy Birthday" like a steak and malibu combo. :)
Work got busier again in the fall, after a slow-ish summer, and I ended up working in Ogden for the better part of two weeks in October and November. For some of the days, Intermountain even put me up at a motel. Not just a good Western, but the Best Western! One of the highlights was going up to George's house to hang out some of the evenings I was staying up there. This video of Erik and Cole singing the Batman song still makes me laugh:
Also in November, I traveled to San Francisco for a conference where I presented a research paper looking at some of the data around the death certificate tool. I don't have any photos of me presenting, but I did make it out into the city (barely) for a couple hours, and here's a photo from that afternoon:
If you look closely you can see the Golden Gate Bridge
In December, I've been plenty busy with the usual hustle and bustle of the season, but have managed to make it downtown to see the lights a bunch of times, which has been nice. Always a good reminder of the spiritual nature of Christmas.
As I look back on this year, I'm reminded of how blessed I am. Blessed with a wonderful loving family, with so many great friends, with a good job, and a roof over my head. Its always easy to focus on what I lack as I like to be looking for things to improve, but its also good to remember how good I have it already. I hope that you all are having a happy holiday season, and as always I love to hear from you, wherever you may be, or how long its been since last we spoke.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!