house sparrows, house finches, pine siskins, and similar little birds in a thornless honeylocust during a snow storm, castle valley, ut
On Friday, 9-23, the first cold front of the season blew through the west. Just a days after the Equinox there is snow on the La Sal mountains, as if Winter can’t wait to arrive.
Yesterday I drove to Grand Junction, along scenic highway 128 from Castle Valley, past Dewey, and through Cisco. The views were spectacular. Well, the views are always spectacular, but the red rock set against clouds and well-defined storm cells was extra special.
I pulled over several times to take a pic.
Like all photos of dark skies and sweeping scenic views, the picture does no justice to what the eyes see.
Still, it translates well enough, and I really love what the pictures show.
The storms on radar:
Approaching storm 1:
Storm 1 and Fisher Towers:
Looking back after driving through the northwestern corner of storm 1:
Final pic–looking back at the edge of storm 1 from Cisco, UT:
Driving toward storm 2:
Dramatic clouds looking toward storm 1:
When I arrived in Grand Junction, the storms had split and gone around the city, but the sky and the sunset were pretty spectacular. Here’s a shot from the parking lot. No filters here, it really looked this apocalyptic.
One of my favorite things to do is take long car rides.
This works out fairly well, since it takes about 45 minutes to get to Moab for gas or groceries (or any other errand). Sometimes, though, I like to double the drive-time and head to Grand Junction, CO. It’s 90 minutes each way, but half of the drive is up the Colorado River canyon, and it looks like this:
The other half of the drive is down no-man’s-land I70, which is pretty empty. This stretch of highway runs between Grand Junction, CO and Green River, UT, with nothing in between.
Summer can be a bit unpleasant, as the tourists jam up the road a bit, but most of the year there are only a handful of other cars on the road until I get to the city.
Three hours to listen to audio books, catch up on podcasts, and sing until I lose my voice? It’s one of my favorite things.
Last night I was coming home and a super-bright meteorite lit up the sky briefly. I was listening to “When All We Have is Taken” by Edison Glass, and not another car on the road the whole drive home. I almost hit a lazy hawk, and an even lazier skunk, but it was otherwise uneventful.
Living in Castle Valley is wonderful. I’m still amazed when I go outside that I actually live here. I enjoy the quiet (no dogs and no loud bass from cars at stop lights–it’s just blissfully quiet). I enjoy the space (each property is on five acres, and mountains give the valley a sense of seclusion, but also really define the wide open space). I love working from home, on my trusty macbook air.
But when I saw that the library was hiring a children’s librarian (part time), I applied right away. I love books, and I love working with kids (I got a degree in education after all!). But what I really think I’ll love is working in a place with other people (who ALSO love books), and being a part of the community. People love libraries, and the library is definitely an important to the city. Here in Moab, a lot of the kids from local elementary and middle schools (within walking distance!) go to the library after school to do homework, read, and interact with their peers until their parents pick them up.
I was hired to work the late shift three days a week as a children’s librarian. I’m really excited to start. I’ll still be running my business and podcasting from home, but a few days a week I’ll spend half the day in town, helping kids with their homework and checking books out to them. 🙂
After living in Salt Lake City for seven years, I’m moving!
Beth and I are moving to a tiny little town called Castle Valley, in south-eastern Utah.
Here’s a picture of Castle Valley that really doesn’t do it justice (because it’s so wonderful in-person):
The Story of How We Found Castle Valley
In April of this year, my dad came to visit us. Beth and I had previously visited Moab (in October 2013 when they closed the National Parks), and Dad had a friend who stayed in Moab for half the year, so we wanted to take him down there, and he wanted to go. After hiking at Arches National Park Friday evening and Saturday morning with my father, he wanted to chill in the hotel room, so I went out with Beth.
Here is how Beth and I vacation: wander around the city/area looking for stuff to see or do. At the entrance to Moab, where the Colorado river crosses the main road, there was a sign that said “Castle Valley 17.” Seventeen miles to Castle Valley. We didn’t feel like hiking, so we decided to explore. What’s a Castle Valley? Maybe it’s a nice town where we can have a nice lunch.
So we drove along the Colorado River, one of the more scenic drives I’ve ever been on. Eventually we saw a historical marker, and, that being the kind of thing we do, we stopped for it. Just off the main road was a gravel pull-off area, but no sign of a historical marker. Beth suggested we drive farther down this new road, driving away from the Colorado river, to explore.
So we did, and about 10 minutes later we found ourselves at the entrance of a little town called Castle Valley. Oh! THIS is Castle Valley. I had thought it would be farther up the road, but no. Here is was. So we drove around. And it was gorgeous. Remote, surrounded on all sides by beautiful landscapes:
On one side is Castleton Tower, a very striking rock formation.
Opposite that is a giant cliff face that stretches the length of (and beyond) the city.
At the end of the valley is a tiny cone of a mountain called Round Mountain, and beyond that, looming like a mother bear, the giant La Sal Mountains.
We could live here, we said.
No really, we could.
Well, why shouldn’t we? It is a magical little valley, we could move here forever and be happy. So we decided to. It probably took 10 minutes of being in the valley to decide that we should. Even before we looked at housing prices, even before we knew for sure if Beth could get approved for telecommuting, we knew we would figure out a way.
Why Leave the Salt Lake Valley?
Salt Lake City is beautiful. When I first visited in 2006, I was blown away. Mountains! Snow! Public Transportation! The city was vibrant in a way that cities in Florida are not. There are museums and hiking trails and cool little local shops, and oh yeah, Mountains.
But Beth and I have always talked about moving to a small town. Every vacation we’ve taken has been to (or driving through) small town. I would love to live out in the country, we’d say. Look how quiet it is, how fresh the air is! Those little towns were never quite right, never quite feeling like a destination. So we kept looking.
Actually, the number 1 reason to move is that Castle Valley is lovely, and perfect for us.
Though Salt Lake City has a lot going for it, and I love a lot of things about it, there are some things that we don’t enjoy.
Through the magical meteorological process called INVERSION, bad, toxic air gets trapped in the valley, and hangs out for most of December – February. In July, fires from west of the city blow into the Salt Lake valley, and hang around in the sometimes stale, stagnant summer air until a storm comes through and pushes it away. While we don’t have it as bad as some cities in California or Southeastern Asia, every January we have the worst air in the nation.
If you’ve never had to live in a smoggy place for an extended period of time, I’ll try and describe it. You feel tired all the time. Your chest feels heavy and your throat is constantly scratchy. Your eyes get itchy and your head aches all the time. Constantly. For days.
Here is what the valley looks like every January:
photo credit: leggnet
The air in Castle Valley is extremely fresh. There are no major interstates, cities, or industrial plants nearby. It’s amazing.
Directly across from my office window in Salt Lake City is a club that hosts live bands every night from 10pm to 2am. They are careless about their noise pollution, but they are still within the state’s allowable decibels, so there was nothing I could do to get away from the noise. Thanks, Urban Lounge.
Every night, I hear and feel the THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP of dance and rap music in my office, as clearly as if there were a car with a $5,000 audio system parked outside my window. This noise is made worse by my hearing damage (from years of playing drums): I am especially sensitive to sounds in the lower sonic spectrum, so I hear this much clearer than other people have reported hearing it while standing in my office.
There’s also an office building on our block with an industrial heater and air conditioner. All year long there is deep, throbbing HUMMM of one kind or another. The parking garage behind our house amplifies the noise, and you can hear it very clearly in both bedrooms.
Not to sound too old and grumpy, but our neighborhood can be a bit loud. Drunk people walking home/to their cars at night, dogs in neighboring houses ALWAYS barking, cars with bassy speakers or loud mufflers, etc. **Shakes fist at everybody.
Castle Valley is blissfully quiet. No sounds from cars with loud mufflers or speakers, no dogs barking, no concert speakers or industrial temperature-controlling-equipment. Just nature. Bird sounds. Insect sounds. Other animal sounds I couldn’t identify. Mmm.
Plain and simple, traffic makes us both unhappy and uncomfortable. Every week, either as a pedestrian or as a driver we are involved in one close call after another. Again, not to sound like a cartoon character here, but people are getting worse at driving. I am amazed at how many people are texting on their phones instead of paying attention to what they’re doing on the road. It scares the hell out of me.
Also, our PARKED CAR, sitting IN FRONT OF OUR HOUSE has been hit TWICE by an impaired driver (once it was meds, and once it was alcohol).
No thanks. We’re moving to a town of ~300 with ONE paved road going through town.
Finding Sun House
We’d been looking at houses in Castle Valley for about two or three weeks when I found one that wasn’t listed on any of the sites we’d been looking at. The pictures of the living room and dining room were lovely, the shots of the outside of the house looked very interested, but the kitchen… it was the kitchen that sold it. I sent the pic to Beth knowing she would love it. It’s a big kitchen, with the appliances set into the cabinets, and a nice, big island in the center of the kitchen (with a stove set into the island). In fact, here is the picture we saw:
It’s so bright and open! So much space to cook. Beth and I both enjoy cooking, so we were definitely looking for something with a nice, big kitchen.
The photos were all very nice, and we added it to our list of houses to look at when we visited Castle Valley again with our realtor. In the mean time, we continued to look at houses and real estate websites. We started naming all the houses, and called this one Murder House, because it only showed the kitchen, living room, and outside the house, but not the bedrooms (so those are where the murders happened. LOL, Beth).
Eventually, we decided to call the house Sun House, because it has a sun room, lots of windows, and is very open and bright.
As soon as we toured Sun House, we knew it was Our House. It has enough bedrooms that we could each have our own spacious office (since we both work from home). It has a big yard (all properties in Castle Valley have five acres), and a detached car port, garage, and a room, so I will have my very own drum room, which is really the most exciting thing I can think of… 🙂
Sun House doesn’t look like much on the outside, but it’s a beautiful house, and it’s really perfect for us and our five animals!
Here’s the view from the front door:
And here is a view of the back of the house (looking the same direction, at Castlton Tower)
Here are a few more pictures of Sun House [note: the inside pictures feature the previous owners furniture–I will post pictures of how it looks once we’ve moved in and decorated it ourselves]
We don’t live there yet (as of the time of this writing), but we’ll be moving in on July 4th.
Saying Goodbye to Dragonfly House
The house we live in now is lovely. It was built in 1886 (or thereabout) and is absolutely charming. Beth has lived in this house for about 8 years longer than I have (since 2001). I’ve got lots of good memories of this house, and I’m sure she has many more.
Here is a picture of the house in Winter, during a heavy snow:
So that’s the story of Castle Valley. This is my last weekend in Salt Lake City, and there is a lot to pack, and lots to do. We’re closing on July 1st, and moving on the 4th.
Here’s to new beginnings!
Enjoy this massive picture of the Castle Valley area (that little outline of roads and green on the left is the city).
Came home from walking Lucy, and saw a GIANT fire and a column of smoke coming from very nearby. I thought it was Smith’s the huge grocery story that was on fire, but it turns out it was a big apartment building (currently under construction).
There were several firetrucks, and a big crowd gathered to watch.
Here’s a short vid I took of the fire:
Today, we said goodbye to our dog, Cassie, who was really the sweetest, happiest, derpiest dog. Cassie was 14 or 15 years old. Beth has lived with Cassie for about 13 years now; I’ve lived with her for about 7.
It’s really hard to say goodbye to such a sweetheart. I am making sure to remember Cassie as the attention-loving chip-eating cat-like-napping hound she was. I’ll be spending the day remembering Cassie and spending time with my family (including our four other animals). Below are my favorite pictures of the dog.
So long, Cassieface.
It seems like the heat came early to Salt Lake this year. On the other hand, a January that never went above freezing makes even moderate heat feel like too much.
Still, we put in our 100+ degree fahrenheit days, as we do every year. It’s how we earn our Autumn. It’s called having seasons, and in Florida, we didn’t really have them. (In Florida, it goes from HOT, to LESS HOT, to I CAN MOSTLY GO OUTSIDE WITHOUT GETTING SUNBURNT, MERRY CHRISTMAS).
At my new job (which I never really wrote about, but probably will someday… maybe for THANKSgiving, because I’m so THANKFUL for it), at my new job, there are a few aspen trees I see as I go for my hourly walk around the building. As the days became incrementally less hot, I noticed the edges of the leave changing. In the fall, aspens are one of the bright yellow/oranges trees that decorate the mountains, and make Autumn the best time to go exploring on mountain trails.
Summer = Fires
We didn’t escape the summer without having to endure wildfire season. Luckily, the valley was spared, but other spots, like Rockport, were not. Though we didn’t have to deal with the flames, directly, we did end up with a weak of smoke hanging around the valley.
On a few consecutive mornings, when I went to the car to leave for work, there was a build up of ash on the windshield, and more ash coated the car and stood out very clearly against the black paint. On one particular morning, it very softly rained ash, like a timid, toxic snow storm. It didn’t last long.
I’m looking forward to September and October. Last year we hiked Timpanogos in mid October, and it was so beautiful. I’m hoping to do something similarly adventurous for our wedding anniversary this year. Surely there will be pictures.
But the smoke has finally cleared, or is almost clear, and the temperatures continue drop. Autumn marches closer!