Hanging in there

This has been a hard month! So much work, so much stress. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s still a small light.

I did have time to go to Trader Joe’s today. Like this time every year, a pumpkin seems to have exploded in there. I did purchase some pumpkin biscotti to enjoy with coffee as well as many of my favorite’s. Tonight is going to be salmon with maybe asparagus. Or salad with burrata cheese on top. Maybe all of the above!

The broadway show I was playing is done—it finished on Sunday afternoon. I got to see my friend April that night for dinner but was too tired and stressed to really enjoy it. This concert Sunday (2 pm! Christ Church Cathedral! FREE!!!) has just become a huge stressor, hanging over my head. I’m looking forward to being done. I don’t regret that I chose to learn and perform an incredibly difficult Bach Sonata for it, but the timing hasn’t been great. The rest of the program hasn’t been neglected, exactly, but I’m not as happy with it. Oh well.

It should be a good performance nonetheless, and then I can focus on the next performances (LOTS of quartet stuff this fall and a piano trio concert in December as well). And focus on getting back to my own life, and maybe work on mental well-being and having friends too.

Mackenzie had an ear problem this past week, culminating with a small procedure yesterday. I’m worn out from all the pet problems we’ve had this year too, just absolutely emotionally drained. 2016 has been a hard year, losing two cats, one after a difficult illness, dealing with Mackenzie losing hair and it taking forever to get diagnosed…it’s just been a lot. Hopefully this ear thing isn’t ongoing, and hopefully she can just relax and enjoy having her hair back for awhile longer.

On the bright side (besides the salmon, I mentioned the salmon, correct?) I am playing another show at the Fox next year. It’s not for a year, and maybe something else will come up in the middle, but I’ll tell you: as stressful as getting all the other parts of life to work with the show, it was so much fun to play. And it was fun to see colleagues more often, and fun to perform at a high level and have a lot of fun doing it. I always love performing and want to do more. (Maybe less stressful stuff that a solo recital though.)

Time to get back to practicing! Today I don’t teach until early evening. (Every other Tuesday I teach at Wash U in the early afternoon, and this is the week off, small victory!) And coffee drinking. What would we do without coffee?

A Night off the Ground

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

Feeling at home in Arches National Park

Entering the Fiery Furnace

After leaving Arches, we headed to Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef is definitely one of the less visited parks—I’d never heard of it before starting to research this trip, and I suspect many of you haven’t either.

Capitol Reef was an odd park. There’s beautiful landscapes—the park is based on something called the Waterpocket Fold which caused most of its unusual features. But there’s also large amounts of Mormon history and historical buildings.


On our drive from Arches to Capitol Reef, we were trying to get a handle on what to expect, and we just couldn’t. This park took a little getting used to. At first I thought maybe it had too much of an identity crisis…but in retrospect, much like this blog Winking smile Capitol Reef was interesting and amazing because of all the different things it had to offer.

The park was free to enter, and in fact the only time one needed to pay was on the Scenic Drive. Our National Parks pass covered it, but it was definitely a good deal. We made a few stops and looked at various sights, natural and historical, went to the visitor’s center, and drove on the scenic drive. There was a gravel road Louie wanted to check out, but it looked like it was going to storm and I made him agree to wait until the next day.


The area looked like it had been strip mined in places, but this was all natural. Very crazy to look at, and different from the other parts of Utah we’d seen. It had certain similarities of course(it looked more like Canyonlands that Missouri does…), and especially to Colorado National Monument, but had its own feel.


I’d reserved a small cabin for the night in the border town of Torrey. The campground in the park was non-reservation, and while it turned out it wasn’t full, we were happy to have beds for the night! Before leaving the park for the evening we bought a homemade fruit pie at the historic Gifford House. That was definitely a weird thing, that there are orchards (started by the Mormon settlements) in the National Park AND that there was handmade pie for sale. We figured we’d go out to dinner and eat it afterwards.

We checked into the cabin at Torrey Trading Post. Torrey is a very small town just a few miles out of Capitol Reef. The cabin was around the side of a small store, post office, and a few private residences. We had to share bathrooms with the other few cabins (2 or 3 others) but as there were the nicest bathrooms we’d seen in awhile, it was no hardship! We took showers (ahhhh) and did laundry at a small laundromat across the street, while relaxing. There was a TELEVISION in the cabin, and Louie and I were able to watch some of the Olympics while looking at things on the internet through wi-fi. You really start to love amenities when you’ve been camping awhile!

After the laundry was done we went to Café Diablo for dinner. It was highly recommended by guidebooks and Trip Advisor and we definitely enjoyed it. The Rattlesnake cakes seemed to be the thing to order for an appetizer, and we both got various fish entrees. The chef seemed to be a really creative guy, to the point of being a little ridiculous, but it was a fun meal and we enjoyed it.


Our view from the table wasn’t too bad either.

After dinner we relaxed and shared the pie—strawberry rhubarb. Unfortunately the rhubarb wasn’t as well cooked as it should have been, but otherwise it was an excellent pie. The cabin had a little picnic table and we hung out outside for a bit and tried to angle properly to watch the sunset. It was kind of funny because there were kids who seemed to live there (it was a family owned business) running around and adults moving vehicles and yelling at each other, and there we were, on our vacation.

I slept GREAT. Sleeping in a bed was amazing.

The next morning we had a bit of a snafu. Louie had noticed that the doorknob to the cabin was a little funny, but when he returned from the bathroom first thing in the morning, we realized I was stuck in the cabin and he was stuck outside. We were having a conversation through the open window about what to do when the owner’s son heard us and called out his window did we need help. Why yes, or at least a screwdriver. After a bit of finagling (and Louie climbing IN the window to help take the door knob off) we got the door open. We were checking out soon, so we didn’t get a new knob at that time. The man was very apologetic, and we did understand. After all, we were well used to disasters! It was pretty ridiculous though, I felt. Here we were, NOT camping on the ground subject to the elements and wildlife and still managed to have a snafu.

After that excitement we headed for breakfast at the Capitol Reef Café. This was a super cute place and also advertised rooms for pretty cheap. All of Torrey was very cute, and we’d stay there again—people were friendly, and it was a VERY small town. I wouldn’t want to live there, but I would spend a few more nights on vacation happily. There was just something about the town that we both really liked—it was small, friendly, and a bit cheesy and touristy but in a totally fun way.

After a good breakfast with potatoes and veggies and eggs, it was time to hike. We started with the Chimney Rock Trail, a 3.6 mile round trip hike. The trailhead was fairly empty, except while we were getting ready at least two or three other groups were too. Meaning, all of us were leaving for the hike at the exact same time, which was sort of annoying. We managed to separate out eventually, and had a great time—the best part of seeing the parks has ALWAYS been getting on the trail.

Small soapbox: I’m a huge National Parks lover, as you can tell. But people say, oh, I don’t like all the crowds, I prefer to go to {insert place} and that means more to me. Well, of course you are entitled to your opinion—differences in opinion are important! But, if you think National Parks are simply crowded, just pick a hike rated “strenuous” or even “medium” or, that is more than 1 to 2 miles long, and you’ll get every inch of solitude you wanted, I promise! Especially at a less popular park, but even at the popular ones, like Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain, you get a lot of solitude on the trail. (Grand Canyon, I’m sure it’s only true off the main trails, but it’s still well worth doing, because there is a reason those trails are so popular.)

But I digress. The Chimney Rock trail was fantastic.


I realized this was a piece of petrified wood! Wood that has turned to rock. Don’t ask me to explain how, but you can google it Winking smile

After that hike we went and hiked on the Grand Wash Trail. This was at the end of the gravel/dirt road I’d mentioned earlier. The sun was coming out and it was getting hot by this time.


We probably added another 4 miles on that hike. I didn’t enjoy it as much—I think I don’t drink enough water when it’s hot and sunny. In any case, after the hike we had some lunch out of the cooler (I believe hummus and pita chips and fruit, we did that a lot, or peanut butter sandwiches, or bagels for lunch) AND we splurged and got another pie. This one was mixed berry and we also got ice cream and coffee to go with it.


We enjoyed our food outside the Gifford House and relaxed.


And on that note, I’m going to leave off here. Our next stop would be a campground in Escalante-Petrified Forest State Park, en route to Bryce Canyon. I’m not going to lie, I wished we were staying in the cabin another night, and I wished I’d made a slower itinerary…but looking back, it’s really amazing all the stuff we saw, all the places we went, and what we were capable of! Does that sound crazy?

(And next vacation we are spending like 3 days minimum at each place…Winking smile  and I suppose I should stop complaining about something that I brought upon us myself!)

Nights Camping: 8

Miles Hiked (estimate): 55

Time Flies

Where is the time going? This week has been jam packed. I suppose some people keep this kind of schedule all the time…I have in previous lives, but I’m not used to being on the go from 7 am until 10:30 pm anymore!

I’m playing with a musical at the Fox Theatre, which is our big theatre in Midtown (between downtown and…Forest Park?) where they host a variety of visiting shows. This week and next week I’m playing with A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which is hilarious and well worth seeing. The music is good too, but it’s just soooooo funny. I’m in the pit, of course, playing violin, and having a great time.

The rest of the days have been full of teaching, rehearsals, and not as much practicing as I want or need. This is why I don’t normally do this sort of schedule, because it cuts into my practice time, which is valuable and important, and is how I am able to play as well as I like to think that I do. But these weeks happen, and it’ll be well worth it in the end!

I’ve also been having a great time starting to teach my new students at Wash U (as the locals call it, though others might call it Washington University of St Louis). I feel very lucky this month, and am trying to focus on that even while other things are stressing me out and beyond.

Sometimes I think to myself, how will I ever finish blogging about our trip which happened so long ago? I will, I made notes, I want to share and get it down. I’m just in the middle of this stretch of work. And in fact, in order to take 3 weeks off in August…that means I had to and wanted to say yes to every opportunity in September and October. It’s important to say yes as often as you can as a freelance, and it’s also important to my bank accounts to say yes as often as I can!

Today is my 20th straight day of work, though one of those days was only 90 minutes of teaching (practically a day off, but not a day off), and unless something else comes up, I’m working straight until October 9, which will be my first day off after 41 straight days of work. I am tempted to look back at my old calendars and see how this compares historically (I worked like a horse in Cleveland…is that an expression or did my Saturday morning brain make that up?) but what I do know is that I am busier in St Louis than I have been since I moved here in 2008 and that’s good. I might be a little bit of a workaholic Smile

Granted, I just spent 20 minutes blogging about how much I have to do. I have a student coming in a few minutes and wanted to do something while drinking my coffee. We have a matinee and evening show today. I love performing. Teaching is important, and probably what I do that makes a bigger difference in the world, but performing is why I do all of this.

And playing in a pit orchestra is just plain fun.

Entering the Fiery Furnace

You probably thought I’d forgotten about my trip (or hoped, just kidding, or why would you be reading at all?) but the truth is that work is CRAZY right now—scheduling, meeting new students, practicing, rehearsing, running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I’m on day 14 of over 40 straight days of work, and at least today ended up just being two students…and of course the inevitable practicing, which never stops, but is especially important right now.

So, where were we?

Previous posts:

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

Feeling at home in Arches National Park

We left off in Arches National Park on the morning of Friday, August 5. Whoa, that’s a long time ago! But, this was the morning we had tickets for the Fiery Furnace Tour. The Fiery Furnace is an area of the park that you are only allowed in by permit, either on a ranger-led tour, or on your own. We didn’t want to get lost so we opted for the ranger-guided tour. It cost $16 each and like everything in the National Parks, had to be reserved in advance. They warn you that the hike is strenuous and challenging, with small spaces and drop offs, so I was both overconfident and a bit nervous.


The tour was great. The guide was really knowledgeable and interesting, and he led us for several hours, with a good balance between hiking and learning about the geology, biology, and ecology of the area. Zoology also, perhaps?


The day had started overcast and cool, but by the time the tour was done (and I totally recommend it, by the way) it was hot! The Fiery Furnace area was pretty shaded actually, since the formations are so close together, but we finished the hike around noon and it was definitely hot.

We headed back to the Devil’s Garden campground to find our new spot. As amazing as site 18 had been, our new site, site 3 was less good. It was fine, in that it was still in a gorgeous location, and it was near the bathrooms, but it looked like we were in half of a pull through RV driveway and there wasn’t anywhere great to the put the tent. There were also loads of ants everywhere! We moved the picnic table and had lunch, and plotted out a place for the tent, but it was really hot and we decided just to set it up later.

It was time for more hiking. We wanted to see parts of the park we hadn’t gotten to the day before so we headed for the Windows area. There are several arches there with a short trail around them. We were drinking a lot of water, and the parking lot was super crowded. People really like posing under the arches, but they don’t really like following what the park called “primitive trails” so we took that one back. It wasn’t in any way difficult, but it wasn’t paved and you had to watch for cairns, and it was nice to avoid people, as usual Winking smile


Next we decided we should hike to Delicate Arch. This was a more strenuous hike, but we thought we had enough energy. It was really hot, over 90 I think, but we loaded up our packs with water and hid the trail. This trail was pretty crazy. There was a part where we just hiked basically straight up a huge slickrock.


It wasn’t too steep, but was a bit overwhelming looking too far in the distance, up or down, so I just tried to focus on my steps. It was difficult in the sun, and steep enough that it was exhausting. We had a few places with shade where we stopped to rest but mostly kept going. The end had a little bit with a drop off but I hugged the wall and we made it to the top. The arch was pretty impressive.


Though we were larger than it.

Side note: not everybody who takes your picture is a great photographer. Sometimes the selfie stick is best…this might have been one of those times, because, we were not in fact larger than the arch.

Anyway, the arch WAS still a little ways away, but I’d had enough hiking across slickrock and I felt I’d accomplished my goal. Louie went over to get a better look and I hydrated. I was pretty convinced he was going to fall off (my constant fear)but after a little while he made it back. The hike back down was far easier.


If you look closely you can see Louie in this picture.


And this one.


Hiking back down the slick rock.

Anyway, after that hike we were totally beat and headed back to the campground to relax and have dinner.

We initially set up our tent up here:

We set it up, made dinner and were starting to enjoy the campfire and relax when the winds started to pick up…and practically blew the tent away. We had staked it the best we could but it was a bit rocky and it just wasn’t enough. Luckily we were there to catch the tent and we moved the whole thing down the hill a bit and set it up in the driveway (you learn WHY the previous night’s campers did things a certain after the fact) and even tethered it to the picnic table, just in case…and then the storms came and we eventually just went to bed on the early side, hoping to not wash away in a flash flood.

The next day we woke up and again, packed up. We went to hike the Devil’s Garden trail, at least part of it. I didn’t want to spend too much time since we had to drive a couple of hours still and do some errands in Moab before we left, so we saw a few arches and some deer, IMG_5825


This was called Landscape Arch. One thing to know is that the arches are constantly changing, and do fall sometimes, and this particular one had had a huge chunk fall off in 1991—you used to be able to hike underneath it but the park service decided that was too dangerous. Our guide the day before warned us, before you rest somewhere, look up and make sure it seems like nothing is going to fall on you!

After that hike, we hit up the town of Moab again, got groceries (weren’t sure if the next place would have a nice grocery store) and an early lunch at a place called the Love Muffin Café.

Next stop: Capitol Reef National Park

Nights Camping: 8

Miles Hiked (estimate): 47

Bach thoughts

The weekend absolutely flew by! I was mostly working though Louie and I did get to enjoy a nice (but hot) bike ride along the Riverfront Trail on Monday morning.

I’m just popping in for a quick blog post. I know many of you are eagerly waiting to hear more about my travels, and I will, I will tell you!

But not now because I am still busy scheduling and rescheduling students, and mostly busy practicing for an upcoming recital/concert on October 2.

I’m performing Bach’s C Major Violin Sonata for the first time ever, and I’m totally overwhelmed and stressed by this. I’m playing from memory, as one must…at least that’s how I feel about it. The fugue is ridiculous and amazing…I remember the first time I ever heard it (I believe on a CD while I was in high school) and I was blown away by, how could music be like that? It was nothing like I’d ever heard before.

There are 3 Sonatas and 3 Partitas for Solo Violin by Bach, and I’ve performed most of all the other ones except for the C Major (Sonata no. 3), so it was time. And this concert is in a big church, so it will be very nice for Bach.

The thing about solo Bach is…well, there are millions of different ways to perform it, so there’s the fact of deciding how I want to play it, while worrying (and I know I shouldn’t but I do) that any other musicians in the audience will be judging me for playing inauthentically or NOT in the style that they think it should be. Plus worrying about memory and intonation and all of that.

And I’m doing all of this mostly for free. I teach and play gigs and weddings, but most of the “serious” concerts I play are basically for free. I do often get a small stipend, but when you consider all the practice and rehearsal that goes into them…not that I’m complaining, but just telling you.

It’s kind of ridiculous, except those are what I live for! Those concerts are WHY I play the violin, why I insist upon making a living doing this, and why I teach. Especially why I teach, so that my students can appreciate and love a piece of music as much as I do. And if I didn’t surround myself with music all the time, I wouldn’t be the musician I am.

If you aren’t a musician, or if you aren’t crazy this post might not resonate with you, but perhaps you can all appreciate the feeling of worrying about what everybody thinks while just really doing something that you care deeply about that takes up a lot of work…not for financial gain, but simply for yourself.

I do hard things because I can. I look forward to performing, I look forward to being done performing, and knowing that I did something difficult, something challenging, something that might seem pointless (I mean, really, how many times can one play Brahms and Bach and Beethoven…but really, the answer is an infinite number of times, and not everything we do with music has to be new and different and sometimes it can simply be something we love and if that’s the same thing that hundreds of other violinists loved, and maybe even played better, music isn’t a zero-sum game…)…

And what I sometimes forget: maybe somebody in the audience will hear the fugue for the first time, and they will be amazed and changed, just like I was. Just because hundreds or thousands of violinist have performed it, not everybody has heard it. There are people in the world who have never heard Dvorak’s American Quartet, or Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, or perhaps (less likely, but perhaps) Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

I’m not even sure where I’m going with this, except that I feel better having written it.

Feeling at home in Arches National Park

Next up: Arches National Park!

Previous posts:

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

Day 9 of our trip, according to the itinerary. We finished up looking at Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse State Park and hit the road back towards Moab. It’s about 30 minutes to Moab, which is right near Arches National Park. We decided to make a quick coffee/gelato stop in Moab first before heading back into the wilderness. We also wanted to check email and things like that. In this day and age, it’s hard to go 3 weeks without responding to people, so at least every couple of days we needed to check in! And honestly, after a few straight days of only talking to each other, it’s nice to look at other stuff Smile We had an “incident” later where we’d asked a restaurant if they had wi-fi and the woman said, somewhat self-righteously, “no, we don’t, you’ll just have to talk to each other.” Haha, right? Except get over yourself, we’d been doing nothing but talking to each other for 3 days, and you work in a deserted tourist area where maybe people need to check in for work or just to let their friends and family know they are still alive. But I digress.

We finished up our gelato at a delightful shop that DID have wi-fi and then drove up to Arches. We needed to stop by the visitor’s center to pick up tickets for a ranger led tour we were doing the following day, and whoa, the center was packed! It was a definite change from Canyonlands and Colorado National Monument. We knew Arches was more popular (I guess the beauty is more obvious and you can see more within 10 feet of your car?) but it was still a bit of culture shock.

We had a reservation at Devil’s Garden campground, which was at the very back of the park, about a 20 mile drive, so our plan was to slowly head there while stopping and seeing what interested us. We had the whole day in the park the following day so we knew we’d get to do most of things we wanted.


Since blogging about this trip has, more than ever, become entirely ridiculous and overwhelming YET I know that I will want this all down in writing to look back at in the future…I’m going to do a lot of photo sharing!


Many of the rock formations are named. This was called the Three Gossips.


We took a short walk to get closer to Balanced Rock. The mountains in the background are spectacular. Another thing that really struck us both was how different Arches looked than Canyonlands and Dead Horse even though they are relatively close to each other. What a crazy planet we live on!


The advent of digital cameras makes this sort of ridiculousness easier. Louie, holding up Balanced Rock.IMG_5739

Seriously, what is this madness??


Various arches. After checking into the campground we set up the tent and then went on a hike that left from the end of the campground. Oh, we’d hoped to buy firewood to have a fire since we hadn’t been able to for a few days, but they were out! The camp hosts were really great though and told us we could stop by their site and have a few pieces, so we did that. We also found out the campground had had lots of flash flooding the night before, just like at Dead Horse and we were warned to be aware of where we set up our tent. Apparently this was “monsoon season” and flash floods were somewhat common, though the night before had been much more than usual, and some campsites were washed away. We made sure to stake our tent carefully.


Every arch had a name, but I am bad with names. I think this was Broken Arch though. We also might have seen Tapestry Arch. The hike was a little hard to figure out at first, because it was lots of cairn following, but we managed! We almost got lost at more than one point, but did I mention that it was a lovely cool day in the desert so we probably wouldn’t have died. Just kidding, we only weren’t sure which turn to take and were never too far off from being correct.IMG_5756

This is the view of our campground. Devil’s Garden Campground is one of the most beautiful National Park Campgrounds that I’ve ever seen. Our site (Site 018) was gorgeous too, even though we had trouble finding a flat spot to set up the tent.

Anyway, we finished the hike and then went to relax at our campsite and make dinner.


We had a lovely fire and relaxed. At one point a small fox (we found out it was a kit fox) came through our campsite, just like one had at Dead Horse! This time we were sort of ready, and Louie took a short video. It was dark though, and you can’t see much. We made a lot of jokes about how the fox didn’t say anything.

We decided to try to wake up to watch the sunrise. We had an amazing view from the tent, and figured this was the time!

Even though I hadn’t slept great because the tent was more slanted than we’d realized and I kept sliding off the pad (oops) I was happy to be awake to get this picture! We also saw several deer who walked non-chalantly through the campsite. It was a beautiful site, but unfortunately we had to move to a different one for the next night (same campground) so after watching the sunrise and breakfast, it was time to pack up. As usual…

Next up: Fiery Furnace, Delicate Arch and more storms!

Nights camping: 7

Miles hiked (estimate): 37

thoughts about violin, teaching, running, life.