Dec 4, 2013
Samantha Angela

Zion in November – Hike The Narrows

This is part of my series on visiting Zion National Park in November.

Hike The Narrows


In Zion National Park, The Narrows is less of a hike and more of a wade up the running waters of the Virgin River that meander through the canyon. At some points it is narrow enough for you to touch both canyon walls as they reach skyward, perpendicular to the river.

Due to all the rain that was happening while we were visiting, there was a moderate risk of flash flooding in the canyon. This means hikers need to be aware of signs of flash flooding (like changing skies and increased sediment and debris in the water) and there is only a 15 minute window to either get washed away with the river or find yourself some higher ground.

Matt was apprehensive of the possibility of waiting 24 hours perched on the side of a cliff for a flood to subside but, knowing that hiking the Narrows was the thing I wanted to do the most in Zion, he acceded.

Good thing too, because this ended up being an awesome hike and probably our favourite part of the vacation.


We rented a drysuit package for $50 from Zion Adventure Company which included walking sticks, boots, and what I would describe as the equivalent of a waterproof snowsuit that made me look like Lieutenant Worf of the Starship Enterprise. Luckily we were also able to rent extra fleece tops and bottoms for $2 a piece (it was unseasonably cold) and a waterproof bag so my camera wouldn’t get wet when I inevitably fell into the canyon waters.

Everything worked like a charm.


I loved having to navigate through the water to find the shallowest, sandiest path of least resistance through the river. I loved walking against the current and feeling it pushing back on me as I tried to hike against the rushing waters. I loved walking back with the current and feeling how easily it propelled me forward.


In the end we did hike into what is known as ‘Wall Street’, a narrow area with no opportunity for reaching higher ground in case of emergency. We hiked for about 10 minutes (being cautious of potential flash flooding) before turning around. So we didn’t quite make it into the narrowest areas of the canyon but the sights were beautiful nonetheless.

I was warm and dry for the whole hike in spite of wading in thigh-high rapids and having fallen into the water after tripping on some rocks. While I think the hike would be a bit more refreshing in the summer time when the temperatures are hot and drysuits are unnecessary, I appreciated the quietness of the canyon at this time of year. We only encountered 8 other hikers on our entire excursion.

This hike is a Must Do in Zion National Park.


Dec 4, 2013
Samantha Angela

Tips for Visiting Zion National Park in November

Last weekend Matt and I returned from our annual BIG vacation which, this year, took us to Las Vegas Nevada and the National Parks of Southern Utah.

After 3 days of festivities that, in keeping with the first rule of Las Vegas, can’t be mentioned, our friends Kyle and Heather got married in a beautiful ceremony at Caesar’s Palace followed by probably one of the best meals of my life at Scarpetta.
The day after the wedding, Matt and I rented a Jeep leaving behind the city of lights in favour of the quiet outdoor recreation of Zion National Park.

When putting together an itinerary for our trip I found little information online with tips for visiting Zion National Park in November, near American Thanksgiving 2013. Not that many people come to the park at this time of year, so you can avoid crowds quite easily and manage to find a sense of serenity and humility here among the impressive canyon vistas.

Here are some tips that I gleaned from our 3 days in the National Park in late November 2013.

The Weather

Zion National Park - Utah

We experienced weather in the 40s and very rainy. We were told this kind of weather is unseasonable for November; it’s usually cold but dry.

The wet conditions were shitty for hiking on slickrock, but they were good for keeping the tourists at bay and giving us the chance to see some pretty wicked waterfalls.

We noticed that the park was much busier on the single day we actually saw sunlight, especially among young families.

The Shuttle

Most of the year, personal vehicles are not allowed in the park. A shuttle system takes tourists to all the trailheads and vistas which facilitates traffic. During November however the shuttle system only runs on the weekends.

The good thing about the shuttle is that it is very informative. A recording plays providing riders with information about the various points of interest in the park as you drive by them. It’s something you’d miss out on if you took your personal vehicle. It is possible, however, to miss out on the information if the shuttle is full of noisy people. This happened while we were there so I am sure it’s much worse during the peak travel season.

The Hiking

Zion National Park - Utah

The hiking in Zion varies greatly in terms of difficulty making it good for all skill levels. Many of the trails are paved, a few are wheelchair accessible, and all of them are very clearly marked. ‘Easy’ trails will be very easy for fit people and ‘Difficult’ seems to infer a rapid gain in elevation moreso than unsure footing.

Note that at this time of year the sun set just after 5pm so you have much less time than you would in the summer to fit all your hikes in before dark. Choose wisely and be aware of how much time it takes to hike a trail prior to going out.

I’ll be posting about a couple of hikes that we did end up doing, so stay tuned!
Edited to add: Hike the Narrows and Other Exciting Zion Hikes


Springdale, UtahSource

The town of Springdale is at the main entrance to Zion National Park and primarily consists of hotels, inns, restaurants, and shops providing services for park tourists. So, of course, in the off season many shops and cafes are closed or operating on shorter hours. It was nearly impossible to find an open coffee shop after 3pm and only a handful of shops were open, leaving us with very little to do when we weren’t in the park.

The combination of short daylight hours and limited store operating hours meant that we packed it in early most nights. Very early.


There are a few drawbacks to coming this time of year like the shorter days, cooler weather, and limited services in town but the benefits of visiting during the off season outweigh the drawbacks, in my opinion.
I can deal with the cooler temperatures, in fact I think I prefer it to the heat of summer. While the heavy rain was a but off-putting, it’s not typical for November and it did provide us the opportunity to see waterfalls we otherwise would have missed. I liked that the park was quiet, especially on weekdays, making the experience with nature much more personal and peaceful.
I would definitely go back this time of year.

Nov 23, 2013
Samantha Angela
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Links for a Sunday Morning

Exercise During Pregnancy Enhances a Newborn’s Brain Development - Globe and Mail

The researchers aren’t sure why maternal exercise may boost newborn cognition, but one hypothesis is that increased oxygen uptake benefits the developing fetus as well as the mother. In the past, obstetricians typically advised women to take it easy and rest during pregnancy, but it’s now more commonly accepted that inactivity can be detrimental.

To Ride the Moscow Subway for Free, do 30 Squats - CNET

Riders have two minutes to perform the deep-knee bends in front of a special machine that can tell if they’re assuming the correct position.

Artists Stencil 9,000 Bodies onto Normandy Beach - Daily Mail

The idea is to create a visual representation of what is otherwise unimaginable, the thousands of human lives lost during the hours of the tide during the Second World War Normandy landings. People understand that so many lives were lost that day but it’s incredibly difficult to picture that number.

Diet clue to why we over-eat - The New Zealand Herald

We found that regardless of your age or body mass index, your appetite for protein is so strong that you will keep eating until you get enough protein, which could mean eating much more than you should.


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Nov 20, 2013
Samantha Angela
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5/3/1 Cycle 11 Recap


This cycle of 5/3/1 was UNREAL folks.

I blew away every single weightlifting PR I’ve ever had. Ever. 

Last cycle I was just happy to have finally regained all my lost strength. This cycle though I’m ecstatic. I’m proud. I’m completely shocked.

I fucking love this programme.

Read more about how it works here: 5/3/1 for Women

Main Lifts

I can’t even believe these numbers are real.

Deadlift: 250lb for 2 reps

Push Press: 130lb for 1 rep

Squats: 235lb for 4 reps

Bench Press: 150lb for 1 rep

I’m happy to have my husband back at the gym to spot me, just when I need him again (I was pretty terrified of crushing myself to death on that 150lb bench press) or injuring myself with the squat.

Accessory Lifts

Each day I did 4 exercises with a related muscle group to supplement my big lift. I performed 4 sets of these at mid range reps (5-8).

I haven’t been doing too much cardio, so I feel like I should start incorporating some more cleans and snatches to get my heart rate going. I’ll keep this in mind for my next cycle.

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Nov 17, 2013
Samantha Angela

Meet my niece

I’m an aunt for the first time. As of Thursday when my sister gave birth to this little bundle of cuteness. Internets, meet Fiona.



Nov 14, 2013
Samantha Angela

You Look Like You’ve Lost Weight!

you've lost weight

This week at the gym I was a bit startled when someone stopped me on my way to the water fountain for this conversation:

Guy: You look like you’ve lost weight!

Me: Uh..what?

Guy: You lost weight, haven’t you?

Okay, Sam, what do you say to this guy? You’ve lost weight since when exactly? I mean, yeah, you lost some weight from Yoga Teacher Training that you haven’t exactly gained back but that was a while ago. You actually look kind of bloated today; you’ve looked slimmer before today. Maybe it’s just this tight tank top you’re wearing?
. . . Just think of something. Say words, any words. . .
But you’re not even
trying to lose weight. You don’t want him to think that every girl who works out is trying to be a size 0, do you?
. . .Shit, just say something. . .

Me: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t really weigh myself.

You liar.

Guy: Well, I’ve seen you working out pretty hard the last few years and you look like you’ve lost some weight. You look great! Keep it up!

Few years?! You’ve definitely put on nearly 20lbs in the last few years (Remember the 147lb bikini me? Now you’re closer to 170lb). But your clothes fit just as well so maybe a lot of that mass was muscle. Maybe you do look like you’ve lost weight.

…but wait a minute! You looked pretty great a few years ago too. Or so you thought. So, what’s this guy saying? You looked like shit all the while?

Couldn’t he have just said “You’re working out hard! Keep it up!” instead?

Me: Thanks! Have a great workout!!

I really do feel confused about the whole experience. I know the guy was trying to pay me a compliment and I love that he acknowledged my tough workouts (because, I tell you what, they are damn tough) however, I think it’s generally NOT a good idea to bring up someone’s weight loss at all, unless they mention it first.

A comparison between my body, past and present, can be a bit hard to take. I quite liked my body ‘then’ even if it (unbeknownst to me until Guy pointed it out) didn’t look as good as it does now. It feels offensive, as if I’m somehow better now than I was in a chubbier body.

And of course, if I happen to regain my fat and look the way I did a few year ago. . . then what? Am I going to go into a downward emotional spiral, thinking badly about my body because it doesn’t look as good as it once did, according to some random Guy’s opinion?

In the end I know Guy had the best of intentions and I’m going to walk away feeling positive about the experience.

That said, I would like to get the message out that there are other ways to pay someone a compliment than to focus on their size. Body size varies a lot through someone’s life and when you put value on a certain appearance, then the inevitable fluctuations in weight can be much harder, emotionally, for that person to bear.

Nov 10, 2013
Samantha Angela
1 Comment

Links for a Sunday Morning

Dinner Rituals Correlate With Child, Adult Weight - Science Daily

The higher the BMI of parents, the more frequent they indicated to eat with the TV on. Eating at the table in the dining room or kitchen was linked to lower BMIs for both children and parents. 

Mystery Solved: The Etymology of Dude - Slate

So where does dude come from? Evidence points to “doodle,” as in “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” He’s the fellow who, as the song has it, “stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni.”

Chicago Marathon Cheaters: Why Do They Do It – Chicago Tribune

There’s a small percentage of people who feel compelled to do it but don’t need to. It’s like a wealthy person who needs to shoplift. . . There are people who say, ‘I’ll give it my best and prepare as well as I can’ and realize there’s a degree of chance of how they’ll do that day. Then there’s another group with a win-at-all-costs type of policy.

Rob Ford and the triumph of the new hosers – Globe and Mail

A total hoser, Ford talks hoser and acts the hoser lifestyle. He even leads a hoser community, one that’s hardcore suburban, scorns urban sophistication and is well-pleased when Rob Ford and his brother Doug do an achingly close simulation of Bob and Doug McKenzie, on their weekly radio show. “I shouldn’t have got hammered,” as Ford said, is hoserdom defined.

Yoga Anatomist Paul Grilley Responds to the NY Times article on Women’s Flexibility – Teachasana

It doesn’t matter how “flexible” one’s ligaments are if the range of movement in the exercise is not enough to create compression.

A Wandering Mind is Not a Happy Mind – Harvard

A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.

1 Comment
Nov 7, 2013
Samantha Angela

Four Things

The Lost Symbol

I don’t know why I bother reading Dan Brown books. We’re not talking about literary masterpieces here. To his credit, they’re so damn suspenseful that I find them hard to put down, but when I finally finish my reaction is a resounding. . . (ellipsis for suspense)


The Lost Symbol, which I just finished reading, wasn’t any different.

Deadlift word cloud

I hit 250lb deadlifts for 2 reps last night. That’s 1.5x my body weight! (I’ll save you the calculation. I weigh 165lbs) I was really stoked because I was not well-fed before attempting it and I was recovering from a cold. Next milestone: 275lb.


The Global Table Adventure is almost complete.  Global Table Adventure has been my favourite blog for years now. Sasha talks about regional foods and cooks meals from every country in the world from A-Z. I love the writing, the pictures, and the recipes and I love learning about cultural differences and similarities in our dining choices. I hope she continues to share global recipes because I’m going to keep making them.
Some of my favourites? Irish Boxty, Grenadian Oil Down, Trini Stew Chicken, and Sudanese Peanut, Beef, and Spinach Stew


I have a love hate relationship with the Keurig. We have one in my office at work and it’s so damn convenient that I’m having a hard time restricting myself to one coffee a day. I suspect a caffeine addiction will develop very, very soon.


Oct 31, 2013
Samantha Angela

5/3/1 for Women – Cycle 10 Recap

I’m a bit behind on posting the recap of my 10th cycle of 5/3/1 (I’m nearly halfway through cycle 11 now).

5/3/1′s primary goal is to progressively increase your strength in the big lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press). You don’t have to waste time on minor muscle groups (holla if you loathe biceps workouts!) because muli-joint lifts target multiple muscle groups so you gain strength everywhere.

If you’ve been reading my blog the last while you know how much I love this programme but I’ll keep saying it over and over (I love this programme, I love this programme!) so that maybe one day you’ll give it a try. If you want to consistently get stronger you’ve got to follow a programme like this that has you pushing yourself harder and harder every week.

There. I’ve said my piece.

Read more about how it works here: 5/3/1 for Women

Main Lifts

I’m happy to report that I’ve regained all my strength, you guys!

It took me 3 months to recover the strength that I lost with just 3 weeks of yoga teacher training.

I know it sounds totally ridiculous and it was a mental struggle for me to have to cut way back on my loads, but it worked to help me rebuild my strength. I’m excited (and also terrified, tbh) to move forward and start lifting heavier than I have before.

For cycle 10 I was working on the same loads as I completed in cycle 6 right before yoga Teacher Training. Compared to then, I’ve improved marginally in terms of reps, which I’m really happy about.

Deadlift: 240lb for 2 reps

Push Press: 125lb for 4 reps (PR’d that shit!)

Squats: 225lb for 3 reps (without a spotter!)

Bench Press: 120lb (added weight on Smith machine) for 3 reps

I’m so happy that I was able to push up more weight than ever with my push press this cycle (for 4 reps, no less!).

My bench press loads are increasing (very slowly, but increasing nonetheless) to the point that I definitely need a spotter to prevent me from crushing myself to death, or I have to use the Smith machine. I hate the Smith machine. It has it’s purposes, but everything feels so much easier because you don’t have to self-stabilize. It feels like cheating.

But I hate asking for a spotter even more. Most guys, if they don’t think you’re hitting on them, will take too much weight off and say “It’s all you! It’s all you!” No sir it is, in fact, all you. Plus as they lean over to help me I somehow manage to spit in their faces on an exhale and disgust us both. So until the husband makes his triumphant return to the gym (at the same time of day as me) then Smith machine it is.

Accessory Lifts

I don’t even know what I did this cycle. It was very unorganized, which is very unlike me. After my big lift I did a handful of exercises (usually 3 or 4) with a related muscle group, sometime for around 6 reps, sometimes for up to 12 reps. I’m not sure I liked this unorganized approach, but that’s what happens when you don’t plan your workouts before you get to the gym.

Unfortunately I haven’t planned anything better and I’ve been doing the same thing so far in cycle 11. Must rectify this situation.

Oct 28, 2013
Samantha Angela

On 90 Years and Being Happy

Nonna's Birthday


This weekend we celebrated my Nonna’s 90th birthday.

90 years, can you imagine? She was born in 1923 the year when, coincidentally, both insulin and the Milky Way bar were invented.  The year that Yankee Stadium was built. The year when the Ottoman Empire dissolved and domestic refrigerators were first coming onto the market. Nonna has seen a lot happen and experienced major changes in her own part of the world and in the world at large.

90 years is a long time. We don’t all get that many– my mom got just over half of that– but we seem to be moving in that direction as life expectancies go up.

It’s easy to get caught up in the carpe diem or you only live once culture. Everyone wants to be encouraged to chase their dreams and live every day like it was their last day on earth and do fun/exciting/crazy shit all the time. While that’s fine, life still comes with responsibilities. Life still means cleaning the toilet and going to work when you’d rather sleep in and changing crappy diapers and battling commuter traffic and paying bills on time. Life still has responsibilities that don’t go away because you’re going to die some day. Sure, you can live it up today like it’s your last day, but when you wake up tomorrow you may have to deal with the consequences.

Sorry for crapping all over your party but thems the facts, folks. That’s the reality.

One thing I learned from my grandmother is that the littlest things are awesome. Her gratitude for some of the most inconsequential things always seemed a bit over the top for me, but it’s genuine because there’s not much that she takes for granted. She never seems to be jaded by the simple things the way most of us are. She never strives for bigger and better experiences or ‘stuff’; she finds joy in every experience or object even if she’s ‘been there, done that, wrote the book’ a hundred times before.

I think that level of appreciation, of presence, of feeling that everything is special, is how you can feel like you’ve seized the day without always having to do something bigger or better.

You can’t carpe diem every diem. You can’t sky dive on your dream vacation after eating at a Michelin starred restaurant with your favourite actor every day. Maybe (let’s be honest, probably) you won’t even do that once.

Sometimes all you can do is seize hour or the second in between all the other crap that you have to do. Sometimes all you ca

n do is find something special about what you do have. Sometimes all you can do is try to see every experience with a fresh set of eyes like it’s the first time you’ve ever done it. Sometimes, instead of seizing the moment, all you can do is slow down and savour it.

Nonna's Birthday


Samantha Menzies
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  • Samantha Menzies is an opinionated young firecracker who just happens to enjoy distracting web surfers with chronicles of her mildly entertaining daily pursuits.

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