Archive for September, 2010

A lot of times when I tell people I am from Pennsylvania, I hear how beautiful they think the trees look there during the onset of the fall season. It is true, the trees in Pennsylvania are plentiful, and this time of year they take on a vast array of vibrant colors. I have to say though, Pennsylvania’s mountains have nothing on Utah!

This past weekend, my hiking buddy and I decided to take an adventure through the canyon. This time we chose the Wind Caves trail, a popular, easy hike, yet wonderfully scenic.  The most prominent feature throughout the hike is the China Wall, which is opposite the Wind Caves trail, on the eastern side of Logan Canyon road.

As we hiked the switchbacks, I was in complete amazement with the autumnal display of color that adorned the trees. In every direction that I cast my eyes, I could see reds, oranges, yellows and greens of every kind. In fact, I now understand why there are more than seven colors in a good box of crayons. Some leaves had already completed their earthward descent, laying to winter’s rest early; but most of the leaves still clung to their branches, waiting to have their picture taken. What a glorious time of year for a hike!

We were greeted on the trail by not only a copious spectrum of colorful foliage, but also by families, dogs and all sorts of people enjoying their weekend in the mountains. The air was still warm but it whispered faintly of the crisp, cool autumn breezes soon to come. The sun warmed us as we walked, which made the shade a refreshing place to take brief breaks.

Among the various rock formations that we saw –which are composed of limestone and quartzite, and carved by the wind– were the Wind Caves. At one point, the trail reaches a pinnacle, which is a great spot to take in a breathtaking view of the China Wall. This scenic viewpoint is actually the roof of the alcove called the Wind Caves. After we walked a few feet across a limestone arch, we scrambled down to the alcove where we found a large area to sit in the shade and absorb our surroundings.

The Wind Caves trail is great for all amateur aspiring photographers, such as myself. Utah, in general, is a camera carrier’s dream. All you have to do is point and shoot, and you’re almost guaranteed a great picture.

The trail is also rated  “easy” in the Cache Trails handbook, by Jim Sinclair. This makes it a great family hike. Some parts of the trail are a little narrow, so opposing traffic will sometimes need to yield. Besides that, pack a lunch, fill up your water bottle, and get the kids and dogs in the car and go. The next hike on my list might be the Crimson Trail, which runs along the China Wall. If you have a good pair of binoculars, you may be able to look to the east from the Wind Caves trail and see me over there. Happy hiking!

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“Who is the Scarlet Pimpernel?” the song goes. In this specific show, it was Kent Braddy who played Percy Blakeney, the revolutionary Scarlet Pimpernel. Braddy, along with the rest of  the Cache Regional Theatre Company, delivered a knock-down opening performance Friday night.

Who needs Broadway, when the Ellen Eccles Theatre consistently hosts high-energy,  fulfilling performances such as this one? Along with Braddy, Sarah Huff and Anthony Eversole showcased their intense passion for the craft, as well as their impressive vocal ranges. Songs like “I’ll Forget You” and “Into the Fire” were beautifully articulated and well portrayed. These people were no joke, but the show was hilarious!

The principals were not the only reason the show went so well. Under the direction of Floyd Salisbury, the veritable army of cast members delivered a relentless three-hour show with charm and exuberance. The copious talent on-stage would have been greatly compromised, were it not for the fantastic orchestra beneath the stage, and their director, Jay Richards.

I must say, this is one of the most entertaining shows, from front to back, that I have ever been to. I’ve seen shows in Las Vegas, Chicago, Toronto and New York City, among others. The charm of the Ellen Eccles Theatre and the talent and committment of the Cache Regional Theatre Company, put Logan, Utah on the entertainment map.

Far and away, the most electric and FLAMBOYANT number in the show was “The Creation of Man.” If you’ve seen the show, or know the lyrics to the song, you may know exactly what I mean. The delivery was way over-the-top. So much so, that I was reeling with laughter and struggling to see through the tears in my eyes. Costume Designer Kody Rash did a wonderful job of putting together the most ridiculous set of “summer-y” get-ups I’ve ever seen a dozen men wear on a stage. The number was so effective, I’m sure the entire audience understood Chauvelin’s perplexity when he finally discovered Blakeney was, in fact, the Scarlet Pimpernel.

I’ve seen enough shows at the Ellen Eccles Theatre– all of which have been hits– to be able to say, don’t pass up the opportunity to visit the theatre while you’re in Logan. If you don’t get a chance to see the troupe in Scarlet Pimpernel, be sure to find a Cache Regional Theatre Company performance that fits your schedule… you will not be sorry; and since I am becoming somewhat of a fixture at the Eccles Theatre, I’m sure you’ll see me there!

Photo taken from the show’s program

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When my friend invited me to take a short drive into the mouth of Logan Canyon to go rock climbing, I instantly accepted. Having lived in Moab for a few years, I am no stranger to a prevalence of avid rock climbers in my midst. Personally, I love rock climbing, but I am sad to say I don’t do it as often as I would like.

When I lived in southern Utah, I had a few friends from Logan who said they began climbing here, where they grew up. The great thing about being a climber in this area, is that you have access to hundreds of great local climbs, in a generally cooler climate than that of Moab. Plus, we are only a few hours from “City of Rocks,” in Idaho and Grand Teton National Park, two other climbing meccas.

Being of limited experience, practice and strength, I assured my friend I would not be out- doing him on the wall. He chuckled and said, “We’re only going to second practice wall, there’s a variety of easy climbs there.” Easy has my name written all over it.

We drove about five minutes  and parked our vehicles on the side of the highway. The base of the wall is at the end of a short, steep trail. As you drive through Logan Canyon, if you look up, you may see some climbers hanging from their ropes, as they are negotiating their routes.

There are various types of climbing, depending on your level of expertise and love for rock, eventually you could become a master of all styles. Within the extensive lexicon of climbing terms and jargon, we did a type of climbing that is widely popular, called “top-rope.” This is where you simply attach your rope to a secured bolt, or “peton” at the top of the climb. To do this, easy access to the top of the route is necessary. Second Practice Wall offers this kind of access, so we hung our rope and put on our harnesses and started climbing.

My personal favorite part of the climb is when you come down, or “rappel.” This is not because I am afraid of heights, but because I enjoy the adrenaline rush that it gives you. I would suggest to any nimble adventurer, with a friend who knows what they’re doing, to give climbing in Logan a shot. Other popular local climbs include: China Wall Cave, 472, Fucoidal Quartzite and Crag in the Sky. Just remember next time you’re driving through the canyon to look up, you might see me hanging out on the wall.

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A few weeks ago, as I was making my voyage to Tony Grove, I drove past Wood Camp which is just beyond mile-marker 471, on Highway 89. Wood Camp is a tiny campsite adjacent to the Jardine Juniper trailhead.

“What is Jardine Juniper?” you may ask. After a little research in the Cache Trails guidebook that I recently attained through the Visitors Bureau, I learned that the Jardine Juniper is a roughly 1,500 year-old juniper tree. The amazing thing is that it is still alive.

I decided to make a trip to this natural wonder, the next Logan-Canyon-exhibition on my list of things to do. The hike is a 10-mile roundtrip in-and-out, with a loop at the top that offers two variations on approach and descent. I like to have company on longer hikes, so I took a friend to share the experience.

The beginning of the hike starts out in the typical lower elevation landscape of Logan Canyon. Before very long, the trail opens up into several aspen groves and a smattering of scenic clearings. Eventually, the majority of elevation is gained through a series of meandering, gradually inclining switchbacks that require only moderate exertion.

As the trail climbs up the mountain side, travelers will be met with dozens of breath-taking vistas. I was able to capture several photos of the Bear River Mountains and their accompanying valleys. After a little over two hours, we came around one final bend, and I knew instantly that I was looking at Jardine Juniper.

The entire hike was great, but the tree was epic. I’ve never seen a juniper tree anywhere near as large as this one. With every twist skyward you could imagine hundreds of years of bearing through harsh mountain conditions. The most poignant part about the spectacle is at the top of the tree, where one can clearly see that the tree is still alive, indicated by new growth.

After having lunch and capitalizing on photo opportunities, we signed the register at the end of the trail and headed back to Wood Camp. Along the way, we saw a handful of mountain-bikers climbing the trail. A couple of them mentioned they were getting a good workout. For those of you who enjoy a challenging bike ride, add Jardine Juniper to your list.

One thing I really liked about the Jardine Juniper trail was that it was not full of traffic. My friend and I were able to have a peaceful, serene and semi-secluded outdoor experience. I would recommend this hike to anyone with a moderate level of endurance and a love for exceptional, scenic beauty. If you decide to give this trail a go, maybe we’ll see each other out there!

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For the average person, Saturday, Aug. 7 was like any other sunny summer Saturday. For me, the day was special, this was the day I attended my first opera. I found out about the Utah Festival Opera through the Visitors Bureau, and having been to five shows of varying content at the Ellen Eccles Theatre already, I was instantly intrigued. The Ellen Eccles Theatre is just south of Center Street, on the west side of Main Street, in downtown Logan. The historic wealth that the theater houses, is invaluable. You can literally sit in your seat before the show starts and spend the entire time looking around at the architecture and intricate artistry that adorn every corner and wall.

The Utah Festival Opera is an annual, season-based schedule of events that includes musical performances of many kinds. I was privy to sit in on the final performance of La Traviata in this, the 18th year of the UFO. Knowing that this was the last show of the season, I figured I was in for a very powerful, emotionally charged performance. The overall production value of La Traviata, which translated, most closely means “The Woman Who Lost Her Path,” was absolutely stunning! This is an opera written by Giuseppe Verdi, adapted from an Alexander Dumas story. These are the guys who wrote Requiem and The Three Musketeers, respectively.

As the curtains rose on Act 1, my senses were instantly overwhelmed by the elegant two-story set, which was polished in every minute detail. As the orchestra played, the stage became flooded with singers dressed in extravagant costumes that seemed to rival the amount of color in the rainbow. By the start of the first song, Libiamo ne’ lieti calici, or “Drinking Song,” I was hooked.

In the beginning of Act 2, which is set in the French countryside, the audience was given a great chance to see just how much work goes into set design and lighting. The background consisted of a large, hand-painted sky-scape filled with clouds and “sunlight.” Throughout the first scene in this act, the light pulsated ever so subtly, creating the effect of sunlight that brightened and dimmed with the characters’ fluctuating moods. The transition into Act 2, Scene 2 was a flawless change of scenery that took virtually no time at all. At every moment I was reminded that this production was of the highest caliber. I was very impressed by the precision with which the whole process was carried out.

By the final act, I could feel all of the torment that Alfredo and Violetta were experiencing, due to the rift driven between them by Alfredo’s father, Giorgio. The bitter cold of Violetta’s illness was portrayed extremely well. The performer’s makeup was so convincing that for a moment I was sure it was someone else; the simplicity of the set and the frigid white shafts of light that fell on Violetta’s pale face added to the feel of desperation.

It may have been my anticipation of the fairly tragic ending, or the riveting vibratos with which the singers delivered their passionate performance…or maybe a little of both, but I had chills and tears abounding! This show was an excellent way to enter into the world of opera. The principles were clearly from highly disciplined backgrounds, and this quality compliments very well the history of opera in Cache Valley. Take it from a guy who just attended his first opera, this show was a great way to break into the scene. I may truly have found a new path to enlightenment! Whether you are new to the opera like I am, or you are a seasoned veteran, be sure to get tickets to at least one show from next year’s season. I guarantee I will be in attendance…maybe we’ll be sitting together!

Photos courtesy of Karen Almond.

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