Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for September, 2011

As a journalism student at Utah State University, I was urged early on to apply for a job as a writer for the university newspaper The Utah Statesman. Shortly after I was hired, I had the honor of taking a job as the news senior writer, which afforded me countless opportunities to learn about topics I never would have otherwise been exposed to in my registered classes. I have had the opportunity to talk with professors, students and a wide range of faculty members and learn about so many interesting realms that make up the wide world of academia, not to mention our world in general. Early in the spring semester of this year (2011) I took interest in the fact that across the U.S., national parks and state parks have perpetually been the victims of deep budget cuts. Under the pressures to open up funds in other areas, or somehow try to balance budgets in lieu of the money that once used to pay for national and state parks, legislators have been forced to reduce funds time and again. My aim is not to point fingers, call names or say what is right or wrong regarding the issue of reduced funding for anything. This is, after all, a lighthearted blog about the great things Cache Valley has to offer its residents and visitors. I’m simply saying this because I was able to write a story about state parks and learned there are two of them right here in our back yard — Bear Lake and Hyrum state parks.

Another advantage to being a USU student is that I don’t have to own a bunch of expensive outdoor gear to be able to enjoy outdoor fun. The university’s Outdoor Recreation Program, located in the proximity of Romney Stadium — where all of USU’s home football games are played — is essentially an outdoors equipment outfitter and rental shop that makes it possible for students and non-students alike to access things like tents, sleeping bags, snowshoes, climbing harnesses and kayaks. The reason I say it’s advantageous to be a student is because we get a little bit of a discount on the rental fees. I recently decided to rent a kayak for the weekend and paddle around at Hyrum Lake State Park, to get a little sun, a little solitude and several great sunset pictures.

When I wrote my state parks story for The Statesman, I knew about Bear Lake, never even heard of Hyrum State Park and had never been to either place before in my life. This is when being a blogger for the Cache Valley Visitors Bureau is great — as if I didn’t already love being outdoors, now I have even more motivation to go  do what I like. I drove south on Highway 165, which is what Main Street in Logan turns into after you leave Logan. Eventually, I passed the McDonald’s in Hyrum, which was a sign I was about pass Mountain Crest High School and come to 300 South. This is the road I turned right (west) on that eventually led directly to the park. It’s pretty awesome to be driving through a semi-rural, agrarian suburb and out of nowhere see a fairly large reservoir and adjacent parking lot full of boat trailers pop out. This is roughly the point at which I said to myself, again, “Man, I love this place.” I honestly do say that.

I stopped at the tiny building with a stop sign in front of it, to be greeted by a cheery park ranger who saw the hard-shell sit-on-top kayak — that I rented for $15 for the weekend — strapped to the roof of my Jeep and asked, “Are you just here for an evening paddle?” I nodded and obliged him with my hardly noticeable entrance fee of $6.

I parked the Jeep — and I’m happy to report the parking lot was not over-packed with vehicles — and pulled the boat off the roof and the rest is history — a boy and a boat. What more can I say? I love to paddle. I love the solitude, the scenery and the fact that I now know about Hyrum Lake State Park. From here, I’ll let the photo slideshow tell the rest of the story. There should be a few more weeks, at least, of  good enough weather to go boating in. For those of you who follow my lead and check out Hyrum Lake State Park, look for the guy with the new camera who’s trying not to drop it in the water while taking pictures. That’ll be me.

I am planning on going to Bear Lake  State Park in two weeks to do some more paddling, so check back to see how the two parks compare. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you out there.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Read Full Post »

I’ve lived in Cache Valley for a little more than two years, now. Last summer, I went with a group of friends to the south end of the valley to sit atop a hill in the middle of nowhere, late at night, to witness a Perseid meteor shower. I was out there for about two hours looking at shooting stars. When I took breaks to keep my neck from getting stiff, I would look around to try to figure out where I was in relation to the rest of the valley. To the south of the cow pasture we were standing in, I could see a few orange street lights twinkling in the distance. When I asked one of my friends where the lights were coming from, he said, “Paradise.”

I chuckled, because I figured he just messing with me. Then I asked again, “No, seriously, what’s over there?”

“Paradise,” my friend repeated.

Then it struck me, he was talking about a town called Paradise. For those not familiar with the
nature of Utah town and city nomenclature, the pioneers who settled this and other parts of Utah were quite creative — or, rather, I should say they looked to books of scripture for ideas on what to name their settlements. Paradise of course is another name for Heaven.

Now that I’ve explained to you how it came to be that I discovered this tiny town called Paradise, I will tell you about my first experiences mingling with the friendly citizens of this Cache Valley town with a Utopian name.

Christy Holmes holds a carton of farm-fresh eggs laid by her husband Dave's chickens. The Holmeses have been vending at The Paradise Market since it began three years ago.

Several towns and cities here in our beautiful Cache Valley host a variety of farmer’s and gardener’s markets. Why not? The area is, after all, an agricultural hub. Of the long list of reasons I could give you for coming to visit and/or eventually live in Cache Valley, at the top of that list would be the expression of rich heritage that thrives throughout the area. It’s no secret Cache Valley has always been a flourishing farming and agricultural center — among a whole bunch of other cool things. This place just has a slightly slower-paced way of life, especially during fair-weather months; on my list of places that embody qualities like genuine, old-fashioned, small town goodness, The Paradise Market is up at the top.

The Paradise Market is three years old and starts in June and last until the weather begins to turn cold. The weekly meet is organized by a town committee, which was developed specifically to facilitate the market. I was told this year it has been tough to adapt to the record-high rainfall that affected typical growth in garden produce, but even with the adversity, growers gather every Wednesday, from 6 p.m. to sunset, to peddle the fruits of their labor.

Of course Logan has the well-renowned Cache Valley Gardeners’ Market, which is lauded for traditional crafts, novelties, artisan demonstrations and homegrown produce — I can’t name everything, there’s just too many great things there. One thing, though, that sets Paradise apart is that it’s so much quieter there. The feeling I get from The Paradise Market is that it’s a grassroots, community gathering. This is the kind of place where relationships between friends and neighbors are not only fostered but strengthened and promoted. As a visitor to the town, I didn’t feel unwelcome or alienated; and I was able to watch people who see each other every day interact with one another in a genuinely friendly way.

It should probably go without saying, but the produce I went home with last week was spectacular. The price was rock bottom, and the freshness and quality were great — so much so that I’m going back again tonight. The Paradise Farmer’s Market will be recurring weekly until a couple of weeks after the first frost of the fall. After the frost comes, according to a couple of the vendors, they will   meet until they run out of goods to sell.

Utah-made honey wine vinegar is on display at the table of a local Cache Valley vendor. Tables at The Paradise Market are available to anyone willing to pay a small fee. Only items grown or produced in Utah are allowed to be sold.

Among the fresh kohlrabi, rainbow chard and fresh apricots and peaches, there were also coolers filled with ice-cold sodas, a table with hand-knitted wool winter hats, hand-crafted plates and a table with honey wine vinegar for sale. I bought the vinegar — it was a great addition to the collection of local cooking ingredients I have in my kitchen.

I was told there is usually live music performed by various local musicians, too. So, anybody who’d like to join me for a nice evening in the park. Head south, down Highway 165 until you see the sign that says “Paradise.” Travel about one more mile and look for some tables surrounded by people in the town park. That’s where we’ll be, talking about honey wine vinegar recipes and enjoying one another’s company.

Read Full Post »

It didn’t rain, like some of the participants and event coordinators hoped, but Cache Valley’s first ever mud run —the 5K Man vs. Mud obstacle course and mud track— still entertained thousands of participants and spectators on a sunny Saturday, in Wellsville, Utah.

The first ever Man vs. Mud 5K run was held Saturday, Sept. 3,2011, at the American West Heritage Center, Wellsville, Utah.

Co-directors Mike Schaefer and David Knight organized a massive 5K track, in cooperation with the American West Heritage Center, which had runners sliding, crawling, sprinting, wading and jumping through a wide range of muddy obstacles. The event took place on Sept. 3, 2011, in the southwestern corner of Cache Valley where the majestic Wellsville mountains provided a late summer backdrop for a beautiful —albeit filthy— day of good, clean family fun.

I was able to track down Schaefer and briefly ask him a few questions regarding some of the details of the event. He told me roughly 2,000 runners had registered by 1 p.m. (the first wave of 150 runners was released at 9 a.m.). Schaefer guessed that another 2,000 or 3,000 spectators were in the massive crowd that showed up to shoot pictures and psych out their friends and loved ones.  When I asked how far some of the “muddites” traveled to take part in the fun, Schaefer said he saw registrations from as far away as North Carolina and Missouri.

Tickets for the event were priced at $40 a pop in advance, or $50 the day of the event. I, personally, felt like this was a lot of money to pay just to roll around in the mud —something that, historically, pigs do every day for free— but surely I underestimate the value, not to mention exfoliant properties, of a good trudge in the sludge. There were strings of people racing around the track when I got there around noon. The local fire department was on site with its trucks so firemen armed with fire hoses could spray down the runners after they got caked in wet dirt.

These Smithfield men, students of USU, came dressed as Captain America, The Green Lantern and a jailbird. They called themselves "Heroes vs. Villains."

There were also several other attractions and diversions available at the venue, partly because the American West Heritage Center already includes certain amenities and sights, including gift shops, horse rides for the kids, and food and beverage vendors. The AWHC’s parking lot was not just full, but fields and overflow parking areas were packed with vehicles from all over Utah and surrounding states. There were cars parked all the way to Highway 89 —the turnout was epic. I have to admit, I was both surprised and impressed with how many people this event drew, especially because it was the first of its kind in our area.

One of the other local websites, cachevalleymagazine.com, stated that Knight and Schaefer expected approximately 9,000 people to show up over the course of the day. When I was out there I could see that there were at least 4,000 people there in the couple of hours that I spent walking around and taking pictures.

I was interested in finding out, too, with such a high registration fee if the money was going to benefit any charities or causes. Apparently, according to cachemagazine.com, Schaefer and Knight have a fundraising goal of $50,000. The AWHC will receive some of the money and “some Cache Valley families in need of serious financial help” will be the recipients of the rest.

As I walked around taking in the sights, I found several articles of clothing, like shorts, shirts, socks

Mud-covered Mia and Eddie Sandoval chow down on burgers sold by vendors at the Man vs. Mud event held at the American West Heritage Center, in Wellsville.

and sneakers, that were abandoned. I guess the previous owners of these items figured it would be no use putting them in the washer at home —mud-logged clothing must not seem worth it to some people. The event website also suggested that costumes were a great way to make the day more fun. I saw a wide variety of groups who decided it was Halloween eight weeks early. One group of guys from Smithfield was dressed up as Captain America, The Green Lantern and a jailbird. They called themselves “Team Heroes vs. Villains.” The group seemed quite jovial for having mud everywhere imaginable. I also saw a group of five or six guys wearing blazers and ties without shirts on. I wondered, since I saw these guys on my way out, if they really knew what they were in for; and I hoped they weren’t planning on wearing those jackets to church the next day. The usual outrageously colored tights, ’80s garb and, of course, tutus,  were other typical elements of the standard mud runner uniform.

Aside from nearly having to threaten a muddy friend in order to keep him from hugging me —I’m a poor sport when it comes to getting dirty when I don’t want to be— I thoroughly enjoyed myself. And my friend certainly appeared to be enjoying himself. After talking to my friend, I was very happy to find out that I could get food and drink at regular rates, rather than the monopolistic prices you’ll see at concerts, movies, or airports.

For those of you who now think I’m not really as much fun as I may think, don’t worry, maybe I’ll actually run the mud track next year. The wet plastic slide by the starting line that went down a huge hill and into a pit of muddy water actually looked like a lot of fun. If you’re thinking about attending this event next year, that is if Schaefer and Knight decide to make this an annual event (which I’m sure they will), there were attractions available this year for all shapes, ages, sizes and interests. You don’t have to be a mud lover or a hippie to enjoy Man vs. Mud. I would, however, suggest that germaphobes stay home or at least stay far away from the mud. Don’t forget to keep your eyes opened for the guy racing toward the fire hoses, that’ll be me… see you there!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Read Full Post »

Hello, friends, family, Cache residents and visitors. One year ago —in August 2010— as a budding journalism student at Utah State University, I began to pursue jobs outside the world I came to know all too well. I’m talking about the world of working in restaurants. This was a world I lived in for over a decade after graduating from high school. My pursuit of something new landed me —as good fortune had it— a couple of internship-esque jobs as a writer. I am happy to say that this year I will be returning as a blogger for the Cache Valley Visitors Bureau.

Anybody who read my blog last year should remember: I originally set out to find as many of the fun, exciting and one-of-a-kind things there are to do here in Cache Valley, Utah, and write about them so others could share in my wonderment. The great thing about this place (one of them, anyway) is that I couldn’t possibly fit all of the great things to do into one four-month period. I am happy to say that I’ve been asked to come back and do it all again. Not only do I get a second opportunity to explore new ways of writing about things I like to do anyway —eat, go to shows, enjoy the outdoors and experience new things— but I also get to share these adventures with you, the reader.

Whether you are a Cache Valley native, or you are thinking about coming to visit for the first time, I can attest to the fact that in the short two-years that I’ve been here, there are limitless unique ways to enjoy our beautiful parcel of paradise here in northern Utah.

This year, I already have a long list of  possible topics to write about; plus I’m going to revisit a few of the things I did last year to get a better, more in-depth look. My goal is to express in the best way I can how blessed we are to be nestled here between the Wellsville and Bear River mountains, with great things to do outdoors and in. Just a couple of weeks ago I attended a retreat near Bear Lake as part of a training session for the newspaper I work for —The Utah Statesman. While I was there I was able to take in the calming beauty of the area, however, I was unable to truly enjoy my surroundings to the fullest extent. In the near future I plan to visit the lake again to kayak across it. I can guarantee after I do, readers will be able to find more details about the trip on this website.

Aside from planning a trip to Bear Lake, I also intend to investigate a few of the annual athletic events that take place here. One new event, inspired by a new filthy trend sweeping the nation, mucking up the faces of all who take part, is a 5K mud run that takes place Saturday, Sept. 3, in Wellsville, Utah (the southwestern border of Cache Valley). I hope to make it to the venue in time to talk to some of the participants and rake up some juicy dirt on what it is that motivates a person to trudge through mud alongside, possibly, thousands of other mud-lovin’ runners.

The event, officially called “Man vs. Mud” begins at 9 a.m. and is sponsored by several organizations, including the American West Heritage Center. Of course I will shovel up a whole bogful of more details while I’m there. This race has been receiving truckloads of hype and should promise to be a spectacle that nobody should miss. But if you do miss it, I’ll be there to get you the best version of a vicarious account of the magnificence and mayhem.  As always, maybe I’ll see you there. I’ll be the one trying not to get my camera muddy.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: