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Archive for the ‘Fun Things to Do’ Category

I’d like to talk a little bit about something I’ve heard, both from people who’ve lived here for a while and people who have not. I regularly hear the utterance “There’s nothing to do in Logan,” or “It’s northern Utah, there’s nothing to do here.” For the past few weeks, I’ve wanted to blog my response to this misinformed sentiment. Perhaps I realize all of the great attributes of the area because I am lucky enough to have a job as blogger for the Cache Valley Visitors Bureau. Doing this forces me to go out and find things to do. Perhaps my wide range of interests allows me to be easily entertained — my sometimes childlike curiosity provides the impetus to become more involved with my surroundings.

I can confidently say, though, there is actually a lot to do around here. I have a hard time believing anyone who says, “This place is boring.” First of all, it’s hard to walk outside and not see a mountain peak — or several — somewhere on the horizon. Where there are mountains, there are things to do. Hiking, camping, birding, sight-seeing, photography, videography, rock climbing, mountain climbing, snowshoeing and hunting are just a few of the options mountains make available to people of all ages and levels of outdoors experience. Anyone who likes to get out of the house for a bit and breathe fresher air should consider doing so in either the Wellsville or Bear River mountains that surround Cache Valley to the west and east, respectively.

A short drive through Logan Canyon, Providence Canyon, Hyrum-Dry Canyon, Green Canyon, or any of the nearby canyons I haven’t mentioned, can afford a lifetime of fun, outdoors experiences. I’ve personally attested for some time to the concept that Utah — just about any part of Utah — can make a great photographer out of even the least visionary of individuals. Just check out the CVVB blog for a handful of ideas for places to go.

Aside from the list of naturally occurring places to visit locally, I’ve also begun to showcase several of the eateries, restaurants, shops, shows and events that are indigenous to Cache Valley. I’m also considering checking out a few of the entertainment venues located on campus at Utah State University. The university alone has an art museum, anthropology museum, various lecture series and a few different concert halls and theaters. In the surrounding metropolitan area there is also the Ellen Eccles Theatre, which I’ve covered a couple of times, the Logan Art House and the Old Barn Theatre, and near Bear Lake there is the Pickleville Playhouse. Eventually I’d like to investigate all of these places — and I will.

Cache Valley is also home to a wide variety of food-oriented attractions such as places found on the Cache Valley Food Tour and the seasonally popular local gardeners markets throughout the valley. I have scratched the surface in this realm, but I have a lot of work — and a lot of eating — to do, before I’ve truly become acquainted with all of the wonderful homemade creations local to this area. In the spring, I plan to head to Richmond (just north of Smithfield) to visit the Rockhill Creamery, which just recently received a historical award. The creamery produces artisan cheeses, among other tasty creations, and I intend to learn all about them.

The fact is I could spend the rest of my life writing for the Cache Valley Visitors Bureau, and I’d probably have a hard time exhausting all of the possibilities. I promise all of the wonderful people who have continued to follow this blog that I will do this as long as I’m allowed to. I hope to see you all out and about, checking out the great things there are to do in Logan and beyond. Whenever someone complains about not having anything to do, I suggest you greet them with skepticism or disbelief. Perhaps you can direct them to this site. If anybody out there has suggestions for something for me to do, I would love to consider it. If you’ve had the chance to experience something you believe makes Cache Valley special, please sign in and comment about it.

Cache Valley has been a great community to get to know. Having been here for two and a half years, I know there’s still so much to experience, but I’m glad I stumbled across this great place. Keep on reading, and I’ll see you out there.

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A mountain of potential ammunition for the North Logan first ever Pumpkin Toss competition. These pumpkins are all left over from the 2011 Pumpkin Walk.

Some of you may remember last year I visited the annual Pumpkin Walk in North Logan’s Elk Ridge Park. The yearly tradition has become a much-anticipated fall attraction — not only for residents of North Logan — for people from all over the valley. This year’s pumpkin-lined gourd gallery was no exception. But for Pumpkin Walk planners and North Logan city administrators the question was, essentially — What do they do with all those pumpkins?

According to North Logan Public Works Director Alan Luce, the annual pumpkin walk brings in roughly 60,000 spectators each year. With dozens of displays designed by all sorts of Cache Valley organizations and individuals, the attraction is always a hit among the young and old alike. After the last night of operation, though, the mountain of remaining pumpkins is massive. This is how the idea for a new tradition came about.

Luce said for the past few years the city has received several requests for a pumpkin launching contest, similar to the “pumpkin chunkin'” festivals that are popping up all over Utah, the U.S. and the world. The Discovery channel even aired a special about some of the enthusiasts that build contraptions like pumpkin cannons, trebuchets, catapults and slingshots to launch these seed-filled, pulpy orange missiles.

Members of Team Frankie sit inside their trebuchet inspecting its functionality. Team Frankie won the prize for most accurate machine.

I hung out for two hours to watch the crowd of bystanders and onlookers grow. When I showed up at 12:30 p.m. — just 30 minutes before the show was set to begin — two of the three teams from USU’s chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers were setting up their designs. Team Legit developed a pumpkin catapult and Team Frankie made a floating arm trebuchet. The third team, called The Butternut Bouncers, showed up a little late with its floating arm trebuchet and got set up and ready to join the butternut battle.

I walked around inspecting the three designs and chatting with the students who made them. I was quite impressed by the element of teamwork and cooperation that was evident in the performance that each team displayed. When it came down to the moment of truth, Team Legit had some performance issues due to faulty release mechanisms. Eventually, though, the team was able to successfully launch a few pumpkins within the the 30- and 50-foot range. Legit won most creative design, since its design was not a trebuchet.

Pumkpin graveyard: These pumpkins lay forgotten about in a corner of Elk Ridge Park that was filled with Pumpkin Walk-ers just a week prior.

Team Frankie and The Butternut Bouncers each launched successful retire Jack O’Lanterns as far as 165 feet. Both teams, however, experienced some unexpected technical difficulties. A few times team members, event organizers and journalists all had to scatter to avoid the 15-pound pumpkins that were launched vertically and landed behind the machines. There were also misfires and backward launches, but luckily no humans or cars were injured in the making of the first-ever North Logan pumpkin launching competition.

Team Frankie won the prize for most accurate for grouping three of its shots in the same 100-foot range, and the Butternuts won the prize for distance with the 165-foot best.

USU mechanical engineering student and ASME President Dallin Jackson said this could very well become a yearly event. He said he felt the first production was a blast. The turnout of local spectators exceeded the expectations of those who planned it. Luce told me that North Logan and its council and committee members would like to continue to build on the annual pumpkin-centered traditions by adding Pumpkin Days to the calendar. He said this would be a great way to add interest to the already growing parks and recreation fascination in North Logan. Other events that were recently included were the Pumpkin Smash Soccer Tourney and the Pumpkin Run 5-kilometer fun run.

More information about this year’s pumpkin walk and other North Logan Pumpkin Days developments, I would suggest checking out the website.

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It’s that time of year again. You know which one I’m talking about. No, I’m not talking about the time of year when the snow starts capping the mountains — that’s great too — I’m referring to the return of the great ghoulish gush of freaks and frights that lurk all over Cache Valley at night in October. If you don’t know where to find them, you might not be looking too hard. Then again, I guess some people really are terrified of things that go boo in the night.

For you readers who get a thrill out of spine-tingling excitement and are interested in finding new ways to scare the pants off your kids or scream the face off your special someone, I’m going to try to go to as many Halloween-related Cache Valley attractions as I can find. Some of you may remember last year I went to the Little Bear Bottoms Corn Maze and the Annual Pumpkin Walk, and let’s not forget the Howl, the largest Halloween party for hundreds of miles in any direction, which is hosted by the Associated Students of USU. If you’re interested in those events, feel free to go back and check out my past posts. Also, stay tuned for my upcoming fall posts on the Cache Valley Visitors Bureau blog: it’s guaranteed to give you goosebumps.

I recently read an article in The Utah Statesman about the Dark Meadows Manor, located in the woods behind the Sherwood Hills Resort, just off the southbound side of Highway 89-91 in Sardine Canyon (the canyon at the south end of the valley between Wellsville and Brigham City. The Statesman story piqued my interest, with all of its colorful descriptions of the spooky, otherworldly spirits lurking in the foggy woods of Sherwood Hills. I’m always a glutton for punishment — always looking for the next sure thing to put me on the edge of my seat —  so I rounded up some friends and piled into the car, and we headed for the resort.

Dark Meadows Manor costs $13 per person, or $11 with a canned-food donation that goes to the Cache Community Food Pantry. Any other important details can be found on the website. One thing the site won’t tell you is to bring an extra diaper — for your friend, of course. If you’re like me and you sleep with the lights on, you might want to bring some friends.

The night I went, it was raining ever so slightly. The wet conditions added to the eeriness but caused some of the special effects to go haywire — or just not work at all. I can vouch, however, that this place packs quite the poltergeist punch. It takes about 30 minutes to walk the entire trail as it twists and turns through the dark woods. There are several creepers waiting in the brush, behind trees and in every dark corner of the forest. Even with your guard up, you’ll still get caught shaking, crying or letting go of the occasional shriek of panic. As strobe lights and cackling skeletons distract you from one direction, a moaning specter comes at you from another. If the apparitions don’t get you, the guys in hockey masks and flannel shirts who look like Jason Voorhees from “Friday the 13th,” will. There’s no telling how many weapon-wielding wild things are creeping in the wings of the broken down shacks and drooping, dilapidated dead-thing dormitories that are scattered throughout the Dark Meadows forest.

The whole time you’re out there you’ll be looking over your shoulder, and just when you think something is dead and gone, it reanimates and comes right for you. I wasn’t able to take any pictures of the coolest — or should I say ghoulest stuff, because Dark Meadows creator Jamie Forbush said he wants every patron to get the same high-quality scare, every time. I have, however, included some previews of what is waiting for you out there.
I certainly recommend the Dark Meadows Manor at Sherwood Hills to any haunted house, haunted hayride or haunted woods enthusiasts. This experience is sure to please your taste for terror. If you decide to go, keep your eyes peeled, you may just see me writing my blog from beyond the grave, giving you a bony, skeletal wave. Until next time, good fright and sweet screams!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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When I was in middle school, I used to tag along with my younger sister and her friends to go ice skating. Back then, I had no fear. For all intents and purposes, I was made out of rubber and cold was of no consequence. We used to skate as fast as we could, and we had fun doing it.

For years I went without skating, not because I didn’t want to, but because I just didn’t think about it. A little while ago, I was invited to go ice skating at the Eccles Ice Center, in North Logan. Almost 20 years since the last time I went ice skating, I decided it was time to see if I still had it in me.

The Eccles Ice Center is an impressive facility. It is equipped with a concession stand, both hockey and figure rental skates, and an area for group events. The arena hosts figure skating events and the Utah State University hockey games, among other things. According to its website, the Eccles Ice Center opened in 2002. I can attest for the fact that the facility is fairly new and kept in good condition.

I’m a personal fan of indoor skating because the ice seems to be in better condition than a lake, for instance. Also, you don’t have to worry about falling into water that could potentially ruin your day. The Eccles Ice Center was a great place for me to test my abilities. I’m happy to say that I am still capable of ice skating. I can even skate backwards…it’s the turning back around part that I don’t quite have down.

I personally went with a large group, but I would suggest the center to anybody looking for a good place to take a date. I may have to get a couple more practice sessions in before I take my own date, but eventually I’ll be out there doing triple axle watchamacallits and all that fancy olympic stuff. One cool thing I took notice of was a very simple device that I never saw when I was younger. Essentially, the device was a walker for ice skating. I thought it was nice that there were several of these on hand for beginners to use as they venture out on the ice.

The Eccles Ice Center gets my stamp of approval. I’m excited to enjoy the semi-civilized brutality of a USU hockey game in the near future…if you decide to make a trip, for whatever reason, bring a coat and keep your eyes open for me. I’ll be there again soon.

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