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Archive for the ‘Outdoors’ Category

During the summer of 2010, I embarked on a mission to find the best place in the valley to watch the beautiful sunsets we are so sweet-spoonful-of-sunoften blessed with in Cache Valley. Eventually, I raced atop Old Main Hill at Utah State University and saw one of the more epic sunsets I’ve ever witnessed. Since that day, I kind of gave up on trying to find other places to see the sunset from an unadulterated, unobstructed area. I guess, someday, I will have to pick up where I left off. I’m sure there are plenty places out there.

It seems that most times when a great sunset is in progress I’m driving, or at home — with or without my camera — and never in a good enough place to get a shot without trees, houses, or other buildings or objects in the way. Nowadays, with winter fast approaching, the sunset happens so fast that if you’re not ready for it, it’s come and gone before you know it.

This is the time of year when it gets dark by 5 p.m. We also experience that wonderful weather phenomenon referred to as the inversion; and while it may bring some slightly unhealthy air days, one of the advantages to having it is the higher frequency of brightly colored, attractive sunsets.

sunset-perfect-ending1For those of you who like a good sunset, look to the west any given evening just before the sun ducks behind the Wellsvilles, and you may get lucky enough to catch the brilliant pinks, reds and oranges glowing through the clouds. I’ve noticed there’s really only a 5- or 10-minute window of truly magnificent brilliance, and then the sun is gone and the sky looks just like any other fading memory of the day.

In Cache Valley, this time of year, I’ve noticed most people have already assumed to say it’s winter, even though we are actually supposed to have another month of autumn. Honestly, I can’t say I blame them. It has, after all, snowed half a dozen times and the temperatures are usually in the single digits at night.

I take comfort in saying, though, that I’m completely OK with this. Somewhere along the way, I’ve grown to appreciate the cold weather. Perhaps it was the few years I spent in southeastern Utah, living in the desert. Maybe it’s the beautiful, temperate Cache summers that wouldn’t be so appreciable without a few months of snow and bitter cold.

Either way, there’s nothing like walking outside on a sunny winter morning and seeing the sun glistening off of the snow-covered Wellsville mountains. For those who have only seen pictures of this, I invite you to visit us in the winter.

Many will tell you to stay far away from here this time of year. They’ll say it snows all the time and your car will freeze to its parking space overnight. I can’t say this is a lie, but I can say, with a warm chuckle, that it’s good cause to curl up with a warm mug of hot cocoa or chamomile and enjoy the cold winter sights from the warmth of a cozy living room.

In the wintertime, that’s the best place to see the beautiful Cache sunrises and sunsets — from the warmth of my home. Come by and I may just invite you in for a cup of herbal tea or hot chocolate. We can chat about capturing that elusive perfect sunset photo and all of the other reasons Cache Valley is a great place to be in the wintertime.

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A few weeks ago I wrote about my experiences kayaking at Hyrum Lake State Park. I thoroughly enjoy being outdoors and taking in all of the beauty there is to bask in here in wonderful northern Utah. Furthermore, when it comes to getting in a boat, especially a kayak or a raft, that’s pretty much guaranteed a good time. So when I rented a kayak from the Outdoor Recreation Program at Utah State University and went to Hyrum State Park, I essentially laid the foundation for a future filled with awesome boat-related activities for me to blog about.

I rounded up my roommate and his girlfriend last Saturday, and we strapped our kayaks to the roofs of our vehicles and headed up to Bear Lake for an invigorating day of paddling. Bear Lake is not in Cache Valley, but I figured I should still write about it, since it’s just a short, hour-long drive through the beautifully scenic Logan Canyon, which this time of year is so incredibly colorful. My avid readers may remember my post last year about Logan Canyon’s great fall appeal, when the leaves on the trees turn every color of the rainbow. I could write volumes on this topic alone and, in fact, I’m planning another hike next weekend on Limber Pine Trail — you are all welcome to come along.

I saw Bear Lake for the first time this summer at a retreat for the editorial staff of The Utah Statesman, the college newspaper I work for. We did have opportunities to enjoy free time, but unfortunately I was there without a boat. So I found myself staring longingly out at the boats on the lake thinking, “I wish I was out there.” This is when I made a promise to myself to return to the lake as soon as I could to venture out into the water. Last Saturday, I did just that.

A few people I spoke with said the lake was 12 miles long and 6 miles wide. I usually don’t believe everything I hear, so I went on the Bear Lake website to get the official measurements. This is what I found out: According to the site, Bear Lake was formed 28,000 years ago in relation to “earthquake activity.” The lake is actually 20 miles long and 8 miles wide — quite a bit larger than what I was told — and at the deepest point it is 208 feet deep. It pays to double check what people say, especially when you are planning to paddle across the lake. If I would’ve decided to head up there on my own and try to paddle across the lake the long way, I would’ve been in for a nightmare.

Before I talk specifically about our kayaking expedition, I’d like to describe the trip there. Highway 89 winds through the scenic Logan Canyon past dozens of places to camp, hike and fish. There are trails available for all levels of hiking expertise — or the lack thereof — and as I blogged about in the past, if you have a camera, you’re pretty much destined to capture some excellent shots. I’ve said in the past, Utah can turn amateur photographers into professionals. Anyone from out of state who thinks this place in nothing more than the hub of religious fanaticism has obviously never even been here. Utah is filled with scenic beauty, and we here in northern Utah happen to get a high dose of it on a regular basis.

As we drove north through Logan Canyon and crested the mountain and came around the bend to begin the descent into Garden City, which is the town adjacent to Bear Lake, the first glimpse I got of the lake was absolutely breathtaking. I wouldn’t be able to put into words the profound awe that I’ve experienced every time I get to see this sight. What makes matters even worse is that I brought my camera but left the battery at home in its charger. I will have pictures on the site soon, but for now, I will have to just write about it.

As we made our way down the mountain, we stopped at a gas station to take a quick break and get directions to the nearest and best place to park and put our boats in the water. When I hopped out of my Jeep I noticed the wind was blowing good and strong. Every time I hearken back to memories of being a river guide on the Colorado River in southeastern Utah, I remember those blustery days of 55 mph wind gusts that had my passengers wondering if we’d ever make it to the take out. Fortunately, I was a strong enough rower that we never got blown up river, and I never had a person get blown out of the boat. To this day, though, I still don’t like the wind; it’s my least favorite climatic event. My roommate told me that Garden City is typically windy, at least, he said, every time he’s there. The owners of the sailboats that I’ve seen out on the lake probably love this quality. I’ve never actually been sailing — some day it’ll happen, some day.

We traveled south around the lake to the east bank and found an area with no condos or summer homes, just past a marina. There was a gravel parking area that was conveniently right next to a rocky bank of the lake. This is where we decided to put in. I looked across the lake and decided the other side was approximately2-3 miles away. I’d like to repeat a concept I’ve learned before. Never rely on your eyes when it comes to judging distance in the wilderness. What I guessed was about 2-3 miles ended up being 4-5. We thought it would take us 45 minutes to an hour to get to the other side and have lunch, but it took us almost three hours. A large part of why it took us so long was because of the strong wind currents we fought the whole way there. I’m sure Bear Lake always has some degree of tide just because of its sheer size, but the waves we were paddling in were epic. Our hard-plastic sit-on-top kayaks were constantly getting swamped with water as we splashed through these sometimes 4-foot wind waves.

I personally thought the waves were a lot of fun. The wind and the current we were fighting was another story. Other than the wind, our weather couldn’t have been better. We were actually scheduled to go the week before, but canceled due to incredibly cold weather — it was actually snowing in the mountains. Last Saturday, on the other hand, the sun was shining — it was a beautiful October day.

When we made it to the other side of the lake, I estimated that we had gone about 4 1/2 miles. I had a great time, but I’ve never paddled so much before in my life. The round trip was obviously close to 9 miles, and when we got back to where we parked we were all ready for heat, dry clothes and a warm bed. Ironically, just before we made it back to shore, the wind stopped blowing and the waves died down. The water at Hyrum Lake was for the most part calm and flat, compared to Bear Lake where it was wavy and choppy. I would not suggest to first-time or beginner kayakers to paddle Bear Lake alone. However, Bear Lake is absolutely gorgeous, and I would recommend to everybody to make a point of visiting some time in the near future. I know I’m certainly going to be there again next spring and summer. To all fellow paddling or boating enthusiasts, there’s good chance you’ll see me out there paddling my heart out. So, until next time, check back for my pictures, I’m planning on having them up soon. I’ll see you out there!

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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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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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In the summertime, the sun shines, the birds sing and the grass is green. Kids play out in the streets and in their yards until late in the evening. The sun does not set until late in the day, and even when it does, the light lingers in the sky at dusk.

As autumn rolls around, the leaves in the trees change color. They take on the most brilliant array of colors. The crisp evening air inspires romance and reminiscence of childhood memories of playing in piles of raked leaves. Pumpkins are carved, crops are harvested and parents prepare their children for another year of school.

The fall season eventually begins to wane, and here, in Logan, Utah, we taste winter sooner than the calendar foretells. Although the solstice is not until three quarters of the way through December, snow has already fallen several times upon Cache Valley. Coats and gloves, shovels and snow blowers, and even festive lights have been returned to circulation in preparation for another chilly winter season.

Yesterday (Nov. 23), a ferocious storm arrived on the coattails of a blustery, relentless wind. Schools closed early in anticipation of the cantankerous cries of old man winter. The howling wind blew snow in all directions but primarily horizontally. Those summer citizens, who revel in the sunny beauty that Cache Valley has to offer, may know that we see such storms, but it seems as though they may not fancy such frigid extremes.

After living in southeastern Utah, in a place where the sun never seems to go away and summer temperatures skyrocket, I find happiness in seeing blizzards such as the one that came yesterday. From the warmth of my home, I stood at the windows in awe of the spectacle that I beheld. Within an hour, the streets went from macadam black to wintry white. It seemed, at those moments, that if I saw a polar bear or penguins shuffling by, nothing would have been out of order.

I truly love the wide range of beauty that I have seen since I moved here. What a variety of adventures to be had! I’ve enjoyed summer hikes in Logan Canyon. I’ve enjoyed evening musicals and operatic matinees at the Ellen Eccles Theatre. I’ve discovered splendid venues for fun and affordable dates. I’ve seen the sun shine as it glistens on the pearly white, snowcapped Wellsville Mountains. Within the next few weeks, I will continue to explore the wonder of Cache Valley and eagerly report on my findings.

I must say, in light of the holidays, that I am truly thankful that I’ve been able to move to Cache Valley. I am undeniably grateful for all of the wonderful times that I have had here already, and I am sure there are many more to come. I say with confidence, to anyone who has the opportunity visit, or live here, this is a truly remarkable place. Thank you for reading…I will see you soon. Happy Thanksgiving!

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It’s not really always sunny in Logan, Utah, but it sure is sunny most of the time. I love it! Blue skies and sunshine are a great way to keep the spirits up; and when it does rain, it’s refreshing and welcome. Having lived here for just over a year, I have to say, the weather here is quite pleasing. We’ve had an extended summer; the extra weeks of warm weather have provided copious opportunities to get out and enjoy my surroundings.

One of the things I love most about this area is the fact that we are surrounded by rural farmland, yet we still have the comforts of modern city living if we care to partake. I’m able to travel just a few miles down the highway and enjoy a plethora of wilderness hikes and backcountry treasures, without using much gas to get there.

I also love the quaintness of living so close to farmland. Most of my neighbors own horses, cows, turkeys and other wonderful creatures, that help make my days so interesting. Even though I live in the suburbs, I feel like I live in the country. What a beautiful place to be!

Before I moved here, I was warned by southern Utahns how cold it was in Cache Valley. I’ll admit, the winter is nothing like winter in the Bahama s, but I’ve realized: most of the naysayers haven’t even been to Cache Valley. I was made to believe I would have icicles hanging from my nose in June. In all actuality, the winter is filled with some of the best snow in the universe…and skiing and snowboarding opportunities abound.

Now that it is autumn, as I mentioned in my post last week, there are even more great things to go out and experience as I gear up for winter. Some of the things you might catch me at are: the annual Providence Sauerkraut Festival, Friday, Oct. 22, the Providence City Annual Car Show, the following day, and the annual Pumpkin Walk. These aren’t all of the great upcoming events, but I will be in attendance enjoying all that Cache Valley has to offer, be sure to look for my blogs about these events; and as always, you might even see me there!

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