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Posts Tagged ‘Fall’

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 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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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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maze n. : a confusing intricate network of passages (According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus.)

corn maze in Cache Valley : a whole lot of Halloween/autumn fun!

A couple of nights ago, I joined a group of peers and headed just a couple of miles south of Logan to check out the Little Bear Bottoms corn maze. Amazingly enough, I’ve lived 30 years and never been to one of these before. I’ve done haunted hayrides, pumpkin-patch pumpkin picking, and all sorts of haunted houses, ships, and warehouses. Needless to say– but I’ll say it anyway– I’m a big fan of finding a reason to throw on a hoodie and enjoy the crisp night air of the fall season with some friends.

There are several excellent autumn-oriented outdoor activities we can take part in here in Cache Valley. Two other local labyrinths are the American West Heritage Center’s Halloween Harvest and Corn Maze and the Green Canyon Farms corn maze. I’m sure they’re equally as fun!

Little Bear Bottoms hosts ample parking just off the highway. The entrance was well-lit and easy to find. Because I was with a large group, we were able to get a discounted, group rate. As we waited to enter the grounds, I saw a massive stack of hay bails, sprinkled with kids of all ages. On one side of the ginormous hay pile, was an area covered with mattresses for jumping into. The bails of hay were actually part of a structure that created a multi-level three-dimensional labyrinth.

There were definitely an array of mazes, not just one. For another element of confusion, and quite possibly for practice, there was a string maze that covered about half an acre. After graduating from string, we moved on to corn. I joked about wondering if I would see Kevin Costner or some dead baseball players come walking out of the field. I know, bad joke…but dead baseball players would be spooky.

We walked into the maze and were surrounded by cornstalks about 10 feet tall. This was no simple task. I’m not sure how much land was covered by the carved-out corn corridors, but my group and I wandered for a while. Even with the moon in the sky and the peaks of the Wellsville Mountains on the horizon, it was still hard to gauge exactly where we were going. The maze seemed like a complex composition of circles, half-circles and random paths. I think I passed the same two people about nine times. After 30 minutes or so, we found our way back to the entrance…that wasn’t the goal. We tried one more time and eventually made it to the other side.

The Little Bear Bottoms corn maze was a hit. It provided a good venue to hang out with friends and have a good time. Now I have to check out the other corn mazes that Cache Valley has to offer. If you decide to give one of them a try, look out, because you might find me lurking between the stalks, trying to find my way out!

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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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