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Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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