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Posts Tagged ‘Utah’

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 no secret by now that I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania — I spent the first 26 years of my life there — and one thing there is a lot of in east PA is diners. During my high school years I spent the majority of my budding social life hanging out all hours of the night in a wide variety of diners and coffee shops. Heck, I even got my first serving job as a waiter in a diner!

When I was 17, I was even an extra in an independent film called “The Florentine,” starring Michael Madsen, Tom Sizemore and Luke Perry, that had a scene shot in a classic hole-in-the-wall greasy spoon called Dina’s Diner. I spent more than eight hours that night sitting in a booth, pretending to drink coffee and talk to a perfect stranger — as if he was my best friend, of course. To me, sitting in a coffee shop talking to my fellow freaks, geeks and diner rats was just a harmless way to pass the time and feel like I had a life. I can think of at least 20 such haunts, right now, off the top of my head; I’ll assume you believe me, though, and spare you the time.

Nowadays, I don’t drink coffee anymore, and I spend 97 percent of my nights doing homework and updating my blog posts. Every now and then I get bit by the nostalgia bug and venture out to a diner to see how it might compare to those I fondly remember from back home. Twice a year I fly back East to see my family and usually go out for a good, old-fashioned helping of greasy-spoon bacon and eggs — for old times’ sake.

Since coming to Cache Valley, I’ve passed Angie’s diner with its brightly lit sign and the slogan, “Where the locals eat,” dozens of times. Any time I drive through Logan, I always see several bumper stickers making the proud assertion: “I cleaned the kitchen sink at Angie’s.” I’ve always figured the “kitchen sink” has to be some kind of food challenge worthy of TV coverage. The other night, I finally decided to eat where the locals eat and perhaps discover what this Kitchen Sink is all about. After all, I thought, maybe they make you clean the kitchen if you’re unable to pay your bill.

I usually only review Cache Valley eateries on this blog when they have some kind of local salience or special presence. I figured Angie’s deserved a shout out since it seems to be a Cache fixture. If the owners are confident enough to claim that their restaurant is the place where the locals eat, then I think it belongs on the Cache Valley Visitors Bureau blog’s radar. It turns out that it came up as more than just a blip on my radar.

After I asked my server what the locals eat when they eat where the locals eat, I wasn’t particularly intrigued by any of her suggestions. Then again, this is kind of what I expected — after all, it is a diner. Instead of the local “usual,” I decided to go with a California burger. It was good. The patty was definitely well done, which is how they eat their beef here in northern Utah — as opposed to the medium-rare bloody goodness we like back East — but it still had flavor.

In between bites of cheeseburger I was lucky enough to notice, from across the restaurant, a group of young ladies who had just been served the famous “Kitchen Sink” — at least when I saw a server walk past me with a giant metal tub of bananas, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, ice cream and cold, sticky, messy awesomeness, my intuition told me that it had to be the sink! The Angie’s menu includes a picture of this unique dessert that really does it no true justice. At a whopping $11.99, I actually think the Kitchen Sink would be worth every penny, as long as you have several friends to help eat it. Otherwise, if you’re on your own, you’re liable to end up with an expensive headache, stomachache and brainfreeze.

Being the adventurous reporter that I am, I wandered down to the table where these ladies were enjoying their dessert and asked if I could take a picture of them — kind of as a last will and testament sort of thing. They willingly obliged, which is how I met USU student Liberti Summers and her sisters Harli, Starr and Dakota. All four ladies valiantly ate every last bite of the ginormous banana split on steroids and were awarded their complementary bumper sticker.

For those who look for a tamer, single serving kind of dessert, Angie’s also offers a variety of individual-sized, homemade delectables that I’d certainly recommend. So far I’ve had the cheesecake and the chocolate cream pie — no complaints here.

A few nights after my first visit, I went back to Angie’s with some friends to give the food another go, just for good measure. This time I had the ever-satisfying, late-night omelet. Now, that’s good stuff. I can certainly stand behind the fact that the food at Angie’s is your standard, run-of-the-mill diner fare — just the way it should be — and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Only it’s obvious the food is served with a little added TLC.

To any of you readers who are planning that dream trip to Cache Valley in the near future: If you get into town and it’s late, you’re tired and you’re not sure where to eat, stop by Angie’s and give it a try. Or if you’re well rested, it’s early, and you’re looking for a good place to start your day, come say “Hi” to the locals. I haven’t gone there often enough — yet — to have my own booth set aside, but you may just see me there flirting with the waitresses or reading an issue of The Utah Statesman. That’s right, Angie’s carries copies of our very own college newspaper, the one I happen to work for. So, until next time, I’ll see you at Angie’s, “Where the locals eat.”

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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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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.

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Every Halloween, I’m always asked by my friends and cohorts, “What are you going to be this year?” To some, this is a particularly genuine question to ask. For me, the answer is simple…I’m going to be a zombie. Over the past few years, I have been improving on the creepiness and outright disturbance-factor of my interpretation of the typical postapocalyptic, undead flesh-eater. This year, I think I did well.

Anybody who puts any significant amount of effort into a Halloween costume of any kind, should have a great place to go show it off. What better place to go than the locally-renowned “Howl of the Dead” party? This event has been touted as the largest Halloween party west of the Mississippi River. The venue is the Taggart Student Center (TSC) at Utah State University. The Howl, as most refer to it, is sponsored by the Associated Students of Utah State University (ASUSU) and is coordinated in conjunction with Student Services. Proceeds go to benefit university programs.

Just how big is the Howl? The TSC’s maximum legal capacity, according to fire code, is 7,000 people. I was told that 6,800 tickets were sold this year, at prices ranging from $10 to $25. Being the punctual guy that I am, I arrived, ticket-in-hand, when the doors opened, just after 8p.m. This allowed me to get in while the building was still sparsely occupied. This way, I was able to see all of the craziness unfold.

It was clear that a lot of planning went into the entire production. There was a large dance troupe that all looked very much like myself. Apparently, they were inflicted with the same reanimating, flesh-hunger inducing disease that I was…that is, they all looked like zombies. Every 30 minutes or so, the zombies would all convene on or near the stage that faced the massive line of people waiting to get in. Eerie techno music played while the dancers lurched and clawed at the air in unison. Between performances, the ROTC students, all dressed in full army gear, along with a decontamination crew, apprehended and quarantined the meandering undead. Three times, I was mistaken for part of the show and ended up in the arms of four or five army personnel, being hauled off to the quarantine zone. This sort of entertainment went on throughout the night.

In the TSC Ballroom, a very large dance area was set up with a team of DJ’s playing dance music. In the field house, bands and other performers provided even more entertainment. Of all of the parties I’ve been to, including Halloween parties, nothing quite comes close to the Howl. This is something that is definitely unique to Cache Valley. Students and other young people from all over the state were in attendance. The party was scheduled to go until 1 a.m. When I was leaving at 11p.m., there were still at least 1,000 people, in line, waiting to get in. Wow! I’d say I’ll see you there next year, but it might be hard to find me. Just look for the zombies, I’ll be the one gnawing on your arm. Happy haunting!

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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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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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