Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument!

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument  (Photo: Navajo Parks & Rec)

Rokerthon 2 is now in the books and the Today Show’s weatherman, Al Roker has set his second Guinness Record- this time for the fastest time to report the weather from all 50 states.  Last week Al Roker visited the Four Corners Monument which helped him check off 4 states at one location, and a few of us made the EARLY morning drive down to the Four Corners to be in the audience for the 7:00am EST (5:00am MST!!) broadcast.

Our office had been contacted about 3 weeks earlier as the Today Show was trying to plan the logistics of Rokerthon 2, so we knew about it for a while before it became public knowledge. When I first heard about it I though that it might be fun to drive down there to be in the audience but I didn’t seriously plan on going until I mentioned it to my friend Lynne, an employee at the Blanding Visitor Center, the Friday before and she texted me back on Sunday afternoon (which was the day before the broadcast) saying that she was on board and willing to go!  Once it was official, we found another equally crazy friend- Lyndie who works for the Four Corners School/Canyon Country Discovery Center, who was up for an early morning ‘publicity stunt’, as she called it since we are all involved in tourism and/or education and all had something we wanted to make signs to promote.

The Four Corners Monument is about 1 hour 40 minutes from Monticello, but since we were driving in the dark, we planned on a 2 hour drive and decided to leave Monticello at 2:30am.  Lyndie and I met at 2:30am (both of us with coffee in hand!) and made our way down to Blanding to pick up Lynne.  The drive down to the Four Corners flew by as we talked and caught up with each other.  Also, an unexpected bonus to being out and about at 2:30 am was that we got to see a couple meteors from the Leonid Meteor Shower!  I always like to see astronomical events, but I’m not quite interested enough to wake up in the middle of the night to see them, so I was thrilled to be up and able to see a little bit of it!

Before we even made it to the Four Corners Monument, you could see a glow of light over the horizon from at least 4-5 miles away.  When we got to the turn we realized that there were already TONS of people there!  I have to stop here and acknowledge Navajo Parks & Recreation for doing an amazing job organizing everything.  I had thought ahead of time that the parking that morning was probably going to be a nightmare, but it was so organized- we were really impressed!

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

We parked and made our way to the monument to join the huge crowd that had already formed.  Right away we could see by everyone’s signs that the audience had divided up by state of residency with residents from each state standing in their corresponding corner of the monument.  We found our corner and joined our fellow Utahans who, upon talking with a few, we found out had come from as far away as Salt Lake and St. George!

Lynne, Allison, & Lyndie at the Four Corners Monument for Rokerthon 2!

Lynne, Allison, & Lyndie at the Four Corners Monument for Rokerthon 2!

It was COLD out there, and since Al Roker was there to report the weather, I can tell you exactly how cold it was, 28 degrees!  (And that’s straight from the weatherman’s mouth!) Brrr!  But I think we were so excited that the temperature really didn’t bother us much for the first hour and a half or so.

Photo from the Broadcast of Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

Photo from the Broadcast of Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

We quickly learned that you had to have a wristband to be allowed down on the main level of the monument during the broadcast.  We didn’t have wristbands at that time but as the Utah part of the forecast was about to start, someone from the Today Show came up and said that since we were holding signs, we could go down to the main level.  Whoo hoo!  We made it!

Each state had a group who were there to preform during the broadcast, and from Utah it was Noteworthy- a female a cappella group from BYU, who we ended up standing behind.  While we didn’t make the front row and you could only see our faces a couple times, we were standing directly behind Al so our signs were in the entire shot, which I think was what was most important to us anyway.

Here are LINKS to two clips of the broadcast on the Today Show’s website…

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

As the morning progressed, Al would broadcast live for a few minutes, then there would be a break for about 20 minutes or so.  There was a huge tent set up with heaters inside (we got to go inside after it was over and have breakfast!) and as far as I saw, Al never left the monument to go warm up between broadcasts, which I was impressed with.  During the breaks Al spent quite a bit of time talking to the audience, and I saw several people come up to him and give him gifts; a backpack from Osprey– a Cortez, CO based outdoor gear company, a turquoise necklace, and the blanket that he had wrapped around him in the photo above, to name a few.

At one point Al was near us taking photos with some of the audience and as he started to walk away I called him and asked if he’d take a photo with me.  He said yes and we stood side by side for a photo, but unfortunately right as Lyndie was taking the photos, a couple people jumped in front of us to take a selfie with Al in the background, so none of the photos turned out. :(

Sunrise over the Four Corners Monument during Rokerthon 2

Sunrise over the Four Corners Monument during Rokerthon 2  Photo: Lynne Shumway

It was an extremely cold and early morning, but we were all so glad we made the trip down to the Four Corners Monument for Rokerthon 2!  On top of getting to help welcome Al Roker to our area and getting our signs on national TV, we also got to catch a little bit of the Leonid Meteor Shower on the drive down and watch a beautiful sunrise from the Four Corners Monument.  And all of this before 7:00am!  Not a bad way to start the day in Utah’s Canyon Country!

Click HERE to read my previous blog entry on the Four Corners Monument.

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com

Posted in Four Corners Monument, Things to do for FREE!, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Cave Towers- Mule Canyon

Cave Towers- Mule Canyon

Cave Towers- Mule Canyon

In the past few years House on Fire Ruin in Mule Canyon has become a very popular destination for hikers and photographers, but I think few who visit are aware of the nearby Cave Towers Ruins located across the highway and just down the canyon.

A few months ago my husband was out on Cedar Mesa for work and saw tons of cacti in bloom so we decided to go back out there that weekend with our son to try to catch at least a little bit of it.  Spring in the desert is such an amazing thing to see- the first spring we lived here we just happened to catch the peak of the blooms by accident, but it was such an amazing experience, we’ve made a point to seek it out every spring since.

It turned out that our timing was great and we saw lots of different types of desert flowers.  And of course, we were also at Cave Towers, which is an awesome archaeological site right on the rim of Mule Canyon!

Cushion Buckwheat- Cedar Mesa, UT

Cushion Buckwheat- Cedar Mesa, UT

Barrel Cactus- Cedar Mesa, UT

Barrel Cactus- Cedar Mesa, UT

Prickly Pear Cactus- Cedar Mesa- San Juan County, UT

Prickly Pear Cactus- Cedar Mesa- San Juan County, UT

Evening Primrose- Cedar Mesa, UT

Evening Primrose- Cedar Mesa, UT

Firecracker Penstemon- Cedar Mesa, UT

Firecracker Penstemon- Cedar Mesa, UT

Yucca in Bloom- Cedar Mesa, UT

Yucca in Bloom- Cedar Mesa, UT

When we take our son out hiking, we don’t call it ‘hiking’.  I hated hiking as a kid- it sounds like work.  We say that we’re going on an ‘adventure’, and so far he loves it!  I’m sure this isn’t the only reason he likes hiking- I think the more important factors are that we always pick shorter hikes (nothing longer than 3 miles round trip) and we always have LOTS of snack breaks.  (Gotta keep that blood sugar up!)

Cave Towers- Mule Canyon- Cedar Mesa

Cave Towers- Mule Canyon- Cedar Mesa

Cave Towers- Mule Canyon, UT

Throwing Rocks in the Potholes at Cave Towers- Mule Canyon, UT

Cave Towers- Mule Canyon, UT

Checking out the Reflections- Cave Towers- Mule Canyon, UT

Snack Break at Cave Towers- Cedar Mesa, UT

Snack Break at Cave Towers- Cedar Mesa, UT

Watching Lizards- Cedar Mesa, UT

Watching Lizards- Cedar Mesa, UT

Cave Towers- Cedar Mesa, UT

Cave Towers- Cedar Mesa, UT

There are a total of seven towers along the rim of the canyon- some are on the east side, and some on the west.  Most of them are little more than piles of rubble, but one tower on the west side of the canyon still has a large section of wall standing with a doorway intact.

There are also ruins in some of the alcoves and overhangs of the walls of the canyon.  To see these, just walk out along the west rim and look across the canyon to the east wall.  We didn’t walk out far enough to see any of these on this visit, but we’ve seen them on previous trips out there.

Cave Towers is a great place to spend the day exploring, or even to just make a quick stop when visiting one of the more well known sites nearby like House on Fire Ruin.  While there are a lot of ruins in the area, round tower ruins are pretty unique, and definitely worth a visit!

Directions:

Just south of Blanding, turn right (west) on Hwy 95. Follow this road for approximately 19 miles and turn left on an unmarked road between mile markers 102 and 103.  There will be a gate that you can open and go through, just be sure to close it behind you.  If you do not have a high clearance vehicle, you should pull over when you start to see the road getting rough. (You will see some wider spots where others have pulled over and turned around)

High clearance and 4WD vehicles can drive up the road almost all the way to Cave Towers.  Whether you walk or drive, the distance from the gate to the trailhead is only about .5 miles, so it’s really a very short walk to/from the canyon rim and the towers, no matter where you park along the road.  The trail to the towers isn’t a developed or marked trail, but if you just walk southeast from the end of the road, you will come to the rim of the canyon and the towers are very easy to see from there.

Distance from House on Fire to lodging in San Juan County, Utah:

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com

Posted in Blanding, Flowers, Hiking, Ruins, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club

We finally found one! Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club- Monticello, UT

We finally found one! Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club- Monticello, UT

From Memorial Day through Labor Day each year, the City of Monticello does a program called ‘Finders Keepers’ where they hide locally made Cedar Mesa Pottery along the cart paths at the Hideout Golf Club and whoever finds the pottery gets to keep it!  My husband and I started looking in the summer of 2012 when I was pregnant with our son, and we’ve been looking every year since.  About a month ago, after 3 years of looking, we FINALLY found one!

I was getting to the point where I was pretty sure that there wasn’t pottery hidden out there at all!  And actually, just about 15 seconds before we found it my husband said, ‘So, do we know for sure that there’s really pottery hidden out here?’ and I responded, ‘They say there is, but I’m seriously beginning to doubt it.’ And then boom, there it was!

Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club- Monticello, UT

Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club- Monticello, UT

Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club- Monticello, UT

Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club- Monticello, UT

Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club- Monticello, UT

Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club- Monticello, UT

Of course, we didn’t look on a daily basis or anything like that.  I’d say we probably walked on the golf course once every other week or so throughout the summer.  And actually most of the time my son was more into watching deer, chasing bunnies, and looking for golf balls, but still- you’d have thought we would have found something before now!

Finders Keepers runs until Labor Day, so there are still a few weeks to get out there and look for a treasure of your own to take home!

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com

Posted in Events, Monticello, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monticello Ghost Tour!

Monticello Ghost Tour 2015

Monticello Ghost Tour 2015 (flyer: San Juan Record)

My absolute favorite day of the year in Monticello is only 4 days away…. Pioneer Day!  Well, technically Pioneer Day is only 3 days away, but the main part of our town’s celebration is always held on the nearest Saturday, and that is 4 days away!

In the past few years I’ve written a couple posts on Monticello’s Pioneer Day Celebration, (2011 & 2012) and the schedule is usually always pretty much the same from year to year; Softball Tournament and Live Music in the park on Friday night, and a Family 5K, Lions Club Breakfast, Parade, Games & Food Booths, and Fireworks on Saturday.  But one event that was new last year and will be back again this year, is the Monticello Ghost Tour!

I was so excited when I heard about this tour- this kind of thing is right up my alley!  More than expecting to hear about any actual ghosts, I felt like this would be a great opportunity to hear about some of the more unusual history of the town, and it definitely was!

Monticello Ghost Tour- Pioneer Day 2014

Monticello Ghost Tour- Pioneer Day 2014 (photo: Merri Allyson Platt)

The tour was on a hayride, and we went on one of the later tours, so it was pretty much dark by the time it started.  During that particular tour which was on Friday night, there were lots of people setting off fireworks at their houses, so we got a fireworks show along with our tour, which was really fun and just added to the whole hayride experience!

I won’t tell any of the actual stories (you’ll have to go on the tour for yourself if you want to hear them!) but there were stories that involved unexplained deaths, accidents, shootouts, police stand-offs, and much, much more.  Who knew this small, quiet town had such an exciting history?!

The tour was really interesting, but as the owner of a house that was built in the mid-40s, one thing that I found a little unsettling as we were weaving our way through the neighborhoods, was the possibility that we might come to a stop in front of my house and I’d hear some horrible story of a murder or something equally disturbing that had happened there!  We were on my street at two separate times, and actually stopped at the house next door, but luckily no stories about my house were told on the ghost tour- whew! However, we did stop in front of two of my friends’ houses and heard stories about them- one was called, ‘the most haunted house in Monticello’!  Glad it wasn’t my house! ;)

Monticello Ghost Tour- Pioneer Day 2014

Hyland Hotel- Monticello Ghost Tour 2014 (photo: Merri Allyson Platt)

The ghost tour is my new favorite part of Monticello’s Pioneer Day festivities and we’re definitely going again this year!  The tour has grown to 3 nights this year; Thursday, July 23rd- Saturday, July 25th.   All the information for the tour is on the flyer at the beginning of this post, or you can call the San Juan Record at (435)587-2277 for more information.

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com

 

 

Posted in Evening Programs, Events, Monticello, Things to do with kids, Tours, Tours/Guided Trips, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering Trip with North Wash Outfitters

Rappelling in Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

I’ve been wanting to try canyoneering for years now and a couple weeks ago I finally got to go out with North Wash Outfitters, a canyoneering guide company out of Blanding, UT.  Although I’d never done it, or maybe because I’d never done it, canyoneering and rappelling have been an on-going obsession of mine ever since we moved to Monticello.

Spooky Slot Canyon- Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Spooky Slot Canyon- Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

In the past 6 years my husband and I have hiked in several different slot canyons in the southern part of the Utah like Spooky, Peek-a-boo, Zebra Canyons in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and Little Wildhorse Canyon near Goblin Valley, but none of them required any kind of technical skill- just hiking and a little bit of maneuvering through tight spaces.  While these canyons were all amazing and definitely satisfied my desire for exploring slot canyons, they didn’t do anything for my obsession with wanting to try rappelling.

Rock climbing at travel show

Rock climbing at travel show

It’s almost embarrassing to share this photo and compare it to real rock climbing or rapelling in any way, but climbing these portable rock climbing walls at the travel and sportsman’s shows our office exhibits at, are the only experience I’d ever had with ropes or harnesses.  And I’ve done it a grand total of two times in the 5 years I’ve been doing shows.  Pretty sad, huh?

I’d been keeping in touch with the owner of North Wash Outfitters, Jared Hillhouse, and a couple weeks ago he told me that he had an upcoming trip that had room for me to join.  I was thrilled to finally be getting the chance to go, and immediately told him to sign me up!  Once it was official that I was going, the reality kind of hit me- all this time I’d been thinking about how much I wanted to try canyoneering, but it never occurred to me that there was a possibility that I physically might not be able to do it.  I never really thought about being scared about the heights of the rappels either.  It wasn’t until I received a pre-trip e-mail from Jared that described Leprechaun Canyon as, ‘very physically demanding’ with lots of stemming, (I had to look that one up- it’s when you use your hands and feet to travel through rock corridors without touching the ground.) and 3 rappels upwards of about 40′, that I started to wonder if I was going to be able to do it.

I’ve always considered myself to be pretty outdoorsy, I’ve done tons of hiking, camping, rafting, x-country skiing, etc., but I knew this was going to be different.  And while I love to do things outdoors, I’m not a big risk taker by any means, even less so now that I have a son.  I like rafting, but I’m not really a fan of big rapids after flipping several years ago.  I love cross country skiing, but I get nervous at the really big hills, especially ones with a turn at the bottom.  I’ve always loved snorkeling, but I get scared when I realize that I’m much farther from shore than I thought I was or when the fish get too close to me. (My dad was born and raised in Hawaii and was attacked by a bunch of fish once when snorkeling.  Don’t ask- it’s a long story.  But this is where my irrational fear came from!)  You see where I’m going with this?  I knew that in a slot canyon, there likely wouldn’t be an alternate route around big scary obstacles, but after waiting 5+ years to try it, I knew I had to do it.

Leprechaun Canyon Trailhead

Leprechaun Canyon Trailhead- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

I met up with our guide for the day, Brett, at North Wash Outfitters’ office in Blanding at 7:00am, and from there we drove out to the trailhead where we’d be meeting the other two people who were signed up for the trip.  The route took us west on hwy 95 through Comb Ridge and past House on Fire RuinNatural Bridges National Monument, and Hite, across Glenn Canyon, and just over the county line into Garfield County.  At the trailhead we met up with the others, a father and son from Santa Fe, and after Brett made sure he had all our paperwork he had us each grab a harness, helmet, elbow and knee pads, and a pair of gloves to put in our backpacks to use once we got to the canyon, then it was finally time to go!

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering Trip with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

I have to say, the first 3 minutes of the trip was the scariest part of the entire day!  While I was prepared for rappelling, I was not prepared for such a steep (rope & harness-free!) climb to get up onto the sandstone.  Well, I guess it’s not entirely accurate to say it was ‘rope-free’, Brett actually climbed up ahead of us, then dropped a rope down that we could hold onto if we needed it.  (I needed it!) Probably more for security than anything else, but as soon as I had that rope in my hand I was fine.

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

I’m not sure what the distance was from the parking area to the part of the canyon where we’d be dropping in, but I’m guessing about a mile or so but to be honest, the scenery was so amazing, I hardly noticed and really enjoyed the hike.

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

When we got to the spot, it was time to gear up, which meant putting on all of the gear we’d put in our packs at the trailhead.  As I put on my harness, Brett had said that it should be not just tight, but ‘uncomfortably tight’.  Yep, it was definitely uncomfortably tight.  I remember thinking that it was probably going to bother me all day, but by the time I finished the first of 3 rappels, I had already forgotten about it and didn’t even think about it again for the rest of the day.

First Rappel- Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

My First Rappel into Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters (photo: North Wash Outfitters)

It was finally time for the first rappel.  I don’t know how I ended up going first, but I did and this is when I learned that I was going to be responsible for lowering myself down to the bottom.  This may seem like something I should have known, but with my previous climbing/rappelling experiences that I mentioned earlier, you had no control over the speed that you were lowered- there was some kind of counter weight or something that automatically lowered you.  With that being my only other experience with rappelling, I just thought that was how it worked.  But no, it was up to me to get myself safely to the bottom of the canyon.  Yikes!  I wasn’t sure I trusted ‘me’ yet, but our guide Brett seemed so confident that I decided to just go with it.  I mean, how likely is it that I was the most uncoordinated person that had ever gone out canyoneering with them?  Not likely, is what I kept telling myself…

The first rappel was really awkward- you had to maneuver yourself through a tight turn in the canyon at the same time you were stepping over the edge and starting to descend.  It took me a while to get over the edge, but once I did, it was much easier and I was able to lower myself to the ground without incident.  Success!  It was such an awesome feeling to have done it!  I don’t think there are many times in my life that I’d ever describe myself as feeling ‘giddy’, but I was definitely feeling giddy after I made it to the bottom of the canyon!

Canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

Waiting for the 2nd Rappel- Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

All it took was that one rappel and I was good to go!  Once I saw that I could do it, I knew the rest of the day was going to be awesome, and it was!  The photo above is just before the second rappel- I was definitely WAY more relaxed than I was before the first rappel!  I wish I had a picture of myself before the first one to do a side-by-side comparison, but I was too busy worrying about not killing myself to think of having my picture taken!

Canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

Canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

There were quite a few places where we had to descend drops without ropes- the pictures above are two examples of those kinds of spots.  After making it down himself, Brett would stand at the bottom and direct or help those of us that needed it.  (I needed it!)  I realized right away that I liked to be behind him because then I could see how he maneuvered through each spot and I could try to do the exact same thing.  I’ll admit that I don’t think I ever managed to do the ‘exact same thing’, but at least I could see what I was supposed to be doing.  It was the same every time he rappelled- he made it look so easy!  In my mind, I knew that that was how I was supposed to be doing it, and I had a picture in my mind of the position that I should be in, but I don’t think it ever actually happened.  But I made it down in one piece- that was good enough for me for my first time!

The morning flew by and before we knew it, it was time for lunch.  I inhaled my sandwich and a granola bar and found that my banana had turned to mush inside my backpack.  Here’s a tip for anyone who is going to be doing this: put your food inside hard containers!  With all the tight spots we maneuvered though in the canyon, there were many times where we had our backs pressed up against one rock wall and our feet against another with anything in our packs getting completely squished, like my banana. :(

Canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

Canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

After lunch we got to a spot in the canyon that was absolutely beautiful.  If you google ‘slot canyons’ THIS is the exact kind of photo that will come up- narrow canyons with really wavy, textured, red rock walls and cool lighting.  I’d say it rivals Antelope Canyon in terms of beauty, and one big thing it has over Antelope Canyon… FEWER PEOPLE!  This is always a plus in my book!

Along with fewer people, another big plus this canyon has over others like the extremely popular Little Wild Horse Canyon that I mentioned earlier, is that it’s in pristine condition!  While we were in the canyon, I didn’t even think about it until I happened to see a button on the ground, but seeing that one small button made me realize that I hadn’t seen a single piece of trash or anything left behind by other people.  Being in such a tight space, it’s easy to see how someone would have unknowingly lost a button off their clothes- your body is always rubbing up against the walls of the canyon, and that’s something they warn you about ahead of time- whatever you wear in the canyon; your clothes, hiking boots, backpack, etc., will likely never be the same afterwards.  (And it’s true!) But seeing that lost button really brought to my attention the fact that aside from a few spots where you could see marks where people slid down the sandstone, the canyon is immaculate.

Later in the day it became clear to me that a big part of the reason the canyon is so clean is because of the guides from North Wash Outfitters.  Toward the end of the day when we were stemming through a long, narrow section over water, a disposable water bottle fell out of someone’s back pack and into the water below.  Brett had already gone through and was waiting at the end, but went back to retrieve it in a place that maybe wasn’t that difficult for him, but looked really difficult to me.  That’s when I realized that the canyon wasn’t clean because everyone was picking up after themselves, it was clean because the guides make a point and go out of their way to keep it clean.  I was really impressed with that.  I know when I’m out hiking, I want to feel a sense of discovery.  Of course  I know that I’m not really the first person to ever visit the place, but I want to feel like I am, and it’s hard to feel that way when you’re constantly seeing trash on the trail from those who visited before you, so it’s awesome to see that North Wash’s guides take such good care of that beautiful canyon so that everyone can enjoy it.

Canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters (photo: North Wash Outfitters)

Unavoidable Refreshing Water in the Canyon! (video: North Wash Outfitters)

We’d been getting unseasonal amounts of rain in the weeks prior to this canyoneering trip, so there was a lot of water in the canyon.  I think Brett said that it was about as much water as he’d ever seen in there.  Although we had been warned of the possibility of water, I can’t say I was really looking forward to it, in fact, I was kind of hoping that we wouldn’t find any once we got in the canyon.  But it turned out that the day we were out there was one of the first warmer days we’d had yet this year, and although it was fairly cool in the canyon, it was a hot day and the water felt awesome!  Although we still tried to avoid the water when possible, there were some places where there was no way around it and we had no choice but to get in.

Canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters (photo: North Wash Outfitters)

Looking back at the photo above where I’m standing over the water, I honestly can’t remember how I got out of that position without getting wet, but I know that I did.  The thing that sticks out in my mind is that I was just proud that I made it into that position!  I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to stretch to get my arms to the other wall of the canyon, but when I said this to Brett, he employed the form of encouragement that he seemed to have found to be effective on me- telling me about a really small/short woman he’d taken out on one of his trips.  He actually only told me about her once, and after that all he had to say was, ‘You know that woman I was telling you about?  She made it across.  She did it.  She made it down.  etc.’  Turns out this was very effective!  I’m really not a competitive person at all, but hearing that was definitely enough to get me to at least try, and sure enough, I was always able to do it.  I think for me, since it was my first time, I really didn’t know what I was capable of.  Maybe since the guides take so many people out there, they know better than we do what each of us is really going to be able to do.  Whatever it was, Brett seemed to know just the right type and right amount of motivation and pushing to get me to try things, and he was always right- there was nothing that I wasn’t able to do, and I always felt amazing afterwards!

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

The Last Rappel- Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

(video: KSL Outdoors)

The day flew by and before I knew it, we were at the end of the canyon and it was time to take off all our gear and hike back to the vehicles.  I really didn’t want it to be over, but I was also exhausted!  You know it’s going to be bad when you’re not even done with a hike yet and the soreness is already setting in!  

It really was an amazing trip and my only regret is that I didn’t bring my husband along- he would have loved it!  I’m definitely going to have to send him out on a trip with North Wash Outfitters, or better yet, go out on another one with him!  Even with knee & elbow pads, I was scraped up and bruised for a good week and a half afterwards.  But I take that as a good sign- as Jared said in his interview on KSL Outdoors in the video above, ‘It’s not a good day in a canyon until you leave a little bit of blood.’  So it looks like I was properly initiated into the sport of canyoneering!  And of course, I’m happy to finally be able to say that my rappelling experience now extends far beyond portable rock climbing walls.

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com

Posted in Blanding, Canyoneering, Hiking, Tours, Tours/Guided Trips, Travel, Utah, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

National Park Week 2015

Needles Hikers- Canyonlands National Park  photo: Jacob W. Frank

Needles Hikers- Canyonlands National Park photo: Jacob W. Frank

National Park Week is coming up on April 18th-26th and for the opening weekend, April 18th & 19th, the National Park Service is offering free entrance to all National Parks & Monuments nationwide!

Utah’s Canyon Country is home to one National Park (Canyonlands) and three National Monuments (Hovenweep, Natural Bridges, and Rainbow Bridge), and is also within about an hour of 2 more National Parks! (Arches and Mesa Verde)  What better place to base yourself out of to take advantage of free entrance days?!

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com

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Canyonlands with Kids!

Building Cairns on the Cave Spring Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Building Cairns on the Cave Spring Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

One of the most asked question at the Sportsmen’s and Travel Shows that my office did this year on the Wasatch Front was definitely about hiking with kids and asking for suggestions on kid-friendly hikes in our area- specifically in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.  This is a regular question that we get asked, but the number of people who asked this year was off the charts!  At one point I had 3 families in a row come up to my booth and ask that exact same question!

As luck would have it, the timing was perfect because at one of those shows I also met Kathy Dalton, the founder of a blog and called, Go Adventure Mom, and an online magazine called, Go Adventure Magazine.  I was really excited when she asked if I’d like to write an article for her magazine, and based on all the questions about hiking with kids I was being asked, I knew that that was exactly what I needed to write about!  The article I wrote for Go Adventure Magazine covered hiking and things to do with kids near Monticello, Blanding, and Bluff and you can read the full article HERE, but I wanted to just share a part of it on my blog as well…

Although my husband and I have always considered ourselves to be avid hikers, I have to admit- I HATED hiking as a kid. I’m not sure if it’s because we started hiking suddenly when I was about 10, or if it was because my Dad, a Forest Service employee, insisted that camping was to be done in the wilderness, NOT in campgrounds with amenities such as vault toilets, running water, and firepits, but I do know that I absolutely hated it. To this day, I still swear that my older sister (the one on the left in the photo above) broke her toe on purpose the day before we were scheduled to go on a backpacking trip and I spent years trying to get her to admit it, but to this day she still insists it was an accident. Likely story.

I'm the one on the right... do I look like I was having fun?  Not so much...

I’m the one on the right… do I look like I was having fun?  (1983)

Fast forward to college- I suddenly realized that I got to pick where I was going to hike, and I got to pick the length of the hike, and I loved it! Not long after my husband and I started dating, we took a 6 week road trip through the west, logging 100+ miles of hiking to places like Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon, Zion, Death Valley, Sequoia/King’s Canyon, Yosemite, Redwoods, Crater Lake, and many other places. Our hiking style has changed quite a bit since having our son 2 ½ years ago- we used to do quite a bit of overnight backpacking, which I’m sure we’ll get into again once our son is a little older, but for now we’re happy to take it a little slower, and do shorter hikes that we hope will help our son develop the same love of hiking that we share! Lucky for us we live in Utah’s Canyon Country, with endless hiking, exploring, & adventure opportunities in every direction! Here are a few of my favorite family-friendly hikes in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park:

Enjoying the View!  Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Enjoying the View! Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Cave Spring
At only .6 miles, this short loop trail is a great hike for kids. The trail first takes you past an old cowboy camp nestled in an alcove with tables, dishes, a cookstove, and many other items still in place. As you continue down the trail you’ll come to Cave Spring, which is one of the few year-round water sources in the area. If you look closely, a smoke blackened ceiling and pictographs confirm that this area was used by the Ancestral Puebloan Indians long before the cowboys came along.

Trailhead of Cave Spring- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Trailhead of Cave Spring- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Old Cowboy Camp- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Old Cowboy Camp- Cave Spring Hike- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Cave Spring- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Cave Spring Hike- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

After passing Cave Spring, two ladders take you up onto the slickrock above and provide you with amazing panoramic views of the Needles Rock formations, North and South Six-Shooter Peaks in Indian Creek, and the Abajo and La Sal Mountains. This hike provides a great opportunity for kids to learn first-hand about the history of Canyonlands. It’s long enough to get to see lots of cool stuff, but short enough that they won’t get bored or feel like they’re being punished! (As a kid who hated hiking, this is very important if you’re hoping to take them out again in the future!)

Climbing one of the two ladders- Cave Spring- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Climbing one of the two ladders on the Cave Spring Trail-Needles District of Canyonlands

Cave Spring Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Cave Spring Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Cave Spring Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Cave Spring Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Family Photo

Family Photo

Pothole Point
Pothole Point is another great hike for kids in the Needles District of Canyonlands. Again, at only .6 miles, there’s no time for kids to get bored on this hike, especially if you go after an early spring or late summer rain when the potholes are full of water and creatures such as Fairy Shrimp, Beetle Larvae, Tadpoles, Snails, and Tadpole Shrimp. Since water never lasts long around here, the potholes provide a great opportunity for learning about the life cycle and adaptations of these desert dwelling organisms.

It hadn't rained recently, so the potholes were empty when we visited!- Pothole Point- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

It hadn’t rained recently, so the potholes were empty when we visited.

But there were still cool rocks to hid behind!- Pothole Point- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

But there were still cool rocks to hid behind!

For children ages 5 and up, there’s also the Junior Ranger Program that they can complete to earn a special Junior Ranger Badge! Just pick up a booklet at the Visitor Center when you arrive!
While you’re in the area:                                                                                                             Be sure to check out ‘Finders Keepers’ at the Hideout Golf Club in Monticello. Every year from Memorial Day through Labor Day, locally made Cedar Mesa Pottery is hidden along the paths on the golf course and if you find it, you get to keep it! My husband and I have gone out looking for years and have yet to find anything, but the golf course staff always assures me that it IS out there! (549 S Main St, Monticello, UT Admission: No charge to walk the paths)

Chasing Bunnies, er, looking for pottery at the Hideout Golf Club

Chasing bunnies, er, looking for pottery at the Hideout Golf Club

 

Distance from Canyonlands Needles District Visitor Center to lodging in San Juan County, Utah:

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com

Posted in Canyonlands, Canyonlands National Park, Hiking, National Parks, National Parks & Monuments, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments