Arch Canyon Overlook & Cave Tower Ruins Tour with Four Corners Adventures

Arch Canyon Overlook- Four Corners Adventures Tour

Arch Canyon Overlook- Four Corners Adventures Tour

It’s been over a year now since I first contacted Four Corners Adventures in Blanding, asking about the possibility of doing a mini familiarization tour out on Cedar Mesa for our Monticello, Blanding, and Bluff Fort visitor center staff.  We e-mailed back and forth several times going over details and prices, but unfortunately with a group as large as we were looking at (up to 20-25 people) the trip was just too expensive for my office to cover it, especially as late in the year as it was.  But I always kept the idea in the back of my head hoping that somehow we’d be able to figure out a way to make it work.

About 3 weeks ago Jared Berrett, the owner of Four Corners Adventures, e-mailed me saying that he had some free time coming up in his schedule and he offered to do a tour out to Arch Canyon Overlook & Cave Tower Ruins for our visitor center staff free of charge.  I was ecstatic about his offer, and we spent the next week or so e-mailing back and forth figuring out the details & coordinating with our visitor center staff.

First snow in Monticello in 2016

First snow in Monticello in 2016

Now I want to mention that we’ve been having a gorgeous, unseasonably warm fall.  This is my 8th fall in Monticello and I don’t think we’ve ever made it to the week before Thanksgiving without snow before, but this year has been incredible.  I was wearing sandals and T-shirts up until two days before the tour!  BUT, as luck would have it, the forecast for the the day of our tour was snow.  I kept thinking that it was possible that it wouldn’t actually hit us, but I’m pretty sure that deep down I actually knew that we were going to get snow, and it was just wishful thinking.  I woke up the morning of the tour to a light drift snow on the ground, and by the time I left for work at 8:00am, it was snowing again and I couldn’t even see across the back parking lot from my office window.

I put in a quick call to Four Corners Adventures’ store in Blanding to ask if the trip was still on.  Dallin, their General Manager, answered and said that they had gotten a little bit of snow, but it didn’t sound nearly as bad as what we had (they’re almost 1,000 ft lower in elevation than Monticello) and they could actually see some patches of blue sky to the south, so the trip was still on!  I told them the roads here were covered, so we might be a little late, but we’d be there and to not leave without us!

First snow in Monticello in 2016

Our tour group getting ready to head out with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

My coworker and I picked up the two employees from the Monticello Visitor Center who were joining us on the tour, and slowly made our way down the snow-covered roads to Blanding.  When we arrived at the Four Corners Adventures store right across from the Blanding Visitor Center, everyone else was already there and they were in the middle of going around the circle doing introductions.  After everyone had introduced themselves we loaded up in their two vans, and hit the road.

Great interpretive information on the drive to Arch Canyon Overlook from our guide, Jared- owner of Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

Great interpretive information on the drive to Arch Canyon Overlook from our guide, Jared- owner of Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

On the ride out I was in Jared’s van, and he gave us a lot of great interpretive information on the drive.  We had 3 people from Utah.com who were able to join us on the tour, so I think it was especially informative for them since they’re not from the area.  He gave a rough timeline of when the San Juan County area was inhabited by the Ancestral Puebloan people, (approx. 700-1300AD) and he pointed out ruins that were visible from the road and trailheads to popular ruins as we passed them.

I always love getting to go out with our guides- after living in San Juan County for 7.5 years I’ve been to quite a few places in this area, but there’s still LOTS I haven’t seen.  I think you could live here your whole life and never see it all, but I intend to put as much of a dent in it as I can, as long as I’m here!

As much as I’ve seen on my own, going out with a guide is a whole different experience.  For example, I’ve gone on guided trips to Monument Valley & Mystery Valley with Goulding’s, Rafting on the San Juan River with Wild Rivers Expeditions, canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters, taken side-by-sides to River House Ruin & Butler Petroglyph Panel with Four Corners Adventures, and now, out to Arch Canyon Overlook & Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures.  Of the 5 trips I’ve been on with guides, I’d been to 4 of the locations with my husband previously, but I still learned SO much each time I went out with a guide.

If you’re visiting a place for the first time and you’re with a guide, of course you’re going to learn a lot!  But even when you’ve been there previously, when you go with someone else you get to hear them talk about it from their perspective and you always learn something new.  Most importantly though in my mind, is getting to experience a trip led by one of our local guides, which is invaluable to any of us working in the tourism industry- we now have first-hand experience that we’re able to share with our visitors.  You can hear about something your whole life and repeat that information to others, but nothing compares to getting to experience it for yourself first hand.  I think the excitement of getting to share your own experience with others really resonates with them- they can feel your excitement and they become excited about it too- that’s why I think first hand experiences are priceless.

Arch Canyon Overlook with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

Arch Canyon Overlook with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

The van ride went by really fast and before we knew it, we had pulled up to Arch Canyon Overlook and everyone piled out of the vehicles.  It was snowing lightly and we could see another flurry working it’s way toward us from the south, so we knew that our time to take in the view and get photos might be limited.  We all walked along the rim and then made our way out to the point via a narrow metal staircase/ramp.

Arch Canyon Overlook with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

Arch Canyon Overlook with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

I’ve been out there one other time, and it’s only been a year since my visit, but I was still just as much in awe of the view as I was on my first visit.  San Juan County is such an unbelievably beautiful place- even after 7.5 years the beauty of this place continues to blow my mind!  And although it was cold, windy, & snowy I was so excited to be out there to get to see it lightly blanketed with the first snow of the season!  As I mentioned to some of the others on the tour- I never would have taken my own vehicle out there on a day like that, so it was definitely a treat to be out there in the snow!

Arch Canyon Overlook with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT Photo: Four Corners Adventures

Arch Canyon Overlook with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT.  Photo: Four Corners Adventures

Before we headed back to the vans Jared took a group photo with everyone who was still out on the point.  (I think the photo above is about 2/3 of our group) Glad he thought to take the photo- usually I’m very good about doing it, but I completely spaced it that day.  Chalk one up for going with a guide!

Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

Our next stop was Cave Tower Ruins- pretty much across the highway from our turn for Arch Canyon Overlook.  One really nice thing about Cave Tower Ruins (also called Seven Tower Ruins) is that it is one of the few easily accessible ruins that you can pretty much drive right up to and there really isn’t a hike involved.  This is great for individuals with mobility issues who otherwise may not be able get out and see ruins like these.

Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

We walked up to the edge of the rim and Jared pointed out the ruins- we could see the remains of 5 towers from where we were standing, and if you walk along the rim you can easily find the remains of the other two.  Jared also pointed out a ruin that I had never noticed, even though I’ve probably been there 5-6 times.  As you’re walking up toward the largest tower still standing, you can see what looks like the outline of a square or rectangular shaped ruin.  There really isn’t a rubble pile remaining, so it’s not as obvious as the towers, but there was definitely some kind of square structure there at one time.  (See what I mean about how you always learn something new when you go with a guide!)

Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

We all took our time walking along the rim, looking at the ruins, & taking photos.  It was still really cold and windy, but it had really cleared up and turned in to a beautiful day to be out on Cedar Mesa!

Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures- Blanding, UT

We all made our way back to the vehicles at our own pace, and when I walked up I could see that Dallin was moving one of the vans to make a wind-block for us, and Jared was getting a huge thermos of hot chocolate out of the back of the other van.  What an unexpected treat it was to have hot chocolate to warm ourselves up with on such a cold & windy day! (Not to mention bottled water, granola bars & trail mix that were passed around as well!) Chalk another one up for the guides!

These extra touches, like hot chocolate on the first snowy day of the year, are the things that turn a good trip into a great trip!  I think everyone really appreciated the hot chocolate, and for 10 minutes or so we all forgot about the cold and the wind, and happily drank our hot chocolate, snacked on granola bars & trail mix, and stood around chatting and just enjoying being out there with each other.

The day was over too soon- I would have happily stayed out there all day!  But I’m really happy we were able to make it happen and that so many of our visitor center staff were able to come, and I’m extremely grateful to Jared for offering to take us all out.  And more than anything, I’m thrilled that I now have the experience of going on a tour with Jared & Dallin and look forward to being able to share my experience with visitors who are planning their trips to our area!

Four Corners Adventures provides a wide range of guide services including both land based tours, and guided river trips on the San Juan River.  Their land based trips include Jeep, Hummer, Side-by-side, Mt. biking, Backpacking, & Canyoneering trips, and they also rent out jeeps & mt. bikes for people to take out on their own.  Also, in addition to their guided river trips, they rent rafts, canoes, kayaks, SUPs, and a wide variety of gear such as camp stoves, lanterns, water jugs, tents, sleeping bags, dry bags, etc.- pretty much anything you’ll need on the river aside from your own personal items.  They also run vehicle shuttles and pick-ups for rafters on private river trips, AND, as if that wasn’t enough, if you’re looking for a place to stay while you’re in the area, they’ve got you covered with their 2 bedroom rental- The Loft.

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

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

Posted in Blanding, Cedar Mesa, Hiking, Ruins, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Tours, Tours/Guided Trips, Travel, Utah, Visitor Centers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Slickrock Hiking Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

View from the Slickrock Hiking Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

View from the Slickrock Hiking Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Working for San Juan County Visitor Services and answering the calls that come in on our toll free information line, a question that I’m often asked is, ‘When is the best time to visit?’.  This is such a no brainer- FALL!  In the fall, temperatures are perfect for spending the entire day outside, no need to get an early start to try to beat the heat of the day.  The coming of fall means we’ve yet again survived the heat of summer, and can start hiking & exploring in the desert again.

Two weekends ago the weather was looking perfect for getting out for a hike, so we decided to hike the Slickrock trail in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.  There are two ways to get from Monticello to the Needles District entrance, (directions at end of post) but I definitely recommend taking the mountain road- it’s more scenic than Hwy 191/Hwy 211.  The views out over Canyonlands are really beautiful, and you can always see deer, cows, (it’s Open Range out here, so if you’re wanting to see some cows while you’re ‘out west’, this is a good place to do it!🙂 ) and in the fall- you can often see turkeys on this road as well.

Aggressive Crow in Canyonlands

Aggressive Crow in Canyonlands

When we got to the trailhead and were loading up our backpacks, a car with three women inside pulled up behind us and as the women started to get out, a crow landed on the roof of their car.  When the woman in the passenger seat opened her door to get out, the crow jumped onto the door and just sat there cawing.  At first it was kind of cool- they were taking pictures and I was taking pictures, but then the crow wouldn’t move!  We started talking about the crazy crow, and I found out that they were from Switzerland and were on their first visit to Utah.  Eventually, after lightly trying to swing the door closed for about the 10th time, the crow decided to move on.  Weird.  (*I made sure to tell them that this wasn’t normal crow behavior!)

My son between downpours on the Slickrock Hiking Trail- Canyonlands National Park

My son between downpours on the Slickrock Hiking Trail- Canyonlands National Park

After the crazy crow finally flew away, we were ready to start down the trail.  We weren’t more than a minute in when it started sprinkling on us.  No problem- since there had been a slight chance of rain, I had brought rain jackets for my son and I.  My husband on the other hand, had not brought his, and the light rain quickly turned into a heavy downpour.  We decided to try to find a little overhang to hide under until the rain passed, but after spending a couple minutes looking without finding anything, we just gave up and kept hiking.

Potholes on the Slickrock Hiking Trail- Canyonlands National Park

Potholes on the Slickrock Hiking Trail- Canyonlands National Park

The rain probably lasted about 10 minutes at the most, and when it was over we were left with 2.4 miles of awesome potholes to keep my son happily hiking along!  It’s no secret that kids LOVE water, and what better way to keep a 4 year old boy happy (read: walking on his own and not asking to be carried) than thousands of potholes full of water to splash in?!

Slickrock Hiking Trail- Canyonlands National Park

Slickrock Hiking Trail- Canyonlands National Park

This trail is what’s called a ‘lollipop loop’- you begin the hike on a trail that takes you out to a point where a loop starts.  After completing the loop, you hike back to your car on the same trail you started on.  I definitely prefer loop trails when possible- I like to see as much different terrain as possible.  Whether I’m driving or hiking, I try to avoid backtracking whenever possible.

Water in Canyonlands

Water in Canyonlands

Water in Canyonlands

Making Waterfalls in Canyonlands

My son had so much fun watching the little waterfalls and trickles of water running from one puddle to the next. Once they dried out to the point that they weren’t flowing on their own, he was happy to help them along!

Lunck break on the Slickrock Hiking Trail- Canyonlands National Park

Lunck break on the Slickrock Hiking Trail- Canyonlands National Park

For some reason, in my son’s mind, lunch is always one of the highlights of our ‘adventures’.  I’m not sure if it’s because he’s worked up an appetite from hiking, or that we get to sit on the ground and eat it, or maybe because I’m not nagging him about sitting down and eating over his plate like I do at home, but almost every time we hike, within about the first 10 minutes my son is pointing out places that he says look like ‘a good spot for our lunch break’.

Slickrock Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Slickrock Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

When we finally sat down for lunch the sun had been out long enough that except for the potholes, the ground was completely dry.  We found a good, flat place to sit on the slickrock and enjoyed our lunch while looking at the amazing view.  I think we were near ‘Viewpoint 2’ on the trail, and while we were eating, several other groups & couples came past and walked up to the edge to take pictures.

Slickrock Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Slickrock Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Slickrock Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Slickrock Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Slickrock Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Checking out a Pothole on the Slickrock Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

We hiked the rest of the trail with frequent stops to check out what seemed like every, single pot hole we passed.  But I’m not complaining!  I was so happy that my son was so interested and excited about everything, and I know my husband was happy that he didn’t have to carry him on his shoulders for 2.4 miles!  Finally, when we were probably within about .2 miles from where the loop trail met back up with the trail that led back to the parking area, my son started to ask to be carried.  My husband told him that he’d carry him when we got to the next sign, and then we spent the next .2 miles trying to distract him and keep him hiking on his own.

Slickrock Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Slickrock Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Slickrock Trail- Needles District - Canyonlands National Park

Slickrock Trail- Needles District – Canyonlands National Park

He made it, and I was so proud of him!  He hiked about 2 miles on his own at 4 years old!  And when I say ‘on his own’, I mean it- he climbed up and down the slickrock with very little help the entire day.  I put out my hand to help him many times, but usually he would tell me that he could do it by himself.  I know I whined a lot when I had to hike that far at even 10 years old, so I think he’s doing great!  Some days he does great and hikes a lot on his own, and some days he wants to be carried pretty much the whole time- we never know what we’re going to get!  But we happily take these days whenever we get them!

As we hiked, I was struck with the same feeling I get every single time we go down there- that we’re so lucky to live in such an amazing and beautiful place.  On the trail, we were only 1 hour from our house, and we had run into the group from Switzerland and several others from across the US. (Long Island, NY & Florida) Meeting people who have traveled so far to visit a place that we’re so lucky to have in our ‘backyard’ really reminds you to appreciate it and to get out and enjoy it as much as possible.

It had been a while since we had hiked in Canyonlands, maybe close to a year, and it turned out to be a ridiculously gorgeous day.  In the 7.5 years we’ve lived here, I honestly can’t remember a more beautiful day we’ve ever spent in Canyonlands.  It’s one of those days where the clouds and lighting are perfect the entire time, and you just know that all your pictures are going to be amazing, and that you can’t take an ounce of credit for it!

Hike length: 2.4 miles

Total Time: 2.5 – 3 hours

Directions:

From Monticello: Head north on Hwy 191 approx. 14 miles to the turn for the Needles District of Canyonlands.  Turn left onto Hwy 211 and drive approx. 34 miles to the park entrance station.

**SCENIC ROUTE**

Head east on 200 S (the street north of the Visitor Center) and follow that road up the mountain as it turn into Forest Road 105/Co. Rd 101.  After about 25-30 minutes, this road ends where it intersects Hwy 211, from there turn left and continue on that road into the park.  (*The driving time is about 1 hr for either route.)

From Moab: Head south on 191 approx. 40 miles to the turn for the Needles District of Canyonlands.  Turn right onto Hwy 211 and drive approx. 34 miles to the park entrance station.

Whichever way you choose to drive to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, you will pass a large petroglyph panel at Newspaper Rock, and many other rock art sites as you pass through Indian Creek.  For more information on petroglyphs in Indian Creek, visit my ‘Indian Creek Petroglyphs‘ blog entry.

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, Fall, Hiking, Monticello, National Parks, National Parks & Monuments, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Swinging Bridge to Sand Island on the San Juan River

Floating the San Juan River with kids- Bluff, UT

Floating the San Juan River with kids- Bluff, UT

It’s been five long, dry years, but I’m ecstatic to report that a few weeks ago my family floated the San Juan River for the first time since before my son was born!  My son is now four years old, and all summer my husband and I were talking about wanting to do a day trip on the San Juan with him, but for one reason or another, it just never happened.  This summer flew by like no other, and I’m still a little bit in shock that we’re already a week into October!

One San Juan County event that we never miss is the Utah Navajo Fair Parade in Bluff in mid-September.  It’s an awesome parade with lots of decorated floats, music, and TONS of candy and other goodies for the kids.  The first year we went, my son ended up with several pieces of fruit, a pin wheel, some books, and quite a few other small toys.  Every year when we head down to Bluff for the fair, we always try to plan something else to do in the area to make a day out of it, and this year since the weather was nice we decided to float from the old swinging bridge to Sand Island.

I guess I should mention since it might be a little confusing to those not very familiar with the area.  We call the put-in, ‘Swinging Bridge’, which would normally indicate that there was a suspension bridge there, but there isn’t actually a bridge there anymore.  It was damaged in a series of floods about 10 years ago, and unfortunately was never repaired, and eventually taken down.  The ‘Swinging Bridge’ put-in is located on Hwy. 163 about 3-4 miles east of Bluff.

I’ll admit, it took a little convincing for my husband to get me to agree to do that section of river.  The last time we floated the Swinging Bridge to Sand Island was the summer we moved here, so it’s been over 7 years, and for some reason I thought I remembered not being very impressed with that stretch of the river.  I feel like I remember that there was an overturned car in the river, and some type of appliance- a fridge, washer… something like that.  But anyway, my husband finally talked me into it, and I’m really glad he did.  It was nothing like I remembered and it was absolutely beautiful!

Loading the boats at the old swinging bridge- San Juan River

Loading the boats at the old swinging bridge- San Juan River

We recruited some friends who live in Bluff to go with us, so we all took our stuff to the put-in, then our friend and I shuttled a vehicle to Sand Island while my husband inflated our kayak and watched the kids.  When we returned from the shuttle the kids had come up with a ‘zero gravity’ game as they called it, which involved holding on to a branch of a tree that had washed up on shore and bouncing like crazy!  We only caught the tail end of it when we got back- I think they were kind of over it by that point.  But I was glad they had found a way to get their energy out before it was time to sit in the boats for a few hours!

San Juan River with Kids

First time on the San Juan River

Right away I knew I was wrong about that stretch of river- it was beautiful!  When we started out the canyon was pretty wide and you couldn’t really see the walls, but soon the canyon wall on the left side closed in and we had beautiful views of the red-rock walls the rest of the day.

My son was beyond excited to be on the river!  Just recently we went on a jet boat on the Colorado with some friends, and that’s probably the smallest boat my son had ever been on at that time.  At times he could reach his hand out over the side of the boat and touch the spray, but practically sitting on the water in a small inflatable kayak is a whole different experience.  He loved that he could help paddle and that he could reach his hands and feet over the side and dip them in the water.

He loved getting to help paddle.  I know that most of the time he was probably blocking my husband from paddling more than he was actually ‘helping‘, but he was having fun and that’s what’s important!  Rather than trying to teach our son any kind of technical skills or techniques when we’re doing things outdoors (I mean, he’s only 4 for crying out loud!) we’re just trying to instill a love of being outside, and a curiosity for the world around him.  I think as long as he’s having fun on our ‘adventures’, hopefully he’ll just naturally grow up loving to be outside.  I hope it works- it’s looking good so far!

img_5047

Aaaarrrggghhh! Playing pirates on the San Juan River

I think one thing that really made our day trip on the river a lot more fun for our son was the fact that we went with a friend and he brought one of his sons with him.  The two boys spent pretty much the whole day playing pirates and yelling ‘Aarrrrgh!’ and plundering each others’ boats when we got in close enough proximity. After having my water bottle plundered during the first attack of the day, I quickly learned to hold on to all my stuff when we pulled the boats up next to each other!  (Luckily the other ‘pirate’s’ dad took pity on me and gave me back my water bottle!)

Cooling off on the San Juan River

Cooling off on the San Juan River

It couldn’t have been a nicer day on the river… not so hot that we were miserable, and not so cold that we didn’t want to get splashed- perfect!  My son spent quite a bit of the trip sitting on the edge of the kayak with his feet dangling in the water. (Check out my death-grip on my son’s life jacket! I’m holding on so tight, my knuckles are actually white!)

As always we brought lots and lots of snacks and drinks… there’s nothing that can ruin a day faster than not having enough food to keep your child’s blood sugar at a good level! (And let’s be honest- us adults need it too!)

I think we were about 2/3 of the way down the river by the time we decided to take a little break and get out of the boats to let the kids stretch their legs for a while.  We pulled up to shore and just happened to stop at an awesome mud hole!  My son loved it- he kept saying that he was ‘decorating’ himself with mud.  I almost wanted to just let him take off all his clothes and play in it- it definitely would have been less messy than getting it all over his clothes!  (On second thought, he might have ended up with mud in all his… crevices.  That probably wouldn’t have been very east to clean up either!)  But he seemed satisfied to just walk in it and rub a little on his arms and legs.  Some people pay big money for mud baths, and on the San Juan River they’re free!  So of course I had to walk in it and let it squish between my toes a little!😉

Relaxing on the San Juan River- Bluff, UT

Relaxing on the San Juan River- Bluff, UT

After the mud hole stop, we pretty much just floated until we got to Sand Island.  One thing that was really cool was when we were floating past the town of Bluff, since the Utah Navajo Fair was going on, we could hear music from the Pow Wow faintly in the distance.

This trip was the perfect length for young kids- only about 7 miles.  I’m sure my son could have gone much farther if we’d taken more breaks and let him run around more, but just about a half mile or so from Sand Island, he started asking if we were almost done.  Luckily (for all of us) the answer was yes!

It was an awesome day on the river, and I’m happy to report that we didn’t come across any overturned cars or appliances in the water! (I’m starting to doubt my memory of our first trip!)

This short half-day trip has given me great hope that we will be able to do a multi-day/multi-night trip next summer.  My husband grew up taking yearly trips on the San Juan River with his family and their friends, and I’d love to be able to do the same with our son, so stay tuned!  I hope to be able to share a blog entry on an overnight trip in summer 2017!

How to obtain a permit for the San Juan River:

A permit is required year-round to float any section of the river between Montezuma Creek and Clay Hills. Information on obtaining permits is available HERE, and permits for the more popular segments of the river (Sand Island/Mexican Hat to Clay Hills) are issued through a pre-season lottery and advanced reservations.  However, to float the Montezuma Creek or Swinging Bridge to Sand Island segment, permits can be obtained by calling the San Juan River Office (435-587-1544) and are free of charge. (Information current as of 10-7-17)

**If you’d prefer to float the river with a guide, Wild Rivers Expeditions out of Bluff, run great trips.  I went with them on one of their Upper Canyon Daily trips about 5 years ago, and it was awesome- we had an awesome guide and I learned so much- I would definitely recommend them to anyone! (Read my blog entry about that trip HERE)

Distance from Bluff 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 Bluff, San Juan River, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grand Opening of the Canyon Country Discovery Center in Monticello, Utah

Canyon Country Discovery Center Grand Opening- Monticello, UT

Exhibit Hall at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

The Grand Opening of the Canyon Country Discovery Center was held just about a week and a half ago here in Monticello – I’d been looking forward to it for months!  I joked back in June in my entry on the Stars & S’mores program at the Discovery Center, wondering if it would be bigger than our ‘famous’ Maverick Grand Opening back in 2011, and I think it’s safe to say that it was indeed a much, much more successful event!

Through work, I was invited to a grand opening dinner the night before the big grand opening for the public on Saturday.  My husband and I went and I’m glad we did because, since it was a dinner for adults only, we had a chance to walk through the exhibit hall and play with test out all the learning stations without having to share with the kids!  I know that sounds horrible, but if you saw how many kids were at the Grand Opening the next day, you’d definitely agree with me!

Canyon Country Discovery Center Grand Opening- Monticello, UT

Giant Lite Brite at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

The first thing that we saw when we walked in the door was a giant Lite Brite just begging to be played with!  We played with it a little, but I should have taken advantage of the fact that there were no kids there and spent more time on it because it was one of the stations that was always really, really busy the next day.

Canyon Country Discovery Center Grand Opening- Monticello, UT

Windmill Building Station at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

When we saw the Windmill exhibit we decided to make a competition out of it to see who could build a windmill that would produce the most power.  I thought it was going to be really easy and after taking a quick look at the example, I quickly whipped together my own windmill at the building station, and took it over to the wind chamber to test it out. Much to my disappointment , I couldn’t even get mine to register!  Needless to say, I lost.  Let’s just leave it at that. (Yes, I’m a little competitive when it comes to my husband!  And if you look at the smug smile on his face in the video below, you’ll understand why I hate losing to him!)

 

Canyon Country Discovery Center Grand Opening- Monticello, UT

Giant Lite Brite at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

As much fun as it was to get to check out the exhibits on our own, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much fun my son was going to have when we brought him back the next day.  He’s been up there a couple times before- they had a soft opening back in the winter and they had a few exhibits up at that time and he was completely obsessed with the Wind Tube.  I kept thinking that if only we had one at home, I might actually be able to get something done around the house once in a while!

The next day when we arrived for the Grand Opening with our son, just like my husband and I, the first thing he went to was the giant Lite Brite, and once I showed him that he could put the color rods in the holes to make them light up, he was hooked!

Canyon Country Discovery Center Grand Opening- Monticello, UT

Paths of Motion at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Canyon Country Discovery Center Grand Opening- Monticello, UT

Paths of Motion at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

One of the most popular exhibits with kids seemed to be the Paths of Motion station.  The challenge was to see how many different ways you could get the balls to end up in the same place using the various shaped magnetic pieces provided.  This station was so popular, my son barely got a chance to play with it, and although I could tell that he was really interested in it, he moved on pretty quickly- probably after realizing that he was going to have to wait a long time for a turn.

Canyon Country Discovery Center, Monticello, UT

Funnel Table at the Canyon Country Discovery Center, Monticello, UT

Canyon Country Discovery Center, Monticello, UT

Bottom of the Funnel Table at the Canyon Country Discovery Center, Monticello, UT

The Funnel Table was another fun exhibit, and although it might not have been intentional, I think the kids enjoyed the bottom of the table just as much as the top!

Canyon Country Discovery Center, Monticello, UT

Augmented Reality Sandbox at the Canyon Country Discovery Center, Monticello, UT

Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Augmented Reality Sandbox at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

The Augmented Reality Sandbox is definitely my favorite exhibit-  I could spend hours happily shaping the sand and watching the topographic image that’s projected down onto the sand change to match the newly formed contours.  You can make mountains, rivers, lakes… you can even make it rain by holding your hand over an area to make a shadow.  It’s such a cool exhibit- I remember seeing it for the first time last year when I got to tour the center when it was still under construction and I was completely blown away by it!  A year later, the thrill hasn’t worn off- I’m still in awe of it!

(*Coincidentally, I just looked back to see when exactly it was that I had toured the center, and it was August 19th, 2015- exactly one year ago from the night of the Grand Opening dinner!)

Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Water Table at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Another new exhibit that we hadn’t seen yet was the water table.  I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone, but kids LOVE playing in the water!  And I think it’s even better when they can control the water, so the new water table exhibit was definitely popular!  Kids can build dams, change the course of the water and watch the boats float downstream, make it rain, and adjust where the water enters the table.  What more could a kid want?!

Canyon Country Discovery Center Grand Opening- Monticello, UT

Wind Tube at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

And of course, there’s no way we could have visited the Exhibit Hall without testing out  the Wind Tube.  As I mentioned, we’ve been up to the Discovery Center a few times, so we’ve had a chance to try out several of the exhibits, but it was fun to watch people who were seeing everything for the first time.

I’ve just mentioned my favorite exhibits- there are quite a few more, and I honestly haven’t tried them all out yet.  According to the Canyon Country Discovery Center website, the exhibit hall has room for 20-30 exhibits, so I’m sure they will be introducing new exhibits on a regular basis.

Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Horse Drawn Wagon Rides at the Canyon Country Discovery Center Grand Opening- Monticello, UT

Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Canyon Country Discovery Center Grand Opening- Monticello, UT

Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Canyon Country Discovery Center Grand Opening- Monticello, UT

Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

My son with Astronaut John Herrington at the Canyon Country Discovery Center Grand Opening- Monticello, UT

Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Astronaut John Herrington at the Canyon Country Discovery Center Grand Opening- Monticello, UT

Aside from getting to test out all the new exhibits, there was quite a bit of other stuff going on at the Grand Opening.  There were vendors, (artists, food trucks, various goods, etc.) Navajo, Ute, Hopi, Hispanic, and Pioneer cultural demonstrations, horse drawn wagon rides around the campus, a workshop & keynote speech from the first Native American astronaut- Commander John Herrington, 5 different live bands/musicians playing all throughout the day with the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet closing out the evening, and a star party at the newly completed observatory after the sun went down.

There was a lot going on and there were a lot of things we missed- it was impossible to make it to everything!  But we did our best and ended up staying from about noon-5:00pm, then we ran home to eat dinner really fast then went straight back up there to listen to the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet and were there from about 7:00pm-8:30pm.  My son spent the entire concert playing in the playscape, which is an AWESOME place for kids to explore and get their energy out- there are paths and tunnels, a huge sandbox with toys, musical features, and bench swings.  Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of the playscape during the grand opening, but luckily I have a friend who did! (I’ve also added a few other playscape photos that I’ve taken since then.)

Playscape at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Playscape at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT (photo: Sarah English)

Playscape at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Playscape at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT  (photo: Sarah English)

Playscape at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Playscape at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT  (photo: Sarah English)

Playscape at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello- UT

Playscape at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello- UT

Playscape at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Playscape at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Playscape at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Playscape at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Before going to the grand opening, I had thought that there would be a lot of people from town up there and that I’d probably recognize a majority of the people, but that was not the case at all.  There were quite a few people that I knew and recognized from Monticello, Blanding, and Bluff there, but I was surprised and happy to see how many people from the Salt Lake area and even out of state were there!

I’ve known that this was in the works for years now, and watched the progress with the construction of the building for the past year, but I still can’t believe that we have such an amazing new educational center here in Monticello!  I feel so lucky that my son will get to grow up with the Canyon Country Discovery Center right here in town, and will get to participate in their programs as he grows.

My husband, son, and I have been going up to walk the trails around the center and/or to take our son to play in the playscape at least once a week lately, and we’re definitely planning on making regular trips to the center and exhibit hall as well.  After all, I still need to redeem myself and beat my husband in a rematch of our windmill building competition!

Distance from the Canyon Country Discovery 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 Education Centers, Events, Monticello, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, UT

What is it about boys and dinosaurs? Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, UT

Last weekend we were trying to think of something to do with our son, and since it’s the middle of the summer and it’s pretty hot around here right now, we were trying to think of some indoor and higher elevation things we could do.  Since my son has really started to get interested in dinosaurs lately, we decided to spend a half day in Blanding and take him to The Dinosaur Museum & the pool, then drive back to Monticello over the mountain via Johnson Creek/North Creek if we still felt up for it by the end of the day.

We arrived at the Dinosaur Museum at about 11:00 just as a couple other groups were getting out of their cars in the parking lot.  I was glad to see that although it’s a fairly small museum, it looks like they keep pretty busy!

Looking at Petrified Wood at the Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, UT

Looking at Petrified Wood at the Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, UT

I want to mention here that this museum is obviously smaller than say, the Natural History Museum of Utah, but it’s really an amazing museum and actually much bigger than we had expected, especially in a town with a population of only about 4,000!  Even more amazing are the admission rates; only $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for seniors, and $2.00 for children ages 4+.  They also have special group rates available for tours of 10+, and guided group tours are available with reservations at 435-678-3454.  (Prices current as of July 2016.)  They also have a AAA discount, so it only ended up costing $6 for the three of us!  (My son was free because he still has a month and a half before he turns 4, and they took .50 cents off for each adult since we have AAA!)  You absolutely cannot beat those prices!

We walked in and right away I was really impressed with the displays in the museum.  The first thing you see when you walk in the door is a petrified wood display against one of the walls with huge tree trunks, which were very impressive.  My son seemed to be interested in it until he saw dinosaur skeletons, and then that was all he wanted to look at.  I like to move through museums in a way that I’m sure that I’m seeing everything, but my son was zigzagging across the room moving from one display to whichever one caught his attention next.  At least he was excited and interested in everything!

Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, UT

Herrerasaurus at the Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, UT

Mummified Edmontosaurus at The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

Mummified Edmontosaurus at The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

One of our favorite displays at the Dinosaur Museum was the cast of a mummified Edmontosaurus.  This rare duckbilled dinosaur was found in Wyoming and was discovered intact with large patches of skin on the side, neck, along the backbone, and on both hands.  The original fossil is in a museum in Germany and this cast is one of only two on public view worldwide!  And it’s located in Blanding, Utah!  Amazing!

Posing for silly pictures at the Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, UT

Posing for silly pictures with the Tarbosaurus- Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, UT

In front of the Tarbosaurus- Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, UT

Therizinosaurus at the Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, UT

Therizinosaurus at the Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, UT

Our favorite room at the Dinosaur Museum had to be the Special Exhibits Hall which houses several large, feathered dinosaurs and colorful movie posters along with lots of other movie memorabilia.  The highlight of our visit was definitely the 14 ft tall Therizinosaurus which dominates the room- I’ve never seen anything like it!  When most people think of dinosaurs they probably think of Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, or maybe Pterodactyls, but I doubt very many people think of, let alone even know of Therizinosaurus.  The Therizinosaurus sculpture on display at the museum is 14 ft tall with a 20 ft wingspan, and from reading the description I’ve learned that they are flightless birds from the Late Cretaceous period and were first found in Mongolia.

Deinonychus- Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, UT

Deinonychus- Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, UT

Deinonychus- Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, UT

The Deinonychus display has examples of both feathered, and featherless versions.  The reason for this is that originally they were thought to be scaly dinosaurs, but more recent discoveries in China have revealed that it was actually a flightless bird with feathers.

Giant crocodile head from the movie 'Hook' at the Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, UT

Giant crocodile head from the movie ‘Hook’ at the Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, UT

The number of movie posters and movie memorabilia in the Special Exhibits Hall is really impressive.  I think many visitors to the museum are probably surprised to see such a large collection of movie memorabilia in a museum in such a small town in Utah, but if you know anything about the history of the founders of the museum, it makes perfect sense.

The Dinosaur Museum was founded in 1992 by Stephen and Sylvia Czerkas- both renown paleo-artists and authors.  Stephen spent his early career sculpting dinosaurs for the Motion Picture Industry, then in 1981 he began sculpting life-size dinosaurs for museums around the country and world-wide.  Steven and Sylvia co-directed The Dinosaur Museum from 1992 until Stephen passed away in 2015, and  Sylvia continues to operate the museum in memory of her late husband.

The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

Stop Motion Animation Display at The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

Stop Motion Animation Display at The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

Foreign Movie Poster at The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

Foreign Movie Poster at The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

Foreign Movie Posters at The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

Photos from the making of Godzilla at The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

After seeing all these movie posters my husband commented that he had no idea that there were so many old dinosaur movies, and now he’s wanting to try to find some for us to watch.  It’s definitely not the type of thing I’d normally watch, but after visiting the Dinosaur Museum, I’m kind of intrigued.  But I’m only committing to watching one for now…😉

The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

Dinosaur Figurines, Toys, Salt & Pepper Shakers, etc. at The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

Dinosaur Comic Books at The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

Dinosaur Museum (65)

We probably spent an hour and a half at The Dinosaur Museum which is really saying something since that means that it held the attention of my almost 4 yr-old son for that long!  With my son moving so quickly from one display to the next, I didn’t have the chance to read as many of the displays as I would have liked, but I’m sure I’ll get to read everything eventually because I can already tell that we’ll be going back a lot!

Our last stop was the gift shop and they have quite a good selection of dinosaur toys, shirts, quilts, etc.  We found a couple inexpensive toys for my son including a dinosaur egg that you get to ‘excavate’ yourself!  He had to wait until we got home for that one, but the second we pulled into the driveway, he was ready to see what was inside!

The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

The Dinosaur Museum- Blanding, Utah

I highly recommend to anyone who is passing through Blanding, that you make a point of stopping there, especially if you have kids!  But even for those without kids or who don’t think they’re really into dinosaurs, (like me!) this museum is seriously a hidden gem in Blanding.

As I’m writing this, it’s been 11 days since our first visit, and I say ‘first’ because we’ve already been back again!  The first thing my son asks me almost every morning now is, ‘Is the Dinosaur Museum open today?’ and when I say that it is, he asks, ‘Can we go there today?’  He’s been playing ‘Dinosaur Museum’ every single day since our first visit!  In the morning he goes out to the living room, turns on the light, and announces that the dinosaur museum is open.  He’s made cages out of legos, (I guess some of the dinosaurs are alive?) and also incorporates our cat-climber into his museum (turns out it makes a great place to display your dinosaurs!)  I love seeing kids so excited about something new they’ve seen.  Experiences are priceless and I feel very fortunate that The Dinosaur Museum is only a 20 minute drive from Monticello!

The Dinosaur Museum is located at:                                                                              754 South 200 West, Blanding, UT 84511                                                                  They can be reached at: 435-678-3454 or dinos@dinosaur-museum.org

The Dinosaur Museum is open April 15th- October 15th

Distance from The Dinosaur Museum 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


***Giveaway***

The Dinosaur Museum has generously donated 2 family passes for us to give away to our blog & social media followers. (Each pass allows free entry for 2 adults & 2 children)

  1 pass will be given away on this blog and 1 pass will be given away on Instagram, so be sure to enter both!

To enter just leave a comment on this post telling us your favorite dinosaur or dinosaur movie.

Winners will be announced on Monday, August 1st, 2016

 

Posted in Blanding, Giveaways, Movies, Museums, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , | 22 Comments

101 Ways to Experience San Juan County

101 Ways to Experience San Juan County

101 Ways to Experience San Juan County

The new ‘101 Ways to Experience San Juan County‘ guide is now available!  It’s actually been out for just over a month now, and we’re almost halfway through the time period for submitting photos for the competition.  Back again this year is the ‘101 Challenge’- a competition for visitors and residents to complete as many of the 101 things listed in the guide as possible between June 1st, 2016 and September 30th, 2016.  The grand prize is the winner’s choice of a jeep or a rafting trip with Four Corners Adventures.  Three 1st prizes of dinner for four at a local restaurant, and sixteen 2nd prizes of San Juan Record shoulder bags will also be given away.

This year I’ve decided to take on the challenge with my husband and son!  We’re off to a little bit of a slow start, but I know we’ll make it up as the summer goes on.  Here’s what we’ve done so far…

#1. Visit A Visitor Center

Blanding Visitor Center, Blanding, UT

Blanding Visitor Center, Blanding, UT

This one is easy- for my job I’m often picking up/dropping off brochures at the visitor centers in our area, but to remember to take a photo while I’m there… that was the challenge!

The staff at our local visitor centers have a wealth of knowledge about the area, and I’m always glad to see that ‘Visit a Visitor Center’ has been #1 for all three editions of the ‘101 Ways’ guides.  Brochures, maps, directions… they’re ready to help you with anything you need and get you on your way to explore this amazing area!

 

#18. Take a Walk & #57. Enjoy the Wildflowers

IMG_20160615_192135964

Evening Walk on the Canyon Country Discovery Center Trails- Monticello, UT

We walk daily around town in Monticello; to the post office, to the store, in the evenings at the golf course and at the Millsite, but for the sake of the 101 Challenge, we decided to walk in an area we hadn’t ever been- here in Monticello the only place we hadn’t been to that was listed in the 101 Ways guide was on the trails at the Canyon Country Discovery Center.

Evening Walk on the Canyon Country Discovery Center Trails- Monticello, UT

Sego Lily along the Canyon Country Discovery Center Trails- Monticello, UT

Evening Walk on the Canyon Country Discovery Center Trails- Monticello, UT

Prickly Pear Cactus at the Canyon Country Discovery Center Trails- Monticello, UT

The trails are really nice out there, there were quite a few flowers blooming along the trail, and we also saw some wildlife.  We saw lots of birds and a few rabbits, but the highlight of our walk was definitely the owl that flew out of a low tree while we were walking past it.  It was so big I thought it was a hawk at first, but I quickly realized that it definitely wasn’t a hawk.  I wondered for a split second if it could have been an owl, but I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen an owl in the wild before.  But just as I started to dismiss the idea that it could have been an owl, my husband confirmed that it was in fact, an owl, and we’re pretty sure it was a Great Horned Owl due to the ear tufts we both caught a quick glance of as it flew to another tree.  How cool is that?!  We’re definitely planning to walk out there again, and we’re hoping we might get to see that owl again!  *I’ll have my camera ready next time!

#20. Visit the Latigo Wind Farm

Latigo Wind Farm- Monticello, UT

Latigo Wind Farm- Monticello, UT

Latigo Wind Farm- Monticello, UT

Latigo Wind Farm- Monticello, UT

We drove out to the Latigo Wind Farm last night to check out the windmills and see how close we would be able to get to them.  It turns out, you’re able to get fairly close to the windmills, but I was a little disappointed that you aren’t able to walk right up to the base of any of them.

When I was living in Japan I had a friend who spoke next to no English, so we relied mostly on my Japanese to communicate.  He kept saying he wanted to take me somewhere, but as many times as we talked about it, I couldn’t figure out what he was trying to describe to me, but I was open to the adventure and got in his car one day with no idea of where we were going.  We drove up into the mountains for at least an hour and he finally pulled up at the base of a giant windmill just like the ones we have in Monticello now.  It was really cool to be able to stand right at the base of one of these huge windmills and watch the blade going around and around.  I wish we were able to do that here in Monticello too- it’s a pretty amazing experience!

I actually feel a little guilty about this one because my dad was just visiting a few weeks before the challenge started, and was fascinated with the windmills and wanted to drive out to see them.  I told him that I doubted that you were able to drive out to them, and that he could see them fine from town anyway.  When the new ‘101 Ways…’ came out right after he left and I saw that #20 was to visit the wind farm, I felt so bad that I hadn’t made an effort to find out if it was okay to drive out there or not.  I’ll definitely take him out there on his next visit!

#38. Stargazing

Looking at Saturn at Stars & S'mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Looking at Saturn at Stars & S’mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

If you haven’t read my last post, ‘Stars & S’mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center‘, go read it now!  And then go to their weekly program- you’ll be glad you did!

#58. Submit a Photo to the San Juan Record ‘Photo of the Week Contest’

My photo on the cover of the San Juan Record!

My photo on the cover of the San Juan Record!

Not only did I submit a photo, but it was selected for the cover of the San Juan Record! (Got my $10 check in the mail yesterday too!)

#87. Fishing

Just a week before Free Fishing Day, the Department of Wildlife Resources put on a family fishing clinic up at Lloyd’s Lake.  We took our son and they had a bunch of fishing poles all set up and ready for kids to practice casting with.  I have to admit, it’s been almost 20 years since I’ve fished… I used to live in Alaska and I LOVED salmon fishing, and honestly, ever since then I’ve felt like it kind of ruined me for fishing down here in our stocked ponds and reservoirs.  Luckily, one of the DWR guys took my son over to the casting area and showed him what to do.  I was really shocked that my son could cast as well as he did!  He’s just a couple months shy of his 4th birthday, and I really wasn’t expecting him to be able to pick it up so quickly, but he did, and he was really good at it!  (And I don’t think it’s just because I’m his mom that I think that… the DWR guy kept saying it too!)

Fishing at Foy Lake- Monticello, UT

Free Fishing Day 2016- Foy Lake- Monticello, UT

Free Fishing Day 2016 at Foy Lake- Monticello, UT

Free Fishing Day 2016- Foy Lake- Monticello, UT

Over the next week we found him a kids fishing pole- he wanted a ‘Frozen’ one, and normally we’d let him pick, but this time we decided to overrule him since we’re hoping he’ll be able to use the fishing pole for at least a couple years.  We were kind of thinking that his current love of the movie would probably not last as long as we’re hoping that the fishing pole will, so we got him a ‘Cars’ one instead.

Since he’s still only 3, every day is free fishing day for him, (fishing in Utah is free to children under the age of 12) but I was hoping that he might give me a turn or two with his fishing pole, so that was why we decided to go up to Foy Lake on free fishing day.

Believe it or not, in a lake stocked with thousands of fish, we didn’t catch anything!  I’m pretty sure we didn’t have the right kind of lures or bait- we really had no idea what we needed, we just bought something that looked similar to what they were showing us at the DWR family fishing clinic.  I was very torn between hoping my son would catch one, and hoping he wouldn’t!  I worked in a fish processing plant for 5 summers through college, and I think I can safely say that I’m an expert fish cleaner!  So on one hand, I was kind of hoping he’d catch one so that I could see if I still had my skills, (and of course I wanted him to experience the excitement of getting to reel in a fish!) but on the other hand, he’s allergic to fish so I knew that he wouldn’t even be able to enjoy it!  I suppose the 3rd option was that we also could have put it back, but since we didn’t catch anything anyway, we didn’t end up having to make the decision.

Even without catching any fish, we had a great time up at Foy Lake.  There are several lakes up on the mountain just outside of Monticello, and it may sound weird, but I think we kind of forget that they’re there!  Once we were up there, I was wishing we had planned better and brought lunch with us.  It’s so beautiful and peaceful up on the mountain- I could have spent all day up there!  We’ll definitely have to do that the next time we go!

(*Also, now that I’m sitting here typing this, I see that I missed an opportunity to get #89 on the list- Bird Watch.  There were some really beautiful birds up there that I don’t remember seeing before.  I would have taken pictures if I’d realized that it was on the list! )

#94. Build a Fire

#94. on the 101 Ways to Experience San Juan County list- Build a Fire

#94. Build a Fire (101 Ways to Experience San Juan County)

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to have fires in our back yard, so I was happy to see that this was on the 101 list!  We do this at least once a week, so this was by far the easiest thing on the list for us to check off!  And of course, you can’t have a fire without s’mores!

101 Ways to Experience San Juan County

#94. Build a Fire (101 Ways to Experience San Juan County)

#96. Picnic at a Campground

Breakfast at Warner Lake Campground- La Sal Mountains- San Juan County, UT

Breakfast at Warner Lake Campground- La Sal Mountains- San Juan County, UT

In the end of June some friends invited us up to Warner Lake in the La Sal Mountains to camp with them.  What a beautiful place!  I can’t believe we’d never been up there before!  We’re planning another trip up there this summer, so stay tuned for a blog post on it!

#101. Grow Something

#101. Grow Something (101 Ways to Experience San Juan County)

#101. Grow Something (101 Ways to Experience San Juan County)

As easy as this sounds, this was our first year since we moved to Monticello that we planted a vegetable garden.  I’d planted (small) gardens before and swore that I wasn’t going to do it again until I owned a house, but it took us several years to get our house and yard in shape enough that we felt like we were ready to tackle a garden.

More than anything, I really wanted my son to experience the process of planting, growing, and harvesting vegetables ourselves.  When I was growing up my dad always planted a huge garden and although I hated having to help pull weeds, one of my best childhood memories is picking warm, ripe tomatoes from the vine and eating them like an apple right there in the middle of the garden.

So for our first year we just put in one small raised bed and squeezed as much into it as we possibly could.  We took our son with us to Muhlestein’s- our local nursery- and let him help pick out what kinds of vegetables we were going to plant.  We ended up with zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, broccoli, poblano peppers, onions, and we also bought one of the starts for the giant pumpkins that are part of the contest they hold in October!  (The person with the heaviest pumpkin wins an ipad mini!)

Even trying to keep it small, we still bought too much for our raised bed, so we have one of the tomato plants and the pumpkin planted in another area along with about 6-8 raspberry plants we were given by someone who was thinning out their garden.

First veggies from our garden!

First veggies from our garden!

Although we’ve done almost everything on the list, this is all we’ve done so far this summer, so we definitely have a lot of work to do!  I think I’ll try to hit as many of the Monticello locations as we can on the weekday evenings, then hopefully we can hit 1 or 2 locations around the county each weekend.

I know that they need to change it up a little bit each year, but there were two things in particular that I was really sad to see that were not included on the list this year; The Monticello Ghost Tour and Go Geocaching.  If you’re feeling ambitious and finish the current 101 things on the list, by all means- both of these are well worth your time!

Posted in Blanding, Evening Programs, Fishing, Flowers, Geocaching, Hiking, Monticello, Museums, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah, Visitor Centers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stars & S’mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center

Using SkyView to locate the constellations- Stars & S'mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center in Monticello, UT

Using SkyView to locate constellations at Stars & S’mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center

For maybe the first time ever since moving to Monticello just over 7 years ago, there were two different things happening on a Friday night that I wanted to go to!  Now I’m not complaining, this is a good problem to have- I’m just not used to there being multiple things to do on a Friday night here!

But last Friday night was different- there was an outdoor movie showing at Veteran’s Park and Stars & S’mores at the Canyon Country Discover Center.  Luckily they are both ongoing events throughout the summer, so I knew there would be many more chances to go to both, but I really try to support ANYTHING that’s going on in town in hopes that if there’s a good turn-out, maybe things will be held more frequently.  And I do mean anything!  I drag my family to any and every concert in the park- doesn’t matter what kind of music it is- we go!  We go to open houses, ranch roping, free lectures & films, gas station grand openings, (don’t even get me started on the Maverick Grand Opening back in 2011!  In the 7 years we’ve been here, this might still be the biggest event we’ve been to in town!) you name it, we’re there!

So, faced with the dilemma of choosing which event to attend, I finally decided… to go to both!  (My husband was not thrilled with this, but I eventually broke him down!)  So just as we would have normally been putting our son in bed for the night, we got in the car and headed to the park to catch the first 30 minutes or so of the outdoor movie.  Last week the movie was an old John Wayne western- Hondo.  I’m not a fan of western movies, so that actually helped make the decision to go to Stars & S’mores that much easier!

At about 8:30ish we made our exit and got back in the car to head up to the Canyon Country Discovery Center on the hill on the north end of town.  This was the 3rd weekend that they’ve held their Stars & S’mores program and I had heard from some friends who work up there that it had been going pretty well and that they’d been getting a mix of people from town and visitors staying in the hotels.  When we pulled into the parking lot, I was actually kind of surprised by the number of cars that were there!  It was more than I was expecting, but I was happy to see that word was starting to get out, and that people were taking advantage of such a cool program being held right in town.

San Juan County, Utah is home to four Dark Sky Parks; Natural Bridges National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse Point State Park.  Each of these parks is just about an hour from Monticello, and Monticello sits smack-dab in the middle of them, so you know we have great night sky viewing here!  (It’s said that we have one of the darkest night skies in the lower 48!) Each of these parks holds Ranger-led Astronomy Programs on a regular basis throughout the summer, and the programs I’ve been to have all been awesome.  I’m not even into astronomy, and I loved them!  The only drawback to attending them is if you’re not camping at the parks, it’s a bit of a drive back to town late at night after the programs end.

We haven’t attended one of the park programs in the 4 years since our son was born for that very reason- they start late at night, then we’d also have to add an hour of driving to get back home, so we’d likely not get our son to bed before about 11:30 or so, which is much too late.  But don’t get me wrong, the programs in the parks are seriously amazing, and I highly recommend them to anyone visiting our area.  They are just a little bit hard to take little kids to, which is why I was so excited that the Canyon Country Discovery Center started doing the Stars & S’mores program- it’s right here in town, which makes it much more doable to bring little kids to!  Hooray!

Roasting Marshmallows at Stars & S'mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center in Monticello, UT

Roasting Marshmallows at Stars & S’mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

We went into the center and paid at the front desk, (it’s $3/person and well worth it!) and were then directed down the hall past the rock climbing wall, to a door that led out to the courtyard and pond.  It was still twilight as we stepped outside, and we could see that the marshmallow roasting was already well underway.  They had a table set up with marshmallow roasting sticks, s’mores fixin’s, and drinks that people could help themselves to.  And let me tell you, there were a lot of kids there, and they were definitely helping themselves!  My son was no exception- he immediately stuffed a marshmallow in his mouth, then got to work roasting not one, but two marshmallows!

Stars & S'mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center in Monticello, UT

Stars & S’mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

*Notice my son’s shirt in the photo above?  He wanted to wear it that morning when I told him that we were going to a Stars & S’mores party that night!

Stars & S'mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center in Monticello, UT

The perfect s’more! Stars & S’mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center in Monticello, UT

My son is not quite four yet, and still has no patience for the process behind making the perfect s’more, which is by far my favorite summertime tradition!  He’ll usually roast one marshmallow himself which he may or may not make into a s’more, then he’ll want my husband or I to roast the next one, then he just moves on to eating them straight out of the bag!

Stars & S'mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Stars & S’mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Looking at Saturn at Stars & S'mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

My son’s first up-close look at Saturn- Stars & S’mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

By the time we’d roasted a few marshmallows each, it was dark enough to get the telescopes set up and to look at some planets.  They had 3 telescopes set up and focused one in on Jupiter, one on Mars, and the last one on Saturn, which is my son’s favorite planet.  I was so excited for him to get to see it through a telescope- it was small, but you could definitely see the rings!

Stars & S'mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Stars & S’mores at the Canyon Country Discovery Center- Monticello, UT

Another really cool thing they had for us to use, was a whole stack of ipads with the SkyView app installed.  You could point the ipad anywhere in the sky and it would show you which stars, planets, constellations, and even satellites were in view.

I’d had a similar app on my cell phone at one point which didn’t work that great and I ended up just taking it off, but I really liked the SkyView app.  The constellation feature on SkyView showed illustrated pictures of whichever constellation you were looking at, which was really cool since I’m horrible about remembering what’s what up in the night sky, (Sorry Dad, despite your best efforts in trying to get me interested in astronomy, I just can’t remember more than about 4 constellations!) and I think it definitely made it more interesting for the kids since they could see a picture for each constellation.

Although you probably can’t tell from my photos, about 16 people came throughout the course of the evening.  The way they have it set up, people can come and go throughout the evening and go through everything at their own pace, which is really great for people with little kids.  It could be challenging to try to get your young child to sit through a long astronomy talk, especially at a time that they’d normally be in bed, so I thought the set up of the Stars & S’mores program was perfect for little kids.

I also want to mention that I’ve never been to an astronomy program that was so laid back before… I’ve been to programs at several National Parks & Monuments, I’ve been to Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, and other special events where they had telescopes set up, and they’ve always been a little bit uptight about making you stand in line for your turn and making sure that nobody touched the telescopes, but at the program at the Canyon Country Discovery Center, aside from a container of handwipes sitting on the table with the food and maybe one reminder to make sure to get all the marshmallow off our hands before using the telescopes, they were extremely laid back about the kids looking through the telescopes, which I really liked.

I had initially been thinking that since this program is held so late in the evening (it currently starts at 8:30pm, but I’m wondering if it might start earlier by the end of the summer when it’s getting dark earlier?) this was going to be our one visit for the summer, but we had such a good time, we’ll definitely be going back again before the summer is over.  I’ve been telling everyone who will listen about it, so hopefully we’ll be able to recruit some friends to go with us next time!

**The Canyon Country Discovery Center is currently open, but will be holding their Grand Opening Festival on Saturday, August 20th, 2016 from 10:00am-10:00pm.  Guest Speaker John B. Herrington, the first Indigenous (Chickasaw) astronaut will speak about the importance of education in science, technology, engineering, & mathematics (STEM).

Grammy Award nominated Native American flutist of Navajo/Ute heritage, The R. Carlos Nakai Quartet will perform, as well as several local bluegrass and folk bands.  Vendor and artisan booths, games, contests, scavenger hunts, bike rides, educational programs, and other fun events are planned throughout the day!  This even is FREE, and you definitely don’t want to miss it! (*I think it’s going to be even bigger than the famous Maverick Grand Opening of 2011!)😛

Distance from the Canyon Country Discovery 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 Evening Programs, Events, Monticello, Movies, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments