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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hiking Little Wildhorse and Bell Canyons

Bell Canyon
The weather was perfect last weekend and so I hit the road going south, for a little spring hiking in the San Rafael Swell.

We chose to do a loop hike through a couple of famous slot canyons called Little Wildhorse and Bell. The loop is about 8 miles total, moderately strenuous, and a great adventure for children and youth groups.

The canyon is normally dry but there were mud puddles in Little Wildhorse on this trip. (They will soon evaporate as temperatures continue to rise.) The weather was sunny and mild - not hot and not cold - ideal for hiking, no jacket needed.

The hike requires scrambling up and down some obstacles - mostly rocks and ledges. It isn't a technical hike (you don't need ropes or special gear). I was surprised at the number of hikers we saw with small children. Young kids can certainly toddle along in many spots, but need help over many obstacles. Anyone younger that about 10 years of age will need considerable help.

I was also surprised at the number of people hiking with dogs. All animals encountered were well-behaved and caused no trouble. If you take a dog, be prepared to clean up after it so you don't trash this beautiful canyon.

Our trip occurred over Easter weekend - probably the busiest weekend of the year for recreation in this area. There were about 70 cars at the trailhead. But the canyons were able to accommodate that many people with no problem.

Little Wildhorse has the best narrows and so it is the more popular of the two canyons. Many people hike up it until they start to grow tired and then simple return the way they came in. Others make the complete loop, going either direction.

The narrows in Little Wildhorse are so tight, in some spots you've got to walk sideways to get through. That makes for interesting interactions when you have people going up the canyon at the same time others are coming down. You look for wide spots where you can slip past each other.

There are outhouses at the trailhead, but no other facilities. Some people camp right there, which is fine if you don't mind primitive conditions and close neighbors. There is a very nice developed campground nearby at Goblin Valley, with flush toilets. It fills up very quickly during spring and fall, which are the best times to hike here. (Summers days are very hot.)

People also primitive-camp at various spots along the access road.

This is a fun hike, in a beautiful area. Here's more information about the hike, along with a map.

- Dave Webb

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Utah Ranked Among Most Livable States

Utah is the second most livable state in the US, according to this new ranking by Washington-based CQ Press, the reference and textbook-publishing division of Congressional Quarterly.

The publisher provided the information below to explain the rankings.

Unique among the various rankings of states, our Most Livable State Award does
not focus on any one category of data. Instead it takes into account a broad range of economic, educational, health-oriented, public safety, and environmental statistics.

The 2008 award is based on 44 factors ranging from median household income to crime rate, sunny days to infant mortality rate. The factors used for this year’s award are the same as those used last year.

Now in its 18th year, the Most Livable State Award is issued in conjunction with the publication of each year's new edition of State Rankings.

Monday, March 24, 2008

5 Utah Communities Make Outdoor Life Best Towns List

Outdoor Life has published this list of the 200 best towns for people who enjoy outdoor recreation. The magazine "evaluated towns across America to find the places that offer world-class hunting and fishing, easy access to public land and water and vibrant economies that remain affordable and hospitable."

Five Utah communities made the list:
Richfield - 11
Logan - 12
Cedar City - 15
Vernal - 23
Price - 105

The Deseret Morning News has this article on the list. Below are excerpts:

"Richfield is thrilled to be named by Outdoor Life Magazine as the 11th best place to live for outdoor recreation enthusiasts," said Kevin Arrington of the Sevier County Travel Council, based in Richfield. "Opportunities to hunt elk, deer, antelope, waterfowl and other species abound."

He said Fishlake, Johnson's Reservoir, and numerous small lakes and streams offer outstanding fishing for all types of trout.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Wolves Return to Utah

Wolves are making headlines in Utah, after a pack was spotted in the NE part of the state, near Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

It's the first time in almost 100 years that a pack has been seen here. They are apparently descendents of the Yellowstone wolves, out wandering around as they expand their territory.

The pack apparently left the state without setting up a den. But they, or their relatives, will undoubtedly come back

Many people consider this great news, showing the once endangered animals are doing well in the Mountain West. Others fear the wolves will bring trouble - harming livestock and endangering humans.

There has been considerable controversy about wolves expanding their territory in Wyoming and Idaho. The animals are protected within Yellowstone Park, but numbers outside the park have grown to the point that those states are considering allowing limited wolf hunting.

KUTV has this report about the Utah sighting. Below are excerpts.

Experts haven't found the wolves, but they did find tracks and received a response to a digital howl recording.

"Our biologists are pretty certain they are wolves,'' Mark Hadley, a spokesman for the Division of Wildlife Resources, said Thursday.

The last known wolf pack roamed Utah in the late 1920s or '30s. The animals were killed to protect ranchers' livestock. Many sportsmen and ranchers still fear a wolf comeback would threaten livestock and large game.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

World Championship Dutch Oven Cook-Off

Many Utahns love their Dutch ovens, and have learned to create a wide assortment of creative dishes using the old black pots. Some get so involved in the culinary artistry that they join clubs to share recipies and participate in friendly, competitive cook-offs.

The International Dutch Oven Society held its World Championship Cook-Off last Saturday at the International Sportsmen's Expo in Sandy. The winners impressed judges with their flat iron steak and smoky potato stars, raspberry twist bread and tiramisu cake.

Each team prepared a desert, bread and main dish. The second-place winners made Southwest Chipotle BBQ Ribs. BBQ ribs also scored for the third place team.

The Deseret Morning News has this article about the cook-off.

Dutch ovens are great for camping. Most people use charcoal briquettes as the heat source, putting some on top the lid and others under the oven to provide an even temperature. You control the temperature by varying the number of briquettes. Experienced Dutch oven chefs can cook virtually anything.

Food cooks slowly in Dutch ovens, allowing flavors to intermingle, and meats to become tender.

It's a great way to cook, both at home and in the wilderness.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Zion's Cliffs and Canyons in Springtime

Officially, spring starts on March 20, but in reality it has been spring in southwestern Utah for several weeks. The fruit trees are in bloom, flowers are budding and the air is warm.

Zion National Park is incredibly beautiful during springtime. The next few weeks will bring ideal conditions for hiking the dry trails in Zion Canyon.

The Silicon Valley Mercury News has this new article about exploring Zion during springtime. It features the hike up Angels Landing - here are details about the hike and here is a video clip showing the adventure.

Below are excerpts from the article.

Cottonwoods lined the river bank, flaunting fresh green leaves that swayed in the breeze over acres of brilliant green grass. Wildflowers were in riotous bloom under the warm desert sun. Kids on spring break splashed in the still-frigid river. Desert this may be, but after a long winter it was a welcoming oasis.

... From there, hikers work their way across a rocky ridge that steadily narrows. It finally becomes a rock fin only a few feet wide, with thousand-foot drops on each side. Fixed chains set into the rock allow a safety grip on exposed sites for those traversing the edge of the fin, but it can be a terrifying ordeal for those who fear heights. It also is not a hike recommended for young children.

Despite that, it is a crowded trail, with frequent waits at narrow spots for hikers coming the opposite direction. The reward for those who travel the entire rock fin is an unequaled view of the Zion Canyon 1,500 feet below.

Read the entire article.

Friday, March 14, 2008

'Baselining' Over Hell Roaring Canyon

Extreme sports enthusiast Dean Potter is attempting to walk a tightrope over Hell Roaring Canyon (located just north of Canyonlands National Park).

The New York Times says the effort is an example of a new extreme sport called baselining - walking a tightrope at extreme heights.

The Times has this feature story about the attempt, with photos and a video clip.

So far, Potter has not been successful - parachuting to safety after losing his balance. But he intends to keep trying. Below are excerpts from the story.

This was something else entirely for Dean Potter, one of the world’s best climbers, barefoot in the dying sun last Friday, walking between ledges of a U-shaped rim above Hell Roaring Canyon, a 400-foot sheer sandstone wall on his right, a 900-foot drop to a dry riverbed on his left. No leash tethered him to the rope. Nothing attached him to earth but the grip of his size-14 feet and the confident belief that, if needed, his parachute would open quickly and cleanly and not slam him into the canyon wall.

"When there’s a death consequence, when you are doing things that if you mess up you die, I like the way it causes my senses to peak, "Potter said. "I can see more clearly. You can think much faster. You hear at a different level. Your foot contact on the line is accentuated. Your sense of balance is heightened. I don’t seem to feel that very often meditating."

Read the entire article.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

See Top US Ski Jumping & Nordic Athletes

The 2008 U.S. Ski Jumping & Nordic Combined Championships will be held March 14-16 at the Utah Olympic Park and Soldier Hollow. Admission is free. The public is invited to see these top athletes compete.

Below is a press release with info about the event:

The National Sports Foundation is partnering with the United States Ski & Snowboard Association to host the ski jumping and Nordic combined championships for the first time since before the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

The Utah Olympic Park and Soldier Hollow venues will welcome the nation’s best men and women ski jumpers as they vie for titles on both the normal and large Olympic ski jumps. The Nordic combined athletes will contest the cross-country portion of their event on the Olympic trails at Soldier Hollow.

Returning after a six-year hiatus, the event will draw approximately 75 of North America’s best athletes including World Champion and World Silver Medalists, Johnny Spillane and Billy Demong. This event will also provide another opportunity for the women athletes to showcase their abilities as they continue their quest for inclusion into the Olympic Games.

The 2008 National Championship will run March 14 – 16, with competitions on Saturday and Sunday.

Deck side viewing will also be possible during the Nordic combined cross-country race at Soldier Hollow. Saturday’s 7.5km Nordic Combined Sprint race will begin at 6:30 pm, once the sun hides behind the hills of Soldier Hollow. The course and stadium will be moved near the Soldier Hollow Lodge offering superb amenities to view the event.

Admission is free. For additional event information, please call 435 645 7660 ext 101.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Scientists Solve Mystery of Upheaval Dome

upheaval domeUpheaval Dome is a strangely eroded geologic structure in Canyonlands National Park. The Discovery Channel website has this report about new insights into its formation. Below are excerpts.

One of the longest-running mysteries in the U.S. National Parks has been solved: The crater-like Upheaval Dome in Utah's Canyonlands National Park was caused by a meteor impact, say German researchers.

For decades geologists have debated whether the picturesque "Sphinx of Geology," viewed by millions of park visitors, was created by a volcanic outburst, an eruption of salt or a meteor impact. Then a crucial clue was discovered: "shocked quartz," which can be created only by the intense pressures of a violent meteor impact.

This website has great background material on the dome.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Utah Set To Launch Tourism Ad Campaign

Utah's Office of Tourism will kick off its spring/summer advertising campaign beginning March 17, on nine national cable TV channels, plus local networks in Los Angeles, Denver and Phoenix.

Last year's ads proved to be popular and effective. You can see them here.

This article in the Salt Lake Tribune describes the new campaign. Below are excerpts.

Last year's main commercial, which showed all kinds of recreational gear pouring out of a baggage carousel at Salt Lake City International Airport, was a hit. It put Utah on the vacation map as a place with an abundance of fun, physical things to do. It helped lift the campaign's return on investment to $17.14 for every state tax dollar spent.

Striking visual scenes of whitewater rafting and other adventurous activities are still there (in the new campaign). But this rendition of the "Life Elevated" campaign emphasizes that Utah has cultural and culinary attractions, as well.
Ads show the Utah Symphony performing outdoors at Deer Valley Resort, and a crowded dining room at Hell's Backbone Grill in Boulder.

Water also is prominent in the state's self-portrait, part of the campaign's ongoing effort to depict Utah as a land of variety and abundance, of cool mountains, as well as sculptured desert.

"As gas prices rise, the whole idea of being just a tank or two away really hits home," said bureau executive director Maria Twitchell, noting that her area's collections of transient room tax rose markedly after last year's summer ad campaign.

Print ads will start appearing March 31 in five magazines: Conde Nast Traveler, Sunset, Outside, Backpacker and National Geographic Traveler.

The state campaign also involves a $265,000 investment in Internet ads through five Web groups, the most visible being

Read the entire article.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Shop Green in Salt Lake's Sugar House

Sunset Magazine has this article featuring "environmentally friendly retail therapy" in Sugar House, an eclectic neighborhood in Salt Lake City.

The article spotlights a handful of small businesses providing great service, hospitality and eco-friendly products. Here are tidbits:

House of Bread This bakery goes through 50 pounds of honey a day, and you smell it as soon as you enter. Owner Lynne Aoyama bakes bread made from Utah-grown organic wheat.

The Green Building Center A fantasyland for the eco-dreamer. Browse for beautiful, environmentally friendly products like flooring made from reclaimed railroad trestle, and countertops made from recycled paper and cashew resin.

Cactus & Tropicals Get your tropical fix in the dead of winter amid fragrant gardenias, lush orchids, and a splash of orange bromeliads.

Read the entire article.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

New York Times Says Ogden is Becoming a Center for Outdoor Sports

Ogden City is becoming a center of skiing and other outdoor sports, according to this new article in the New York Times. Below are excerpts.

Fresh powder snow has marketing advantages to the company (Amer Sports), which recently played host to nearly 100 retailers from across the country to test equipment personally on local slopes, some as close as 20 minutes from the old factory building.

Amer Sports is the latest sports-related company to move into Ogden, a former manufacturing town that is emerging from hard times as a center of skiing and other outdoor sports.

Other companies that have relocated here in the last five years include Rossignol, the French ski maker; Scott Sport, a maker of sportswear and bicycles; Goode Ski Technologies; and Nidecker, a Swiss snowboard maker. Kahuna Creatives, another snowboard maker, and Descente North America, a unit of a Japanese ski-wear maker, also have their headquarters in the city.

There were a number of attractions, both natural and financial, that drew Amer Sports to Ogden, a city of 87,000 people 22 miles north of Salt Lake City. A commuter rail line connecting the two cities is scheduled to open next month.

Read the entire article.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Terrain Park Challenge Set For Saturday at Snowbird

The Jeep Terrain Park Challenge will be held at Snowbird on Saturday, March 8, to promote ski and snowboard safety at terrain parks. has this article about the event. Below are excerpts.

Terrain parks, one of the nation’s newest and fastest growing trends, push skiing and snowboarding to the extreme as riders navigate through a series of pipes, rails, tabletops and other obstacles, while pulling off tricks or getting air. With the increasing number of terrain park riders, however, comes a risk of injury to beginner and expert riders alike. To address this concern, Snowbird Resort will bring together skiers and snowboarders to one of the nation’s best terrain parks and trains riders how to avoid injury when seeking big air or attempting extreme stunts. The Jeep Terrain Park Challenge guides riders through the National Ski Area Association’s Smart Style program, emphasizing awareness of surroundings, knowing one’s limits, and respecting other riders.

Read the entire article.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Smithsonian Butte National Back Country Byway

The scenery that makes Utah's national parks famous doesn't stop at the park boundaries. Many areas near the parks also offer majestic views and the opportunity for outstanding recreation.

One such spot is the Smithsonian Butte National Back Country Byway, which runs for 9 miles from Rockville, just outside Zion Natonal Park, to Hwy 59 southeast of Hurricane. The route cuts between Gooseberry Mesa and Smithsonian Butte, and provides amazing views in every direction.

Smithsonian Butte was named by John Wesley Powell when he explored the area. It offers Zion-like scenery in an area that draws only a small number of visitors every year.

The byway provides wonderful views into Zion Park and the Virgin River Valley, and out over Canaan Mountain to the south.

On the Rockville side, the road is steep as it climbs up the mountain. I was glad I had four-wheel-drive when I challenged the route on March 1, 2008. All the snow had melted from the area and the road was dry, but I had to climb over big rocks and through deep ruts. A high clearance vehicle was definitely needed on that stretch.

Up on top the road is much better, but high clearance is still advised.

As the season progresses the road will be graded and improved. But storms can make it a difficult go during any season of the year.

On top of the mountain there are prime spots for primitative camping, in a beautiful pine forest. There are no services along the road, and no developed campgrounds, but plenty of opportunity to explore.

It you want a scenic drive through amazing country, give it a try.

- Dave Webb

Monday, March 03, 2008

Zion Park Lodge Honored for Eco-Friendly Innovations

The historic Zion Lodge, located inside Zion National Park, was named the Sustainable Hotel of the Year at the recent HotelWorld Global Hospitality and Design Award Ceremony and Expo in Las Vegas. has this new article describing the award. Here are excerpts:

“With its setting in one of the country’s most breathtaking national parks and because of its remarkable history, it is especially critical to do everything we can to minimize the environmental impact of Zion Lodge,” said Chris Lane, vice president of environmental affairs for Xanterra (the company operating the lodge). “We have been successful in implementing new technologies and products, and we are already applying those successes to programs at other Xanterra lodges and resorts throughout the country.”

"Xanterra last year created six eco-friendly suites at Zion Lodge. The goals of the project were to incorporate as many environmentally sustainable features as possible and to ultimately reduce the consumption of natural resources and eliminate waste. The suites feature sustainable bamboo floor entryways, recycled content carpet, dual-flush toilets, filtered drinking water, organic cotton sheets and linens, all-natural biodegradable soaps and other amenities, shampoos and moisturizers in bulk dispensers, compact fluorescent lighting, automated heat and air-conditioning sensors, use of biodegradable and non-toxic cleaners, complimentary organic coffee and tea, key card lighting controls and LED nightlights."

Read the complete article.
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