Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Top 2015 Adventures

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2015 was an amazing year for me! 

I am always amazed that I am able to travel so much on my budget. I don't make a lot of money, so I consider myself very lucky to be able to have hiked, camped, and seen the places that I did this year. Many of these trips and hikes were accompanied mostly by old friends, but along the way met new friends, did some solo travel, and was able to create fantastic memories.

In 2014, I started a hiking log to see how many miles I hiked, how much elevation I gained, how many hours of my life were spent hiking, and rated each hike on a 5 point scale (5 being the best). I took things like beauty, serenity, views, the trail, the companionship, and just an overall vibe of the trip into account. In 2014, I had hiked 518 miles! Keeping a hiking log not only reminds me of where I've traveled to or hiked, but a great way to keep track of my outdoor accomplishments. At the end of the year it feels good to look back and say, "I did that."

2015 was no different - I traveled to several places that had been on my hiking "to do" list for a long time, namely in Yosemite National Park and Acadia National Park. Not only did I get to visit Acadia NP as a tourist, but also as a local having lived there for a whole month on an internship through The Student Conservation Association

Here are my hiking stats for 2015. Keep in mind this does not take into account the countless dog walks with Charlie at the dog park.

Hikes: 85
Miles: 412 
Elevation gain: 106,565 ft
Time spent hiking: 277 hours
Peaks summited: 18
1 pair of hiking shoes 

Here are photos from my most memorable trips this year.

Peekaboo Slot Canyon
Spooky & Peekaboo Slot Canyons 
Upper Calf Creek Falls
Upper Calf Creek Falls - my favorite Utah waterfall hike!
Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Antelope Canyon, AZ
Rattlesnake Canyon, Arizona
Rattlesnake Canyon, AZ with my parents
Twin Peaks, Wasatch Mountains
Twin Peaks, Wasatch Mountains
Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
 On top of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
  At the base of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
Mt. Agassiz, Uintas
 Mt. Agassiz with Charlie, Uintas
Wheeler Peak, Great Basin National Park
 Wheeler Peak, Great Basin National Park

Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park, Maine
Ibapah Peak, Deep Creek Mountains
Ibapah Peak, Deep Creek Mountains (NV/UT border)

One of the biggest things I learned through my adventures this year is how important it is to travel on my own. It felt so freeing, exciting, adventurous, and amazing to travel alone. Not because I didn't have anyone to answer to (though that was nice too), but because I was able to reconnect with myself and learn more about me, it gave me more confidence to travel and hike alone and to know that I could do anything myself, it also taught me that traveling alone doesn't mean I am lonely, and lets be honest - it gave me a mental break from reality.

I appreciate all those who have been in my life, and support me in my outdoor goals.

I have a lot in store for me for 2016, and am excited to see what adventures come my way.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Cross Country Skiing at Mountain Dell Recreation Area

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Mountain Dell Recreation Area, Mountain Dell cross country skiing
Mountain Dell Recreation Area is a cross country (xc) skiing area and sledding area in the Winter, and converts to a golf course in Summer. During Winter, Mountain Dell is maintained by TUNA.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

First XC Ski of the Season!

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If you live in Utah, you know that the Salt Lake valley and surrounding areas got around 12-18 inches of fresh snow in the last 3 days! I've been having some major powder fever and needed to get out! It's been hard for me to sneak out of work early the past two days to do some downhill skiing, so this morning I woke up at 6am, so I could be up Millcreek Canyon early enough to get a quick xc ski in and still be to work at a decent time. I love coming up here early in the mornings during the week, because nobody else is up here! The mornings offer fresh snow as well, so I can make my own tracks.

This morning was my first time out for the Winter season, so I only wanted to go out for less than an hour. I decided to just ski past the winter gate, up to Elbow Fork, then return the same way. Skiing up the road is very mellow, with beautiful scenery, and is only 3 miles round trip. 

The same leash laws are used during winter past the winter gate: Dogs can be off leash on ODD days only, and must be leashed on EVEN days. Dogs must always be leashed in parking lots.

Directions: In SLC, head West on I-80 towards Park City, then head south on I-215. Take exit 4 for Wasatch Blvd/3900 South. Turn left at the stop sign, then left again onto Wasatch Blvd. Turn right at the next light for Millcreek Canyon. Drive to the very end of the road where the winter gate is. There are restrooms available. Keep in mind that Millcreek Canyon charges a $3 fee upon exit. You can also get an annual pass for $40 at the booth, and is separate from the National Park Pass and State Park Pass.

What the winter gate parking area looks like. Nobody there at 8am!
In the Wasatch National Forest territory.
 Beautiful snowy trees and trail.
 I could not get enough of these trees and how beautiful everything looked!
 Winter wonderland!
Even doggies like snow masks!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Lookout Peak

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Hiking to Lookout Peak, Killyons Canyon, Emigration Canyon, Utah
I am often asked, "How do you find all these trails you do?" The honest answer, is when I am out hiking, and I see a peak I think to myself, "I gotta do that peak" or "I gotta check that area out!" So then I do a little research on those peaks/trails and just get out and go for it!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hiking to The Living Room, Salt Lake City

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The Living Room hike, Utah, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
When I can't sleep, I hike. This was the case on Sunday morning at 7am, so instead of doing another boring dog walk at the dog park, I thought I'd get some exercise in and hike the up to The Living Room. However, because I've done this hike countless times, I like to switch it up and hike up the "fun" way - along the ridge. Plus, I figured on a Sunday morning that it would be empty up there. I was right. If you hike up here on a Friday night or during the day on the weekends, The Living Room can get really crowded. I've been up there when 40-50 people are all trying to see the sun set, or just relax and drink a beer.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Hiking to Little Black Mountain

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Hiking to Little Black Mountain, Utah, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Little Black Mountain sits above the Avenues neighborhood in SLC, and although it seems close, it's looks are deceiving. This trail offers great views of the SLC valley and the BST (Bonneville Shoreline Trails), but get ready to give your hips and calves a work out. Most of the trail is along the BST ridgeline, but gains 900 ft in 1/2 mile! 

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Black Mesa Indian Ruins, Arizona

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Black Mesa Indian Ruins
My Thanksgiving weekend was spent with my parents in Phoenix, AZ, and instead of shopping on Black Friday, we wanted #OptOutside and explore an area they had heard about called the Black Mesa Indian Ruins. Hundreds, and maybe thousands, of people drive by the "trail head" every day, but not many know that there are 800 year old ruins sitting on top of the mesa. I put "trail head" in quotes because there's not really a trail - just route finding through thick cactus.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

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DAR Photography, Girlonahike, Jessie Medina Co.
 Happy Thanksgiving!
Charlie and I had a wonderful Fall. 
Life has it's ups and downs but in the end I'm always thankful for what I have and that Charlie is in my life. He is my best buddy, my adventure partner, my snuggle bug, my confidant, and my furry four-legged child. 

Thanksgiving should not be the only day of the year where we appreciate what we have. Be thankful for what you have everyday and you'll end up having more. 

My dear friend, Stephen Hatch, of Resources For Spiritual Growth, captures this thought perfectly.

"Thankfulness is not a kind of overcoat, to be worn and then shed one day a year. Rather, it is the very essence of a spirtual approach to life. A grateful attitude seeks continually to uncover the goodness lurking inside the difficult, and the deeper reality hiding within the realm of physically-perceived beauty. For our appreciation of light, color, curve and form acts as a kind of slingshot propelling us endlessly toward the innermost meaning of things.

DAR Photography, Girlonahike, Jessie Medina Co.
Thank you DAR Photography & Jessie Medina Company for taking amazing Fall photos with me and my baby, Charlie. you can also follow Jessie Medina Co on Instagram here, and DAR Photography here.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Cosmic Ashtray

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My weekend adventure took me to the heart of the San Rafael Swell to a unique rock formation called the Cosmic Ashtray. This is one of the most mystifying geological formations in Utah. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sunset Peak via Catherine Pass

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sunset peak via catherine pass
Sunset Peak (10,648 ft) has been on my hiking to-do list for almost 2 years! Why haven't I done it sooner?! It's a very accessible peak to summit year round, as long as avalanche danger isn't high. Sunset peak offers a 360 degree view of the Wasatch Mountains, plus a view of Heber City, Park City, and the Salt Lake Valley. Hiking up via Catherine Pass/Alta contains a great mix of meadow, wooded areas, a fantastic vistas. Hiking this trail provides for a good workout, but getting to the peak doesn't require months of training.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Little Wild Horse Canyon

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Hiking Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah
Little Wild Horse Canyon is the perfect introduction to slot canyons in Utah - it was actually my first slot canyon in April 2014. This slot canyon is easy to navigate, the trail is well marked, it's usually free of standing water, the canyon walls are just wide enough for you to fit through, you can drive to the trail head in a small, compact car (most slot canyon entrances require a 4X4 car to get to the TH), you can hike this within 2 hours, and it's like a fun maze for kids and dogs. You can make this hike longer by completing it as a loop with Bell Canyon, however most people just hike in as far as they want up Little Wild Horse, then return they way they came.

Most people that visit here combine their visit with Goblin Valley State Park, since it is only about 5 miles away. There is plenty of areas to camp for free, since this is on BLM land, or you can make a reservation at the Goblin Valley SP Campground. The best times to visit this area are in Spring or late Fall, when the temperatures are too hot. If you can hike here on a weekday, you will see maybe 2-3 other cars. Come on a weekend though, and everything will be packed.

**Warning: You do not want to enter this canyon if rain is in the forecast. Slot Canyons are prone to flash floods, and can be highly dangerous**

Head south on I-15 towards Spanish Fork, UT. Take exit 257 towards Price, UT and drive through Spanish Fork Canyon, Price, and Wellington until you reach I-70. Head West on I-70 towards Salina. Drive for 8 miles then take exit 149 for Goblin Valley. Follow the signs for another 36 miles. Just after the Goblin Valley SP sign, turn right onto the next road, with the sign pointing to Little Wild Horse and Muddy Creek. Drive 5.3 miles, and just after the 3rd "dip", the TH will be on your right with a large parking lot and restroom.

Distance: varies, but most people hike about a total of 3 miles.
Elevation gain: none
Time: varies, 1 hour - 8 hours
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? Yes

Hiking Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah
Here is the TH for LWH. There is one restroom. Be sure to sign the visitor log in case anything happens to you.
Hiking Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah
You will immediately drop down to the dry wash. 
Hiking Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah
The sun was going down quickly on us, so we had to walk faster than normal. When you get to this spot, look for the small sign and cairn on your left, and head up the rock the dogs are on.
Hiking Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah
Work your way around the ledge, then drop down. You'll see this sign for LWH and Bell Canyon. Go right at the split for LWH.
Hiking Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah
The canyon entrance.
Hiking Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah
Charlie poses for me in the canyon. 
Hiking Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah
Charlie and his buddy Bonnie LOVED playing and running in this canyon! The walls are just wide enough for them to walk through. I would suggest only bringing dogs that are under 70 lbs., otherwise they won't fit or be able to turn around.
Hiking Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah
This is my favorite photo from this trip. It's so funny to me how Charlie is poking his head up over this rock. He actually had a little trouble getting over this rock, and needed help. So he sat there and waited for me to come back to him.
Hiking Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah
The canyon walls get taller, and even narrower. I suggest not wearing very good clothes in this canyon because they will get scraped up from the walls. Also, don't use a huge pack - a pack of less than 30 liters will fit just fine. Anything over that you'll need to take off, and hand up to someone so you can fit through. I don't recommend dogs to wear their pack either. The first time I came here in 2014, Charlie had his dog pack on and had trouble getting through the canyon.
Hiking Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah
We were a little short on time, and decided to stop at this large opening with this boulder. The canyon keep going from here, and looks about the same as what you have already seen. If you have time, I recommend to go a little further. This is a great spot for a snack break.
Little Wild Horse canyon map
Here are two maps angles to show the show the route you will follow. You really can't get lost here with how popular it is.
Little Wild Horse canyon map

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Hiking Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Goblin Valley State Park

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Goblin Valley State Park
Goblin Valley State Park feels like another world - most say it resembles what would be Mars, however the park sits at the northern end of the San Rafael Swell. The hoodoos ("goblins") are mushroom-shaped pinnacles that are only a few feet high. The formations have large orange/red boulders of hard rock on top, with weaker sand layers below that have eroded more quickly over millions of years from the combined effects of rain and wind.

Spotted Wolf Canyon Overlook

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Spotted Wolf Canyon overlook
Spotted Wolf Canyon is located off I-70 at the Northern end of the San Rafael Swell, which makes up about 1/4 of Utah. "The Swell" as us Utahns call it, is what most people think of when they think of Utah. The arid area, with little vegetation is often very scenic, with mesas, cliffs, buttes, springs, and many canyons; these are sometimes wide or can be very narrow such as Little Wild Horse Canyon. Most of the swell is owned by the BLM and encompasses 2,000 square miles! This is great for 3 main reasons in my opinion: 1) the land is protected and will not be built on 2) dogs are allowed off leash 3) you can camp almost anywhere, for free!

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Wave

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The Wave
 The Wave is a hiker & photographers dream destination! The smooth, unique rock formations make for an unforgettable experience. The Wave has become so popular in the last few years due to social media, photographers, and many articles naming it one of the "coolest", "most unique", "most isolated", most blah blah places on earth! And it really is. However, people don't do their research before hiking here and many have needed to be rescued or have even died while gone missing. Why? The reason is because they go unprepared. There is no trail, the temperatures can be up to 115 degrees in summer, and people don't bring enough water and food. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Island Lake, Uintas

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Island Lake is one of many gorgeous lakes in the Uintas - it can be hard to choose which lake to visit. This lake offers a quick backpacking trip, cliff jumping, swimming, fishing, & solitude in the summer months. If you are feeling adventurous, you could even hike up to one of the three surrounding peaks. Hiking to Island Lake is an easy, family friendly hike, that even the dogs can join in on.