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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Omakase at Naked Fish Japanese Bistro, Salt Lake City Utah

Omakase Naked Fish

There are some people who view food as fuel, as a time you stop to renourish the body three times a day.  And then there are the kind of people who wake up thinking about what they are going to have for dinner, and all the meals in between they will partake in to hold them off until this magical hour of the day called dinner.  If you've been reading this blog enough, you probably know I lean heavily on the latter.  When I heard about the Omakase at Naked Fish, my dinner driven brain was beyond excited to experience this event first hand.  And I can't think of a better way to celebrate a special event than 9 amazing courses, several which are revolved around my true love, seafood. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

VIDEO: House On Fire Ruins - South Fork Mule Canyon

House On Fire Ruins

I had no idea that southeastern Utah was home to so many ancient ruins.  I wasn't really aware of Utah's ancient Pueblan history until my visit to Capitol Reef when I saw the petroglyphs carved into the walls.  While visiting Natural Bridges National Monument I saw the amazing horse collar ruins along the canyon walls.  A trip to Mule Canyon provided more amazing ruins in several different spots along canyon walls.  There aren't many places left where you can walk right up to a ruin (still intact in its natural location).  The most notable and famous set of ruins in this area is the House On Fire ruins in the South Fork of Mule Canyon, Cedar Mesa. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Moki Dugway and Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridges National Monument is never the first park you hear about when someone mentions Utah.  I bet many travelers haven't even heard of this place, and I will admit, it was a new name to me. Utah's Mighty Five (the five National Parks) really steals the spotlight in the NPS system for the state of Utah.  However, tucked away in the southeastern corner of the state, by the four corners of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado lies Utah's first National Monument. 

First impressions:  This National Monument is definitely worth a visit.  The problem is, it's pretty far from Salt Lake City (about 5.5 hours).  While there isn't a ton to do at this park (with only one long hike and three natural bridges), there is a lot of history with the Indian ruins, and the beautiful natural bridges do not disappoint.  Another issue is this parks location from civilization.  It is really far from the nearest town.  But with that being said, if you want to see the stars, this is THE place to do it.  The park is cheap, at only $10 a car and your NP Pass will work here. However being a National Park, dogs are only allowed in the parking lots and not on the trails. 

 Because of its location, I will likely never be back to this park. BUT I definitely think its worth visiting once for its natural bridges, solitude and star gazing.  Pair this park with at trip to Goosenecks State Park and Monument Valley, and a visit to the four corners to make for an awesome Southeastern Utah adventure.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

I am pretty sure everyone knows even a little about Monument Valley.  If you haven't heard the name before, then you certainly saw it on film.  This tribal park has served as the backdrop for various films such as National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), Back to the Future part III (1990), Forest Gump (1994), Disney's The Lone Ranger (2013), and a ton of old western movies. I am sure you recognize this famous backdrop, the long paved road to Monument Valley, from Forest Gump. 

What you probably didn't know, is that Monument Valley is a Tribal Park located on the Navajo Indian Reservation. The Monument Valley Navajo Tribal park was established in 1958 and covers about 30,000 acres.  The park lies on the Utah/Arizona border, with most of the monuments on the Arizona side.  The park has an entrance fee and because it is tribal land on the Navajo Indian Reservation (not National Park land) your National Park pass will not work here.  

Monday, March 21, 2016

Goosenecks State Park, Southeastern Utah

Goosenecks State Park
As far as campsites go, Goosenecks State Park is the bees knees.  

Amazing views, dispersed "camp where you want", basic amenities, dog-friendly, really affordable prices, and generally empty.  Those are some of the best qualities about a campground.

Some campgrounds are strict, quite expensive, and insanely crowded.  Usually, it's camp ONLY in designated spots, $25 a night and GOOD LUCK finding a spot if you don't show up mid-week.  I have had to sleep in my car parked next to the bathrooms in Arches National Park because I could not find an open campsite, even in the off-season, and overnight parking is only allowed in campgrounds.  I won't even go into the details of the pit toilets at popular campsites (you are welcome). 

Not only was I not able to pitch my tent I had so delicately packed along with its various necessities, but I still had to pay the $25 fee to "camp" there.  Thankfully I learned my lesson and avoid camping in the National Parks if I can.  If you read my post about all the BLM camping in Moab, it is quite easy to avoid those National Park campgrounds and find something better, less crowded, and for half the price.  

Friday, March 18, 2016

Spiral Jetty, Rozel Point Great Salt Lake, Utah

Spiral Jetty

If you live in Utah, you have heard of the Spiral Jetty.  You heard about the rock art that was submerged for years, or maybe you are just a fan of Epic's Spiral Jetty IPA named after this spot, and formed the association there.  Either way, it's just one of those places that you need to see once if you live in Utah.  It's a weird classic Utah site that just makes its way onto everyone's Utah list

Only problem is the Spiral Jetty really isn't all that easy to get to.  It is located about 2 hours north of Salt Lake City, on the Great Salt Lake at Rozel Point in Box Elder County, Utah.  Not only is it far from SLC, but its pretty much far away from everything, and its access down a long dirt road isn't for everyone.  We made the journey on a rainy day in Utah, with a good audiobook on the stereo.  And to really make the trip worth the while, we combined it with a visit to Golden Spike National Historic Site, a fun little spot you pass on your way to Spiral Jetty. If you really want to make this a crazy day full of northern Utah, you can also stop at the Bear River National Migratory Bird Refuge, about 30 minutes out of the way but located in the same general area. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Golden Spike National Historic Site. Promontory Summit, Utah

Visiting Golden Spike National Historic Site

March has been the month of the Utah Bucket List. It was about some classic Utah sights that I really needed to nail down and add to my priority list. Visiting the Spiral Jetty on the northern edge of Great Salt Lake was definitely on that list. Only problem is that it seems a little crazy to drive nearly 2 hours to look at a bunch of rocks in a spiral formation. And while the drive is beautiful through Northern Utah (and I have been dominating the libraries selection of free audiobooks) it is still almost 4 hours round trip to see the jetty.  But, you can easily justify the trip if you throw in another Utah classic, like visiting Golden Spike National Historic Site.  
Two awesome Northern Utah sights, one tank of gas.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Fifth Water / Diamond Fork Hot Springs

This hike has been on my list for over a year.  I have seen so many pictures of the milky blue, clear, and green pools at fifth water, and wanted to see the hot springs for myself (and do a little soaking of course).  Atleast once a month I would bring up the idea of this hike, but for one reason or another, it just never happened.  Too hot out, too cold out, ski weekend, a week away, hike to long, and the list goes on.  Life happens when we are busy making other plans.  Well, finally Amanda and I decided no more excuses.  We packed our bags, grabbed our dogs (dog friendly hike!), and headed south to Spanish Fork. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Camping Near Moab (with a Camping Checklist!)

Welcome to my Camping in Moab post

Let me start by saying Moab is one of my favorite places.  National Parks, amazing hiking and camping, world-class climbing, amazing mountain biking, nights spent under the desert sky and days spent on slick rock and red rock.  Moab just plain rocks (pun intended).  If you are heading to Moab you should spend a few days exploring this amazing playground for outdoor lovers.  So today, we are talking about camping in Moab.  Not only are you going to get all the information you need about the Camping in Moab, but you are also getting my (car) camping checklist.  Happy Freaking Friday Friends!

Moab is a camping mecca.  Moab offers a ton of camping options from campgrounds in the National Parks to your standard large commercial KOA style campgrounds.  However, I think some of the best sites our outside the National Parks, especially if you are okay with the "no frills" options.  For this post, we are going to focus on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campgrounds because if you chose to camp outside the National Parks, the fees are relatively cheaper, dog-friendly, less crowded, and with fewer restrictions.   So let's talk BLM camping areas.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) maintains 24 campgrounds in the Moab area.  BLM camp campsites are available on a first-come/first-served basis only meaning no reservations are accepted.  The good news is this gives you a higher chance of actually getting a campsite.  The bad news is it's a little tougher to plan.  You don't have to book 3 months out but yes, you need to be smart about when you show up, especially during the busy season and holiday weekends.

Along Highway 128

Along Highway 279
Along Highway 313
Along Kane Creek Road
Ken's Lake Area
Canyon Rims Recreation Area
Sand Flats Recreation Area
National Parks (not discussed here)
Reservable Group Campsites (reserved through

Dispersed Camping
Primitive Camping On Public Lands (free camping)

While the busy seasons like spring can be more crowded, if you go in the offseason, you may even get the entire campsite to yourself (we sure did!).   So now you know the basics, let's talk BLM camping areas, strategies for getting one, how much they cost, length of stays, and much more.

This link will bring you to the BLM campground website where you will see all of the campsites listed by area with information such as elevation, number of sites, amenities, etc.  Every site is listed out with all the information you need including mileage off the main access roads.  

These campgrounds are the walk-up tent site variety.  But if glamping or RVing is your thing, RV friendly campgrounds include Goose IslandBig BendHittle BottomGoldbarHorsethief, and Ken’s Lake. While nearly all of the sites are first come first serve, many of the campgrounds feature reservable group sites suitable for gatherings. 

Strategy for finding a campsite on Moab BLM
The campgrounds that are the nearest to Moab generally fill first, especially during April, May and October. For instance, if you want to choose one of the 11 BLM campgrounds along Highway 128, the first one, Goose Island, will usually fill first. . . then they will fill in progression up the highway, going away from Moab.  As campsites get more popular, they fill up faster and faster.  BLM includes this information on their website to help guide you in the process for finding a campsite in the first come first served process. 
  • Goose Island and Grandstaff campgrounds typically fill between 8:00-10:00 a.m. every day.
  • Big Bend and the surrounding campgrounds, Horsethief Campground on SR 128 and King's Bottom on Kane Creek typically fill by noon to mid-afternoon (sooner Fri-Sat). 
  • The Upper Colorado River (Hwy128) campgrounds usually fill in the late afternoons or evenings.
  • Ken's Lake Campground often fill mid- afternoon or early evening--sometimes earlier on busy weekends.
  • The Ledges campgrounds (5) typically do not fill except for busy holiday weekends due to the distance from Moab and graveled road (8-10 miles).
  • Windwhistle and Hatch Point Campgrounds (30+) miles south of Moab usually have sites available, except on holiday weekends. Hatch Point rarely fills, but requires driving 9 miles on a graveled road.

How long can you camp? Camping at all sites is limited to 14 days within a 30-day period.  The campsites are well kept, usually with vault toilets and a dumpster for garbage.  What are you missing?  A lot of the campgrounds do not have running water.  However, you are in Moab where there are plenty of stores to grab water, firewood, or whatever staples you may need. 

Find the interactive map here

The BLM Site did an amazing job of organizing all of this information for you, as well as maps, tables, and directions.  As someone who has spent a lot of time looking for campgrounds in certain areas of Utah before, this is amazing. I printed out this map (above) and the table (below) and headed off to Moab to find a campsite.  Not only can you see them all on the map, but you can get directions, the number of sites, and the cost of each site. And the BEST part yet?  Again, don't forget, they are first come first served.  Meaning you don't need to book a site 6 months in advance, you just need to show up early on a Friday morning!  Procrastinators unite. 

How much?
All individual sites: $15/night.  You pay at campground generally in a lock box leave a check style- cash or check only.

All BLM campgrounds and camping areas have vault toilets, fire rings and are open year round. Firewood gathering is not allowed and you will need to bring your own wood (you can find camp wood at all the convenience stores in Moab). NO water or electricity available in the campgrounds. Bring your own water and solar batteries/chargers if needed. 

Where else can I camp?
The Moab Field Office receives about 2 million visitors per year. Many of these visitors wish to camp, and many of these want to camp in close proximity to Moab. Because of the volume of visitors to the Moab area, the BLM has found it necessary to restrict camping to campgrounds or designated sites in our very popular areas. Campgrounds are found along Highways 128, 313 and 279, on the Kane Creek Road, at Ken's Lake, in the Canyon Rims Recreation Area, and in the Sand Flats Recreation Area. Click here for information on dispersed camping and restricted camping areas.

Primitive Camping On Public Lands (free camping) more info
Moab Area Camping Restrictions  Camping is restricted to designated sites in the areas shown on the map above. These sites are marked with a brown post and a tent symbol. These designated sites are free, but no facilities are provided. -  Campers are required to carry out all garbage, including solid human waste and toilet paper. There is no wood cutting or collection allowed. **Campers are required to possess, set up and use portable toilets. Campers may not bury or leave solid human body waste and toilet paper. The disposal of solid human waste off public land is required. 

Primitive Camping Areas
-Dubinky Well Road - 12 sites on the east side of the road
-Gemini Bridges Road - 6 campsites located in Bride Canyon. 
-Cotter Mine Road- 10 sites located just off HWY 191 and north of SR 313
-Dripping Springs Area - 6 large campsites near Tenmile Wash
-Black Ridge Area - 6 sites located in the camping area.
-Picture Frame Arch Area - 4 sites located in the Behind the Rocks area located six miles southwest from Moab off Hwy. 191

There are several areas in which no sites are designated and camping is not allowed. The Shafer Basin, which forms the viewshed of Dead Horse Point State Park and is important bighorn sheep habitat, has no sites. Long Canyon, which is subject to extreme flooding and is also important bighorn habitat, has no sites. No camping is allowed in the Mill Creek area immediately east of the city of Moab, or on the west side of Spanish Valley. No camping is allowed within one mile of developed recreation sites in the Canyon Rims Recreation Area.

In addition to these, Moab also has 13 commercial campgrounds:

We ended up camping at Jaycee Park along Potash Road (Highway 279). Even if you don't end up camping along this road, it is worth it for the scenic drive.  On one side, you have the beautiful winding Colorado River and on the other side, you have a wall of rock known as "Wall Street", a popular area with the climbers (apparently Moab offers some of the best climbing in the world).  Driving down the road, we saw a lot of climbers on the side of the road tackling Wall Street. 

We arrived at our campsite, Jaycee Park.  It was the first campground off of Potash Road and had seven sites.  It was located right along the road on the opposite side of the Colorado River. There was a bulletin board with instructions to pay, a clean vault toilet, a dumpster for garbage, and each campsite had a picnic table and a fire ring with a grill.  There was only one other site reserved so we almost had the entire campground to ourselves. 

Bring a check or cash for the camping fee.  It was $15 per night, where you put the money in an envelope, dropped it into the slot, and left the ticket stub on the clip of your campsite.  There was no running water but we had enough that it was not an issue. 

And now, the list I use for every camping trip.  This is for car camping obviously as you are not going to backpack or hike all of this in.  For a great backpacking list, check out Girl on a Hike's complete list here.  But if you are car camping (as I usually am) then this is a great list to have on hand while packing up the car.  If you have any suggestions or additions to the list, feel free to leave them in the comments and I will keep updating the list.   You can even grab my printable PDF here.

printable PDF here

While In Moab... 

Hike Nego Bills Canyon (Dog Friendly)
Hike Dead Horse Point State Park (Dog Friendly)
Hike Corona and Bowtie Arch (Dog Friendly)
Mountain Bike Lower Monitor and Merrimack (Dog Friendly)
Mountain Bike Navajo Rocks  (Dog Friendly)
Hike Mill Creek Canyon and Waterfall  ((Dog Friendly)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Dog Friendly Mill Creek Canyon Waterfall Hike- Moab Utah

Dog-Friendly, Waterfall, and Free
Let me say this is the Trifecta of Hiking
At least, when you are on a budget and bring your dog everywhere.  
And we all love a gorgeous waterfall at the end of a hike.  

After mountain biking, we wanted a short trail where Olive could spend some time in the water before heading back to the campsite.  And lets be honest, there is just something about hiking along water that sings to my soul.  And when it ends at a waterfall?  Bonus. Not only is this a great hike year round, but this hike is perfect for the hot summer months of Moab.  There is water a majority of the way for your dog (no hauling drinking water for fido), and you have to cross the stream in several spots, forcing you to cool off in the stream.

Mountain Biking Navajo Rocks - Moab's newest trails!

After having fun on the M&M trail, and confident in our bikes and legs, we decided to spend another day on our bikes.  I did a little bit of research for another trail while sipping amazing coffee from Moab Coffee Roasters when I came across Navajo Rocks. 

Again, I needed beginner/intermediate levels and dog-friendly trails.  The easy part is virtually everything outside of the national parks is dog friendly.  The hard part can be finding the right trail for your skill and comfort level.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Lower Monitor and Merrimac Mountain Biking Trail - Moab, Utah

I was looking for some beginner/intermediate trails for a weekend spent hiking and mountain biking in Moab.  I have seen friends come back bloodied and bruised after tackling some of Moab's famous and challenging trails like Whole Enchilada.  
I wanted the opposite of that.  

Monday, March 7, 2016

Dog Friendly! Corona and Bowtie Arch - Moab, Utah

Delicate Arch is always in the spotlight when it comes to Moab's arches. But I am here to tell you there are a few gorgeous and equally as impressive Arches outside of the National Park's borders.  

What is the advantage of visiting Moab 
and hiking outside of the National Parks?  

Well, for starters, it is free.  The National Parks are about $25 a car to enter, where as hikes on BLM land are free and open to the public.  Secondly, while the National Parks do not allow dogs anywhere on their trails (only in parking lots and paved roads), hikes outside the park are dog friendly. Fido is welcome on BLM land and State Parks.   And lastly (and most importantly) you can avoid the mobs and crowds that flea to our beautiful National Parks.  Hiking trails outside the park are deserted compared to the high number of visitors on the trails at National Parks.  While everyone heads to Delicate Arch, head to Corona Arch. 

Dogs, free, and less people.  Have I convinced you yet?

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Recipe: Champagne Cake


Some weekends, I load up the car and drive hours and hours to spend the weekend hiking, camping and not showering.  And then some weekends, I spent hours in the kitchen cooking up everything delicious I can think of.  This weekend was the latter.  I spent hours in my kitchen cooking up roasted turkey, homemade spaghetti sauce, fresh homemade bread, and the best of all, champagne cake. While I don't typically share recipes on this blog, this one was too good not to share. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

(Dog Friendly!) Cross Country Skiing in Utah

I have been wanting to try Cross country skiing for a while.  I know it's going to be work, but I have this image of me gliding around on skis on a beautiful freshly snowed terrain.  I also have this image of Olive pulling me when I get too lazy to propel myself.  

Let's just stop right here so I can mention neither of these fantasies happened as planned.  Fresh snow was replaced with icy trails and a few diggers, and Olive decided this is the one time in her life she didn't want to drag me around.  Experience and expectations were a little different, but either way, I loved learning to Cross Country ski and having Olive with me. Be prepared to spend a little bit of time on you butt if the downhill is icy.  

But know this... 
the boots are so much more comfortable than regular ski boots. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Video : And eating our way through San Juan

My new favorite thing, is organizing the food of my travels onto a post (with an awesome RECAP video at the end!).  Because lets be honest, the food just may be the best part about traveling.  Being on vacation and trying new food is the best combination (calories don't count once you get off the plane).  

A Few Things About The Food: 

My initial thoughts of Puerto Rico would be an abundance of fresh seafood, tacos, and plantains.  And in a few ways, I my thoughts were right, and wrong.  
  • Tacos were mediocre
  • Mofongo absolutely delicious (and really really heavy)
  • Mojitos are perfection
  • Fresh (not fried) seafood was not as abundant as I thought
  • Amazing homemade sauces
  • Vegetables are a rare sighting

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Visiting Condado, Puerto Rico

Because the main reason of our visit was to celebrate the Hill's wedding in Old San Juan, we took their advice in looking for lodging in the beautiful area of Condado Area.  Everyone seemed to be staying in this trendy section of San Juan.  This post is all about places to stay, where to eat, and what to do in the Condado section of Puerto Rico, with the help of Jillian Hill with her exquisite taste, and our shared love of good food.  She has visited the island many times, and put a lot of work in organizing  all of the restaurants and hotels in this post. 

Quick facts:
Eastern part of Old San Juan
Can be expensive
Very safe
Beautiful span of beaches
Adjacent to the lagoon
Right next to Old San Juan
Close to the airport (15 minutes, 9km, $19 cab ride)