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Friday, July 29, 2016

Sugarloaf Peak

When I was doing my research to hike Cecret Lake (i.e. a quick google search while sitting in my car), I noticed that Cecret Lake was a rather short and really busy hike.  I read all the important details and then got into the best part of any trail guide....reading through all the comments.  A few people noted that the trail extended to a relatively easy 11,051 peak to summit, Sugarloaf Peak. 
Easiest 11,000'er in the Wasatch I have been told. 

After leaving the lake, you could follow the well established (but smaller) trail past the lake, up some more elevation, past the ski lift and dirt roads to the ridge between Alta and Snowbird. The views from here were amazing and by far, my favorite part of the hike.  While I highly encourage you to make it to the peak if you only make it to the ridge it's still a gorgeous hike.  I spent some time on this ridge, standing amid Snowbird and Alta ski lifts, with wild flowers all around and Mount Timpanogos towering in the background. Eventually, I continued on up the steep and slightly scrambled trail to the Sugarloaf Summit at 11,000'.  This is the perfect way to leave the mobs behind at Cecret Lake and have some peace and quiet on the trail. 

Posing among the peaks 
First Impressions: Sugarloaf Peak was a fun and relatively easy peak to summit. There is something about a hike that leads to an actual peak that makes you feel like "a real hiker". Standing on that summit with a 360 view of the land around you is a great feeling.  The views of the surrounding peaks, the breeze, the sun, and Cecret Lake far off below you.
This hike is even better when like I did, you have the summit to yourself on a sunny day with a light breeze and a packed lunch.  This is the only place a gas station pre-made sandwich tastes good. 

 The last part was strenuous and steep, with some slippery pitches. You will have to navigate your way across shale for the last stretch of the hike. I took a (few) tumbles while trying to get down this slippery slope without trekking poles and have some skinned up knees to prove it. 

The view at the top was absolutely wonderful, with views of other peaks, and Cecret Lake below. If you don’t want to make it all the way to the peak, you can stop at the ridge between Alta an Snowbird for some of my favorite views of the entire hike. Take in the beauty of Timp in the distance, and relax by the Sugarloaf Peak lift. I was also told you could hike all the way up to the Snowbird lift, take the lift down (pay up, free down!) to a second car and get a ride back to your car at Alta. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Cecret Lake - Albion Basin

Cecret Lake Albion Basin
Cecret Lake - Albion Basin, Utah
Fact-- Cecret Lake (sometimes spelled Secret)  is not a secret.  And it is never spelled the same way.  Cecret Lake is a mecca of families with screaming children, and just about every other group you can think of.  Because the hike is short, it attracts a lot of people.  Did I mention screaming children? 
Oh, Utah and the screaming children....

Despite the fact that Cecret Lake turns into a zoo after 9am, it is still worth a visit.  If you don't like the crowds then there are still options here for you if you are okay with a longer hike and some elevation.  You can pass the lake and continue onto Sugarloaf Peak, where you will likely have the trail to yourself.  But one thing at a time, let's talk first about the hike to Cecret Lake. 
Cecret Lake Albion Basin
View of Cecret Lake 
Cecret Lake has come up a few times in casual hiking conversations with friends.  Albion Basin in the summer with its famous wildflowers was always a destination high on my list and all of the pictures I have seen made me swoon.  But of course, we have the unique Salt Lake City problem of not allowing our dogs in many of our canyons (protected watersheds), Little Cottonwood (home to Alta and Snowbird) included.  This was another hike I always wanted to do, but never wanted to leave my dog behind.  Olive back in Connecticut, Katie in Utah = trip to Albion Basin. 

Easy beautiful hike.  Through fields of wildflowers with amazing views.  Once you reach the lake, the lake itself is a little lackluster compared to the rest of the hike.  Parking is a big issue and you have to get here early to secure a spot (I was at the parking lot by 7:40).  The road leading to the trailhead is a dirt road but any vehicle can make it as long as you go slow enough.  The mobs here really turned me off, and I am glad I started the hike early.  The hike gets better after you pass the lake and you can see a great view down from above the lake.  Moose frequent the area so be aware. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Bells Canyon Waterfall Hike

Utah is home to some amazing hiking. You can leave a neighborhood and be on your way through canyons, past waterfalls and up to amazing peaks. But, the system isn't perfect and unfortunately, there are a lot of trails that do not allow dogs because they are protected watersheds. While I don't necessarily agree that dogs are 100% mucking up our water supply (other states drink their surface water too...), I am at least glad these trails are open to the public to enjoy. And of course, you always have some bad pet owners that don't clean up after their dog and ruin it for the rest of us. 

When I lived in Salt Lake City, I rarely did a hike where my dog wasn't allowed. I felt far too guilty going hiking and leaving my dog in my small apartment in the city. I always stuck to trails where my dog could enjoy the outdoors too. When I flew to Utah for Amanda's wedding, Olive obviously had to stay back home in Stonington, Connecticut. So what this meant was I was in Utah, with my hiking shoes, and without my dog. Bring on all the "No Dogs Allowed" trails. 

The first hike of my Utah Adventure was up to the waterfall at Bells Canyon in Sandy, Utah right by Little Cottonwood Canyon.  Beautiful hike that included a canyon, a reservoir, and a good sized waterfall. Really hot and better as an early morning hike. Steep towards the end which will leave you sweating and with a good workout. I enjoyed the scenic views and we even found some solitude at the waterfall.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Lobster Landing, Clinton CT

I am back in Utah for Amanda's wedding, but the blog is still in New England.  During my last post, we talked about my background with lobsters, and we went over the "official rules and regulations of the Katie Wanders Lobster Shack Tour".... AKA the quest to find the best lobster roll in the state (any excuse to eat my lobster, am I right?). 

Now that we know how it all works, let's start with our first review ** at Lobster Landing in Clinton Connecticut.

** The reviews will be in no particular order, and will be spread out throughout the summer.  Because lobster rolls are expensive and you can only eat so many in one day. 

Lobster Landing of Clinton, Connecticut
Lobster Landing of Clinton, Connecticut 
First up on the Lobster Shack Tour is Lobster Landing.  Lobster Landing is a fine little lobster shack at the end of Commerce street in Clinton, Connecticut.  The town beach is around the corner and everything about this spot is oh so Coastal Connecticut.  It is on a small point with awesome views of the water and Cedar Island across the way. This little shack with peeling paint and a sign of lopsided letters is just about as charming as it gets.  No frills, no fancy building (heck, there isn't even a website, kinda cute, right?)  A shack, some tables, and lobster served one way and the only way it should be served in my opinion.  Hot and buttered. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Connecticut Lobster Shack Tour: Ratings and Rules

I have been beside myself with excitement to start off this epic journey.  No, no, things are a little different now.  There will be less alpine lakes and summit photos, but there will still be journies of equally epic proportions.  So what am I so darn excited about?  The Connecticut Lobster Shack Tour.  Let me give you some background so we can really understand the importance of this...

I used to work with the State of Connecticut Department of Marine Fisheries Division with the American Lobster project.  Lobstering in New England is so important to the area's history and lets face it, charm, fame, and in some states, its economy. Maine’s lobster fishery is the largest lobster fishery in the country and is more than 80 percent of all of the commercial fishing revenue in the state (Source and more info on Maines Lobster Industry). I was lucky enough to work as a Connecticut State Employee on some of the States biggest commercial lobster boats.  I worked as a part of a sea sampling project, analyzing lobsters pulled up in the traps. This gave me the chance to see the industry from several sides, the fishermen, the state, and obviously the consumer. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Unicorn - PADI International Womens Dive Day

"Let's go my unicorn" he said as we loaded up the rest of the dive gear into the courtesy shuttle.  It was parked just outside the dive shop in Fajardo, Puerto Rico on a perfect sunny day in February.  After an early morning and long day spent on the boat, with some great dives at sites around the Spanish Virgin Islands, the nickname still made me laugh.  

Why was the dive master calling me a unicorn?  Well, the story goes something like this, (and I just had to share it in honor of PADI Womens Dive Day tomorrow, Saturday July 16th).   

Photo Credit Diving Me Crazy
It is pretty rare for a 20 something female to walk onto a dive shop or onto a dive boat ready and excited to dive.  Not with her family, not because her boyfriend dragged her along.  On her own, with a full log book and bin full of gear because diving is a passion of hers and hers alone.   Every time I walk into a dive shop alone after scheduling a trip, I get the same look from the 50 something dive master or instructor.  You are here alone? to dive? and you have your own gear and how many dives under your belt?  Madeira, Azores, Puerto Rico and Utah, each expression, uncertainty and questioning when I walk into a dive shop was exactly the same.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Greenvale Vineyards - Portsmouth, Rhode Island

After spending some time at Colt State Park, the day of no plans continued and with great success.  We accidentally came upon the Newport Polo Grounds, an exciting idea for equestrian enthusiasts like myself.  After driving through the polo grounds with promises to return and watch.  Next stop on our "unplanned whatever goes road trip" ended up being a vineyard.  We had heard there were a few vineyards in the area and as I looked at the map, I saw that Greenvale Vineyard was only a few miles away.  

Vineyards and good wine was one thing I was really missing in Utah.  I had visited local Hive Winery, but it was just a spot where they made the wine in a commercial shopping center, no picnic, no grapes no vines.  New England is home to a slew of vineyards, several located just a few miles from my home in Stonington.  Back in New England on a sunny Fourth of July weekend, an afternoon sipping wine and walking in the vines sounded like as good as a Sunday can get.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Colt State Park - Bristol, Rhode Island

Sometimes, it is so nice to head out of town with absolutely no plans.  A few towns in mind, sunny skies, a tank full of gas, dive gear in the trunk and an open agenda...that was the tune of my fourth of July weekend.  On Sunday, we loaded up the car and headed north.  We had nowhere really to be, but a few destinations in mind.  The sorta plan was to head down and check out the cute town of Bristol, Rhode Island, before back tracking to Newport and then Jamestown Rhode Island for a dive, checking out new dive sites and any fun areas along the way. 

Fourth of July in Bristol, RI

Driving through Bristol on the fourth of July weekend was an activity in itself. I knew nothing about this little town (absolutely nothing) and was pleasantly suprised to drive through this quaint little town ALL decked out for the holiday.  On July 4th, every year since 1785, the town of Bristol hosts a national celebration that’s actually older than the Ratification of the U.S. Constitution (1790).  A little town that is part of the oldest fourth of July celebration in America, I am not sure any town had more red white and blue than this one.  People take their parade activities so seriously that we even saw staging set up for lofted couches and prime parade views.

We continued driving and our first detour of the day was to Colt State Park in Bristol.  Looking at Apple maps as we coasted down the busy roads, I could see a large State Park bordering the ocean to our right.  Ocean, state park,  free admission...we saw the signs and made the turn to see what the park was all about.  

Large bulls guarding the entrance to Colt State Park

Monday, July 4, 2016

Royal Palms - Brooklyn, New York

Shuffleboard bars are a thing.  And by thing I mean its a really weird yet really fun outing. First off, we all thought shuffleboard was for cruise ships and retirement homes.  But when you put it in a really fun old building in Brooklyn, and surround it by a food truck, retro dressed employees, cocktails, fun props and board games, it all just works.

The place is a little hard to find, and I am sure a lot of people walked by it many times without realized what was inside those brick walls.  You will not see a big flashy sign, but instead, a tiny (really tiny) plaque on the wall.  Only in Brooklyn is a trendy retro shuffleboard club tucked away in this building.  Like old jump suits, plastic visors, and I am pretty sure every girl who walked into this bar was wearing a romper.  Oh Brooklyn....