Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Albion Basin In July Alta, Utah

For approximately three short weeks during July, Albion Basin in Alta, Utah becomes one a popular destination for wildflower enthusiast. For anybody near the Wasatch Front, this is a must see. The fields of wildflowers are truly stunning and easy to get to.

Getting there: Go east on Little Cottonwood Road (SR 210) to Alta Ski Resort. At the end of the paved area there is a dirt road. Keep following the dirt road as it goes through Albion Basin. There are two parking lots. The first is at the Catherine Pass trail head and the second is at the Albion Basin Campground. The second parking lot fills up fast. The basin can be easily accessed from either parking lot. Do not park on the road. During the summer, a shuttle bus runs on weekends from the end of the paved area.

At first glance, the fields in and around Albion Basin look like green meadows. However, during July they become a dazzling array of color from white and yellow to red and purple.
For help identifying the vast array of wildflowers, there is an IPhone App called Flora of the Wasatch. A quick download will help enthusiasts learn all about the different flowers found in Albion Basin. or purchase the book version, Wasatch Wildflowers on Amazon.

Wavy Leaf Indian Paintbrush
Hikes in Albion Basin: Want to see Albion Basin on foot and not just from your car? The most popular trail, Cecret Lake, is located at the campground (second parking lot). This is an easy 1.6 mile out and back trail that takes ends at a small lake. It is well marked.

Catherine's Pass is located at the first parking lot and is 1.5 miles to the ridge that overlooks Lake Catherine. Though an easy, steady climb, it is more challenging than Cecret Lake.

Both hikes are family friendly. However, Cecret Lake is better for small children and Catherine's Pass great for older children.

**This post contains affiliate links.**

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 Tent Review

            Product Rating:  ★★★★★

I've never done a multi day backpacking trip in which I carried my own gear until this summer. I have to admit, I was worried about my ability to carry a heavy backpack while hiking steep and difficult terrain. I had to purchase quite a few things, including a new tent for my adventure.

I spent a lot of time looking for a lightweight tent that would be easy to set up and take down. I finally settled on the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2.

The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 is a two person tent, though I ended up sleeping in it by myself. My son teenage son loves hammock camping and wasn't about to share a tent with his mom. At his age, I wouldn't have wanted to either. We couldn't get anyone else to join us on our hike.

The tent was roomy for one person. I had enough room for myself, my sleeping bag and pad, as well as extra room for my non food gear. I liked the inside pockets for smaller items I didn't want to get lost or leave in my backpack. I could also sit up in the tent which was perfect for making notes about my adventure.

The tent is easy to set up. Super important for me since I ended up setting it up by myself a few times. Plastic clips hook to the poles instead of having to slide them through a fabric sleeve.

Size and tent weight was by far the most important thing for me and this is where the Big Agnes tent excelled. At one pound, ten ounces, the weight ended up being something I could handle. While the tent fit inside my backpack, I preferred to strap it to the outside, leaving the inside of my pack for the smaller, lighter things.

As far as durability, I haven't used the tent enough times yet to comment on it. However, I would be afraid of using it in a strong windstorm as the fabric is thin which keeps the weight down. I fell a few times and hit the outside cover of the bag without ripping it.

While the tent was a little more expensive than some of the others I looked at, the reduced weight made it worth the price. I stayed plenty warm for summer camping in Utah even at some of the higher elevations.

Features I liked:

  • Plenty of Room
  • Easy to set up
  • Lightweight
  • Warm
I paid over $50 more for the footprint but I found it offered free with purchase at, the best deal I've seen. 

**This is not a sponsored post. I did not receive product or compensation of any kind. However, this post contains affiliate links.**

Friday, July 18, 2014

Carlsbad, California: Hiking, Cycling & Lagoon Paradise

Guest Blog Post
by Author: Sam Ross (Official blogger for

Southern California is known to be one of the most active places in the country. With year-round sunshine, mild temperatures, and hundreds of miles of beautiful coast and beaches, its definitely the perfect spot to enjoy the great outdoors.

Carlsbad, CA is a great example with a plethora of outdoor activities people can enjoy. On any given weekend, youre sure to see most of the citys population flock to the beach, parks and lagoons for some outdoor fun. Of course, that may be because the city is near Camp Pendleton, one the largest Marine Corps base in the U.S. We all know these guys are fans of fitness and adventure so youre highly likely to meet some of them and their families on your hike.

Read about some of my favorite hiking, biking, boating, beach and other water activities that can be found in the area. And the great thing is that its pretty much open year round!

Hiking & Cycling Trails
The Hidden Canyon Trail: this trail is easy and short (only 0.25 miles), connecting the dog park with the Hidden Canyon Community Park. Its perfect for a morning walk with the family or the dog and you can end it with a nice picnic at the park.

Hosp Grove Trail: this one is of moderate difficulty level, covering about 3 miles of unpaved and slightly hilly trail. The trail climbs to about 100 feet in elevation change, but its worth the hike if only to enjoy amazing views of the ocean and Buena Vista Lagoon nearby. You can start the hike either from Hosp Grove Park or from the Rotary picnic area on Monroe Street, which both have parking lots.

Batiquitos Lagoon Trail: one of my favorite hikes is the trail along Batiquitos Lagoon. The trail is relatively flat with the one-way distance being approximately 1.3 miles. Horses and bikes are not allowed on the trail but your leashed dog is. There are also several access points and at the west end trail head is the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundations visitor center.  There are also guided tours if you want to learn about the flora, fauna, and many different types of birds.

The Veterans Park Trail: this trail covers a nice 4-mile hike and what makes it special is that it goes through several of Carlsbads points of interests including the Crossings at Carlsbad, the Flower Fields, Legoland California Resort, and Agua Hedionda Lagoon. For visitors, its a great way to discover the area and enjoy the beautiful landscapes and coastline of California. Even though its not very long, this trail is pretty hilly and steep at times which is why its rated more difficult than others.

Not all trails are open to cycling so check to make sure you can ride them and bring your mountain bikes as most trails are unpaved.

To find more hiking and cycling trails in Carlsbad that I did not cover here, you can check out the complete list of trails on the official City of Carlsbad website.

Carlsbad Lagoons
With 7 miles of coast and beautiful beaches, Carlsbad is of course among the best destinations in California to enjoy the ocean, surfing or just walking on the beach. But it also has a lot of other, lesser known treasures that offer fun outdoor activities, some of which I mentioned earlier.

Batiquitos Lagoon: the lagoon covers over 500 acres of beautiful coastal salt marsh and is one of the few wetlands that still exists in Southern California. Its usually known as a bird-watching spot as about 185 species currently reside in the area and there are several self-guided walks to take.
Agua Hedionda Lagoon: also known as Carlsbad Lagoon, Agua Hedionda is a saltwater wetland that comprises 3 lagoons ranging from 27 to 293 acres wide. Its without a doubt one of the most popular weekend spots for locals and features facilities for every water activity you can think of including boating, water skiing, wake boarding, sailing, windsurfing and fishing. There is also a nature center displaying exhibits about the history and environmental aspects of the lagoon.

**Post contains affiliate links**

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Red Canyon Bicycle Trail in Utah's Dixie National Forest

The Red Canyon Bicycle Trail runs up Red Canyon along Scenic Highway 12 in Utah's Dixie National Forest. Eight miles of paved trail offer breathtaking views of what is often referred to as "Little Bryce". The close proximity to Bryce Canyon National Park draws many comparisons to the national park. However, unlike the national park, you don't have to pay an entrance fee to use the trail.

I have been camping for several years in this area and have always wanted to ride the trail but it has not been close enough to our campsite. This year, we finally made the drive to the trail head to try it out and it was worth the drive.

Parking at the bottom of the trail can be found at the Thunder Mountain Trailhead or across Highway 12 at the visitor's center. My husband and daughter were meeting me at the bottom of the Thunder Mountain Trailhead after their single track ride so this is where I parked.

The entire length of the paved trail is eight miles. The first five miles is a steady climb up the canyon with breathtaking views along the way. Pay attention to the left to see the two tunnels for the road carved into the red rock. The last three miles along the plateau level out a bit. The turn around will have you coasting down the trail with little effort after the aerobic climb. Even the uphill is not too difficult, making it perfect for families or beginners while still providing a challenge for the hard core cyclist.

Along the trail, a forest service campground offers outhouse facilities and the trailhead has an outhouse as well. The visitor's center has potable water. Want to camp overnight? The campground is well shaded and in a beautiful area.

Special considerations: Afternoon thundershowers are common in the area. If you want to avoid the rain, start in the morning. Fun for road bikes and mountain bikes and everything in between. Don't forget to record and share your summer adventures with Action Cam!

I loved the trail more for the scenery than anything else and plan to do it again next summer while I'm there.

Rating: Scenery ★★★★★
Paved Trail ★★★★☆

 Where Great Rides Begin

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hiking the Wasatch Front: Little Water Trail Millcreek Canyon

The trail head for the Little Water Trail sits at the top of Millcreek Canyon near Salt Lake City, Utah, about 9 miles from the fee station. From the upper parking lot, the trail head is well marked with a wooden sign. I went on a busy holiday weekend and had to park in the overflow area and walk almost a half mile up the road to the trail head. On weekdays, parking is not usually a problem.

Little Water Trail makes a perfect hiking trail for a hot summer day. The trail is shaded most of the way with plenty of aspens and pine trees. The climb is steep in a few areas but not too rocky. The wide trail makes it a good trail running as well.

The trail is popular with mountain bikers on even-numbered days. On odd-numbered days, dogs are allowed on the trail without a leash so expect to see a lot of them. If bringing your dog, keep in mind that they must be on a leash at all times on even numbered days.

 No need to worry about losing the trail, with plenty of trail markers along the way. Though the trail is rated difficult in some hiking guides, there are really only a few steep climbs and not hard to the seasoned hiker. Even a beginner could make ti to Dog Lake with rests along the way.

A few stream crossings along the way offer plenty of water for dogs but is not safe for humans without a way to treat it. However, they make nice resting points and a place to cool off.

While it is possible to hike the trail with a pair of tennis shoes, I would recommend trail shoes or hiking shoes.

Near the top, enjoy the views of the surrounding mountains before dropping down to Dog Lake, a popular destination from many trails in both Millcreek and Big Cottonwood Canyons. Near the top is a sign for Dog Lake. Stay left to climb another switchback on the Little Water Trail which will also take you to Dog Lake but adds a little distance. This makes a good turn around point for an out and back hike.

Dog Lake

Post contains affiliate links.

Trail Information and Directions:

Directions: East on 3800 So. to top of Millcreek Canyon 9 miles from fee station
Elevation Gain: 1200 Feet
Distance from upper parking lot: 4.5 miles out and back
Rating: Moderate to difficult

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Life Straw Walter Filter Review and Giveaway

FTC Disclosure: Product received at no charge to facilitate review.

For of us who have been on a long hike and have been in the situation where we have sucked the last of our water from our bottle or water bladder and still have several long, hot miles ahead, can relate to the anxiety that ensues. Even worse, is when that hike involves stream crossings with cold, clear water tempting enough to drink. Yet we know that great tasting water will make us very sick, leaving us to choose between the greater risk of dehydration or waterborne illness.

Lifestraw® personal water filter makes it possible to drink from that mountain stream when our water supply runs low or even when we just want a cold drink from the spring run off.

I had a chance to try Lifestraw® in action. It is super easy to use. All I had to do was fill up my water bottle and drink through the straw. It does take a little sucking action to get the water to pull up through the straw. The Lifestraw fit easily in my BPA free bottle. However, it will not fit inside the disposable water bottles as the openings are too small. Therefore, I would recommend using a reusable water bottle.

The Lifestraw® requires no electrical power nor is it battery operated. Instead, it works by user-generated suction. The filter is inside that straw and is made with durable plastic that holds up packed inside my hiking pack. It also has a strap to carry over your shoulder or can be strapped to a pack. The straw can filter up to 1,000 liters of water, ensuring me it will last several summers of hiking and backpacking. The filter uses a hollow fiber micro filtration technology which can remove 99.9999 percent of waterborne bacteria and 99.99 of waterborne protozoan cysts. This means it will filter them out, not kill them. In Utah, where  I live, our mountain streams have tested positive for Giardia and other bacteria. I have had the misfortune of drinking from a stream without filtering the water and know how very sick one can get from it. There is no way I am willing to spend a week on a porcelain throne to have a few joyous minutes of cold, mountain water ever again.

I love how easy it is to use the Lifestraw®. What I even love more is that it hardly takes any space in my backpack and adds very little weight. At 2 ounces, it is well worth adding to my day pack. However, for longer backpacking trips, I would recommend using it only as a back up system. Since the filter works through suction, it is not possible to treat a large amount of water for refilling water bladders. While it is possible to tip it upside down and maybe fill a cup, it would take a lot longer than other methods.

No matter what type of filtration system I bring with me on backpacking trips, I will ALWAYS keep the Lifestraw in my pack as a back up. It would be foolish not to with how little space it takes and with how little it costs.

In fact, it wasn't long ago, I took a wrong turn on a trail, ended up 5 miles out of the way. While I brought plenty of drinking water, I worried at the tail end of my hike, I wouldn't have enough. I will have more peace of mind carrying this simple filter with me. It is well worth the $20.00 the product retails for.

I am impressed with the company's efforts to bring safe drinking water to school children in Africa. For every item purchased, a portion of the sale goes to supply filters for those in desperate need of clean drinking water. I am always on the lookout for companies that give back to the community and protect the environment.

Things I love about the Lifestraw®:
  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Easy to use
  • Inexpensive
  • Works well in mountain streams
  • Cold water at my disposal
  • Filters the bacteria that can cause illness
  • Easy to clean
  • Company gives back
Only drawbacks:
  • Can't use it to refill water bladders
  • Not effective against viruses
Want to find out more about Lifestraw?  Visit their website or Facebook pages.

Contest Details:

One of my lucky readers will win a Lifestraw® personal water filter. Contest is open to U.S. residents only. Use the Rafflecopter form to enter. By entering, you acknowledge you have read the terms on the form and agree to them. Contest ends July 3, 2014 at 11:59 EST.

FTC Disclosure: The LifeStraw® product and information have been provided by Vestergaard.

a Rafflecopter giveaway