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Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts

Riding Slickrock

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The Slickrock Trail is The Mountain Bike Trail that put Moab on the adventure travel map. The trail made Moab the center of the mountain biking universe, and it's one of the most unique rides I've ridden so far ( well, that and the Bonneville Salt Flats ).

Since the first time I saw a picture of a biker in Moab, it's become an iconic image associated with mountain biking for me ! I knew that one day I'd absolutely have to do that !

The best thing I loved about the trail is that it was only minutes away from downtown Moab.

I read a lot about how popular and , sometimes, overcrowded the trail becomes, but to my surprise when I got there - it was all to myself ! Not a soul in sight ( except for the sounds of 4x4's in the distance ).

The trail is 12 miles long, with lot's of ups and downs, add to this the fact that I was riding in the middle of July, during the hottest part of the day - it was pretty exhausting ! But was totally worth it !

Besides the beautiful scenery, the feeling of riding on the (Navajo) sandstone can not be described ! You have to try it yourself !

There is a lot of info about this trail, and very often it's categorized as "technical/advanced". My advice - don't get overwhelmed, just go and try it for yourself. There is a "Practice Loop" (approximately 2 miles) which is well marked, and, though challenging, can be done by anybody.

If you're visiting Moab, biking on the Slickrock Trail is one of  "must do adventures"...

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Canyoneering In Moab, Utah

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At first, I was a bit confused about the difference between caving ( also occasionally known as spelunking in the United States and Canada and potholing in the United Kingdom and Ireland ) and canyoneering.

In very lame terms : exploring Ape Caves or Guler Ice Caves is the most basic type of caving.

During my visit to Moab, I finally got a chance to try canyoneering and saw for myself how different it was from caving.

Again, when I say "caving" all I really mean is a" guided tour of a well explored and maintained cave". You don't really do anything strenuous, challenging, technical.

When it comes to canyoneering, even the most beginner friendly outing might not be suitable for everybody ( fear of heights anybody ? ).

Canyoneering is risky, it's physically demanding, but it's also tons of fun !

During my half day trip I had a chance to explore the beautiful Ephedra's Grotto.

It's a very popular trip, close to downtown Moab, and there are many companies that offer this great experience.

Honestly, I didn't expect much. Repelling down a 100+ feet rope wasn't anything new to me, but the place itself was absolutely amazing !

After walking through the washes and across the slickrock you come to the top of Ephedra's Grotto. You drop 60 feet down to a small ledge which you have to back yourself over and then rappel down another 30 feet. At the bottom you are surrounded by shear cliff walls on every side and so you can only hike out through a small slot opening.

The next repel is even more impressive !

Morning Glory Arch is the fifth largest natural bridge, spanning 243 feet. The first 40 feet you are along the wall but the remaining 70 feet you are suspended in air, surrounded by the beauty of the canyon walls, the arch above and the stream below.

If you have a chance, make sure this is the moment somebody is taking your pictures !

After you're done with repelling, it's 2.2 miles back to the car.

Though I visited both Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, Negro Bill Canyon was my hiking experience in Moab. This is a very popular trail in Moab. It follows a year round stream through a deep sandstone canyon among willows and cottonwoods and sandy trails for several miles ( Morning Glory Natural Bridge is its final destination ).

All in all, I'm happy that my first canyoneering experience took place in Moab !

Visiting Canyonlands And Arches National Parks

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One of my goals during my road trip was to visit our beautiful National Parks. I was warned against visiting the most popular parks during summer months. But I thought : " How bad could it be ? "

Well, it was pretty bad...

Canyonlands and Arches National Parks turn into circuses (or zoos, if you prefer that visual) in the summer : bumper-to-bumper traffic, waiting lines at scenic pulloffs, dealing with retards who after taking a picture decide to stay, and a general sense of frustration, all this detracts from the park experience.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not bitching or complaining. Both Canyonlands and Arches National Parks are amazing, beautiful and , hence, most visited parks. Everybody wants to see them, everybody wants to snap a "been here, done that, have a proof" picture...

But I was amazed how lazy, stupid and inconsiderate most people were !

At Canyonlands I saw people waiting in line to take a picture at popular Grand View Point when you could just walk for 100 feet and enjoy the same view.

At Arches, people would take a picture, and then would just sit under the arch ( Hello ! Get the fuck out of there ! I don't want your fat wife's ass in my picture ! )

Some people are so lazy they don't even bother to get out of their car to take a picture....

I overheard one family who said that " 1.5 mile hike to Delicate Arch is not worth it"

Despite how majestic it was, I couldn't wait to get the hell out of there.

Clearly, the best strategy to avoid dealing with the overcrowding at the most popular national parks is to stay away during the summer months. The key is to get to the park early in the day, visit the popular spots during off-peak hours, and then spend the rest of your time enjoying hiking,biking, and camping in backcountry areas and other out of the way places.

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Why Moab is # 3 On My "Ultimate Adventure Towns" List

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A few years ago National Geographic Adventure built the ultimate, state-by-state guide to top outdoor hubs across the country. These 100 adventure towns offer something for everyone, whether you love hiking, skiing, biking, kayaking, climbing, snowboarding, or a little bit of everything.

Out of 100, the two towns that I can personally vouch for are Bellingham and Leavenworth, both offer tons of outdoor opportunities any season of the year.

But during my recent road trip, with great pleasure I can add another "Ultimate Adventure Town" to my list - Moab !

Moab is music to the ears of outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy some of the best rock climbing, hiking, canyoneering, horseback riding, mountain and road biking, off-roading, camping and rafting the town has to offer.

Though I read a lot about Moab before, I couldn't imagine spending almost three days in this small town. And I didn't do/see even half of what it had to offer !

Moab is a spectacular location for outdoor sports, and the world's largest adventure playground. Yet,some of the most appealing activities in Moab can be found inside city limits.

The next few posts I'll write about some of the most popular outdoor sorts in Moab : hiking, mountain biking, canyoneering, and ... TANDEM BASE JUMPING !

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Hiking, Biking, And Sightseeing Salt Lake City

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After some unpleasant paddleboarding around the Great Salt Lake, I continued my way into the heart of Utah, and its capitol - Salt Lake City...

I think biking is the best way to learn about the place you're visiting. Cycling is a great way to view the spectacular landscapes, enjoy the crisp fresh air and visit numerous attractions.

The very first place I wanted to visit was Ensign Peak, one of Mormon historic sites around Salt Lake City, and Utah's most sacred mountain.

At an elevation of 5,414 feet, this mound-shaped peak is just minutes away from the Utah State Capitol.

I parked my car by Travel Information office ( which is right across from beautiful capitol building ), and biked to the park's trailhead ( the road to the park is strenuous uphill, so if you want , just drive your car to the park ).

The trail itself is relatively easy ( it's only about 1000 feet ) . Though it's about 1 mile round trip, it was my first time hiking in 80+ degree weather.

But it was totally worth it ! From the top, you have marvelous views out over the Salt Lake Valley and Great Salt Lake !

Biking downtown was a breeze ( literally, it was all downhill from the park ).

There are many beautiful churches in Salt Lake City, but Temple Square in Downtown Salt Lake City, is Utah's number one tourist attraction. On your visit to the 35 acres of Temple Square you will be able to see, feel, taste, touch and experience Mormon culture and its pioneer heritage.

You don't have to be a Mormon to enjoy this beautiful architecture !

Between biking and hiking to the top of Ensign Peak, biking around capitol building, and Temple Square it took me about 2 hours to get to know this great city...

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SUPing The Great Salt Lake

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 After biking the Bonneville Salt Flats, I was on my way to the capital of Utah - Salt Lake City. I've never been to this city before, and was fascinated to visit "Mormon Capital of the World".

Salt Lake City is an attractive, well-planned, architecturally unique town. But as you know me, doing the usual "touristy stuff" is not my way of traveling.

My first stop was the Great Salt Lake, after which the capitol was named ( the city was originally named "Great Salt Lake City"—the word "great" was dropped from the official name in 1868 ).
The lake's turquoise waters attract sailors, its white sand beaches are popular with swimmers and sunbathers, and craggy outcroppings on Antelope Island and some shoreline areas draw hikers and mountain bikers.

The Great Salt Lake is one of the most asked-about tourist destinations in Utah. A remnant of the massive ancient Lake Bonneville, the lake is now landlocked and its waters are salty. It is the largest lake between the Great Lakes and the Pacific Ocean, and is the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere.
At least, that's what I read about it when I was doing my research.

Great Salt Lake State Marina provides easy access to the lake from HWY 80, and that's where I came...Long story short, I was...disappointed...the Great Salt Lake was quite GROSS!

The whole place reeks of raw sewage. Decay of insects and other wildlife give the shore of the lake a distinctive odor. I could hardly launch my board, and thought that if I paddled further away from the shore, the water would be cleaner, but even away from the shore it was pretty disgusting.

At that point I wished I opted for visiting Antelope Island,the largest island of 10 islands located within the Great Salt Lake.
View a free-roaming herd of 500 bison, and pronghorn and bighorn sheep that share the rangelands. Hike, mountain bike or horseback ride along backcountry trails for spectacular views of Great Salt Lake and island scenery. Check in at the visitor center for maps and information on the island's unique biology, geology and history.
Sounds to me like I missed out on a whole lot of cool stuff :(

Well, may be next time ...

Biking The Bonneville Salt Flats

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I love reading travel blogs, and watching my fellow travelers' videos ! They give me so much inspiration, not to mention the information about new places to visit and new things to try.

I learned about the Bonneville Salt Flats from one of the travel blogs I've been following.
"Saltboarding" video looked so much fun !

So, while in Utah, I made the Bonneville Salt Flats one of "must-see places" to visit.

The famous Bonneville Speedway is located in the western portion of the flats, near Wendover. It is perfectly flat and has a thick crust of salty soil. It looks like a frozen lake bed covered with snow. No vegetation grows in that area.

There is NOTHING to see...just miles and miles of endless salt...

The Bonneville Salt Flats is one of the most unique natural features in Utah. If you travel in this state, make sure you make the Bonneville Salt Flats your travel destination.

Go for a bike ride, or take your car for a spin ! Unbelievable feeling !

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Kayaking At Kelly's Whitewater Park In Idaho

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I haven't done much kayaking for the past two years, so recently, I finally decided to sell my whitewater kayaking gear.

One of the reasons was because kayaking is a very co-dependent sport. You need at least two people for the shuttle ( to shuttle gear between put in and take out spots ).

Another, and may be the most important reason, is that kayaking, unlike skiing or mountain biking, is not the most "beginner friendly" activity. Without enough practice and river time, you'll forever be paddling class II-II+ rapids ( which is fun... for a while ).

So, when I heard about Kelly's Whitewater Park in Cascade, ID, I knew a whitewater park would be a great place for people like me to improve the skills, and get more interested in the sport.

When I got there, I was very impressed !

Located on the North Fork of the Payette River, it's accessible right off HWY 55 ( no need to drive around looking for a put in spot ).

When I thought about "the park", I had an image of a "wave pool", rather than an actual river.

The stretch of the North Fork of the Payette River is quite short, but has a few nice rapids suitable for both beginner and advanced paddlers alike.

A few shallow eddies ( eddies are the parts of a river where the downstream current is interrupted, and thus, they are a safe place to be ), are warm, and a fun place for kids to play around.

A nearby shop ( right by the park's entrance ) rents all the gear you'll need.

If you an absolute beginner, my advice is to rent an inflatable kayak, or even a tube !

During my visit the park was the site for USA Nationals.
It was a lot of fun to watch professionals demonstrate their freestyle skills...

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Two Ways To Experience Hell's Canyon

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Hells Canyon is a 10-mile (16 km) wide canyon located along the border of eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and western Idaho. It is North America's deepest river gorge at 7,993 feet (2,436 m) and part of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.

The cities of Lewiston, Clarkston are referred to as the gateway to Hells Canyon, and since it was on my way I decided to "visit Hells Canyon".

Once called the “Grand Canyon of the Snake River,” the Hells Canyon corridor is known for its magnificent but extremely rugged landscape. Only unlike its "big brother Grand Canyon", you can't just pull over, snap a few pictures, and call it a day.

There are few points of entry into Hells Canyon from both sides of the border, so traveling in this corridor takes time and effort.

The first and most exciting way to experience Hells Canyon is by floating through it, either by raft or jet boat.

I figured paying $100 for a jet boat ride is too "touristy", so I opted for a cheaper but more picturesque way - driving through it !

The Hells Canyon All-American Road is a nationally designated scenic byway. Although the route can be driven in as little as 5 hours, the Byway is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace.

Though I really wish I had more time to explore it, my main goal was just to enjoy my ride...

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Happy Mardi Gras!

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It's been a couple years since my visit to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, and I'm already planning another one !

The carnival with its parades, fancy balls and parties didn't really impress me much, but the town itself, its world-famous music, food, and culture, was absolutely the most authentic city I've visited so far.


Looking for more information on things to do and to see in New Orleans ? Check out one of these guide books to get ideas on touristy things to do.

Surfing and Ocean SUPing Cocoa Beach, FL

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Just because it's Florida, you can't automatically assume that one of the most popular outdoor activities here is surfing. Florida's west coast/Gulf of Mexico is never going to be a world class surf-producing machine. The continental shelf saps power and the limited fetch reduces the swell period.

However Florida's Atlantic coastline is home to some quality surf spots, but unfortunately the swells it gets are pretty small and inconsistent.

One of the most epic surf spots here is Cocoa Beach, home to six-time World Champion Kelley Slater and Ron Jons. The latter is the founder of the world famous Ron Jons Surf Shop with their Cocoa Beach location being the largest surfing shop in the world !

That's where I was planning to rent a longboard. But since I've never had a chance to surf a SUP, I went with a 11'6 South Point Dave Kalama Model SUP.

And I didn't regret....

The waves at Cocoa Beach are pretty...mellow...which makes it a good choice for longboarders.... and even better for paddleboaders !

If you've never surfed in your life, make your first time surfing on a SUP instead of a longboard. Highly recommended !

Comparing to a longboard, popping up and keeping your balance on a SUP while riding a wave is extremely easy.

On the downside, paddling while trying to catch a wave was...very frustrating....

It took me a while to realize that you can't surf a wave facing forward. You need to change to a sideways surfing stance. Also, unlike surfers who can catch waves late on their short boards, you need to catch the wave before it breaks.

Catching waves on a SUP will take a few sessions and a lot of wipeouts to get the hang of, and a lifetime to truly master, but wave-riding is one of the best experiences you can have on your SUP.

It is hard to explain why catching a wave on a 10-11' board is such a buzz and the only way to find out is to do it! Though, the swell here is no better than at our local Westport, still, there is something about surfing/paddling in Florida - they don't call it the Sunshine State for nothing!

Cable Wakeboarding is the Future of Wakeboarding

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Ironically, my first introduction to cable wakeboarding was through a Youtube video about the Orlando Watersports Complex Cable Park. I didn't know that a year later I'd get to try cable wakeboarding in Florida.

I was looking for kiteboarding lessons in/around Tampa, FL when I was reffered to McCormick's Waterski Wakeboard and Cable Park.

Though, Central Florida is a phenomenal location for the growing sport of
kiteboarding, June thru Sept the wind is very inconsistent, and lessons are not taught during the summer months for this reason.

Many kiteboarders use this time to practice with a trainer kite or work on their wakeboarding skills.

I wrote before that cable wakeboarding was less expensive than boat wakeboarding. Now I can add that cable wakeboarding is much easier to try/learn.

As you might have heard before it takes an average of 3 attempts, before you can get up on the board. Remembering my first experience, I was really worried about being out of my league.

The park has two cables – the main cable and Lil Bro, made for less experienced and/or younger riders. This is the best place to learn how to ride on a wakeboard if you have never been on one before.

Though I'd only been on a wakeboard once before, it was super easy to pop up with a cable. After just 2 rides I was ready to move on to the main cable.

The main cable holds up to five riders at a time and runs clockwise around a man-made lake with numerous sliders and kickers of almost every size and shape along the way.

My only concern was falling down far away from the starting dock . Then you would have to swim to the shore, and walk back to the dock.

You can rent everything from the shop ( board, helmet,vest) or bring your own gear. They offer two types of boards - slider and non-slider wakeboards. The main difference is that you can't use non-slider wakeboards on obstacles.

Cable wakeboarding is convenient, safe, affordable and a great work out ! Many action sports enthusiasts ( skiers/snowboarders/surfers/kiteboarders/skaters...) as well as other people who like new challenges and experiences will greatly benefit from cable wakeboarding.

With more and more people discovering cable wakeboarding, and more cable parks being build around US, it has a terrific future!

I's compare cable wakeboarding to skiing/snowboarding. With the growing popularity of skiing and snowboarding came a greater number of ski resorts. We can expect the same for cable wakeboarding.

Because more and more people are finally discovering its many efficiencies and environmental advantages, the market potential for construction of more cable parks around the world, particularly in the United States is absolutely huge!

Visit Abandoned Rocket Factory in the Everglades

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I came across this "attraction" while researching "things to do/see" in Everglades National Park.

While on the east side of Florida ( Daytona Beach ), I was really hoping to visit Kennedy Space Center, but this abandoned rocket factory in the Florida Everglades known as Aerojet-Dade, sounded a lot more appealing and mystique ( not to mention it's free ).

In the 1960s the Aerojet company was considered as the possible supplier of solid-fuel rocket motors to be used as primary power plants for the Saturn I space booster.

The short version is that NASA never did use Aerojet when the Apollo space mission decided to go with liquid fuel instead of the solid fuel. The Aerojet eventually gave up on its plant and sold the land to the State of Florida, which holds it to this day as a nature preserve. Most of the original buildings associated with the plant, and some of the machinery, appear to be still there, albeit in decrepit condition.

The factory is accessible, though the last couple of miles of the access road are closed to motor vehicles, so if you want to visit you have to bicycle or walk part of the way. There are a few houses nearby, and people come to bird watch or to fish in the canal that parallels the road, but the place is essentially deserted once you get past the no-motor-vehicles-beyond-this-point sign.

Tips on visiting Everglades National Park in summer

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Everglades National Park is one of the most famous National Parks in US.
Here are no lofty peaks seeking the sky, no mighty glaciers or rushing streams wearing away the uplifted land. Here is land, tranquil in its quiet beauty, serving not as the source of water, but as the receiver of it...
With these words, President Harry S. Truman formally dedicated Everglades National Park on 06 December 1947 in a ceremony held at Everglades City.

It's true, this park is like no other parks in US. Most famous for its backcountry kayak and canoe adventures, the park offers a truly unique experience.

Tip - visiting Everglades National Park during "wet season" is ...unpleasant, if to say the least. Best time to visit the Everglades is December through April, with low humidity, clear skies and less mosquito.

A recent trip to Everglades City, where the park's Gulf Coast Visitor Center is located, made me rethink the whole idea of how most people visit our national parks.

The dream of paddling along the Wilderness Waterway, a 99-mile path between Everglades City and Flamingo, is ...still a dream.

Tip - if you are short on time, go for a boat trip

I only had a day to explore the area, and that's why I decided to do a typical "touristy" activity - boat tour.

There are numerous tour operators in the area, but since Everglades National Park has been declared a Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site and a Wetlands International Alliance, only Everglades National Park Boat Tours is allowed to operate in its waters. All other companies operate on privately owned land/water which makes trips shorter with fewer chances to see wildlife.

There are two "official" tours - 10,000 Islands and Mangrove Wilderness.

I've always wanted to see the dense swampy part of the Everglades, and to get a face-to-face with an alligator, manatee or even the famous Burmese Python.

Tip - if you are venturing into Everglades wilderness, use bug spray/insect repellent...and A LOT OF IT ! Mosquito, horse and deer flies will eat you alive !

Tip - keep your expectations low.

It's not like the wildlife will come out to "meet and greet" you. The gaters we saw were usually no more than a pair of cold eyes staring out from the still green water, a few manatees here and there, but mostly it's the frequent calls of birds, the occasional splash of jumping fish, and the wind whistling through the leafy ceiling overhead.

Back to my thought about how most people visit our parks...

Unlike Rainier or Olympic National Parks, you can't just roll into the Everglades to snap a few pictures and call it a day. To really appreciate this park you must "go deep".

Paddling your kayak or canoe deep into the marshy backcountry waters, with claustrophobic tunnels of mangrove trees and giant cypress trees around you is the Ultimate Everglades Adventure !

Though the park's ranger station offers maps and tidal charts for sale, Paddler's Guide to Everglades National Park is the most comprehensive guide to paddling the Everglades.

The Wilderness Waterway is poorly marked, and it's easy get lost. Mangrove waterways have a tendency to look very much alike, and no place to camp besides the designated sites. So, plan accordingly, and use all means of navigation ( maps, charts, GPS, location beacon...) or hire a local guide.