Category Archives: Adventures & Quests

Family Adventure: Zion & Capitol Reef National Park

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We made a trip south this Fall to Zion and Capitol Reef National Parks.  This completes our tour of the five national parks in Utah.

We camped in both parks.  Anytime we grab a camping spot in a national park, I feel privileged as that can be hard to find, especially in popular parks like Zion.

Here was our trip itinerary.

Day 1: Drove to Zion

Our first day was all about getting down to Zion.  It is about four and half hours for us, mostly down Interstate 15.

We did stop off at the park entrance on the northeast side, the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center, for about half an hour.

And then drove a short bit to the main entrance, near the town of Springdale, and to the South Campground.

Day 2: Zion Hiking

The main area of Zion is not that large.  During the main season, you have to take the trolley, which was easy and convenient, especially already staying in the park.  There are nine shuttle stops.  We did two stops – the Temple of Sinawava and the Grotto.

At the Temple of Sinawava, we hiked out the Riverside Walk to the start of the Narrows.  The ranger told us the flow rate was pretty high, to the point of not being fun, so we opted out of doing the Narrows.

At the Grotto, we hiked up to the Upper and Middle Emerald Pools, and then down the Sand Bench trail to the Court of the Patriarchs.  I might opt out of the last part, the Sand Bench trail.  It was a fine hike and all, but probably the least interesting.

Day 3:  More Zion Hiking

Sort of the same programming as Day 2.  We took the trolley up to the Grotto and hiked up to Scout Lookout via the West Rim trail.  We did not fight the people and the permitting process to do Angel’s Landing. 

 But we did see California Condors – which I consider a bigger win.

And after regrouping at camp for a bit, we hiked the Watchman trail – which was accessible and had some nice views.  And we saw Big Horn Sheep.

Day 5:  Driving Over To Capitol Reef

Not too much exciting here; about a four hour drive over to Capitol Reef.  We did drive out the east side of Zion on Route 9 – the Zion Mount Carmel highway and that was worth it.  We likely would not have ventured over to this part of the park otherwise.

Campsites at Capitol Reef were pretty domesticated.

Day 6:  Capitol Reef

We were fairly low key at Capitol Reef.  We caught a ranger session, did the Cohab Canyon hike to the lookouts, and ate pie.

Capitol Reef is not a super popular park, partly due to its location away from most other major sights.

Day 7:  Home

And then we drove home, which was about four hours from Fruita.

All in all, both parks were great. Glad we saw them. We covered a lot of ground in Zion and got the main feeling for Capitol Reef. I certainly would go back to either, but if we didn’t, would feel like we saw the main highlights of both.

Family Adventure: Colombia

Reading Time: 5 minutes

We had an excellent trip to Colombia.  

I realize that Colombia is probably not the first country folks would consider visiting when going to South America.

However, my cousin’s wife is from Colombia, so we went to celebrate her birthday, see her family, and tour three cities: Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena.  Also, having a native Spanish speaker was almost mandatory, since, unlike other tourist destinations like Costa Rica, etc., it seems that most Colombians do not speak English.

We would definitely go back.  Medellin was the most friendly for international tourists and seemed to have a bunch of nearby sites and outdoor activities.  Cartagena is a beach resort town, although I think primarily for South Americans.

Here was our trip itinerary.

Day 1: To Bogota

Our first day was all about flying to Bogota.  We flew Avianca airlines direct from Orlando to Bogota; a fairly easy three hour flight.

Immigration and customs was straightforward.  Make sure you have your travel visa in order.

We were met at the airport by my cousin’s wife’s brother – who lives in Bogota and a driver.  As you will note throughout this post – finding English speaking drivers & guides is not common in Colombia.  So traveling with a native speaker is a huge plus and almost mandatory.

Day 2: Bogota Museums

Three museums and a market.

We visited three museums:

1) Museo Nacional de Colombia – the national museum of Colombia, which was great and housed in an old prison.  For non-Spanish speakers, I would recommend a guide since most of exhibits do not have English subtitles.

2) The Botero Museum – not a huge Botero fan, especially his people.  I do like some of his landscapes.

3) The Gold Museum

This was worth it, although after two other museums we were a little museumed out.

The pigeons were the highlight of the market; although the churro was pretty solid too.

Day 3: To Medellin

We had a morning flight to Medellin from Bogota that went according to plan.  Then we toured the city a bit ending up of Nutibara Hill for some sightseeing and food.

Day 4: Medellin Coffee Plantation

A highlight of our Colombia trip for sure.  We got lucky with an excellent tour guide who spoke great English and knew a lot about coffee.  We went to a smaller, family owned plantation that was low key.  We tasted four different kinds of brewing techniques and picked some coffee.

Plus,we got to dress like Juan Valdez.

This is an excellent restaurant that I would never have set foot in if not for a recommendation from our tour guide (hint: it is down a somewhat scary alley with little signage).

Day 5: Taxi Flat Tire & To Cartagena

I am now sure how to say “shit show” in Spanish, but that is what you get when you are in a taxi with seven people and all our luggage and the taxi gets a flat tire on a very busy street in downtown Medellin.

All luggage and most passengers were accounted for.

We regrouped, ate lunch, and then headed to the airport for our flight to Cartagena.

But let’s not end on that note, since we really enjoyed Medellin, so here’s a picture of the city from our hotel.

Day 6: Cartagena Beach Day

Recovery day spent at the beach and pool.  Much needed.

Day 7: Cartagena Castille & Pool

This was mostly another recovery day spent at the pool.  However, we did taxi into town to see the Castille and walk around some.

Yes, more pigeons.

Day 8: To Miami & Orlando

A relatively uneventful return trip flying from Cartagena to Miami and then a shuttle up to Orlando.

Yes, I said “gracias” to the guy behind the counter of the Pizza Hut at the turnpike rest station.

Park City Weather & Snow Resources

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Here are the resources you need to monitor Park City weather & snow.

NOAA – Park City

NOAA – Salt Lake City Area Snow Reporting – snow reports for all Wasatch resorts

Utah Avalanche Center – informative even if staying inbounds

Keep in mind, this is mountain weather. The weather can be very location specific. What happened at 7,000′ is not necessarily what happened at 9,000′.

Pro tip: wind speed and wind direction are super important to monitor.

Grand Teton N.P. Map

Reading Time: < 1 minute

We love Grand Teton Natoinal Park. We’ve had many adventures there. See some highlights:

  1. Camping In Grand Teton N.P.
  2. Teton Canyon
  3. Camping In Grand Teton National Park #3
  4. Winter in Yellowstone N.P.

Recently, we had some family come out this way and I put together this interactive Google Map of the Grand Teton area with a bunch of points of interest, places where we have had good wildlife sightings, and camp spots.

This was a heck of lot easier than trying to explain where some of these places are, since they area by definition, in a fairly undeveloped area.

I will update as we have more adventures….

Family Adventure: Camping Over Thanksgiving

Reading Time: 5 minutes

We finally got our van back from our builder in early November and decided to take her on a fully built maiden voyage down to the Bryce Canyon National Park area over Thanksgiving.

This was our first trip to the Bryce area.

Day #1

We drove down to Kodachrome Basin State Park Wednesday knowing that we‘d be fighting some holiday traffic…and we did.  The wind was kind of nuts as well.

Kodachrome Basin S.P. is about 30 minutes east of Bryce Canyon N.P. and so by the time we arrived at the Bryce View Campground, we decided on a short bike / hike to Shakespeare Arch / Sentinel Trail.  Note: Shakespeare Arch is no longer, but we knew that going in.

Day #2

The first full day of our trip, we went to Bryce Canyon N.P. We stopped by the Visitor Center, went to Sunset Point, and hiked the Queen’s Garden / Navajo Loop (modified for Winter hiking).  Worth it.

And, then stopped by Mossy Cave on the way back to camp.  If pressed for time, I would tell you to skip Mossy Cave and spend that time elsewhere.

These were all pretty popular sites, but since it was our first trip to the park, we wanted to get an overview.  We talked to a Park Ranger who recommended the Fairyland Loop for a bit less populated trail.

Day #3

We had originally planned to try to do Bryce N.P. and Zion N.P. in the same trip, which seems like a relatively common strategy.  But since our campsite at Kodachrome Basin put us approximately 30 minutes east of Bryce, that made the trip down to Zion close to two hours and more windshield time than we wanted to spend given our relatively short stay.

Instead we pivoted to a day in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (GSENM).  For more on the different types of public lands, check out That Wild Country by Mark Kenyon.

Initially, I had some trouble figuring out where GSENM was located.  This is because the GSENM is close to 1.9 million acres.  It turns out, Kodachrome Basin is surrounded by GSENM and a main access point is very close to the entrance of the State Park.

Our first stop in GSENM was Grosvenor Arch – a super impressive double arch.  Highly recommend stopping to see it if you are in the area.

Then we got our first taste of slot canyons by hiking the Cottonwood Narrows.  This is a non-technical (i.e., no rappelling or rock climbing) option that is good for families.

Back at camp we did the Panorama Trail on bikes.  Very worthwhile.

And found the showers at the … campground.  The showers are really nice. Like, really nice.

The weather was finally warm enough to spend a bit more time outside at night and the stars were absolutely amazing.  I tried for a few pictures, but didn’t have any that turned out good enough to post.

Day #4

For our second day at Bryce Canyon N.P., we decided to hike the Fairyland Loop trail.  This one met all the important criteria: beautiful scenery and not heavily trafficked. 

And then we drove out to the south end of the park, did a short hike, and took in some of the vistas.

Day #5

In some of our earlier trips, we tended to have pretty ambitious plans and go pretty hard.  This resulted to a couple of events that we less than affectionately referred to as Daddy Death Marches.  I have tried to learn from these experiences.

Unfortunately, we had another one in Red Canyon.

We decided to hit Red Canyon on the way home.  Red Canyon is essentially one canyon before you get to Bryce.  And since it is in a National Forest, not a National Park, they allow mountain biking on some of their trails.  

We chose the Thunder Mountain Trail.  I had done a bit of research on the trail ahead of time and read the descriptions in a couple of guide books.  I am pretty sure none of the author’s of those guide books have ridden this trail.  A few factors made it not the trail we should have picked this day.  It turned out to be a bit longer than advertised.  It was most definitely an expert level trail (should have a black diamond rating). And there’s a fair amount of climbing and some pretty difficult technical bits – including one stretch along an exposed ridge line with consequential drops on either side.  All in all, just not what we wanted to get into.

But, we did it.  Walked a bit more than intended.  

I would recommend the trail for serious riders, who want a serious ride.

Then we drove home Sunday evening – fighting holiday traffic most of the way.

Final Notes

Overall, an excellent trip.  We enjoyed the area quite a bit and have a list of things we would like to do when we are back in the area including more time in GSENM, getting over to Zion, and possibly catching a meteor shower.

Check out a few prior adventures:

Family Adventure: Camping In Grand Teton National Park #3

Reading Time: 4 minutes

We always go camping for my daughter’s birthday in early September.

And we were back in Grand Teton National Park for our third camping trip in the park, and fifth trip to the vicinity this year (one ski trip and one camping on the Driggs side).

See our prior camping trips to GTNP here: Grand Teton National Park #1 and #2

We had a little more time this trip.  We were there from Thursday evening through Tuesday. So, that gave us a bit more time to explore.  We also, I think, were just generally in a more laid back mood.  We had no major hikes or destinations in mind.  The crowd was decidedly older and maybe more mellow given that school was back in session for families with kids.

Day #1

We drove in kind of late.  But gorgeous drive in.  Saw a bison herd pretty close to the road near Elk Ranch Flats.

We reserved a site at the Lizard Creek campground, which is the northernmost campground in Grand Teton National Park. We liked Signal Mountain Campground a bit better, although this was a good spot. I’d recommend a site closer to the middle of the campground – we were very exposed to the wind.

Not much water in Jackson Lake was kind of a let down:

Day #2

In the vein of a more relaxed trip, Day #2 turned into a spontaneous trip up to Yellowstone N.P.  I had loosely planned to venture into the south end of the park.  But we actually ended up driving up to West Thumb.  We had seen this area during our winter trip (incredible) back in 2017 and it was cool to see it in the summer.

On the drive back to our campground, in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway stretch, we had this siting:

#bearsiting #poopedmypants

Day #3

Happy Birthday kiddo!

We celebrated our daughter’s birthday.  Then, we drove north again into the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway area.  We did a short hike to a natural hot spring – there are two – and we went to Polecat Hot Springs.  Totally worth it.

Then another short hike over to the river.

It’s that time of year, and the elk are bugling.  Amazing.

Day #4

We hiked this day.  About nine miles.  A really nice, pretty flat hike, to BearPaw Lake.  

Very nice hike.  I’d rate it easy.  Left from the northern end of Jenny Lake, which is a pretty popular trailhead, but the hike itself was not heavily trafficked.  Hiked right up to the base of Mt. Moran.  If you rate your hikes partly on how few other hikers you see, this is a good one to check out.

Watch out for this guy:

Day #5

Packed up camp and on the way to our new site, sited a black wolf.  First wolf siting.  Lots of #poopedmypants moments on this trip.

Found a great little campground in the Bridger-Teton National Forest at Atherton Creek.  Great location.  Well maintained campground with a host.  I’d consider camping here instead of in the park.

And then we did some touristy things.

And learned some stuff about geology.

And skipped rocks.

Day #6

And then home, until the next time.

All members of the party accounted for…

Check out a few prior adventures:

Family Mission: Teton Canyon

Reading Time: 2 minutes

We had something to take care of up in Driggs, Idaho  and decided to combine that trip with a little camping.

One of the features we like about the greater Salt Lake City metro area is its proximity to a lot of great outdoor destinations.  We joke that you are four hours from anything, but four hours from a lot of stuff.

We found a campsite at the Teton Canyon campground.  Must have been a cancellation.

The campground turned out to be ideally located for a couple things.  It is located close to Driggs and Alta, Wyoming, but far enough away to feel like camping.  It is a “primitive” campground, there are bathroom facilities and water.  But not much else.

But the main attraction appears to be that the campground is located close to a few popular trailheads that are essentially the backdoor into the Teton Crest trail system and Grand Teton National Park.

We did two hikes.

On the first day, we drove in and had a bit of a later start than hoped, but did part of the Table Mountain Loop trail.  

We did not go all the way to the summit.  Instead, we just did the loop part.  I would like to tell you that it was a time constraint.  However, that trail is no joke.  We did about 3,000 vertical feet, and there was another 1,000 to the summit.  And our elevation gain was essentially over 3 miles.

Those are the Tetons in the background.

On the second day, we did a shorter hike down the South Teton trail to just past the turn off to go up to Hurricane Pass.

We will definitely be back. We are eyeing either the hike up to Hurricane Pass and the Schoolroom Glacier or continuing on the South Teton trail into the Alaska Basin.

Check out a few prior missions:

Family Mission: Lamb’s Canyon

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Lamb’s Canyon is between Park City and Salt Lake City; just off of Interstate 80.  I had been wanting to explore the area for a while.  We stopped off at the exit once in April coming back from SLC, but it was still pretty snowy, the season gate to the road was still locked, and we were not prepared for a long hike.

But we took advantage of a little extra time during the long fourth of July weekend to plan and do a hike in Lamb’s Canyon.

At this point in the season, the gate is open so you can drive all the way into the trailhead.  The trailhead is well marked, has restrooms, but fairly limited parking.  I saw several cyclists on the road, so that might be something I have to check out at some point.

The weather has been hot and it seemed like many folks started early.  However, we only saw a handful of folks on the trail, so the hike gets a good marks for being low traffic.  We did see a few trail runners, and some lady on an e-bike (boo).  The Lambs Canyon Trail is in good shape, although there are several downed trees across the trail.  The trail is reasonably shaded.  And there were lots of pretty wildflowers.

Here are the stats on our ascent:

Over two thousand feet in just under three miles is no joke.  And it was a pretty steady ascent, so be prepared.  On All Trails, the hike was rated as Moderate.  I would rate it as Moderate Plus for sure, maybe even Difficult.

Our goal was to turn off and head out to Millvue Peak.  Although the actual Lambs Canyon Trail continues straight.  But the trail once you leave the Lambs Canyon Trail and turn left toward Millvue peak was pretty overgrown at this point in the season, still had some fairly serious elevation gain, and we were feeling a bit low energy, so we picked a lunch spot looking at Gobbler’s Knob and turned around.

I think we will try to come back and attempt the hike again in the Fall when the weather is cooler, there are less bugs, and maybe some of the vegetation has subsided.  

Family Adventure: Camping In Grand Teton N.P.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

We spent the last two weekends camping in Grand Teton N.P.  Here are some highlights.


We stayed at the Signal Mountain Campground in sites #69 and #68 for the two weekends.  The campground itself is moving toward the north part of the park, but not quite all the way up to Colter Bay.  The location is off of Teton Park Rd. and is right on Jackson Lake.

The two sites we stayed at where both in the “generator free” zone.  Theoretically, there is a vehicle size limit in the campground as well, but that did not seem well enforced.  

Both sites had private paths down to the lake, which was key.  We preferred #68 vs. #69, since the site had more space for your tent, etc.  Site #69 is better for small RVs that do not need a tent.


We did six hikes.  Here they are in my order of preference:

  1. Cascade Canyon – This was a great hike.  We opted for the (fairly expensive) boat ride across Jenny Lake.  And once we cleared most the folks who stopped at inspiration point – other hikers thinned out considerably.  We went up the North Fork of the trail for about another half mile or so and found a good lunch spot.  The views were amazing.  We want to come back and try to make it all the way to Solitude Lake, but need an earlier start.
  1. Hermitage Point – This was pretty long hike (~9 miles), but the views were worth it and the traffic was surprising low.  We had an awesome lunch spot all to ourselves.  I would suggest hiking clockwise.  The opposite direction we hiked, but you would get better views of the mountains.  
  1. Woodland and Lake Creek Trail – We did this hike on our way out of the park on our last Sunday.  The trailhead is in Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve, which is a cool story and worth researching.  The hike is short (~3 miles) and easy, but nice.  Traffic was not bad, despite being close to Jackson, due to limiting cars in the parking lot (no overflow parking on the road allowed).  We waited a bit for a spot, but it was worth it.
  1. Taggart Lake – We did this hike heading out of the park on Sunday of our first weekend.  Since we had to break camp, we got a bit of a late start and the trailhead was packed with substantial overflow of cars onto the shoulder of the road.  Despite all the other hikers, this was a pretty enjoyable hike and we snagged a great lunch spot on a rock in the lake.  The hike was ~4 miles and pretty easy.
  1. Grand View Point / Two Ocean Lake / Emma Matilda Lake complex – We affectionately called this one Daddy’s Death March.  One, the parking lot is not where the book said it was going to be, so we added another 1.5 miles or so on unexpectedly.  Two, it was hot.  Three, we wove a few trails together, so my family was convinced we were lost, while I on the other hand knew we were in Wyoming the entire time.  In all seriousness, I think we would have liked this hike better if it had been cooler and we had saved ourselves some mileage at the beginning.  I think we hiked ~11 miles.  These trails are toward the north side of the park and away from the mountains, so much lower traffic.  And I did particularly enjoy the trail segment between Emma Matilda and Two Ocean Lake, which we walked heading westerly and were staring at the mountains the whole time.  We did see three separate piles of bear scat, so bring our bear bell and spray.
  1. Signal Mountain Summit – This was our first hike of our first weekend and it disappointed.  The view at the top was marginal.  The hike itself – while low traffic – was not that great.  A plus was the trailhead was at our campground.

We used Hiking Grand Teton National Park by Bill Schneider as a reference and it was worth it.

Other Thoughts:

A few other thoughts – aside from the park is phenomenally beautiful and we had two great weekends.

On the Cascade Canyon hike, I was pretty surprised at how many folks we saw venturing fairly far up that trail that were totally unprepared for any change in conditions.  Think shorts, tshirts, poor footwear, and little to no water or food.  We live in a mountain environment.  The weather folks are mostly guessing and they are wrong a lot.  Be prepared.

The first weekend was very busy.  Jackson looked super busy – we just drove through it.  Some of that was a hangover from Memorial Day weekend, but I would be prepared for lots of traffic and some long lines.

Our annual National Park pass continues to pay for itself.  We bought ours at REI.

We live at about 6,700’ so the altitude was not an issue.  That was about the base of most hikes.

Being On Vacation Is Not An Excuse For Being An Asshole

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Before you “revenge travel”, consider this.

I grew up in Florida.  I hate Orlando.  And most parts of Florida south of that point.  Too many tourists.

We have been here in Park City Utah for about 18 months now.  I am most certainly not a local, but I am grumpy like one.  And I understand why the locals are grumpy.  Too many tourists.  There is a reason on a weekend powder day, the locals are in line by 8:30a and back at the parking lot by 10:30a.  To the guys in the pickup truck from Idaho the road rage merged into us in the turn lane at the Canyon resort on a panic powder day – I hope you got stuck at the Orange Bubble lift line and all your powder lines got packed out.

Traffic laws also apply when you are on vacation.  Slow down.  Especially if you do not know where you are going.  Which obviously you don’t.  To the guy in the minivan that flipped me off on Moose Wilson road in Grand Teton last weekend because you had to yield for 30 seconds on the one lane bridge, I hope the pictures you took out the window of your van sucked.  Sucked more than having to drive a minivan.

There is also wildlife.  I want you to see a moose.  I think they are cool.  There was one sleeping in my neighbor’s front yard the other day.  So, the moose jam you are creating is not impressing anyone.  Respect the wildlife.  Act like you’ve seen some before.  And, you probably miss most the wildlife because of the previous point.

Locals also shop at the grocery store you are storming through like a hoard of locusts.  Grocery shopping is not a timed event.  Rather than be that tourist, learn to pre-order everything online for pickup.  One, it will save you a couple hours of your vacation.  Two, it will create a local job. 

But mostly, please remember that being on vacation is not an excuse for being an asshole.  You are not more entitled than anyone else, especially the people who live where you are vacationing.