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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Utah's Grotto Trail Hike and Monkey Mat Review

This post is part of a series of weekly gear reviews. Check back most Wednesdays* for reviews of cool gear for outdoor families.

In honor of National Public Lands Day, Mountain Dad and I went with some friends to Grotto Trail. Not only is this a great hike for kids, it was beautiful with fall colors in full effect.

While Big E and little g slid down the dirt slides, explored the stream and ran around with their friends the adults enjoyed the leaves. Occasionally we called the kids back to the trail in an attempt to finish the hike in less than three hours, but they were having so much fun playing we didn't try too hard.

The colors were beautiful, the weather was perfect and the hike ideal. The trail is only 0.3 miles long, and ends in a twenty foot tall waterfall cave. And although the trail was fairly busy, it still had a feel of seclusion in the grotto.

We all enjoyed the hike so much we stopped for a picnic on the way out. Luckily I had my Monkey Mat to make things easier.

The Monkey Mat is a portable floor that folds into a convenient pouch making it an easy carry along for outdoor adventures. It was given to me for review at Outdoor Retailer and I've used it more than I expected in the last two months.

Now you may be thinking, isn't that the same as a blanket? Although a blanket can serve the same purpose, the Monkey Mat stands out as being conveniently portable, as in it can fit in a large pocket or purse or clip onto a belt loop, backpack or stroller. The 5 by 5 foot square of water resistant material has weighted corners and toy and stake loops but folds up into the attached 6 by 6 inch zippered pouch.

There are times with a baby that I just need a clean place to put her down - going to the bathroom, helping another child, carrying something. The Monkey Mat makes that aspect of outdoor adventures much easier. At 6 months and not crawling yet, Baby L is the perfect age for the Monkey Mat. We've taken it on picnics, to the water park, as a stroller cover, even to put her down on my dirty floor at home. Within an hour of getting it I used it as a place to change a diaper on the side of a parking lot.

I have found that lugging three kids' worth of stuff around makes me want to declutter everything, including what I take on outdoor adventures. The Monkey Mat gives me a space saving option that has made outdoor time more comfortable when sitting on the bare ground won't work.

But even with the convenience of it, I don't know that I would buy it myself. I'm frugal by nature and spending money for a portable floor when I already have a blanket or baby wrap seems redundant. With that said, had I received it as a baby shower gift I would use it all the time. It is a great gift for an outdoors loving parent.

Bottom line, when I have the Monkey Mat with me it can be a life saver, but sometimes it's redundant. It's list price is $19.99.


  • Lightweight, portable, and packable 
  • Fits into attached pouch and clips onto bags, belts, or strollers.
  • Water Resistant
  • Machine Washable (don't dry it in the dryer to keep the water resistance)
  • Redundant if you already have a blanket or towel

*I know this is a Thursday, but I ran out of time to finish yesterday.

Directions to Grotto Trail in Utah:
Take I-15 to Payson Exit 254. Head South on Main Street until 100 North, Turn Left. Go East until 600 East and Turn Right. This road takes up up Payson Canyon. Follow for approx 7 miles to the trail head of Grotto Falls.

Monday, September 28, 2015

National Public Lands Day

Saturday, September 26, 2015 was National Public Lands Day. I appreciate the outdoors and LOVE National Parks so you would think that I would've known about National Public Lands Day before now. Nope. I found out about it Friday night. It was on Saturday.

My lack of awareness didn't stop us from exploring on Saturday. In honor of the National Public Lands Day Mountain Dad and I took the tots on a hike in the nearby Wasatch - Cache - Uinta National Forest. My tots were stoked because not only was the trail fun and easy with a waterfall at the end, we went with friends so they could climb, slide, and explore with buddies.

I'm familiar with National Parks and National Forests but I wasn't aware of the other agencies that manage public land in the US. I figured if I didn't know about them, you might not either so here's a quick list of the agencies involved in National Public Lands Day.

  • Bureau of Land Management - Founded in 1946, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administers more than 245 million acres of public lands in the United States, mostly in the 12 western states. BLM Land is used in a variety of ways including oil and gas development, cattle grazing, recreation and wilderness areas. 
  • US Army Corp of EngineersThe Army Corps of Engineers is the steward of the lands and waters at Corps water resources projects. To see all their locations click here.
  • USDA Forest Service - The US Forest Service manages 154 national forests and 20 grasslands in 44 states and Puerto Rico. Their efforts are focused on restoration, water resources and recreation. For locations of National Forests click here

Did you go explore on National Public Lands Day? Where did you go?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Fire! Fire! Fire! Emergency Preparedness + LuminAID Spectra Giveaway

Today is the last day to enter this giveaway! Make your entries now!

Last week there was a wildfire near our house.
Photo Credit: Tiffany Fox on twitter @ParkCityTV 
We live in the mountains near Sundance Resort in Utah. Our fire department reminds all the homeowners about wildfire danger every year. As full time residents in a largely vacation home area, we are part of the community emergency evacuation team,willing to go door to door should an evacuation be needed.

Luckily last week's fire didn't threaten our community directly, but it did burn over 720 acres of forest land and spewed smoke throughout the county.

Photo Credit: 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Aquabot Review and Camping in Logan Canyon, Utah

This post is part of a series of weekly gear reviews. Check back most Wednesdays for reviews of cool gear for outdoor families.

The whole mountain family headed up to Logan Canyon, Utah for an end of summer campout. Along for the ride were cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and lots of fun. We tubed the river a bit, hiked Tony Grove Nature Trail and of course had a fire and played cards in the tent. That last activity is the real reason my kids go camping. Forget about nature, let's play Go Fish!

Next to the cards my tots' favorite activity was spraying each other with water. What made that easy was a nifty water bottle attachment we received from The Aquabot.

Convenience and function are the top criteria I use when I'm packing for an outdoor adventure. The Aquabot filled those requirements and was really fun to boot. It changes a regular water bottle into a squirt gun, mister and hose all in one. With a few quick pumps you can pressurize the water in your bottle, making your drinking container double as a sprayer. This is especially convenient trying to clean sand off of feet or dirt off of hands as we found while camping in Logan Canyon, Utah.

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