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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Great Giftable Gear from 2014

This year we've tried out some great new gear. If you're looking for an outdoor gift for someone on your list here're some of my favorites from 2014.

At Outdoor Retailers this summer I was given some water bottles to review. The Cambelback Kids aluminum bottle is cute and portable but it has one major design flaw. The handle is positioned to get in the way when drinking, especially for little faces. Another water bottle that has now become my favorite is the Avex Sport. I'm a big fan of the pourable spout especially as a mom. Then I can refill my kids' bottles without sharing our germs. AGS Carabiner Travel mug is a good design, but cheaply made and although I thought I would use its convenient carabiner handle I haven't as much as I expected.

This year we purchased a Goal Zero Lighthouse Lantern with electronic charging capabilities. You can plug-in charge it, connect it to a solar panel or even use the hand crank top if needed. It's so much more compact because you don't need a propane bottle, plus it functions as a cell phone or tablet charger when you're out at camp. My kids like the "party lights" feature where the red lights circle on top and the lights put out good light and function in cold conditions. Note: Goal Zero has come out with a newer model since this review - the Lighthouse 250 Lantern retailing at 79.99.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Outlaw ATV Trail, Ashley National Forest, Utah

On our recent campout in Ashley National Forest we brought our Polaris RZR to explore the surrounding area. When we started out on our weekend getaway we weren't sure where we were going to camp, what trails were nearby or what exactly we were going to do all day. We just knew we were headed to the Vernal, Utah area and that there's a lot of off roading nearby.

We lucked out with our choice of camping in Ashley National Forest. Not only were there many off road trails, the area was secluded and beautiful. The most well known off-road trail is the 38 mile Outlaw ATV trail which traverses through forest, past lakes and over streams. 

Unfortunately, because of the spontaneity of the trip, we did not have an accurate map of the off road trails in the area (Click here for a map of the Outlaw Trail). Instead we attempted to explore off road trails using signs and an outdated Utah map we found under the seat of our truck. Now, I know. A little planning could've prevented a lot of hassle.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

East Lake Park Campground, Ashley National Forest, Utah

Great things happened this month. Little g turned 3, Mountain Dad turned 42 and I went on my first camping trip since learning I was pregnant. 

In general, being pregnant is a whole lot of discomfort. It's harder to walk, eat, sleep, even get comfortable. When I first found out I was expecting I would've never willingly slept in a tent on a pad two inches thick, but a lot can happen between the first trimester and the second.  When Mountain Dad suggested we get away to celebrate his birthday I weighed the possible discomforts of camping against the benefits of a few days of outdoor experience. 

The outdoors won, which is what brought the Mountain Fam out to East Lake Park in Ashley National Forest. This mountain lake campground is located at 9,000 feet and closes for reservations on October 1st. For us that meant no running water (we just brought our own) and complete solitude. My research beforehand didn't say we couldn't stay there, nor were signs posted saying to vacate the premises so we took our chances and were glad it worked out.

East Lake Park is a high mountain lake with boat ramp. Fishing is big there, although without a boat or fishing poles we abstained. Instead we enjoyed the nearby off roading trail, including part of the famous Outlaw ATV trail that runs along the shores of the lake. 

One major drawback of camping at 9,000 feet in late October is the cold. I'm grateful for previous camping experience that taught me to always have a winter coat, hat and gloves as well as warm sleeping gear. Since we came prepared we all stayed toasty warm and spent a little more time next to the campfire than we would've otherwise.

The trip was great fun and enjoying the outdoors with my growing family was worth the inconveniences. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My Go To Outdoor Space: Bridal Veil Falls, Provo Canyon, Utah

Everyone needs a place where they can connect with the outdoors. Our family is lucky to live in the mountains, but even with trees and fresh air all around our house I still find myself wanting to get OUT to the outdoors.

Our family's go-to outdoor space is just a ten minute drive from home. Bridal Veil Falls, a gorgeous waterfall in Provo Canyon, Utah has a lot of things going for it. The paved trail makes it easy for a hike or bike. The short distance is easily managed by small feet. A river flowing along the trail allows for easy kid diversion and the destination is beyond compare - a giant waterfall with a fish pond next to it.

Whatever the season we love to visit Bridal Veil Falls (although, to be honest, the ice climbing of winter hasn't interested us yet). But the best season to visit has to be autumn. Changing colors putting on their magical display can't be beat.

On our most recent visit Big E rode his bike while little g and I walked the trail, admiring the fall foliage. Since Bridal Veil Falls is in the shadow of the mountain it can get cold, even when the sun is shining on the other side of the canyon. Luckily I hadn't cleaned out my car and a red stocking cap kept little g from crying in discomfort.

Having this go-to place close by helps me get outside even when it's chilly, I'm tired or my kids are cranky. Being outdoors relaxes me and helps me focus on some more important things than cleaning the house - family, nature and enjoying time with my kids. When I'm outdoors with my tots I feel like I'm a better parent. I'm teaching my kids to love the world around them, take care of it and enjoy the beauty of the natural world without lecturing or nagging. And they enjoy running, climbing, playing and exploring without the confines of the house.

So what's your go-to outdoor space? A park? A running trail? Is there a place you go for a quick outdoors fix? If not, why not?

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