Local Guide: Park City Ultimate Bucket List

After living in Park City for the past 5 years, I’ve compiled all of the top things to accomplish and do when living (or visiting) Park City, Utah. Mind you, this list is not something anyone can do in a week, a summer, or just a winter. This will take a long time to accomplish, but every item on this list will be an unforgettable experience nonetheless. I’ve broken it down into two categories adventure & outdoors and food & Cultural Experiences. Hope you agree and enjoy! Let me know if you’d like to see anything else added to this …

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Ultimate Weekend Guide: Escalante, Utah

The town of Escalante is one of Utah’s last remaining hidden gems, untouched in so many ways, with true sense of adventure still able to be found here. This desert landscape, that surrounds the tiny town of Escalante, is expansive and seemingly endless in all directions. A haven for both off-roaders and human powered alike. And after five years of adventures here, I still have barely touched the surface of possibilities here. There are so many more slot canyons, jeep roads, canyoneering, hikes, and climbs to be explored. As I mentioned, I’ve only scratched the surface, but I’ve spent so …

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Review | The Village Coconut Island Resort in Phuket, Thailand

Just a short, five minute boat ride from the mainland, puts you at the edge of the dock of The Village Coconut Island. And once you hop off the boat, onto the pier, you treated to a view of the beautiful resort that lines the white sand beaches on the north side of Coconut Island. To the right are massive beachfront villas overlooking the sea, and to the left of the pier, are the beach lounge chairs, pool, and the resort restaurant right there on the beach. Some would say this is paradise! Unfortunately, over the next three days, we …

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SCUBA Diving with Nurse Sharks | Florida Keys

This past summer, I accomplished a bucket-list item of mine, going SCUBA diving sharks! It was a complete surprise to me, slightly terrifying, but overall peaceful! Swimming along side these creatures, I’ve never felt more sure of an animal’s place in this world. What I mean by that, is sharks do not swim anything like a typical fish. They are calm, collected, and at a moments notice can swim in any direction with complete ease and grace. And throughout that entire dive, I was fascinated by these grey creatures and couldn’t take my eyes off them. This was our second …

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Trip to Kamala Beach, Phuket, Thailand

After spending a few days on a SCUBA diving boat out near the Similan Islands, we chose to spend the next few days relaxing at the beachside town of Kamala Beach. Though we had only been to a few other towns in Thailand up until this point of the trip, Kamala Beach was beautiful, and completely different than anything we had expected. And over the next few days, we fell in love with this small beach town and how memorable it was. Kamala Beach, located on the western coast of the Phuket island, is just one town north of the …

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Cabin Life: Summer up in Tollgate Canyon

Living in Tollgate Canyon during the summer months is truly a dream! After such a harsh, seemingly endless, snowy winter, followed by a long, muddy spring, the summer weather was a saving grace. And with those warm summer days, comes endless opportunities to explore the mountain’s dirt roads, enjoy viewing the wildlife, and to live that true mountain lifestyle! My favorite part of living in Tollgate during the summer is the endless opportunities for mountain biking, gravel biking, and trail running. At the end of the day, the neighborhood is on the side (and top) of a mountain that has …

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Best Mountain Biking: Captain Ahab & HyMasa Loop | Moab, UT

The Captain Ahab and HyMasa is another iconic mountain bike ride for the expert rider in Moab, Utah. If you’ve ridden the Mag7, Klondike Bluffs, and Moab Brand trails and found them too easy, then the HyMasa and Captain Ahab loop are surely going to test your skills! The climb up HyMasa is beyond technical, with countless step-ups that will test the best riders. The climb makes the descent down Captain Ahab completely worth it, that is, if you want to ride some of the most challenging features and rocky sections in Moab! All said, if you only have a …

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Touring the Iconic Phi Phi Islands of Thailand

Rarely, in my experience of traveling both abroad and throughout America, do the touristy, adventure tourism locations live up to the hype. Destinations in the US National Parks like Arches, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon are undeniably beautiful, but perpetually overcrowded, which tend to take away from the personal experience. The Phi Phi Islands, though similar in popularity, are some of the most beautiful, and unforgettable scenery that I’ve ever seen. Phi Phi Islands far exceeded my original thoughts of this place that I had previously only seen popularly on Instagram. The Phi Phi Islands are actually an island chain, made …

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Backpacking to Grandaddy Lake in the Uintas

Grandaddy Lake, located in the Uinta Mountains, might be the perfect weekend backpacking trip. After a short hike over Hades Pass, the view of the basin below filled with alpine lakes is unforgettable. And once you reach the shoreline of Grandaddy Lake, you will get to choose from a nearly unlimited number of areas to camp for the weekend. And having gone up there on the Labor Day weekend, which I thought would be busy, turned out to be completely empty, making it the perfect weekend of backpacking.

The roundtrip hike to Grandaddy Lake, via the Grandview Trail, is a 7.2 mile hike with only 1,300 feet of vertical to climb. Not difficult by most hike or backpacking standards, but this trail starts at 9,730feet and goes up to 10,645feet in elevation. The air is thin and the trail is steep, making it shockingly more difficult than I expected, especially with a heavy backpack on. But the adventure starts long before the trailhead, because once you turn off main road, there is 6.2 miles of bumpy dirt road that has to climb up over 2,000 feet.

The plan for our backpacking trip was to head up Saturday morning, spend two nights, then return home on Monday morning. We brought with us our dog, fly fishing rods, and most importantly, our Kokopelli Packrafts! And as we left the trailhead, heading uphill, we felt ever ounce of weight we were bringing with us for a weekend of adventure and fun. Luckily, the approach hike was beautiful and went by rather quickly. We left the valley behind us, passing other backpackers and day-hikers using the trail. And once we climbed up to the top of Hades pass, we could see we were going to be in for one incredible weekend.

From the pass, we could see the entire basin below, filled with alpine lakes surrounded by 10,000foot mountain peaks. The most stunning of these, of course, would be the largest lake in the Uintas, Grandaddy Lake. And we cruised on down to the water’s edge to see it up close and personal, and of course to find a campsite for the weekend. The lake was bigger, and more stunning than we could have ever imagined, and the best part was it was completely empty! So after we found a flat spot, with a fire ring, 200feet away from the water, we setup our camp! Starting with getting our heavy packs off our shoulders, followed by setting up our 10 year old 2-person backpacking tent. To which, we broke the zipper in the progress.

We didn’t let that slow our weekend down! The rest of that evening and the following day were spent perfectly slow. We inflated the packrafts and paddled out onto that empty lake with the dog in tow. We explored a few of the island on the lake, paddling from one to the other, getting off to hike around and imagine camping on one of them one day. The water was calm, soothing, and blue! Contrasting perfectly with the green pines that surrounded the lake’s edge and below the tan and white rocky ridge lines above.

We took our shot at fly fishing at the bank of the lake, with not much luck. Because even when we don’t catch anything, we still love to cast the fly into the water. Courtney had at least some luck with her choices of flies, getting the fish to hit, but not much luck getting them to bite anything. Maybe we’ll have to switch over to bait casting, because other fishermen we passed on the trail in had caught.   A ton of fish they sustained on for the entire weekend. It didn’t matter, we still had fun.

Each night ended the same way, with a mountain house meal, cooked with our JetBoil camp stove. We ate them sitting on rocks at the lakeside, as we watched the setting sun crest over the mountains to the West. The orange and red light beamed off the mountains above, reflecting off the water below. And with the setting sun, came the dropping of temperatures, plummeting from the warm 70s of the day, down to the cold, upper 30s throughout the night. I was not packed for those temps, foolishly I had only brought shorts and didn’t pack anything warmer than a mid-layer! Regretting that decision when I awoke with frozen toes, but at least Gregor seemed to get a great night’s sleep between us in that small 2-person tent.

The last morning, we woke to the view of a glassy lake surface, almost as reflective as a mirror. It almost made us forget how heavy the backpacks were when we put them back on for our hike out. But luckily, the hike uphill was short to the top of the pass, then it was all downhill back to the trailhead. On the way down, we reminisced about drinking the beers at camp that we had chilled by sitting in the stream that ran through camp. We talked about how the stars shined bright in the cloudless night’s sky. And how perfect of the Labor Day Weekend hiking to Grandaddy Lake was. And like every beautiful, destination in Utah we’ve been to, I can’t wait to go back.

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Best Mountain Biking: Mag7 -Gold Bar Rim – Portal | Moab, Utah

For years I’ve starred up at the canyon wall that surround the town of Moab, wondering what exactly is up there any how could I get there. Well, a few weekends ago, I found out exactly how, and it was followed by one of the best days on a mountain bike I’ve ever had. I’m talking about the classic trail link-up of Mag7 to Gold Bar to Portal. Each of these three trails is unique and incredibly challenging for drastically different reasons. And 5 1/2 hours later, my two friends and I were back at the truck, exhausted, and ready for a beer to cap off an incredible day on the bikes.

What exactly is the Mag 7 – Portal Finish trail in Moab? Well, it’s a 21 mile trail that starts on top of the Plateau where Canyonlands National Park is located in Moab. From the trailhead, the route descends down both flowing and technical slickrock for 10 miles. The first half descent tracks down Getaway (Blue), Bull Run (Black), and Arth’s Corner (Blue). Following the first half, starts the difficult section of this trail. Once you cross Gemini Bridges Road, it’s a gnarly, steep, and punchy climb up 1,700ft of desert riding on the Gold Bar Rim Trail and Gold Bar Road. After you successfully navigate the climb to the top of the cliff’s edge, the fun has just begun. A technical traverse along a cliff with a 1000 feet of nothing over the edge on the Gold Bar Rim Trail, followed by one of the most technically demanding and challenging trail, called Portal.

TrailForks Mag7 to Portal Route

The ride isn’t a normal start and finish from the trailhead, unfortunately, there’s a bit more logistics to go into it. You need to shuttle to the top, leaving a vehicle at the bottom for the finish. After that, my two friends Nate and Tyler dropped into the trail for our epic ride ahead of us. Even though the ride is primarily downhill (3,800 feet of descending), in the desert, even when you’re going downhill, it’s still filled with punchy climbs that are exhausting. But that didn’t get in the way of riding some of the most fun trails at the Mag7 area. We took turns leading out down some of the technical features and flowy sections of Bull Run, regrouping after each section to share the stoke. And the first half descent was capped off with my favorite trail in Moab, called Arth’s Corner. This trail is packed filled with rock drops, huge sweeping slickrock sections, and tons of difficult step-ups that require all of your focus and energy to navigate.

Upper Mag7 has amazing views of the LaSalle Mountains

Gold Bar Jeep Road Climb (Mile 10.5)

After the first half descent is done, it’s onto the uphill section. See, in the desert, the trails are made up of either soft or slickrock. Slickrock, which is the infamous orange and red sandstone of Moab, is a mountain biker’s dream terrain choice. Unlike back in the day, when horses and wagon wheels couldn’t gain traction on the rock, which is how it got its name, mountain bike tires grip to slickrock like velcro! This is absolutely required to accomplish some of the difficult, back-to-back sections of climbing up steep 1 to 3 feet step-up climbs. You’re able to crawl up the steepest rocks and never loose traction, well, as long as your legs can keep pushing. And that is required to climb up the Gold Bar Road, which is normally only tackled by modified Jeeps and off-roaders with big engines. And we struggled up this hill, very, very slowly, with very high heart rates.

Example of the average steep, step-up climbs in the desert

Gold Bar Rim (Mile 14.7)

Once you climb up, you treated to one of the most incredible views of the Moab area below. Arches off to the east, Moab to the south, Canyonlands and the Colorado River to the West, and of course, the snow capped LaSalle Mountains off in the distance. And after eating a few snacks, to help replenish our energy that was quickly draining, we headed down on the double black diamond rated Gold Bar Rim singletrack. This trail was wild! Starting off with very steep and technical features that slot between narrow rock sections, spitting you out onto huge slickrock slabs. Each descent was followed by a quick climb up to the next feature, and repeat. All while you skirt the edge of the rim, following the trail that goes ever-so close to the void below. On this section, Nate somehow blew the crank off his bike on a climb, which had us trying to do some trailside repairs to keep riding. Eventually, we were able to get the crankset with it’s damaged splines back onto the bottom bracket with some critical input from Tyler coming up with the solution and we were back riding to the end of the Gold Bar Rim trail, which meant the fun was about to begin on Portal.

“Don’t Look Down!”

Portal Trail (Mile 18.4)

The proline rated (harder than double black diamond) Portal trail, is a Moab classic for the extreme riders out there. Broken up into two sections (Top Half and Bottom Half) will have your nerves, and tires, on edge the entire time. The first half is the iconic portion of the trail where you are quite literally riding on a two foot wide sliver of trail on the middle of a sandstone rockface. As in, hundreds of feet of rock to the right side above you, and hundreds of feet of nothing on your left side. The trail isn’t too technically demanding (relative to the second half), but does feature a few sections that you absolutely must walk your bike, because even the slightest miscalculation will result in certain death. But that doesn’t stop the fun to be had flying along the trail, clearing rocky steps, floating down the chunky drop sections. But once you clear the first half, you are treated to the most difficult riding I’ve ever done. Not so much the steepest trail, but sections of technical rocky features that your tires need to hit the perfect line, maybe only an inch or two wide, in order to have a chance of navigating successfully. I say a chance, because each feature flows immediately into the next, requiring you to maintain your wits about you, looking ahead at the next feature, while your tires are still navigating the one you’re on. The sections of trail can twist, turn 180 on a dime, and drop 10 feet, all within a few yards of trail. And of course, throughout the trail, are sections where the rocks are so unevenly spaced, that the slightest error will result in your front wheel getting stuck and you flying over the handlebars like superman into a less than soft landing. 

Steep exposure along with very technical lines

With that being said, nearly every section of Portal trail can be walked down if you’ve gotten in over your head. Which we definitely did on some of the switchback features. There was no way we were able to control our bikes enough to navigate a hard chunky section at full speed, stop on a dime, then flip the bike around 180 degree, and down a 6ft slab. Just wasn’t going to happen. So it begs the question, can you only say you’ve ridden the Portal trail if you clean every feature? Or is there an acceptable percentage that you can walk? Either way, it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a mountain bike! Will I do it again? You bet! But hopefully I’ll be in better shape next time, so once I get to the top of one of the most difficult trails in Moab, I’ll have all my strength and energy to really rip down that trail! And somehow, all three of us reached the truck without any major crashes, and in good enough shape to head into town for some beers at Moab Brewery!

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