Sunday, October 16, 2016

Spotlight: Utah County - Fifth Water Hot Springs and Waterfalls

Spotlight: Fifth Water Creek is a tributary of the Diamond Fork River. Along this creek are some popular hot springs that have created several luxurious natural soaking pools. The popular hike, often referred to as the "hot pots," is located in Diamond Fork Canyon near Spanish Fork, Utah. The trail also passes several picturesque waterfalls. Although the trail can be accessed year-round with the right kind of vehicle, it is often covered with snow from late fall to early spring. It is extremely popular on weekends during warm weather.

Location: Fifth Water Hot Springs are located along Fifth Water Creek. To get there, travel up Highway 6 through Spanish Fork Canyon until you reach the Diamond Fork Turnoff (about 11 miles east of Spanish Fork). Travel north up Diamond Fork Canyon for about 9 1/2 miles to the Three Forks Trailhead. Go through the gate, and do not cross the first bridge! Instead hike along the trail on the north side of the river until you reach a second bridge (about a mile up the trail). Cross this one and follow the trail another mile or so until you reach the hot springs. There is a fork in the trail before the springs, but they merge again further up, so it doesn't matter which one you take.
Cost: Free

Time: The hike will take about 2 hours round trip. Add on the amount of time you want to spend exploring the waterfalls or bathing in the hot springs.

Description: The Hot Springs at Fifth water are a series of pools that have been diverted and walled in to create several naturally fueled hot tubs that are perfect size for sitting. Although the smell of sulfur can be strong, the water itself is very clear. The temperature will vary from pool to pool, and even from one area of the pool to another, so always check the temperature before bathing.

     In addition to the hot tubs, there are four waterfalls along the trail. The lower falls are just up from the first set of pools. It is a unique waterfall in the sense that there is a small cave at the base, and another higher up. During the spring, you can feel cold water falling down from the spring runoff, while squatting in the heated water below. The upper cave has a window that you can peer out through at the water cascading down. If you go later in the year, you will get a much different look.
sitting in lower cave (early June)
Looking out window of upper cave (June)
Upper window (late August)
Lower cave (August)
      Above the first waterfall, there are two more hot spring pools, followed by the second waterfall. This one is also very photogenic. The third and fourth waterfalls are a ways higher up the trail. They are nice cascades, but not as cool as the first two, and are less accessible.
2nd waterfall

3rd waterfall
4th waterfall
Rating: 4 1/2 stars (out of 5)

Things You Should Know: - The road up Diamond Fork Canyon is windy and narrow in parts. You will also occasionally encounter cows in the road; so drive carefully.
- Parking at the trailhead can get pretty crowded on weekends, so get there early.
- The first time we went looking for the hot springs, we crossed the bridge. It was a pretty hike, but we didn't find any hot springs. Instead, hike along the river until you reach the second bridge.
- The hot springs often attract skinny-dippers (particularly in the evenings), so you might want to be cautious - especially with children in tow.
- Hikers occasionally see rattlesnakes along the trail during the warmer months, so have an experienced hiker take the lead.
- The trail is also popular for bicycles.
- I would strongly recommend bringing rubber-soled water socks or shoes that you don't mind getting wet while walking in the stream or pools. My niece cut up her feet trying to walk barefoot. Also, the rocks are extremely slippery from the white and green moss that collects on them from the water; so use extreme caution.
-  Although the water is mostly clear, you will see small black ash particles floating in some of the pools, so be careful about getting water in your mouth or eyes.
- The waterfalls are best in the spring when there is a lot of spring runoff.
- There are plenty of camping spots in the canyon if you want to spend a couple of days enjoying the beauty of nature.

Nearby: Red Ledges Picnic area, Spanish Fork Peak, Scofield State Park, The Grotto

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Spotlight: Utah County - Cornbelly's Fall Festival and Corn Maze

Spotlight: This week's spotlight is a festival. Cornbelly's is an annual Halloween/Fall harvest celebration that takes place at Thanksgiving Point every October. Cornbelly's is famous for it's MAiZE, which first began in 1996 as the dream child of Brett Herbst. The MAiZE has grown into the worlds largest cornfield maze company, winning a Guinness World Record in 1999. However, Cornbelly's is more than just a giant corn maze. There are a plethora of activities and events for both kids and adults.

Location: Cornbelly's takes place at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, UT.

Cost: There are different passes you can buy, each one allowing you admittance to more attractions than the previous one: General Admission (ages 3-99; ages 2 and under are free):
Laughn' - $11.95/person (Mon.-Thurs.); $14.95/person (Fri.-Sat.)
Screamn' - $24.95/person
Lovin' - $26.95/person

Time: Plan to be there 2-6 hours. This year, the festival started Friday 9/30 and will go to Saturday 10/29. It is open from 10:00 am - 11:00 pm (Fri. & Sat.) and open 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm (Mon.-Thurs.) with extended hours (10-9) on Thurs. 10/20 and Mon. 10/24.

Description: The main attraction is the MAiZE. Each year, has a different theme. This year's theme (2016) is the Peanuts Gang. Visitors are supposed to find various checkpoints before finding their way back to the entrance/exit. There are several other smaller mazes geared toward various ages. Separate from the corn maze is the Grain Train Maze. A tractor leads a train of cars on a ride through the maze to see various scarecrow and jack-o-lantern displays.
Grain Train Maze
Beatles Jack-o-lantern
     Other regular admission (Laughn') attractions include: Animal Band, Barnyard Ball Zone, Barnyard Billiards, Barnyard Soccer, Campfires, Corn Ball, Corn Cob Beach, Corn Hole, Corn MazeCornbelly Mountain, Cow Train, Duck Races, Farm Golf, Farmer Fast Pitch, Farmn' Foosball, Giant Rat Maze, Giant Slide, Grain Train, Haybale Maze, Hayride, Jumbo Jumpers, Kiddie Courtyard, Pumpkin Bowling, Pumpkin Princess Playland, Pumpkin Tetherball, Pumpkin Tic-Tac-Toe & Checkers, Rat Rollers, Singing Chicken Show, Special Events, Spiderwebs, Spookley Show, and Steer Roping.
Farmn' Foosball
pumpkin bowling

Corn Cob Beach
Duck Races
     The Screamn' Pass includes all Laughn' Pass attractions, plus entrance to the following Insanity Point attractions: Big Top Terror, Chaos Castle, Creature, Hayloft Horror, and the Haunted Maze.
The Creature at Insanity Point
     The Lovin' Ultimate Combo Pass includes all of the Laughin' and Screamn' attractions plus: Rockwall or Cole's Corral; Paintball or Apple Blasters; Hot Cocoa or Shaved Ice; Bull Riding or gemstone or cookies; and zipline or kettle corn or caramel apple.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Things You Should Know: - Cornbelly's is open for extended hours during Fall Break.
- The Corn Maze may be closed due to bad weather. Check website for closures.
- Special events this year include: Outdoor Movie Night (10/10), Meet the Gang Mondays (Peanuts characters), West Coast Lumberjacks (10/14-10/17), High-flying Trick Dog Show (10/19-10/26), Munchkin Radio Dance Party (every Sat. 11-3), Trick-or-Treat Parade (every Sat at 2:00), storytelling (daily), pig races (daily), Scary Tales n S'mores (Mon., Fri., Sat. 7:00 pm), Wild Wonders (Tues-Thurs), Magic Mondays (5:30 & 6:45), Candy Cannon (Mon, Fri, Sat), Fireworks (Fri & Sat), Pumpkin Smash (10/29)
Candy Cannon
- Thanksgiving Point members receive a 25% discount on Cornbelly's ticket purchases.
- If you purchase your tickets online from the website, you receive a $2 discount/ticket; but you also pay a small service fee. Overall, you come out ahead, and you don't have to stand in line.
- If you don't see everything on your first visit, you can purchase bounce-back tickets for later in the season.
- Most of the activities on the Laughn' Pass are geared toward younger kids (ages 3-10).
- Insanity Point attractions are only open after dark on select dates. Check the Calendar for times.
- Insanity Point screamn' attractions are open to visitors during the daytime, but they are "unhaunted" for a less spooky diversion.
- If you only wish to do one or two of the "Lovin' Combo Pass" activities, you can purchase items separately at the ticket booths, but you miss out on the discounts.
- Cornbelly's has a wide selection of pumpkins for sale, ranging from $0.50 - $10. Pumpkins are available in a wide variety of shapes and colors, from classic orange pumpkins to deranged white ones. You don't need to enter the event to purchase pumpkins.

Nearby: Museum of Ancient Life, Farm Country, Megaplex Theatres, Museum of Curiosity, Thanksgiving Point Gardens, Thanksgiving Point Golf Course,

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Spotlight: Utah Peaks - Spanish Fork Peak (aka Maple Mountain)

Spotlight: Spanish Fork Peak, or as it's known in Mapleton - Maple Mountain, is one of the "Seven Peaks" that surround Utah County. Although there are more than 7 peaks higher than 10,000 feet in Utah County, a view of the Wasatch Mountains from Utah Lake has seven distinct groups of mountains that jut up into the sky from the valley floor. The Seven Peaks are the seven most prominent mountains in each group. At 10,192 feet, Spanish Fork Peak is the shortest of the seven. That doesn't make it the easiest to conquer.

Location: The trail head is located up Mapleton Canyon. Drive east on 400 N until you reach Whitings campground. The sign says it is a fee area, but that is for the campground. Keep going up that road until you pass the campground and park in the parking lot at the end of the road. Start hiking up the Left Fork Maple Canyon Trail for about a quarter mile until you reach the trail head. At this point, the trail you've been following keeps going, but you will cross the stream over a small wooden bridge at the following GPS coordinates: 40.135327, -111.523185

Time: 6-10 hours. My friend and I, who are experienced hikers, did it in just under 8 hours with about a 20 minute break at the top.

Cost: The only cost is physical.

Description: The trail is officially listed at 10.25 miles round trip, but if you count the quarter mile hike to reach the trail head, it is closer to 11 miles. It is a strenuous hike, along a steep trail, particularly the last mile to the top. It is a great workout for experienced hikers, but I wouldn't recommend it for novice hikers.
     The first part of the trail isn't very steep, but it is rocky. Soon after crossing the stream, the trail gets steeper as you steadily climb up through the very lush, green foliage that lines the trail. Although the trail is very distinct, it is not very well maintained. Branches from bushes on either side of the trail often hang over the trail, and several trees have fallen over the trail at various points. We went in mid-June, and started at about 6 am, so our pants got soaked on the way up from walking through the dew-laden branches. Although most of this area is forested, you will intermittently cross through meadows, some of which may contain the occasional camper.
     Eventually, the trail levels out on a plateau that contains several larger meadows, including the one containing Maple Canyon Lake. The "lake" is more of a pond, and is infested with mosquitoes during the summer months.
     Shortly after passing the lake, the trail gets really steep as you press on to the summit. Depending on the time of year, you will encounter snow patches that cover the trail at several points. We had to traverse a large snow field in the bowl that leads up to the saddle, which slowed our progress immensely going up, but made it faster coming down.
     Once you reach the ridgeline, you can see Utah Valley below you. To reach the summit, turn left. From there, the trail will split again. The main trail traverses the western face up the mountain before joining the ridge trail again. It makes a more gradual ascent to the top, but might be covered in snow. Since we encountered a lot of snow, we decided to follow the less obvious ridge trail to the top. It is a little steeper, and makes you lose some of your elevation before climbing again, but was faster since we didn't have to walk across the snow.
     Once you reach the summit, you will find a large rock cairn that contains a mailbox. There used to be a summit log inside it, but someone ripped out the pages. In any case, it offered beautiful views of the entire valley on both sides of the mountain.

View of Mt. Nebo
View of Utah Lake
     To get back down, follow the same trail. Because of the loose rocks, the trip down can be slippery, so take it slow.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

Things You Should Know: - The trail crosses a seasonal creek at one section, so you may get your feet wet. My shoes were soaked from the underbrush even though I was able to cross the creek on rocks.
- If you like geocaching, there are several geocaches along the trail. Some are easy to find, other are a bit more difficult.
- Depending on the time of year, some of the meadows may be filled with beautiful wildflowers.
- You will probably be sore the day after going on this hike, so plan accordingly.
- Recommended items for this hike are: good hiking shoes, sun block, bug spray, a walking stick, snacks, and plenty of water for each hiker.
- Water from the lake must be purified.

Nearby: Mount Timpanogos, Santaquin Peak, BYU, Diamond Fork Canyon.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Time Capsule - September 1991 - Vicente Perez Rosales National Park

     Twenty-five years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Vicente Perez Rosales National Park in the Los Lagos Region, Llanquihue Province in southern Chile. The park covers 2,530 km2 almost entirely within the Andes mountain chain. The park contains the Todos los Santos Lake, which has a surface area of 178.5 km² and a maximum depth of 337 meters. From this lake flows the Petrohue River. Due to its protected status, the water in this river is an absolutely stunning turquoise color. A short ways downriver, the river flows over the Petrohue Waterfalls. Although the Falls are beautiful in their own right, when framed against the background of Volcan Osorno, they are absolutely gorgeous. The eastern slope of the volcano is located within the park boundaries. Volcan Osorno is 2,652 meters tall, and sits on the southeastern shore of Lake Llanquihue. It is one of the most active volcanoes in southern Chile, with 11 historical eruptions between 1575 and 1869. It is also the second most conical volcano in the world (after only Mount Fiji in Japan). The upper slopes of the volcano are almost completely covered in glaciers.
Petrohue Falls
Petrohue with Volcan Osorno in the background
Another waterfall

Petrohue Rapids

turquoise waters
Flora in Vicente Perez Rosales NP
Snowball fight on the slopes of Volcan Osorno

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Spotlight: Washington DC - Ford's Theatre

Spotlight: Ford's Theatre was originally the site of the First Baptist Church of Washington, opened in 1834. In 1861, John T. Ford rented the building and turned it into a theater - Ford's Atheneum. When the Atheneum burned down in 1862, Ford rebuilt it on a grander scale and called it Ford's Theatre. John Wilkes Booth was one of many actors who performed at the Theatre, and Lincoln even watched him perform in The Marble Heart in 1963. On April 14, 1965, during a performance of Our American Cousin, Booth snuck into the President's box and shot him. From there, he leaped onto the stage, breaking his leg and yelling "Sic Semper Tyrannis!" From there he fled the scene and made his way to the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd to have his leg set. He hid out along the Maryland/Virginia border for 12 days until soldiers found and shot him in a standoff.
Theatre stage with Lincoln's box above right
     After he was shot, Lincoln was carried across the street to the Petersen House, where he died the following morning. The room has been restored to appear as it did the night Lincoln died.
     After the president's death, the theater closed down and was sold to the War Department, which eventually converted it into a three-story office building. In 1932, the first floor of the former theater was converted into a museum displaying artifacts and exhibit memorializing Lincoln's presidency.
     In 1965, renovations were made to restore Ford's Theatre to it's 1865 appearance a century before. In 1968, the non-profit Ford's Theatre Society launched the reintroduction of live performances at Ford's Theatre after a 103 year hiatus. In 1988, the National Parks Service modernized the museum to better meet the needs of a growing tourist base. In 2007, the Theatre was closed for major renovations to better serve the public as a working theater. It reopened on Feb. 11, 2009 - to celebrate Lincoln's 200th birthday.

Location: Ford's Theatre is located in downtown Washington DC at 511 10th St.

Cost: free (same day tickets); $3/ticket for reserved tickets; tickets for performances are variable

Time: The Historic Site is open daily typically from 9:00 am - 4:30 pm. You should plan on spending about 2 hours visiting the various sites.

Description: Self-guided tours of the Ford Theatre National Historic Site usually includes access to the following: the museum, the Theatre, the Peterson House, and the Center for Education and Leadership.
     The Museum houses a collection of historic artifacts and interactive exhibits that teach visitors about Lincoln's presidency. Some of the interesting items on display include: Lincoln's clothing he wore the night he was assassinated, John Wilkes Booth's Deringer, various other items carried by the conspirators, Booth's diary, a poster for Our American Cousin - the play Lincoln attended that night, and various items used by the Lincolns while in the White House - including their china.

medical instruments used to set Booth's leg
     The Theatre is open for tourists during the morning and early afternoon hours. Here you can attend a Ranger Talk or the play One Destiny - featuring costumed actors who portray two historical figures in attendance the night of the assassination. In the evening, the Theatre hosts a variety of performances and events.

     The Petersen Boarding House was constructed by William Petersen, a German tailor who made a small fortune during the war making high quality suits for officers during the Civil War. In 1896, Lincoln enthusiast Osborn Oldroyd moved into the home to display his large collection of Lincoln memorabilia. This collection was purchased by the government and moved to the Theatre Museum after Oldroyd's death in 1930. In 1933, the National Parks Service acquired the house and have maintained it as an historic house museum.
Petersen House parlor
Bed where Lincoln died
     Next door to the Petersen House is the Center for Education and Leadership. This center explores the aftermath of the assassination and Lincoln's legacy. Visitors can follow the route of the funeral train from DC to Springfield, Illinois and learn about the hunt for Booth and his fellow conspirators. They can learn about Lincoln's legacy and how it helped inspire the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960's. Perhaps the most impressive display is the 34-foot tower of books - all unique, but each one written about Abraham Lincoln.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Things You Should Know: - Ford's Theatre is a working theater today. For a list of upcoming performances and events, check their calendar.
-   A limited number of free same-day tickets are available at the Ford’s Theatre Box Office beginning at 8:30 a.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. However, during the tourist season, these are often gone by 9:00 am. Therefore, you may want to reserve tickets ahead of time. 
- Click here for directions and information on parking.

Nearby: Landmark Theater, International Spy Museum, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Madame Tussauds

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Spotlight: Washington DC - National Mall and Memorial Parks Part II (Monument Walk)

Spotlight: The National Mall is the United States' most visited National Park. It is filled with monuments and memorials that honor America's heroes from the past, and is a rallying spot for the social movements of the present. In 1791, city planner Pierre Charles L'Enfant proposed a garden-lined Grand Avenue to be constructed along a mile route from the Capitol Building to an equestrian statue of George Washington, which was to be placed directly south of the White House. Although L'Enfant's original vision was never completed, it was eventually replaced by what has become known as the National Mall.
     Instead of an equestrian statue, city planners decided to honor our first President with a large stone obelisk named the Washington Monument which, measuring 554 feet 7 11/32 inches, is the tallest stone structure in the world. Construction began in 1848, and city planners began developing several parks in the area surrounding the monument. Since then, monuments and memorials have been continually added to honor the heroes that have risen up through the decades of our nation's history. Every day, tens of thousands of individuals walk along the route through these magnificent monuments, either as part of an official tour, or on their own self-guided tour, choosing how long to linger at each of these inspiring landmarks.

Location: The National Mall and Memorial Parks extends from the Lincoln Memorial in the west, to the Capitol Building in the east and everything in between, including the parkland around the Tidal Basin.

Cost: free; most official tours cost extra

Time: The Mall is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Rangers are on hand from 9:30 am - 10:00 pm to answer questions. Most tours of the Mall run about 2-3 hours, which is enough time to see the highlights. You could spend most of the day exploring the monuments and parks that make up the Mall.

Description: There are dozens of monuments and memorials that make up the National Mall. However, the highlights on almost anyone's tour (whether formal or informal) include the following:
     The Washington Monument is the tallest true obelisk in the world. There is an observation deck at the 500 foot level, and tickets are required for anyone 2 and over to enter. It takes 70 seconds to take the elevator to the observation deck. Once they are done enjoying the view, visitors go back down the stairs to the 490' level which contains exhibits before boarding the elevator for the trip down.
     Dedicated in 1943, the Jefferson Memorial is a neoclassical monument dedicated to the principal writer of the Declaration of Independence, and third President of the U.S. The monument consists of circular marble steps, a portico, a circular colonnade of Ionic columns, and a shallow dome. Inside is a 19 foot, 10,000 lb. bronze statue of Jefferson surrounded by excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, and other famous quotes.
     Dedicated in 1997, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is dedicated to the only president to serve for more than two terms. The monument, which extends over 7.5 acres, consists of four "rooms" (one for each term of office) which highlight the presidency of the man who led the United States through the Great Depression and World War II.
     Completed in 2011, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is dedicated to the leader of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. The memorial covers 4 acres, and is dominated by a 30 foot relief of King - which represents the Stone of Hope protruding out of the granite mountain of despair mentioned in his famous "I Have a Dream" speech (given in 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial). A 450 foot long Inscription Wall contains excerpts from many of his various speeches and sermons.
     Dedicated in 1995, the Korean War Veterans Memorial honors the men and women who served their nation by fighting in the Korean War. The main memorial is a large triangle that intersects a circle. The walls, 164 feet long and 8 inches thick, contain more than 2,500 photographic images, sandblasted into the highly polished "Academy Black" granite, which represent the land, sea and air troops who participated in the conflict. Within the triangular wall are 19 stainless steel soldiers representing a squad on patrol.
     Dedicated in 1922, the Lincoln Memorial forms the western edge of the National Mall. The building is in the form of a Greek Doric Temple, and contains a massive statue of President Lincoln, who liberated the slaves and preserved the Union, seated among inscriptions from two of his famous speeches - the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address. The Memorial has also been the site of many famous modern speeches and rallies.
     The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool was constructed from 1922-1923. The 2,029 foot long, 167 foot wide pool extends from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument and is one of the most prominent features of the National Mall. Filled to a depth of approximately 18 inches, it holds approximately 6,750,000 gallons of water and is featured in many pictures of both monuments.
     Completed in 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors the men and women who served their country in that conflict. The memorial consists of three parts - the Three Servicemen Memorial, the Vietnam Women's Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. The wall is made up of two 246 ft. 9 in. gabbro walls etched with the names of the servicemen and women being honored. The walls are sunk into the ground, reaching 10 feet high at their apex and tapering down to 8 inches at their extremities. The surface of the wall reflects the image of the viewer as he/she searches for the names of friends or loved ones.
     Dedicated in 1976, the Constitution Gardens are a 50-acre "living legacy American Revolution Bicentennial Tribute." In July 1982, the Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence was dedicated on the small island of the lake.
     Opened in 2004, the National World War II Memorial is dedicated to the men and women who served their country in both the armed forces and as citizens during that conflict. The memorial consists of 56 pillars and a small pair of triumphal arches that surround a plaza and a fountain. The 17 foot tall pillars form a semicircle around the plaza and are inscribed with the names of the 48 states and 8 territories that formed the United States during the conflict. The 43-foot arches are dedicated to the two fronts of the war - the Atlantic and Pacific. The Freedom Wall on the west side of the memorial includes 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the conflict.
     Some of the other memorials and monuments within the National Mall include: the African American Civil War Memorial, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, the Belmont-Paul National Women's Equality National Monument, the District of Columbia War Memorial, the National World War I Memorial, the Old Post Office Tower, and the Pennsylvania Avenue NHS and Park.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Things You Should Know: - DC by Foot is the city's most popular tour group and offers "free" walking tours of several different sites around the Washington including a highly acclaimed National Mall tour. They are listed as free, because you can name your own price; but you are expected to pay what you think the tour was worth.
- Free same day tickets to the Washington Monument are available on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Washington Monument Lodge on 15th St. Since they go fast, you may want reserve tickets ahead of time for a fee at this site.
- I would recommend going to the National Parks website to help plan your visit.
- During the summer, it gets very hot. Since drinking fountains aren't always readily available, make sure you bring plenty of water.

Nearby: Tidal Basin Paddle Boats, Smithsonian Museums, The White House, Teddy Roosevelt Island