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Landscape Arch Trail, Arches National Park, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 30

Landscape Arch Trail, Arches National Park, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 30

We did it! We hit The Mighty 5 in our time in Utah! I know this isn’t an actual accomplishment but…it felt like one to me. Although it was kind of miserable, we managed to get a hike in at Arches National Park. This was Utah park #5 and my 52 Hike Challenge Hike #30 to Landscape Arch.

Landscape Arch

This arch, a natural geologic feature created mostly by various types of water erosion, is the longest arch in North America. It is also the longest span in the park. This long, very thin arch measures around 300 ft wide and is shorter only to four arches in China. Hikers used to be able to walk under Landscape Arch, but as this thin strip of rock continues to erode, slabs are falling from the span. Now hikers can only view the arch from a short distance.

The Hike

To even view at a short distance, however, you need to use your legs. The hike is about 2 miles out and back and is considered easy, but I found this hike to be a challenge. We had already been hiking in extremely hot, cloudless, August, desert weather for most of the day so I was quite fatigued (and sunburned, despite wearing sunscreen). Add to that the challenge of hiking on sand. Not only was the sand difficult to walk on, requiring more energy, it was incredibly hot. That meant I wasn’t only feeling heat from the sun above, but also feeling heat radiate UP at me from the hot sand below. Frankly, this made for a very miserable trek to the arch and back. However, as you probably guessed, it was worth it

The arch was as incredible sight. Unfortunately our pictures just didn’t turn out. The sun was at about the worst position in the sky for photographing this rock, but it was way too hot to hang around and wait for better lighting. Eric and I both thought this park would be really cool to hike at night, so maybe we’ll head back for some night time photography someday. But on this day the arch was an impressive sight that had a humbling effect.

It’s hard to comprehend the scale of time and power required to form these arches, especially one on this scale. The force required to move, fold and crack rocks in order to allow water to freeze, thaw and erode in those cracks is massive, and the process of eroding sandstone on a scale this large takes millions of years.

The Lessons

Despite my misery, I learned a lot on this hike.

  1. Hiking on sand stinks. It just does.
  2. I wore as little as publicly acceptable for this hike due to the heat. Some short spandex bike shorts and a tank top. I think this backfired on me when I was feeling the heat from above and below. In the future I think wearing a light, reflective layer would be more effective at keeping me cool.
  3. This hike nudged me to pick up an insulated Hydroflask because drinking really hot water on a really hot hike is just awful. When doing a short hike like this where I have access to cold tap water I intend to keep it cold as long as possible from now on.
  4. Hiking is convincing me more and more that challenging yourself is a worthwhile pursuit. I was proud of myself for grumpily persevering through this hike, getting a pretty cool payoff at the arch and making it back to the car in one relatively healthy piece. More than the easy, routine, uneventful outings, I reflect on this and my other challenging hikes. This seems to be a bit of a life lesson, too.

I can’t wait to get back to Arches as soon as possible, hopefully in cooler weather. It is a weird, amazing place that seems like I could explore forever and never see the same thing twice. Have you hiked at Arches National Park? Tell me about it in the comments!

City Creek Park, Salt Lake City, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 21

City Creek Park, Salt Lake City, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 21

I made it to Hike 21 of my 52 Hike Challenge! For this hike I headed to City Creek Park. This trail is smack in the middle of Salt Lake City. I love how accessible the outdoors is in Salt Lake City. Even though it’s in an urban area, City Creek Park feels like you’re much more isolated.

The trail does start in an urban, residential area, but as you move along it becomes progressively more secluded.

I loved the little critter footprints on the footpath along City Creek. As you leave the city sidewalks behind, you enter beautiful Memory Grove Park, which was full of historical markers and memorials. I tried to balance wanting to look at all of the monuments with moving forward, but would love to dedicate more time to exploring this park someday.

As the trail leaves the park, you are finally on a more traditional dirt path trail. Leashes aren’t required in this section and on the hot afternoon I hiked there were a ton of dogs going hog wild in the cool waters of City Creek. It was fun to watch and distracted me from the triple digit heat a bit!

This was a super quick out and back for me, but this is actually quite a long trail that you could hike all day. Do you have any favorite urban hiking locations? Tell me about them in the comments!

Sugar House Park, Salt Lake City, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 20

Sugar House Park, Salt Lake City, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 20

My hike 20 of my 52 Hike Challenge was at the stunning Sugar House Park. This park is located at the site of a former state prison. The prison operated at this location for almost 100 years. I certainly never would have guessed just by looking around!

The park has wide walking paths and some nice rolling hills. The pond is so peaceful and the meadows make you feel like you’re breathing clear, clean air. And there’s always the mountain backdrop. The creek running through the park was a great place to take a relaxing break or do some exploring.

The park turned out to be one of my favorite places in Salt Lake City. It was so peaceful, even when there were lots of people around. Although I revisited this park, I only counted it as one hike. Do you have a favorite place to hike that you repeat? Tell me about it in the comments!

52 Hike Challenge – Hike 17 – Route 66: A Geographic Journey, Towanda, Illinois

52 Hike Challenge – Hike 17 – Route 66: A Geographic Journey, Towanda, Illinois

When I was in high school, I had a very influential teacher. He continues to be an important mentor to this day. But back in the “olden days”, he inspired me to become involved in a new project of his: transforming a section of Historic Route 66 from barricaded pavement to an educational linear park. It was a big task, but if you’ve ever met Mr. Walk you know not to underestimate him. The man gets things done.

My first hands on exposure to the project was pulling weeds after school one day. I know that doesn’t sound captivating, but it was. I was immediately hooked on the history and romance of traveling this historic road. Thinking about it now, it was probably the earliest seed of adult wanderlust in my brain. I spent many hours over the next few years working on creating informational markers, staining benches (so much staining!), planting beautiful gardens and broadening my knowledge of the Mother Road.

When I was a senior in high school we embarked on one of our biggest projects: designing, painting and installing eight 4 ft x 8 ft murals, one representing each state Route 66 passes through. Great care was taken to make sure these murals would weather as slowly as possible. Roofed shelters and UV-blocking plexiglass were installed with each mural, and it’s great to see each piece hold up pretty well over the last fifteen years.

For Hike 17 of my 52 Hike Challenge I revisited my beloved park, and took some photos so I could share the experience! I know some of you reading were involved in the early stages of this project. I hope you enjoy seeing your work still shining in Towanda, Illinois!

The trail starts with a trio of flagpoles flying the US, Illinois and Route 66 flags. There is also a welcome sign, informational pamphlets in several languages and a guest book that has been signed by people from all over the world. I’m not the only one captivated by the Mother Road.

As you travel along the path, you’ll see large gardens with labels on many of the plants, trees planted on the roadside (many with memorial markers), Burma Shave signs, informational placards, birdhouses, benches to rest on and the murals.

The murals are placed in the order in which you would travel the states if you were starting the Route 66 drive in Chicago and finishing in L.A.

I’m so grateful to have had teachers who valued service learning, and I’m especially grateful I was able to work on a project that is still┬áthriving. It’s great to be able to visit, but it’s also great to know there are many other people learning about and enjoying the project as well.

Have you ever traveled Route 66 or participated in a historical/travel/outdoor service project in your community? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

McLean County Nature Day

McLean County Nature Day

As much as I believe I belong in the mountains, I still do love my flat home state of Illinois. And despite its lack of mountains, it still has so much to offer someone looking for outdoor recreation. On a recent trip home I visited a couple parks and thought I’d share a few pictures from the day!

First, I visited Moraine View State Recreation Area near Le Roy, Illinois. As its name implies, this park sits on a large moraine created by glaciers 15,000 years ago. One main feature of the park is a beautiful lake. While checking out the lake I saw a hummingbird for the first time in the “wild” (not at a backyard feeder). It was so interesting to watch the bird feed on some beautiful iris, and I was surprised at how camouflaged it was in the flowers. And a trip to an Illinois lake wouldn’t be complete without seeing lots and lots of geese.

Next I headed to Comlara Park. I basically grew up in this park and visit it frequently when I’m in the area. Even so, I usually see something new and exciting while I’m there. On this trip I made friends with a turtle crossing the road and found some deer and raccoon tracks. Spotting wildlife is my favorite part of being outdoors!

When I decided to take a “nature day” I didn’t realize how close Moraine View was to my childhood home (hint: extremely). Even when you’re in an urban area, nature is all around, and finding an outdoor space to play in might be closer than you think!

Now that I’ve had more experience looking for outdoor spaces, I have a few go-to sites for finding hiking trails, camping, etc. For hiking I always turn to AllTrails. It is an extremely easy-to-use site, and in the event a trail I’m considering isn’t already on the site, it’s easy to add. My other go-to for any kind of outdoor activity is The Outbound. This site has everything, crowdsourced and added by “explorers”. It’s another great resource that’s easy to add to if you know of activities that aren’t already included. Between these two sites I can find something to do near every location I’ve ever tried, and would recommend them to anyone. Do you have a favorite way to track down outdoor activities? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Chicago Quick Trip

Chicago Quick Trip

Over Memorial Day weekend, my good friend Jess came to visit good ‘ol Illinois. We took a very short trip to Chicago, took some photos and thought I’d share!

Since we were staying overnight, we needed a place to sleep. We hit the jackpot when we found a vintage Airstream available on Airbnb. Jess and I both had wanted to stay in one, so booking this was a no-brainer. It turns out that our Airbnb hosts were some of the most warm, kind and hospitable people I’ve ever met, and after chatting with them over the two days we stayed with them, they’ve left a permanent impression on us. So thanks Andy and family!!

When we weren’t hanging out with our awesome Airbnb hosts, we were in the Loop, doing some sightseeing and meeting up with some old friends. On our first night in the city we grabbed a snack at the Berghoff, a historic German restaurant, then passed by the Willis (what will always be the SEARS, to me) Tower, the Cloud Gate (the “bean”), Millenium Park where we caught part of a concert at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the Lions at the Art Institute and picked Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park as our meeting point with the rest of our group. After grabbing a few drinks, Jess and I headed out for famous Chicago pizza at Giordano’s.

On day 2 we did more wandering. Since we were short on time we mostly stuck to free, outside, walkable attractions. We spent quite a bit of time on Michigan Avenue and the Magnificent Mile where we saw the Chicago Avenue Water Tower and Pumping Station. We headed up to the Signature Lounge in the Hancock Building for brunch and impressive views of the city. After brunch we wandered by the Tribune Tower and discovered some free fun at the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum. We finished the day wandering along the Chicago River and making a quick visit to Navy Pier.

The highlight of the entire weekend for me, though, was running into the Puppet Bike. This is a one-man show that might just be the happiest place on earth. If you’re ever feeling down, just pull up some Puppet Bike videos on YouTube or search #puppetbike on Instagram and I bet you feel better.

PUPPET BIKE!!!
PUPPET BIKE!!!

Overall it was a great, quick visit to the Windy City and it was fun to show a visitor around! What’s your favorite Chicago attraction? Tell me in the comments!

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