Paragliding & Camping – Salt Lake City, Utah

Paragliding & Camping – Salt Lake City, Utah

It was a 2.5 day drive to Salt Lake City Utah, long but totally worth it. I arrived at Point of the Mountain. This place is one of America’s best flying sites due to the consistent weather patterns every day. It is an awesome place to get your license.
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There are 2 flying sites at this location. South and North side. The South side is flown in the mornings because the wind blows just right every morning. All of us bums camp out on the South side right behind the ridge.
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View of South Side from the bottom.
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My setup: tent, portable stove, food in the trunk… living like a king!

The South side is an awesome ridge to fly but can get VERY crowded quickly, especially on the weekends. I’ve personally witnessed 32 gliders on the ridge one morning! That does pose a huge risk for mid air collisions. Usually I do not fly until the traffic eases up because of a couple close calls I had.

Now, on to the North Side. This place is flyable in the late afternoons almost every day. It has 2 ridges. One small one below and a large 1000 ft ridge behind that stretches for 1 mile. We fly along the small one first, catch a good updraft or thermal and “bench up” to the higher ridge. The views are amazing and the air is usually very calm with amazing Glass Off effects (highly smooth and buoyant air). There are sometimes 50 paragliders out there with plenty of room on the ridge for everyone.
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Here is a pic of the North Side with the small ridge in front.
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I like this pic. It reminds me of the story of Icarus when he flew too close to the sun.
Here is a video clip of the North Side at the end of the day: North Side

There was a day when a crazy high pressure system moved into the area bringing about insane gusts of 60 mph, dust and rain. I was on the North Side when I saw the thunderstorm moving in. Everyone got down  down from the air quickly. I jumped into my car and drove to my camp site ASAP.

067That is all dust, not fog or rain .

I arrived at my tent site in the nick of time. My next step was to jump into the tent. Brace my body against the wall, and hope my tent didn’t collapse under the 60 mph gusts.
Here is a short video. The quality is horrible because I was trying to brace my body and arms against the windward side but you get the point: Crazy weather!

The next day was a no go for flying. The weather was all out of wack. This is what the North Side looks like when the wind is blowing from the wrong side. Not a soul to be seen.
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Now, time for a reality check. It may seem that I fly out there all day long but that is not the case. I fly only in the mornings and evenings with the middle part of the day too turbulent to fly safely. It gets well above 90 degrees  causing the air to boil with intense thermals. I was foolish to fly in the afternoon once and let me tell you, I did a lot of praying for a safe descent when my glider was tossed around like a rag in turbulent air. Scary experience! So, a large part of the day is spent relaxing and trying to keep boredom at bay. That means a lot of reading, watching paragliding videos to improve techniques, and occasionally going out on short adventures. Mountain biking and exploring the surrounding Utah landscape is a great way of killing time.

Local paragliders suggested I check out Timpanogos Caves.
Its a short drive and only $8. The 1.5 mile hike is on a paved path and has great views.

Now the other place you absolutely have to visit is 1 hour outside of Salt Lake City. This place is truly a gem in the wilderness: Fifth Water Hotsprings.

The next 5 pics are from google images:
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Yes, the water is really that blue as you see in the pics. There are many man made hot tubs in a quarter mile section with several waterfalls in between these hot tub areas. Simply beautiful location! 2.5 mile hike in on a smooth trail.
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The pic with the dog is the best location. It is the last set of hot tubs up the stream. The stream in this location is ice cold and is perfect for cooling off after a nice warm soak. I had no issues being out here in late summer, but of course would have preferred the middle of winter for the optimal experience.

As for camping locations, don’t pay $21 for a camping spot. Simply drive past the parking area and the next 4 miles are packed with road side camping spots next to a stream.
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Well, that’s about it for now. More to come in the near future.

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Total Solar Eclipse – Taylors, SC

Total Solar Eclipse – Taylors, SC

South Carolina got a rare treat, a solar eclipse passed right through the state with the very center of it, path of totality, going through our town. Last time an eclipse happened in America was 30+ years ago. A bunch of us gathered at Nina’s place to witness this rare event.

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Everyone had on a pair of Solar glasses to enjoy the view. Our necks got tired after looking up so long so someone got a brilliant idea, blankets! I think credit goes to Sveta.
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Sharing blankets?! Dima, aka Dmetry, aka Danger Dima, would have none of it. He required his own personal snuggie!
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The eclipse turned out to be an amazing experience. The 90 degree weather dropped down at least 20 degrees. Everything became dimmer and all the clouds disappeared due to lack of thermal activity from the drop in temp. As it became darker the crickets came out and then total darkness came in abruptly.
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It looked exactly like the classic pics from online but much more powerful.
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Even Olive wanted in on the action
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Another amazing feature of the eclipse was that you could see stars around the sun. Stars! In the middle of the day! Simply amazing. I’m grateful to have experienced such an event.

Family Beach Trip – Hilton Head Island, SC

Family Beach Trip – Hilton Head Island, SC

As the weekend approached, I came across a dilemma. I had a strong desire to go kayaking at the Whitewater Center in Charlotte but my whole family was going to the beach at Hilton Head. What to do… a high intensity weekend battling the waves or a chance to get eaten by sharks. I contacted my younger brother Surge for council and he set me straight. Family comes first so Hilton Head it was. I hitched a ride with Nina and Jason Thursday evening.

The house near the beach was a little crowded with all of us but we made due.
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My one and only nephew, Viktor. Age: somewhere between 1-3 years old. Cool kid.

The beach was surprisingly fun. I’m not much into laying and sunbathing. Luckily Surge brought along a game  called Spikeball. A variation of volleyball for 4 players. Way harder than volleyball because the ball is so small. Loads of fun once you get the hang of it.
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I didn’t swim much in the ocean because of one word, SHARKS!
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I always tell people that swimming in the ocean gives you zero chance against spotting this guys. They are always ready to gobble up unsuspecting swimmers. People are always asking “why do you scuba dive then?” Scuba diving is totally different because I have a chance of spotting them coming. All I have to due is flex my biceps and they will flee in fear, or so I hope…

I’m glad I came along to the beach. It was very refreshing being with family.
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By far the saddest sand castle I’ve ever seen.
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Surge the geologist tried to build a tunnel underneath it only to have the whole thing collapse. If his failed sand tunnel is an indicator of his abilities, then I will avoid any legitimate bridges and tunnels that he works on in the future.

However, Surge redeemed himself in my eyes with this epic wheelie on a beach cruiser of all things
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Construction (AKA not exactly vaca)

Construction (AKA not exactly vaca)

This next week was spent primarily helping out at the house that my Dad and brother purchased. They flip homes on the side for some quick cash. My brother Al, aka Alex, Lex, Lyoshka, Lex the Defender, El Tigre… was not there that week due to Realtor License classes. That left my Dad and myself to work on this project.

Honestly it felt really good working with my hands again. Construction is a low paying job overall compared to the health field but is very rewarding when you see steady progress as a result of your own efforts.

Epic 29 Mile Hike & Epic S’mores – Foothills Trail

Epic 29 Mile Hike & Epic S’mores – Foothills Trail

Gene Chong, aka Jenka, aka Mr. Calves, had an epic adventure in mind. A 29 mile hike on the very last stretch of the Foothills Trail. I couldn’t pass up on the offer so I got all my gear and we took off to Oconee State Park Friday afternoon with him.  First of all, let me tell you a little about Jenka. This guy is willing to try anything at least once. Rock climbing, camping, epic hiking marathons through the forest… I like that about hime. All you have to do is invite him and he will show up. Not only will he show up, he will always bring fantastic food. There have been many great stories among my friends in regards to the stuff he shows up with. This time was no different. Awesome burgers and smores.

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That friday was spent confirming our start location followed by hanging out at the campground in Oconee State Park.

20170811_192236I forgot the spatula but that was OK, the Kukri Blade worked just fine.

That night was a rough one for me. First of all my headlamp broke. Granted it was the same one from years ago that I used on the A.T. and it was only a matter of time. Luckily I had a spare. Then when we went to bed, my air pad deflated. It developed a hole in one of the creases and died on me just as I was dozing off.  It was also the same air pad I used on the A.T.   It’s as if all my gear is giving up on me and straight up quiting. Gene said he heard it go flat in his tent next door. I’m sure that put a smile on his face when he went to sleep. That night was also extremely hot. I was laying in my boxers sweating while rocks dug into my back. Gene reported the same heat issue.

Anyways, we woke up around 2 am, packed up our gear and ate on the drive there. We were on the trail at 4 am. The weather was cool and perfect for hiking. Only one issue came up, giant spider webs that stretched across the trail. They were everywhere!

I messed up on the pics because the leaves are blocking the giant spider sitting there on its web. But you get the idea.
I got voluntold to lead the way and clear us a path. It sucked! They were easy enough to see at night when the headlight reflected off the web but once dawn arrived, the spider webs were very hard to notice.
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The initial designated spider assault stick.
There was a funny moment when I was walking in front with the stick in my hand to clear out the spider webs. We were walking fast when all the sudden I came across a spider web with the spider directly in front of my face! I was walking fast enough to where I couldn’t stop in time and ended up doing a variation of the matrix move to stop from running into it.
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If there had been a Limbo Competition at the moment, I would have won gold. Jenka was right behind me and thought I was falling backwards so he did what any friend would do. He grabbed me by my shoulders and starting pushing me up and forward!!! I was pushing back with my heels against him but he was so strong! I ended up yelling something non coherent and by some miracle he stopped pushing with the spider literally 1 inch in front of my nose! Jenka almost killed me.

20170812_081735 - CopyWe ended up upgrading the stick to one with a larger area of effect.

The first 20 miles were manageable. We were telling each other stories, laughing and having a great time. However, the last 9 miles were brutal. Chaffing, slightly swollen feet, and pain from the waist down. It was mainly our fast pace. We ended up finishing at 3 pm with an average pace of 2.6 mph with very few short stops along the way. The feeling of our accomplishment was hard to describe. There is something special when you suffer and persevere with your friend next to you. It made it that much more awesome when a thunderstorm hit us after we got into the car. It would have sucked being in rain on top of it all.

We ended up driving back and stopping at Farmhouse Tacos in Travelers Rest. The food was amazing, especially since we were really hungry. Then we drove to Michael’s home, a friend of Gene. We showered up at his place and played board games late into the night with Michael and his brother. That was one awesome weekend!

Rock Climbing & White Water Kayaking – West Virginia

Rock Climbing & White Water Kayaking – West Virginia

As many of you many already know, I work as a traveling Physical Therapist Assistant. I talked to many Physical Therapists who traveled and they all gave me the same advice: do it while you are single. So I took their advice and have been working as a contractor the past 1.5 years. This is a job that allows me to work in different states for an average of 3 months and then take extended vacations. Everyone always asks me the same question, “What do you do on your 2-3 month vacations?” Well my friends, I have decided to let you in on my whereabouts.

My last day of work was on Friday July 28 in Aiken, SC. I drove up to Greenville, SC friday evening, packed up a bunch of stuff and took off the following morning with Ben, Anna, and Bomber (their dog). They invited me for a week of rock climbing and white water kayaking in West Virginia. This was going to be awesome!

 

Our first destination was Seneca Rocks. This place is absolutely amazing! It’s shaped kind of like a thin knife sticking out of the ground, wide but very narrow. Spectacular climbs, awesome exposure with sheer drop offs on both sides, and easy ratings in many areas make this place an absolute must for noobs like me who want to get better at climbing.

 

These 2 pics above are borrowed from google images.

 

Seneca Rocks requires roughly a 2 mile hike to get to the wall from the campsite. As you can see, the campsite is well maintained and a great place to camp. Oh, for one exception. There are 2 local skunks that call the campground home. Get this, one night Anna let Bomber out to use the bathroom and what does the guy do? Yep, ran straight for the skunk and got sprayed. I was out cold and did not hear the commotion of Ben getting up at night and cleaning Bomber up. Ben somehow managed to find an open store in the rural mountains of West Virginia at night. That in itself is a feat of its own. He managed to get the necessary stuff to clean  Bomber to the point of zero skunk smell. I forgot what he used, something along the lines of unicorns and fairy dust… you’ll have to ask him for details because Anna swears that Bomber has NEVER smelled so good since the day they got him. After that fiasco, we took off climbing.  Let me tell you, Ben barely slept because of Bomber, and yet the next day led several pitches of the route like it was no big deal. The former mountaineering guide at his best!

 

Anna did amazing! Many of you may not be aware but she is 3 months pregnant and rocking it out there on the routes. Of course Ben chose only the safest routes for her but she still crushed. There was a funny moment when we were racking up and Anna struck up a conversation with a group of other climbers. They found out she was pregnant and were like, “That’s awesome! Last time we were here there was another pregnant rock climber. I think she was like 8 months pregnant or something…” Anna was like, “Well then. I just got trumped.” That mysterious lady stole Anna’s thunder.

We climbed many other routes the next couple days and each day became easier to conquer my fear of lead climbing. I have  not done serious climbing in like forever and performed like a total noob as a result. However, Seneca Rocks is forgiving and shows leniency. One of my favorite climbs was Gunsight to South Direct 5.4.  The climb was easy but the views and exposure were amazing!!! The next few pics are borrowed from Mountainproject.com since I broke my cell phone, again.

 

 

The other close contender for an awesome climb was Pleasant Overhangs. I don’t know how in the world it’s rated as a 5.7. It’s the scariest 5.7 that I ever climbed. I’m going to be honest, if it wasn’t for Ben leading it, I would have pumped out mid way, said my prayers, and fallen to my doom. Some more pics from MountainProject.

 

Overall Seneca Rocks was an awesome learning experience. Despite me making some mistakes and climbing like a little girl at times, no one got hurt and I had a blast! I wouldn’t trade those days for anything.

We had to take a transition day to Cheat River. Along the way we stopped by Seneca Caverns. Really neat place and a chilly 54 degrees Fahrenheit. I don’t know what that is in Celcius and that’s ok cuz i live in ‘MERICA!!! Established 1776.

 

 

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Anyways, here are some pics of the cave.

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Caverns.jpgBoth pics above are from Flicker and whereverimayroamblog.com respectively.

 

I can’t stop laughing at this one of me. I don’t know what it is but I look like a such a dork!

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We eventually made it to our campsite called Cheat Canyon Campground. Seneca Rocks spoiled us because this place was overgrown and had poison ivy everywhere. But we didn’t complain much, $5 a night was a really good deal.

 

We had a good team when it came to food. Everyone contributed and we ate like kings!

ben boatBen said he was fixing the boat but I think he forgot how to correctly climb into the kayak.

Anna and Ben trained all summer at the Whitewater Center in Charlotte NC in preparation for this vacation. One word to describe them: Pros! They crushed the class 3’s. See pics below.

 

Then it was my turn with Ben leading the way, sort of.
Ben is like, “Follow my Lead!”
Me “OK!”
Then I overtake Ben accidently and… fail.
Here is a short youtube video: Class 3+ Fail

 

I rolled so many times on that river in the beginning. I had to pull the skirt like 3x but it was so much fun when I finally got the hang of navigating the rapids at the very end.

We had a transition day and drove all the way back to Spartanburg, SC to drop off Bomber in order to go kayaking on the Chattooga River.
Some pics along the way:
IMG_2765This one brought back lots of great memories. We drove by many small towns in Virginia where I resupplied during the A.T. hike.

 

Ben tried to get Bomber in on the picture action but he was having none of it!

 

The following day we went to an outfitter on the Chattooga River and rented a “rubber duckie” for Anna and myself. It’s a 2 person rubber kayak. Let me tell you, if you’ve never white water kayaked, rent one of those. SUPER easy to navigate through class 3 rapids.
We came across a little waterfall and decided to play around.
Ben went first:

 

Then me:

 

We eventually made it to the very last rapid, Bull Sluice. A class 4 monster that took me over it’s knee and repeatedly spanked me. I only conquered it once out of like 5 tries.
Here is Ben one pic at a time:
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IMG_2808IMG_2810IMG_2811That pic is SOOO Epic! You can only see his helmet!
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If you hang in there, it eventually spits you out no problem.
Here is a short video of him: Ben on the Bull
And last but not least, me 🙂
Nothing but epic fails haha!
I’ll just post only one video clip cuz they are very painful to watch: Bull Sluice Fail

That wraps up my first week of vacation. Huge thanks to Ben and Anna for inviting me.