Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Eating Bugs

I’ve always considered myself fairly adventurous when it comes to trying new foods.  I checked off escargot and frogs legs in 7th grade French class.  I tried haggis when we visited Scotland, and ate sea cucumber in Taipei.  So why I am so squeamish about eating a protein bar made with cricket flour?

The Chapul Cricket Bar is the brainchild of Pat Crowley, a hydrologist and white-water guide from Arizona.  Pat’s concern about the lack of sustainability of our current water supplies vs. our current water consumption in the United States drove him to investigate insect protein as a solution to the overconsumption of freshwater in our industrialized agriculture sector, which consumes as much as 92% of all freshwater we (humans) use around the world.
Chapul’s mission, excerpted directly from their web site, www.chapul.com, follows:

Chapul has a simple goal – to build a more sustainable future by introducing incredibly efficient insect protein in a delicious, organic product...our tasty Chapul bars.

As children of the arid Southwestern U.S., we believe passionately in sustainable use of our precious water resources. Since agriculture absorbs 92% of all freshwater consumed globally, we think change starts with what we eat, and it starts with all of us.

At Chapul, our mission is three-fold:
1) Create a delicious energy bar
2) Introduce a revolutionary, efficient protein
3) Invest 10% of all profits in water conservation in the regions which inspire our bars
So when my friend Eric told me he had invested in the company, I went to Wasatch Running and bought a bar. 
It all sounds so good on paper - tapping a sustainable source of protein for human food.  Per Chapul’s web site, crickets need very little water to live and eat mostly agricultural by-products, like corn husks and broccoli stalks. And crickets have protein content similar to that of livestock, with less fat. Even the packaging is enticing:
Cricket flour is an environmentally friendly, safe, and delicious source of protein that we advocate in the name of sustainability.  10% of profits from this bar fund water sustainability projects in Mexico.
What’s not to like?  And hey, I live in Utah.  100,000 seagulls can’t be wrong!
It was time to stop writing about it and just take a bite.  I chose the Aztec Bar: Dark Chocolate, Coffee and Cayenne.  It actually tastes quite rich.  I could taste the main ingredient, organic dates.  I could taste the chocolate and coffee, with the cayenne offering a nice finish.  I couldn’t taste even the slightest hint of bug.
Check crickets off the list.  Kudos to Chapul for their willingness to take on the “ick factor” in order to bring a sustainable source of protein to the American palate.  Saving the environment – one bar at a time.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Running on the Mirror Lake Highway

The Mirror Lake Scenic Byway is one of the most beautiful places I’ve had the opportunity to run.  The section where we host starts at 8000 feet and goes up from there, so it’s an excellent place to train.  It is also a 50 mph, two-lane highway with not much shoulder, so safety is a priority.  Here are some tips for staying safe while running along this spectacular highway.

1.  Wear Bright Colors.  While some of my favorite running shirts are grey, this is not the time to be the same color as the highway.  Bring out the reds, yellows and greens!
2.  Run Facing Traffic.  This is running safety 101.  Why?  Because it works.  I’ve noticed that when an oncoming vehicle sees me, if it’s able it will veer wide around me.  I always wave and mouth the words “thank you.”  Sometimes I get a wave, a honk, even a fist pump. 
3.  Listen Up.  I love listening to music when I run.  But I always leave the ear bud out of my right ear so I can hear what’s happening on the highway. 
4.  Yield to Wildlife.  I know – you don’t get this type of advice in most running posts.  Here on the Mirror Lake Highway, though, there are often deer and moose crossing the road.  I stay out of their way.
5.  Yield to Bicycles.  The Mirror Lake Highway is a popular road for cyclists.  Since they ride with traffic, and since there’s no real bike lane, I always jump off the road and wait for them to pass.  That way they are never put in the position of hitting me to avoid a passing car – or being hit by a passing car to avoid hitting me.  I usually get a thank you as they pass.
6.  Let Someone know what direction you’re going and how long you expect to be gone.  Just in case…
This is my second adventure in training at high altitude, and this time it comes with a pretty steep climb.  There is a 300’ elevation gain in the first 2.25 miles from Shady Dell to Cobblerest – and it gets steeper from there.  The tips below will sound familiar as they are based on sound running advice no matter where you run.  They just make even more sense when you’re running at altitude:
1.  Hydrate.  Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your run. Then drink some more. Dehydration occurs more quickly at higher altitudes.
2.  Fuel.  Runners burn anywhere from 400 to 800 calories per hour.  I like to run in the morning, and I don’t like running on a full stomach, so I usually eat half a protein bar before I go out, and then munch on sport beans throughout the run. 
3.  Wear Sunscreen and Lip Balm.  The sun’s ultraviolet rays are more potent at higher altitudes.
4.  Wear Insect Repellent.  Nothing is more annoying than having to break your stride to swat a mosquito away – unless it’s being bitten by that same mosquito.
5.  Warm up.  The objective is to get oxygen to your muscles, and since there’s less oxygen at high altitude, I find I do a lot better if I stretch and then walk half a mile before I start running. 
6.  Build Distance Gradually.  I started with two miles and added half a mile each run until I hit a baseline run of 4 miles.  I’m now adding ½ mile each week to my long runs. 
I like to start out uphill – that way finishing downhill is a reward.  I do start downhill once in a while – just to prove to myself that I can. 
My final tip – and the one I like best – Enjoy the Run!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Wildlife of Shady Dell

The large picture window at the back of our trailer faces into open forest, which has made it perfect for observing the wildlife that we share our campground with.  Mama Moose and her calf have grazed on the willow leaves near our firewood twice now.  I’ve named Mama “Cicely” in honor of my favorite TV show of the 90’s – Northern Exposure.  I haven’t named the calf – mostly because I don’t know the gender.  Either Joel or Maggie…  I took the photo through the window as I didn’t want to scare them off.

We get a lot of deer traipsing through the campground.  They don’t seem to be afraid of us.  We sat in front of our trailer and watched two of them about 50 feet from us – contentedly pulling down leaves.  The deer wander throughout the campground.  Shady Dell stays open through the deer hunt.  I suspect these guys are smart enough to go far far away come October.
And then there’s the squirrel.  We watched her tear off a little piece of a newspaper we had near our wood pile, run off with it, and then come back and get another one.  I suspect she is building a nest.  Who says there’s no need for newsprint in this digital age?

This little bird made us laugh for several days.  He appeared to be protecting his nest – way up in the aspen tree – from the bird in that strange white box.  He flew at his reflection several times a day, and was always surprised when he hit the glass.  I guess he finally figured it out; he’s gone now.
A three-foot snake lives near the creek.  I wish he’d do a better job keeping the mice under control.  So far we’ve trapped 26 mice in our trailer.  Oh, well – I guess a single snake can only eat so many mice.

We haven’t seen the domestic life of the Uintah Mountains’ open range yet, but I’ve found the flat and round evidence of bovine digestion throughout the campground.  I suspect it won’t be long until I’m chasing them out of camp with my broom! 


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Shady Dell's Fairy Forest

One of the tasks we expect as camp hosts is painting picnic tables.  The color we expect is, of course, Forest Service Brown.  So what’s with all the multi-colored picnic tables here in Shady Dell?  The answer lies across the creek and deep into the woods behind the campground where you will find the Fairy Forest. 

The Fairy Forest actually started in the late 60’s as a Vietnam veteran’s memorial to his fallen comrade.  As the years passed, many families or groups visited and added to the forest, eventually morphing it into a miniature world of painted rocks dotted with plaques, trinkets, and even fairy dolls. 
I am amazed by the creativity of the people who have contributed over the years.  This year’s new theme appears to be Frozen.  There are a couple of congregations of Despicable Me’s minions.  And I found my personal favorite, Star Wars.
The trail sits between sites 6 and 8, and is pretty well marked once you get across the creek bed.  This proved a little tricky during late May and early June, when spring runoff turned the creek into a raging river.  It’s much safer midsummer through fall.  You go straight back from the path until you come to the fallen tree marked with an arrow pointing to the fairy forest.
There is no charge to visit the Fairy Forest; but there is a charge for parking.  You have two options:
1.  Purchase a Mirror Lake Highway Recreation Pass for $6, park outside the campground – there’s a pullout at milepost 17 – and walk in.  The path from the pullout leads directly to the path to the Fairy Forest.  This is your best option if the Fairy Forest is just one stop along your Mirror Lake Highway adventure and you plan to stop at a picnic area, fish at one of the lakes, or hike at one of the trailheads.
2.  Park inside the campground and pay the $8 day use fee.  Parking inside the campground gives you a picnic table and fire pit, so if you’re planning on spending the day and having a picnic, this might be your best option.  Of course, I work at Shady Dell, so I might be a bit biased.  Remember – the Mirror Lake Highway Recreation Pass is not required in the campground, so you don’t need to pay double fees.
On my way across the creek bed on July 4, I met Michelle P., who runs the web site enjoyutah.org.  She knew Natalie O., on whose web site utahsadventurefamily.com  I first found posted information on the Fairy Forest.  The miniature world behind our campground proved once again what a small world we live in.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mirror Lake Highway Recreation Pass 101

The Mirror Lake Scenic Byway, upon which our campground is located, is designated as a High Impact Recreation Area and has been established as a Recreation Fee Area.  This fee can be confusing when you’re coming to our campground – or any other improved campground on the Mirror Lake Highway.

Driving east from Kamas, Utah (or West from Evanston, Wyoming) you’ll see a number of stations where you can pay this fee.  The fee is $6.00 for a 3-day pass, $12.00 for a 7-day pass, and $45.00 for an annual pass.  All Federal Passports (Senior Pass, Access Pass and Annual Pass) are accepted in lieu of the recreation fee.
The fees are used to operate and maintain the following facilities along the Mirror Lake Highway:

Standard Amenity Sites
Beaver Creek Picnic Site                                                Mirror Lake Picnic Site
Shingle Creek Picnic Site                                               Pass Lake Fishing Site
Upper Provo River Bridge Picnic Site                          Pass Lake/Lofty Lake Trailhead
Crystal Lake Trailhead                                                   Butterfly Lake Fishing Site
Trial Lake Fishing Site                                                    Highline Trailhead
Bald Mountain Picnic Site & Trailhead                       Ruth Lake Trailhead/Rock Climbing Area
Fehr Lake Trailhead                                                       Christmas Meadows Trailhead
Moosehorn Fishing Site                                                East Fork of the Bear Trailhead
Mirror Lake Fishing Site                                                North Slope Trailhead

Expanded Amenity Sites
Yellow Pine Camp                                            Murdoch Basin/Broadhead Meadows Camp
Pine Valley Camp                                             Lost Creek Water Station
Horsemen Camp                                              Whitney Reservoir Camp
Soapstone Comfort Station Camp                Lily Lake Comfort Station
Duchesne Tunnel Camp                                 North Slope Camp
Spring Canyon Camp

Special Recreation Permit Sites
Beaver Creek Groomed X-Country Ski Trail
Soapstone Basin Groomed Snowmobile Trail
North Slope Groomed Snowmobile Trail

Notice any omissions?  Shady Dell Campground and Cobblerest Campground didn’t make the list – nor did any of the improved campgrounds operated by American Land and Leisure.  But because our campground is on the Mirror Lake Highway, we get a number of people thinking that they have already paid the fee for day use – and even to camp.  And since they’ve already paid “at the bottom of the hill,” we get to be the bad guys and tell them our fees are separate.
So here’s the scoop.  There are several ‘camps’ that are covered by the Mirror Lake Highway Recreation Pass that are great for self-contained campers.  These camps have no picnic tables,  improved fire pits, or restrooms.  There are several picnic areas that are covered by the Mirror Lake Highway Recreation Pass.  They all have picnic tables, fire pits, and restrooms. 

If you’re coming to a campground such as ours, pay the recreation fee only if you plan to use any of the fishing sites or trailheads along the Mirror Lake Highway.  If you’re just coming to camp, you don’t need to pay the Mirror Lake Highway Recreation Fee.
This could be made a whole lot less confusing.  In my perfect world, the Mirror Lake Highway Recreation Pass and the Campground Day Use Fee would be the same price and would be interchangeable.   In my perfect world, you could pay either place and your payment would really be valid for day use anywhere along the highway.  But there are a lot of really smart people in the Forest Service, so the reason this is not so is clearly outside my pay grade.