Category Archives: Travel

Travel hacks for allergy & asthma on planes & in hotels

If you have allergies to fragrances, if fragrances trigger your asthma, if you respond negatively to chemicals used in cleaning products, or if you have an allergic reaction to towels and bedding at hotels, this article is for you. If you have any other suggestions beyond what is listed here, feel free to leave a comment to help other travelers.

There is nothing worse than being stuck in planes or hotels that are atrociously full of fragrances or chemicals that affect your ability to breathe and sleep. Unfortunately fellow travelers on planes either don’t think their amount of fragrance is bothersome (they get really desensitized to their own smells) or they think they should use more fragrance as a courtesy to others since everybody is in such close proximity for so long. Many hotels don’t seem concerned at all about air quality, and hotels are more and more frequently constructed so that guests can’t open windows.

Personal air filtration mask

The most important thing I carry around, and I do carry this everywhere, is a mask that can filter smells and particles. Respro is a UK company that creates masks for a wide variety of purposes, but primarily focus on air pollution and allergies. The masks consists of 3 main pieces, the shell, the filter, and the exhaust valves. All 3 are interchangeable and have different properties so when you order replacement filters & valves you can choose accordingly. The initial purchase includes all 3.  I prefer the Ultralight shell with Techno filters & the Powa valves. The Ultralight makes it easier to breathe in and is more comfortable for sleep.

It’s important to get a good fit with these masks, if any air comes in around the edges of the mask, the air will take the path of least resistance and defeat the point of wearing it. They really do a good job of greatly reducing fragrances breathed in. I have slept with this on several occasions, and I’m a light sleeper. I’ll be honest, it is not the best sleep, but it’s much better than not being able to sleep at all. The best time I had wearing this was in Japan where they have a strong culture of wearing masks for a variety of reasons. There was a lot of agricultural smoke in the countryside and cigarette smoke everywhere, and the people I encountered really liked the mask.

Portable air purifiers

While filtering air at the point it enters your body is practical and efficient, it’s better to not have to wear it and get clean air. To that end a portable air filter like the Austin Air Healthmate Jr can be helpful. If you have any experience with air filters, you know that they’re not an instant fix for air quality. For hotel rooms, it will take several hours to reduce air quality issues by half, and from there improvements are slower over the next day (depending on many factors), but if you are staying in a hotel for several days, an air purifier can help a lot. There are very few air filters you can consider portable enough to pack in a suitcase, but the Austin Air Healthmate Jr is one, another alternative is AireOx which also has a model with a 12v plug you can use in your car.

Hotel attributes:

Even better than having to haul an air purifier or wear a filtration mask is finding a hotel that has good air quality. There was a small trend for some hotels to have dedicated rooms for a small fee that are asthma & allergy friendly, but I have yet to travel anywhere that has a hotel like that, and it seems to be dying off as a marketable feature. What you can do is look for specific features and query certain terms in hotel reviews.

Look for a hotel that has:

  • Hard floors – carpet cleaners can output harsh, long lasting chemicals and fragrances
  • A balcony – guaranteed ability to exchange the air in your hotel room, and a place to escape to if the indoor air is particularly bad
  • Windows that open – completely sealed hotels are becoming more common to control energy costs, and simplify maintenance but you have no control over air quality

Search hotel reviews:

Use a website like Tripadvisor to search hotel reviews for specific terms like “smell”  to instantly get a sense of air quality at the hotel and “window”  to see if the windows open or if there are other issues. Less often people will use “fragrance” or “air quality” to describe particular issues if they are keen to these issues.

Tripadvisor also has a Q&A section where you can ask fellow travelers about their experiences with air quality & fragrances at the hotel, and often times the hotels themselves will respond, but it’s ultimately more effective to speak directly to the hotel to get a timely response.

Message the hotel:

Hotels want you to have a good stay but you have to communicate your requirements up front, preferably before booking to see if they can accommodate your request, and again after the booking has been made so they can associate your room with the request. The responses will run the gamut from total ignorance about their ability to provide an allergy friendly environment for your stay to over the top reassurances and elaborate details about how they will prepare the room for your stay.

If you can get your request to the hotel manager or to housekeeping, your chances for success are much better. Front desk staff typically have no idea what the housekeeping staff do, and there is very little communication that happens between those groups. It is always okay to ask that the room be cleaned with fragrance free products, and for no fragrances to be sprayed, and for the room to be aired for a good period before your stay. If there is low demand at the hotel, you can even ask if they can leave your room unoccupied for several days (easier to be honored if you will stay there for a week or more).

Do ask if they ever spray scents onto the bedding itself – it will be there for ages – avoid a place that does that at all cost.

Also ask how they clean carpet and fabric furniture. Oftentimes the products use to clean them leave fragrances that dissipate over several weeks and are particularly harsh to breathe.

If you are allergic to down feathers, it is especially important to talk with the hotel directly before booking. Either the hotel will be able to provide hypoallergenic bedding alternatives and air the room, or they can possibly provide hypoallergenic rooms, but it may be better to avoid a specific hotel in that case.

Come to the hotel prepared for anything:

While you can ask that the linens and towels in your room are washed with fragrance & dye free detergents, and without the use of fabric softeners, I feel it’s riskier to add this on top of the other special requests, and even if you do ask, it’s best to be prepared in case housekeeping forgot, or was unable to fulfill the request.

  • King size flat sheet – fold this in half and put this between the hotel sheets and over the hotel pillow (or bring your own pillowcase as well) bring a colored sheet so it is easy to spot when you are packing so you don’t forget it
  • Microfiber quick drying towel – or get creative, don’t towel off after a shower in hot or tropical areas, just get dressed, or use a t-shirt you’ll wear the next day to get dry and hang it to dry after, or if you have the time, use the blow dryerf
  • Soap case & soap – Use this for body & hair, you never know what you will get with hotel shampoo and soaps
  • Crystal deodorant – This stuff really works but you need a good application. I find the spray to be easier and more effective than the crystal itself, but you have to get travel size, or you can just mix your own after the flight, just get some potassium alum and mix 1/2 Tbs per fluid ounce of water in a small spray bottle
  • Packing cubes – Not related to asthma & allergies, but these make living out of a suitcase and going through security inspections so much simpler.

Stay packed

Keep everything travel related that you can’t do without packed in your carry on between trips. At home my carry on always has the travel power adapter, a spare mask filter, spare usb battery power pack, usb cables, usb cable adapters, all my packing cubes, the soap case, spare nail clippers & tweezers, and a ton of other various odds and ends. When I do pack for a trip, I take out what I definitely won’t need and put it in a pile for when I get home so I can put everything back in the carry on for the next trip. Nothing’s worse than getting to a foreign country and not being able to power up your communication devices.

Final word

I hope that this has been useful. There have been many difficult lessons learned along the way. It’s a difficult, but not impossible task to travel with asthma & allergies. It’s possible to arrange for the best experience, and be prepared for any surprises.

Japanese Furo Soaking Tub, Cheap, Collapsible, Temporary – One Person Hot Tub

Also known as an Ofuro tub (if you want to be super polite when discussing it), it’s a Japanese tub where you can easily soak up to your neck in hot water, but it uses less water than traditional American tubs because it is much shorter in length. Instead of laying down flat in the tub you sit upright. They’re also designed to retain heat for many uses – typically a family will all use the same water, so they shower beforehand. In a way, you can think of it as just a one person hot tub.

After soaking in these amazing Furo tubs in Japan I wanted to find something I could use in my apartment that was temporary, could fit inside my existing shallow tub, and could be stored quickly and easily when I wasn’t using it.

Searching for Furo tubs online yields results targeting manufacturers of very high-end, very expensive permanent tubs. While it would definitely be nice to be able to spend a lot of money on a remodel to get one of those, I rent, and I don’t think it would add much resale value for traditional Westerners who haven’t experienced a bath like that even if I did own a home. Ideally I really just want a house that has nice showers in it and completely fore-go the standard American tubs because they’re not designed for an adult to soak in. You can’t be submerged, the water loses heat very rapidly, and I always end up cold and disappointed if I do try.

Eventually I was able to find this one person Furo Tub. For around $60, this tub was perfect. As a 6’1″ male, I can disappear into this thing. In fact I wish it were 3-6″ shorter. If I fill it up halfway, I can submerge myself completely and very easily. I usually sit cross legged and upright, or bend my knees and slink down until the water is near my chin. The water in this Furo tub stays very warm on its own. If you fill it and it is too hot, it may take an hour or more to cool it down enough for it to be comfortable, and it will stay very warm. My main goal with this Furo tub is to sweat, increase lymph flow and drainage, and speed up natural detoxification.

I do add a couple tablespoons of vitamin-c powder to the water to eliminate the chlorine from the tap water. A little goes a long way. Vitamin-C is also supposed to be great for your skin. I also add a cup or two of magnesium flakes aka epsom salt to relax muscles.

After using it, I use a bucket to recycle the water into the garden, drain off the rest, let it drip dry for an hour, wipe it down with a small towel, deflate the top cushion that maintains its shape, roll it up, and stick it in the closet until next time.

Travelling through Europe

Trip through Europe

After months of looking for a job, and exploring the opportunity trying to live and work in Paris for a short time, I decided to start traveling. Initially, around Europe, and then wherever inexpensive airline fares can take me. I’ve been staying in hostels, guesthouses, and inexpensive hotels. Traveling by plane, high speed train, regional trains, and ferries. So far I have been to 7 countries in 1 month, and will be addinga few more to the list shortly. I will add some photo albums later on, and will update the map from time to time, but not real time.

Update (17 November, 2009) My time in Europe is going to be wrapping up here shortly. Now the list of stops is up to 26 cities in 11 countries. Holy cow. I’m ready for something drastically different than Europe. I love it here, but I need a change of scenery (and the southern region is getting cold!). I’m not sure what the next step is going to be.

Update (23 November, 2009) I completed the map above with the travel that is already booked. I fly to SFO on 2 December 2009. This has been an interesting trip. Met a lot of cool people, had some great experiences, and learned a lot. 

Update (27 November 2009) I finally got the photos of this trip in a photo gallery.

Photos from each city/attraction:
Cinque Terre
Copenhagen Ice Bar
Genova Aquarium
Lisbon Aquarium
London – British Museum

Zion and Arches National Park 12/08-01/09

Extra vacation days at the end of the year made for an opportunity to head to Southern Utah and check out Zion in the winter again. The snow had hit the area pretty good. The campground at the park entrance had all melted off, but once you got into the main areas of the park, there was a lot of snow. There was a lot of limited access on the trails due to ice and the risk of falling ice. We went up to the West side of Zion which typically is fairly accessible due to the sun it gets, but there was still a few feet on the ground. Checkerboard Mesa was buried, with no hint of the underlying rock. We explored a bit in the backcountry, but we weren’t dressed for it since we had just gotten into the area, and we could’ve used some snowshoes to get out a bit further.

Our second day we went up into the Emerald Pools. The lower pool trail was closed at the pool due to a sheet of ice on the trail, and an iced over railing. We had ice traction on our feet, so we got through that no problem. The water was flowing nicely in the waterfalls and made for some cool shots. As usual, the middle pool was unremarkeable…The upper pool had a few sections that were ice as well, making some difficult trekking for those without traction. The upper pool was mostly frozen, with a gorgeous waterfall coming down into it. After that we ventured down the river walk, by the Narrows a little until we hit the spot where it was closed off.

With the conditions we had, we decided to move on somewhere else, so we took off to Page for the night, and then on to Moab through Monument Valley. That’s always a cool area of the country to drive through. We had enough time to get up into Arches and hike to the tunnel I had heard about. It was pretty easy to get to, even with a layer of snow on the ground. There were a lot of other recent footprints, but we didn’t see anyone else. I only had a vague idea of its location from what I studied on Google Earth 4 months back, but we made it up there in good time. It’s really cool to see a natural feature like that, and getting into the Arches backcountry is something I have wanted to do for a while. I want to get back there a lot more in the coming year. The next day we visited Landscape Arch. There was quite a bit more snow in that area of the park. I still can’t believe that arch is still standing. It barely has any depth to it on the right side. I went there with the full intention of seeing it for the last time. Speaking of, I headed up the trail to see the remains of Wall Arch. It’s hard to tell that anything was there, except for the debris on the ground.

View photos from this trip

Baja Roadtrip – Ensenada and San Felipe Mexico

I’ve wanted to check out the upper part of Baja California for a long time now, and finally pulled myself away from the cold winter for a little sun and warmth. I left Thursday after work, drove to Mesquite, then the next day drove down to the K58 campground just off the highway to Ensenada. The trip was pretty uneventful. The weather was great, and I pulled into camp just as the sun was setting.

The Tijuana border crossing was a zoo. I’m glad I learned some driving skills in France cause they came in handy for changing lanes in crazy traffic. It smelled, and I’m just glad I didn’t get lost, and that it was still light out. I don’t ever want to go through there again, and I don’t think I need to worry about wanting to.

I had high hopes for Ensenada, and I’ve heard from other people that it’s a great place, but it’s just not what I was expecting. The coast is extraordinary, no doubt. I really don’t have pics because the sun was rising and would’ve made just one big sun spot when I was going from camp to Ensenada, so it was pointless to try. Pulling into town you don’t realize that theres this massive city on the other side of the hill there. I followed the signs to get to the tourist district and just found some dumpy looking clubs. I drove around for an hour looking for somewhere to eat, but was out of luck, even in the tourist district, fortunately I found a really, really nice Carls Jr, so I went there. It’s probably one of the single best buildings in Ensenada, and it’s not even in the same league of the American Carls Jr locations because they’re all pretty generic and typical suburbia fast food, but the Carls Jr in Ensenada was beautifully designed, and totally out of place with the rundown surroundings, and I think they should all be like that.

I saw signs for a Super Walmart in town so I spent a while looking for that so I could go there to get some prescription meds without a prescription. I love the ability to load up on the meds you need without having to consult anyone. I chose Walmart because I had forgotten my spanish/english dictionary and figured somebody around there would speak English if I needed to ask any questions because nobody there speaks English that I found. The Super Walmart there was nicer than the one I go to here in the US but hardly anybody was shopping there. Across the street is a Costco, and Home Depot, so any gringos living there would feel right at home.

I didn’t want to stick around Ensenada, it just wasn’t what I was looking for. I found the road to San Felipe and hit the highway. There was a cop on the side of the road outisde of town who turned his lights on when I flew by, but since the road is narrow, and full of sharp curves, with very few places to pull over and I had about 10 cars behind me I guess he figured it wasn’t worth it if he wanted to get me. Not surprisingly there were a lot of shrines to people who died along that road. Families had painted boulders to look like shrines. Somebody had some fun painting a rock that looked like an alligator already to really look like an alligator, and if I could’ve pulled over I totally would’ve taken a pic of it.

Halfway to San Felipe the landscape changes from lots of curves to flat out open desert with straight roads with mountains jutting up above the landscape a couple miles in each direction. The junction to highway 5 that leads to San Felipe comes up pretty quick. Here you can see the Sea of Cortez straight ahead, through a landscape of white sand and desert foliage.

San Felipe has a completely different vibe. It’s much more of a laid back place with a distinct Mexican beach town feel to it, and hardly any traffic. There’s a very large American presence there that’s only going to grow as people buy up more of the land and build retirement and vacation houses there. It’s really a fantastic area. The weather was in the high 60’s during the day, and got pretty cold at night, but nothing like it was back home. The beach along the malecon is lined with fishing boats, and the sand is deep and soft, but unfortunately that beach is kind of trashed. It could really use one of those sand groomers they use in the states to clear out trash like needles, broken glass and stuff.

The sea along the coast here is very shallow, and when the low tide comes, the shoreline disappears into the horizon a half mile out, and since it’s so shallow the water doesn’t look very clear.

After wandering around the mercado I left town to explore one of the beach camps I passed on the way in and settled on Pete’s Camp. I pretty much spent the rest of the next two days there with a brief trip into town to buy some stuff. It was just so nice and peaceful there on the beach, and the beach was pretty clean for being a campground. Almost everybody there had RV’s and trailers loaded with ATV’s and dirt bikes. That area is huge for that kind of stuff. South of San Felipe there are roads to other towns and hot springs, but a lot of people just ride their toys down there. Even into and around town, it’s pretty cool.

The people I camped next to took pity on me since I was down there alone, which was cool cause they knew a lot about the area and even bought some property down here so they took me back beyond the security gate to check everything out, and while these are just desert lots surrounded by tall desert plants and you can’t see much while on the ground, when you get up onto a rooftop patio, everything opens up and all around you is just a beautiful 360° panorama of mountains and sea just everywhere.

Two days in San Felipe just wasn’t enough, and I didn’t want to leave. And right now I just want to go back and stay there. It just reminded me of what life was like before it was consumed with high levels of stress and responsibility. Before I used to be able to take off on a trip, be it road, backpacking or mountain biking, and when I came back I’d be ready for months more of dealing with everything, but it’s not like that anymore.

On the trip back I got stuck on a near empty tank of gas in a long line of cars trying to get through the border. When I finally got up there I got flagged for a full inspection…again. Third border crossing in a row that’s happened. I’m tempted to cross it again just to see if we can make it a fourth or a fifth. Unfortunately, I must confess I have now contributed to the illegal alien population in the US. You see, while they were preoccupied with determining if I was a drug smuggler or a nice ordinary guy, someone ran through the line of cars, past all the checkpoints and guards and into the US, and if they weren’t busy with such a suspicious guy like myself, they probably would’ve stopped the runner. It’s unfortunate, I know, but for some reason I continue to be a very suspicious individual to the border patrol. Since I’m definitely going back, I’m going to find out if three times in a row is a coincidence or not. I’m guessing the ratio of cars inspected is about 1:500 at that border crossing while I was there. The other time I would say it was about 1:80, and the first time about 1:35. I’m horrible at statistics, but looking at the odds, and having it happen three times in a row shouldn’t happen, and the only commonality between any of those crossings was myself. Different cars, different crossings, and circumstances.

View photos from this trip

Devil’s Playground II — The night hell froze over

Needing a break and some solitude I headed back out to the West Desert to a great little camping spot. Weather was in the 60’s, blue skies, forecast said there’d be a little wind, and possibly some snow in the morning. Looking at the weather satellite images it looked like the storm would miss my camp by a ways so I wasn’t worried. I tried a new way to get to my camping spot in the Devil’s Playground. I took Immigrant Rd at mile marker 33 (on highway 30) down to the turn off. I think entering from mile 33 or 24 is about the same driving time. So no matter. The night was going great, but then there were a couple drops, then it stopped. I decided to move into the tent anyway. 30 minutes later it started drizzling, but nothing bad. Then the wind picked up. My camp was in a little alcove of rocks so I was sheltered for the most part from the wind in the direction it was blowing, then it changed direction and things went downhill. The rain was horizontal. I reinforced my tent by putting a couple more stakes in at different angles and using some guy lines to tie it down. But it was no use. The wind gusts were just too much. In a brazen move I packed everything into my pillowcase, loosely rolled up my bag and darted to my truck with them so they wouldn’t get wet. By now the rain had turned to horizontal freezing rain. I dropped the tent poles and collapsed it sideways and stuffed it under my pickup bed cover and turned in for the night. It got cold, and the wind never stopped. The condensation on the inside of my windows froze and just built up thicker and thicker as the night wore on. My back window was caked with 1/2″ of ice, and every couple minutes there would be a thud as a chunk of ice that had built up on a tree landed on my roof. I had planned on spending 2 nights, but my tent was a frozen brick that would probably take 4-5 hours to thaw out, and then it wouldn’t dry enough to be usable, and I didn’t know if any other fun weather would be coming my way, so after some pics in the morning I took off. I only had trouble in one spot on the way out, it’s a steep 15 foot climb followed by a steep 25 foot climb. I made it to the top of the first fairly well, just spinning out a bit towards the top, had a little trouble getting up enough speed to make the 25 footer, and lost it right at the top. It took about 6 tries, but I managed to get up the rest of the way without having to back down and charge it again. The wind coming back was insane. There was a stretch of highway where the tumbleweeds were dancing across the road by the hundreds, just floating over the barbed wire fences on both sides. It was a sight to see. Curious to find out just how fast the wind was gusting I looked up the weather station that’s just outside the Devil’s Playground area and it said 81 MPH top gust. Wow. I believe it though. It was insane.

View photos from this trip

Moab 2005

I biked Slickrock again this year. It was the typical experience — not too many people, the perfect weather, and still a good challenge to get through. I tried some homemade energy goop this year, a bottle of honey with some strawberry flavoring mixed in to thin it out a little and to make it taste better. It worked out really well. I took my GPS along for the ride this year so I could find out just how much elevation gain & loss there is on this trail. In total, there is 1,950 feet in elevation gain & loss. The number could actually be much higher if the GPS didn’t track precisely at the bottom and top of each hill, but it’s a rough estimate & good enough for me.

The next day I explored the Onion Creek area. Although the road is marked 4WD I decided to take lil’ red for a drive up it. The road is in awesome shape and would be a blast to ride on a mountain bike with all the stream crossings and the roller coaster like ascents & descents between the stream crossings. The geology in that canyon is incredible & will definitely be ridden later on this year when I go down again. If the stream was flowing at a much higher rate I could see some problems taking lil’ red up it, but there weren’t any problems that day.

The rest of the day was spent in Arches National Park in the Fiery Furnace. It’s one of my favorite places ot hike in the area for a couple reasons. First is the fact that not too many people can go in due to permit restrictions, and the permit eliminates the majority of people from even being remotely interested in going in there, and then there’s the need for a guide if someone in your group doesn’t know the route through the furnace — which is basically a labryinth. The temperature in the furnace is usually 10-20 degrees cooler (at least) than anywhere else in the park due to all the shade created by the tightly spaced fins. Some of the slot canyons created by the fins will have a cool downdraft much cooler than the rest of the furnace making it really nice to relax in one of those. That, plus all the cool formations, and the mild canyoneering experience you have and the ability to explore any number of areas within the furnace make this a really fun place to go.

My actual birthday was spent on a bike ride through Canyonlands National Park. Starting out on the Shafer road near the entrance to the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands I descended the road and all it’s switchbacks, stopping on occasion to take a look over the edge of the road to see where I was heading next & to give my body a rest from all the downhill. I soon hit the bottom & took a break in the shade. On this route, trees are scarce that I stopped under them whenever I had the chance. From here the route I was on follows the famous White Rim Trail. Following this trail exposed me to another side of Canyonlands NP that I’d never seen before. You’re basically in the middle of all the layers that make up the area so you have good views of all the cliffs above you and you could also see beyond into the canyons below you and actually see the Colorado River on it’s course through the area, whereas you only see a smidgeon of everything from the main roads in Island in the Sky. As you had South-East on this road (at least on this section) you’re heading slightly uphill and when you go around a corner to go North-West you’re going downhill. While the road isn’t technical in this section requiring 4WD vehicles or anything, there’s still enough obstacles on the road to make riding it fun. There are small ledges & other rocks to jump off of, sand to surf through and other fun things to do. You can overlook the Gooseneck bend in the Colorado & go up to Musselman Arch which is more of a natural bridge technically, and is quite impressive. After Musselman Arch the rest of the trail is fairly boring, taking you further away from the canyon rim. And then there was Lathrop Canyon. My shuttle service suggested walking the first sections of this canyon — whatever. This canyon was a lot of fun. It was a long fast descent with lots of obstacles to have fun with, and was definitely the best part of the ride, much better than the descent down Shafer road. That is until you hit the last mile and a half of deep sand. It’s totally unrideable unless of course you’re a glutton for punishment, really, really bad punishment. The route ended on the Colorado River. The tamarisk like everywhere else on the major rivers out West has grown so thick that it totally blocks the view of the river except for the dirt boat ramp leading into the river. I was early for my boat pick up, by about 2 hours, so I had a while to nap & relax. There was a couple moving down to NM that had a full mattress set strapped to the top of their truck. I assumed at first that one of the two would only go on a trip like this if they had the comforts of home right there, but I found out they were moving later on. This 40 foot barge like boat pulled up with some canoeists returning from a 7 day trip down the Green River — one of the ladies had broken her fibia on day 4 and managed to finish the trip and still be in good spirits by the time I met them. Fortunately they had duct tape to to bind the splint, and enough drift wood on the route for a fine selection of canes. The boat ride lasted for about an hour & then there was a slow drive back to town. All in all this was 1112 feet of climbing, and 3094 feet of descent, over 20.9 miles.

All in all this was yet another awesome trip to Moab. It might be my last annual trip down there for my birthday, but certainly not the last one.

View photos from this trip

The Spiral Jetty/Great Salt Lake/Promontory Point

It got up into the 50’s today so I wanted to get out and explore my new area a bit. I’ve been wanting to go and check out Promontory Point for a long time, and just can’t seem to get out there. There’s basically no easy way. There is a rail line that goes over the Great Salt Lake from 12th Street straight to the tip of Promontory Point, and then continues over the Great Salt Lake and on into the West Desert, but the furthest access point is full of private property threats, so I decided to go the long way to see if I could get out there. This entails driving 20 miles North, then 20 Miles West, and then South 20 miles to get to the point, basically driving around all the wetlands & lake. I got off the wrong exit, and wound up in the middle of the Bear River Wildlife Refuge, which was an interesting drive, but not where I wanted to go. Eventually I was out there, driving down the peninsula, and I could see the lake about 1/4 mile away from the road, however all the land was private and behind barbed wires. Halfway down the peninsula that is Promontory Point you hit a point in the road where you’re greeted with that private property stuff all over again — at least this one has a sign w/ a number to call & get a permit to go down there for recreational purposes. So I was at a loss for what to do. I wanted to get to see the lake. I’ve tried many times, but it’s surrounded by mile after mile of private property, and lack of roads to access it. The only place I did know of was Antelope Island, but you have to pay to drive out there.

I decided to head out towards the Golden Spike National Historic whatever and see if I could get to the lake from the other side of the peninsula. On the way there I saw someone w/ a loaded backpack hiking down the only dirt road that wasn’t gated so I decided to see if she could give me some ideas of what I should expect where I was headed. She said I could get to the Spiral Jetty which was in the lake if I went to Golden Spike and followed the signs. While turning around my truck’s back end slipped into a ditch, the roads being muddy from the snowmelt. After a couple minutes of trying to get out I had to start thinking of something to do to get out of the ditch when this white SUV comes up the road loaded w/ an entire family. Thanks to this Mike, and his 4 sons I got out in no time — thanks Mike!

The Spiral Jetty is about 15 miles away from the visitor center down dirt roads, for the most part, they’re good dirt roads. They get worse as you go along, and when you’re really close to the jetty, they’re barely wider than my truck, and full of huge rocks, with boulders lining the sides of the road, not a big deal, it’s just really slow going. The jetty is really cool. The lake is low enough the lake starts about 1000 feet away from the jetty, and there’s nothing inbetween except a lot of salt flats. So you hike down to the old lake edge where the salt flats start, and the salt flat is just solid, and dry for the most part. There are some puddles of water here and there, but they’re just shallow, like less than a 0.5 centimeter deep, the cool thing is that they’re just reflecting everything like a mirror. It’s like a huge optical illusion when you’re trying to find the lake’s edge because the salt flat just bleeds into lake’s edge. It was seriously cool to be there. To make it even more memorable there was a guy ∓ a girl there that looked kind of hippie’ish, and seemed kind of stoned, or drunk, doesn’t matter, they were just fun to watch. They had walked out 20 feet into the lake and were playing in the water, it was so shallow it looked like they were walking on it. They were shouting stuff that sounded like it came right out of the X-Files — conspiracies, seeking the truth, bizarre manifestations….I was half expecting to find some people like that out there. All in all, it was freakin’ sweet to go there.

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Devil’s Playground

I heard about this place called the Devil’s Playground in the west desert of Utah, just off the huge expanse of insanely flat desert terrain that separates highway 30 from the Great Salt Lake 60 miles away. It took a lot of searching on the web to only come up with a couple references to the Playground. They were on geocaching sites, and didn’t have any pics or references, but all I needed were coordinates to get down there and check it out. I took the dirt road to the west of highway 30 just after mile marker 24 and started exploring. It’s a relatively undiscovered area that rivals the City of Rocks which is located just 50 miles to the North. From the highway this area looks very unassuming. All you can see from the highway are the same hills and sagebrush you would drive past the entire trip there. Once you get off the road and start coming up the dirt road you get a little preview as you start climbing the hill of what lies ahead. The roads are pretty decent for the most part. They’re not suitable for cars, and in my 2WD Toyota Pickup I was able to get through all but one section on the roads I explored, and a couple of times I was only on 2 wheels as I was getting over some obstacles. It looked like they were working on the fence where I got off on highway 30, and if they do close that up and don’t put a gate there you can still access the area from the Immigrant Trail Rd., it’s just an 10 mile trip on a dirt road instead of 1 mile. 

The land is pretty remarkable in that it’s composed of a very, very coarse sand, and not much can grow in it, so you’re left with the trees, and sand paved pathways for the most part. There are some of those little pricky plants, but those are mainly in the more open areas, and the regular desert flora & fauna crops up here and there, but it’s not abundant especially around the big rocks. The area is exposed in a birding field book as a place to see tons of birds, but I didn’t think so, it’s probably the wrong time of year. I saw the regular mix of ravens, predator birds, heard an owl, and saw maybe one bird that somebody would’ve had interest in. There were 2 rabbits, and some sort of rodents that were trying to get into my pickup bed for some dinner. Aside from that I didn’t see any other life, not even another human, which was kind of disappointing. 

Without serious looking I found 4 routes that had been setup, and I’m sure there are more that I didn’t see since I didn’t explore most of the outcroppings, and there will definately be more to come. I haven’t met them, but there’s a small group working on building up the routes in that area. It definately has potential to become like City of Rocks, I’m torn between posting this and letting whoever stumbles on this page know about this place, what it looks like and how to get there, and keeping it to the few who know how incredible it is. 

While I was there it was dead silent. Occasionally you could hear a light hum from the highway a couple miles away from a semi, but for the most part it was dead silent. I camped in a little cove type area between the cliffs in one of the ridges surrounded with mature pines. Somebody had shoveled a couple terraces out of the slope for tents, and I have to admit it’s one of the best places I’ve camped in. That sand substrate makes for great sleep even w/out a pad. That area is truly unique in the fact that it’s one of the few remarkable places you can find absolute solace in the state, at least when I went, lol. Go now because it won’t be like that in a decade. With proper management I’m confident that it will be a premier climbing destination one day. 

The Sun Tunnels are about 30 minutes away from the Playground, and are pretty interesting. They’re oriented for viewing the sunrise/sunset during the solstice and equinox. 

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