Enjoying Utah’s Backcountry with Snowmobiles

Enjoying Utah’s Backcountry with Snowmobiles: Snowmobiling along a groomed trail Enjoy Wild Utah Courtesy & Copyright Sebastian Voortman, Photographer
Snowmobiling along a groomed trail
Enjoy Wild Utah
Courtesy & Copyright Sebastian Voortman, Photographer

Utah’s deep snow and hundreds of miles of publicly accessible groomed trails make snowmobiling an ideal way for individuals and families to experience the state’s backcountry.  

Cal Taylor, president of Utah Snowmobile Association says, “My family loves snow.  We make sure everyone has warm clothes,” then we head up the mountain to isolate ourselves from the hectic world.

For those who want to try snowmobiling, it’s easy to rent all the gear and equipment and receive the necessary safety training.

The hard part is choosing which trail to explore.

There are nine trail complexes in the state which stretch from Fish Lake in Central Utah, to Logan Canyon in the northern tip of the state.  These complexes consist of extensive trail systems.  Each trail provides a unique backcountry experience.

Enjoying Utah’s Backcountry with Snowmobiles: Snowmobiling along a groomed trail Enjoy Wild Utah Courtesy & Copyright Sebastian Voortman, Photographer
Snowmobiling along a groomed trail
Enjoy Wild Utah
Courtesy & Copyright Sebastian Voortman, Photographer

The trails are on public lands and are free and accessible to anyone who wishes to explore them.   

The northern most complex stretches from Ogden to Bear Lake and includes the Hardware Ranch, Monte Cristo and Bear Lake trails.  These systems consist of more than 180 miles of well-groomed trails that wind through the Wasatch-Cache National Forest. 

The Hardware Ranch trailhead is located close to the Ranch which is the winter range for hundreds of elk.   The Hardware Ranch provides sleigh rides to anyone who would like a close up look at the elk.

Further up the mountain, snowmobilers may find forest grouse who make their winter homes in and around the high mountain aspens.  It is not uncommon for sledders to be startled by grouse flying out of its hiding spots.

Coyotes are also a familiar sight.  Taylor said, “I have seen a coyote playing in the distance. They’ll run across the snow and dive in.”

Along the Mirror Lake Highway trail, part of Complex 3, mountain goats can be seen balancing on the snow covered cliffs of Bald Mountain.  Watching their agility as they move along the high ridges is an incredible site.

In central Utah the Fish Lake trail reaches and elevation of 11.500 feet, with a breathtaking panoramic view.   Some sledders bring their fishing poles so they can stop and enjoy ice fishing on the naturally formed Fish Lake, which is only accessible by snowmobile in the winter.

Maps for all nine trail complexes can be found via links on the Utah Snowmobile Association’s website.   If you enter the complex name in Google you’ll find even more helpful details.

Utah Division of State Parks grooms each trail every few days.  Due to a well-targeted gas tax, those who use the trails, fund the trails. 

Enjoying Utah’s Backcountry with Snowmobiles: Enjoy Viewing Wildlife via Snowmobile Courtesy & Copyright Sebastian Voortman, Photographer
Enjoy Viewing Wildlife via Snowmobile
Courtesy & Copyright Sebastian Voortman, Photographer

Jordan Smith, the director of the Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism in the Quinney College of Natural Resources completed a research project about the economic impact of snowmobiling in Utah.  The study found snowmobiling accounts for 1,378 Utah jobs and $59.9 million in labor income.  In 2016 alone, over $13 million in state and local tax revenues were generated by snowmobiling activity.

Additionally, Smith discovered there is still plenty of room for more residents to enjoy the snowy trails.  He explains, “There are relatively few heavily visited snowmobile destinations throughout the state.”  When you see all the trailers in a snowmobile parking lots you may assume the trails are crowded, but once they disperse the snowmobilers rarely see each other.

Families and individuals interested in trying snowmobiling to explore the trail complexes, may begin by checking out the Utah Snowmobile Association’s website whose mission is to “Educat[e] Utah’s Snowmobile Families”.   People can go there to find the do’s and don’ts, what to take, how to dress, and where to ride.”

This is Shauna Leavitt and I’m Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy & Copyright © Sebastian Voortman, Photographer
Text: Shauna Leavitt, USGS Utah Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University

Sources & Additional Reading


Utah Snowmobile Association, http://www.snowut.com/

Keep Utah Clean

Recycle Where Possible Keep Utah Clean Courtesy Ron Hellstern, Photographer
Recycle Where Possible
Keep Utah Clean
Courtesy Ron Hellstern, Photographer
I was a young boy when my family took our first trip from Illinois to Utah. We stopped at a scenic park with picnic tables to enjoy our lunch. A family at a nearby table had just finished and were loading their car, leaving behind all their table scraps and trash.

I was surprised to see my father approach that family and calmly request that they clean up their mess. They refused saying that someone would clean it up sooner or later. The man started his car, but was amazed when my Dad stood in front of his car blocking his exit. The man roared his engine.

My mother, siblings and I sat dumbfounded at the scene. Would my father actually allow that man to run over him? Would that man actually do it? No, he shut his car off, swore at my Dad and then cleaned up his mess. My Dad thanked him and quietly returned to our table to finish his lunch.

My Dad would have been a hero in the television series, “What Would You Do?” where actors play their parts in scenes of conflict just to see what innocent bystanders will do…if anything.

I have never forgotten that incident, and it forged a lifelong commitment in me when I moved to Utah to help keep it scenic, clean, and beautiful. There should be locations here where traces of mankind are difficult to see.

You have probably all witnessed reports of tons of plastic trash accumulating in oceans and beaches where it threatens marine life. At times, it is so bad the beaches are closed.

There is no excuse for that kind of behavior along our coastlines, or anywhere within our own State. We’ve all heard the slogan: Pack it in, pack it out.

If you have litter in your car, leave it there until you reach a trash can. Bottles, cans, gum-wrappers and cigarette butts have no place to be discarded along highways, sidewalks, or hiking trails. Take them with you for proper disposal. Don’t think that someone will clean it up sooner or later.

To most people, the idea of allowing litter and trash to pile up in slums or developing countries is a sign of surrender. It shows a lack of pride or services in their community. A small percentage of people honestly believe that they have the right to do as they please, including littering or playing loud music as they walk along trails designed for serenity and contemplation. I’m not suggesting confronting people like that because they will never be able to understand your point of view. Or perhaps they lacked the training of a father like mine. So, I tend to be one of those who usually picks up the litter that I find along the trails.
But if I see you drop it…we’ll probably have a friendly discussion.

This is Ron Hellstern, and I am Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Ron Hellstern
Text: Ron Hellstern, Cache Valley Wildlife Association

Additional Reading

Adopt a Highway, Utah DOT, https://www.udot.utah.gov/main/f?p=100:pg:0:::1:T,V:28,340

For a Better Utah, Help Clean Up Roadside Litter, Deseret News, April 29, 1989, https://www.deseretnews.com/article/44221/FOR-A-BETTER-UTAH-HELP-CLEAN-UP-ROADSIDE-LITTER.html

John Rasmuson, Litter Bugs
A little trash pickup goes a long way, Feb 19, 2014, https://www.cityweekly.net/utah/litter-bugs/Content?oid=2374891

Wild Neoteny

Annual Wildflower Festival Cedar Breaks National Monument Courtesy National Park Service, Cedar Breaks National Monument
Annual Wildflower Festival
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Courtesy National Park Service, Cedar Breaks National Monument
“Hey, stop the truck!” my wife called from the passenger seat, her nose pressed against the window. I already knew what this was about; she was out the door before the dust had cleared the hood, kneeling in the grass. While she hovered over something newly found with purple petals, I stared out across the high, open meadow of blooming wildflowers, the urge to run surging into my feet. I turned at her exclamation several seconds later, half a football field of colored space between us now. Arms spread wide; grins from ear to ear. In a field of wildflowers, we were kids again.

Scientists call it neoteny, the retention of juvenile features in the adult of a species—basically, the harboring of a playful nature into adulthood. The research into the benefits of play, especially outdoor play, is becoming more replete by the day. In humans, play puts the right hemisphere of the brain into gear, that portion responsible for artistic and creative notions, imagination and insight, and holistic thought. The cerebellum and frontal lobes light up as well, increasing attunement to coordination, executive functioning, and contextual memory development. Neoteny, scientists say, is the key to a species’ adaptability and, therefore, its survival.

Alpine Pond Upper Flowers Cedar Breaks National Monument Courtesy National Park Service, Cedar Breaks National Monument
Alpine Pond Upper Flowers
Cedar Breaks National Monument Courtesy National Park Service, Cedar Breaks National Monument
Wild neoteny could be the term used to describe the human affinity to explore one’s natural surroundings, to wander off into the hills in search of something new and interesting, to learn the nuance of a place and to gain some intimacy with it—to call it home. We do that, I think, when we go on hikes into the wild hinterlands, catapult ourselves down the turbulent waters of our rivers, or climb the rock faces we stumble upon. It’s an adrenaline rush to be sure, a high on life as they say; but it’s also an act of survival—and of remaining human.

Robin Moore, a professor at North Carolina State University, says “the natural environment is the principle source of sensory stimulation….” “Sensory experiences,” he says, “link [our] exterior world with [our] interior, hidden, affective world.” The outdoor environment is a medium of human connection where, as Moore puts it, the “freedom to explore and play…through the senses…is essential for healthy development….” Dr. Stuart Brown, clinical researcher and founder of The National Institute for Play, behooves us in his Ted Talk on the subject to explore our individual histories of play. If you close your eyes and imagine yourself at play, where are you? The open water, a deep forest, a mountain peak, or maybe a field of wildflowers?

In his national bestseller, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv calls nature a “reset button.” It is the place where we are reminded of ourselves and our purpose. Australian musician Xavier Rudd sings, “Take a stroll to the nearest water’s edge/Remember your place.” It’s often proffered that in a time of industrial expectation and hyper-communication, we need the wild spaces more than ever. There’s some truth to that; but I think I’d go play there anyway, even if it wasn’t to escape the, quote-unquote, “workaday life.” I’m most human when I’m running through a field of blooming wildflowers.

I’m Josh Boling, and I’m Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy US National Park Service, Cedar Breaks National Monument
Text: Josh Boling, 2018

Sources & Additional Reading

Cedar Breaks, Plan Your Visit, National Park Service, https://www.nps.gov/cebr/planyourvisit/index.htm

Cedar Breaks National Monument, National Park Service, https://www.nps.gov/cebr/index.htm

Neoteny, Reference Terms, ScienceDaily, https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/neoteny.htm

Journey North

Journey North was founded in 1994 by Elizabeth Howard It is sponsored by Annenberg Learner
Journey North was founded in 1994 by Elizabeth Howard
It is sponsored by
Annenberg Learner
Maps used by permission, Elizabeth Howard, Director
To those who take personal pride in their yard, park, field, or community you could become part of an amazing network called Journey North. This is a free, extremely easy Citizen-Science online activity that people can simply enjoy, or enter data about their own backyard and join over 80,000 other people and schools that participate regularly.

Journey North began in 1994 as a way for people to contribute to the study of Phenology (which is the observation of seasonal changes in living things). Of course these changes take place based upon latitude, altitude, soil types, and proximity to water.

Basically, people observe what is happening in their own yard on any particular day, then they go to www.learner.org/jnorth/ where they can register their location and record their observations of certain birds migrating back north, or the budding and flowering of plants as the temperatures warm in the Spring. It’s interesting to compare the differences between Southern sites like Moab and Saint George to the Northern cities like Logan.

Nobody ever inspects your property, and the data is kept confidential on the Journey North site. There are no ads or phone calls to try to sell anything. This is strictly to collect science data. There ARE options to email other observers around the world, but nobody is required to respond.

Once you enter data, a dot will appear on the world map showing your general location. The dots are colored, based on the date of the entry so everyone can witness seasonal changes sweeping northward in full color.

What kinds of data does Journey North record? They’ve prepared a general list realizing that not all these species will be seen by everyone. A sample of birds includes: Hummingbirds, Bald Eagles, Whooping Cranes, Common Loons, Orioles, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Robins, and Barn Swallows.

Other sightings include the first day you observed: Milkweed growing, Monarch Butterflies, Earthworms surfacing, Frogs singing, the emerging and flowering of Tulips, the flowing of Maple sap, the date when tree buds opened into leaves, when ice melted off of nearby lakes, and when you first saw bats chasing insects around city lights.

Some reports come from around the world including South America, Eurasia, Africa, Asia, Australia and all of North America so don’t be surprised to see data about Gray Whales and Manatees. There’s even “Mystery Class” contests where people can try to guess the location of a school based upon their observation entries and the length of daylight they have reported during the season.

Journey North provides an opportunity for everyone to become a Citizen Scientist.

This is Ron Hellstern, and I am Wild About Utah.

Credits:

Images: Courtesy Journey North, jnorth.org, Map images used by permission, Elizabeth Howard, Director
Text:    Ron Hellstern, Cache Valley Wildlife Association

Additional Reading
http://jnorth.org/ has moved to:
http://www.learner.org/jnorth/

Journey North’s Spring Monarch Migration Monitoring, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Citizen Science Central, http://www.birds.cornell.edu/citscitoolkit/projects/journeynorth/monarchs/

Our .state butterfly, the monarch, is at risk, Make Way for Monarchs, a Milkweed-Butterfly Recovery Alliance, July 29, 2014, http://makewayformonarchs.org/i/archives/1455/