Summit to Sea: running from Mt. Hood to the Columbia River Gorge

With a big race coming up in July, I decided to go all out for peak week and chose a trail I knew would be both challenging and rewarding. After debating between a few different trails, I decided to run from Mt. Hood to the Columbia River Gorge. Covering 45 miles with 7,000 ft. of ascent, and 13,700 ft. of descent this trail was going to test my mental and physical stamina.

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PCT at Timberline Lodge

We got a late start to the day, hitting the trail around 9:30. I knew I would be chasing daylight but had high hopes for finishing strong. I started on the PCT at Timberline Lodge with a starting elevation of 6,100 ft. No stranger to altitude, I knew this first section of trail would be challenging on the lungs. The first three miles were fun and quick. There were still patches of snow, which made for some slippery miles, but it was an overall descent to the Zig Zag River. The river was running from the snow melt, but I was able to pick a path across and be on my way.

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Mt. Hood
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Zig Zag River Crossing

The trail proceeded to climb 1,000 ft. over the next 3 miles. With the snow and altitude, it was slow going, but the views of the mountain through the clouds kept me energized. After mile 6, I was met with a blissful 2,500 ft. descent over the next 6 miles. The terrain changed drastically – going from snow, across rocky plains, down a sandy hill, and finally into the pine forest that is ubiquitous in Oregon. I rolled my ankle around mile 9 and thought I might have to tap out. Thankfully I was able to recover quickly. Miles 12-13 were familiar territory – we hiked this portion of the PCT to Ramona Falls way back in 2016.  There was a fun creek crossing across two fallen trees where I had to cling to a rope to avoid falling. Then came a grueling 1,600 ft. climb over 2 miles.

I finally met Matt and Snickers at the top of the hill, feeling a little disheartened. My pace was suffering greatly from the climbing and I was about 20 minutes behind schedule. Nonetheless, we powered the next 3 miles (thankfully downhill) to the car at mile 16 to refill food and water. If I wasn’t able to get back to my normal pace, there was a possibility that I’d need to get pulled from the trail at the next stop to avoid running in the dark. I had 16 miles to the next crew point and at that point we would make the decision whether or not to keep going.

Thankfully the next 16 miles felt great. I had a burst of energy and was able to power through the rolling hills with little issue. There were wildflowers galore and views of Mt. Hood around every turn. This section of trail was very different from the beginning; it reminded me a lot of Utah running. The trail was more rocky and there was a bit less tree coverage. Around mile 28 I rounded a curve and saw Mt. Adams more clearly and up close than I’ve ever seen it before. It was truly a great day to be out on the trail. I finally saw the sign to Wahtum Lake (where I was meeting Matt) at mile 29 and it was straight downhill from there.

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Mt. Adams

I felt really good rolling into Wahtum lake at mile 32 and wanted to keep going. We assessed the map and calculated somewhere around 8-12 miles to the end point at Herman Creek Trailhead. The trail I initially planned took the Eagle Creek Trail to Cascade Locks, but that trail is still closed from the wildfires of 2017. I decided to keep going thinking it was going to be mostly downhill. Boy was I wrong.

After leaving the parking lot, I was immediately greeted with a 700 ft. climb in 0.7 miles. It was brutal and I felt like I’d never reach the top. The PCT was rolling hills for the next 9 miles. It wound through rocky terrain and a portion of forest that was burned in 2017. Every time I felt like I was finally descending, the trail would shoot me right back up to the ridge line at 4,000 ft. I was expecting 9 miles to the finish but it was actually closer to 13. When I hit mile 40, knowing I still had 5 miles to go and still hadn’t started the descent, I was hitting a breaking point. I finally hit the descent with 4 miles to go. This part was very rocky and technical and my tired legs kept tripping, so for safety reasons I slowed to a walk. I was finally able to get ahold of Matt at this point and he ran in 2 miles to help me get out. Night was fast approaching and I was so angry and frustrated at myself for not moving faster. When I saw him with 2 miles to go, I officially broke. Mentally and physically I was done. I’m sure I was a sight to see hobbling down the trail with tears running down my face 🙂 . Bolstered by some food, hiking poles, and a pep talk we finished the 2 miles to the parking lot just in time for dusk.

I finished 45.5 miles, 7,000 ft. ascent, 13,700 ft. descent in just over 11 hours total. Even looking at the moving time, which was right at 10 hours, my pace was the slowest I’ve ever run. Mentally I’m disappointed I couldn’t maintain the pace I wanted, but rationally I know that’s silly. I covered more ground and more ascent – by a good 10 miles and 2,000 ft. – than I’ve ever done in a single run. I would’ve liked to finish much faster, but I’m really amazed at the distance I was able to go. I finished standing up with no injuries or GI issues, which is a feat in and of itself.MVIMG_20190622_204617_v1

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Sunset in the Columbia River Gorge

I’m ready for my race…let’s just hope my legs stop hurting before then.

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2018 Year In Review

Mostly for posterity, because thinking back I couldn’t for the life of me remember what we did January-March. We had a great year and are excited to see what 2019 has in store.

January

We don’t have many photos from early in the year. We spent the first few months in Louisville, and January was marked with some snowy walks and finishing up the garage (I think we finished the siding at this point and were able to park inside!).

February

Matt ran the electric to the garage and learned a new skill in the process. We went on a trip to Hawaii, and even though it was rainy we did some amazing hikes, ate way too much poke, and tried stand up paddleboard yoga for the first time!

March

In March we: had a fire, it snowed a bit, we crashed a wedding, and drove across the country (again)!

April

We spent April in Phoenix and enjoyed the warm weather. We visited Petrified Forest National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and Sedona. Ralph and Jan came to visit. We did some desert hikes and spent some time hanging out with friends.

May

We moved to Utah, I got a new job, we spent a lot of time at the pool, and we did a lot of mountain hikes. Looking back at these pictures I forgot how green Utah was in the spring; by the time we left in September it was completely brown.

June

We spent more time at the pool and exploring Salt Lake City. We hit up some new breweries. Matt turned 33! We hiked some more. Beth and Casey came to visit and we went to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. And we went to a professional rugby match.

July

I started training for a 50K. Ralph and Jan came to visit and we took a trip to Moab to see Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. We did lots of hiking including our first sunset hike on Antelope Island. Matt went to Vegas for the first time and I went to Boston. I turned 32.

August

More hiking and running in August. Matt went to Canada. The weather got really hot. We spent more time at the pool. I ran my first marathon distance in Park City and saw some moose on the trail.

September

We did more running and hiking and tried to keep cool (the Utah summer was HOT). We went to Wyoming to visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. We went to the Utah State Fair. I started another new job. We moved to Boise for a few weeks.

October

We moved to Portland. I ran the Elk-Kings 50K. We did some hikes and watched the leaves turn. We went to a Timbers game.

November

We slowed down a little this month. Fewer hikes and fewer runs. We settled into our apartment. Beth and Casey came to visit and we drove down to San Francisco to visit Heidi and Brian. We had some good coffee and payed virtual reality games. We stopped at Crater Lake National Park, but it was closed due to snow. We went to a holiday beer festival in downtown Portland.

December

Heidi came to visit/dog sit and we tried some delicious food and drinks. We hiked a little, it rained a lot. And we celebrated the holidays in a very low-key way with just the three of us.

August 2018 Hikes

Upper Big Water to Dog Lake

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Upper Big Water is a trail in Millcreek Canyon – 20 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. Millcreek Canyon is a State Park in Salt Lake County that has miles of hiking and biking trails. On odd numbered days, no bikes are allowed on the trails and dogs can be off-leash. Snickers and I set out to do the Upper Big Water trail to Dog Lake and return on  the Little Water trail. It was a 5 mile loop that wound through the pine forest to a large lake. The Big Water Trail is longer than Little Water, but isn’t very steep; Little Water is a much shorter distance, but is much rockier and fairly steep. We chose to hike up Big Water and run down Little Water. The lake at the top was filled with dogs cooling off, which was a nice break before the descent. The wildflowers were in full bloom in early August making for some beautiful scenery. The trail is pretty heavily trafficked – we probably wouldn’t do it again – but it was nice to get into some elevation to have a break from the heat and experience some shade.

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Centerville Canyon via Deuel Creek Trail

The South Deuel Creek Trail in Centerville is a 4.3 mile lightly trafficked trail. The trail gains roughly 1,400 feet over the first half and runs along a creek. Snickers enjoyed the multiple creek crossings and the shade from the trees was much welcomed. About a mile in, there’s a rope swing and there are numerous campsites along the way. The trail ends at a small waterfall which you can view from both the top and bottom. It was a very enjoyable, short hike close to the city.

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Midmountain Trail – Park City

The Midmountain Trail is a 25 mile, point-to-point trail in Park City that can be accessed at a number of points for anywhere from a 9-25+ mile hike. We went on a Saturday morning and, aside from two 1/2-1 mile sections where the trail met up with other bike trails, it was very lightly trafficked. The trail itself was relatively easy. There are very few steep inclines and the trail isn’t too technical. The elevation gain was 2,500 ft, but the trail is overall downhill (though it didn’t feel like it!) with an elevation loss of 3,186 ft. The trail is very well marked, though I did get off at one point and ended up adding 1 mile to the expected distance. We went slower than normal mainly due to the altitude – Park City is at 8,000 ft, so even a slight incline left us winded. Beth did 26.5 miles for a long training run, and Matt and Snickers did about 9 miles starting at the end and meeting up with Beth around mile 21.5. Park City is a great place to get on the trails because there’s a lot more shade and the elevation makes it much cooler than in the city. This is a nice, gradual trail to log some serious miles. Udpate – I ran into two moose on the run! Running in the mountains has its perks.Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 10.07.56 AM

Utah Progress Report: Months 2-4

Whew, the summer truly flew by. We haven’t done a progress report since early June, so this is long overdue. Most of our posts have been about hiking – with a few recipes thrown in for good measure – but we haven’t popped in for a proper life update. So, here goes.

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June, July, and August came and went faster than we expected. We had a couple of visitors and some personal trips planned, which led to busy few months. We went to southern Utah with Matt’s parents, Moab with Beth’s parents, Beth went to Boston, and Matt went to Vegas and on his annual fishing trip to Canada.

We were initially going to head to our next destination at the end of August, but due to some job flux and a rigorous running schedule, we’ve decided to stay put for another month. We’re a little torn because we were looking forward to spending a month or so in Wyoming. Luckily we’re a quick drive to Jackson Hole, so we’re planning to spend a long weekend exploring Yellowstone in a couple of weeks.

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Salt Lake City and County Building

As far as the rest of our summer, it’s been great. We’ve gotten into a routine in our time here, so, while it might not be the most exciting, we’ve gotten to do the things we love: hike and drink good coffee and beer. The summers in Utah are HOT! It’s been great for getting to the pool, but there’s not a lot of shade in town so the sun can be a little unrelenting. Thankfully, the mountains are so close and we can hop in the car and be 20 degrees cooler in a quick 30 minutes. We also haven’t had much rain in the last 3 months so the grass is dry and wildfires are rampant. The skies have been pretty hazy and some mornings you can even smell the smoke. We actually saw a fire less than a mile from our apartment behind the Capitol!

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We’ve spent a lot of time on the trails, both in town and in the mountains, and it’s been great. The wildflowers are in bloom and you can’t beat a mountain trail. Beth’s been training for a race in October and has logged quite a few miles on the trails with Matt and Snickers joining at the end as the support crew. We also managed to get out to a professional rugby game one weekend. The only place you won’t see a line at the beer stand during halftime!

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With all of the travel, we haven’t tried too many new restaurants and breweries since our first update. We have managed to go back to a few favorites and have hit a handful of new “wins.” We tried RoHa the other week, and loved their selection on tap, plus their take-home high gravity beers. We also found some good lunch spots – Caputo’s deli for a meaty, Italian sandwich and Bagels and Greens for a bagel sandwich (Lox and Loaded is a go-to) that goes great with a cup of coffee. Speaking of coffee, Publik is a new favorite with bright, airy spaces and robust roasts. We’ve also hit up some nicer establishments for date night: Laziz Kitchen had some killer Mediterranean food, Water Witch was a nice, intimate spot for some pre-dinner cocktails, Takashi was amazing for sushi (we did omakase where we left the choice up to the chef and it was all so good; definitely worth the wait), and White Horse had tasty cocktails and tapas.

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We never thought Utah would be the place we’d stay the longest (5 months!), but we’re really enjoying our time here.

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July 2018 Hikes

Here are a few hikes we enjoyed in July.

Frary Peak Trail

Frary Peak is a 7 mile out-and-back hike on Antelope Island. We did this as a sunset hike on the 4th of July. To read Matt’s full recap, check out our post: Antelope Island Sunset Hike.

Devil’s Garden Double O Arch Trail

The Double O Arch Trail is located in the Devil’s Garden area of Arches National Park. We left Snickers at the hotel for this one since dogs aren’t allowed on trails in the National Parks. To be honest, we didn’t make it all the way back to the Double O Arch because it was sunset and we wanted to be off the trail before dark, but there are many other arches along the trail. The trail starts on a flat, sandy surface and winds through the fins to the Landscape Arch, which at 290ft is the world’s longest arch! It then scrambles along some slickrock faces to a ridge line. This is where we turned around and stopped at Navajo Arch and Partition Arch on the return.

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Corona Arch Trail 

Corona Arch trail is a moderately trafficked 2.5 mile trail in Moab. The trail has a slight climb at the beginning and then winds along the smooth rock to the towering arch. There is a section that you have to climb rock using cables and another section with a ladder, but overall it was a fairly moderate hike. Dogs are allowed on the trail but may need some assistance on the cables/ladder portions. It was easily 100 degrees the day we went, so go early to try and beat some of the desert heat. The arch at the end is worth the sweat.

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Spring Creek – Flying Dog Trail

The Flying Dog trail from Spring Creek is a 16.5 mile trail in Park City. It is heavily used by mountain bikes, but if you get there early enough, you can get some decent hiking in. Beth did this as part of a training program and did the entire loop in the counterclockwise direction while Matt and Snickers did an out-and-back meeting up at their mile 5. The loop gains 2,000 ft elevation over the course of 16 miles, but there are long switchbacks that make it less daunting. The first few miles winds through some neighborhoods making its way into the Aspen forest. After mile 8, the trail is pretty much downhill to the end with a slight climb around mile 13. It was a good way to log some distance, but with all of the bikes, we probably wouldn’t do it again.

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Lofty Lake Loop Trail – Uinta National Forest

The Uinta National Forest is located near the high Uintas wilderness area of the Uinta Mountains – roughly 80 miles from downtown Salt Lake. The drive through the mountains is gorgeous as you ascend from the valley through Park City and into the pine forests of the Uintas. The trail itself is lightly-to-moderately trafficked and not too difficult. There are areas of climbing, but they are concentrated in small sections with most of the trail being relatively flat. It is a 4.2 mile loop that winds through the wilderness past many lakes. One thing we loved was just how many lakes are concentrated in a small area. The wildflowers were in full bloom at the end of July making for more gorgeous scenery.

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Moab, UT

The second week in July, we hit the road for Moab – about 230 miles, or just shy of a 4 hour drive southeast from Salt Lake City. Maybe it was a bit crazy to hike in the desert when the temps were in the 100s, but we were hell-bent on visiting the two National Parks in the area: Arches and Canyonlands.

Arches National Park

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Balanced Rock – Arches National Park

Arches is located on the Colorado Plateau near the Colorado River. With over 2,000 arches, it has the largest concentration of natural arches in the world. The majority of the rock in the park is sandstone. The arches are formed as water seeped into cracks and through the freeze-thaw cycle ice created pressure breaking off parts of the rock. As wind cleaned out loose particle, fins remained, which further give way to water and wind and became arches. You can see the some of the progress below – the pictures on the right shows the fin stage while the one on the left shows an arch. Fun fact, Skyline Arch (pictured in the photo on the right below) was actually only half that size until 1940 when a boulder fell out and doubled the opening. While we didn’t get to the most famous arch in the park – Delicate Arch – there are so many other beauties to see.

We went in the evening to beat the heat, and while it was still in the 90s the shade made it much more bearable. We drove through the park stopping at Balanced Rock and Skyline Arch before hiking through Devil’s Garden. We passed the Landscape Arch, which is one of the longest arches in the world, before climbing up the rock face to head back toward Double O Arch. We ended up turning around before we got there because the sun was setting and we didn’t want to be scrambling in the dark, but we were able to stop at the Partition and Navajo Arches on the way back. In the dark, we pulled up to the Delicate Arch viewpoint to try and capture it with a long exposure.

Corona Arch

Corona Arch is located along a trail in a side canyon along the Colorado River. The arch is partially free-standing and has an impressive 140 ft x 105 ft opening. The trail is relatively easy with only a few short, steep sections,  and is 2.3 miles round trip. It’s easy to follow with cairns and green paint to mark the way. While summer is probably not the most ideal time to hike in Moab, we went early in the morning before the sun got too high in the sky. This allowed for some shade along the way from the canyon walls and we were able to finish before the trail got too crowded. We ended the hike with a quick splash (for the dog) in the Colorado River.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park covers over 330,000 acres of land in southeastern Utah. It is one of the more remote National Parks with very little for services throughout; the NPS encourages you to take anything you might need for your visit with you due to the remoteness. The park is divided into three “districts” that are bounded by the Colorado and Green Rivers. You cannot access the different areas from within the park as there are no roads that cross the rivers. To get from one district to the next is anywhere from a 2-6 hour car ride.

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The three districts that make up Canyonlands are: Island in the Sky,  The Needles, and The Maze. Island is the Sky, with its proximity to Moab, is the most highly visited area. Island in the Sky is a sandstone mesa that sits over 1,000 above the surrounding terrain. We visited the Grand Viewpoint, which is at the southernmost point of the scenic drive. It gives a great vista of the White Rim – a sandstone formation above the river convergence, as well as The Needles and The Maze.

The Needles is east of the Colorado River and is named after rock pinnacles that can be found in the landscape. The Needles was once the home of Pueblos, and there are still traces of their heritage including well-preserved petroglyphs. The Maze is located to the west of the Colorado and Green Rivers and is the most primitive area in Canyonlands. It is also one of the most remote and inaccessible areas in the entire United States, which has led to it being called on of the most dangerous places to hike. It has many geological features unique to the area including Orange Cliffs and Golden Stairs.

 

Weekend trip to Southern Utah

Beth and Casey came to visit us back in June, and we road tripped to southern Utah to take in the sights. Utah is home to 5 National Parks, third only to Alaska and California, which both boast 8. Not only does Utah have these gorgeous parks, but it also ranks 3rd for most federally owned land – this includes not only the National Parks, but National Monuments, National Forests, and wilderness areas, to name a few. This is especially important because these publicly-owned lands provide protections to the land and wildlife, ensuring their preservation for the future.

We could go on and on about the benefits of preserving nature and how we shouldn’t be stripping those protections away, but that’s a post for another day :).

Back to our trip. We loaded up the car early Saturday morning heading to our final destination – Zion National Park. Since Utah has such amazing scenery and a high concentration of these lands are in the south, we made sure to detour and see as much as possible. On the list: Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Dixie National Forest, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Cedar Breaks National Monument. For more about our hikes through all of these parks, check out our post on June 2018 Hikes.

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

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Grand Staircase Escalante – whose name derives from the Escalante River and geological “steps” corresponding to various time periods over millions of years – stretches from Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon. It is among some of the most remote in the country and was the last part of the contiguous United States to be mapped. There are five “steps” in the Grand Staircase: the pink cliffs formed of pink and red limestones that has many different rock formations including Bryce Canyon’s famous hoodoos; grey cliffs made of Cretaceous sandstone comprising the area between Bryce Canyon and Zion; white cliffs formed of Navajo sandstone and home of the majestic cliffs of Zion; the vermillion cliffs made of silt and found near Kanab; and the chocolate cliffs, which are the oldest formed of Kaibab limestone and makes the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Needless to say, the sights were spectacular. Driving through the changing landscapes and noting the different geologic periods that made this possible kept us in awe of just how small we are in the grand scheme of things.

Bryce Canyon National Park

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Bryce Canyon National Park has the highest concentration of hoodoos in the world. It’s at 8,000-9,000 ft elevation at the rim, which looks out over the canyon filled with hoodoos. Bryce Canyon is technically not a canyon, but an amphitheater created by headward erosion wherein erosion occurs at the origin of a stream in the opposite direction of the flow. This erosion has led to the exposure of hoodoos where a layer of soft rock (typically mudstone) has been covered by a layer of hard rock (limestone, sandstone) leaving spires. We only made it to Sunrise-Sunset point, where the views were spectacular, but there are many other viewpoints and hikes throughout the park.

Zion National Park

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Zion National Park could have an entire post of its own. After visiting a handful of National Parks in the last couple of months, what struck us most about Zion is how majestic it is. While the park actually encompasses a large area from Zion Canyon to Kolob Canyon, most people only go through Zion Canyon in the southern end of the park. The north fork of the Virgin River cut through the Navajo sandstone creating looming, red cliffs. The park winds through a canyon, and due to the small size and high traffic is only accessible by shuttle in the summer months. There are plenty of trails and sights to see through the canyon including the Court of Patriarchs – a trio of peaks named after biblical figures Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Angel’s Landing – a rock formation that got its name because it appears that only angels could summit, and the famous narrows – the narrowest section of the canyon and an incredibly popular hike. We didn’t get to hike Angel’s Landing this time, but it’s on our list for our next visit.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

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Cedar Breaks is off the beaten path and easy to skip even if you’re in the area, but we would highly recommend visiting. It’s a natural “amphitheater” that stretches 3 miles wide and 2,000 feet deep. It’s not an amphitheater in the casual sense – no concerts are held there – but it is a rock formation that naturally amplifies sound. It is at 10,000 feet elevation and has rock formations similar to Bryce Canyon. We only ventured along the rim, but were awestruck by the magnitude of the space and just how far you could see out into the valley.

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Dixie National Forest

Dixie National Forest is the largest forest in Utah, stretching across 2 million acres at the southern end of the state. In fact, most of the above national lands lie within the areas of Dixie. We were constantly passing through the forest as we wound our way to all of the National Parks and Monuments. The area is composed of many different ecosystems and is quite beautiful to behold.

To note: National Parks are not dog-friendly, but National Monuments and National Forests are.