Alpha Air works for every outing


Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 3.59.00 PMAs cold days come to Colorado and Utah, I’ve got a new Go-To jacket. It’s the Alpha Air from LL Bean. As comfortable as your favorite high school hoodie and as warm as a ski jacket, it’s better than either because it stretches and insulates during these variable, frosty days.

“Stretches?” you ask.

Yep. The Alpha Air is a stretchy soft-shell with 100 gram Polartec insulation. That makes it warm, breathable, and versatile. I’ve worn it while clearing trail, running dogs, tossing hay, and working with horses. Thrillingly, it’s not a dog- and horse-hair magnet (like so many jackets are). It also shed dew, branches, and leaves while I was clearing trail and it refused to snag or rip. Hooray.

Think of it as a hearty, Irish wool sweater without the itch, weight, and without the hair, hay, and burr magnetism. Oh, and no dry cleaning bill, either. Machine wash and dry.

IMG_1572The Alpha Air is blissfully free of bells and whistles. There are three useful and well-placed pockets: one zippered chest pocket for your phone and perhaps a billfold, and two for warming your hands or zipping in your keys. That’s it. Perfect.

Thankfully, the hood is not detachable which makes for less clutter around your neck and shoulder. And why would you want to take the hood off anyway? As they say in Maine (and everywhere else I’ve lived): “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”

With hunting season coming up, I chose the nicely bright blue. But there are black/grey and red/pink varieties, too. Check it out here.IMG_1580

We found great trail snacks

Here’s the thing with being outside and active: you get hungry. Read about getting out and cognitive decline.

And the more you tune into your body, the pickier you become about what goes down the gullet. If you listen, your body will tell you what works and what doesn’t.

pickybarsAnd, if research shows that being sedentary and eating fast food can become a destructive, self-fulfilling cycle (It does. Click here.), I’d like to suggest the opposite is also true: eating well and getting outside beget more eating well and getting outside.

So, I was happy to check out the food offerings at the OR. Here are two standouts:

Picky Bars might be the first bar I won’t get sick of. The Bend, Oregon company uses simple ingredients like dates, blueberries, almonds, rice cereal, and apricots. They’re flavorful without being too sweet. They have a balance of complex carbohydrates and protein that tastes good going down and doesn’t wig you out with a rush & crash or the sluggishness that comes from eating too much protein. We tried Blueberry Boomdizzle, Need for Seed (with sunflower butter), and Smooth Caffeinator (with hazelnuts and mocha. Yum.

I love oats. My horses love oats. My genes love oats (I’m fairly fit and trim, yet I still have high cholesterol. Doctors recommend Untitled-1oats.) So, I downright gravitated to the Munk Pack booth which featured single serving packs full of flavored oatmeal. I tried them on rides and hikes; they gave me instant and delayed satisfaction.

The instant element comes from yummy flavors (I tried raspberry coconut and blueberry acai flax.). The delayed satisfaction comes as you feel the nutrients begin to course their way through your system. No rush. No crash. All good.

Skeptics might balk at the packaging and texture. The Connecticut-based Munk Packs could be mistaken for apple sauce pouches for toddlers. But get over it! It’s what inside that matters. And you can tell kids it’s strictly an adult taste.

Pick either when you’re between meals and still have an hour’s worth of chores or three miles to go until you reach home. Your body will say, “Thanks!”

Read more about what we discovered at the Outdoor Retailer.

Species Parade, Week One

“Wilderness. The word itself is music,” wrote Edward Abbey in Desert Solitaire.

There are songs of wind and of light and shadow. There’s a fabulous rhythm to animal movement. And, of course, there are the more literal songs of birds: buzzes, chips, whistles, screeches, caws, growls, and melodies. Birds often announce themselves more vociferously with voice than color.

We count 31 species in our first weekly tally of birds and mammals in and around UtahOutsider. We saw them, heard them, or both in our approximate area of the Oquirrh mountains, at 5,800 feet. Follow our weekly updates to appreciate the outstanding opportunities for wildlife spotting ‘round these parts!hare


Black Tailed Jackrabbit

Cottontail Rabbit

Mule Deer


Rock Squirrel


House finch





Red-Tailed Hawk

Common Raven

Scrub Jay



Dark-Eyed Junco

Ringed Turtle Dove

turkMountain Bluebird

Lazuli Bunting


Rufous-sided Towhee

Rufous Hummingbird

Broad Tailed Hummingbird

Chipping sparrow

California Quail

Black headed grosbeak

House wren


Turkey Vulture

Common Poor Will

Common Nighthawk


Brilliant Backyard Booze


Peeko photobombs a picture of our weedy mint.

Rain and gardening neglect have given me scads of mint, which might have been planted intentionally at some point, but now grows weed-like in our yard. With semi-arid conditions and ledge for soil, it does well where next-to-nothing else will.IMG_7720

(I miss my Maine garden, which annually produced tomatoes, arugula, cukes, peppers, etc. and seemed to tolerate my black thumb.)

With all that mint and a ‘When Given Lemons’ attitude, I made Crème de Menthe. I used this recipe, but deviated (as I usually do with recipes) by using more mint. I splurged and bought good vodka. This faux crystal Absolut bottle has a fun light-up feature and was on sale to boot.

IMG_7723It turned out marvelously! The finished product shines with a beautiful green-yellow translucence and tastes divine. I plan on using it with iced tea, mojitos, on chocolate ice cream, in milkshakes, and come winter, hot chocolate

For those of you who’d like to make your own batch, click here.

Having fun making my very own Private Stock label.

Private stock label


All work and no play makes Jake a dull boy

It’s a proverb taken to heart by many in the Beehive State, especially those of us who’ve chosen Utah first for recreation and then later do we figure out ways to stay here and make a living.

Skier and mountain biker Will Hamill did just that more than 20 years ago. Now, his Uinta Brewing is a multi-million dollar operation and ranked 46th among craft brewing companies, according to the Brewers Association. Read more here.

Jake Boyd, a University of Georgia graduate, knew only three Utahns when he moved west about five years ago for the skiing. Shortly thereafter, he founded AllGood Provisions, an organic line of snacks and trail mixes.

Cashews-4-0z-products-pageWhat caught my eye about AllGood?

To be honest?

The Maine connection.

AllGood roasts cashews with maple syrup from Brownville, Maine. Wicked good.

More seriously, the AllGood line of nuts and berries is a refreshing departure from the who-knows-where-it-comes-from, who-knows-what’s-sprayed-on-it line of snack options usually available.

Why buy nuts and dried fruit from an anonymous source in Israel or Turkey when you can buy them from a family farmer in California?

What started as a nights-and-weekends operation quickly blossomed into a full-time gig for Boyd and his current staff of about a dozen. AllGood has nearly doubled in growth these past few years.

IMG_4489You can find bags of High Antioxidant Trail Mix – jumbo Thompson raisins, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, Goji berries, cranberries, mulberries – in 300 stores across 38 states and online. Also available: pistachios, almonds, blueberries and bananas.

Aside from the maple-roasted cashews, I’m a sucker for the tart cherries, grown right here in Utah as well as Washington.

One percent of sales goes to 1% for the Planet, an environmental organization with local, national and international efforts. Boyd recently stopped by Trees for the Future, a 1% for a Planet connection in Honduras. What was he doing in Honduras? En route to surfing, of course.

Become a UtahOutsider Insider and we’ll send you All Good samples.

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Finding Mob in Moab

balFinally, a trip south!

Sure, UtahOutsider checked out Lake Powell last year. But we’d yet to visit Moab and parts in southeastern Utah.

With Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire tucked in the glove box, we headed to the country’s park showcase (There are a whopping five national parks in southern Utah – Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Capitol Reef, and Bryce).

Way back then (Abbey worked as an Arches park ranger in 1960’s), the author complained about cars and tourists. I thought I was prepared.

But apparently, I spend way too much time on my own, exploring wilderness on my own terms, without strangers, without noise, without official direction. The scene was a shock to the psyche.

kAround dusk on a Sunday evening, we arrived at Wolfe Ranch and trekked up the red rocks to Delicate Arch. Germans, Chinese, Australians, Latinos, Utahns, Texans, and Arkansans trudged, too, with inappropriate footwear, expensive cameras bouncing off their chests, and plastic drink bottles at the ready. (I found this last point particularly amusing since it was just a short hike with temps in the 40s, yet clearly our fellow visitors were respecting park notices to the letter: “Drink at least one gallon of water per day! Carry and drink water during all activities such as hiking!”)

When we got to the famous arch, I considered it as an agnostic might consider an image of Jesus (in a tree, in a cloud, etc.). What makes it any more special than all the other natural wonders around here?

Delicate Arch swirled with human pollution of the audio and visual kind. I listened as tourists murmured, chatted and yelled (“Hey, could you move so I can get a good picture?!” Flashes interrupted the view. Noise was like gurgling water in a dirty, frothing stream.

An exponentially better time was had at Kane Creek, a BLM area south of Moab. We hiked there for a few hours, enjoying sightings of rabbits, hawks, a quiet, ice-encrusted creek and no humans.

Another great walk was found at the foothills of the Manti-La Sal National Forest, also just off Route 191 (Moab’s main street) south of town.

Moab itself seemed overrun with franchises and that monotone of quick, colorless development. But we found hope at Moab Coffee Roasters and the Moab Brewery.


Future visits will improve the perspective and change the lens. I’m looking forward to washing off some cynicism.







The Case Against Dogs

Dogs: beloved companions on nearly all UtahOutsider hikes and rides. Because of dogs, I see more wildlife and feel more a part of the wilderness. As four-leggeds with keener senses of smell and hearing, I consider them a bridge to the wild. Often, I follow their line of sight to spot deer, quail, turkey, and coyotes. IMG_4823Through their actions and behaviors, I’m reminded that the human perspective is just one lens, not necessarily the ultimate one or the most insightful when it comes to happenings in the wild.

However, Tom Becker, a Utah wildlife biologist for more than two decades, reminded me dogs aren’t all good. Especially in the winter, their presence has a negative impact on prey animals. They move grazers off feeding grounds and force them to expend valuable energy – two precious commodities when it’s cold and barren around here.

As in many states, folks can shoot dogs if they are chasing or threatening livestock or protected hooved wildlife (like deer). The same goes for dogs in national parks or wildlife refuges. Read the state law here and the federal law here. Even in dog-friendly Massachusetts (where I lived for a time), dogs are banned from all Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries.

Back then, I was put out.

IMG_3399But I get it. Hiking and riding with dogs is like adding a few more predators to the neighborhood. They can wreck bird nests, kill bunnies, and stress nearly all immediate wildlife. This year, with the help of electric collars, I’m teaching them not to chase after prey. If I can reduce their impact and still benefit from their presence, it’ll be a win-win. Or at least, I’ll keep them from being shot.

Read about UtahOutsider’s kind of surveillance.

Read about dog perspectives.

Another note: I’ve officially given up trying to distinguish coyote tracks from my dogs’ tracks. Can you tell the difference? Check out more images on UtahOutsider’s facebook pages.


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