e.aboussou Author Esther Aboussou is a hiker, camper, writer, photographer, videographer and lover of all things outdoors. Originally from Harrisburg Pennsylvania, She currently resides in Midvale, Utah and is pursuing a degree in Film and Media Arts at the University of Utah. When she's not writing, you can find her exploring the great outdoors of the western United States with her fiance.

Finding Free Camping Worldwide

There’s nothing better than filling your pack, grabbing your gear, and checking out of social media as you head outdoors for a camping adventure. One of the best things about any outdoor activity is that it can be as inexpensive or as extravagant as you want it to be. When it comes to camping, there are many ways to save money and still have a comfortable and enjoyable stay in the great outdoors. When campers Johnny and Jenn of Hitek Homeless realized this in 2008, they decided to share their money saving tips by starting the website freecampsites.net. Now, nearly a decade later, campers from all over the world have been using this resource to seek out free and affordable campsites far and wide.

As someone who takes camping seriously, I’ve made it a priority to spend a few nights in the wilderness in the form of a camping trip at least once a month. One of the reasons why I choose to camp is to get away from the bustle and noise of everyday life, and enjoy the solitude of nature. Unfortunately, many other people have that same thought in mind as they crowd the campsites at our many national and state parks every summer. Taking advantage of free primitive or BLM campsites has allowed me the luxury of taking in the gorgeous views of our public lands while being able to retreat at the end of the night to a campsite that is secluded and all my own.

Being a college student — and an art major at that — it’s very important for me to budget my recreational spending. Freecampsites.net has allowed me to camp through nearly all of 2016 and all of 2017 so far without spending a dime on a tent site. Of course, there will be some downsides to camping at a free site. The amenities that most often cost fees, such as bathrooms, picnic tables, and fire pits, are not always available or easily accessible at the camping locations listed on this great resource. Luckily, if these amenities are available, freecampsites.net includes all the information it can.

The best thing about this website is that it’s stocked with GPS locations for camping from Utah to Bangladesh. The site has grown into quite the community, and everyone that has an account has the ability to upload information about a free campsite along with reviews, tips, and pictures of the location. This makes the site easy to use for all ages. It’s the ultimate camper’s tool at the touch of a button.

If you choose to start using freecampsites.net to plan your next adventures, make sure to upload a picture or drop a note about your stay. The camping community is continually growing, and sharing tips and tricks is the best way to make sure everyone can enjoy the outdoors together.

If you decide that just this once you are interested in paying for those amenities, freecampsites.net also has a large list of available campsites that do charge fees.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

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Zion: An Outdoor Paradise

Zion National Park. Photo taken by Esther Aboussou.

If you’re short on time this summer, yet still anxious to explore the best that the Beehive State has to offer, look no further than the beautiful backyard of Southern Utah. Just outside of Cedar City lies 229 square miles of red rock country, towering canyon walls, dense forests, and beautiful sandstone buttes. This landscape is encapsulated inside the boundaries of the famous Zion National Park.

Zion is a paradise for outdoorsy people of every kind. There are activities and hikes anyone can enjoy, and the scenic drive alone is enough reason to go. Because of the wild popularity of the park, it’s best to plan a trip just before the summer tourist season kicks in to full gear.

If you’d like to spend a few nights in Zion National Park, there are three campgrounds, and there are 176 campsites to choose from. These range from $20 to $30 for the week, depending on which site you choose. The more expensive ones include electricity. Reservations in advance are a must. These sites fill up quickly, and they tend to be full throughout the entire season. In areas surrounding the park, there are primitive campsites such as Lava Point Campground up in Kolob Canyon that are based on a first-come first-served basis.

The best part of Zion is the diverse landscape it offers. There is so much to do, and there is even more to explore. You can bike, hike, ride, or climb your way through Zion National Park and still find yourself yearning for more. Out of the 18 hikes to choose from, a few of the top attractions are Angels Landing, The Narrows, and The Subway hikes.

Zion National Park. Photo taken by Esther Aboussou.

There are amazing views to be had as you summit the 1400 feet of Angel’s Landing. Navigating the tight passageways and trudging through the knee-deep water of The Narrows is an unforgettable experience. The Subway is a workout, and it is certainly not for the faint of heart. A permit is required for this 9-mile banger, and you’ll need to be skilled in route-finding, swimming, and rappelling to make it through the intense slot canyon.

Don’t let this scare you away, however. Zion has quite a few easy to moderate trails that provide gorgeous views. The Upper Emerald Pool trail is a 1 mile hike that leads to a beautiful waterfall of refreshing water at the base of a cliff. The 3.5 mile Taylor Creek trail is a quiet trek that gives hikers amazing views of the majestic double arch alcove.

A visit to Zion National Park can provide awe-inspiring views and adventure, or solitude and relaxation. It all depends on which parts you choose to explore. What is certain is that this utopia of Utah wildlife and lush scenery is a treasure of the western United States, and it is an absolute joy to behold.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

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Beyond the Wasatch: Great Basin National Park and Lehman Caves

Three and a half hours west of Salt Lake City, in the middle of the Great Basin between Utah and Nevada, lies a hidden treasure trove of adventure.  Within the 77,180 acres of Great Basin National Park, it’s impossible to get bored. Explore a diverse range of scenery and activities, from the 13,000 feet of its highest mountain peak to its lowest sub-alpine lake. Gaze in wonder at the beauty of a bristlecone pine forest, trek to a glacier, or hike to an arch, but you can’t come without exploring the depths of the magnificent cave system.

Before I visited the Lehman Caves at Great Basin National Park, the most I knew about caves is what I could remember from the cartoon “The Berenstein Bears” that I watched as a little girl. “Stalactites and stalagmites, only caves have got ’em. Tites are always on the top and mites are on the bottom.” I walked away with an education that surpassed that tidbit of information by leaps and bounds.

The Lehman Caves Tour is one of the biggest attractions that Great Basin has to offer, and rightfully so. As I descended underground, I felt as if I had stepped back into a place frozen in time. The marble and limestone caverns were formed 550 million years ago and discovered just under a century ago by Absalom Lehman in 1885. Along with the usual array of stalactites and stalagmites, the Lehman Caves have quite the collection of shields (over 300). These rounded formations projecting upward out of the cave walls are rare, and are thought to form as the limestone cracks and shifts.

The temperature in the caves is a cool 50 degrees year-round and the first room on the tour is the Gothic Palace. Footsteps echo as you enter this grand chamber and you can hear the drip-drip of water sliding down the limestone walls, but your see only darkness. The park ranger leading the tour simulated how it would have felt years ago to enter this space for the first time, as Lehman did. She instructed each of us turn out our lights, then she lit a single candle; the only light source that Lehman had at the time.

This isn’t a cave for spelunking or exploring on your own. Tours are guided by a park ranger, who takes you through the 5 cavernous rooms, each with a unique history and geology. The groups are limited in size to 20 and run at different times depending on the season. The tours are regularly sold out, so make a reservation ahead of time. The $10 fee for the 90-minute tour is absolutely worth the cost. Or, for those short on time, there is a 60-minute tour available for $8.

While the Lehman Caves are very popular, Great Basin is also home to 40 other caves. Most of them are closed for safety reasons and research, and others are closed to protect the bats that call these environments home. For those experienced in caving, Little Muddy Cave is open for recreational use. With a permit, you can explore this cave from October 1st through April 1st. Little Muddy Cave is a little over 1000 ft. in length and it’s filled with mazes of crawl ways. The smooth mud floor is perfect for wiggling through some of these tight spaces.

During the summer, more hikes are accessible, but going in the winter means less crowds. Whenever you decide to make the trip, here are some tips to make it worthwhile:

-Regardless of which direction you’re coming from, the road to Great Basin can get pretty desolate. Driving past endless fields, rolling hills, and snow-capped mountains is a wonderful way to start this journey. Make sure you’ve got a driving buddy, or a really good podcast to keep you awake.

-Between the three campgrounds in the park, there are 70 campsites to choose from. Each site is $12. In the winter, they are first come first serve, so call ahead to check on availability. In the summertime, reservations are available, but they fill up quickly.

-If you’re visiting in the winter, pack accordingly. There are few in-town amenities and water pumps are off until April.

 -Make sure to apply for permits at least two weeks ahead of time. Backcountry camping, climbing, and caving all require permits and the approval process can take a few days. If you’re planning on booking a cave tour, make a reservation at least a week in advance in order to  guarantee a spot.  If you don’t get a permit, don’t fret. There’s plenty to do here:

-Hike up to the Bristlecone pine forest. This moderate 2.8-mile trek brings you to a grove of ancient trees. Just past the trail’s end, you can get a look at Nevada’s only glacier.

– Ascend the highest mountain peak in Nevada. Wheeler Peak (13,063 ft) has breathtaking views of the sage-covered hills and birch tree forests.

– Try your hand at catching a rainbow trout as you fish in either Baker Lake or Lehman Creek. Purchase a Nevada fishing license ahead of time.

– Take the 3.4-mile roundtrip trail for stunning views of Lexington Arch. This natural Arch is six stories tall and carved out of limestone.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

Photos by Esther Aboussou

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Product Review: The Bear Bowl

The Bear Bowl, from start-up company The Bear Minimum, is a lightweight, compact portable cooking pot designed for backpackers and campers. The pot is flexible and foldable, weighing in at 6.3 oz. with an aluminum base (4.5” x 4.5” x 1”), and PTF3 coated fiberglass making up the four sides of the pot. It folds up neatly and can easily be stored away, which is great for backpackers who want to save space. I brought it into the elements to test it out.

In the wind and rain on a pocket-sized stove, I was unable to bring the water to a boil even after 18 minutes. The metal takes time to heat the water because of the fiberglass walls. Cooking eggs, bacon, and asparagus with the Bear Bowl on a basic two-burner stove was a success. It only took six minutes to fully cook everything, and when it came time to transfer the eggs from the pot to a plate, I had no problems with the food sticking. After dinner, I unfolded the pot and easily wiped it down.

The last test I conducted was in my home on my kitchen stove. In this controlled environment, it still took quite a long time to bring water to a boil in the pot. While waiting for the water to boil, I set my teapot on the stove for comparison. My teapot was ready and whistled at me in under 5 minutes, but the Bear Bowl took another 10 to turn from simmer to a rolling boil. Then came the difficult part. Pouring water from the pot without burning myself with hot water or steam was a struggle. The flexible handle and plastic walls filled with boiling water complicated things.  I spilled quite a bit of water as I struggled to direct the stream of scalding water into my cup.

The Bear Bowl is a good concept, but it needs a few more tweaks before it’s useful in every camping and backpacking situation. The size and weight is great for backpacking and the removable paracord-wrapped handle can come in handy in  emergencies. If you have hopes of cooking cup-o-noodles, oatmeal, or making a hot cup of tea while camping, boil a small amount of water and take precautions so you don’t accidentally spill hot liquid on yourself or others. This is not a perfect product by any means, but as a prototype is works well and I could see myself buying one in the future. I’ll definitely plan on packing the Bear Bowl for future camping or backpacking trips.

Pros:

-Compact design, lightweight, and packs flat for portability.

-Plastic is high quality, does not melt even when subjected to extreme high heat.

-Non-stick surface makes it very easy to clean.

-Great for cooking/heating up food directly.

Cons:

-Because heat is only conducted through the base plate, it can take 10-15 minutes to bring water to a rapid boil.

-No pour spout, so it’s difficult to pour hot liquids without accidentally burning yourself.

-Paracord handle seems like a good idea, but the pot would benefit from a sturdier handle that doesn’t bend as much.

Buy it here: http://bearminimum.org

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

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Beyond the Wasatch: Arches National Park

Over President’s Day weekend, I packed up the car and left town early to escape the overcast grey skies of the Wasatch Front. As I drove southeast, each passing mile of the three-and-a-half-hour road trip down to Moab meant less snow-covered peaks and more red rocks sneaking into the terrain.

The promising forecast of 55 degree weather and the off-season crowds made it one of the best times to intimately explore Arches National Park. With over one million annual visitors, you are bound to see other people on the trails, but visiting this park before the peak season (April – September) is a great way to escape the crowds.

There are over 2,000 natural arches, making the grand landscape of Arches National Park home to the greatest concentration in the country. Beyond that, the beauty of the balanced red rocks, sloping sandstone hills, peaks, spires, and slick rock canyons of Arches make this park an ultimate destination for desert rats. Inside the park, there are 14 hiking trails to choose from, along with areas for rock climbing and canyoneering. Surrounding trails just outside of the park give you access to mountain biking and ATVing.

The entrance fee is $25, so shelling out $80 for an annual parks pass is worth it for the chance to visit this part of Moab again, or any of Utah’s other national parks. You can’t live in Utah without seeing the iconic Delicate Arch that appears on Utah license plates, but once you get away from the ant march of traffic on the trail, try some of the lesser-known hikes such as the Fiery Furnace. You’ll need to purchase a $6 permit in order to navigate the sandstone fins of the furnace, and if you need a helping hand, rangers are always available for guided tours. With 76,000 acres of Arches’ delicate desert ecosystem, you can have hours of fun exploring the park.

SPRING BREAK ITINERARY

MONDAY: Moab is a popular tourist destination, which means planning ahead is crucial so you don’t end up  driving around trying to find a campsite at the last minute. Inside of Arches, Devil’s Garden Campground is often full. Instead, take advantage of the many surrounding campsites outside of the park for cheaper rates. I’d recommend the Sand Flats Recreation Area, just eight miles south of Arches. There are 120 sites to choose from at $15 a night. Each campsite has a fire ring and picnic table, and all are within short walking distance of a vault toilet.

Once you set up camp, go for a scenic drive through Arches to take in the sights of Delicate Arch and the Windows section. Here you can see some of the largest and most iconic arches in the entire park. Check out the historic Wolfe Ranch, home of the first family of settlers to live in Arches.

TUESDAY: Start at Devils Garden campground and hike the 7.8-mile primitive trail loop. The farther along you get, the thinner the crowds become. You’ll see seven arches on this hike, starting with the 290-ft. span of Landscape Arch. Hiking the primitive trail is a great way to break away from the crowds while taking in the beautiful scenery of the park. Just make sure you’re prepared to do a bit of scrambling and sliding as you navigate over the terrain. As you traverse farther along the trail, enjoy the seclusion of the surrounding valley of desert life and geological formations.

WEDNESDAY: When your body is good and sore from the previous days’ hike, head over to Moab Main Street to visit the in-town attractions. Get your feet off the ground at Raven’s Rim Zip Line adventures and catch a birds-eye view of Moab for $129. If heights aren’t your thing, at the same location and for the same price, you can book a 2.5 hour 4WD adventure tour through the high desert. There are many shuttle services in the area to drop off and pick you up at the end of the day if you choose to try out river rafting or mountain biking.

THURSDAY: Finish your trip hiking some of the moderate trails. Trek a mile to check out historic rock art panels at Courthouse Wash (one mile), gaze in wonder at Balanced Rock (0.3 miles), or navigate sand dunes and slick rock as you make your way to Broken Arch Loop (two miles).

FRIDAY: If being surrounded by million-year-old rocks makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, then it’s worth it to make a stop at the Moab Giants Dinosaur Park before you hit the road home.

The attraction is conveniently placed just nine miles north of Moab on Hwy 191 and boasts a large concentration of fossils. Tickets are $22 to enjoy all the indoor and outdoor activities of this mini Jurassic park. Roam along the dinosaur trail to discover over 100 life-sized dinosaur models, check out ancient sea creatures in the paleoaquarium, and browse the museum to learn all about the animals that lived in Moab centuries ago.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

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How to: Keep Food Fresh

After backpacking for miles, any food can taste good. But what would you rather have: chilled, fresh string cheese or a warm stick of cheese? That’s what we thought. So, we’ve made a list of tips and our favorite coolers to keep your food cold and bacteria-free while camping.

-Start cold. Coolers retain temperatures, so dig it out of that hot storage shed and let it cool down for a day before you pack it. A few hours before packing, fill the cooler with a bag of ice to bring the temperature down. Discard this ice and start fresh before adding food.

-Use the layer system. Start with a layer of ice, then add raw meat and other perishable foods. Continue to layer ice and food as you pack. Keep items that don’t need much refrigeration (such as condiments and vegetables) near the top. Cover with a top layer of pellet ice.

– Keep your cooler sealed tightly and out of direct sunlight.  Pack drinks in a separate cooler to save on space and stop you from continually opening your cooler throughout the day.

-Prepare your food. It’ll stay cold longer if it starts out chilled or frozen. Pre-freeze water bottles and chill drinks. Prepare meats and marinades, then freeze and seal them in Ziploc bags. Freeze or chill as much of your food as you can before packing it into the cooler.

-Ditch the packaging. Seal your food in Ziploc bags so you can pack them tightly. Use space-saving Tupperware to pack fragile items or things that need to stay dry, such as eggs, cheese, and fruit. Prepping meals and cutting up produce beforehand keeps things from getting too bulky and cuts down on cook time.

BEST COOLERS

Hiking and Backpacking:

Norchill air series backpack cooler bag $39.99

This bag is cleverly designed to turn any backpack into a cooler bag. Its versatility makes it an easy over-the-shoulder bag or an addition to your pack. This lightweight cooler (one pound) has room to hold up to six beverages and the padding inside has double usage. It insulates and provides protection for your gear. The waterproof exterior shell and roll-down top ensure that at the end of your hike, you’ll have cold food and a dry pack.

 

Camping:

Coleman 54 quart steel belted cooler: $149.99

 

There’s nothing better than a classic. This stainless steel cooler from Coleman is a sturdy icebox. Coleman began producing this model in 1954 and it still stands up to hot summer temps and the dead of winter. In 90 degree weather, the cooler has a four-day ice retention rate. Forgot your camping chair? No problem, pull this guy up around the fire and use it as a stool. It can withstand 250 lbs of weight. It’s leak proof and large enough to hold upright 2 liter bottles, or 85 beverage cans if you’re having a party. With 54 quarts of space, you’ll have more than enough room for all your food and drinks.

 

Boating:

IceMule Pro Cooler:$99.95

 

This cooler bag from IceMule is perfect for a day out on the water. The backpack straps make carrying it easy, which comes in handy if you’re portaging your canoe. It holds 18 cans plus ice and the double-layered insulation design keeps it waterproof.  Plus, you’ll never lose your lunch because this bag floats. You can strap it to your tube and let it trail behind you as you float down the river, or take advantage of its flexibility and store it in your boat or canoe. The bag itself weighs three lbs. and rolls up into a neat package for storage.

 

Biking:

Local cooler saddlebag pannier: $79.99

This waterproof insulated pannier is a great addition to your bike accessories. Whether you’re heading home from the grocery store or biking across the state, this bag will keep your lunch nice and cool. The pannier is compatible with all standard bike racks, and there are interior mesh pockets inside if you need to bring along any extra utensils or small items. As if this bag isn’t cool enough, it also has a bottle opener mounted on the outside.

 

Fishing:

Yeti Tundra 45 quart cooler: $349.99

If you’re looking for a cooler that means business, look no further than the Yeti Tundra 45. This bear-proof ice box can keep your freshly caught camp dinners nice and cool with a cold retention of five to seven days. There is permafrost insulation, a roto-molded exterior, and anti-condensation features. You’re guaranteed to get through a fishing trip without worrying about the temperature of your food.  These coolers are highly recommended for their longevity, so chances are you’ll never have to use the lifetime warranty that Yeti offers.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Esther Aboussou

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Beyond the Wasatch: Goblin Valley

Last year, my fiancé and I made it a goal to travel at least once a month. We visited national parks and monuments, state parks, and hot springs, and we were able to round out 2016 with 13 camping trips under our belts. This year, we started out fresh with a January trip to Goblin Valley State Park.

Goblin Valley is basically an enormous playground. There’s something for everyone; campers, hikers, bikers, and climbers. The park’s main attraction is the collection of sandstone hoodoos sprinkled throughout the landscape. Down in the valley, these mushroom-shaped rocks and towers fill your view in every direction, and each one is unique. Inside the park, there are five designated hikes.

Little Wild Horse and the Ding and Dang Canyons are just a few miles away from the visitors center and these slot canyons offer a whole day of fun. Little Wild Horse especially is very popular because you don’t need to be experienced to navigate, climb, and scramble through it.

A day use pass to enter the park is $13. If you’re planning to stay the night, there are 25 sites in the campground and two yurts available. Campsites are $25 a night, and there are options for tents and RV hook-ups. Along with that, there are showers and flush toilets, and each site comes with a fire-pit, picnic table, and shade shelter. Yurts are $80 and are equipped with bunk beds, a seating area, table, heat, A/C, and a BBQ cooker.

For weekend warriors like me, here’s your perfect three-day itinerary:

FRIDAY:

Arrive at the park as early as you can. After setting up camp, explore the three valleys of goblins. They are in close proximity to each other and offer hours of fun if you decide to trek through all of them. Pack a lunch and a lot of water. After a break, take the 1.5 mile hike to the Goblin’s Lair and relax in the fresh cool air of this enormous cavern. If you’re prepared for it, permits for rappelling down into the canyon can be purchased at the visitors center or you can hire a guide for a canyoneering tour.

SATURDAY:

Visit Little Wild Horse slot canyon, just five miles west of the Goblin Valley Visitor Center. The full loop of Little Wild Horse Canyon and Bell Canyon is eight miles, or you can stick to Little Wild Horse, 3.3 miles one way. It’s easy to navigate for all skill-levels and ages. When you get back to camp, relax your sore muscles by the fire and gaze up at the many visible stars in this Dark Sky Certified Park.

SUNDAY:

On the last day of your trip, take the easy 250-yard trail down into the valley to get a closer look at the Three Sisters, one of the most iconic formations in the park, before packing up and heading home.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

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Discover a Warm and Groovy Place for a Soak in Monroe

One thing to know about me: I hate being cold. I absolutely loathe it. If I could be wrapped in a heated blanket all through winter I wouldn’t object. Unfortunately, this is not an option, so instead of becoming a hermit all winter long I’ve found that visiting one of the many hot springs in Utah is a much better way to stay warm and have fun.

When I moved here from Pennsylvania five years ago I was determined to take advantage of as many hot springs as I could. One of my favorite springs in Utah, and one that I love returning to, is Mystic Hot Springs in Monroe.

The first thing that sets Mystic apart from other hot springs is its accommodations. Along with tent camping spots and cabins, the resort has some very funky, and very cool, vintage converted buses to spend the night in. Each bus is different; some are set up with bunks to be party buses, and others are cozy for two.

My boyfriend and I stayed in the Ripple bus and spent most of the day soaking, napping, and eating. Mystic is a well-kept secret. It’s never ridiculously crowded and there are so many different pools you never have to wait around to get a tub all to yourself.

The heart of this small town feels like a bubble of calm. There are no loud noises or lights to intrude on the tranquility of the campsite. There’s nothing better than getting into a hot pool at 12 a.m. after relaxing by the fire after dinner. Above, the stars shine brightly due to the lack of light pollution.

It’s not a typical resort with fresh towels and room service, but for what it lacks in modern amenities, it makes up for in atmosphere. The resort has been around for a long time, and when “Mystic Mike” Ginsburg purchased the place back in 1996, he was able to keep the 70’s charm of the resort despite new cabin builds and renovations.

Mystic Hot Springs attracts a diverse group of outdoorsmen and women. It’s a place that invites musicians, artists, story-tellers, hippies, and soul searchers to come and relax. The owners leave personal touches such as chocolate mints, incense, and handwritten welcome letters for each new guest. It’s little things like this that make visiting Mystic worth the drive every time.

 

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

Photos by Esther Aboussou

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Quit trashing our public lands

In 2016, there was an abundance of news stories about visitors defacing national parks by painting, spraying, and carving on monuments and structures. Many of the culprits have unwittingly called attention to themselves by posting their “art” on social media. In June of this year, Casey Nocket was banned from all National Parks and 524 million acres of public lands after she posted pictures of her graffiti on Instagram.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens carved her and her boyfriend’s name with a heart at a national forest in Arizona. After posting a picture on Instagram, she was caught by fans and faced a $1,000 fine. Public shaming of these individuals has hopefully dissuaded others from taking up the hobby of graffitiing public lands. However, while pointing fingers some may also be defacing the land in a different way. All too often, hikers and campers leave their trash behind, and these culprits are much harder to find.

As an avid camper, I don’t think I could count all of the campsites I’ve been to that included a pile of garbage. I’ve seen everything from beer bottles and snack packaging to used condoms and clothing. Utah has such a beautiful landscape, but stumbling upon used paper plates or an old, torn-up t-shirt ruins the aesthetics of the great outdoors.

It’s not just about looks; trash and debris also affect wildlife. Many animals are lured out of their homes  by the scent of campfire leftovers, putting them in harm’s way. Some food is not safe for animals to consume, and smaller rodents can get trapped inside containers or bottles left behind. Many animals confuse packaging for food and inadvertently poison themselves. Debris left near rivers and streams cause build-ups and leave residue that could be toxic to aquatic animals. In Utah, littering is currently considered a Class B misdemeanor and carries a $100 fine.

For as many state and national parks that Utah has, there is a comparable number of primitive campsites run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that are free and accessible to the public.  The BLM manages over 245 million acres of public lands each year, and even with around 10,000 employees, it’s a lot of ground to cover.

Littering is a huge problem, but there are several ways to fight it. The first step is to take personal action. If you’re a hiker, carry a small plastic bag with you to pick-up litter. Campers should pack out their litter and take advantage of the trashcans that are available at most campsites. Use switchbacks and drive on designated roads. Call someone out (with respect, please) if you see them carving into a tree or dropping a stray candy wrapper on the ground. Every little bit helps.

The BLM and other organizations are always looking for volunteers to clean up the outdoors. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics initiative is a nationwide organization takes volunteers to clean up hiking trails and campsites.

It’s important to remember that, even if we donate or pay entrance fees to access parks, when we travel deep into the great outdoors we are guests, and we should behave like the visitors we are.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Kiffer Creveling

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Insider’s guide to Alta

In the United States there are three skiers-only resorts, two of which are in Utah. Alta Ski Resort is one of the oldest resorts in Utah, beloved by visitors and locals alike. The Alf Engen Ski School at Alta was the first ski school in Utah, and for years its focus has been on teaching people of all ages to ski. Twenty-five percent of the runs are beginner, 40 percent are intermediate and 35 percent are advanced, meaning Alta has great terrain for skiers of all levels. Lismore Nebeker, a junior in health society and policy, worked at Alta last winter as a ski instructor. Here’s what she said about working the mountain.

Q: What kind of people go to Alta? What attracts them to this resort?

L: Having it be an all-skiers resort makes it extremely unique, it keeps the terrain perfect for skiers, and it’s something that sets it apart.

I think something that’s also pretty cool about Alta is that it’s been kept pretty traditional over the years, they do a lot of different maintenance updates but it really feels like an old school resort when you get there…Alta’s biggest focus is the mountain, and the skiing, and good snow and good friends.

Q: And you? What makes Alta your resort?

L: I have been skiing at Alta since I was two years old. I grew up at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon and I have a family cabin in Albion Basin. It was the first cabin on the mountain that my grandpa built 60 years ago. My last name is Nebeker and we always say “You’re not a Nebeker if you don’t ski at Alta.” My dad, my granddad, and all my aunts and uncles grew up skiing at Alta. It was a family resort for us.

Q: What are some of the pros of working at Alta?

L: The best part about last year is I was up there four-to-five times a week. I was on the mountain, I was skiing with friends, and I was teaching little kids how to ski which was so fun. It was so unique to be able to see it click in kids’ heads.

Q: What has been one of your favorite days while working at Alta?

L: We had a crazy day last winter. It was a complete blizzard, it was just dumping snow. We were put on interlatch in the lodge. Interlatch means that you can’t leave the buildings while patrol is trying to take care of any avalanche dangers within bounds. All of these kids were asking “When can we go back out to ski? When can we go back out?” All they wanted to do was go back out and ski even though it was a crazy blizzard outside. The kids love it.

Q: Any stereotypes of ski patrol or lift workers that prove true? Or false?

L: I think some people would argue that the atmosphere is too chill. The biggest stereotype is the idea of ski bums smoking weed, drinking and hanging out, skiing all day. I’ve definitely found that that’s not the case, these people have really made a career out of ski instructing. There are plenty of people up there that have been doing this for many years. Some have previously skied professionally, or raced, or have instructed at other resorts and ended up at Alta. It’s definitely something that’s a career-driven place to work.

Q: Where’s the best place to get food at the resort after a long day of skiing?

L: A lot of the ski instructors go to the P-Dog. It’s a bar in the Peruvian lodge at Alta. It’s a hangout spot whether or not you drink. The ski instructors hang out after work, kick their ski boots off and talk about their day.

Q: In the future, would it be a conflict of interest to marry a snowboarder?

L: Yeah, probably. *Laughs* No’ I’m just kidding. I could probably manage a boarder; our kids would definitely need to know how to ski so they could get into the family cabin. So they would have to know skiing first and then if they wanted to pick up snowboarding they could.

Q: Why do you love what you do?

L: I think more than anything, just having [skiing] be a lifelong sport for me. It was a part of growing up. I think the reason why I wanted to work in the ski school was wanting to teach to have fun while skiing. It’s good to remember that it is a recreational sport and that you’re supposed to have fun. It doesn’t really matter how good you are, it can get pretty competitive and aggressive really quickly, but if you remember that it’s something you do for fun, and something you can with friends, it’s something that you can do for life. My grandma skied well into her seventies. It’s something that I’ll be able to do my whole life.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Lismore Nebeker

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