Category Archives: Activities

The Mighty 5© Signature Tour of Utah’s National Parks

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We’re going to hike some of Utah’s spectacular National Parks on the Mighty 5© Signature Tour with experienced guide Mike Coronella, and our adventure begins in Moab.  There’s no more dramatic entrance to a destination than the drive south on 191 into Moab, Utah. With canyons of red shale on both sides of the highway and the snow-capped La Sal Mountains in the background, it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road.

Sunflower Hill Bed & Breakfast Inn, Moab, Utah
Sunflower Hill Bed & Breakfast Inn, photo credit: John Cameron

Our first destination is The Sunflower Inn, a four-Diamond luxury bed and breakfast, where we’ll spend our first two nights. Located on a quiet street, the 12-room Sunflower Inn has a pool, hot tub and creative homemade breakfasts . We’re pleased to discover our beautiful room has French doors leading out to a terrace overlooking the pool and the hot tub.

While Mike is picking up the other members of our group at the Moab airport, we grab a quick swim. Later we get acquainted with our fellow hikers over dinner, a short walk away at Twisted Sistas Café. The café menu features creative farm-to-table dishes like a perfectly baked, melt-in-your-mouth delicious, halibut.

DAY ONE

Next morning after a tasty baked egg dish at the Sunflower, we head out on our first hike to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, a five-minute drive north of Moab. Mike is chauffeuring us in his new silver Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, outfitted with custom seats.

Arches National Park has the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches and the iconic Delicate Arch, seen on Utah license plates, is the best known of these. The hike, considered moderately challenging, is five miles round-trip from the trailhead at Wolfe Ranch to Delicate Arch, with a elevation gain of approximately 600 feet. Mike has given us backpacks and water bladders, much appreciated, as there is no shade.

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah
Miss Utah framed by Delicate Arch, photo credit: John Cameron

On the hike we were lucky to photograph Miss Utah framed by Delicate Arch.

Murphy Point Overlook, Canyonlands National Park
Murphy Point Overlook, photo credit: John Cameron

In the afternoon we hike Murphy Point Trail in Canyonlands National Park. I doubt we would have found this awesome viewpoint without Mike’s insider knowledge. Another great viewpoint in Canyonlands is Shafer Trail. Look way down to see Jeeps slowly negotiating the dangerously narrow, twisty trail.

Shafer Trail Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Shafer Trail Overlook, photo credit: John Cameron

That night we eat at award-winning Jeffrey’s Steak House just off main street in Moab. The American kobe beef, sourced from a farm in Nebraska, is tender and grilled to perfection, served with spot-on wine pairings. Always willing to tailor the experience to the group, our guide Mike has graciously taken one of our group on a personal sunset photo shoot.

DAY TWO

After another satisfying home-cooked breakfast at The Sunflower, we check out and pack the Mercedes for a trip to Capitol Reef National Park. We spend the morning hiking the wide, dry creek bed of the Grand Wash Trail, enclosed by towering red rock cliffs – one of the flattest and easiest hikes in Capitol Reef National Park.

Grand Wash Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Grand Wash Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, photo credit John Cameron

Next up, a self-guided walk through the  phantasmagorical Goblin Valley State Park before our gourmet picnic lunch – curry-coated fish tacos accompanied by a healthy, fresh coleslaw prepared by Logan, Mike’s right hand man.

Mighty 5© Signature Tour has partnered with Red River Ranch to provide luxury lodging near Capitol Reef National Park. We arrive to find a herd of bison in the front yard and red rock cliffs in the backyard, a picturesque setting for the lodge, our accommodation for the next two nights.

Red River Ranch Lodge, Teasdale, Utah
Red River Ranch Lodge photo credit: John Cameron

This three-storey log cabin bed & breakfast, situated on the Fremont River, harkens back to trading posts and hunting lodges. Red River Ranch Lodge, complete with fine art and historic artifacts, features a grand fireplace in the great room and a wood-burning one in your own room, lit upon request.

DAY THREE

Hand-pressed apple juice and fluffy omelets appear at breakfast at the Red River Lodge. Today we will be hiking the Waterpocket fold and Strike Valley Outlook in Capitol Reef National Park. Mike has his trusty Toyota Land Cruiser, as the elevation changes are greater and the roads are more narrow and washboard bumpy. The Waterpocket Fold stretches for nearly 100 miles, running north-south from Thousand Lake Mountain down to Lake Powell.

Waterpocket Fold, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Waterpocket Fold, Capitol Reef National Park, photo credit: John Cameron

Views from the Toyota are spectacular and we can’t wait to get out and walk around. After lunch Mike guides us over slickrock and flat stream beds to Strike Valley Overlook, an elevation gain of 600 feet. The snow-capped Henry Mountains in the east and the north-south 180 degree view is awesome.

Our final dinner is at the recent James Beard award-winning Hell’s Backbone Grill, accessed by a scenic mountain drive, where you can see deer and elk up close on route.

Hell's Backbone Grill
Hell’s Backbone Grill, photo credit: John Cameron

The Mighty 5© Signature Tour

Mike Coronella was headed for Wall Street when he discovered his true passion – the outdoors. He made a left turn into the Utah desert and has been there ever since, exploring and guiding others through Utah’s National Parks. Mike pioneered an 800-mile desert hike, the “Hayduke Trail” making him an authority on desert parks.

Over my two-plus decades of guiding and exploring these parks, I have amassed a lot of knowledge about the history of these iconic lands. There is nothing I love more than sharing a vista or a unique hiking experience with my guests and knowing full-well that I am blowing their minds.

Mike created the Mighty 5© Signature Tour to share his love of the desert with others. On the tour, a maximum of six guests travel from park to park in a custom Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van to hike, dine and stay in and around Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion.

Mighty5Tour Sprinter Van at Arches National Park
Mighty5Tour Sprinter Van, photo credit: John Cameron

Every detail is taken care of, from luxury accommodations at the region’s finest properties to first-class dining prepared by caterers on location or enjoyed at the best and most renowned restaurants on route. A full-time, dedicated concierge accompanies guests in a separate vehicle to ensure a stress-free voyage.

Arrange your luxury Mighty 5© Signature Tour tour by contacting Mike at 435 259 1565 or mighty5tour.com

Huntington Beach, California, Surf City USA

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Huntington Beach epitomizes the laid back California surfer lifestyle.  In a parking lot next to their vintage VW microbus, surfers get into their wetsuits and head for the waves.

For many, the 1959 Gidget movie was their first introduction to California’s vibrant surf culture.  The real life inspiration for Gidget, Kathy Kohner Zuckerman,  grew up surfing the waves in Malibu. She told her surfing stories to her father, a Hollywood writer, and the rest as they say, is history.

Surfer on Huntington Beach
Surfer on Huntington Beach

Surfboards have become smaller and lighter and there isn’t a beach in California that hasn’t been surfed.

Things to do

International Surfing Museum, Huntington Beach
Largest surfboard ever built at the International Surfing Museum

Get the fascinating history of surfing at The International Surfing Museum in Huntington Beach .  On display outside the museum is the world’s largest surfboard, used to break the Guinness World Record for the most people riding a surfboard (66). Should the record need to be defended, the giant board will come down.

Huntington Harbour Boat Rentals
Huntington Harbour Boat Rentals

For some time on water without waves, head to Huntington Harbour  Boat Rentals for a two-hour self-captained cruise of tranquil Huntington Harbour – also perfect for swimming or paddle boards.

Where to Stay in Huntington Beach

Pasea Hotel & Spa
Pasea Hotel & Spa

The Pasea Hotel & Spa is Huntington Beach’s newest luxury hotel, just a block away from the famous Pier.  All the incredible art work in the Pasea lobby has a beach theme.

"Wavelength 4" by Jorge Dubin, Pasea Hotel & Spa Lobby
“Wavelength 4” by Jorge Dubin, Pasea Hotel & Spa Lobby

The playful “Wavelength 4” by Jorge Dubin, made from 1400 flip flops, was created specifically for the Pasea Hotel & Spa.

Aarna Spa at The Pasea Hotel
Aarna Spa at The Pasea Hotel

You’re in good hands (pun intended) at the Balinese-inspired Aarna Spa in the Pasea Hotel & Spa. The skilled masseuses apply just the right amount of pressure. It’s rare to find a spa with salt water whirlpools.

Where to Eat

Tanner's Huntington Beach
Tanner’s Huntington Beach

The Acai (ah-sah-EE) Berry Bowl makes a great breakfast at Tanner’s Huntington Beach. A natural cholesterol controller, the acai  berry also has natural antioxidant properties. Head to the popular Watertable at the  nearby Hyatt Regency Hotel (reservations recommended)  for a more classic take on breakfast.

Red Table, Huntington Beach
Red Table, Huntington Beach

The Red Table has great specials for lunch. Try their pistachio-encrusted sole or the rich and tasty crab cakes  – just be sure to save room for their broken banana cream pie – best enjoyed with their caramel-flavored Kentucky bourbon draft beer.

The Signature dessert at Bluegold
The Signature dessert at Bluegold

When it’s time for dinner, it’s  a 5 minute walk to Bluegold in  the nearby Pacific City Mall. Try one of their inventive cocktails – like the “LA Confidential”  made with rye, bourbon and Pom molasses . The chef-driven California fusion menu offers a wide range of flavors. Try the wood -fired burrata pizza with fried rosemary, shaved pistachio and orange oil or the steam kettle shellfish pot in a spicy Vietnamese tomato curry (think tom yum) or even the salt-roasted beets and yellowtail sashimi.

SeaLegs Wine Bar on Beach Boulevard  also has a great selection of wine and California cuisine. Try their baked Alaskan halibut on pesto rice or salmon baked in parchment paper.