Friday, March 27, 2015

The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort and Spa

Disclaimer 1:  Warm weather, palm trees and frozen drinks are in this post.
New Englanders- Close the screen now if you can't handle this much sunshine so soon. 

Okay I am still talking about my trip last weekend.  I just have so much to say about my awesome weekend getaways., and this was one pretty fantastic.  After spending a day at Zion and a night camping right in the national park, we headed to Vegas. 
 Lake Las Vegas that is.  

What is the best way to wrap up a beautiful day in night in Zion National Park? 

 Well, do the compete opposite.

 In this case, it was drink Pina Coladas on a man made lake surrounded by palm trees and golf courses.  And then spend the evening on The Strip, eating fabulous food and wandering through casinos before collapsing back in a fluffy king size bed.   

It's a hard life folks, but someone has to live it.  


Several things made this trip affordable.  First, camping a night in Zion eliminated a need for a hotel that night.  Second, driving saved a ton of money as we did not need to purchase flights.  And lastly, I went to my trusty travel agent, Groupon.  

Of course, any hotel on the strip is going to run you $200+ a night.  I didn't need to be on the strip, I just saw that the weather was going to be 85 degrees and I needed to be by a pool, with a palm tree and froofy drink.  And Groupon was hosting some pretty sweet deals. 

When I saw this deal for The Westin Golf and Spa Resort on Lake Las Vegas, I jumped at the deal.  (Did I mention I purchased this while sitting on a chair lift at Brighton skiing?). 

I know, I am turning into a (gasp) west coaster (just a little). 

Of course, there were a few hidden fees, including a $29 resort usage fee and taxes and other fees, but it came in around $100 when it was all said and done, and I can live with that.  

You can buy beer right in the hotel and bring it down to the pool, for a fraction of the cost!
And food! We brought our own lunch/snacks. 

The hotel was nice, and had a stunning view of the lake, the golf courses, and the complexes surrounding Lake Las Vegas.  It was so nice to see green grass and palm trees. 

Westin Resort Map 

As a guest, you can use the kayaks for free (very limited number) or pay to rent a paddle board right there at the resort. I was more into sunning and frozen drinks so I passed on the water sports and ordered another drink at the pool. 

Westin at Lake Las Vegas-  Paddleboard for rent 

The Westin at Lake Las Vegas- Golf Course 

Second Pool, Lake Las Vegas, The Westin 

There are two large pools, one heated to 85 degrees, and one left colder (but with an awesome water slide).  It did seem to be a large family resort and I have to say one of the pools were shut down due to an accident in the pool (this was one of those trips where I was thankful I did not have children yet).  

Water Slide, The Westin at Lake Las Vegas

Water Slide, The Westin at Lake Las Vegas

Another great aspect was the Strip Shuttle.  The strip is about 35-40 minutes away so this is a great free feature for guests.  I will warn you, that you have to book this WAY in advance.  The shuttle fills quick and I could not get a spot on the Saturday shuttle (even when I called that morning).  

If you want to head to Vegas for some sunshine and pool time, for a great price with access to the strip when you want it, this is an excellent choice.

The Westin at Lake Las Vegas

The lady working the front desk was really nice and accomodating.  She let me check in two hours early without any additional fees (maybe she smelled the desperate I need a shower I have been camping funk on me- TMI?).  The rooms were spacious and clean, and the resort was everything I was looking for.  You can even buy alcohol right at the gift shop and bring your own food and booze down to the pool deck.  

This was the perfect taste of sunshine I was looking for. 
Vegas, I will be back! 

 Disclaimer 2:  The Westin did not pay me for this post, or compensate me in any way.  In fact, I paid them (one day blog, one day).  All opinions are my own. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Horseback Riding on Antelope Island, Utah

Antelope Island is an insanely beautiful place.  I have been several times in different seasons for different reasons and fall in love a little more each time.  I talked about my winter hike here, and talked about my first time visiting the island and the lake here

January Hike, Antelope Island, Utah 

This place gets a bad rap because of the terrible bugs in the summer, and odor of the lake, but I find this place absolutely beautiful despite those faults.  Maybe its the fact that it mimics the ocean for me, or maybe it is because I only go in the winter and spring, but Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake are definitely on my "Must See Utah List".

Not only is the island gorgeous with water views, but it is a popular trail riding spot.  The trails are excellent for horses (most of them are perfect sandy footing)  and they have large lots to park your trailer, and even corrals for overnight hiking. 

Hitching Post, Antelope Island, Utah

Did I mention a few hitching posts around the trail if you want to pop off your horse and have lunch (if your horse ties...).  

  If you are unable to BYOH, Bring Your Own Horse that is, you can make a reservation to ride over at Fielding Garr Ranch with R & G Horse and Wagon..  If taking a nice ride around Antelope Island in a big western saddle is how you want to spend your day, then head on over to their website and make a reservation to ride.  Also, don't forget there is a $10 fee to enter the park.

Luckily, I have worked hard to make some horsey friends out here.  One of my newest equine friends out here has two horses about an hour north in Ogden.  She moved here about the same time I did and is always looking for someone who can ride to go trail ride with.  Her one requirement was " I don't care how you ride as long as you can stay in the saddle".  Well, that I can do.  We set off for a 5 hour trail ride around the island.  

Horseback riding at Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah 

I ended up riding a 20 year old arab mix in a big old western/roping saddle for about 5 hours. As someone who normally rides show horse types in a ring in an english saddle, this was about as different as it gets.  BUT- beggars can't be choosers and I am thankful for any ride I get, especially if they are on a beautiful island like this.  

 Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah 

Horseback riding at Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah 

The ride was amazing, my butt was super sore, the western saddle pinched my poor leg, and I had just seen a few antelope grazing nearby.  When, all of the sudden, we see a herd of bison in the distance.  And they just happen to be within feet of the trail we are riding on.  

Bison at Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah 

Thankfully they are very used to humans as they are a highly photographed critter here on the island.  I have to say, even though they didn't flinch, and the horses did not seem to mind, I was a little besides myself that I was within 10 feet of these massive terrifying looking creatures.  It was like "oh wee look bison this is the bestttttt" and then "holy hell oh my god holy shit that is huge get me outta here".  Amazing and sorta scary.  

Horseback riding with bison at Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah 

I can officially say I rode through a herd of wild bison. 
And hey, even stopped to take a picture. 

We rode the Bone Road Trail, to the Split Rock Loop, and finished around the half the White Rock Loop. SO yes, if my math is right about 13 miles.  My horse at home would have died after 3.  Fact.  If you are looking for more information on riding out in Utah, Here is a GREAT post on some western cowboys ride on the island.  He also has great posts about horseback riding all over Utah trails! 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

China Poblano at the Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas, Nevada

After a day at the pool (which I will be recapping), it was time for dinner.  Where is there a better place to get dinner than the Las Vegas Strip?  After a shower and outfit change, we headed out to dinner in Las Vegas.  


Skirt (Marshalls), Top (Marshalls), Shoes (DSW).  

Las Vegas is a foodie city. Name a chef and they have a restaurant in Vegas.  At least one restaurant.  On my last trip to Vegas in October, I had some amazing food and several memorable meals, Bobbie Flay's Mesa Grill, and Joel Robuchon, to name a few ;)  Where did I decide?

China Poblano
Jose Andres
Cosmpolitan Hotel,
Las Vegas, Nevada

 I wanted to find somewhere fun and casual to eat.  I immediately thought of China Poblano, a restaurant I had walked by and glanced at the menu during my last trip.  China Poblano is a restaurant serving Mexican and Chinese food.  Not a fusion of the two, but literally a menu with Mexican and Chinese food on it.  Maybe it sounds odd to you, or maybe it sounds like the best idea ever.

A restaurant where I can have chips and salsa tacos, a noodle dish AND fried rice, all in one meal?  That is my kind of wonderful.  And that is exactly what I did.

We started with the Chips and Salsa: fresh tortilla chips/ house-made chipotle salsa ($4)  because we heard it was fantastic and you can never go wrong with chips and salsa. 

The salsa was amazing and the homemade chips made a big difference (sitting at the bar I spent a half hour watching this woman make tortillas).  The good news is that this is off the menu, so you can't just shove your face with free refills, you have to order it.  This was a bonus for me.

 Because lets be honest.......

Next we tried a taco.  
Because... tacos are just absolutely delicious.   

Barbacoa de Res:

Oaxacan-style barbeque beef, guajillo chile, pickled cactus paddle ($5.50).

 After the taco we moved on to the noodle dish.  I chose the Dan Dan Mian: hand-cut wheat noodles/ spicy pork sauce/peanuts ($12.88). The vinegar is to cut the spice of the dish. 

They were good.  Not amazing, but pretty good and different.  
What was absolutely amazing was the 20 vegetable fried rice.
Yes, I said 20 vegetable fried rice.

Maybe you are thinking wow $20 for fried rice or, holy hell how did they get 20 vegetables in there.  A.  It is worth every penny and B.  I didn't count but I am taking their word for it.  

I am one of those obnoxious people that asks the waiter what he orders, or what a first timer needs to try, and he instantly recommended the 20 vegetable fried rice.  He even informed me this is a famous dish featured on a few shows.  Sold, I should get some vegetables in this body, even if its stir fried, and who doesn't love fried rice?

I mean, this dish has its own video as it was featured on "Best Thing I Ever Ate".  Yes, you can watch a video about fried rice here. And yes, they list all 20 vegetables.  You can even find the recipe here thanks to Ellen.

The pops of flavors, the textures of all the different vegetables.  You need to head to China Poblano and order this dish!  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Motivational Monday 3/9 to 3/15, 3/16- 3/22

Time for an update! 
 Motivational Monday was pushed aside due to Zion recaps. 
 SO today we are reviewing the past two weeks:

Monday (3/9):     REST
Tuesday (3/10):    4 miles 
Wednesday (3/11):    REST
Thursday (3/12):    3 miles 
Friday (3/13):     Zion- 9.5 miles hiking
Saturday (3/14):     Vegas 
Sunday (3/15):    Drive- 2 mile hike 

Monday (3/16):    4 miles
Tuesday (3/17):    11 miles
Wednesday (3/18):    Riding 
Thursday (3/19):    Trail ride Antelope Island 
Friday (3/20):    3 miles & Riding 
Saturday (3/21):    Ski
Sunday (3/22):    7.5 mile hike 

ADVICE:   If there is one thing I can try to "teach" you, it is that do not sweat the runs you missed.  Really, your number one concern should be getting your long run in at any cost.  With the weekend spent in Zion, I had to push my long run to Tuesday morning.  No, I did not do it at the scheduled weekend slot but yes, I still got it done.  You can be shady about your short runs, but do not miss a long one!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Riverside Walk, Entrance to The Narrows, Zion National Park

Riverside Walk / Entrance to The Narrows Zion National Park, Utah 

Riverside Walk, Zion National Park, Utah 

The Riverside Walk Trail was a great way to end our day at Zion National Park in Southern Utah.  Riverside Walk is the 2 mile out and back paved trail that leads to the entrance of The Narrows.  The trail head is at the Temple of Sinawava, which is at the very end of the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (the 6 mile road through the park where are the trail heads are).  

Riverside Walk Map, Zion National Park 

Riverside Walk, Zion National Park 

The paved trail is one mile out to the end, following the Virgin River to the start of The Narrows.  There are portions where you can leave the paved trail and walk right along the river with your toes in the sand.  It is much cooler here than the other sections of the park and the water is quite cold this time of year.  

Virgin River, Riverside Walk, Zion National Park

Riverside Walk, Zion National Park

This is a gorgeous trail for all types of hikers, and a great option for anyone looking for an easy hike on a paved trail with gorgeous views along the Virgin River. 

Riverside Walk, Zion National Park

Riverside Walk, Zion National Park

Riverside Walk, Zion National Park

Virgin River, Riverside Walk, Zion National Park

Virgin River, Riverside Walk, Zion National Park

We started this trail at around 5pm and saw a ton of hikers, a bunch walking back from The Narrows in their dry suits and hiking sticks.  Although hiking The Narrows in the winter requires a $40 dry suit rental, you get to enjoy a less crowded hike in one of the most beautiful and popular sections of the park.  I fully intend to head back to Zion to hike the famous Narrows and can’t wait to tell you all about it then. 

Hikers in dry suits at the entrance to The Narrows, Zion National Park

Hikers in dry suits at the entrance to The Narrows, Zion National Park

The Narrows starts right here, where the Riverside Trail abruptly ends and the only way to continue is, you guessed it, right through the river.  

This is how I spend most trips, with a Go Pro or camera in front of my face. 

Riverside Walk, Zion National Park

If trudging through the river for 8-12 hours, or even over night isn't your definition of the best hike ever, or the weather won’t allow, the Riverside Walk is a great way to see the beautiful Virgin River and the opening of The Narrows.  

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