Thursday, April 3, 2014

Coyote Springs Golf Club

Coyote Springs Golf Club is a Jack Nicholas designed course in the middle of nowhere.  Once we took the exit off of I-15 and started driving the 20+ miles north, there was literally nothing.  It felt like we had landed on the surface of the moon.  Then, like an oasis, we drove up on a golf course.  To be honest, it was very strange.  We later learned that this course was originally slated to be the first of many with plans to build a golf community and build several thousand homes.  Great idea...bad timing.  The course opened in 2008 at the height of the housing bust and to this day is the only thing for many miles along this lonely highway.

Alright, so now that I've explained how a Jack Nicholas course ended up on the far reaches of nowhere, don't let it deter you from making the trip to play this course.  Many believe it to be Jack's best desert design and it has been ranked in Golf Digest Top 100 Public Golf Courses.  There are 11 lakes on the course and more bunkers than I can count that are all strategically placed to frustrate, I mean, challenge.   

The course starts out with a fairly open fairway and fools you into believing it will be a relaxing day of golf.  Once you get to your ball on the fairway, you realize there won't be many flat lies all day.  The green is elevated and surrounded by bunkers and if you fly the green, it's a difficult down hill chip with the green running away from you.  It doesn't take long to realize this course is going to have some bite.

Next hole is a 518 yard par 5.  Standing on the tee, it dawns on you that now you're certain you were fooled on the first tee.  Tons of undulation on the fairways, desert on the right side, large bunkers in the fairway, a narrow green with water in front, and bunkers around the other three sides.  It forces not only to hit the green on your approach, but to hit it in the right place because the ball can kick and there are no easy putts.

I'm not going to give a break down of every hole, but you get the idea.  This is a course that will challenge you.  You better be driving it well as the course is over 7,400 yards.  You better be hitting your approaches on the money because if you don't, you'll pay.  I had a 9 iron to a front pin that felt on the money and was tracking.  It hit about a yard short of the green and rather than hop up on, it took a 90 degree kick straight right into a deep bowl shaped bunker.  It's just an example of being punished for taking the greedy shot and not executing perfectly on it. 

If you like the type of golf where you feel challenged, I highly recommend this course.  My only real complaint is that the greens can be a bit much.  I consider myself a decent putter, but even if you hit the green, 3 putts are never out of the equation.  And it's not entirely based on slope, but there a few greens that almost have a canyon right down the middle.  Based on where the pin is located, you might only have a 3 foot circle to land your approach or you'll be forced to put through one of those canyons, or worse chipping downhill from deep grass.  The greens did make it difficult to score and a couple time made me think "are you serious?".  

Because of it's location, I don't know how often I'll get to this course.  It's about 1 1/2 hours from St George and about 50 minutes from Las Vegas.  But I do hope to play it again.
Hole #4 at Coyote Spring Golf Club Par 4

Hole #14 at Coyote Springs Golf Club Par 4

Hole #15 at Coyote Springs Golf Club Par 4

Hole #16 at Coyote Springs Golf Club Par 5

Hole #1 at Coyote Springs Golf Club Par 4

Hole #3 at Coyote Springs Golf Club Par 3

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Anasazi Valley Trailhead, Santa Clara Utah

The Anasazi Valley Trailhead hike was a fun little hike I did with my two kids and my mom.  The start of the hike can be found by driving through Santa Clara and just past the turn off for Kayenta.  It is only about 10 minutes from Snow Canyon and the Johnson's Arch Trail.  There is a parking lot that can accommodate about 15 cars.  The trail starts out with a sign detailing some of the history of the area.

This hike is only a couple miles and is fairly flat.  It is wide and well paved.  There isn't any shade and it helps to take a little water with you.

What makes this hike interesting is that is in an area that was once inhabited by Anasazi Indians and there are some signs that this was once their home.  The trail goes along a bluff that looks down over the Santa Clara River Valley.  At one point along the trail, you pass a roped off archeological dig that shows how the Anasazi would bury their food to preserve it and keep animals from eating it.  Further up the trailhead are several rocks that have very clear and well preserved petroglyphs.  It's amazing to think how long these drawings have looked down over the beautiful Santa Clara River.

If in St George and looking for an hour long outdoor activity, this is a little hike the whole family can do.
Trailhead of Anasazi Valley

Anasazi Petroglyphs

Gwen, Mason and Grandma

Mason found some Anasazi Petroglyphs

Gwen found some Anasazi Petroglyphs

View out over Santa Clara River

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Punchbowl Cemetery-National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

On our most recent trip to Hawaii, our family went to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, commonly known as Punchbowl Cemetery.  Like pretty much every other American that has gone to Oahu, we had visited Pearl Harbor in the past.  It's almost a patriotic duty to include Pearl Harbor in a Hawaiian itinerary.  Pearl Harbor is a special place, and certainly very well visited.  However, much less visited is Punchbowl Cemetery.  For me, I found Punchbowl to be a much more moving experience. 

Quick History:
The cemetery is called Punchbowl because it was built in the Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu.  Since the cemetery opened, over 50,000 men and women who lost their lives serving in the United States Armed Forces have been interred.  The cemetery was approved by Congress in 1948 and the first interment was made in January of 1949.  Prior to its opening, the remains of soldiers from locations around the Pacific Theater, including Wake Island and Japanese POW camps, were transported to Hawaii for final interment.

I think what made Punchbowl a more moving experience was that there was a literal visual reminder of all the people that gave their lives for our country.  It wasn't a place where people lost their lives in an attack, but a quiet resting place for those people that gave their lives for our freedom.  Probably most haunting for me were the huge markers displaying names of soldiers MIA.  There were thousands of names of young men and women whose families never had the closure of laying their bodies to rest.

When we lived in Hawaii, one of the most memorable experiences I had was decorating the graves for Memorial Day.  Boy Scouts and Boy Scout Leaders from around the island put leis around every headstone at the cemetery.  I really wish I would have taken a picture.

If in Hawaii, go to Pearl Harbor.  But don't miss out on Punchbowl Cemetery.  When we were there, we only saw 4 or 5 other people the whole time.  It's a beautiful, peaceful location, with amazing views and a proper place to lay our soldiers to rest. 
Mason and Gwen at Punchbowl Cemetery

A view toward Honolulu from Punchbowl Cemetery

Quiet and Peaceful Punchbowl Cemetery

Driving in Punchbowl Cemetery

Punchbowl Cemetery

Monday, January 20, 2014

Beach Review: Kailua Beach Park

Kailua Beach sits on the windward side of Oahu.  Parking can be a challenge, but we parked at the Kalama Park and didn't find it to bee too difficult, although it was mid week.  I don't have it in my Top 10 Favorite Hawaiian Beaches, but it's because I hadn't been there before.  It would probably make the list, although there is just something about the North Shore that I prefer. 

Kailua Beach is known for its beautiful white sand and that is 2.5 miles long and varies in width from 50 to 150 feet.  Many people believe it to be Hawaii's best beach and is often rated one of the best beaches in the world.  Off in the horizon are a couple tiny islands that add some beauty to the horizon.  It's a popular activity to kayak to the islands. Like anywhere in Hawaii, it can get a bit windy, but that's why it's called the windward side.

Our family particularly enjoyed this beach because the water is quite shallow, with decent sized waves for boogie boarding.  Both Gwen and Mason were able to ride waves.  We did experience a few "Man o War Jellyfish" that we later learned aren't that uncommon.  Gwen got stung and it ended our day a bit early.
Gwen and Mason riding a wave at Kailua Beach.

A view down the coast at Kailua Beach.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Hotel Review: The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

My wife and I did a quick weekend trip to The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.  If you didn't know, this hotel is managed by Marriott and is part of what they call the Autograph Collection.  My understanding of Autograph hotels is basically that they are stand alone hotels that want to keep their brand but be part of the Marriott booking system.  If you go to an Autograph hotel, expect the d├ęcor to be a little different than the standard Marriott.  The good news is that you can redeem and earn Marriott Reward Points at Autograph hotels.

The location of the hotel is in the section of The Strip known as City Center.  It sits just south of The Bellagio and north of Aria.   Since it is on the strip, any number of amazing restaurants, casinos and shows can be found within the hotel or a short walk.  I think I prefer the location and surroundings of the JW Marriott for a trip with the kids, but for just a couple trip, we loved this hotel.

The hotel itself is very sleek and modern.  Our room was just a standard but from our window we could watch the water show next door at The Bellagio.  The shower has a glass wall that is exposed to the bedroom (a curtain can be drawn if you choose not to be watched), which was kind of a sexy feature.  The rooms aren't all suites, the way they were at The Venetian, but still quite nice.

The hotel itself has several pools.  One is a quiet, adult only pool down by the work out center.  Another pool is at the front of the hotel and overlooks The Strip.  We were there in November, so they had the pool closed, but had opened an ice skating rink, so that was pretty cool.

My wife and I ate at the buffet called Wicked Spoon.  I really didn't have any intention of going there, after all we were there only a day after Thanksgiving and it just seemed glutinous.  However, I sat next to a local at the poker table that told me he abhors buffets, but he does enjoy going to Wicked Spoon.  I can see why because the selection was quite varied and all the food was beautifully presented, not what you think a buffet to be.  I would still rather have a great meal at Sushi Roku in the Forum Shops at Caesers, but as far as buffets go, Wicked Spoon was excellent. 

The casino is nice, but they don't have a poker room.  On either side of The Cosmopolitan are two of the best known poker rooms in Las Vegas at the Aria and the Bellagio.  I chose the Aria because it's a closer walk and I hadn't been there before.  It was a pretty nice room.  My only complaint is that it was open to the casino floor which made it a bit noisy and smelly.

We've stayed in a few places in Las Vegas and overall, if kids aren't part of the consideration, I think I would choose The Cosmopolitan as my favorite hotel so far.

The room at The Cosmopolitan

A picture taken from the shower showing the view of the room.

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