Wish your dog could do that? If you have canine envy, then by all means, sit out this year’s Soldier Hollow Sheepdog Classic Championships.
But if you want to see all the action of brainiac pooches performing like snake charmers for thousands of appreciative fans then get up to Midway, Utah, this Labor Day Weekend.
The annual Sheepdog Classic, lures dog handlers from Canada to Ireland and throughout the U.S., to the rolling terrain of Utah where they put their herding dogs like Border Collies and Australian Shepherds to the test.
photo by Tom Kelly
What The Heck is a Sheepdog
These highly skilled dogs will be working up to 400 yards away from their handlers on the hillsides of the former 2002 Olympic Nordic events venue. Only whistles and hand commands to tell them how to sort wild range Rocky Mountain ewes and bring them down along a preset course and through free-standing gates and into a small pen all in under 13 minutes.
Basically, a handler uses whistles and voice commands to coach his dog up the hill to herd the sheep through a 600-yard course, which includes a series of free-standing gates.
photo by Tom Kelly
Each sheep must clear every gate and then the dog separates out a set number of tagged sheep — typically five sheep donning red bandanas — and corral them into the ending pen. No nipping is allowed so no one need worry about animal cruelty unless you consider the peskiness of the wild sheep to give a dog the run around.
The top herding teams win gold, silver or bronze medals.
The Classic is the world’s largest sheepdog event, drawing more than 25,000 attendees including families that come for the food and vendor booths as well.
photo by Brett Neilson
There’s More To Do At The
But it’s not all sitting around. In addition to the spectator event, there’s a festival going on outside the fence. Vita Bone Dog Activities like Camp Chef cooking demos, and wild and exotic animal shows, hula hooping, bean bag toss games, the lost sheep game, face painting, balloon artists, coloring contest (with free ice cream for every entrant) and more will keep little ones entertained too.
The event runs through Monday. See the schedule and details here.
There is much ado in the House of Mouse this summer and this Disney geek for one couldn’t be more excited. I’ve entered every online Disney contest I can find.
Summer of Heroes is Coming
Gone is the Tower of Terror; replaced by the new Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! inside Disney California’s Adventure Park. The ride along with the new Super Heroes area opens May 27. Instead of following a celebrity couple, a child star, her nanny, and a hotel bellhop into a 1930s elevator, you’ll help Rocket bust his pals out of the Collector’s Fortress, then rise and fall in the gantry lift as it rocks music inspired by the film’s popular soundtrack. You’ll still get the randomized ride experience you had from the Tower but there will be all-new visual and audio effects.
The Super Hero vibe spreads beyond the Guardians through September 10 with these events:
Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Dance Off! – Star-Lord fires up his old-school boom box to get the party started.
Super Hero Encounters – Meet Groot, Captain America, and Spider-Man.
Avengers Training Initiative – Black Widow and Hawkeye assemble young recruits for a series of tests to see if they have what it takes to join the ranks of the Avengers.
Heroic Encounter: Black Widow – Black Widow will arrive on the scene several times throughout the day in an armored Avengers vehicle for her heroic encounter with park guests.
Grab a Piece (or Bite) of the Action – Special themed merchandise and food will be available throughout Hollywood Land.
The Main Street Electrical Parade will roll through Disneyland until August 20. The Rivers of America and Fantasmic! are re-opening at Disneyland Park.
When To Go
If I could get away this month, I would. May (before Memorial Day) is the perfect time to play in the Magic Kingdom. I just might make it to California. Fingers crossed. A trip to Disney World and Universal is already in the works for November. I went to Disney World in October once and it was a hot, humid mess. It’s unfathomable how millions travel to Orlando in the heat of the summer. Who cares if that’s when school’s out. The crowds, humidity and heat make it the most absolutely dismal time to go. That said, if you plan to visit, here are some deals to be had.
Save over $160 per person over gate prices with the Southern California CityPASS. You’ll get a 3-day Disneyland Resort Park Hopper ticket, and 1-day admission to both LEGOLAND California and SeaWorld San Diego.
With the Disney/Universal Combo Ticket you’ll save even more on your Disneyland Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood tickets. Both Park Hopper and 1-Park per Day options are available for either two or three days. All combo tickets include a 1-day ticket to Universal Studios Hollywood. Experience everything the Disneyland Resort has to offer this summer and explore the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and more at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Just because we are in one of the most populated cities in the country I wasn’t going to stop hunting for adventure and exercise. The gist of Los Angeles is that you spend more time in your car than out of it so your views are often limited to metallic rear ends, movie billboards and palm trees. Yelp to the rescue. Turns out there’s an urban adventure that lies just beneath the Hollywood sign.
Hiking to the Sign itself should be on every Cali visitor’s To Do list but that’s not what I’m talking about. We parked the car across from the Beachwood Market in the Hollywood Hills. It was 92 degrees and my already overtired 9 year old was whining that she’d rather get a slushy than walk. My sister was her backer. I pressed on. I have three days left here, dammit, and we’re doing The Secret Stairs. All over the city are these steep staircases of 100-plus steps. In fact there are some 450 staircases scattered throughout Los Angeles.
Back in the early 1920s, before everyone had wheels, the “Hollywoodland” people would move between their homes and the city via these challenging stone staircases. The real estate boom at the time centered around the burgeoning movie business. Movie stars, industry folks and investors were relocating to the Golden State to “make it”. Developers Tracy Shoults and S.H. Woodruff saw an opportunity to create a new neighborhood for celebrities and upper middle class to hide away in a secluded canyon. They carved out winding roads, built retaining walls and planted a 45-foot high sign complete with 4,000 light bulbs to advertise it – Hollywoodland. At night, people from miles away would see it flash “Holly,” then “Wood,” then “Land” and then the entire word, “Hollywoodland.” The sign fell into disrepair by the Great Depression and it wasn’t until the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce restored the sign, minus the last four letters, in 1949 that it became somewhat of a monument and replaced and repaired over the years.
Actors, writers and musicians like Madonna, Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart, Heath Ledger, Busby Berkeley, Kevin Bacon, Anna Kendrick, Keeanu Reeves, Peter Tork and Jack Black all lived among the staircases of Hollywoodland at one time or another. Musician Moby has a three-acre estate at the top of Belden Avenue overlooking Lake Hollywood.
Most of the existing LA staircases like the one in the Pacific Palisades have become outdoor gyms where hoards of yoga-panted pretty people line up to stretch and do vertical laps for their quad workout. These particular steps in Beachwood Canyon, however, are extra special; for one, they’re quiet; for another, they are a hike through Hollywood history.
The stairs are unmarked and if you’re not looking for them you won’t find them. Some brilliant “explorer” decided to link them (and publish the trek) on a connect-the-dots sort of walk that creates a marvelously cool 2-mile loop of uphills, downhills, bends and steep climbs.
These enchanting granite and wrought iron staircases weave in and out of winding narrow roads that carry you among the whimsical homes and fortresses of the original Hollywood elite and provide inspiring views of Griffith Park Observatory, the Hollywood Sign and all of the LA basin depending on the street. I’m not going to give you a detailed map of these stairs. You can download it here. That’s what we used.
Instead, I will tell you about our walk which ended with Sage telling me it was one of the most fun hikes she’s ever done. We came armed with a small water bottle, Camelbak backpack, my PDF map, a camera and the dog, and off we went. We looked like the tourist cliché. Sage groaned at the site of the first stairs. I didn’t pull punches. I told her we had about five more similar shots to tackle before we got back to the car; over 800 steps. She wasn’t happy with me. Tough.
The heat and the effort were enough to make any couchsurfer whine but after the first flight and the banter we shared about the historic architecture, the houses we loved and those we didn’t; the trek became like a game. You had to keep your eyes peeled as you didn’t know what you might see next; Buddhist statues, precarious hillside homes on stilts, yucca trees and Prince Valiant murals.
The stairs have somewhat fallen into disrepair despite being designated a historic landmark so be careful if you hike them. They are still solid but eroded and cracking in spots and often covered in pine needles and dead leaves that might make the careless falter. When you pop onto the narrow, curvy roads also be wary of cars. You would hate to have your pooch run down in such an enchanted locale.
There are warning/no trespassing signs planted in front of the majority of homes but the few folks we encountered were nothing like their literal watchdogs. They were warm and friendly; interested to hear where we were from and what brought us on this makeshift hike.
The map eventually spit us back at my car. In less than two hours we passed away the hot afternoon as if going on a scavenger hunt. Auntie Julie, Sage and I had so much fun they nearly forgot they were forced to exercise. My plan worked!
P.S. If you aren’t up for a workout take a drive but I will call you a pansy if I hear about it.
If you’re heading to Orlando with the kiddos this summer, I’d love to warn you against it. Not because of the recent attack on a nightclub there but because the awesomely crappy weather from May to October is a killer. I know you won’t listen. Now is probably the only time to go and not miss school. Plus, the theme parks have a whole lot of new, exciting attractions to lure you into the sweltering stickiness of Florida.
I’m a HUGE Disney geek and even I wouldn’t take a trip to Orlando in the summer.
Comedian Jim Gaffigan tells it like it is:
Headliners This Summer
Walt Disney World Resort completed a multi-year transformation of Downtown Disney into “Disney Springs”, with double the shops, dining spots and other venues. Epcot guests will be able to visit the kingdom of Arendelle when the highly anticipated attraction “Frozen Ever After” opens in the Norway Pavilion. You’ll be Soarin’ Around The World instead of California. Four new shows debut across the parks: The Force has awakened at Hollywood Studios with a “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away,” and the nightly “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular,” fireworks display; Animal Kingdom will feature “The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic” Show; Mickey and friends put on “Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire,” at the Magic Kingdom.
Universal’s Islands of Adventure has a new “Skull Island: Reign of Kong” ride where guests board off-road vehicles in search of King Kong.
SeaWorld Orlando opens Mako, a brand new 200-foot-tall “hypercoaster” is Orlando’s tallest, fastest and longest coaster at 73 mph the centerpiece for their Shark encounter Attraction.
Photo courtesy SeaWord Orlando
What’s worse than a summer trip to Orlando is that you will spend a small fortune just to stand and melt in the hour-long lines. So in between the $100 passes per person per day here are 10 things to do in Orlando for under $25 that families will love.
Central Florida Springs bubble up through the Florida Aquifer, an underground limestone formation north of I-4. Locals flock to the cooler waters for boating, tubing, manatee watching, scuba diving, caving, snorkeling, picnicking, and nature walks.
Hang out with baby gators, snakes, tarantulas, rare Florida Panthers, Black Bears, Wolves, and more at Jungle Adventures.
Pose in the giant hand of “Muse of Discovery” or stare up at the eye of Centered. The See Art Public Art Project around Lake Eola Park is conucopia for Instagram geeks.
Dollhouse and miniature fans will flip over Ron’s Miniaturesand museum- the biggest shop of tiny things in all of Florida.
Everyone seems to have an eye these days but no where else can you catch Disney World’s fireworks from afar (if the night’s clear) than on the 400-foot tall Orlando Eye Ferris wheel.
Caves, waterfalls and feeding gators are part of your mini-golf experience at Congo River Golf– 18 holes of African exploration.
Explore the oceans of the world, take a walk through a sea tunnel, interact with turtles at the Orlando Sealife Aquarium.
Color your world at the Crayola Experience where kids of all ages discover the magic of story, animation and design with 25 hands-on attractions. Starr your own coloring page, see how crayons are made in a live theater show and personalize an authentic crayon label.
Be your own Willy Wonka when you tour through the Chocolate Kingdom. The Factory Adventure Tour is an interactive journey that takes you from the cocoa bean to the birth of the chocolate bar. At the end, you can create your own chocolate bar for an additional cost.
If you’re like me- a Disney geek who’s constantly playing with her smartphone- you’ll appreciate the effort Disneyland is making to keep us all connected. There are a zillion third-party Disneyland apps but now there’s something from the horse’s mouth.
Find the fun faster with maps of attractions, restaurants and shops. Check attraction wait times, most Character appearance schedules and entertainment show times. My fave is that you can find the closest bathroom and drinking fountain with the Disneyland app. The wait times seem to be quite accurate so if you’d rather not aimlessly wander throughout the park you’ll be checking the app frequently for effective time management.
You can even purchase park tickets instantly from your phone or mobile device. Simply show the barcode at the gate for admission when you first arrive — no ticket booth lines to stand in or e-tickets to print out. but then you won’t have a cute Mickey ticket for a souvenir.
Annual Passholders can also link their Annual Passports to the Disneyland App to check Blockout Dates and use the app’s virtual Pass feature to enter the parks (actual Annual Passport must be presented to obtain Disney FASTPASS tickets or to receive Passholder discounts).
The app isn’t without a few drawbacks. Maybe imagineers planned to put the FastPass on the backburner but users grumble about the lack of details in that department. As much as I’d like the convenience of being able to get a FP directly from the app, all of the passes would be gone in seconds if that was an option. There’s something to be said for legwork.
If you click a particular ride in the app it will say whether it offers a FP option but you have to hunt for the actual FP tab. It’s under the Guest Services tab and then the ‘list’ button on the right. That’s a lot of clicking. A dedicated FP tab could also give current return times, which machines are in service and for what attractions. That would be sweet. When I was at Disney Paris more than half of the FastPass machines were shuttered and you wouldn’t know until you jogged over to them. The CMs would tell you they’re out of order and check back. You would go back two or three times to see and they would still be down. Total waste of valuable ride time.
The Disney app is also missing dining wait times and the ability to make and modify reservations. When you click for reservations it takes you to the Disney website but that is obviously something that can be handled within the app.
But really the BIGGEST PROBLEM OF ALL doesn’t have to do with the app itself. Cell reception is spotty in most areas of the park. Management needs to boost the towers so the app is more effective or at least make it so that the app can be used offline. It works that way for the Disney Cruise app, why not for the Parks app?
All in all, however, if you’re planning a trip to Disneyland this summer it’s something you’ll want on the tips of your fingers every minute of your trip.