Hiking Cottonwood Point

The Cottonwood Point Wilderness Area is another one of the lesser known and traveled spaces in the Short Creek Area. It borders the better-known Canaan Mountain Wilderness Area, which is where the Water Canyon and Squirrel Creek Hikes are. Due to the rugged terrain and limited trail or road access, few venture into the area, except for the occasional horseback rider or hiker. The easiest way to access Cottonwood Point is by an old stock trail. From a distance, it doesn’t appear that there is a way up, but with minimal route finding, you can make it up top where a tremendous view of the surrounding area awaits.

Reaching the trailhead is quite easy, although you may need a high clearance vehicle depending on the condition of the road. From Highway 389, take Canebeds Road heading east. There are a gate and trail off to the left about a quarter mile in. Take this road north until it reaches the foothills of Cottonwood Point. Head up the sandy hill. The trail diverges but leads to the same place. Once you reach the top, it is better defined. Again, the path splits only to connect again as you continue heading north.  This portion of the hike is less than a quarter mile. Your destination is visible and will serve as a guide and you will begin to see cairns (stacks of rocks), which mark the way.

About half a mile into the hike, you begin the ascent to the peak. This portion of the trek gets very steep in some places, so be sure to bring good hiking boots. There are portions of the trail that are comprised of loose gravel. Along the way, keep a close eye out for the direction of the trail and cairns. There are a couple of spots where the trail seemingly disappears. When I am doing this hike, I tend to stop at the cairns and look for another to ensure that I have not missed the way.

Another feature of this trek is a lone petroglyph of a man. I have walked past this petroglyph multiple times. It is weathered, and the orientation of the rock doesn’t allow light to cast shadows bringing it into relief. Its positioning suggests to me that it may have marked the trail for Native American hunters. It is the easiest way to get up on top of the mountain and there are always mule deer up there. I have seen herds of 30 or more on multiple occasions. The BLM website information says that it is prime habitat for mountain lion and lynx as well.

Once on top, you will be able to see a staggering variety of features.  To the south, you will see the volcanic formations near the Grand Canyon and the Kaibab Plateau. To the west are Lost Springs Mesa, Little Creek Mesa (where the Cinder Knoll is), and the Hurricane Cliffs. Pine Valley Mountain and Canaan Mountain can be seen to the north. You can even spot portions of Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Elephant Buttes, Pink Cliffs and more. The rock formations of Cottonwood Point Wilderness Area are varied and worthwhile viewing in themselves. Many of them resemble beehives or Indian temples.  

It is rare to see any signs of travel, aside from animals. If you wander away from the cliffside, there is an overwhelming stillness, seldom broken except by wind or overhead air travel. From this point, one could adventure further or simply head back down. There is cell service for much of the hike, but it becomes patchy as you go along. Any adventure in this terrain should be had with the utmost precaution. Not long ago, a woman nearly lost her life after falling into a slot canyon. Search, and rescue would not have found her had she not had a whistle to alert them as to her whereabouts. As always be careful, follow safety protocol, and enjoy.

 

Hildale Government Nominations and Retirements

Hildale has recently seen several city employees retire after the new city council members and Mayor took their positions in city government. Among those positions, are the City Recorder and City Treasurer, along with various other support positions. The hiring process requires a considerable degree of cooperation between both city governments due to an intergovernmental relationship that has evolved between the two cities. Many constituents who voted for the new council members and mayor for Hildale have long expressed concerns about nepotism in municipal government.

With the departure of high-level administrative positions, there was a need to fill the positions quickly and transparently. Mayor Donia Jessop organized hiring boards using a defined ranking criterion to narrow her nomination decisions to bring before the city council. The hiring board consisted of municipal officers from surrounding cities as well as current and former Hildale city officials.

In the February 13, 2018, council meeting, Mayor Donia brought a nomination before the council. Some council members had concerns about the hiring process. They requested more time to review the criteria used and an opportunity to contemplate the decision. They tabled the decision until February 15, 2018, to understand the process better.

After a lengthy executive session in the latter meeting, Mayor Donia put forth nominations for the positions of Treasurer and Recorder. Vinson Barlow was nominated to be the City Recorder. Mayor Donia cited his previous experience in various municipal capacities in the past. John Barlow was nominated to be the City Treasurer. Both nominees were confirmed by the council with Doran Jessop abstaining and Brian Jessop not present.

The nominees then came before the Colorado City Council for approval. The salaries for Hildale City employees are run through various Inter-Governmental Associations. As the cities have grown together, relying on much of the same infrastructure, they have worked very closely in nearly every aspect of governance.  

Edit: A previous version of this article stated that Colorado City subsidizes the pay of Hildale Employees. That was inaccurate. They pay for services rendered by those employees.

 

Utah Teachers May See Pay Increase

Utah teachers may see an increase in their salaries as Utah legislators deliberate on the best use for funds trimmed from state budget spending. The cuts amount to $69 million and many lawmakers favor allocating around half of those funds to teacher pay, a potential $2000 raise. On average, Utah teacher salaries ranged from $33,852 to $48,291 according to 2013-2014 data from the Utah Education Association.

Additionally, lawmakers are considering an increase in what is called the Weighted Pupil Unit—the primary funding formula for Utah’s education system. This could bring further increases, amounting to hundreds or thousands in teacher pay depending on how local school districts decide to allocate the funds.

The subject of education is at the forefront of issues this legislative session. Utah has been ranked among the lowest in the nation in the pupil to teacher ratio. Half of new teachers quit within their first five years.

Utah is last in the nation for per-pupil funding. There is also a shortage in STEM and Special Education teachers. Some believe those issues could, in part, be attributed to teacher pay. Without competitive pay, much of the talent is drawn to other more lucrative fields.

There is also a movement to bring a ballot initiative before voters in November to consider increasing sales and income taxes to pay for a $700 million a year increase in education funding. It would provide each Utah school nearly $1000 more per enrolled student.

 

Colorado City Seeks New Chief Marshal

The Colorado City Town Council voted to replace Chief Marshal Jerry Darger on February 11, 2018, Town Council meeting. Mayor Joseph Allred suggested during the meeting that, although Chief Darger has done an “overall good job” performing his duties and working to fulfill the requirements of the court injunction, he felt that the Marshals office would be better off to seek a new Chief Marshal.  

Mayor Allred cited comments from the court monitor and the police consultant that the police departments progress has been slow. He also said that there had been some negative reporting to the court regarding the police departments progress toward meeting the court’s requirements.

“I wanted to discuss this item with the council and see if maybe the time has come for us to have somebody else, maybe somebody who has more experience, who can bring the department forward,” said Mayor Allred. “I know that Jerry has done a good job within his scope and abilities.” He suggested to the council that they consider bringing in somebody from an outside police force to lead the department, someone with more leadership and managerial experience.

Some comments in defense of Chief Darger were brought forth by Hildale Councilmembers Jared Nicol and JVar Dutson. Nicol stated, “I feel like he’s doing a wonderful job. He’s shown a willingness to take the recommendations from the judge and move forward in a positive direction.”

Dutson said, “I know there was a DOJ case and there were things he was asked to do. I have only heard that he has done nothing but try to the best of his ability to bring the department up to standard. I have not heard anything negative.” City Manager David Darger suggested during the meeting that the Hildale council had expressed concern with Chief Darger’s performance.

Chief Darger was asked to comment and said, “I got into law enforcement for the community. I took on the position of Police Chief for the community. If it’s the best thing for the community, I’ll respect your decision on it.” The council replaced Chief Darger with Sam Johnson, pending a 30-day transition period and a letter of accommodation. The vote was unanimous.

Based on comments by City Manager David Darger, discussions with the police consultant led to the conclusion that none of the current members of the Colorado City Marshals office have the supervisory skills required for the Chiefs position. The council then went on to consider advertising for a Sergeant’s and a Chief Marshal position. The reasoning behind this move was to beef up the administrative side of the Marshal’s office as many of the patrol and administrative functions were mixed. Sam Johnson would retain his post as a sergeant but would be considered a patrol sergeant. The council voted unanimously to advertise for the two positions.

 

Water Glyphs of Arizona Strip

The Arizona Strip is host to a vast horde of archeological treasures. With a keen eye, it is commonplace to find signs of the ancient civilizations that called the area home for thousands of years before the first Europeans stepped foot here. The hostility of the terrain leads one to question why there are so many remnants of ancient and more modern historical settlement.

Resources are notoriously scarce in this region of the world. In fact, without modern technology, there is little chance that the area would facilitate the population that currently resides here. The former inhabitants engaged with the land differently, utilizing its scant resources in ways that are similar and entirely different than we do. There is, for example, evidence of a sophisticated navigational system that researchers have posited was designed to direct ancient people to water sources across a 2.5-million-acre area.

The first time I encountered one such water glyph was in a remote section of Little Creek Mesa. I had accompanied an uncle of mine to the spot. He claimed that the marks were left by Spanish explorers, either to mark their route or perhaps lead to potential mining spots. Some locals have even done informal studies of their own, mapping out the features, and connecting them via GPS.

Formal studies of this unique glyph suggest that it is associated with Anasazi era peoples, and although there are competing theories as to their purpose, a dominant view is that they mapped out scarce water sources throughout the Arizona Strip, Southern Utah, and parts of Nevada. There are hundreds of known examples of these glyphs, and some are surprisingly close to home. There are two such glyphs within Colorado City limits.

A study of these artifacts conducted by Bob Ford et al., first suggested that they were intended to point out water sources. Ford formulated that hypothesis after recalling a passage from the journal of John Wesley Powell. According to the study, “It was not until 1996, while photographing some water glyphs at sunset, that Bob remembered a passage from the journal of Major John Wesley Powell, in which he commented that their Native American guide would often leave the group around sunset, to walk nearby mesa tops. Then the guide would return and direct the group to a water source.

Powell mentions the incident only because he had to rebuke his men for making fun of their guide—joking that their guide ‘went to pray to the rock gods.’ Powell pointed out that as long as he continued to find water, none of them should care what gods the man worshiped.” The passage from the study continues, “Sitting there, on the rim rock, staring down at one of these magnificent glyphs, in the setting sun, Bob’s mind took a mental leap. What if the guide had not gone to the mesa to pray but had gone instead to look for a message carved into the rim rock—a message cut into the horizontal surface of the rock, like the singularly unique petroglyphs he was photographing.”

The researchers, armed with this theoretical framework, began gathering and interpreting information about known water glyph sites. Along the way, they debunked some of the leading theories about the glyphs which included the assumption that they were of Spanish origin. They used GPS data points to mark where the glyphs were and map them in relation to other geographic features. Among the conclusions they reached are, “There is a predictable pattern of water glyph locations; namely, that they are found near the edge of a cliff with a prominent field of view.” This conclusion is somewhat apparent but foundational. The team also began to look more closely at differences and similarities between the petroglyphs which led them to believe that they were significant.

The glyphs consist of a line, one or more circles, and dots. The study concluded, “water glyphs retain a fundamental shape and size; 24’’ circle with a 48’’ line and dot(s). The line will always run to the edge of the cliff or a crack in the rock.” Other consistent patterns they observed were that the line would indicate a five to ten-mile distance to a prominent landmark. The circle indicates the horizon at that landmark while the dot represents the point of interest.

Researchers came to understand that differences, including multiple circles (and other variations), were there to help the viewer better understand the geography of the destination, making it easier to know where the dot was in relation to the surrounding terrain. In other words, simply drawing a line to the feature leaves the reader with an incomplete picture of what is there, and where it might be located. Without the additional information provided by the circles and dots, the viewer would have the task of exploring the area himself. In the rough environment of the desert Southwest, that would mean expending precious time and energy searching for the area of interest. This leaves out the question of what that point of interest could be.

They interpreted their field data by utilizing computer programs and satellite imagery. They used that technology to map potential resources (water, dwellings, etc.) within a defined area. According to the study, “After running the analysis, nine of the twelve [sample sites] did, in fact, have a known water spring in the appropriate polygon.”

This study captured my attention the moment I found it. The second picture in the article featured the unmistakable outline of Canaan Mountain. I decided to find the area in the image, quickly narrowing down several places I thought were most likely to be represented in the picture.  My primary suspects were too far south and west to be the place in the picture. I was thrown off initially because the mountains looked further away in the picture than in real life.

After trekking about five miles, to no avail, I decided to try my final suspected place. Much to my excitement, I found it! Armed with the knowledge gained from the article, coupled with my understanding of the area, it was clear the glyphs did indeed point to water sources. One of the glyphs points directly to Canaan Mountain, and the dots align with water sources in Maxwell, Water, and perhaps Squirrel Canyons. The other glyph points to an area where Google Maps has labeled a water source called Canaan Springs.

This study was conducted in the late 90’s, and researchers continue to make discoveries about the ways these people were able to carve out an existence, long before the advent of what we consider fundamental technologies. The context and meaning of these artifacts can be destroyed in an instant, rendering a window into the past closed forever with no chance of being opened again. If you choose to seek out these artifacts, use your museum manners—you live in one.

 

Exploring Dutton Pass

After traversing a good portion of the immediate area, I have become accustomed to the way features of the landscape appear from particular perspectives. After going on the same hikes, over and over again, it is easy to formulate a static picture of how the land and its features are oriented. I love finding hikes and viewpoints that shake that up. Having hiked in and around Zion National Park extensively, I can say there is no view of it that is not spectacular. Some views, however, are better than others. I have found that the best perspectives of the park are directly inside and from afar.

Dutton pass provides a perspective from afar that beautifully frames and displays the juxtaposition of the cliffs of the park with the surrounding landscape, each stunning in its own right. Along with the view comes the added benefit of being less travelled and more organic. On the way in, there are interesting remnants of cattle ranching and some Native American sites. A spectacular petroglyph and pictograph panel is nearby, but I will leave it a mystery to discourage disrespectful visitation. As I was hiking there last, some fellow hikers (which are rare on this hike) showed me where to find it and suggested there is a kiva in the area as well.

Getting to this destination can be challenging. It requires a high clearance vehicle and a bit of route finding once you get to where you are going. To get there, take the Smithsonian Butte Scenic byway off Highway 59. It is also known as the Rockville Road to some locals and is labeled Mainstreet on Google maps. Travel this road north for 1.5 miles at which point there will be a road heading east. There is a fence with parallel lanes on both sides.

I prefer the southern route, but they meet up at a certain point. You will pass a windmill and the road forks; take the middle way. Keep going until you come to a wash. At this point navigation can become tricky, just continue heading eastward toward the saddle area, which is where you will be hiking up. I usually park at the wash and keep walking. The road is well defined, and you can see your destination. There is a small stone building off to the right. Just beyond this area, the path veers south, but it eventually winds back toward the saddle feature. There is a clearing and the remains of old cattle-ranching infrastructure, and the road terminates at the saddle formation.  

The trail up the saddle is not well defined, but there are cairns that mark the route. The path switchbacks clearly in most places, but there are a few spots where it is easy to lose the trail. I have done it several times and always found my way down; just be careful not to lose footing on loose rocks. Once on top, there is no trail, but you can usually see tracks heading eastward. There is not much terrain to travel until you reach the cliffside and overlook. Just keep walking until the trees clear. Once you reach the overlook, an expansive view of Canaan Mountain, Zion National Park, and Smithsonian Butte, come together in a brilliant panorama.

I find this viewpoint breathtaking. It leaves you with a sense that it remains as it was before human settlement. Even with Springdale in plain view, it is so far off that you can hardly tell there is a town there. The cottonwood trees provide cover. It is entirely quiet, save for the birds that tend to nest beneath the cliffs. I unsettled them by throwing a rock over the side one time, sending a flock shooting up the cliffside, utterly unaware of my presence. They flew within two feet of me, winding up and back down, flocking to a safer place to rest.

There should be no trouble finding your way back. Keep an eye out for the cairns and if you choose to look for any archeological sites, do no harm.

Arizona Passes Law to Address Opioid Epidemic

Governor Doug Ducey signed the first bill of the 2018 legislative session into law on January 26, 2018. The new law passed the Arizona Legislature unanimously. The Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act was designed to attack the opioid epidemic from multiple angles while preserving access for individuals that suffer from chronic pain.

According to a fact sheet on the law, 812 Arizonans have died of a suspected overdose between June 2017 and January 2018. In addition to that, 5,202 Arizonans suffered opioid overdoses and 455 babies were born to opioid-addicted mothers. There is not a single county in Arizona that has not been impacted by opioid overdoses. Mohave, Yavapai, Pinal, Pima, and Maricopa counties reported the highest reported opioid overdoses.

According to Governor Ducey’s office, the law addresses the following factors:

  • Identifying gaps in and improving access to treatment, including for uninsured or underinsured Arizonans, with a new $10 million investment;
  • Expanding access to the overdose reversal drug Naloxone for law enforcement or corrections officers currently not authorized to administer it;
  • Holding bad actors accountable by ending pill mills, increasing oversight mechanisms, and enacting criminal penalties for manufacturers who defraud the public about their products;
  • Enhancing continuing medical education for all professions that prescribe or dispense opioids;
  • Enacting a Good Samaritan law to allow people to call 911 for a potential opioid overdose;
  • Cracking down on forged prescriptions by requiring e-prescribing;
  • Requiring all pharmacists to check the Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program prior to dispensing an opioid or benzodiazepine;
  • And limiting the first-fill of an opioid prescription to five days for all opioid naïve patients and limiting dosage levels to align with federal prescribing guidelines. These proposals contain important exemptions to protect chronic pain suffers, cancer, trauma or burn patients, hospice or end-of-life patients, and those receiving medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorder.

One of the most interesting aspects of the new law is the Good Samaritan provision. Oftentimes, people who witness drug overdoses are drug users themselves and may not call for help, out of fear of prosecution. This provision would encourage reporting of overdoses. Previously, Arizona was numbered among ten states that did not have a Good Samaritan Law.

 

Hildale Economic Forum

On February 1, 2018, the Uzona Chamber of Commerce (UCC) organized and held the first Hildale Economics Forum. The event featured speakers from across the region to discuss some of the challenges, opportunities, successes, and plans relating to economic growth in the Short Creek area. The discussion of Hildale’s economic future stoked a palpable sense of excitement in the room from both the attendees and the guest speakers.

Any thriving economy requires that common elements and infrastructure be in place. Education is first and foremost on that list. The first guest speaker was Washington County School District (WCSD) Superintendent Larry Bergeson. He discussed the history of the WCSD’s involvement in the area and outlined their plans to bring every benefit they can to the Hildale area.

The WCSD has already invested 10 million dollars in the Water Canyon School building, and they intend to make further investments as the need arises. Bergeson discussed plans to acquire land for future development, including gym and vocational facilities.  The WCSD is also focusing on internship and continuing education programs to help graduating students enter the workforce. This includes partnerships with local colleges and other institutions to ensure that students can see a clear path from education to the workforce and understand how to set and reach their career goals. “We’re here, and we will continue to fulfill that responsibility to educate the students here. That is indefinite. We are excited to be here! We will marshal all of our resources to take care of the needs of the children and the community here, as far as education is concerned,” said Bergeson.

Education is an ongoing process. As workers and business owners adapt to changing economic situations, there is a robust network of business and government institutions that provide a wealth of resources. Zachary Renstrom, Chairman of the Washington County Commission (WCC), discussed some of the things being done on the county level to help integrate the burgeoning workforce of the Hildale area to other areas of the region that are having trouble filling positions. He discussed plans to pave roadways to cut commute times from Hildale to Springdale which needs workers.

Tourism is another significant driver of the economy in Washington County, and he discussed the potential for Hildale in that respect. The WCC has also made a substantial investment in bringing a library branch to the community, which is now one of the most visited small branches in the Washington County Library network.

Jay Aguilar, of the Five County Association of Governments (FCAG), discussed the host of resources and support his organization provides to government, private, and non-profit partners across the region. The FCAG offers business loans for startups and business expansion, support in public transportation, elder care, home rehabilitation, and utility costs and basic needs for struggling families. They help to secure funding and facilitate collaboration across jurisdictional lines to promote economic development and sustainability. The FCAG focuses on addressing underlying community conditions to achieve that goal.

Pam Palermo, President of the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce gave some background into the history of the UCC and the Southern Utah Regional Chamber Coalition (SURCC) which she invited the UCC to join. Chambers of commerce play an essential role in organizing and advocating for business interests. Inviting the UCC to join SURCC has been a fantastic resource for the UCC. The UCC is responsible for many of the positive changes happening in the community. “We’re all about making sure that the people in our communities, and our businesses, are heard and that they succeed,” said Palermo. Many connections can be built between business, government, and individuals, on many levels, and the Chambers help develop and strengthen those bonds.

The Utah Department of Workforce Services was represented by Liz Labado and Ben Baldonado. They provide yet another layer of resources to business owners, workers, and families. There are representatives from DWS available two days a week to help residents of Hildale, and they have had a long track record of helping people seek opportunity and personal growth in Short Creek.

The final speaker of the evening was Hildale City Mayor Donia Jessop. In her first month on the job, she has been working frantically, taking care of city business and getting up to speed in her new position as mayor. She reported that she and Councilman Jared Nicol had just got back from the State Capital where they spoke with representatives across the state. Senator Orrin Hatch’s office has also contacted her. She reported that there is a lot of excitement about the direction Short Creek is taking and that people at the state and federal level are watching and eager to engage. Mayor Donia said, “I want to acknowledge the citizens of Hildale and Colorado City; it’s hard not to say those two together. They are the strongest, most hard-working, and industrious people on this planet. And with that, I would like to include Centennial Park.” She went on to say, “I want to thank Washington County on every level. The State of Utah has completely stepped up. They have our backs; they want to see us succeed. I can’t thank them enough.”

If you would like to be more closely involved with the economic happenings in the area or take advantage of the numerous resources available, consider joining the Uzona Chamber of Commerce. They offer business and individual memberships. You can contact the UCC at www.uzonachamber.org or by phone at (435) 414-1790.  

 

Intermittent Fasting

I am again following the thundering herd of fad diet enthusiasts. After a long holiday season of drinking, eating, and general sloth, I am hopping back on the never-ending weight loss wagon ride. A new year, newfound resolve, and all the rest. Throughout my weight loss adventures, I have utilized many techniques and strategies to achieve my goals. Weight loss is painful for a variety of reasons, and work schedule ranks at the top of the list. Having switched to a job where I can graze on food all day has led to some interesting obstacles. Untangling the multiple variables in my own weight loss equation is a challenge, but I think I may have hit on what I have been missing.

Intermittent fasting is one of the new diet crazes that is being discussed. It has been growing in prominence for the past few years and has recently gained some interesting scholarly research to back up some of its claims. The idea behind intermittent fasting is to glean the benefits of long-term fasts, without the arduous work. They include positive and lasting hormonal changes including, decreased blood insulin levels, an increase of human growth hormone, cellular repair, and changes in gene expression. Human beings, in the not so distant past, did not have round-the-clock access to food as we modern humans do. Going without for periods of time was the norm. The body evolved mechanisms to adapt to that environmental reality. Constant eating throughout the day may foul up our natural biological rhythms, leading to snowballing effect of adverse outcomes.    

Intermittent fasting can take various forms. The simplest is just skipping breakfast. Sleeping counts toward fasting, thus the name “breakfast.” The standard breakdown for this type of intermittent fasting is called 16:8, meaning 16 hours fasting and eight hours feeding. Other variations include the 5:2 fast which consists of two 24 hour fasts and five days of normal eating throughout the week, and another which alternates every other day. There are others as well, but these are the most common.

The alleged benefits of this type of diet lie in the hormonal changes they bring about. Lower blood insulin levels are said to decrease food cravings leading to lower caloric intake, along with switching your body from fat storage to burn state. Increases in human growth hormone are reported to facilitate fat loss along with muscle gain, raising the basal metabolic rate. Furthermore, research suggests other hormonal changes are responsible for shifting the body from cell production to cell repair and changes in gene expression, advancing the body’s natural detox functions, along with positive impacts on aging and immune function.

In reflecting on portions of my weightloss journey, I realized that I had been following this type of diet, albeit loosely.  I have always enjoyed eating large meals and simply could not feel satisfied without eating at least one normal meal a day (full fat, large portion, and seconds if I felt like it). For much of my weight loss, I followed a tip from—what I believe was—the south beach diet. I would eat only lower glycemic index fruits for breakfast, mostly berries. This was essentially a fast with a crutch, so long as you stay 100-200 calories. Lunch would usually consist of a garden salad or roasted vegetables, more fruit in the afternoon, lots of coffee, exercise, and a nice evening meal. This type of schedule would consistently keep me under 2000 consumption calories and exercise was for enjoyment and further positive hormonal effects (I don’t like to focus on calories out so much).

I think I have identified where I went off the rails a bit. Last year I began weightlifting which led me to a realm of nutrition advice that was less than optimal for my goals. I shifted from thinking about calories in and focused more on calories out, ostensibly to build more muscle. I felt that I wouldn’t be able to get as much out of my workout if I wasn’t fueled up. This is where my appetite started to get out of control. Coupled with a work schedule that made it easier to munch throughout the day, I found my hunger patterns becoming increasingly voracious. While this was happening, I was not as focused on the number of calories I was taking in. Calories add up quick, leading to evening situations where I couldn’t have my customary sizeable decadent meal (and maybe some beer or wine).

Trying intermittent fasting again has left me blown away with the difference in my hunger patterns and energy levels. Sometimes I get fleeting hunger pangs, but I can always steel myself with thoughts of what exactly I am going to do to food once I’m in my feeding window. I have been surprised to find that eating around 1800 to 2000 calories is a chore. I come away feeling fuller, longer. I have also noticed higher energy levels, and I am drinking less coffee, springing out of bed earlier, and seeing fewer mood swings and more focus at work.

My goal is to stick with this diet program until May while re-approaching resistance training and perhaps reporting back on the findings. I gained 25 pounds over the course of last year. I knew that I was missing something based on the way I felt, but I couldn’t quite figure it out. How I feel now is the way I felt when I lost most of my weight. I hope the diversion amounts to a concrete lesson. One of the challenges of weight loss is that it is a long-game endeavor, and it’s easy to forget what has worked in the past, as new information is always coming in and goals change. Two steps forward one step back, I suppose.

Fennel Sausage Recipe

Fennel Sausage has shot to the top of my list for two reasons: it is insanely delicious, and amazingly quick to prepare. Fennel seed, as the name would imply, is the predominant flavor in this dish — just as sage is for breakfast sausage. Colissimos sausage is the brand that I used, and it made for a delicious result.

Fennel may not be a familiar ingredient to some, but it is delicious and can be used in a variety of applications. The nearest place to find it is Davis Marketplace in LaVerkin. The fun thing about this dish is that you are experiencing three different parts of the plant at once; seeds, bulb, and fronds (the thin leafy parts). If you could find fennel pollen to garnish with, it could very well send the dish soaring into the realm of the sublime.

At some point, I will try making the sausage myself. Expect a report back pending successful results.

Ingredients:

1 package of Italian Sausage

2 fennel bulbs

1 medium onion

3-4 cloves of garlic

2 red bell peppers

3-4 TBSP olive oil

1 cup white wine

Fresh basil

Chili flakes

Salt and pepper

Every ingredient is available at any local grocer. With everything gathered, you are ready to start cooking!

Instructions:

Start by adding olive oil to a dutch oven or tall sided pan with a lid that can be placed in the oven, over medium heat. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Add the sausages to the pan and brown on both sides. While they are browning, prepare the other ingredients.

Prepare the fennel by removing the fronds from the small stalks in the middle of the bulb and set aside. Split the fennel root in half vertically, and slice. Thinly slice the onion, garlic, and red bell pepper. After the sausages are browned, remove from the oil and add the onions, garlic, and your desired amount of chili flakes.

Sauté for five minutes then add the fennel and red bell peppers, cooking for another five minutes. Add the white wine, deglazing the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sausages back to the pot along with any juices they may have released.  Put a lid on the pan and place in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

To serve, place the vegetables in the center of a plate, along with some of the cooking liquid. Garnish with fennel fronds and fresh basil.