A friend, who I haven't seen in more than a dozen years, called recently to tell me he'd returned to Utah. He said it meant an end to his boredom.

He clarified the comment, saying, "There's just so much more to do here."

Those of us raised in Utah sometimes take for granted what recreational opportunities are here.

For example:

— More than 400 miles of raftable rivers.

— About 23 percent of the state is high-elevation country, roughly 9 million acres, featuring some of the most majestic mountains anywhere, and probably twice that amount of country in rugged, rocky desert-like areas, along with 17 designated wilderness areas.

— Nearly two dozen areas designated as scenic byways and and 50 scenic backways, all spotlighting some of the best landscapes the state has to offer.

— More than 30 museums, showcasing everything from the state's pioneer history to its earliest residents — dinosaurs.

— Forty-three state parks, five national parks, seven national monuments, two national recreation areas, one national historic site and one of the most spectacular lakes found anywhere in the world — Lake Powell.

— More than 400 public and private campgrounds.

— More than 1,000 fishable lakes and a similar number of streams and rivers.

— A spider web of trails covering the state for biking and hiking, ranging from the very easiest to the extreme.

Most of these things can be visited for a small fee and, in some cases, no cost.

Some of the things I've enjoyed most over the years have been memorable and easy on the family budget.

Like, for example, hiking. I've enjoyed revisiting ski areas in the spring and summer when the snow has melted. This year the higher elevations are still snowbound, but trails at lower elevations are open.

It's fun to get a different look at the runs without snow. I would recommend packing a lunch and stopping alongside one of the trails to take in the scenery and the mountain air.

Boating on Cutler Marsh west of Logan is another of those memorable trips. While visiting my daughter at Utah State University, I rented a boat and took a leisurely float among the birds and wildlife.

Visiting museums, especially those with interactive exhibits, such as the Utah Museum of Natural History in Vernal and the Bear River Refuge's center in Brigham City, are inexpensive, entertaining and educational.

Traveling over the old pony express trail between Faust and Wendover is, truly, a step back in time. Navigating the landscape would have been difficult enough, compounded by the constant threat of Indian attacks. Fish Springs, about midway along the trail, is an adventure in itself. There's also an opportunity to encounter a band of wild horses.

The drive from Vernal, north to Flaming Gorge, is educational and scenic, especially for the geological buffs and wildlife watchers.

Vernal sits on the most modern formation known to geologists, the Mancos Formation, while the reservoir lies atop the earliest, the Uinta Mountain Group. A billion years in the making, and 30 miles separates them. This is also an area teaming with wildlife, mainly deer, elk and bighorn sheep.

These are but a few of my favorites. There are many that are closer to home and many more that are a greater distance. Finding something to do isn't difficult. Trying to narrow the list is.


E-mail: grass@desnews.com