When I’m talking with media or at conferences I often get asked what I like to do outside of work. My answer is always pretty simple.

Here in the Seattle area, schools get a week off in February and then again in April – and the region pretty much empties out during these weeks in search of some sunshine.

For me, the perfect vacation involves a lot of time on the beach, plenty of time with my kids, reading my backlog of books, and eating a lot of good food! My family and I just got back from Spring Break yesterday, and it was as close to a perfect week as you can find.

I was born and raised in Utah and have a great love for the outdoors – and that made this vacation even better. We spent the week in a little town named St. George on the border of Utah and Arizona . The town sits at about 3,000 feet of elevation, there’s palm trees everywhere (yes, I know, palm trees in Utah does not compute), and there are National Parks in every direction.

From St. George you can get to Zion National Park, Bryce National Park, Red Cliffs, and you’re just a couple hours from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The town is situated in a geological transition zone where the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert all converge – which means you are in an arid desert ringed with canyons of bright red and orange sandstone. It’s breathtaking.

One of the most interesting parts of the trip was hiking in Zion Nation Park – and within the park it is tough to beat a trail called Angels Landing. The hike is a little over 5 miles round trip, with 1,488 feet of vertical climb, and the final peak reaches 5,785 feet of elevation. During the final 3/4 of a mile to the peak, the trail narrows to the edge of a sandstone cliff that drops 1,200 feet on one side and 800 feet on the other. There are chains anchored into the sandstone during this section of the hike, but, if you’re not a fan of heights (like me), this will push you as far as you can go. To see what I mean, Bing has some great pictures of the trail.

I also had my trusty Nokia 1520 along with me, and below are some pictures from the week’s hikes.

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I’m already looking forward to going back. Next time we’ll tackled a hike called the Zion Narrows – a 14 mile hike through a slot canyon that has been carved by the north fork of the Virgin River. Most of the hike is spent walking in the actual river at the bottom of a slot canyon with the walls rising 100’s of feet on both sides – you can see pictures here. It’s basically a longer version of a trail I hiked a couple years ago called The Subway – which is also pretty amazing looking.

But now it’s back to work this morning; everyone here is in full preparation mode for TechEd North America on May 12!