Sunday, August 20, 2017

something old

I don't get sick very often but I caught a summer cold this past week that packed a wallop.  I started feeling sneezy Monday night; it kicked into gear Tuesday night; I ended up taking Wednesday as a sick day because I couldn't stop coughing.  By the end of the week I was feeling better but still not 100%.  It really wasn't until Saturday morning, when H asked if I was up for MTBing that I really rallied.  Of course I wanted to go MTBing!

So off to Round Valley we went.  The weather was quite nice, although perhaps not quite as cool as it had been the weekend before.  We parked in-town and headed to Quinn's Trailhead, which was surprisingly not as busy as I had expected.  As we headed out on the jeep road, I felt some fatigue in my legs (from not having done anything since Tuesday night at the gym) and I definitely wasn't breathing quite as well as usual, but I still felt better than I thought I would.

Just before starting the Sweet Sixteen climb

Despite not being busy at the trailhead, we came across a surprising number of MTBers out on the trails, mostly on the front side (what I deem the first half of our loop, up until the top of the Sweet Sixteen climb), including a high school boys team who were very polite as we let them by.  H had a couple of people fail to yield right-of-way to him but I did okay, managing to ride all but two of the Sweet Sixteen switchbacks and even clipping both feet onto my pedals for the second half of the climb.  By the time we hit the paved portion on the backside, however, my legs were definitely fatigued, so I sent H on ahead to get the truck while I went back to Quinn's for him to pick me up, thus saving myself a final three mile uphill.  It shorted my mileage and I felt a little guilty, but that was all I had in me at that point.  Just being out and getting moving again was great.

It was a great day for dogs too: an old white-faced chocolate lab, a golden/basset mix, a poodle named Winnie, a bunch of mutts of all shapes, sizes and ages, two Australian cattle dogs, a fat yellow lab, a Australian shepherd, two border collies and a very old golden retriever who needed help getting back into the car after his short walk.  We may not have a dog ourselves right now but we are full of appreciation for the ones we meet!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

almost perfect

Sunday was nearly as perfect weather-wise as you can get, especially in mid-August.  The monsoons had brought rain earlier in the week so I had wanted to push MTBing to Sunday, in case the Round Valley trails needed extra time to dry out.  I needn't have worried as they hadn't gotten wet at all, other than a few sprinkles that just served to puff the dust up.  Those storms had brought a cold front through, however, which meant that the air was cleared of all the wildfire smoke and it was noticeably cooler.  It was a little breezy (which is why the day was only almost perfect) but otherwise ideal for MTBing in Park City.

We weren't quite as early as we have been the last few times and thus were surprised to find the trails as empty as they were.  All the traffic seemed to come out after 10:30 a.m., and with it the bad trail manners: one guy, coming downhill, didn't get out of H's way when H was riding uphill, and pushed him off into a sagebrush; and a girl, coming downhill on the Staircase, stopped when she saw H riding up - but stopped in the middle of the trail, leaving him nowhere to go but into the bushes.  Aside from those minor annoyances, it was a terrific day to be out.  Even the six buzzards perched on the parking lot fence - and the one buzzard who circled right overhead as I started my first climb - couldn't dampen our good mood on the day.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

this was a good one

There is a trail run series out here - the Discrete Peak Series - that starts at the base of a ski resort (Deer Valley, A-Basin, Alta, Alyeska and Snowbird) and then runs up and then down the mountain. I am by no means a trail runner but I found the route description online and wanted us to hike it since it covered some ground that we didn't usually hike.  [Note: I now can't figure out where I got the route description that we tried to follow; the route that seems to be listed on the company's web site is different.]

Paintbrush close-up

We got an early start to get ahead of the heat and the people, leaving the house at 6:30 a.m.  It was nice and cool up at Alta, with some clouds overhead and the sun not yet above the mountains.  There were few other people up there at that time, a couple of trail runners and a lone cyclist, and none of them seemed to be heading where we were going.  We parked at the upper Albion lot, then walked down to the rope tow, crossing the creek on a woodchip road and then getting on some singletrack.

Heading up Greeley Hill

We followed the singletrack through the trees below the Sunnyside lift, coming to the edge of the Snake Pit (a permanently-closed area) before switchbacking away.  We saw three curious but cautious mule deer amid the lush green foliage and spotted an cement lift tower footing, from the old Lucky Boy lift.  At this point, our trail description said, "You'll come to the edge of Snake Pit with a view of the waterfalls.  Don't take the trail down into Snake Pit. Turn right and start climbing straight up."  We did get to the edge of Snake Pit, with its waterfall view, but we never saw a trail going off to the right.

Waiting out the rain

So we kept going, continuing towards the base of Greeley Hill.  At this point, we did see a trail going off to the right, through the willows and heading straight up.  It wasn't clear whether this was an actual trail or a game trail, but we took it.  (This would later be a point of discussion between me and H: he though we should have kept going further along the actual trail; I thought we had already gone too far, based on the route description.)  Whatever it was we were on, it did go straight up and we kept to the trail/game trail as it faded in and out, which kept us clear of the wildflowers.

Scree field. Not pictured: noisy pikas

The flowers were spectacular, even though we are a couple of weeks past peak.  Also spectacular: there were so many hummingbirds, literal flocks of hummingbirds, zooming around the flowers and buzzing past us, chirping.  It was slow going, with the necessity for route-finding, plus all the stopping and looking at the scenery/flowers/hummingbirds, but we eventually made it to the ridge.  At this point, however, we had to stop for a rainstorm to blow through.  We huddled under some evergreen trees for about fifteen minutes, waiting for the storm to pass; once it did, the air was clear and the wind brisk but pleasant.

Sugarloaf Pass with Timpanogos in the distance

We picked our way along the ridge (above Eagles Nest, High Nowhere and North Rustler) to Greeley Pass, where the green plastic carpet led us to the other ridge of the ridge to pick up the High Traverse.  I don't ski out on the High T very often, and I certainly have never hiked it, so this was pretty new territory.  We were able to follow the traverse until a large scree field above Sunspot; after we rock-hopped across the scree field - getting scolded by pikas the whole way - we found an abandoned mining road, simply carpeted with wildflowers, that brought us to the access road to Collins.

Heading up to Mount Baldy

At the top of Collins, we continued around the EBT to Sugarloaf Pass, then scrambled up to the top of Baldy.  The flowers were incredible even up here, at 11,068 feet.  We paused for snacks and were very entertained by a bold, chunky chipmunk who scrounged a couple of granola bar crumbs.  Thus refreshed, we headed down the northwest ridge of Mount Baldy, pausing for a good look over the edge into the Main Chute.  There is still some snow at the very top.  It's very steep and gets pretty narrow just a little way down; I probably could ski it (in the winter), but I would have trouble convincing myself to drop over the edge to start.

Main Chute entrance

There was an actual trail down the northwest ridge, although it was quite steep and loose underfoot, so it took us a long time.  We also had to stop to marvel at the flowers - paintbrush and lupine, in particular.  The trail spit us out at the top of the Wildcat lift and then all that was left was to follow the access road out.  It was here that we finally started to see people on the trails and when we got back to the truck, both the upper and lower Albion parking lots were packed.

Imagine a whole hillside of these

This was a fantastic hike, one we both enjoyed greatly.  We like scrambling; we like route-finding, especially in a place like Alta where we're sure we won't get lost.  This loop took us on some hitherto untrodden territory and was absolutely gorgeous.  Our post-hike beers tasted especially good after this one.

Looking back at what we'd just come down

Hike stats:  6.47 miles; 4:42 total time; 2.2 m.p.h. moving average; 2,700 feet of elevation.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

2017 tour of utah - stage 7

Stage 7 (8/6/17) Salt Lake City, 73 miles and 5,450 feet of elevation gain.  For the first time in a while,the final stage of the Tour of Utah was not in Park City, but right in downtown SLC, revisiting the fun (for fans) and very difficult (for riders) circuit around the Capitol.  Eleven laps means eleven climbs up the top of State Street.  Just look at that awesome elevation profile:

We got our exercise done in the morning and then headed up to town midday, parking in my work garage and then walking up towards the festivities.  There was a little debate on where we should watch but we soon decided to park ourselves about halfway up the State Street hill where we could sit on the curb in the shade.  There weren't that many spectators at first but as the race wore on, more and more people filled in around us and it looked to be packed up at the top closer to the finish line.

Here they come, first climb up the hill

After a while, a group of four girls (teens to early 20s) and one boy showed up and sat behind/around us.  The girls all seemed to be girlfriends and/or sisters of girlfriends of Elevate-KHS Pro Cycling racers and the one guy was actually one of the riders: Jose Alfredo Rodriguez Victoria, a 20 year old sprinter who had podiumed on Stage 4 and then DNFed once the sprint stages were over.  The conversations we overheard were hilarious and there was much shrieking when the Elevate riders came through with the peloton.

Peloton still all together

Although it wasn't as hot as it had been, this final stage was still brutal.  On the first lap, the cyclists charge up that hill, and then get slower and slower as the race goes on.  The peloton splinters and riders start getting dropped off the back.  For the most part, there was a group of about 10-18 riders consistently out front, with everyone else just trying to hang on together.  On the final climb, everyone who was able to picked up the pace once more and pushed on to the finish line.

The very last rider on the very last climb 
on the very last stage of the 2017 ToU

H and I debated trying to make our way up there for the finish and the podium presentations, but ultimately decided to stay put, continuing to applaud as the final cyclists dragged themselves up that hill, minutes after the race was won.  After that, it just seemed reasonable that we stop by the Beer Bar on our way back to the truck, so that's what we did.

Yay beer!

Stage podium:  Marco Canola (Nippo-Vini Fantini); Brent Bookwalter (BMC); Gavin Mannion (UnitedHealthcare).  General Classification: Rob Britton (Rally Cycling); Gavin Mannion; Serghei Tvetcov (JellyBelly).  Team: BMC Racing; United HealthCare; Caja Rural.  Sprinter: Travis McCabe (UnitedHealthcare).  KOM: Jacob Rathe (Jelly Belly).  Best Young Rider: Neilson Powless (Axeon).  Most Aggressive: Manuel Senni (BMC).  Fan Favorite: Pier-Andre Cote (Silber).