Tuesday, July 17, 2018

crushing it a different way

Last year, H rode the Crusher in the Tushar, an excellent and brutal dirt/pavement bike race with over 10,000 feet of climbing spread out over 70 miles.  He did awesome but when the opportunity came around to sign up for the 2018 edition, he thought not.  Instead, we offered ourselves up as volunteers.  Thus, we took last Friday off and drove down to Beaver, Utah.

Caught in the trenches with a mouthful of granola bar

We left early and got down there with plenty of time to take a hike before our first work session, so we drove up to Eagle Point Resort to check out the trails there.  After a quick chat with the guys in the MTB shop at the Skyline Lodge (where the Crusher's finish line would be on Saturday), we got our boots on the ground around 10:25 a.m.  The trail was lovely, with soft, packed dirt underfoot and easy switchbacks across the intermediate ski trails.  We did have to cross a newly-dug trench numerous times; the ski resort is putting in snow-making after last year's disastrous season in which they were only open for six weeks due to lack of natural snow.

Under the Monarch triple

It was cool and pleasant, with a mix of sun and clouds, and we put together a nice, easy hike, doing the whole Monarch Loop trail, plus side jaunts to the Old Shack and out to the Tushar Ridge trail (which deserves further exploration).  Hike stats:  5.92 miles; 1,034' of climbing; total time 2:19 with an average trip speed of 2.5 m.p.h.  We finished up at 1:00 p.m. and just as we finished changing and cleaning up (and downing our lunch), a big storm rolled in, bringing heavy rain and hail.

The Old Shack

We drove back down the canyon and out of the storm - it was 50s F at the summit and 80s in town, although it began raining in Beaver a little before 3 and continued throughout the afternoon and into the evening - for our volunteer organizational meeting for the race.  Our assigned job was to greet the racers as they arrived, getting them to sign their waivers before they could pick up their race packets.

Inside the shack

This went from 3-8 p.m. and went amazingly quickly.  There were over 600 riders signed up for the Crusher and most of them checked in that evening.  Aside from getting the waivers signed, H and I answered questions (Where can I go for dinner tonight? Where can I park for the race?  Where is the start line?) and advised riders to bring rain jackets with them for the race.  I also offered up my reading glasses to any who needed them - there were about 100 riders in the Men 50-59 age group - and three took me up on the offer.

On the Tushar Ridge trail

The packet pick-up closed right on time and by 8:15 p.m. we were heading back up the canyon to the ski resort where we had rented a condo.  There was heavy equipment out on the road, trying to clear off the sand and gravel that had washed onto the pavement from the storm.  When we got up there, it was 53 F and, believe it or not for mid July in Utah, we turned the heat on in the condo for the night.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

pretty high mileage

Continuing our quest to up our hiking miles, we headed back to Park City - again! - early Sunday morning.  Our goal: eighteen miles.  Our route: an out-and-back starting at the northern end of the Mid Mountain Trail, a 20+ mile singletrack from Deer Valley to Canyons, sitting at about 8,000 feet. 

Glowing sunrise due to drifting wildfire smoke

It was H's idea to start from the northern terminus and walk south, figuring that the traffic might be a bit lighter there along the popular, multi-use (hikers, MTBers and horses) trail.  We were the first to park at the Bear Hollow Drive trailhead, heading up Rob's Trail to connect with the Mid Mountain Trail.  

Here's the sun

We weren't sure how chilly it would be that early at that elevation but it really wasn't cold at all; I didn't need my arm warmers at all and had stuffed my gloves into my pack less than twenty minutes in.  It would end up being 90F by the time we were done with our hike - which is quite hot for Park City.

Canyons ski trails

H's instincts about the trail use were spot-on.  We didn't see anyone - other than the partridges that kept exploding out of the underbrush and scaring us - for hours. 

Super Condor Express

The trail is fantastic: mostly packed dirt with only a few rocky sections.  The direction we were going was a gradual uphill, with great switchbacks, keeping it MTB-friendly, all the way to Canyons' Super Condor Express chair.  Then we started descending, past Alpine Lake and the top of the Sun Peak Express chair, through the Red Pine Lodge area and out of Canyons property.  It did not go unnoticed that every foot down meant that same foot up on the return.

Last vestiges of snow, insulated by all that dirt

At 9.00 miles on the GPS, we stopped.  It was shaded, with a bench by a dry creek, and we had some snacks and refilled our water.  Although the hiking had not been a lot of work since there weren't any steep sections, we were hot and very sweaty.  Now all we had to do was go back.  What's funny is that all photos were taken during the first half of the hike.  We were on cruise control to finish the back nine. 

Speedy (for us)!

When we got back to Red Pine Lodge, the lifts were running and there were tourists milling about.  We encountered MTBers then on the section of the trail north of Red Pine Lodge, heading both north and south, but everyone was super-friendly and considerate.  We outdistanced the few hikers heading our direction and even passed one MTBer!  He was clearly a tourist and suffering from the elevation.

Nine down, nine to go

Things got busy when we got back to Rob's Trail for the final descent, with lots of casual hikers, with kids and dogs, getting in our way.  At this point, we were ready to be done.  Both of us had numerous hot spots and/or blisters on both feet - which was weird because that didn't happen at Ben Lomond, which is only two miles shorter - and my left knee was sore.

It was thus with both a sense of relief and a sense of accomplishment when we finally got back to the car, where dry socks and cold beer awaited us.  The question had been, could we do eighteen miles?  The answer was most definitely yes. 

Hike stats18.00 miles; hiking time 5 hrs. 51 min. at 3.1 m.p.h.; total time 6 hrs. 37 min., with avg. speed of 2.7 m.p.h.; 2,237 feet of climbing

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

can't complain

We got up a bit earlier on Saturday for MTBing than we've been doing recently because the northern Utah temperatures have shot right up to the HOT-HOT-HOT level.  Perhaps because I had to get moving sooner than I liked, I told H that I wasn't in the mood to make any decision about any of the trails we rode and that he had to pick everything. Of course, that went about as well as you might expect: when he decided that we should ride up a lot, including My Nemesis (Former), PorcUclimb and both sides of Rambler - up the Sweet Sixteen side as well as the Sagebrush Switchbacks side - I couldn't complain because I had abdicated my ability to give input.

Rounding a corner (not quickly)

I jest, really.  There wasn't anything to complain about.  I like to climb and was actually riding fairly well, even making it up one of the Sixteen corners that I often bail out on, as well as a couple of spots on the Sagebrush Switchbacks side that regularly give me trouble.  Even though it was warmer in Park City than it has been, there was still a light breeze keeping things stirring for the most part.

We did just over fifteen miles when H's chain started to make ominous grinding noises.  Rather than risk damaging his bike, we rode/coasted out, cleaned up at the truck and headed back to Salt Lake City to watch a World Cup game (Croatia vs. Russia) at A Bar Named Sue.  Croatia won, the beer was cold and the hand-cut fries were delicious.  Can't complain about any of that either.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

riding on the fourth of july

When the Fourth of July falls smack dab in the middle of the week, there's not a whole lot you can do with it.  It's a "school night," so we knew there wouldn't be any late night revelry a la the Real Salt Lake home game, and we didn't plan to take any time off around the holiday.  Plus, the cooler-than-normal temperatures that northern Utah has had since last Friday have departed and Wednesday was ushering in some serious heat.  So we went MTBing over in Park City.

Smoke from the Dollar Ridge wildfire

We didn't really know what to expect crowd-wise but thought that it might be busy with folks taking advantage of the midweek free day.  I guess other people like parades more than we do, however, because there was hardly anyone at Round Valley and we thoroughly enjoyed the dearth of other riders on the trails.  We didn't get riding until close to 10 a.m., at which point it was 72 F, warmer than recent rides but still not that bad, all things considered.  We could see smoke from the Dollar Ridge wildfire off in the distance: the heat, bone-dry conditions and gusty winds surely weren't helping that situation.

Riding the dry and dusty trails

Despite deciding to turn back on the Rambler switchbacks up to Rademan Ridge (someone had gotten hurt and there were paramedics attending her, having gotten in on dirt bikes and ATVs), we put together a nice 15+ mile course with plenty of climbing (up My Nemesis, PorcUclimb, Kari's and High Side, the Sagebrush Switchback portion of Rambler, etc.).  PorcUclimb continues to be my hero trail but I also went up the Staircase without issue, despite some continuing fatigue in my legs from Sunday's hike, and descended Rusty Shovel better than I had on Saturday.  H had his fastest overall speed for the ride of the season and I feel like I'm riding pretty good (for me).  When I get new tires - my current treads are rather worn - maybe I'll be brave enough to try another trail system.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

so, here's your up

We reconfigured our hiking for Sunday: backing off the distance just a little but adding a lot of climbing.  It has become slightly challenging to find longer, local hikes that are not full of butt-kicking elevation (Timpanogos, I'm looking at you, and also Lone Peak, which we still haven't tackled).  So we went back to a route we've done for the last couple of years and tackled Alta Dry Fork - Mineral Basin/Snowbird once again.

Love this view of Timpanogos from
the Sunset pass, looking into Alta Dry Fork

Because we only had to drive up to Snowbird, we slept in, getting up at 5 a.m. instead of the 4:30 wake-up call that the last two Sundays have brought.  We ate our breakfasts of PB&J rollups in the car, snagged a parking spot at Snowbird's Entry 2 - that early, there are plenty from which to choose - and started walking up the canyon road towards Alta by 6 a.m.  Both times we've done this hike before have been in August so it was still dark when we started; this time, closer to the solstice, the sun was just hitting the peaks above us and it was light enough to see.  I still wore my arm warmers and gloves, however, and was glad to have them.

Rocky? Check.  Loose? Check.  Steep?  Check.

We walked up the road to Alta, then continued up through Albion Basin to the Catherine's Pass trail head where I shed my gloves and arm warmers.  It had taken us a good hour to get to the Summer Road from where we had parked.  This is what makes this hike deceptively long, these stretches.  It takes an hour to get to Alta; it takes roughly an hour and a half to get up to Sunset pass; it takes roughly an hour and a half to get all the way down Dry Fork to start going up again; it takes about an hour to climb back up out of Mineral Basin.

Still green on the backside of Devil's Castle

There were just a few other hikers on the way up to Catherine's Pass and once we got beyond there, we didn't see anyone else, other than some campers, until we got to the top of Hidden Peak at Snowbird.  The way down Dry Fork was, as it always is, steep, loose and rocky, but it was also very green, with wildflowers everywhere.  There were whole fields of pale pink geraniums and we even got buzzed by a curious hummingbird.

Pausing for refreshment before the final UP

It was around 10:30 a.m. on the American Fork Canyon side and campers were stirring, having finished up breakfast.  A number of ATVs and dirt bikes shared the rocky river bed/road with us for a little while but we were headed up further than they and soon left them behind.  For me, this was really the only hot section of the hike.  That cold front that had moved in was still in effect and with the very cool, almost chilly breeze blowing, temperatures were quite pleasant, even in the sun.

Looking back into Mineral Basin from whence we came

That being said, it was still a long slog up to Mineral Basin.  The dirt road has deteriorated in the last couple of years and it was rockier and more rutted than I remembered.  Taking our boots off to wade across the little American Fork river down below had felt wonderful and rejuvenating for a while, but later that evening, both H and I would feel the toll the rocks had taken on our feet and legs.

Map (not pictured: tram ride down)

We paused at the bottom of Mineral Basin to reapply sunscreen and down some calories.  And then it was nothing but uphill to the finish.  Since the wildflowers have not come out in force yet, the incidental tourist-hikers have not come out either and we saw no one the whole way up until just below the top of Hidden Peak, when the MTBers were coming down.  Well, we did see a very funny marmot near the Baldy chair: he lay flat on the ground, trying to avoid notice, but when we stopped to watch him, he took off running, climbed the ladder and disappeared into the coping of the chairlift.

More up than down on this one

While I didn't keep pace with H for the final climb, I did manage to keep him in sight the whole way up.  We sat on the decking in the shade, waiting for a tram down and enjoying the brisk 57 F temperature.  It didn't take long for us to stiffen up, to be honest, and when we finally got home - we stopped for a while on the Snowbird patio to listen to some live music while we replenished calories and liquids from our cooler - both of us were feeling the effects of the distance + elevation.  I find as I get older, it isn't the doing of things that is more difficult, it's the recovering from doing things that gets me.

Hike stats:  14.64 miles (not including tram ride down); 5:50 hiking time at 2.5 avg. m.p.h. / 6:57 total time; 5,023' elevation.

Monday, July 2, 2018

when in doubt, go up

"When in doubt, go up" was our mantra for Saturday's morning MTB ride at Round Valley.  We didn't really have a plan for the route we were going to ride, and there were no races we needed to avoid, so we were sort of just winging it.  And every time we came to an intersection and H asked me which way I wanted to go, I always picked the climb. 

This is how we ended up doing PorcUclimb twice - and then also Down Dog twice, because what goes up must come down, and you might as well do it on nice, new, swooping, one-way singletrack.  We also climbed Kari's, High Side and Ramble On, all of which are a little more technical/rocky.  And we also went up the Sagebrush Switchback portion (as we call it) of Rambler because it's fun.  I did manage to go down on one rocky uphill corner - into a bush and so emerged with mere scratches - but I also managed to ride up a looser section that has been plaguing me this season.

Finishing a climb on High Side

The weather was truly glorious, if just a tad breezy.  A dry cold front had moved through northern Utah Friday, bringing clear blue skies, bright sunshine and temperatures that did not get out of the 80s in the Salt Lake Valley.  We can't remember a day at the end of June with temperatures so pleasant - it was truly a gift and one we were more than happy to accept.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

back to ben lomond

We upped our mileage yet again with a terrific hike up to Ben Lomond, a peak we haven't visited since 2010.  This required a bit of a drive for the second weekend in a row; we were again on the road by 5 a.m., this time heading north on I-15 to Ogden.  There isn't much traffic on the freeway at that time on a Sunday and we had our boots on the trail at 6:30 a.m. 

Sun just coming up over the North Ogden Divide

I recalled this trail as being mostly up on the ridge, crossing over from the east side to the west (and back again) several times.  What I didn't remember was the ten  l  o  n  g  switchbacks that we had to climb to get up to the ridge.  The trail here was a little rocky - MTBs and dirt bikes are allowed on this trail, in addition to hikers - but the pitch is gradual.  It took us an hour to reach the ridge. 

Up on the east side of the ridge

Once up on the ridge, the trail turned to packed dirt (mostly) and we appreciated the gentle footing.  We also appreciated all the green:  when we did this hike the first time, it was towards the end of September and everything was dry and crispy.  As we walked north along the ridge, a small hawk checked us out, gliding in close to see what we were all about.

Field of sunflowers

The wildflowers were spectacular and, since we're so used to the Cottonwood Canyons, where the flowers don't reach peak until into July, surprising to us.  Even though we hadn't thought to review our wildflower books ahead of time, we were able to identify lupine, sunflowers, orange paintbrush, columbine, horsemint, buckwheat, wild roses and gentian (not quite open yet).

Ben Lomond looming ahead

The trail was a little rockier on the west side of the ridge and we could see the peak ahead of us.  This was where we'd seen mountain goats in 2010.  Alas, there were no goats present this day: we saw the hawk, buzzards, pelicans, marmots and squirrels only.

At the peak, Ogden and the Great Salt Lake behind

Once we left the saddle, where a number of other trails came in, the trail started to really go up.  The footing was rocky and loose the further up we went but the switchbacks kept it from becoming too steep.  This trail loves its switchbacks!  When we had done Ben Lomond before, it was so windy at the top that we stayed there only for a few minutes, instead hunkering down off-peak and out of the wind for a quick snack.  This time, the pleasant temperature and only slight breeze invited us to linger a bit longer at the summit.

View to the north behind H

Even given our proximity to Ogden, there just weren't many other people and I figured the higher mileage keeps most hikers away.  We saw a MTBer and two trail runners as we were heading out and they heading back; there were three hikers/trail runners with us at the peak, all of whom had taken other, shorter routes up; and we passed about nine hikers, a MTBer and a flurry of dirt bikes, all heading in as we were finishing up. 

Post-hike parking lot refreshment

The hike out was uneventful as we retraced our steps, although the trail did seem somehow rockier on the return.  When we'd done this before, the final descent of those ten switchbacks was brutal, baking in the sun.  This time, earlier in the year, temperatures were much more manageable, never getting above the high 70s even on that south-facing slope.

After a quick snack, we drove out down the other side of the North Ogden Divide, going through the lovely valley farms of Eden and Liberty.  Since we were in the neighborhood, we also stopped for a beer at the Shooting Star Saloon in Huntsville.  We'd done four more miles than last Sunday, and our feet weren't nearly as brutalized, so that was reason enough to celebrate.

Hike stats:  distance 15.99 miles; total time 6:39: moving time 5:28, stoppage time 1:11; speed 2.9 m.p.h. moving average, 2.4 m.p.h. total average; 3,273 feet of climbing.

Monday, June 25, 2018

changing it up (just a little)

I don't have a lot of confidence as a MTBer.  I do love it but am a wobbly cyclist and get nervous on trails that are new to me.  This is why for years, we have done the same route in Round Valley, building my bike-handling skills and confidence.  H has had the patience of a really patient person, putting up with this since he's such a better rider than I am.

Finishing the PorcUclimb

The last couple of MTB outings, while still at Round Valley, have switched things up a bit.  This past Saturday, like last time, we have mixed our trails up, eschewing our regular route.  And I have loved it!  We have now ridden nearly every trail in Round Valley and I have proved to myself that I can ride them.  I still have to put my foot down in spots but for the most part, I am riding (albeit slowly).  With this new confidence, maybe we'll try some other trail head soon.

16.67 miles for this outing

I don't remember what all we did but our Saturday route included Rademan Ridge, Rambler (at Round Valley, all trails lead to Rambler), up the sections we call "My Nemesis" and "The Staircase," and up PorcUclimb twice.  I really like that trail: the climb is gradual and the corners are not too tight - I actually wish it was longer!  After the last PorcUclimb climb, we then knocked off a new (to both of us) trail, Down Dog, which is a downhill-only, long, flowy trail with wide corners.  Even though I am timid on descents, it was a lot of fun. 

Last Saturday's route

H enjoyed it too: a couple of MTBers passed me and started to catch up to him, so he pushed his speed a little to keep out in front.  One guy tried to keep up and at the bottom, locked up his brakes and went over the handlebars.  The guy got up fine, gave H a high-five and said, "Thanks for the race!" 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

naturalist basin

We were looking for a twelve mile hike for Sunday, but one that perhaps didn't have too much elevation change so that we could do the distance without suffering too badly.  I went back to one of the first hiking books we bought when we moved to Utah - 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Salt Lake City - and not only found such a hike, but found one that we hadn't done before.  (There's not many we haven't done in that book at this point.)

A less-rocky portion of the trail

The Naturalist Basin hike is off the scenic Mirror Lake Highway in the Uintas (Highline trailhead just past mile marker 34).  Since it was out so far - we had to drive past Park City, through Kamas and 34 miles out the Mirror Lake Highway - we got up at 4:30 a.m. for a 5 a.m. departure.  Having laid all our clothes and gear out the night before, we managed to be on the road on time, PB&J roll-ups in hand for breakfast-while-driving.

Low cloud ceiling when you're above 10,000 ft.

The early departure meant that it was prime deer time: we saw many, many deer along the roadsides.  Luckily, none decided to cross in front of us and there wasn't that much traffic that early.  We got to the trailhead without mishap and were hiking right at 7 a.m. (and 46 F).  Although the parking lot was pretty full, there weren't any other day hikers heading out when we were; we would end up seeing fewer than 20 hikers all day, 14 of whom were backpackers who were heading back to their vehicles after camping out overnight.  We did see a good amount of wildlife: squirrels, marmots, birds, deer, a porcupine treed by a hiker's dog (and, separately, a dog with a couple of porcupine quills in its nose) and a coyote.

The creek coming out of Naturalist Basin

If the trail had been smooth, it would have been an incredible cruiser.  Nothing was steep and most of it was shaded, passing by small lakes.  But the footing was difficult: very rocky, so much so that we went most of the way staring at the ground beneath our feet to keep from stepping wrong.  We could never get our strides into rhythm and often were walking like we were drunk, staggering and slipping.  Still, we made better time than we thought we were, which must be due to the gentle slope.

H on the trail

We followed the Highline Trail for 5+ miles before veering left (north) into Naturalist Basin, a gorgeous meadow with a stream and a waterfall coursing over the surrounding cliffs underneath Mt. Agassiz.  The whole day was cloudy and cool, with occasional rain sprinkles, and I imagine that this basin must be breathtaking under clear, sunny skies.  It was awfully pretty even overcast.

Trying not to fall in

We picked our way across the stream and continued counter-clockwise around the loop that encircles the basin.  At mile 6, however, we stopped, had a snack and turned back.  It probably wouldn't have taken long to complete the loop but we knew we still had six miles to get back to the car and we didn't want to get caught out if the weather turned (as was forecast).

Deer: "Who's that there, now?"

So we retraced our steps, swatting the few (and slow) mosquitoes that buzzed us.  The Uintas are the only place in Utah that we've really seen mosquitoes.  Native Utahns think they're terrible out there but they're not, especially to someone who grew up with Maine mosquitoes.

Art shot: me on a foot bridge

When we finished the hike, our feet and legs were a bit sore from the rock footing but our legs weren't that fatigued, despite the distance and the altitude (trailhead elevation: 10,376 feet; we topped out just under 11,000 ft.).  This was encouraging to us, although we did admit that we still need to be better about eating on the trail, especially if we keep doing longer hikes.  Still searching for the perfect trail food, I guess: sour gummy bears will only take you so far.

Hike stats:  12.01 miles; 4 hrs. 46 min. hiking time at 2.5 m.p.h moving avg. speed; 5 hrs. 17 min. trip time (2.2 avg. speed); 1,600 feet elevation change.

Monday, June 18, 2018

plan? what plan?

A lovely little cold front moved through the Wasatch Friday evening, leaving much cooler temperatures after a week in the 90s.  Since there was no need to beat the heat, we took our time Saturday morning, arriving at Quinn's Trailhead at Round Valley around 9:30 a.m.  There was a soccer tournament going on, which meant that the main parking lots were packed but they had opened up a second dirt lot and we had no trouble getting a spot.

H had a planned route in mind, continuing to change things up from the same loop we've done for years.  But there was also a trail race going on - the Rambler Half Marathon - and we had to change trails on the fly to try to keep out of their way.  This isn't really a problem because you can't really get lost at Round Valley; everything is pretty much connected to everything else.  We did end up sharing Somewhere Elks for a bit but everyone - racers and race organizers - were chill about it and we moved off the course as soon as we could, downhilling on Rusty Shovel.

PorcUclimb!  Uphill only!

The reason we ended up on the course at all was because we finally did PorcUclimb, after discovering it a couple weeks ago.  It's uphill only and I have to say that after that, when I didn't have to worry about running into oncoming traffic on blind corners, having one-way trails is fantastic.  (I think each the trail I am on should be one-way, the way I am going right at that moment.)  PorcUclimb is a lovely little trail which climbs gently, with no steep sections, via sweeping switchbacks and topping out at the Somewhere Elks/Nowhere Elks junction.  I wished it was longer, in fact.

We had a great ride - there was very little bike traffic all day - and I am thrilled to be exploring different trails.  We've almost ridden all of them at Round Valley now - just learned about one called Lah Dee Duh that we have to try - and there's really nothing I can't ride at this point.  I still have to walk in some spots but I am definitely [slowly] gaining confidence on [slightly] more technical stuff.