Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Y'all, we just got back from a great trip to the desert.  We're sorting through photos (and ignoring the massive pile of laundry) and as soon as we can get our ducks in a row, I'll have some real posts up here.  We did some great new MTB rides and hikes - super-fun.

In the meantime, gaze upon this.  I wish I still was.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

a touch of winter

Saturday was a perfect fall day; by Monday, it felt like winter had moved in.  We had hunkered down at the house on Sunday because of ominous dark clouds but Monday was gorgeous again.  It was also quite cold.  We had hoped to go MTBing at Round Valley because it has been ages since we've MTBed, but the morning temperature was 26 F and that is just too cold for me to bike - my hands turn to blocks of ice.

Giant moon over Superior

Temperatures in the 20s is not too cold to hike, however.  So we dithered around for a long time, trying to come up with a hike that met our day's criteria (not too far to drive, not too steep, not too crowded).  Failing something original, we fell back on the familiar and drove up to Alta.  Where it was 28 F in the sun with much colder windchill.  We both put warm hats, mittens/gloves and fleece on and hit the trail.


We went up the front side, following the access road up Collins Gulch.  This is pretty steep for hiking uphill (although it doesn't seem so bad skiing down) and once we got out of the shade, we warmed up enough to shed a layer.  Other than several Alta trucks out and about, we didn't see anybody - no other hikers, no deer or moose (but lots of tracks) and only a couple of hawks and chipmunks, the latter ostensibly keeping an eye out for hawks.


At Collins pass, we headed down into the Sugarloaf bowl, mindful of our footing on the snow and ice.  Oh yes, I forgot to mention this earlier: there is really quite a lot of snow up there at Alta, especially for how early it is.  These cold temperatures have encouraged it to stick around, even with all the sunshine.  We kept on the access road as it followed the Sugarloaf chair, then turned left into Glory Gulch.  We don't usually hike down this way because it is a little longer - several long switchbacks crisscrossing East Greeley - but there was no reason not to.  I had gotten a bit chilled when we started the descent but it warmed up (a little) as we got down lower, although not so much that I was willing to take off my mittens.

Sugarloaf, foreground and background

When we got to the base of the Sugarloaf chair, we turned left again and went down through the Albion meadows, past the places where they'd been testing the snow guns - the grass looked like its tips had been frosted.  From there, it was an easy cruise down the Summer Road and back to the truck, and then an easy cruise down the canyon road for beers and french fries at the Porcupine.  Why?  Why not!

Snowmaking testing (and rock hard)

Hike stats:  6.63 miles; 2:37 total time (2:17 hiking, 2.9 m.p.h.); 1,800 feet of elevation; no blisters.

Aspen trees and blue skies 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

a perfect day

Saturday was undoubtedly one of the most perfect days we've seen - clear with bright sunshine and a perfect temperature all day - and we made sure to get out into it.  We knew we wanted to go for a hike but as of Friday night, we hadn't decided on anything yet.  By the time the alarm went off (before the sun came up). H had come up with hiking to the Jupiter Mine at Park City Mountain Resort.  He had remembered that we had spotted the big mine when we hiked the ridge between Big Cottonwood Canyon and Park City back in August; at the time, we had said that we wanted to hike to it at some point.  This seemed like the ideal time to do it.

We got organized pretty quickly and were boots on the ground in Park City around 8:30 a.m.  There were just a couple other trucks in the parking lot at that time with people getting ready to go MTBing; the temperature was a cool but pleasant 38 F and we assumed the place would get busier as the day warmed up.  We walked up to the base of PCMR's Silver Star chairlift and got on the trails there.  Our plan was to first take the Spiro trail up to Crescent Ridge but just as we started, we noticed Dawn's Trail, a hiking-only trail not on our map (our map is from 2011 - it might be time for a new map) and took that instead as it was going in the right general direction.

A doe and two nearly-grown fawns behind her

The trails in Park City are so nice.  Unlike the rocky Wasatch Front trails, they are mostly packed dirt, which is soft underfoot, and cross aspen glades and meadow-like ski runs.  This morning the dirt was frozen, which was still good footing, and we had them all to ourselves, only pausing to observe a grouse and, later, three mule deer who were curious and unafraid.

Chilly in the shade

We crossed under the King Con chair and made our way up an access road (the Broadway trail in the winter) to the new Miners' Camp lodge, where the Silverlode chair and new Quicksilver gondola are.  That new lodge looks awesome.  There were tons of moose tracks in this area but no moose.  We continued up the access road (parallel to the Claimjumper ski trail), pausing to check out the massive King Con ore bin before continuing up to the ridge. 

King Con ore bin

Atop the ridge, we paused for snacks at the terminus of the Crescent Express chair, then kept going up, under the Bonanza chair and along the Homerun ski run to the Summit House.  We passed the tops of the Motherlode, Pioneer and Thaynes chairs, heading down Jupiter Express.  The trees changed abruptly from aspens to evergreens and it got chilly in the shade, with old snow underfoot. 

I think we have enough time!

We followed this access road down and back into the sunshine at Shadow Lake, where the little old two-seater Jupiter lift is.  The one time we skied at PCMR we didn't make it all the way back in there but it looks like it's got some great terrain in decent snow conditions.  We stayed to the access road as it went down the drainage, past the remains of the California-Comstock mine to the massive Thaynes Shaft mine.

H at Shadow Lake (Jupiter lift in background)

All of these mining ruins have been preserved by the town and you can actually go into the building housing the Thaynes Shaft as it is less derelict than most.  You can't access the shaft - which is good, because it's about 1,700 feet straight down - but you can wander around in the building and ogle the massive equipment and machinery left behind, as well as more prosaic artifacts like 1930s lightbulbs, drinking fountains and urinals.  It's pretty cool.

California-Comstock mine

After touring the mine building and the huge tailings dump, with its rickety conveyor apparatus still standing, we started walking out, along the access road.  Before long we were able to get onto the Crescent Mine Grade trail and finally started seeing quite a few MTBers.  From the CMG we got to Spiro via the switchbacky Eagle trail, and Spiro brought us right back to where we started.

Thaynes Shaft mine

The parking lots was pretty busy with MTBers heading out and coming back, pumping up tires, drinking beers and calling to their dogs.  We had a beer while changing out of our hiking clothes - and after 12.7 miles, it really felt good to take our boots off.  Since it was mid-afternoon, we thought it made sense to get sandwiches at Subway and then check out the Park City Brewery tap room.  We'd never been there before since we're usually in and out of Park City before noon.  It's located outside of town, towards Jeremy Ranch, and has a man cave sort of vibe.  There's no food so it's dog-friendly and the big doors rolls up so there's inside/outside seating. 

Massive tailings dump and rickety conveyor belt

We had a couple of their Last Pitch session IPAs and toasted to a perfect fall day.  It really doesn't get any better than that.

See? Rickety conveyor belt

Hike stats:  12.67 miles; 5:28 trip total (4 hours 19 minutes of walking/2.9 m.p.h.; and 1:09 of standing around looking at stuff); 2,800 feet of elevation; no blisters.

What a fantastic day

Sunday, October 8, 2017

clearing one's head

Between weather and our schedules, it had been since Labor Day that we'd been hiking - Labor Day!  So one day last week, when I was needing to just take a break, I took a mental health day off from work and got myself back on the trails.  The recent snow had been lingering far longer than anyone expected - hooray for colder weather! - so I went to Millcreek Canyon, figuring the lower elevations would be largely snow-free.

View across the canyon to the northeast

Can I just say, how wonderful it was to be out on the trails of the Wasatch Front midweek?  Even though I didn't get up there until 10:15 a.m., parking wasn't a problem and I encountered very few people.  It was wonderful to get my boots back on the dirt and just tromp along.  I did my Terraces to Elbow Fork to Pipeline Trail to Burch Hollow trailhead loop, which I had last done in June 2016.  Despite my late start, it was only 37 F when I started climbing up the Terraces trail; the trail itself was mostly frozen there on the shady north-facing side of the canyon.  When I crossed the road at Elbow Fork and headed down the Pipeline trail, I was grateful for the sunshine, although that trail, on the south-facing side, was pretty muddy in spots.

Still some snow sticking around in the shade

The sixteen (+/-) dogs I met didn't mind the mud at all.  That day was an off-leash day (Millcreek Canyon alternates days: off-leash dogs and no MTBs on the trails; or dogs on leashes and MTBs allowed.) and they were all happily cruising the path with their people.  Everybody who was out that day seemed pretty happy - seems like a little hike can be good for the soul.

The leaves they are a-changin'

Thursday, October 5, 2017

shoulder season comes early

Shoulder season is that in-between period when it's too wet for hiking and MTBing and yet not quite snowy enough for skiing.  Usually it's November and sometimes early May and it means that H and I sit inside, gazing mournfully at our MTBs, noses figuratively pressed against the windows, wishing that the weather would just pick one so we can go outside and play. 

This year, shoulder season seems to have come early: the third week of September brought record snowfall to northern Utah - as in Alta reported 14" and people went skiing. The Daily Pow reported:

We have not been that ambitious, instead going for short road rides and runs in between the raindrops, putting flannel sheets on the beds, baking brownies and fruit crisps, making soups and dehydrating stuff on our little food dryer.  It's boring home stuff but at least we're making the best of it.  Hopefully the weather will straighten itself out soon and we'll be able to get back on the trails for a while before the snow really flies.  I feel like I'm not quite done hiking yet for the season.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

eight years

Eight years.  Holy moly, we've been in Utah for eight years.  The time just goes so fast but eight years ago, at 2:43 p.m., we had officially arrived in SLC.  Looking back at this past year (we count our "year" as 10/1 - 9/30), it seems a little light - we didn't do much hiking because H was training for his big rides, plus the wet September weather slowed us down a little too - but still, we tried to get out there:

October 2016 - G and T come to visit; hiking with moose sightings; Snowbird Appreciation Day

November 2016 - Long weekend in Moab; annual Sol-Bright hike; final MTB ride of the season; annual Cold Turkey Thanksgiving morning run

December 2016 - Alta finally opens for skiing; A partially dislocates shoulder; we discover the glories of the ski bus; it starts snowing

January 2017 - Skiing with lots of storms and a couple best-days-ever

February 2017 - Skiing with more new snow and a day on the hill with an old friend

March 2017 - Skiing and some early spring skiing conditions

April 2017 - Skiing (including Frank, closing day and Supreme closing forever) and an awesome visit with K and D

May 2017- Moab trip, including camping at Needles District; back on the MTBs in Park City; slow start to hiking because there's so much snow still in the mountains

June 2017 - MTBing; H does Porcupine Hill Climb; Snowbird Cool Air concerts; still a lot of snow in the mountains

July 2017 - Hiking; MTBing; visit from old friends from back east; H becomes a Crusher; wildflowers

August 2017 - Tour of Utah plus H does the Ultimate Challenge; great hiking, including new trails and redemption for A on the Alta/Dry Fork loop; MTBing; more wildflowers

September 2017 - Hiking; overnight at Snowbird; MTBing, including revisiting that 54+ mile ride from Echo Reservoir to Park City and back; road trip with H's parents to Bryce Canyon National Park and Capitol Reef National Park

And then just like that, we start a new year - happy new year, everyone!  What will this one bring?

Saturday, September 30, 2017

road tripping: day 3

Checking out the Goosenecks 

Our final day of road tripping found us back on the road around 8 a.m.  We made several stops in Capitol Reef: walking into the Goosenecks, to peek 800 feet over the edge at the river below; checking out the orchards and the historic schoolhouse; and gazing at the numerous Fremont petroglyphs carved into the cliffs along Route 24.

The Goosenecks in the morning sun

Desert landscaping

We kept going east on 24, out of the park and through the desolate moonscape of cliffs and rolling pale rock to Hanksville.  There, we headed north for Goblin Valley State Park.  H's parents didn't know anything about Goblin Valley ahead of time and were delighted with all the goblins.  We walked through the rock formations for a bit; under the clear skies it was warm among the goblins but a nice breeze was blowing through off the valley floor.

Parade of petroglyphs

To wrap up our road trip, H and I decided we should finish things off the way we usually finish trips off in that part of the state: with lunch at Ray's Tavern in Green River.  Ray's was decently busy, as it always is whenever we find ourselves there, whether it's a Sunday or a Wednesday, with construction workers, locals, tourists and outfitters.  Burgers, beers and recapping favorite parts of the road trip were on the menu.  It's always a bit of a letdown when a trip ends but we think H's parents had fun, seeing parts of Utah that they've only heard about before.  I know we had fun and are just counting the days until the next road trip.

Goblin Valley

Among the goblins