Thursday, December 30, 2010

fancy, sunny, snowy, cold

While I’ve been slaving away at work and doing 3-hour commutes, H has been skiing and skiing and skiing – nine days in a row to date. You might think that would get boring after a while, but he’s been mixing it up.

On Monday, H got his swank on, going to Deer Valley to join up with a cousin and her family who were in town for Christmas. Deer Valley is consistently ranked as the #1 ski resort in the country, in large part for its incredible level of customer service: H said there must have been one DV staff member for every five skiers. No snowboarders are allowed at DV; the trails are immaculately groomed (which is important because the resorts on the Park City side of the Wasatch Front get quite a bit less snow than those on our side); and the food was quite good. H said he felt a little out of place – everyone had brand new ski outfits, unlike scruffy ol’ Alta where we fit right in with our duct-taped ski pants – but with day tickets at $94, I don’t imagine he’ll be going back anytime soon.

On Tuesday, he was back at Alta for a bluebird day, skiing mostly over at Catherine’s Area which still hadn’t seen much traffic. He emailed me photos all day which didn’t make me cranky about being at work AT ALL.


Looking towards Grizzly Gulch from the Supreme chair

Wednesday brought the latest snowstorm and it snowed all day up at Alta. “Phenomenal” was the descriptor, as H found himself waist-deep more often than not. Again, I didn’t resent that at all.

It's the abominable snow-H!

Today was wicked cold – holding below zero up at Alta for most of the day. H had to wear his facemask and, after a number of runs along the High Traverse on West Rustler and over-top to East Greeley, he hung out for a while at Wildcat. It’s more protected over there and holds lots of snow, so that kept him a little warmer.



Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

The weekend bodes quite cold for us, but I’m ready to take some runs in the 22+ inches we’ve gotten from this last storm, and H shows no sign of slowing down, despite his busy week.



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

slow going

Another storm has rolled in, snowing all day up at Alta (reports H: "Phenomenal!") and finally starting down in the valley a little before 4:00 p.m., even though it was expected around noon.  The roads got pretty bad pretty quickly - it was warm when it started and then the temperature dropped quickly, leaving a skim of ice under the new snow - but people were driving cautiously.  So cautiously, in fact, that it took me THREE HOURS to do my 15-mile commute.  Seriously.  I can run faster than that (only just).  Our average speed was in the 5-10 mph range; I topped out doing 25 mph for about a block.  Because of the slow speeds, you really couldn't tell how bad the roads were ... until we all had to stop because people couldn't make it up the icy hills. And then the streets just turned to parking lots until the stuck cars got a push. 

In my three hour sojourn, I had some time to think:
  1. Where were all the snowplows?  In three hours, I saw nary a plow or salt truck.  No wonder the streets were so bad.  It's not like they didn't know this storm was coming - they've been talking about it for four days - so why weren't the plows out keeping on top of things?
  2. If you live in northern Utah, why the heck would you drive a rear-wheel drive car, especially in the winter?  So many people stuck on the iced hills, spinning their silly wheels.  Front-wheel drive at the very least, people.  And how about some studded tires?
  3. Three hours in those horrible Subaru Forester seats was not what my back needed, although I kept the seat-heater cranked and it was almost like a heating pad.
  4. For all the complaining I do about that Forester (seats, tires, rust, etc.), that little car had NO problem getting me up those hills where everyone else was stuck.  Bravo, little Subaru, bravo.

boxing day

No, no, there's no boxing on Boxing Day - there's skiing on Boxing Day, of course!  After chili and cheese scromblets*, we headed back up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Alta, leaving B to pout on the couch for another day.  We assumed that today would be way busy, what with it no longer being actual Christmas but being part of Christmas vacation week, but we nabbed a great parking spot and didn't wait in lift lines hardly at all.  The parking lot was maybe two-thirds full when we left which surprised us.

Perhaps it was because it was Sunday, and local day crowds are down because all the Mormons have to go to church, or maybe it was because the clouds had rolled in.  The light was awful, really flat, making it nearly impossible to see what you were skiing over.  Not that it really mattered, since for the third day in a row I stuck to the groomers.  Man, I am so bored with groomers - my back had better be ready by next weekend!

Actually, H largely stuck to the groomers with me this time: the bumps and ungroomed snow have really started to set up, making it tough on the knees.  He would ski on the edges of the trails where it was still soft, but didn't venture too far afield.  Luckily, it began to snow after a couple of hours and having just a little bit of new snow - soft, light, fluffy - overtop of the corduroy was quite nice.  I don't think they're expecting a whole lot of new snow, but every little bit counts.  And another storm is due towards the end of the week - that would be great for New Year's skiing!

Wildlife report:  no ermines, but we got really close to a very brave grouse or patridge of some sort, a big one, who was nonchalantly standing in the middle of the trail just underneath the top of the Sugarloaf lift, ignoring all the skiers schussing by.  It flew off when H approached for a photo opportunity.

*They were supposed to be chili and cheese omelets, but the eggs ended up more on the scrambled side. Still tasty!

Monday, December 27, 2010

christmas day

We learned last year that Christmas morning is not a particularly busy ski time (yay!), so we didn't hurry too much to get up to Alta for the first chair, lingering just a bit over the ham and egg and cheese sandwiches that H made.  We were still up there 9:30ish (which is scarcely late: Collins lift doesn't open until 9:15 a.m.), luxuriating in the bright sunshine and warm breeze.


Near the top of the Supreme chair

Since I planned to baby my back all weekend, we skied Saturday much like we did Sunday: me sticking to the groomers off of the Supreme and Sugarloaf chairs; H jumping in and out of the trees and on and off the trails. It still hadn't snowed any more and the ungroomed stuff was starting to set up a little, but there's still great coverage and no ice. A very merry Christmas ski day indeed!



Good grief - blinked again!  Nice sky, tho'.

Wildlife report: we were just getting ready to load onto the Sugarloaf chair when this ermine raced past the lift house, under the lift and across the ski trail, finally diving to safety under a stand of small trees.  I don't know if anyone else but us saw him - tiny little pure white varmint charging across the snow. 

After we'd had enough for the day, we stopped by the Alta Lodge because we'd read that they've got a great ski bar, the Sitzmark, and thought it would be a good idea to stop in there for a beer. Alas, the Sitzmark - which is actually just a tiny attic room in an old, slopeside inn - did not open until 4:00 p.m., and we were there before then.  S'okay: the PBRs are cheaper at our house.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

christmas eve

Figuring the slopes might be busy on Christmas Eve, what with the Friday holiday and all, we made sure to get up to Alta to be in line for the lift opening.  We were early enough to get a decent parking spot - couple rows back and less than a quarter way down - but noted that the lot totally filled up by about 11 or so.  Not sure where all the people were: although it was the busiest its been this year, we never really had to wait in any lift lines.

This was my first ski outing since I fell on December 5th and boy, was I glad to get outside again.  The sky was blue, the sun was out and even though the snow had stopped by Thursday and everything was all tracked out already, it was still soft.  With an adhesive heat pack stuck to my back, I stuck to groomers, skiing cautiously and calmly, and felt nary a twinge. Well, one twinge on the last run out.  But still - so much better!  Alta has a couple of groomed runs off every lift, so that folks who don't like the steep and/or deep stuff have an easier option down.  But that's not really very many groomed runs and by the end of the day, I felt like I knew them all pretty well. The good thing about these groomers, however, is that even by the end of a busy day, there's still no ice.  Sure, they get bumped up a little and scraped off in spots, but it's still all soft.

My eyes are shut against the bright sun.  Yeah, that's it.

They were setting off avalanche charges all day, which was very entertaining to watch from the chairlifts: you'd watch the patrollers climbing antlike along the snowy slopes; then you'd see the flash; then you'd hear the BANG.  With six+ feet of heavy, wet snow on top of the drier, lighter stuff, avalanche danger has been pretty high and the patrollers are taking no chances.  Finally, they'd cleared enough that they dropped the rope on Devil's Castle.  H did the traverse twice, dropping down into the relatively untracked powder while I'd do two runs off the Sugarloaf lift, not wanting to risk my back so soon.  He reported that it was great: set up a little bit, but still deep and soft.

We skied until about 2:00 p.m., then had celebratory $2.50 PBRs at the Goldminer's Daughter before heading back to the valley, where an inversion blocked the sun from the sky.  No matter.  We had some cheap champagne (a Christmas Eve tradition) and some delicious chili that H had made, and then fell asleep in front of the television while watching A Christmas Story.  Not a bad way to start Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

deep

This is what Alta's employee parking lot* looked like on Wednesday.  If there's that much snow down there on everyone's car, you can imagine how much snow is up in them thar hills.  Hint: it's a lot.  Rather an unusual lot for so early - the resorts are all thrilled because there's plenty of white stuff for Christmas week.

Where do you even start?  Springtime, I guess.

H skied both yesterday and today: yesterday in the wet and snow; and today under dry but grey skies.  You have to pick and choose where you go a bit, since they've been setting off a gajillion charges to shake the potential avalanches free, and if you end up where an avalanche slid through, all of a sudden you're skiing on concrete instead of puff.  There's plenty of puff, though: he had a run today, down in a chute under East Greeley, where even though it was practically vertical, it was difficult to get going simply because there was So Much Snow.

It's supposed to be mostly/partly sunny tomorrow (yay! it seems like forever since we've seen the sun), so we'll go up and take some runs.  I expect it may be a little crowded, what with lots of folks having Christmas Eve Friday off work for the holiday.  But my back feels better than it has since I hurt it, and I really want to go skiing.  I'll be cautious for sure - no crazy almost-vertical chutes for me!  Not right away anyway.

*  How cool is it that the Alta employees park in the front row at the resort?  At Sunday River in Maine (where we used to ski and where I worked one winter), employees have to park in satellite lots miles from the lodges and take a shuttle in to work.

Monday, December 20, 2010

snowing

With the current storm, Alta has received 26 inches in the last 24 hours, bringing our totals to 203 inches of fallen snow and 105 inches of settled snow depth.  There was so much snow that the lifts didn't even open until 1:00 p.m. today and the avalanche danger is some wicked high because the snow is very wet.  We didn't ski but we are counting the days 'til we can, because it's just going to get deeper and deeper.

Here at the house we just got a little bit today.  But it's snowing again now and it's very pretty outside, with the snow sticking to the tree branches.


I never took a picture of it snowing at night before - kinda cool

Saturday, December 18, 2010

h is tired now

Alta got another six inches in the past 24 hours, bringing the season total to 170 inches of fallen snow (that's fourteen feet) and a settled snow depth of 76 inches (that's just over six feet).  My back is definitely on the mend but it's not 100% yet, so rather than undo all the healing I've been doing, B and I ran errands/went to the gym/made cookies while H headed on up the canyon to ski.

When he returned, after five nonstop hours on the slopes (technically, in the trees and down the chutes and through the bowls), he reported that there was no-one there (they're all doing last minute Christmas shopping, I reckon), so he was able to find untracked snow all day.  Wildcat continues to be the favorite area, although he had some great runs (plus a dig into his newly-tuend skis) over at Catherine's area.  Also, he saw another ermine - so cute! - this time under the Sugarloaf lift, so they must be all over the mountains up there. 

It was snowing all day up there, making for less-than-ideal road conditions between Alta and Snowbird, but things warmed up below the 'Bird and the asphalt cleared again.  He's keeping an eye on the weather with respect to tomorrow: they're saying possible rain tonight up at Snowbird, which would be yucky, but maybe Alta can avoid that by virtue of being just a wee dite higher up.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

o tannenbaum

Yes, Virginia, we did get a Christmas tree this year.  After scouting several places - and getting stickershock as the last time I paid for a tree it was a $25/cut your own, and the last time we actually had a tree, my father procured it for me and I know he didn't pay for it - we found a 6-footer for $40.  It's up, and decorated, and not dropping needles too badly (I'm even remembering to water it daily), and there are presents underneath. 


The lights are on but the flash overwhelmed them, I'm afraid.

B is a little concerned about, you know, having a TREE in the house. She gives it suspicious stares and walks a wide berth around it to get to the sofa. Just when she's used to it, we'll have to take it down. I wonder how one gets rid of a Christmas tree here in the suburbs - we used to could just drag it out back into the woods and let nature take its course. With only .25 acres, we don't so much have an "out back into the woods" anymore.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

weekend wrap-up

The little storm on Friday that brought rain to the valley brought 11 inches of white, fluffy stuff to Alta by Saturday morning.  Because my back was still not quite right, H went up to ski alone and was gone all day - that's how great it was.  They finally opened the last two lifts, Cecret and Supreme, and he skied in waist-deep powder in Catherine's Area, off the Supreme lift.  It was rather windy (but warm) so the bowls - Devil's Castle, East Castle, the Ballroom, etc. - were closed for avalanche control.  But there was a ton of snow, untracked still, in the trees of Catherine's and off the Wildcat chair that he had a great time.  Might have had to take a short nap when he got home too.

Me, my back was better than it'd been so I ran some errands, wrapped presents, mixed cookie dough, did laundry, decorated the tree ... in short, overdid it and undid all the healing my back had done over the last week.

So when H headed back up to Alta Sunday morning, I settled onto the couch on the heating pad with several DVDs (Max Headroom recaps up at the other blog, if you're interested).  I was totally surprised to see H back early then: there was no visibility so he only did one very careful run.  The Collins lift wasn't running because they were chipping ice off of it; and you could only see four chairs ahead on the Wildcat chair.  The snow was all tracked out too, so rather than make a bunch of runs under less than ideal conditions, H just came home.  Of course, by early afternoon the skies had totally cleared to bright sun and blue skies - a far cry from the rain they'd forecasted.  That's okay - there'll be another day.  And maybe next time I can even go!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

low impact consumerism

I prefer to patronize locally-owned businesses, if at all possible - keeping the money in the community is important.  Even better, if I can swing it, I prefer to shop at second-hand stores for clothes, books, furniture and music.  We've been so busy doing active stuff that I haven't been doing much shopping (to H's relief), but here are some of the places I've found recently:

Slow Train - Located along a hip stretch of Broadway in downtown SLC (its neighbors include the Tavernacle and the funky Green Ant), Slow Train is a great indie music stores, specializing in vinyl and having a big selection of used CDs and records and a great local music section.

The Finer Consigner - A pretty big consignment furniture store (with an even larger sister store south in Pleasant Grove), I stop in whenever I have the chance to see what's new.

Thrift Town - I've had the best luck here clothing-wise in this busy Brickyard thrift store.  Great t-shirt selection (and prices).

Plato's Closet - an independently owned and operated secondhand clothing store franchise with five locations in Utah.  I went to the Draper one and found it bursting with clothes (mostly women's but the men's section had a nice selection of snap-front cowboy shirts), bags and shoppers.  Most of the customers were youthful hipster-doofuses but I was thrilled to see a couple of elderly ladies exclaiming over the handbag selection while the alt-rock Christmas songs blared from the store's speakers.

Deseret Industries - this is the LDS Church's version of Goodwill.  There's a huge store in Sandy and I'll need to go back when I'm not in such a rush, because there's lots to look through.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

some sun for sunday

Sunday brought some sunshine and mild temperatures and, even though only a scant inch or two of new snow had fallen, we went skiing - what else are you going to do?  Surprisingly, Alta was more crowded than it had been on Saturday; the sun brings people out, I think.  Still no lift lines, though.

We spent a fair amount of time skiing off the Sugarloaf lift: the slopes there had gotten more direct sunshine than the other side of the resort and the snow was pretty soft.  When the traverse to Devil's Castle was opened, H did a couple of runs up there where the snow was largely untracked except for where they'd set off some avalanche-control charges.  While he was doing that, I did some confidence-building runs a little lower down, practicing my technique on a black diamond trail under the lift.

Working our way back across the resort, we did a couple of easy runs in the Ballroom, while watching the crazy skiers who had hiked all the way up to the top of Mt. Baldy come down the steep, narrow Main Chute, which had also just been opened.  We talked to some folks on the lift who'd done it: despite the 45 minute hike up, they said it was well-worth it, getting that 800 (or so) feet of vertical in the chute.

Not for me, however, so H and I went back over to our new favorite spot, skiing off the Wildcat chair.  The snow was not quite as good as it had  been on Saturday, however, since it had frozen up a bit overnight and wasn't quite so soft.  We did a couple of runs in there until I decided to do a somersault and tweaked my back a little.  It was all good, though: we'd gotten in 3+ hours and my skiing is improving, so no complaints here.

Well, one: we'd like some more snow, please!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

better than expected

We decided to go skiing on Saturday (ooh - there's a surprise), despite it not having snowed since last Sunday.  And you know what?  It was still really pretty good.  There was next to no one there - the parking lot was two-thirds full by the time we left at 12:30, but I don't know where all those people were - we never waited in line for the chair and once we got off the groomers, we hardly ever saw other skiers on the trails.

I'm starting to get my confidence back, thank goodness.  We did a bunch of groomed runs at first, letting the ungroomed surfaces soften a little.  Then, working our way back across the mountain, from Sugarloaf back to Wildcat, we did a couple of runs through the Ballroom, a little bowl off the Collins lift.  The snow was settled and tracked out but still soft, and I had good enough runs there to want to go ski off the Wildcat lift. 

There is still a TON of soft, deep snow over there.  We did several runs on Wildcat Face, Wildcat Bowl and Westward Ho, including some really steep stuff where I wasn't nervous about the steep, I was nervous about stopping short in a heavy clump and tumbling headfirst down the hill.  I didn't, and I did have a lot of fun, and I think H was relieved to see me starting to get my ski legs under me.  We'll be back at it again tomorrow - yay!

Wildlife sighting: from the Wildcat lift, a dear little ermine racing across the ski trails, darting from tree to tree.  So cute!  And a gold star to H for spotting him in the first place - a tiny white critter scurrying across white snow is tough to see!

Friday, December 3, 2010

last night's sunset

It's been pretty cloudy for the last few days (and by "pretty cloudy" I mean "the first real inversion of the winter is settling into the valley) but each evening, just as the sun sets there's a break in the cloud cover in the west which lights up the peaks of the Wasatch Front in the east.  The mountains turn these amazing shades of pink and orange, just for a few minutes, before fading to grey and white.

H took this photo from work using his phone.  The glorious colors aren't there but you can see the light hitting just the tip-top of the mountain.  Super-cool.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

the rest of the weekend

We went back to Alta on Saturday because, you know, it's there.  But they still hadn't gotten any new snow so the groomers were pretty hard (not icy, just hard) and the flat light made it tough to navigate.  Our new favorite spot to the right of the Wildcat lift still had tons of deep, soft snow but my legs were so fatigued from Thursday's run and Friday's skiing that I was all but useless, fighting the snow every turn.  I ended up going into the lodge after just over two hours - I cleverly keep a paperback in my bootbag just for these occasions - and H stayed out for another hour or so.

Sunday brought an all day snowstorm, leaving us with about eight inches all told at the house and thirteen up at Alta.  We did not ski Sunday, opting out of the windy and wet conditions.  B and I did take a nice long walk at Dimple Dell; and H wowed the neighbors with his impressive driveway-shoveling technique.

Oh!  If you're interested in what early season backcountry skiing looks like these days, click through on this link.  It's to a fun, short video shot by one of the guys I work with who got out into the Wasatch Front for his first turns yesterday.  (Pretty slick editing too - he's a Mac guy.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

black diamond friday

Since there are all these awesome sales going on the day after T'giving, H and I decided to go shopping.  NOT.  We went skiing, of course, under bluebird skies and warmer-than-we-expected temperatures.  We took our timing getting going in the morning to allow things to warm up a little - H made us a hearty mountain breakfast of eggs, cheese, ham and leftover mashed potatoes - and were on the lift before 11:00 a.m.

Faceful of sunshine

Alta hasn't gotten any new snow in a couple of days and everything was tracked out, but we managed to find LOTS of soft, deep snow in the trees to the right of Wildcat lift. (We also found a cutie-pie porcupine over there, trundling across a ski trail from one pine tree to another. He went nicely with the moose we saw earlier, browsing in the scrub oak alongside the road up the canyon.) I'm slowly getting my ski legs back and regaining that muscle memory; H says I'm doing fine but I really feel like a spaz more often than not.


It's really steep here, with a lot of snow - yay!

We skied until a little before 3:00 p.m., never really having to wait in lift lines and stopping only briefly for a quick midday granola bar. My legs are a little stiff now but it's hard to complain after another gorgeous day on Alta's amazing terrain.

Friday, November 26, 2010

research

In my last post, I mentioned that H had done extensive research to determine which greater SLC area bar would play host to our post-turkey trot beer.  The man is nothing if not thorough: he called twenty-five bars (since 25 is a nice round number).  In full disclosure, we have not been to all of these places (which include brewpubs, dive bars, sports bars, regular bars, dueling piano bars and a strip club), but instead only present this as a sampling of what is available should you wish a beer outside your SLC home on Thanksgiving.  Here are the results:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

pi on thanksgiving

Because I had so much fun last year, I signed up again for the Thanksgiving morning Cold Turkey 6K run up City Creek Canyon.  Major difference this year: it was about 20 degrees colder.  But still fun!  Oh, before I forget to mention it - the reference in this post's title is to my race number: 314.

I would guess that about the same number of runners (700-800) were milling about at the Capitol, trying to stay warm in the thin 12F sunshine.  Like last year, there were folks in costume - a group wearing plush turkey hats, a guy dressed up as a [live] turkey, a barechested Indian brave (whom we think may have pinned his race number through his nipple rings ...!) - and folks with dogs, everybody happy and relaxed and glad to be up and out on this beautiful morning.  Right before we started, the race organizers announced that due to the recent snowstorm, the course had been changed to a true out-and-back, with a slight uphill finish so as to keep the finished racers nearer their cars.  This was as opposed to the lovely downhill finish through Memory Grove we had last year - I'm a big fan of downhill finishes and was immediately apprehensive about the change.

The gun went off a little after 9:00 a.m. and off we went, trying to get our cold legs moving.  I'd never run in such cold before and had struggled a little with what to wear; I ended up with thin wool socks, running tights, a tight polyester underlayer, thin zip-neck fleece, mittens and a thick knit hat.  This ended up being perfect (a little warm in the end, actually): we were in the sun for the initial slight downhill, in the shade for the uphill in the canyon, in the shade for the return downhill out of the canyon and then back in the sun for the slight uphill homestretch. 

At the finish

Although my goal had been to beat last year's time of 35:53:32, the footing was icy in spots and I ended up making slow but steady progress, not even getting passed by too many people. When we hit the turnaround, I felt really good, unzipping my fleece and stretching my legs out a little bit. I slowed back up on the last bit, flat-to-slightly-up, but managed to pass two people at the finish, including one right at the line.

The best way to stay warm in 12 F? Run 6K, with half of it up a hill. H was pretty chilled by the time we met up at the finish, and I knew I'd get cold quickly, so I grabbed a cup of hot cider (excellent!) and we jumped in the truck, ready to head back south for part 2 of our new Thanksgiving tradition.

Post-race PBR at Maggie McGee's

Part 2, of course, is the post-race beer drinking. H had done extensive research (see post entitled "research") on what SLC area bars were going to be open Thanksgiving morning ... and we ended up back at Maggie McGee's, right where we were last year. They're under new management and had a friendly bartender who was surprised to see customers before noon. This year H and I were the first people to belly up to the bar (although other people came in shortly thereafter). We had a couple of PBRs, watched some of the Patriots v. Lions game, then headed home so H could get his skis and go up to Alta - with 118 inches and blue skies, it's hard to say no. (I did, however: I needed a shower and a cup of coffee.)

Updated with results:  time of 37:22.76 (due to uphill finish, imho), placed 6th out of 18 in my age group (being the youngest in one's age group is better than being the oldest, imho) and 211 overall (top half of entrants).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

powderpalooza

We sure picked a good one for my first day out of the 2010/2011 ski season.  With the latest storm having rolled in, Alta had a new 12 inches at 8:00 a.m. this morning; it was still snowing when we got there at 9 a.m. and it continued to snow ALL DAY.  The crowds were nonexistent since it's before Thanksgiving and all, and everyone's tracks were getting filled in nearly as fast as they were made.  Temperatures were pretty warm (around 21-24 F) but the wind was quite gusty, at times painfully driving the snow into our faces.  This made for difficult clothing decisions: I was way too warm while I was skiing, but got chilled on the lifts.  I guess it all averaged out, though, and my hands and feet stayed warm enough.

Snow so good you don't even mind not seeing the sky!

We didn't cover a ton of territory since much of the terrain was still closed, either due to avalanche control or lack of cover ... although, coming from back east and all, I've never seen so much snow called "lack of cover."  We were consistently in heavy-ish powder well over my knees for most of the day.  After a quick snack break at noon, we ventured into some trees and found some incredibly deep pockets.  It was outstanding.  I'd been a little leery of skiing in so much snow my first day out but since the visibility was so bad, between the flat light and the blowing snow, I couldn't really see much of what we skied - I just went for it.  Whereas if I'd been able to see, I probably would have psyched myself out.

I managed to last until 1:30 p.m. when my legs finally turned to jelly.  Getting home was a whole other adventure: the road down the canyon was so bad that it took us 67 minutes to drive 8 miles, inching the whole way in a long line of brake-lights.  People played it pretty safe/smart, however, and we made our slow descent with no problems.

One guy we rode a chair with told us it's been about ten years since there's been this much snow this early.  It was awesome - absolutely, positively the best first day out I've ever had and pretty much ranking up as one of the best days ever for H and me.  Best part?  Now I'm totally psyched for the season.  Let it snow!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

opening day

H took yesterday off to ski Alta's opening day.  In a nutshell: "Better than any opening day back east."

With a "settled snow depth" of around 40" yesterday, the snow cover was thin in spots although there was no ice.  It was windy, and thus a little cold, but temperatures were in the mid 50s down in the valley so it wasn't that bad.  The chairlifts were full of people, but there were no lines to wait in; five of the seven lifts were running.  He was on the fifteenth chair up the mountain and skied until 2:00 p.m., when he called it a good day indeed.

We've got a storm just moved in this evening: they're calling for 10-15 inches up there tonight, with an additional 7-12 inches tomorrow.  The winds should die down to "moderately gusty" and with temperatures to be around 23F, I suspect we'll be on the hill tomorrow. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

knowledge is power

Since it's been so light on posting of late, both here and at WWW's sister-blog, I'm doubling up and using the same post on both sites.  It's totally cheating, of course, but they're my blogs and I can do what I want.

In our explorations of Utah, we've relied on a number of sources of information: word of mouth, newspaper articles and, mostly, guidebooks.  Here's what our Utah-centric library looks like right now:
  • The Historical Guide to Utah Ghost Towns by Stephen L. Carr
  • Insider's Guide to Salt Lake City (4th edition, but a treasure trove of information regardless)
  • Frommer's Utah (a going-away present from MSM - thanks again, MSM!)
  • Moon Handbooks - Utah (found in a used bookstore and not that helpful because it's old)
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles - Salt Lake City by Greg Witt (we've done so many of these that we're wishing there was a volume 2, 60 More Hikes Within 60 Miles)
  • Hiking the Wasatch by John Veranth (not quite as detailed as 60 Hikes)
  • Roadside History of Utah by Cynthia Larsen Bennett
  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Canyonlands and Arches by Bill Schneider (2nd ed., a Falcon Guide booklet)
  • and two Pocket Naturalist pamphlets, Utah Trees and Wildflowers; and Utah Birds
Click on over to the other blog if you're interested in any of these books - there are links over there directly to Amazon.

Monday, November 15, 2010

season passes

Alta doesn't open until this Friday (conditions permitting) so we thought we'd take advantage of the pre-season rush and go get our pictures taken for our season passes this past Saturday.  That way, when there's enough snow that I want to ski on it - because I'm too snobby for 48" now - we won't have to dither around in line for our passes.

One of these days I will figure out to dress for going up the canyons.  It was in the low 40s down at our house, so a long-sleeved t-shirt and a heavy fleece was plenty.  Up at the ski resort, however, it was 21 and I was wishing for a hat, mittens and another layer on the walk from the parking lot to the season pass office.  There were just a couple of other people in line ahead of us so fairly quickly we showed our receipts, smiled for the camera and waltzed on out, the proud owners of Alta season passes.  (My photo turned out better than H's - it's even pretty good!)

I wish we'd thought to bring the camera with us because the scene up there was great.  Despite the mountain not being open yet, the parking lot was about one-third full.  There were a number of little kids sledding down the low slopes with their parents but most of the folks there were there to ski.  The chairs were not turning, what with the opening a week away, but people were skinning up the trails by the Collins lift, presumably heading up to the bowls where the deeper snow lies.  Call me lazy if you will, but that's an awful lot of work for tracked-out partial coverage.  Still, folks are ready and excited about the ski season, and it was great to see all the people out there.

Next: must get skis tuned up!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

seven

That's how many bags of leaves we (mostly H) filled today from our tiny, .25 acre, two-tree lawn.  SEVEN.  That just seems wrong. 

It didn't take all that long, however, and it needed to be done - not only because our neighbors had already cleaned up all their leaves, but also because Alta opens next Friday and once ski season starts, pretty much nothing else gets done on the weekends.  In fact, we're going to go up and pick up our season passes this afternoon.  Yay!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

not much happenin' here

Sorry it's been so empty around here but we really haven't been doing anything post-worthy: workin', goin' to the gym, doin' laundry, walkin' the dog.  The ski areas are starting to open, however, so soon enough we'll have that to share with you.

The Salt Lake Tribune recently had a list of fifty websites that are all about Utah and what this state has to offer - click here to get to the list.  I haven't checked all of them out yet but there's a wealth of information about the Beehive State, perfect for if you're thinking of exploring out here.

That's all I've got ... wish us snow!

Monday, November 8, 2010

snow men

Did y'all happen to catch the new Discovery Channel show, Snow Men?  It's about the folks who keep the highway open in Little Cottonwood Canyon so us skiers can get on up there to Alta: the snowplow drivers and the avalanche guys (technically "anti-avalanche guys" because they're working to ensure that no natural avalanches wreak havoc on the road and town of Alta).  It's on Fridays at 10:00 p.m., prime DVR time.

We watched the episode "Mission Impassable" and while I absolutely positively appreciate what these guys do and am really and truly thankful that they do it, it's not particularly compelling television.  The plow guys drive up and down the road, occasionally stopping in the garage to fix their trucks.  The avalanche guys tromp around the sides of the canyons and then set off howitzers to induce small avalanches to clear the potential for larger avalanches.  It's hard, exhausting and dangerous work to be sure, but it's a little light on the drama.  Still, it all takes place just moments away from our house so that was kind of fun.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

swap

The ski season is almost upon us: Ski Utah reports that Solitude and Brighton are hoping to open next Friday (11/12), and Alta is aiming for November 19, conditions permitting.  (Since it's nearly 70 and fairly sunny today, it's going to need to get quite a bit colder and precipation-er pretty quickly.)

To help get ourselves in the ski mood, we trekked through Parley's Canyon to the Park City Ski Swap.  Held Friday ($10 admission), Saturday ($5) and Sunday ($2), the PCSS is part clearinghouse for new and used - no older than 5 years, supposedly - ski and snowboard equipment and apparel and part fundraiser - 30% sales commission - for the Park City Ski Team. 

The Basin Recreation Field House was packed with outdoor clothing, skis, boards, boots, poles, helmets, goggles, backpacks and people.  We cruised the ski aisles several times but didn't end up picking anything out; we haven't really figured out what we want, other than "powder skis," and didn't feel like spending the money on skis we weren't sure about.  I did pick up a new lightweight base layer and a new-ish pair of aluminum Scott ski poles - my current sticks are +/- 25 years old and I thought it would be okay to have a pair from this decade.

So, I'm ready to break in those new poles and parka.  Still need to get my skis tuned but I'm ready - bring on the snow!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

tea rose diner

We tried another new place for breakfast last Sunday, picking one from a 2010 "best of Utah" list: the Tea Rose Diner in Murray.  It's a tiny place, just off State Street in historic Murray, and has the distinction of being both a Thai restaurant and an American style breakfast diner.  The waitress was Thai, very cute and personable; from the voices coming from the kitchen, I believe the cooks are Thai as well.

All the traditional American breakfast items are on the menu - everything egg, bacon, pancake, sausage, etc. - and also some Thai-influenced omelettes with carrot, ginger, sprouts and mushrooms.  H had the farmer's breakfast, which was cubed potatoes, cheese, egg and ham all scrambled together with bacon on top, while I had the tasty "Jim's breakfast sandwich" - scrambled egg, bacon, cheddar and tomato on whole wheat toast.  It was all good and the bacon was excellent: thick cut and meaty.

They have a full Thai menu for lunch and dinner and I'd be interested in going back there for dinner sometime.  They also apparently a huge selection of teas - the counter was lined with dozens of glass containers holding various teas, many of which are blended by hand.  I heard another customer order the "Christmas tea" and my interest was piqued, but by then I'd had a couple cups of coffee and didn't need any more hot beverage.  Next time we go for breakfast - and I would imagine we'll go there again - I'm getting some funky tea.

Monday, November 1, 2010

ebb and flow

I can't believe it's November already.  The summer seemed to stretch forever with the warm spring and warm fall ... and now it's gone.  To commemorate the changing of the seasons, check out these photos that H took.  It's Little Cottonwood Creek, as it runs through Midvale.  The first photo is from this spring when the creek was at crazy flood-stage with all the snow melt; the second is from the end of the summer. 

June 6th - massive amount of water flowing through there

October 22nd - same spot, not so much with the water

Saturday, October 30, 2010

a bar named sue

Right after we got out here, we heard about this local watering hole, A Bar Named Sue, and knew we'd have to try it.  Finally, over a year later, we did. 

Located in a strip mall near Nielsen's Frozen Custard, ABNS is a huge subterranean bar with free pool tables.  It's got an impressive number of taps, including twenty-five local microbrews; and an equally impressive selection of whiskeys: over twenty bourbons, eight Canadians and six ryes.  They also have a small dinner menu, average stuff, burgers and sandwiches.

We split a pitcher of - what else? - Full Suspension and each had a bacon cheeseburger.  The burgers were decently sized, although there was too much bun and the patties overcooked to my taste, and came with immense hand-cut seasoned fries which I liked but H thought were greasy.  The bill came to $31.00.

The place was fairly quiet when we got there around 7 p.m., but had begun to slowly fill up by the time we left.  It was fine and all but it's one of the few places we've found where we felt old.  I mean, we've been old in other bars we've found out here, but A Bar Named Sue was the first place we felt old.  Everyone was perfectly pleasant but it just wasn't our crowd.  We're glad to have checked it out - and if anyone is looking for a vast whiskey library, this is definitely the place to go - but we probably won't be back again anytime soon.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

more snow!

I promise that I won't do this every time it snows out here - because that would be really a lot.  But it snowed again last night, leaving a wet three inches in our yard ... and a grand total of 44 inches up at Alta since this storm system moved in.

44 INCHES!!!

Twenty-three days until the chairs start turning, conditions permitting.  If it keeps up like this, I should think the conditions would definitely permit.  Time to get the skis tuned!

Monday, October 25, 2010

utah 59, colorado state 6

By the grace of a really fast response to a company-wide email, I managed to score tickets to Saturday's football game at the U vs. Colorado State.  Of course, the forecast was 90% chance of showers and thundershowers with temperatures in the low to mid 50s.  Does that deter us?  No, it does not.  Quoth H: "There's no such thing as bad weather - only bad clothing decisions."

So. clad in boots and wool socks, polypro and fleece, parkas and ponchos* and hats, off we went.  We had great seats: actual chairs with backs, about 50 rows up at the 35th yard line.  It was pouring for the first half, causing some slipping and fumbling out on the field.  But it stopped raining for the whole second half, with a gorgeous double rainbow arching over the university campus to the east.  And the Utes carried their momentum to their twenty-first home win in a row, crushing poor Colorado State in the end. 

I may be a new fan, but I'm a dedicated one

* H had to make a special run to Wal-Mart to get ponchos, which were an unfortunate shade of BYU blue.  Once at the stadium, however, we noticed a lot of those same ponchos in the sea of Utah red, so plenty of other fans were in the same need-for-waterproofing situation we were.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

snow!

While it was pouring rain in the valley, the canyons and mountains were getting snow! The weather report says that Alta could have around 3 feet of the white stuff by Tuesday ... better get our skis tuned up and fast! Yay!!!!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

gepetto's

We tried a new-to-us place for Friday's Date Night: Gepetto's in Holladay.  It's a small, local place, been around since 1970, with seating both in their dining room and a small, shady-looking patio.  There's live music Tuesday-Saturday, and the joint is open 7 days/week.  It's pretty popular too: there were a bunch of people in front of us and we were told it would be at least 30 minutes to be seated.  It didn't take that long, however, and soon we had a table and a pitcher of Uinta Cutthroat.

As you might surmise from the name, this is an Italian place, known for their pizzas and their calzones.  We are still searching for a favorite pizza place, so H and I split a pepperoni and black olive pie (our usual 'za); there are lots of toppings to choose from, or you can pick from their specialty pies.  The pizza has a fairly thin crust, although it isn't crispy and has a fairly bland flavor.  The toppings were plentiful enough and there was lots of oregano in the sauce, which I like.  It also came garnished with a big slice of lemon - unusual, I thought, but adding a faint tang which was pleasant.

The bill, for a 16" pizza (several slices of which we took home with us for breakfast the next morning), two small salads and the pitcher, came to $40.  Gepetto's was fine and all, but I'm afraid the great pizza hunt is still a-foot.

Monday, October 18, 2010

hike to lake blanche

I'd been getting pretty antsy to go for a hike - it's been since Ben Lomond amazingly, things just come up, I guess - and since Saturday was supposed to be gorgeous, I picked the hike to Lakes Blanche, Florence and Lillian up Big Cottonwood Canyon (Mill B South trailhead).  We took our time leaving to allow it to warm up and it ended up being a glorious day: sunny and warm (70s) with a light breeze.

Pretty fall aspens

Stats: 5.8 miles round-trip with 2,670 feet of elevation gain, which makes it actually steeper than Timpanogos. I had done this hike in June with a work friend and her husband and, honestly, I didn't remember it as being a steep hike. Even as H and I were going up, it didn't seem steep ... but on the way down, our knees were howling at us. We did it in 3 hours 35 minutes, including 45 minutes of basking in the sunshine at the top, chatting with a couple of women who were hiking too.

Sundial Peak

The trail, which is sometimes rocky and sometimes smooth dirt, follows a stream for most of the way, going in and out of aspen groves. The canyon is fairly narrow with cliffs rising above - we looked for goats to no avail. Despite the warm temperatures, it really seemed like fall: the quality of the light, the falling leaves, that slight cinnamon-y smell.

Lakes Florence (near) and Lillian

This canyon was carved out by a glacier and when you get up to the three lakes, named after miner's wives, the rock lining the cirque still has the dig-marks in it.  Lake Blanche is located at the base of Sundial Peak; the smaller Lakes Florence and Lillian are in another bowl, slightly lower, below Dromedary Peak.  There were a good number of other hikers there (this is a quite popular hike) but everyone was spread out on the rocks and it still felt as though we were in the wilderness.  Not a bad way to spend a sunny October afternoon.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

going natural

H's birthday coincided with Monday's Columbus Day holiday and we had planned to go for a hike, seeing how it's been something like three weeks (!!!!!) since we've done one.  The weather did not so much cooperate: 50% chance of rain up in the canyons, plus we could see the ominous dark clouds just sitting there, resting on top of the mountains.  Obviously, that wasn't going to work.

Adverse weather does not affect doing city stuff, however, so after a stop in at Crown Burgers (my treat: Crown Burger combo for H; Junior Crown Burger combo for me), we headed up to the U to check out the Utah Museum of Natural History.  It's a nice little museum, small but informative, with biology, anthropology and earth sciences collections, including a pretty impressive dinosaur exhibit - largely because there are lots of fossils out here in Utah, especially east and south of here.  We timed our visit exactly wrong - to coincide with about a million junior high and elementary school kids - but spent over an hour and a half there, poring over the exhibits.  Did you know that there are over 1,200 kinds of bees native to Utah?  Me neither!

We swung by the football stadium afterwards, hoping to pick up tickets for any of the remaining home games (Colorado State, TCU and BYU).  I knew that BYU was - and had been - sold out, but we were surprised to learn that TCU was also sold out and it was SRO for Colorado State (no thank you, not at my age).  Last fall we nabbed tickets to both the games we went to the week before each game.  These early sell-outs do not bode well for obtaining any tickets next year when Utah switches to the PAC10.

Oh, what did I get H for his birthday, you ask?  A carboy and an ingredient kit for IPA ... it's time for H to start brewing beer again.  That's the gift that keeps on giving - to me, too!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

what's cooking

My garden was small this year (as it is every year - I'm not much of a gardener) but I've got four extremely prolific tomato plants and one fairly prolific tomatillo.  In fact, I'm not sure that I'll even get to most of the tomatillos: the plant is still full of blossoms and teensy little fruits, and I fear for a frost.  In the meantime, I've harvested tomatillos twice and delved into this cookbook that my little brother gave me about a million years ago, Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico by Rick Bayless.  I've never used this cookbook 'til now, not having had much access to authentic Mexican-type foods.  Enter the tomatillos!

The first recipe I tried was a chipotle chile sauce, salsa de chiles chipotles.  We've spread it on grilled chicken, grilled pork chops and dunked tortilla chips in it.  It tastes rather strongly of the chipotles, but I don't count that as a negative:

3 medium (4.5 oz.) fresh tomatillos, husked and washed
2 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 canned chipotle chiles, seeded
approx. 1/4 tsp. salt

Set a skillet over medium heat; set the tomatillos in the skillet and turn regularly until soft and blackened in spots.  While the tomatillos are roasting, toast the garlic in the skillet until soft.  Cool garlic, de-skin and chop.  Put the tomatillos, garlic, chipotles and 2 Tbsp. water in food processor and puree.  Scrape into sauce dish, season with salt and stir in a little water to thin slightly.

The other recipe I've done is a quick-cooked tomatillo-chile sauce, salsa verde.  This had a bright flavor and a building burn - very, very tasty.  I poached some chicken breasts and added them to the sauce at the end, and served over rice and with soft flour tortillas.

1 lb. (11 medium) tomatillos, husked and washed (or 2 13-oz canned tomatillos, drained)
fresh hot green chiles to taste (I used 4 serranos; jalapenos work too), stemmed
5 or 6 sprigs of cilantro, roughly chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil or lard
2 cups chicken broth
approx. 1/2 tsp salt

Boil the fresh tomatillos and chiles in salted water to cover, 10-15 minutes; drain. If using canned tomatillos, just drain them.  Place the tomatillos and chiles in food processor with cilantro, onion and garlic.  Puree 'til smooth, leaving some texture.  Heat the oil in a skillet on medium-high.  When hot, pour the puree in and stir constantly for 4-5 minutes until darker and thicker.  Add the broth, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt.

I don't know how many more meals I'll get out of my little garden, but all the plants have more than paid for themselves.  And I can tell you that I'll be picking up another tomatillo plant from ol' Home Depot next spring for sure.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

right to the top

A year ago, a week after our arrival in Utah, H jumped on his bike and headed up Little Cottonwood Canyon.  He only made it to the second avalanche gate before having to turn around.  When he got back to the apartment, he vowed (well, that might be a little strong - "said," is probably more accurate) to ride it again in a year and go all the way to the top.


One year later, Sunday, October 10, 2010, H jumped on his bike and headed up Little Cottonwood Canyon.  He rode right to the top this time.

Stats:  1 hour 31 minutes; 12.94 miles; average speed 8.5 mph; 3,825' elevation gain.  (In comparison, when he did the Mt. Washington Hill Climb, the Mt. Washington Auto Road is 7.6 miles long with 4,620' elevation gain.)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

new stuff

Finally. Finally we've done some new stuff to talk about.  Friday night was, of course, Date Night and we went to a new bar/grill not too far from our house, The Foxhole.  Housed in space formerly occupied by a Mexican restaurant, it's got a sports bar vibe, with lots of seating, lots of televisions and team banners but not much in the way of charm.  There's a small bar, which is where we sat, with both local micros and big lagers on tap, as well as a full bar.  "Full bar" is only relative, however, as patrons ordered numerous drinks that the bar was unable to make simply because they didn't have the ingredients on hand.  They've only been open for 2-3 weeks and I imagine they'll get their act together soon ... I wouldn't expect orders for Old Fashioneds in a sports bar either.  The food was mediore but not bad and as this place is within summertime-evening walking distance, I imagine we'll go back again at some point.  They've got a second location (or a first one) out in West Jordan too.

Saturday we'd heard there was a free music/climate change awareness festival up at Liberty Park so we gave that a try.  They sold beer (Uinta and Budweiser products) and wine (Fish Eye boxes) and there were a number of local festival food stalls:  the Chow Truck, a Texas BBQ joint, Greek food, Indian food, etc.  The music was pretty good - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was the headliner, playing from 2-3 p.m. and then again from 6-7 p.m., and we caught the end of their first set; and we also stayed for Insatiable, a local ska band who seemed solid.  The skies cleared so that it was nearly sunny and the people-watching was excellent: I think all the old hippies, post-modern hippies, hipster doofuses and New Agers in the greater SLC area were in attendance.

After leaving the festival, we were on a quest to find Lumpy's Downtown, sister bar to the Lumpy's near 3300 South, because the U's football game against Iowa State was being shown on a t.v. channel that we don't get at home.  We finally found the bar, tucked into a tiny street right downtown (hence the name - clever), did two circuits trying to find a place to sit, and left.  It's a big place but the seating arrangement is kind of stupid, with a lot of space taken up with tiny booths and comfy lounge chairs - they could get a lot more people seated if they put in long communal tables and benches, a la Three Dollar Dewey's and Gritty's in Portland (ME). 

We ended up at Squatters, just a block away, snarfing down our food while we watched the LSU v. Florida game.  Squatters doesn't get that channel the U was on either.  (The U crushed 'em: 68-27.)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

cloudy

There hasn't been much posting activity here lately because we actually laid low and didn't do anything this past weekend ... plus I am in SHOCK over not having seen the sun since the weekend.  It's been cloudy and rainy and in the low 60s all week - really quite vulgar.  But the skies will clear and the ground will dry and we'll hit the trails again soon.  Captain Mike even sent us the link to the Wasatch Mountain Club's events calendar so we'll have no excuses at all.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

happy utahniversary

Holy crow, has it been a year already?  I can't believe it's been a year - not to sound like an old person, but where has the time gone?  I can tell you where it's gone: I just paged through every single one of this blog's posts for the last year, and the time is laid out there in (excruciating) detail.  Here are some highlights:

October.  We "officially" arrived in SLC at 2:43 p.m. on 10/3; we found an apartment; we met Captain Mike for the first time; we went to our first football game at the U (23-16 win over Air Force); our first official Utah snowstorm was on 10/28.

November.  I started my new job on 11/9; we got our first "loyal customer discount" at the Porcupine; we hired a realtor; I ran the Thanksgiving morning Cold Turkey 6K.

December.  H's parents visited during an unusual cold snap; more snow; our first ski day was 12/19 at Brighton; H skied Alta for the first time on Christmas Eve; we skied Solitude on Christmas Day.

January.  H skied Alta on New Year's Eve; we got into Honeycomb Canyon at Solitude; I turned 40; we experienced our first SLC inversion; we experienced our first Utah waist-deep powder day; we skied for the first (and only) time at The Canyons.

February.  I had my first Crown Burger; we went to the Red Iguana for the first time; we bought a house and didn't do too much skiing because of the dearth of snow and the whole having to move in/unpack thing.

March.  I skied Alta for the first time; our friend Tom visited; a bunch of eastern ski-friends visited; we skied for the first (and only) times at Snowbird and Snowbasin; snowshoeing with Captain Mike.

April.  Lots of snow ("7 feet in 7 days!") and, thus, lots of skiing; we did our first spring hike; B got her summer haircut.

May.  Our friends P&C visited; I got to be a zookeeper for a day; it snowed on 5/24 (and stuck); my folks visited; we hiked Timpanogos Cave.

June.  We climbed Mt. Olympus and did many other hikes; Little Cottonwood Creek flooded; Snowbird finally shut down its lifts for the season; we went to the Snowbird Beer Fest.

July.  H rode his bike a lot; I rescued some kittens; we went to the Pioneer Days "Days of '47 Rodeo;" we did lots of hikes, including up to gorgeous White Pine Lake.

August.  H rode his bike a bunch; we did a lot of hikes, seeing some spectacular alpine wildflowers; we went to the Bonneville Salt Flats for Speed Week (one day of it); the Tour of Utah put in some miles in these mountains; we celebrated our ninth anniversary at Log Haven; it snowed in the upper elevations on 8/30.

September.  H rode his bike a lot; we did quite a lot of hikes, including two big ones: Timpanogos and Ben Lomond; we saw the sheepdog trials and some ghost towns; we went to the Utah State Fair; H's parents came back to visit again.

We had a great year - and we're looking forward to new adventures and places and untracked powder in this our second year in Utah.  Thanks for reading and please stay tuned for the upcoming exploits of H and A and B, right here on We Went West.

Friday, October 1, 2010

pretty

Even though it's still pretty warm, it's definitely autumn out here and the leaves they are a-changing.  While there's a little bit of soft pink foliage-wise (maples and sumacs), we definitely don't have the vivid reds and oranges that they have back east.  But golden-yellow we do have: the aspens are just glorious.  the best ones we've found are up at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, on the hills surrounding Silver Lake and up the road even further, heading towards Guardsmans Pass.  Takes your breath away, it does.

At Silver Lake 

Up Big Cottonwood Canyon a-ways

Thursday, September 30, 2010

one year ago today ...

... we put Maine in our rear view mirror, heading west on this epic* adventure. We love our friends and family back east but we haven't looked back yet.



Fall shoreline, Wolfs Neck Park, Freeport, Maine

I can't believe a year has gone by already. Rest assured there will be a BIG commemorative post celebrating the one year anniversary of our arrival in the Beehive State.

Not the prettiest locale, but self-explanatory

* epic to us, anyway


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

until we meet again

Our houseguests (H's folks) went back east today, leaving us with nice memories of a great visit.  This is one of my favorite photos from the long weekend:


That's on the ride down the mountain on Snowbird's Peruvian lift.  Too bad nobody looks like they're having any fun!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

houseguests

You might have guessed from the complete lack of recent posts that we've had houseguests.  Well, yes, that's true.  And we still do, but here's a quick run-down of what we've been doing, and I'll elaborate as may be necessary in an upcoming post or two.

Thursday:  lunch at Squatters; tour of SLC library; drive up Mill Creek Canyon; beers on the patio at the Hog Wallow.

Friday:  scenic drives on the Mt. Nebo loop and the Alpine loop, with a stop in at Sundance in between; dinner at Fratelli.

Saturday:  garden tour at the Sego Lily Garden; chairlift ride at Snowbird; Utah vs. San Jose State football up at the U.

Sunday: breakfast at the Silver Fork; short walk at Silver Lake in Brighton; scenic drive over Guardsman Pass; walk around the Sunday market at Park City; beers at the No-Name Saloon; scenic drive through Morgan County and back down Emigration Canyon.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

good news for local brews

The 2010 Great American Beer Festival was held in Boulder, Colorado, last weekend and Utah beer done did itself proud:  the Utah Brewers Cooperative won best mid-sized brewing company (they brew for Wasatch and Squatters), and several other breweries won various medals, including Red Rock getting a silver for the Nut Brown Ale and Squatters a gold for their Witbier.  Mike over at Utah Beer runs down the list of local winners.  I say we should go pick a local brewery and raise a glass to celebrate!

Monday, September 20, 2010

doesn’t that just get your goat?

Inspired by our long hike up Timpanogos a week ago Sunday, we decided on another lengthy one for this past Sunday: Ben Lomond, in Ogden. This is a long hike - 16.4 miles roundtrip - but the ascent is quite gentle (3,532 foot elevation gain) and the footing is pretty good, mostly dirt and gravel with some loose rocks near the peak. Our guidebook told us to plan for 8 to 9 hours of hiking; we did it in 6 hours and 17 minutes.



We started at 7:30 a.m., parking in the trailhead lot on the North Ogden Canyon Road. The first bit consists of long switchbacks (we counted ten of them) that brought us up out of the canyon to the ridge. From there, we simply walked up, steadily but not at all steeply, crossing back and forth along the ridge, through meadows and evergreen forests. There are expansive views right from the get-go on this hike: Snowbasin, the Ogden Valley and Pineview Reservoir to the east; Salt Lake Valley, Antelope Island and Willard Bay to the west. And rising ahead of us, Ben Lomond – purportedly the inspiration for the iconic Paramount Pictures logo.

Maybe it looks a little like the logo ...

The highlight of the hike was right around Chilly Peak when H stopped suddenly to let five mountain goats – three adults and two fuzzy kids – cross the trail in front of us. They were no further than thirty feet away. And when we looked up the cliffs to our right, there were another 6 or 7 goats up there, gazing interestedly down at us. As you might imagine, we stayed there as long as they did, taking pictures. Finally: goats up close!

Goats! No binoculars necessary!

When we got to the saddle, the trail changed a little bit, becoming rockier and a little loose as we headed up the final 1.5 miles to the summit. But although the trail got a little steeper, it was never onerous. The views from the summit of Ben Lomond are spectacular, stretching out in all directions. It was really windy, however, so we lingered only long enough to admire the vistas, take a bunch of photos and sign the register before retreating a little ways down to a more sheltered spot for lunch.

View to the east on the way down - looking like autumn

The walk out went really quickly, what with the pretty good footing and steady/gentle descent. We decided that we didn’t even mind out-and-back trails (as opposed to loops) when the views are so good. The last bit was quite hot – those ten switchbacks down to the trailhead – and seemed a little long because of it. There isn’t any water on the trail at all so we had to carry a lot with us; I went through most of mine on that last little bit, wanting to hydrate before I got to that cold PBR waiting in the cooler at the truck.

The long (fairly flat) road home

We had an excellent day - Ben Lomond is a great hike. I totally recommend this as a gorgeous, easy trail to a little-visited peak ... if you are fit enough to do the 16+ miles.

Friday, September 17, 2010

filling filler

Sorry about the posting gap: I had intended to space the last couple of posts out better.  Still, here are some blurbs about recent dining experiences, if you're interested.

Wild Grape Bistro – Some work friends and I went here for lunch a couple of weeks ago.  It's a medium-priced bistro not far from downtown in the Avenues area serving new American food - sort of medium-priced in a not too charismatic space, but with pretty good food.  They're known for their grape salad.  I had a fabulous watermelon gazpacho.  The wine menu is pretty interesting, although not particularly cheap.  (481 East South Temple)

Himalayan Kitchen – Nepalese/Indian restaurant at 360 South State Street.  Some other work friends and I went for their Wednesday lunch buffet which included butter chicken, tandoori chicken, vegetable chowchow (stirfried noodles and veggies), aloo gobi (potato/cauliflower), saag paneer, vegetable curry, battered fried veggies, two kinds of rice, poori (fried puff breads), flatbread, several chutneys and hot relishes, rice pudding and mango pudding. Very yummy and I’d like to go back for dinner to order off the menu.

Davanza's - just went there tonight on the recommendation of the random girl who cut H's hair yesterday.  $14.00 Full Suspension pitchers - or $10.00 for PBR pitchers (you know, I'll drink it out of a can because it goes down quickly and you don't have to see how pale it is, but there's no way I'm ever ordering a pitcher of PBR).  I had two $2 carnitas (pork) tacos with pico de gallo and a squeeze of fresh lime - super tasty and just enough - and H had the $7.75 chile verde taco which was really quite good.  Seems like a pretty local place (it's close to an apartment complex that H and I looked at and decided against) -definitely good for cheap and tasty eats and good Utah beer.

Monday, September 13, 2010

mount timpanogos

Sunday was a great day.  Sunday, you see, was the day we climbed Mount Timpanogos which, at 11,749 feet at the summit, is the second highest peak in the Wasatch (second only to Mount Nebo at 11,928 feet).  We did the Timpooneke Trail: 14.8 miles roundtrip with 4,389 feet of elevation gain - that's 593 feet of elevation per mile - and it took us 7.5 hours.  My knees may have been screaming afterwards, but it was worth it.

7 a.m., 37 degrees ... and smiling!

We got an early start, wanting to avoid the heat of the day and the crowds as best we could.  "Early" meant leaving the house at 6 a.m. and hitting the trail at 7 a.m.  It was 37 degrees when we started and we were in the shade for a while before the sun came up enough to reach over the mountains.  The first part of the trail is pretty mellow, mostly a dirt path with some rocks and a couple of scree slope crossings (which are tough on the ankles).  We worked our way up the drainage - the five benches called the "Grand Staircase" - and got to the Timpanogos Basin (elevation 10,2000 feet) in just under 2.5 hours.

The massive massif itself, Timpangogos
The Basin is a big meadow bowl, now covered in the remains of alpine wildflowers.  There's a lake up there (Emerald Lake, that we did not get to, but if you take the Aspen Grove trail up Timp, it goes right by the lake), and the bowl is ringed with dramatic cliffs.  Above it all Timpanogos rises.  We continued up the switchbacks to the Saddle (11,050 feet) which has amazing views of the Utah Valley to the west and south, and into the Heber Valley to the east.  Many people make the Saddle their destination but we could see the summit, just 0.9 miles off/700 feet up and knew we weren't done.

Right on top of the world
It took us just under 45 minutes to climb that 0.9 mi./700 feet.  The up is steady with often-steep switchbacks and the terrain is intimidating for sure, the mountainside falling away in steep scree slopes.  But once we got up to the summit at 10:45 a.m., it was just amazing.  360 degree views - it seemed like you could see everything!  The mountains and rock formations surrounding Timpanogos are quite stunning, curvy and looming, carved out by glaciers.  It was just spectacular.
Amazing formations to the west
It was also a little chilly, so we took a bunch of pictures, snarfed some snacks, and headed back down after 20 minutes.  I had thought the climb back to the Saddle would take a long time because of the loose footing, but we made it down about five minutes faster than it took us to go up.  What took us a long time was the slog trek out once we got down off Timp: those scree slopes were brutal, plus this hike is a good five miles longer than the previously longest we've done (White Pine Lake).

The hut at Emerald Lake waaaaaaay down there
Although Timpanogos is a very popular and busy hike, often with 1,000 hikers on any given summer Saturday, we only saw around 100 people (and 11 or 12 dogs) on our hike - and we are happy to say that only three of them passed us, either going up or going down.  We are less happy to say that despite being promised that the Timpanogos Basin is practically overflowing with mountain goats that are unafraid of people and will often come within 20 yards, making for perfect photo-ops, we only saw six mountain goats at a distance that made binoculars a necessity.

There's goats in them thar hills (really!)

Make no mistake: Timpangogos is a big ol' hunk of rock.  To give my eastern readers some perspective: Timp has, as I mentioned, 4,389 feet of elevation gain; Mt. Washington, from Pinkham Notch to the summit, has 4,256 feet of elevation gain.  And what's extra cool:  the Timpooneke trailhead, at 7,360 feet, is 1,072 feet higher than the top of Mt. Washington.  Very excellent mountain, very excellent hike, very excellent day.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

fair weather

Undaunted by our lackluster SLCo Fair experience, we had high(-ish) hopes as we headed to the Utah State Fair on Saturday.  It's a little incongruous, having the Fairpark right in the middle of the state's capital city (155 North 1000 West), when so much of the state is ranchland and agricultural land, but it's super-convenient for us city-dwelling fairgoers. 

The first state fair was held in 1856 not long after the pioneers got out here; the current 65-acre fairgrounds were purchased in 1902.  The fairpark's buildings are beautiful, both the exhibitions halls and the livestock barns.  Although this fair is smaller than the Fryeburg Fair (my benchmark), with less than half the animals and a smaller midway, it is extremely clean and nicely laid out.  Even the carnival rides looked like they were in good shape - and the carnies were hardly sketchy looking at all.

Pretty swanky digs for sheep

Special events at this year's fair include: an evening rodeo, a travelling sea lion show, racing pigs, a 13-foot long alligator (admission extra) and numerous musical acts including Boyz II Men (free) and America (also free).  There's a nice variety of fair food too, from your standard bloomin' onions and funnel cakes, to Navajo tacos (at $10 per I did not get one) and tamales, to Hawaiian kahlua pig, to BBQ.  H went with a Moochie's Philly cheesesteak while I was SORELY disappointed with my deep-fried chocolate-covered bacon ... which turned out to be nothing more than a strip of bacon stuck on a stick and fried, and then drizzled with chocolate sauce.  The least they could have done was dunked it in batter first - that's what they were doing with the Oreo cookies and PB&J sandwiches.

The bacon is a total rip-off:
go with the Oreos or Snickers instead

Another nice feature that we discovered at the Utah State Fair was all the beer stands: you could purchase a beer - American lagers on draft or Unita Cutthroat in bottles - and walk around the fair with them.  (I think there's a beer tent at the Fryeburg Fair but you have to stay there to drink.)  The best part was that we got our beers 3-for-2: we each ordered a bottle of Cutthroat and the guy poured them into cups, then topped them off with a third bottle that he had opened inadvertently for a prior customer who wanted Hefeweizen.  Yay for us!

The sheep in UT are WAY bigger than the ME sheep

We're glad we went to the Fair.  It was a gorgeous day (80 and perfectly clear) and just right for walking around, looking at fair stuff.  I just don't think we need to do it again anytime soon - too many other things to do, like the Greek Festival, Utah Beer Fest, Snowbird's Octoberfest, the U vs. UNLV game, Alta rec center triathlon ...