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


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 ...

Friday, September 10, 2010

west desert day

It was H's turn to pick what we did on our Labor Day holiday and he selected a part of Utah that we really hadn't explored: the nearby bits of the West Desert, west and south of the Oquirrh Mountains.  We started with a trip to the Camp Floyd/Stagecoach Inn State Park, located in tiny Fairfield (off Hwy 73). 

The Stagecoach Inn, built 1855

Camp Floyd was at one point the third largest city in Utah, when President Buchanan, fearing a Mormon rebellion, sent 3,500 federal troops to Utah to keep an eye on things.  Camp followers increased Camp Floyd's size to nearly 7,000 and the town (called by some "The Hell Hole of the West") was notorious for its many saloons and gambling halls, whores and gunslingers.  From 1860-1861, Fairfield was also a Pony Express stop and the Stagecoach Inn, built in 1855, was expanded when the town became an Overland Stage stop as well.  The inn still stands, now a museum.

Ophir's ghost town hall never gets direct sun,
that's why it's not bleached out

A little further north on UT-73 is the Ophir Canyon road.  Ophir was once a booming mining town - named after the biblical town where King Solomon's mines were found - but went bust as so many of them did.  It's not a total ghost town as there are several occupied residences up the beautiful, steep-walled little canyon, but there are many abandoned buildings and decrepit mining equipment lining the main street.  It's now a National Historic Site and we got out and walked around a bit.  High up above us on the north wall of the canyon you can see the old tracks leading out of a mine with a string of cars just abandoned there, rusting away.  Many of the buildings are in great condition, some restored and some just protected from the elements by the narrow canyon.  Ophir is cool.

Typical West Desert fenceline

Not ready to head home yet, we turned south on UT-36 and did a little loop on a dirt road in part of the Uinta National Forest, down by the Sheeprock Mountains.  Some might find this landscape sere and empty but we thought it was beautiful: wide golden and sage-green range land ringed by rolling mountains.  There was a slight breeze, stirring up random dust devils, and not a cloud to be seen anywhere.  We pulled over onto a side road and pulled out our camp chairs for a ham sandwich and PBR picnic; every pickup truck that rolled past us (pulling ATV-laden trailers and heading back after the long weekend) gave us a wave and a smile. 

We had to wash the truck

It really felt like we were in the absolute middle of nowhere and I bet the stars are spectacular at night.  It was so peaceful - couldn't hear a darn thing out there - and we resolved to get some camping equipment and go back out there.  I find it amazing that everywhere we go, the scenery is so different - the Wasatch front vs. the Uintas vs. the West Desert (vs. the southern redrock, although we haven't gone back down there since we moved) - and yet I just find all of it so striking and beautiful.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

h earns his breakfast

H has been putting a lot of miles on his bike lately.  It's very impressive.  To encourage his training, I suggested that perhaps on Sunday he might want to bike from our house to the top of Emigration Canyon: 23.6 miles with an elevation gain of 1,864 feet, mostly at the very end.  Then I could drive up there (what? I'm certainly not going to ride my bike to the top of a canyon) and then we could have breakfast at Ruth's Diner together to celebrate.

I gave him a 45 minute head start, finally passing him about two-thirds of the way up the canyon.  He was cranking, though, because by the time I got up to the top, parked the car and pulled out my book, I hadn't gotten through more than ten pages before he crested the summit.  [Edited to add: H thinks I may be casting aspersions on his prowess as a cyclist, what with the "ten pages" comment. However, not only am I a wicked fast reader but the book I was reading I've read many times before, is a YA fantasy novel and has large-ish print.  So "not more than ten pages" truly means "H was riding up the canyon really quickly."]

Being a gorgeous holiday weekend and all, it was packed at Ruth's, although we waited less than 15 minutes before we were seated.  For me (since I hadn't ridden 23.6 miles): the fruit, granola and yogurt parfait; for H (because he had): eggs, bacon, sausage, sourdough toast and cheesy homefries.  And I even paid.

Monday, September 6, 2010

a dog's life

We almost missed this (our calendar system definitely has a flaw in that if we don't look for stuff to add to the calendar, the calendar gets empty): the Soldier Hollow Classic Sheepdog Championship.  Luckily I was paging through the local alternative newspaper Saturday morning while H was biking and found an article about it.  He got back from his ride, got cleaned up and off we went - after a brief stop in at the Murray Sports Authority's "SNIAGRAB*" sale to buy a new and less dowdy ski parka for me and a new soft shell for H.  Skiing is coming after all.

After the shopping we headed off to the Heber Valley, where our GPS told us to drive through the adorable town of Midway en route to the Soldier Hollow cross country ski venue where the sheepdog trials were being held.  Unfortunately, our GPS did not tell us that "Swiss Days" was in full swing in Midway, an event also missing from our calendar.  It will not be missing next year: there were far more people attending Swiss Days than were at the Salt Lake County Fair.

We finally made it through the crowds and slow-moving traffic and paid $5 to park in a field below the Soldier Hollow Resort.  This fee, plus the $12 entry fee (plus the $$ fair food) made for an expensive afternoon's entertainment.  But the cost was more than made up for by seeing all these dogs - working border collies, a performing agility troupe of rescue dogs and the water-loving "splash dogs" - out and about and having fun.

Going the distance

The Splash Dog competition was an open field where folks could sign their own pets up for a chance to dive off a platform into a pool for fame and everlasting glory.  Many of these dogs just launched themselves off the platform; some, an adorable puppy included, had to be convinced that it was a good idea.  A lot of these dogs seemed to be rescue dogs, including Bruce, a happy, three-legged black lab, whose 7+ foot leap was a personal best for him (the winning jump was 21+ feet).  The crowd cheered for everyone, regardless of the distance.

The border collie trials, an international event with forty-two competitors from all over the world every continent, are impressive.  A small herd of five range sheep (large and fairly brave (for sheep) sheep who live out on their own) were positioned a  l  o  n  g  ways away from the dog and its handler.  Guided only by the handler's whistle and occasional shouted commands, the sheepdog must bring the sheep down and across the field, around through three gates (which these semi-wild sheep are not interested in doing, going through gates), then back to the handler where the dog must "shed" the five sheep into a pair and a trio.  Finally, the handler opens a pen and the dog must put all five sheep into the pen (which the sheep are even less interested in doing, being penned up) - all within a thirteen minute time limit. 

Workin' dog

The dogs on the leader board had apparently all run in the morning, and we didn't see anybody actually pen the sheep.  But these border collies possessed impressive skills that didn't necessarily seem connected to their age and experience.  The last run of the day was by a young dog named Wyn.  She did great, quickly driving the sheep down and putting them through two of the three gates, and even shedding the sheep without breaking a sweat.  Right at the end, however, as she was supposed to collect them and push them towards the pen, Wyn got frustrated and darted towards one of the sheep.  She didn't come close to nipping it, but that was a break in form that disqualified her run.  Hopefully she did better on her second run on Sunday.

The good thing is that all these dogs don't get disappointed or feel bad if they don't do well.  They're outside, doing what they love to do and were built to do - whether it's retrieving a buoy off a dock or driving sheep across a mountainside.  We would all do well to take a lesson from them and learn to enjoy living in the moment every now and again.

* That's BARGAINS spelled backward.  Sigh.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Yesterday was the eleven month anniversary of our arrival in Utah.  What did we do to celebrate?  What we always do: go to the Porcupine, just as we did that fateful day nearly a year ago (since we didn't know of any other place, really).  Fortuitously, one of the bartenders whom we met on our first day at the Porcupine was on last night - Edd, whom I had run into at Target earlier in the day (random).  We like Edd.  He's gregarious, has good stories and an amazing recall for names/faces, and is a wicked good bartender.  I can't believe we've been here almost a year.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

halftime report

I can't post much right now, partly because it's halftime during the Pittsburgh v. Utah game (H has been hilariously and awesomely calling out a play-by-play to me from the t.v. room since I don't have a laptop and am currently confined to the office), but also because we don't have much to report.  It's all been work of late. 

The long weekend is coming right up, however, and the weather is supposed to be FABULOUS - I'm guessing there will be much time spent outside, biking and hiking.  And weeding, unfortuately.  I'm going to have to stop reading so many novels and pick up a few landscaping/xeriscaping/native plants books at the library: I have had it with these flower beds and am determined to do something different, more low maintenance and less water-needy next year.

Gotta go - current score: Utah 14-7 Pittsburgh, 1st and goal for Utah in the third quarter.  Go Utes!