Monday, May 31, 2010

where east met west

The weather for this Memorial Day weekend was only supposed to be fair to middling, with the best day on Sunday, so when it dawned overcast and rainy-ish on Saturday, H proposed that we throw the dog in the car and roadtrip up to Corinne.  What, pray tell, is in Corinne, Utah?  Not all that much, actually, but it's the closest town to the Golden Spike National Historic Site, the site where on May 10, 1869, the Central Pacific railroad met the Union Pacific at Promontory Summit, thus joining the east and west coasts by rail.

Right there: that's where the final spike went in

All this takes place up on the northern edge of the Great Salt Lake in Box Elder County, not far from the Idaho border.  It's great landscape up there because the valley between the rolling Promontory Mountains and the Bear River Range of the Wasatch Mountains is mostly farmland, and must look largely the same as it did 100+ years ago when the railroads came through.  The Salt Lake Valley down where we are is stuffed to bursting with housing developments and commercial/industrial buildings; it's pretty much just farmland up there to the north.

This is the wood-burning engine; the other burned coal

The Golden Spike National Historic Site has gorgeous replicas of the two trains that met when the last spike was driven, a visitors' center with lots of exhibits and a couple of self-guided auto tours along the historic railroad grades.  The longer western tour was closed due to too many cattle being on the range (love it) but the shorter eastern tour was open, so after we checked out the trains, etc., at the visitors' center, we drove along that and then stopped for a short hike out to the Big Fill, despite the steady rain.

Staying dry in a cache the railroads used to store supplies

This walk follows along the historic grades where both railroads, driven to collect their government incentives, went past their purported meeting place and laid out parallel train tracks.  We walked out on the Central Pacific grade and back on the Union Pacific, through the massive cuts the railroad workers - Mormon and Irish and Chinese, mostly - dug out by hand.  I'm not as keen on train stuff as H is, but it was pretty interesting stuff and a really amazing engineering feat.

H on the historic Union Pacific grade

And after all that history, we just had to stop by Rooster's brewpub in Ogden because it really was on the way home.  Best part?  They're having a 15th anniversary celebration and the beers were only $2.50 each.  (My Santa Fe chicken salad was tasty too.)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

we're #5!

A recent Kiplinger survey of the "best cities for the next decade" examined those urban places with economic vitality, livability, creativity, and neighborhoods and recreational facilities with a high level of "coolness."  Salt Lake City comes in right smack dab in the middle at #5, with the study lauding the jobs and low cost of living so close to the fabulous mountains.  I'm not sure what they mean by "downtown living is about to get more popular," however.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

new favorite reptile

As promised, here are photos of the recent horned toad sightings.  In his natural, Emigration Canyon habitat:

And being cuddled by my dad:

So cute!  Thanks for sending those along, Mom and Coach! xoxoA

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

round two of the may visitors

The reason it's been so sparse around here is because the parental units, mine this time, were in town for a visit and there's no posting when you're hosting!  H and I had been hoping for great weather what with it being nearly June and all, and while it didn't reach the epic levels of suckitude that we got when P and C were here, it was much cooler and rather cloudier than we really wanted.  Still, we shouldn't complain since the snow held off until the day they left.

We started the visit off with a bang, taking my folks straight to the Cottonbottom for garlic burgers and beers as soon as they got off the plane. We didn't stay up too late catching up, however, as we had an appointment to meet my dad's college roommate and his wife, who live in Holladay, at Ruth's for breakfast at 8:15 a.m. Sunday morning. They traded reminiscences over huevos rancheros and corned beef hash, and my dad managed to come up with one or two stories that Howard's wife hadn't heard yet. I'm surprised that she didn't bolt for her car as soon as she was able.

Still a little bit of snow

After breakfast we kept going up Emigration Canyon to do that hike up Dale Peak from the Little Dell Reservoir overlook that H and I did back in January.  This was our best day weather-wise, clear and sunny, and the trail was mostly clear of snow, plus we had a great view into the Salt Lake valley since there was no inversion this time.  The wildflowers are starting to burst onto the scene but the highlight was all the little horned toads that were scurrying around in the underbrush.  My dad caught one for photographic purposes and will hopefully send me the picture so I can share it with you.  Horned toads are my new favorite reptile!  After the hike, we did a quick drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon to see ALL the snow and then stopped in at the Hog Wallow for beers on the patio.  The pleasant and shady patio at the Hog Wallow is my new favorite outdoor bar area!

My folks had brought their camping stuff and headed south to Zion on Monday morning (where they took lots of fantastic hikes and didn't hardly get rained on at all), returning to our house Thursday afternoon.  We had dinner at the Red Iguana - something my mom had requested we do - and it was, as expected, fabulous.  I had the red pipian mole this time (good, but not as complex as the mole negro), H had chile verde, my dad had enmoladas (refried bean tortilla packets smothered in mole negro, queso ranchero and cotija) and my mom had the best of all - the special pistachio mole over a grilled chicken breast.

H had to work Friday so my folks and I drove down to Provo Canyon.  Mom's other request was to check out the Sundance Resort (even though I couldn't promise that ol' Bob Redford would be there) but first we drove past the resort to hike up to pretty Stewart Falls.  It's a fairly easy hike, about 3 miles round-trip, through meadows and aspen glades on a well-traveled path, ending up at a lovely waterfall with a view of the ski resort.  They even allow dogs on this trail so B got to go with us: she was very well-behaved although she didn't like it when I left my mom holding the leash so my dad and I could glissade down a snowbank.  After strolling through Sundance, we hopped onto the Provo River Parkway at Vivian Park, walking for a bit along the river in the sunshine.  We called H on our drive north and he met us at the Porcupine for a couple of beers.  You always have to go to the Porcupine, you know.

Bird-watching at Fielding Garr Ranch

Saturday morning was pretty socked in along the Wasatch Front but it looked clear to the west, so we put aside our new rule about not going to Antelope Island in April and May, and went to Antelope Island.  By the time we got to the Fielding Garr Ranch, the clouds had moved in and it was cold and rainy ... but amazingly the wind picked up - a lot - and blew the storm system through.  It ended up being clear and sunny, and the wind kept up which kept the dang noseeums at bay.  We hiked up to Dooly Knob (my dad really kind of wanted to do Frary Peak but none of us was dressed for how cold it was) which has great views of the north/west portions of the island.  The bison were pretty scarce but we saw a lot of pronghorns, including one who came pretty near and wasn't at all concerned about us snapping pictures of him.

No more pictures, people, that's enough

We stopped in at Squatter's on our way through town, quaffing some nice brews and watching some of the U.S. women's soccer game vs. Germany.  Then, ravenous, we went to Taste of Punjab for an early dinner: butter chicken (a tandoori curry), lamb saag (with spinach), chicken vindaloo (with potatoes) and the best dish, once again chosen by Mom, lamb coconut korma.

Spires above Neff Canyon

Sunday morning once again found us breakfasting with my dad's roommate Howard, this time at Millcreek Cafe & Eggworks, a new breakfast place for H and me (and one recommended by my work-neighbor Jody).  It's bright and shiny and modern; my dad and I had biscuits and sausage gravy, which gravy could have been spicier although I suppose it's dependent on the sausage, and Howard was a little surprised to find crispy tortillas with his huevos rancheros.  After breakfast Howard took us up Neff Canyon which is beautiful: shaded by lots of trees, with a vivacious stream down the middle and interesting cliffs and rock formations overhead.  After that hike we thought to do a little more walking and went up to the Living Room where a nice hiker took our picture while we entertained her black lab puppy.  All that hiking made us thirsty so we stopped in at the Desert Edge brewery before heading home.

It's much greener in the foothills these days

And that's the visit - because we had to get up reeeeeeeaaallly early to get my folks to the airport Monday morning, but luckily they got out before the snow really started. And, of course, it was sunny and in the mid-70s when they got back to Maine that afternoon. Figures. But, as H and I are learning, the weather doesn't need to be ideal when you've got enthusiastic visitors who are up for anything. As long as "anything" is hiking, drinking beer and spending time with people you care about.

What a sketchy crew!

Monday, May 24, 2010

it's almost june

And not only did it snow today, the snow stuck:

At least the snow hides the dandelions

Snowbird has extended its season until June 20th which, if they make it 'til then, means 199 day ski season - crazy.  Me, I'm just worried that my tomato plants won't make it and the poor tomatillo already looks pretty bad.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

this blog has not been abandoned

We just have houseguests and I haven't had the time/wherewithall to post anything.  New content and pictures forthcoming soon(ish) - promise!

Monday, May 17, 2010

mo' momos, please

I was lucky enough to be the recipient of my work neighbor Jody's leftovers from lunch today: two beef momos from the new Everest Tibetan Restaurant, just down the street from our office.  Momos are Tibetan dumplings, like potstickers but with a fluffier dough, and these were stuffed with ground beef, onion and a few peas and carrots, and served with a very spicy, creamy dipping sauce.  I haven't been to this restaurant myself and hope it sticks around - apparently the building it occupies has been bad luck for the last few enterprises that have attempted to make a go of it - because those tender little momos were super-tasty.  I am a big dumpling fan in general and am quite pleased to have added these to my dining repertoire.  Perhaps sometime soon I'll get some momos to go-go and let H have a taste too ... if they can survive the homeward commute alone with me.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

keeper for a day

I don't remember now if I mentioned this here, but way back in January H got me a "Keeper for the Day" gig at the Hogle Zoo. The Keeper for the Day program is a fund-raiser: basically you give a donation and you get to tag along with a real zookeeper for a bit as they go about their daily duties: preparing diets, cleaning enclosures, offering enrichment (something out of the animal's ordinary that is placed in their enclosure to give their brains a bit of a workout, like a traffic cone or a bit of another animal's shed fur or a wind chime). I had selected to hang with the "Hoofstock" keeper - hoofstock being camels, bison, antelope, llamas, bighorn sheep and peccaries - so picking up poop was going to be a big part of my day.

When you shake your keys the animals come out, thinking you're their keeper

I was right on time at the zoo gates, 8:00 a.m., where I was met by Kalyn, the program coordinator and one of the Primate Forest keepers.  She gave me a a brief orientation in which I was mostly reminded that these are Wild Animals and if something went down - like the cougar they were tranquilizing and transporting across the zoo grounds suddenly woke up and started rampaging - I was to obey whatever orders the keepers gave me.  Then I was handed off to Cindy, the Hoofstock primary keeper.  Cindy is a little older than me and, like me, fairly recently arrived in Salt Lake City, having come from several other zoos back east as well as a stint with the Ringling Brothers' circus.

We stopped by the "Commissary" and loaded up on "diet" for the critters: lettuce, carrots, yams, spinach and other fresh veggies - donated by the local supermarkets when the produce becomes too unsightly to sell - and applesauce on whole wheat sandwiches, on which we sprinkled glucosamine for the aging female camel and llama.

The antelope enclosure was the first stop, seeming a little empty what with the unexplained deaths of both zebras at the end of 2009.  Cindy sadly told me that she was the one who found them on her early morning rounds - one of the worst days in her life, she said.  We poured pellets for the antelopes into their dishes, cleaned their water buckets and swept up a bunch of tiny round poops.

Peccaries behind the scenes

Next were the peccaries which look like a cross between porcupines and pigs.  They're pretty good sized but their feet are tiny, dainty even.  We "shifted" the peccaries from their outside enclosure to their indoor pens so we could pick up poop and scatter fresh lettuce, apples, yams and spinach around for them to find.  Peccaries are picky for pigs: they picked out the apples and yams first, leaving the spinach for last.  Cindy told me that usually the peccaries will squeal and get all excited when they see her, knowing that it's feeding time, but all hoofstock are wary of new people and there was no squealing with me around, just suspicious looks.

Cindy showed me the Hay Barn where she spends a lot of her time, full of grass hay (for most of the hoofstock), alfalfa hay (for the tender-tummied giraffes), straw for bedding, and lots of sticks, giant kong balls, bells and other hoofstock enrichment items.  She told me that one of her favorite parts of the job, aside from the actual time spent with "her" animals, is coming up with new enrichment ideas.  These have to be approved by the head keepers and the staff veterinarians before being allowed in the enclosures.


The bison, Shaker and Junior, were next.  H and I hadn't seen these guys when we went to the zoo in December since the only way to see them is to buy a ticket for the silly little train ride: the train tracks go right through the bison enclosure.  Apparently Shaker - a huge fellow so named for his habit of shaking his massive head (and trying to hook you with his horns) when he thinks dinner is not coming fast enough - sometimes likes to push his food dish onto the tracks to stop the train.  He also likes to stand on the tracks and then they have to wait until he gets bored and moves away.  Again, Cindy shifted the bison to an auxilliary pen for their pellets while we picked up bison poop (much bigger than antelope poop) and put out fresh hay.

Larry, Harley and Rosa

We then headed off to the llamas.  These guys, Rosa, Larry and Harley, are gentle enough that I was allowed into their enclosure to sweep up poop without having to shift them.  In fact they all watched me very closely, since they didn't know who I was, and I felt a little bit as though they were critiquing my work.  As I was cleaning, Cindy cleaned their water (Larry apparently likes to put his front feet into the waterer which makes quite a mess) and put out pellets and fresh hay for them.  She gave me some carrots which Harley was bold enough to eat from my hand; Cindy fed Rosa her whole wheat, applesauce and glucosamine sandwich.  Rosa is old for a llama (I forget how old exactly) and she's wicked homely: snaggle-toothed and arthritic, rickety-looking legs.

At this point, Cindy dropped me off at the giraffe building for the "animal encounter" portion of my KfaD day.  I was given a bucket of carrots and allowed out onto the little catwalk as the giraffes came in to investigate.  There are only four giraffes currently since baby Jamal died from "failure to thrive" - I tried to ask the giraffe keeper if they'd been getting a hard time from the public in the wake of Jamal's death but she deflected the question.  (The federal investigation turned up no wrongdoing on the zoo's part, by the way.)  The oldest female and the one male were brave enough to take carrots from my hand.  Up so close, their heads are just huge and their eyelashes at least a couple inches long.  Their tongues are long, purplish and prehensile, wrapping around my hand to take the carrot pieces.  They were beautiful but only in it for the food: when the carrots were gone, so were they.  Lisa, the giraffe keeper, took lots of pictures while the feeding was still going on, however.

Mmmm - carrots!

I had been given a voucher for my lunch so the giraffe keeper handed me off to Celeste (small mammals and wolves), who was pretty reserved at first, but who warmed up later, who took me to get my cheeseburger and fries.  We ate at the behind-the-scenes picnic tables with a bunch of the other keepers, all young (mid-twenties to mid-thirties) and incredibly jaded.  It was hilarious and yet understandable at the same time: these zookeepers clearly adore their charges, trading stories and anecdotes, but border on misanthropic because their jobs require so much public contact, most of it in the form of screaming groups of schoolkids.  The keepers whose animals are in buildings are responsible for keeping the glass free of hand smudges and also cleaning up any vomit; Cindy, whose animals are spread out all across the zoo, has trouble driving her little golfcart through the crowds because people just won't move out of the way (and she's not allowed to use the horn).

My day was technically supposed to end with lunch but the reptile keeper, Dorian, had offered to let me feed a baby crocodile (mealworms rolled in calcium powder since reptiles are often calcium-deficient) and also one of the tortoises (strawberries).  I also tagged along with Celeste for a bit as she fed the wolves, showed me the pregnant meerkat and proudly demonstrated how the African porcupines will come running to see her when she goes into their enclosure. 

Finally I let the keepers get on with their work without a tag-along and spent about another hour or so walking around the zoo on my own.  I managed to catch Cindy as she was in with the camels: Mabel ate her applesauce and glucosamine sandwich too. 

Cindy (keeper) and Mabel (camel)

It was a great day and I'm so thrilled to have gotten to do it (thanks, H!).  The Hogle Zoo isn't a fabulous facility: it's old and small, and unable to expand much due to its location right in the middle of the city.  But the keepers clearly love their animals.  I saw no signs of neglect, just animals being well cared for and the keepers - unsung, low-paid, cynical heroes - doing hard, messy, stinky work and loving being able to do it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

timpanogos cave hike

As pleasant as Saturday was, Sunday was even better.  H had suggested that we try something with smoother footing than Ferguson Canyon (our knees and hips were rather tender after that) and found the Timpanogos Cave National Monument hike - because it's paved.  I thought that sounded fine but wanted breakfast first, so off we went to Johanna's Kitchen (9725 S. State St., Sandy).

I'd read about Johanna's in the June 2010 issue of Salt Lake Magazine; they listed the best diners in all of Utah and Johanna's was particularly noted for their biscuits and gravy.  I looooove biscuits and gravy (although I haven't found anywhere that's as good as my dad's version).  The restaurant is big and it was especially packed - because it was Mother's Day, I suspect - but we only waited about fifteen minutes for a table.  I got the biscuits and gravy breakfast, counting on H to help me with my eggs and hash browns, and H had a ham and cheese omelet.  Service was quick and attentive and the food was good.  Johanna's Kitchen is not my favorite (H put it on a par with Sharon's) but I certainly walked away full and with no complaints.

Off to American Fork Canyon then. We've counted off all the canyons we've been through (Weber, City Creek, Parleys, Red Butte, Emigration, Millcreek, BCC, Ferguson, LCC, Bells, Butterfield, Provo and Spanish Fork) and were surprised to find that we'd never been in American Fork Canyon. It's GORGEOUS: crazy-steep walls and a river running right down through it. We paid our $6.00 National Monument pass fee and our $7.00/each cave tour fee and up we went on that paved path to the Timpanogos Cave.

That's the road, waaaaaaaaaay down there

Look.  Just because it's paved doesn't mean it's easy.  We scoffed a bit at the start but that trail gains over 1,000 feet of elevation in about 1.5 miles.  It's all switchbacks, but parts are very, very steep and there are warning signs all over the place.  As in: "Cliff area - walk safely - don't run" and "Rattlesnakes - stay on trail" and "Regular rock slide area - don't stop ever."  It only took H and me 40 minutes to walk up but the rangers tell visitors to plan for 1-1.5 hours.  We didn't even have to rest on any of the benches thoughtfully provided along the way.

Looking west towards Utah Valley

The cave tour itself is guided and takes about an hour.  These natural, still-growing caves - and there are three of them, connected by man-made tunnels - are so cool.  (That's literally as well as figuratively since the constant year-round temperature in the caves is 45 degrees F.)  Everything is damp and dark, and you have to duck and limbo around the rock formations, painstakingly careful not to touch anything as the oils from our skin can damage the crystals and rocks. 

This is 5.5 feet long and weighs 2+ tons

The caves run right along the Timpanogos fault line, which you can see at regular intervals along the tour.  That's a little disconcerting, seeing the fault line from the inside.  But the stalagtites, stalagmites and other crazy mineral formations are beautiful, and also a little alien seeming.  I asked our ranger if he'd ever seen the horror movie, The Descent, which is about people trapped in a cave and he said he's refused to ever see it because once he was in the Timp caves when the power went out - DARK - and he'd rather not have such scary images in his head if it ever happens again.

Tibble Fork Reservoir

After the tour we strolled back down, relishing not having to watch our footing.  When we got back to the truck, we decided to continue up the canyon even though we knew that the Alpine Loop road (which eventually connects through to Provo Canyon, driving right past Sundance) was closed.  What we found were many lovely picnic spots and campgrounds located along beautiful little rivers.  We also found the Tibble Fork Reservoir which was busy with families picnicking and fishing which despite all the effort, we saw no actual catching.

We really liked what we saw up there in American Fork Canyon and will definitely be back to explore the hiking trails, finish driving through on the Alpine Loop Road and maybe even have a picnic.  A cold PBR would have be just perfect down there alongside one of those rushing creeks today.

Monday, May 10, 2010

ferguson canyon hike

Saturday was fairly sunny and warmer than it's been (low 60s, and extremely pleasant in the sun) and we took advantage of it.  First, H and I decided it was time to attack the back yard such that it is: it isn't big but it's a mess, (less than) half-tended flower beds and scraggly paths.  While I pulled weeds and planted sage, Greek oregano, jalapeno peppers and tomatillos (the tomatoes and beans will be coddled inside for another week), H reset and reraked the path, and cleared the bulk of the mess - all by hand since we don't have a rototiller.  We'll keep plugging away at it but will go forward in sections, as we figure out what should go where.

After all that work, we decided to reward ourselves with a hike up Ferguson Canyon, a "little-known retreat near residential areas where you can find yourself in a secluded wilderness setting just minutes from the city" (from 60 Hikes within 60 Miles by Greg Witt).  We discovered that this canyon is more discovered than ol' Greg Witt may think, but it's still wicked cool to have these hikes basically in our backyard.

Ferguson Canyon is directly south of Big Cottonwood Canyon and while there are no dramatic waterfalls, you do hike up along a gushing (at least at this time of year) creek.  There were lots of golden columbine and other woodlands wildflowers at the start - I love the wildflowers out here.  Soon enough big granite slabs rose up on either side of the creek, festooned with rock climbers on belay.

This is NOT me

Our book told us that the hike was a 3.4 mile roundtrip out-and-back that stayed within the canyon with no fabulous overlooks.  But we kept following the creek up, and then started climbing switchbacks on the dry northern wall of the canyon, soon gaining some decent vertical and finding ourselves a darn good view of the valley all the way out to the Great Salt Lake.  Although the trail kept on going, we turned around there after admiring the scenery.

Pretty decent for having "no view"

Ferguson Canyon is not my favorite hike of all the ones we've done - the footing is rough: really rocky for most of the way down in the canyon and then dry and loose up on the switchbacks - but it was fun to watch the rock climbers and in the summer, this will be a cool place to walk with all the tall, shade-giving trees along the creek.

H above the snow line in Ferguson Canyon

Sunday, May 9, 2010

up up and away

This sight greeted us first thing Saturday morning, right from our front door:

Then H and B followed it down to Dimple Dell Park and got these shots:

That's a cheery start to a day!

Friday, May 7, 2010

an iguana of another color

A friend of ours was in town for business on Wednesday so after work we threw B in the car and drove out to Park City to meet him for dinner.  He had suggested meeting at the Blue Iguana (locations in both SLC (165 S West Temple) and Park City (628 Park Avenue), but not to be confused with the Red Iguana, which is totally different ownership from what I can tell (if I'm wrong, let me know)).  Being Cinco de Mayo, H and I were totally leery of going to a Mexican restaurant, anticipating long waits and big crowds and annoying loud margarita drinkers.  Lo and behold, Park City is a ghost town during the shoulder season and aside from the elderly mariachi band strolling the dining rooms and the tequila-shooting but sedate birthday party at the next table, it was really quite tame.

The Blue Iguana is quite not the Red Iguana food-wise.  The chips and salsa were quite good - both fresh and flavorful, with the salsa a chunkless puree.  The entrees were fine too: I had the tinga tacos (slow-roasted pork with chiles); H had the ubiquitous chile verde; and our friend had a camaron taco (shrimp) and an asada taco (steak).  It was all tasty enough - my tacos had a lovely flavor and chile heat - but I didn't walk out of there raving like I did at the R.I. 

There are no beers on tap at the Blue Iguana, although there are plenty of Mexican and domestic brews in bottles and cans - so we stopped by the No Name Saloon afterwards.  H and I had visited the No Name on one of our vacation trips to Utah: it's a funky old place with plenty of good Utah microbrews on tap.  Again, it was awfully low key although perhaps that's not unusual for a Wednesday night.  Also: I think they'd redone the bathrooms since we were there last - much appreciated!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

round one of the may visitors

What was that I was saying about how H and I are cursed, vacation-weather-wise? To further prove my point: Saturday was 30s and raining; Sunday started out 20s and snowing, then warmed up to low 50s and overcast; Monday was clear, breezy and mid-60s ... but the bugs were absolutely horrendous. Yes, Virginia, we found biting, itch-causing bugs in the desert - and we were quite displeased. Which is not to say that we didn't have a good visit with our friends from back east; we just felt AWFUL that P and C came all that way for such terrible weather.

Mountain goat, Big Cottonwood Canyon

P and C got in fairly late on Friday night so we let them sleep in a bit on Saturday before rousting them out of bed.  After a bird-watching stroll in Dimple Dell Park (P is a huge wildlife-watching enthusiast), we took them up Little Cottonwood Canyon: the snowclouds were nestled so low in the canyon that you couldn't see the canyon walls so they just had to take our word for it that there were, in fact, world-class ski resorts just minutes from our house. The rain let up as we drove to downtown SLC for a walk up City Creek Canyon. A late lunch of beer and nachos at Squatter's was next, then a drive west across the valley to Butterfield Canyon where the sun was peeking through the clouds over the Oquirrhs. We walked up the canyon a-ways, managing to avoid attack by the paint-ball warriors swarming through the underbrush. The clouds closed back in as we got back to the truck, so we headed home. While C and I had a glass of wine and some girl talk, H and P went back out to the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon, hoping to see some mountain goats. They did - lots of them, although pretty far away for good pictures with our cameras - and that put them in better moods. Some Wasatch pizza and a few beers later, we all called it a day and went to bed, hoping for better weather on the morrow.

I don't know what it is, but it's purty

If by "better weather" we meant "a couple of inches of snow in the valley and 55 inches up at Snowbird," well then, we got better weather for sure. Unbelievable. Still, we were determined to show our guests around our new state so off we went to Ruth's for breakfast (two corned beef hashes, a heuvos rancheros and a French toast). Thus fortified, we continued on to Park City and Olympic Park. It started to clear a bit as we left the Park City area and we headed south on 40 to try to find moose and/or bald eagles for P. We didn't see much other than ducks and a couple of osprey but the sun actually came out in Midway and Wallsburg (a teeny farming town in the middle of nowhere) ... for about a half hour. Frustrated, we drove up to Sundance, hoping for a beer, but what with the ski season over and the summer season not yet begun, the Owl Bar doesn't open until 5 p.m. and we weren't about to wait that long.

When we got back up to Cottonwood Heights (and the Hogwallow, for some beers), the clouds had lifted a bit and H decided to try again to show off the canyons - Big Cottonwood, this time. We were able to make it all the way up to Brighton, finding 2+ feet of fresh snow blanketing the ground (and us without snowshoes, so an intended walk around Silver Lake was impossible). When we stopped to stretch our legs at a picnic area, P aimed his binoculars at the cliffs above us and spotted several more mountain goats, scampering boldly on the rocks.  I don't know how they manage to stick on there.  Cheered, we swung by home to feed the dog and then went back out to feed ourselves on pizza and pot pie at Lumpy's.

Yearling bison stampede!

Monday dawned dry and not completely overcast and we knew we had to make the most of it: off to Antelope Island for wildlife viewing (bison, pronghorn antelopes, bunnies, lizards, various and sundry birds, and lots and lots of no-see-ums).  There were about 40 yearling bison being held in the corrals, culled from the herd and shortly to be sent south to where they're starting a new herd in the middle of Utah.  Yearling bison do not like to be in corrals.

After we checked out the Fielding Garr Ranch (along with about 8 million school kids), we grabbed our cameras, hats and water bottles and took on Frary Peak, the highest peak on Antelope Island.  It's only at 6,596 feet in elevation but you have an elevation gain of 2,068 feet in 3.25 miles; we knocked off the round-trip in 4 hours.  Fabulous views - although the rumored bighorn sheep were nowhere to be found - and, when the breeze occasionally subsided, horrific swarms of those gnats, no-see-ums, what have you.  When we got back to the truck, C and I had dozens of tiny, red, itchy bites all along our hairline.  Awesome.

At the summit of Frary Peak, Antelope Island

Still, we were fairly undaunted since we'd been able to be outside, warm and dry, for several hours at a stretch and we cruised back home in good spirits.  After feeding the dog, we swung by the parking lot at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon to see if we could see more mountain goats; we could, probably around 25 of them, grazing in the light of the setting sun.  Then we took ourselves to the Porcupine (seven month Utahnniversary, after all!) for dinner, toasting to the ability to endure adverse vacation conditions in the company of very good friends.

Aww - supercute!

Postscript:  P and C flew back to Maine this morning ... and there hasn't been a cloud in the sky since.