Monday, August 30, 2010

first snow

That's right: it snowed today, August 30th.  While it was 48 F at home when we left for work, the canyons are usually 10-20 degrees cooler than the valley.  Ergo, snow. 

Both Alta and Snowbird had photos on their web sites, revelling in the dusting of white so early.  Season passes are now on sale and Alta is claiming 81 days 'til their chairs start turning, conditions permitting.  I am not the snow-fiend that H is, and I refuse to wish away my days, but I will confess to getting a little excited today about the prospect of skiing.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

celebrating at log haven

While our regularly posted anniversaries on this blog are for our arrival here in Utah, H and I recently celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary, deciding to go somewhere slightly more high end than our usual places. Friend of the blog Jessica has been telling us since we came out here that we HAD to go to Log Haven, nestled about four miles up Millcreek Canyon. H made a reservation on that online Open Table service (direct link on the restaurant's web site) and so credit card in hand, off we went.

Log Haven has been around since 1920 but was refurbished into its current lovely state after Margot Provost rescued and remodeled it in 1994. It is apparently one of the premier places in the state for weddings and special occasions, what with its numerous waterfalls and lush outdoor spaces, as well as its acclaimed restaurant. We sat on the outdoor patio, tucked in between the two wings of the large log-built structure and surrounded by tall trees and a moss-covered waterfall. Although it had been 96 F when we left our house, the sun was going down and the temperature plummeted by 20 degrees by the time we were seated; I was grateful for the heaters placed strategically nearby.

There were a few other tables eating - at 7:45 p.m. on a Wednesday - but lots of waitstaff attentively taking care of everyone.  Our server was cute and funny and very well-informed about the menu; she also had a huge scrape down her forearm from a recent mountain-biking crash.  She told us about the specials and then let us examine the menu at our leisure.  It's not the longest menu but there are plenty of options for everyone - from vegetarian to fish to big chunks of meat - most of which sounded absolutely delicious.  Since we were celebrating, and not factoring the entree prices into our decision-making process, it took a while to decide what to order.

We had a bottle of Australian Greenpoint Shiraz which started out a little fruitier than we usually prefer but then seemed to mellow a bit as the meal went on.  Before the food was brought out, they served tiny appetite-whetters of a watermelon chunk topped with a morsel of goat cheese, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and garnished with baby arugula - fresh and juicy.

The appetizers and the salads both come in two sizes - full portions and "tastes" - which is a nice option if you're concerned about ending your meal overstuffed.  H had a taste portion salad of romaine hearts, avocado and queso fresco with a "creamy jalapeno-lime vinaigrette" while I had a taste portion baby frisee salad, with huge blackberries, candied pancetta (!!!) and butternut squash chips and a lovely, light citrus vinaigrette.  My salad was excellent and H didn't leave any of his either.

For our entrees, H picked the Double R Ranch filet mignon (which was served the rarest version of medium I've ever seen), served with pepper-gruyere pureed potatoes, green beans and "micro mirepoix" which are simply micro greens of infant onions, carrots and celery.  I tried the micro mirepoix and it was amazing: those teensy, tender plants tasted exactly like the vegetables they would grow up to be.  I went with the grilled Rocky Mountain elk tenderloin, mostly because I've never had elk before.  It was delicious - rare and tender - but if you had told me it was a cow, I would have believed that.  The steak was served with pureed parsnip potatoes, a vegetable I don't remember, more of those giant blackberries and a marchand de vin sauce.  It was sweetish (which our server had explained) but not overly so and I absolutely cleaned my plate.  [Note: the portions at Log Haven are reasonable: not ridiculously huge as is par for the course in so many restaurants; but not so small as to send you home hungry and outraged at the price you've just paid.]

Of course we found room for dessert.  I had the panna cotta with fresh cherry syrup and crumbled Amaretti cookies and H selected the molten lava cake.  Our server told us that she didn't really care for the mint sorbet that the cake came with and would be happy to swap it out for any of their house-made ice creams (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or blueberry).  H likes mint, however, so he went with that ... when our server checked in with us, H admitted that the sorbet was kind of like eating really cold toothpaste which made her laugh.

Now we were full. 

Log Haven is not inexpensive.  It is not going to be anyone's regular eating establishment (unless you have lots and lots of disposable income).  But for special occasions, it is just wonderul.  A beautiful and cool mountain setting, fantastic food and excellent service - it's worth the price when you're celebrating something.  Plus they validate your Millcreek Canyon entry fee!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

root for the home team

SLC has its own AAA baseball team, the Bees, who have been around in one incarnation or the other since 1915 and who are currently a farm team for the Anaheim Angels. Their home field, the Spring Mobile Ballpark (located at 77 West 1300 South) is a great little ballpark, we were pleased to discover during H’s work’s summer outing there this past Tuesday, with double-decker seats, an outside-the-outfield berm for lounging and picnicking, a mini-train for the easily bored youngsters and a stunning view of the Wasatch Front.

View to the southeast

The Bees themselves were less than stunning, having had a run of bad luck lately and losing 8 of their last 10 games. They lost 7-4 Tuesday night (so it was reported – we left after the 7th inning stretch), unable to muster enough offense despite some great defensive plays that roused the apathetic crowd out of its torpor. “Crowd” is hyperbole, frankly, as the stadium was less than half full. I would hope that more fans are going to non-school night games because it’s certainly a fun venue. Maybe the team just needs to start winning some games to draw folks back in.

The moon was just about to come up over yonder

Also, cheaper beers would draw folks in as well: $7.25 for local micro drafts. Yikes!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

tour of utah - stage 5

Sunday's Stage 5 was the Queen stage, the last, long ride from Park City to Snowbird.  Ninety-six miles of grueling hills and fast descents - including the Alpine Loop (from Sundance to American Fork Canyon), Traverse Ridge in Draper and the 7-mile/8-12% grade climb from our house to Snowbird. Brutal.  Plus it was incredibly windy, making the climbs even harder and the descents more dangerous.

We'd heard they were closing Little Cottonwood Canyon Road around 2:00 p.m. - the race started at 11:00 a.m. in PC - so we headed up there around noon, clutching our raincoats as we looked anxiously at the darkening clouds.  Sure enough, the temperature dropped 20 degrees between Sandy and Snowbird, and we drove through a short but enthusiastic rain shower. 

Everybody polka!

The parking lots were already getting full by the time we got up there: not only was this race going on, but Sunday was the first day of Snowbird's Oktoberfest ... which runs through the rest of August, all of September and October.  We had enough time so we walked up to check out Oktoberfest.  After paying $6.50 each for beer and listening briefly to the lederhosen-clad polka band, we decided that was all the Oktoberfest we needed.

Levi's last charge

We took our places along the fence about 200 m. from the finish line.  Our positioning gave us a great view down the road as the riders made that last push, and we could watch them as they turned down into the finish area as well.  Spectators lined the road on both sides - making me extremely nervous what with the running alongside the cyclists - and cheered madly for everyone, even after the winners (Jai Crawford for the stage win; and Levi Leipheimer for the tour win) went by.

We weren't able to get as near to the podium this time what with all the oodles of people, but we did get close enough to see the exhaustion and exhilaration on the riders' faces.  It's too bad that George Hincapie didn't get to finish but it was wonderful to see an old guy like Levi (because yes, in this sport 36 is old) holding his own against the young up and comers.  And it was great to see those young guys - sprinters like Alex Dowsett, powerhouses like Taylor Phinney and overall talents like Ian Boswell - the faces of cycling to come.

tour of utah - stage 4

Stage 4 was a criterium: a short course race held on city streets.  In this case, the course was one mile long and the city was Park City.  What was unusual about this crit was that it was hilly, really hilly: the cyclists went up Main Street for a half-mile at a 12% grade.  And they did it over and over and over again for 75 minutes.  Actually, they lucked out as it had been scheduled for 90 minutes but was shortened due to concerns about the heat. 

Charging up Main Street

H told me that several of the riders - the sprinters - were annoyed with this course.  Sprinters aren't climbers, you see, and the 2010 Tour of Utah had two mountain stages (2 and 5), two hilly stages (1 and 4) and a time trial - nothing that catered to them.  Still, this Park City crit offered some of the most exciting bicycle racing I've seen, what with the fast climbs, faster descents (at one point, the peloton came surging over a rise and down a hill altogether like a herd of buffalo) and sharp corners.

Hometown boy wins it

Park City was packed for this race. We parked at the high school and took a shuttle into and out of town (super-convenient and well-organized). We mostly stood by the start/finish line, right at the fence, and were in great position to watch the racers come charging up Main Street. The best part: Jeff Louder, SLC native, crushed the field and won handily with about a minute between him and the rest of the field. Levi Leipheimer hung in there and kept his yellow jersey for yet another day.

Bob Roll interviews Levi post-race

tour of utah - stage 3

The third stage of the Tour of Utah took place at 6:30 p.m. Friday night at Miller Motorsports Park in Erda/Tooele.  We got out there faster than we expected so we stopped in for a pre-race beer at the Tracks Sports Bar in Tooele, not something I would necessarily recommend.  I mean, I like dive bars but this wasn't a dive: it was kind of skanky, but not in a having-character way.  Still, beer.

Miller Motorsports Park is a huge and (apparently - what do I know from race tracks) sophisticated racing facility.  We wandered around the garage bays for quite some time, checking out the emaciated cyclists and their really expensive bikes. 

Levi's time trial bike

This stage was a time trial: a twisty, turny, flat 9.2 mile course. Although there is a grandstand overlooking the track, we couldn't find spots at the rail and instead opted to sit trackside, just beyond the finish line where we could see the cyclists coming.  My friend Jody from work and her husband, both avid road cyclists, met us there and we watched the race together.

Stage 3 jerseys: Ian Boswell (young rider), Paco Mancebo (KOM),
Darren Lill (Utah rider), Levi (overall), David Tanner (sprinter)

Young cyclist-to-watch Taylor Phinney won the time trial, giving him the stage win; Levi came in just two seconds behind him - pretty good for having 16 years on Taylor.

tour of utah - stage 2

Stage 2 was wild and woolly: a mountaintop finish on Mt. Nebo amid a hugenormous storm with rain and hail.  The racers started at Thanksgiving Point, just above Utah Lake, then went around the lake and down to Nephi, then climbing 4,000 feet above the lowest part of the ride for the finish.

Local yokel Jeff Louder (finished 18th)

H drove up to the finish from the other (Payson) side of the Mt. Nebo scenic drive, snagging a parking spot about a quarter-mile from the finish line.  He soon found that he didn't need any sunscreen, instead embracing his raincoat as the weather moved through, leaving temperatures in the high 50s by the time the cyclists got to the top.

Ian Boswell (3rd), Levi (1st), Francisco Mancebo (2nd)

Levi Leipheimer won the stage and moved into the overall racer leader (yellow jersey) position, despite some struggles with the higher altitude.  Poor George Hincapie went out of the race after a solo crash and yesterday's race leader, young Brit Alex Dowsett finished twelve minutes behind.

tour of utah - stage 1

It's going to be all cycling, all the time around here for the next, oh, five posts, what with us being Tour of Utah junkies and all. 

Stage 1, August 18 (also my dad's birthday!), went from Ogden to the U's Research Park in the foothills above SLC, touring past Snowbasin ski resort, through Morgan County, past East Canyon reservoir and through Emigration Canyon for a total of 85 miles.  The biggest hill climb was over Big Mountain for 2,000 feet of elevation in about six miles.

L to R: David Tanner, Alex Dowsett and Javier Megias

H was there for the finish.  The racers sort of snuck up on the announcers who'd gotten misinformation from a team car radio and thus were a little unprepared and surprised when David Tanner sprinted across the finish line.  Alex Dowsett won the stage - and also Best Young Rider and King of the Mountain ... but it won't last [SPOILER].

wheels on asphalt

In addition to the engine-powered speed demons, we also saw a bunch of leg-powered speed demons: the Tour of Utah has arrived!  This is a bike race (like a mini Tour de France), touted as the "toughest stage race" in the country, what with all the mountains and altitude we have here.  H is a bicyclist and through him I've become interested in the sport (as a spectator) so we were really excited to see some of the stages.

The prologue (preliminary time trial) was held in downtown SLC at the capital. We found a parking spot in the Avenues, walked down the east side of Memory Grove and then back up the west side, and arrived right on time for the start. Since it's a time trial, the cyclists go out one at a time, at 30-second intervals, and race the clock. The less-good guys go first and the best cyclists ride last, so we had time to walk around and look at the vendors (I had a daiquiri-flavored sno-cone) and the various cycling teams.

The better riders were camped out by their team buses, riding trainers and warming up. There are some pretty big names here (if you're a cycling fan), most particularly George Hincapie, a veteran of fifteen Tours de France, and Levi Leipheimer.

Big George, warming up

Big George was easy to pick out.  He's like 9 feet tall (not really but most cyclists are short and since he's around 6', he seems like a giant) and soooooo skinny.  People were swarming him, taking photographs and trying to shake his hand; he had his game face on and put up with it for a little while.

Me and my new friend Levi
Levi was harder to find but we did track him down as he was warming up with the Radio Shack team, and wearing a RS jersey, even though he's not officially riding for RS in this race.  When I sidled up to him for a picture, I wished him good luck and he thanked me.  He's a tiny little guy and has tan lines on his scalp from his bike helmet.

Taylor Phinney, the whippersnapper who won the prologue

There was a decent crowd but we were able to stand right next to the starting gate for both George's and Levi's starts, as well as move to the finish line for their finishes.  Neither of them won the prologue - some whippersnapper from Radio Shack did - but managed to position themselves well for the coming stages.  It was a beautiful evening for a bike race and pretty exciting to see these world class athletes competing in our new hometown.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

wheels on salt

You ever see The World's Fastest Indian, that movie where Anthony Hopkins plays an old Kiwi who schleps his Indian motorcycle from New Zealand to Utah to try to set a Speed Week land speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats?  I saw it too but even better: H and I went out to the Bonneville Salt Flats for Speed Week ourselves.  We just did a day trip, which was plenty.  It's a long ride from SLC - over 100 miles each way - although 80W is straight and flat and there's really no traffic once you get west of Tooele.  And it's bloody hot out there on the salt, 90+ degrees with no shade and the glare reflecting off the bright white flats.  But the salt flats have a stark, otherworldly beauty that I'm really drawn to ... and dang, those cars and motorcycles are wild!

Stark and otherworldly - am I right?

We took a vacation day so we could go mid-week and the crowds were nonexistent.  We drove the little Subaru right out onto the salt, nabbing a parking place not far from the starting line.  There are three courses: the short course (4ish miles long), where the amateurs have to prove themselves; the combo course (5ish miles); and the long course (7+ miles, plus your vehicle has to go over 200 m.p.h. to even get on this course - it's where the big dogs run).

In 2006 on the BSF, this guy set a land

Despite the fact that all these people - mostly old, rich white guys, the only ones able to put the time and money necessary into these vehicles - are here to try to set records, whether personal or course or world, the atmosphere is really chill.  Spectators can stand right next to the vehicles at the starting line; you can walk up to the cars and 'cycles as they wait in line for their start; if someone needs a push or a part, there's always someone willing to help out.  People are friendly too, happy to answer questions from a couple of newbies.

This is Billy.  He would come within 2/10ths of a mile
of the record on this run - over 206 m.p.h.

We hung around the starting line for a couple hours, taking pictures, talking to folks, watching these crazy machines rush out of sight and over the horizon within seconds.  (By the way, the Bonneville Salt Flats is so big and flat that it's one of the few places on the planet where you can actually see the curve of the earth, so once the racers got out three miles, they disappeared from sight.)  We reapplied our SPF50 once, and donned long sleeved shirts and - miraculously - managed to not get sunburned.

Getting a push at the start

After a while we drove a couple of miles down the salt flats to where the pits were set up.  The pits stretch for three more miles along the race course (but back away from it so there's no danger).  We strolled about, looking at the crews working on their vehicles, and turning to watch every time a racer blew past the 2-mile marker.  We were soon able to tell who was fast - and it really wasn't worth watching if they weren't going at least 200 m.p.h., frankly.

The salt is really not that good for your Mad Max-ish Jaguar

These guys are nuts, going so fast, but they love what they do and they seem very supportive of each other.  They're pretty respectful of the salt too: I saw no trash strewn about anywhere; and at the starting line, most vehicles are pushed out by another non-racing vehicle until they come up to speed, in part so they don't spin their wheels and destroy the salt in their acceleration.  It's not something I want to do myself, and I'm not sure I need to go back to see it again anytime soon, but I'm sure glad we went to check it out.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

bells canyon #2

Way back in April, H and I attempted Bells Canyon but turned around early due to icy and steep trail conditions.  I said then that we'd have to go back since we didn't make to either of the waterfalls or the reservoir way up at the top of the canyon.  On Sunday we went back and while we didn't attempt the reservoir, being further/steeper than we wanted to go, we did get to both the lower and the upper falls.

Upper falls

We parked at a different trailhead - the Granite Trailhead - and the initial ascent to the lower Bells Canyon reservoir was much less steep than taking the Boulders Trailhead as we'd done in April.  This was fine since the actual trail up Bells Canyon is very steep and rocky, called by many a "granite staircase."  The trail is mostly shaded, which was welcomed since we were working pretty hard, but there were breaks in the trees enough that we could see the awesome (in the original sense of the word) cliffs towering over us.

Snack spot, looking to Thunder Mtn.

At 1.7 miles we passed a spur trail leading to the lower falls, opting to continue to the upper falls first.  The trail got even steeper and fairly overgrown, but still followable.  The upper falls are at about 2.6 miles from the trailhead.  We continued up a little further and had a snack on a large granite slab where we could see out to the Great Salt Lake while behind us the canyon continued up to Thunder Mountain and the Bells Canyon reservoir.  At this point it was clear that there was no way we were going to attempt the reservoir, another 1+ miles and nearly 2,000 feet of elevation gain, plus at this point our guidebooks got very confused as to where the trail continuing up the canyon might be.

Lower falls

On the descent we somehow got off the trail we'd come up, following game trails or spur trails for a bit, but rejoined the main trail somewhere below the upper falls.  We had remembered to bring our hiking poles with us this time and were particularly grateful for them on this trail.  As we went down, we spied a couple of rock climbers on the Bell Towers - those guys are nuts, clinging to the cliffs like that.  When we got to the trail junction, we went down to the lower falls which are larger and more easily seen than the upper falls, and pretty darn spectacular.  It was getting hot at this point too and the spray from the cascade felt too good to want to leave.

the Bell Towers

But leave we did, H draining his Camelbak on the long, hot run out.  I'm glad we went back to Bells Canyon, something that had been in the back of my mind since the spring.  Now I can cross that one off the list.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

not quite the fairest of them all

Back east H and I used to hit one or two fairs each year, usually the Cumberland County Fair, because it was practically next door to us, and the granddaddy of them all, the Fryeburg Fair.  We'd wander for hours, skipping the carnival rides but in and out of every barn with me patting every animal I could get my hands on, poking around the farm equipment, cheering from the stands during the draft horse and oxen pulling, and eating. Love the fair food: kettle corn, Italian sausages, Beale St. BBQ chopped brisket sandwiches (only available at the fairs), fried dough.  Mm-mm!

It's been Fair Season out here in Utah for a while now.  We missed the Tooele and Heber County fairs but decided to give our new home county a go.  The Salt Lake County Fair ran from August 11-14 out at the South Jordan Equestrian Park (2100 W 11400 S).  The day's program seemed packed with a 4H livestock auction, horce racing, pig racing, fiddlers, horse pulling, equestrian vaulting, cake decorating contests, clogging grandmothers and a Dutch oven cook-off, to name just a few.

The fair opened at 11:00 a.m..  We got there sometime after 1:00 p.m., paid $7 for parking/admission, and left not long after 2:00 p.m.  Folks, the SLCo Fair is TINY.  Smaller than the Cumberland Fair by a looooong shot.  There were hardly any animals, about eight food booths, some lady selling henna tattoos, a few carnivals games and kiddie rides, and a petting zoo (with a 1-year old camel!).  And that was about it.  I was shocked.  I really thought it would have been a bigger fair.  We did a lap around everything and called it good.  H thinks that maybe a more rural county might have a better fair - like Heber, which I'm game to try next year - and we're determined to go to the Utah State Fair in September ... but now my expectations are much, much lower for that one.  If it measures up to Fryeburg, I'll be happy.

So what did we do with the rest of our Saturday?  H got on his bike, I did some weeding and at 6:00 p.m. we went up to Snowbird for their final Cool Air Concert of the season, the Nate Robinson Trio.  What a lovely evening: sitting on the deck with a mellow crowd, drinking our own PBRs (coolers are allowed), watching the sun go down behind the mountains and listening to a decent local band play reggae.  A stop in at the Lone Star Taqueria for carne asado tacos and a chile verde burrito capped off what turned out to be a very nice day, meager fair-going notwithstanding.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

buying and eating local

Once late spring/early summer hits, little roadside farm stands pop up all over the place, much like the sno-cone shacks.  The difference is, the farm stands are loaded with melons, raspberries, blackberries, apricots, peaches, corns, cucumbers and tomatoes - all locally grown.  Much seems to be from Brigham City and Springville, but "Green River melons" are touted as well. 

They close pretty early in the evenings so I haven't been able to catch one open until this past Friday.  The friendly girl helped me pick out a deliciously-scented cantelope, some green beans and some sweet corn.  The beans were a little bigger and tougher-looking than the Maine string beans I'm used to, but a little longer in the steam basket rendered them quite tasty.  The corn I plopped on the grill and served Mexican style: with mayonnaise, cheese (I used parmesan) and a dash of ground chile pepper (I used merquen). 

I think I have to say it: Utah sweet corn is not as good as Maine sweet corn.  Now, I don't know how old this corn was - it was a little starchy - and I'm going to try again at another stand for comparison's sake. It's a tall order, I know, trying to beat Maine sweet corn and I want to give it a fair shake before calling it for good.  But as it stands now in the corn on the cob competition: Maine 1, Utah 0.

The tomatoes are from my own plants

Saturday, August 14, 2010

the hills are alive

Last Sunday.  Still with the monsoon season but we decided that if we did a shortish and familiar hike early in the day, that would probably still be safe.  Plus Captain Mike had urged us to get our butts up to Albion Basin before all the wildflowers went past, so off to Alta we went.


It was sunny but cool and pleasant (high 60s) up there, and very busy, because clearly other folks were getting their butts up to Albion Basin to see the wildflowers.  We hiked up the trail across some of the ski trails, through both woods and meadows.  It was a lot drier than when we'd been there last, a month ago, but the flowers were certainly out in full force.  It's nearly indescribable, and our photos don't do the scenery justice, but the meadows and creek beds are just bursting with blossoms of all colors.  We even spied a happy hummingbird zooming around the flowers, happy as a fat man at a buffet.

I would call this a "high grotto" more than "high desert"

In addition to being Wildflower Central, it was also Small Mammal Day.  Up at Cecret Lake (the water level has dropped several feet from a month ago, and all the snow is gone from the lake basin although there is still some up in Devil's Castle), we were treated to the company of a very brave chipmunk - glossy-furred and more than twice as big as the chipmunks we've seen previously - who pounced upon a sunflower seed that spilled from the packet when we opened it. 

Not even a little bit afraid

There were other rodents all over the place, ground squirrels and red squirrels and a tiny grey chipmunk, some other species, I guess. And on our way down, we were lucky enough to spot this sleek little guy: an ermine in his summer outfit.

Isn't he adorable?  His tail had a little black tip

Thursday, August 12, 2010

frozen treats

On our way west to the Kennecott mine, I mentioned to H (possibly only one or twice but probably more like 3-4 times) that I wanted to get a shaved ice/sno-cone.  Those little stands are all over the valley in shopping plaza parking lots and every time I drive by one I think, "Gosh, I really want to try one of those."  So suddenly H turns into a car wash, pulls up next to a Willly's Shaved Ice and goes, "Go on.  Go get one."

I hop out and peruse the list of flavors, finally asking the girl behind the counter for a recommendation since I've never had one of these before.  And this is part of what I love about Utah: almost everyone is so nice and friendly.  Back east, the ice cream server would be like, um try grape or cherry or whatever, $2.00.  But this girl got a huge smile on her face, and wanted to know where I was from if I'd never had a "snowie" before, and what was Maine like, and hadn't I been buying like tons of lotion and conditioner since it's so dry out here.  Supercute. 

She also told me that "tiger's blood" is the go-to shaved ice flavor: watermelon + strawberry + coconut.  I'm certainly not one to disagree with a professional so tiger's blood is what I got. A $2 medium was huge and a bright gory red that quickly stained my tongue.  H rolled his eyes so hard when I got back in the truck with my treat that I think he saw the back of his skull, but I didn't care.  It was a little sweet (I think I'll try a tart flavor next time) but the shaved ice was soft and the straw had a little scoop on the end so I could spoon up the goodness if I didn't want to wait for it to melt.

You might think that's enough frozen concoctions for one day, but no.  As we headed east again after Butterfield Canyon, we consulted our talking GPS for the closest Leatherby's Family Creamery, an ice cream place that one of H's coworkers had recommended.  We found one at 1872 W 5400 S in Taylorsville.  Although it was closing in on 6:00 p.m., we ignored the actual food side of the menu and focused on the ice cream sundaes.  H ordered a "black and white" with chocolate ice cream and chocolate and marshmallow sauces; I ordered one with chocolate chip ice cream, chocolate chocolate chip ice cream, chocolate sauce and malted whipped cream. 

Good grief: these sundaes were ENORMOUS.  Next time, remind me to order a little bitty one.  H's was really good and while I didn't much care for the regular choc. chip ice cream, I did think the choc. choc. chip was very good.  By the time I finished - and I did finish, calories be damned - I was shivering and shaking, the vast quantity of ice cream that I had consumed having actually lowered my body temperature.  Needless to say, we had to just sit for a while once we got back home (ice cream coma) and we did not find it necessay to eat dinner that night.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

kennecott country

We're in the middle of monsoon season currently and what with the imminent threat of afternoon thunder (and lightning) storms, have been less motivated to get up and hiking deep into the mountains.  So we got a slow start on Saturday, by which I mean H took a 36 mile bike ride while I weeded for two hours.  After that we needed something to do since you can't just stay home on a Saturday.  We eyed the accumulating clouds and decided that this would be a good day to go west a little bit, to see the hugenormous Kennecott Copper Mine that sprawls across the eastern slopes of the Oquirrh Mountains, and then also to try to find a route over the Oquirrhs.

Kennecut Utah Copper's Bingham Canyon Mine is one of the largest man-made objects on the planet - it can be seen from space by the space shuttle astronauts. The open pit is 2.75 miles across at the top and 3/4 of a mile deep; the giant haul trucks, with their 13-foot high tires and their 320 ton haulage capacity, are smaller than Matchbox cars as they lumber down the winding roads to the bottom of the pit. Since its beginning in 1906, this mine has produced 18.1 million tons of copper, more than any other mine in history.

Where's AAA when you need them?

The busy visitors' center at the mine is open 7 days/week, from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. ($5 entry fee per car, all proceeds donated to charity). Perched at the lip of the pit, you can watch the mining activity below as well as stroll through the exhibits inside the center. The wind was howling (as the afternoon's monsoon was moving in from the west) as we stared down into the giant hole in the ground - reminding me of the pit mine from that Stephen King book, Desperation, where the mining company digs too deep and unleashes some horrific beastie. It is way far down to the bottom and they plan to be another 500 feet further down by 2015. Watch out for horrific beasties, boys.

That's a helluva hole in the ground

The Bingham Canyon mine is right around the corner from Butterfield Canyon which, according to our gazetteer, has a paved road (and then a dirt road and then a paved road again) that actually crosses the Oquirrh range - and might possibly be the only way across the Oquirrh range - to Tooele on the other side.  The road is only open in the summer so we thought we should give it a shot.  We went up and up as the road got narrower and narrower and the weather got darker and stormier. 

Road to nowhere.  Truly.

When the pavement ended, we had a choice: up and to the right on the drier, more travelled road*, or down and to the left on the muddier road.  We picked up and to the right, following a black Jeep who looked like he knew where he was going.  We picked wrong: the dirt road stopped at the very top of the mountain (about 9,000 feet and with a temperature of 49F) at an impressive overlook of the mine, but did not in fact go through to Tooele.  We turned around and headed back down as the rain picked up, pausing to look at the down-and-to-the-left option.  It was slick and muddy looking and we decided to leave that exploration for another non-monsoony day.

All the better to hear you with, my deer

Despite not succeeding in our attempt to cross the Oquirrhs, we were glad to have gotten up Butterfield Canyon.  It was quite pretty, with steep walls and lush vegetation.  We saw a bunch of deer and also human recreators: bicyclists, ATVers, motorcyclists, cowboys, campers.  Next time we'll make it through and see what's on the other side.

* When I said "drier, more travelled," I didn't mean it was actually a good road.  In many places, it wasn't wide enough for two vehicles to pass and it was rutted and washboarded and washed out with 1.5+ foot ruts.  It wasn't the worst or scariest dirt road we've ever been on, but it was a bit nerve-wracking in spots nonetheless.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Poor, poor B.  She's had a sore at the corner of her left eye - which we think may have begun life as a bug bite - and it just won't heal because she paws at it and rubs her face along the carpet or the furniture.  I finally got tired of cleaning up smeared blood so I took her to the vet to get fitted for a cone collar.  Ten minutes and $20 later, she was all decked out and in full pout mode.

It took her approximately 1.5 days of misjudging and running into the doorways (which is really, really funny, btw) before she broke it, so H had to repair the darn thing with a piece of milk jug and a bunch of duct tape.  She just hates wearing it so hopefully her eye will heal up soon. 

Hey - how's the reception with that thing?

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Sorry about the shortage of postage here.  We just haven't been doing much: working; riding (H)/going to the gym (A); meeting a friend from back east who was in SLC for work for beers; being duly impressed by the crazy-ass lightning storms that have lit up the mountains all week.  B is not enoying the thunder and lightning so much (scaredy-chicken) but it really is impressive weather.  And yesterday evening, in between the afternoon thunderstorms and the nighttime thunderstorms, there was a complete double rainbow outside our front door.

It's supposed to be a great weekend, though: cooler (high 80s), drier and clear, so we should have some fun outdoorsy stuff to report soon.  In the meantime, my morning glories - which I started from seed - are up! 

Monday, August 2, 2010

lazy sunday

No hike on Sunday.  It wasn't planned that way, but that's how it ended up.  We got up late but still packed up for a hike in Millcreek Canyon.  Then H had to run in to the office for a few minutes and then I wanted to go to breakfast.  I had my eye on a new (to us) place, one that has been on my to-go-to breakfast place list for months and one that was also recently featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives:  the Blue Plate Diner.

Located right in SLC at 2041 South 2100 East, the Blue Plate Diner has a younger, hipper, more citified clientele than many of our more oftenly frequented diners.  The joint was jumping when we finally got there - after 11:00 a.m. - but we didn't have to wait too long for a table.  Completely forgetting my recent vow to stay away from big eggy and cheesy breakfasts on hiking days, I ordered the huevos rancheros with green salsa while H, staying true to form, got the pork chile verde omelet.  These breakfasts were HUGE (and I had to make another vow: to order my breakfasts sans potatoes from here on out) - way too big, even for H.  He thought that his chile verde was a little bland; the green salsa on my huevos was plenty spicy and flavorful, but instead of corn tortillas, the base of the dish was a thick, unsweetened, well-done, black bean griddle cake.  Tasty enough, and easier to fork through than corn tortillas, but a little dense.

By the time we rolled on out of the diner it was after noon and really hot.  We looked at each other and decided that there would be no hiking today: too full.  So we dragged out our Utah gazetteer and found ourselves a state park not too far away: Rockport State Park, a medium-sized reservoir just south of Wanship.  We flashed our state park pass and cruised on in, easily finding a quiet covered picnic table on the east side of the reservoir.  The overnight camping areas were pretty full - or were, as people were starting to pack up and head home, their weekend over - but most of the day use sites, like the one we found, were empty.  There were lots of watercraft buzzing about, towing waterskiers and tubers and fishing lines; the water was pretty nice and we immediately wished we'd thought to throw our swim suits in the car.  Next time.

Rockport Reservoir

After a few hours we drove through Browns Canyon to Park City - and a beer at the No Name Saloon - and then back home.  Not our most active day by a long shot, but a pleasant one nonetheless.