Tuesday, November 29, 2011

saturday explorations

The weather was sort of hit-or-miss while H's folks were here: first mild and sunny, then cold and blustery, then spitting snow and rain, then mild again ... challenging for making plans for outside activities.  On Saturday we were feeling a little cooped up after hanging out at home all day the day before (what with the rain and wind and spitting snow) and when it turned out to be a fairly nice day, we all jumped in the car to go places and do some stuff.

First we went up to Solitude so H and I could pick up our 5-pak ticket passes (good for five reduced rate tickets and reloadable at the same reduced price).  There were a good number of cars there and it was great to see folks skiing, but I couldn't imagine paying for a day ticket with how little snow we've got.  Then we stopped by REI so I could buy a new pair of boot covers, having shredded mine by the end of last ski season.

Hope that sucker's not loose

Our next stop was someplace new and a little bizarre: Gilgal Gardens, "an historic sculpture garden created by Thomas B. Child, Jr.," located at 749 East 500 South in SLC.  Child created twelve original stone scuptural arrangements and over seventy stones engraved with Bible scripture, poems and inspirational text, beginning in 1957.  After his death in 1963, the gardens got new private owners until 1997 when the Friends of Gilgal Gardens was founded to preserve and protect the site.  The plantings in the gardens are cared for by volunteers from the Salt Lake Co. Master Gardener Association; things were obviously end-of-season when we stopped by, but I bet it's really pretty in the summer.  "Gilgal" means "circle of sacred stones."  The garden is a weird little place, a quiet oasis in the middle of the city.  I found some of the sculptures a little unsettling (like the hands reaching out of the rock to the two sacred hearts) but I have admiration for people who are called to and able to make things with their hands.  Some of the explanatory material said that Child didn't care if people thought his garden was weird - it was important to him that people thought about it at all.


After all that art/religion it was time for a beer.  To continue our trend of trying something new, we went to Red Rock Brewing Co. for a late lunch and some brews.  I had the oatmeal stout (which was good once it warmed up a little) and the tasty soup of the day, green chile with shredded chicken.  We swung by the Beer Nut on our way back home so H and I could purchase our very own wine bottle corker (now we're committed to making more wine at home).  The evening was spent companionably, watching football, drinking homebrew and playing games - good, homey, Thanksgiving weekend stuff.

Friday, November 25, 2011

thanksgiving 2011

Another Thanksgiving, another City Creek Cold Turkey 6K!  This year it was quite warm - about 50 F - and no issues with ice on the road, so our start was at the capital and the finish was down in Memory Grove; I was able to wear shorts, cotton socks and didn't even need gloves.  Another difference: personal spectators!  H's folks came out for the holiday and so I had a full four person cheering section.  The race went off right on time and the 650ish runners and walkers surged up the canyon.  I felt pretty good for the duration of the race but I didn't feel as though I was as strong on the uphill as I've been - didn't pass as many folks.  The downhill portion seemed to go fairly quickly and soon enough I was across the finish line.  I ended up finishing with a time of 35:41.33, twelve seconds faster than the first time I did the race (and I'm not factoring in last year's time since the course was different), 11th out of 27 in my age group and 249th out of 656 overall.

Nice shot of the port-o-johns!

Here's another difference from the last couple of years: we couldn't find a dive bar open early enough to host our post-race beers.  H expanded the to-call list to about thirty bars and found none of them open before noon this year.  Maggie McGee's, which had been open at 10 a.m. for the last two years, wasn't even unlocking its doors until 3 p.m. - far too late for our purposes!  So we shrugged off our disappointment and went straight home after the race, and popped open a bottle of cheap champagne the moment we set foot inside.  That seemed to work just fine.

Clear shot to the finish

The rest of the afternoon was spent watching football, cooking (roast chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green beans, salad, cranberry-orange relish and rolls), eating, drinking good Utah beers (Cutthroat (with their gorgeous new logo design), Full Suspension and the house-brewed Deep Pow Pale) and playing games (Quiddler and Rummikub).  We were amazingly too full for pie (craziness - I am never too full for pie) and I had to go to bed well before 10 p.m., tired, full and very happy with the day.  I hope all the rest of you enjoyed your Thanksgivings as much as we did ours!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


What with Thanksgiving looming and lots to get done, I did not go back up to ski on Sunday.  But H did, and reported that it snowed (lightly) all day, there were about half the folks there that there were on Saturday, and that when he got bored with the groomers and went off piste, he did manage to gouge up his skis a little.  We really need some snow.  Last year at this time there was a lot of snow (117" cumulative) and frequent storms.  This year ... Alta's had 75 inches which settled to 30 inches, and the next storm is Friday but it isn't supposed to amount to much.  I know it's early yet but c'mon, let's do this! SNOW, please!!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

my opening day

The storm we had Friday night didn't really amount to much - 9 inches up the canyon, a couple inches at our house - but it was enough to get me up and out and skiing on November 19th.  I'd been hemming and hawing over whether to go the night before and so Saturday morning was scurrying all over the house, trying to find my  helmet and mittens and base layers and socks and ski pants and ski pass and all of it.  I didn't have any hand warmers (had to buy some up at Alta to the 300% inflated price tag) and I had thrown my boot covers away at the end of last season because they were pretty much shredded, so I knew my toes would be cold.  But still, everything came together and we headed up the canyon by 8:30 a.m.

Bright enough to make me squint

There were more people waiting for the lifts to open than there were on the actual opening day, but once the initial crowd got up the mountain, it was clear there weren't many people there at all.  Only three lifts were open (Collins, Wildcat and Sunnyside) but we never ended up waiting in line and we did ride more than one chair with the same people.  The snow was much better than I expected it to be.  I stayed on the groomers off Collins but plenty of other skiers were whooping it up in the meager powder, tramping out traverses and claiming first tracks.  Of course, you could hear the rocks and stumps scraping across the bottom of their skis as they swooped down the hillsides - gotta bring your rock skis to early season skiing.  We stayed out for about three hours, enough for everything to get tracked out.  My legs are a little tired but I'm counting it as a good start to the 2011-2012 season.

Friday, November 18, 2011

opening day 2011

Alta opened today as planned.  H was up there by 8:30 a.m., first in the singles line, seventh chair overall.  The folks who got the first chair had gotten up to the resort at 4:30 a.m. (crazy people).  Everyone was stoked - "everyone" being retirees, 20-somethings and H - sharing beers on the lifts, frying up bacon and egg sandwiches on camp stoves in the lift line.

The view from the front of the singles line,
just before opening

We haven't had much snow (55 inches on the season; 21 inches settled snow depth - not enough to keep H from gouging his skis a bit) and the emails I got throughout the morning described the conditions as "dust on crust" and "good (by eastern standards)."  It was pretty cold due to the wind and he had to stick to the groomed trails, with only the Collins, Wildcat and Sunnyside lifts being open.  Still, he managed to put in three hours of non-stop runs, skiing right back onto the chair without standing in line.

Opening Day self-portrait

It's snowing now, with both Cottonwood Canyons and Parleys Canyon restricted to 4-wheel drive or chained tires.  They've backed off on the possible accumulation, saying 9-15" instead of 24-34", but there'll still be some fresh snow for us tomorrow.  Let the ski season begin!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

utah 31, ucla 6

As we were having a couple of beers at the Leprechaun Inn on Saturday, my phone rang: it was my work friend Jody.  She had been given two VIP tickets to the football game up at the U that afternoon but since it was currently snowing, and she gets cold very quickly, she and her husband wanted to know if H and I would be interested in going, since we spend a lot of time outdoors in the cold.  Of course we said yes! and since kick-off was going to happen in about two hours, we paid our tab, rushed over to Jody's house to pick up the tickets and then hurried home.  We quickly donned long-johns, wool socks and various fleeces and then drove off again to the Trax station.  Our timing was perfect and we jumped on a train without waiting for more than five minutes, changing to a different line a couple of stops up the track so we could go straight to the U.

Party in the Club room

It was snowing pretty steadily when we got to Rice-Eccles Stadium, about twenty minutes before kick-off.  It took us a little while to figure out where our seats were but once we did, we were thrilled: in through the VIP gate, up the elevator two floors to the Club level and then out to our seats that were completely covered so that  although it was cold (about 34 F) we were totally dry.  Back inside, there was a huge room filled with tables and people eating a complementary turkey dinner, a hot dog station, platters of brownies and gallons of soda and hot chocolate - all for free.  We missed out on the dinner since we didn't get there until right before the game started, but we absolutely availed ourselves of the hot dogs, hot chocolate and dessert.  I don't know if we can ever go back to sitting in the bleachers!

Pretty happy with our tickets

The snow kept coming down until well into the second period and we felt sorry for the hoi polloi down there in the uncovered seats.  In fact, we probably wouldn't have been dressed warmly enough if we'd been out there getting wet.  The play was pretty sloppy for the first half, both teams struggling with the wet field and wet ball but once the clouds lifted, the Utes figured things out and kept giving the ball to John "The Wolfman" White, who rushed for 167 yards and scored three touchdowns.

After the game, we got back on Trax and cruised on home.  We hadn't thought that we would get to a Ute game this year since tickets are all but impossible to come by now that Utah is in the PAC 12.  But we got lucky - thanks to my very nice friend who thought of us - and had a great, if unexpected, evening cheering on the boys in crimson.  Go Utes!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

more city stuff

H and I were just talking Friday night, at the Porcupine over a pitcher of Full Suspension and some dinner, that the frequency of posts has really died down here.  When we first got out to SLC, everything was So New and Exciting and we were always out doing stuff, even on the grey and rainy weekends.  Now, two years in, we've slowed down a bit, not frantic to go out and find something new to do.  Part of it is because we've settled into a life routine, going places we know and enjoy, like the Porcupine, where the bartenders know us and save empty wine bottles for us to use to bottle our homemade wines; part because we like our house and don't mind hanging out there, working on hobbies and reading; partly because we've become such total Utah weather-snobs.  There's still plenty unexplored stuff to go out and do and see - the brand new Natural History Museum building, the Salt Lake City roller derby, Aristo's Greek restaurant, winter elk herds up near Logan - we just don't feel compelled to be out doing it and seeing it every weekend now.  (Of course, ski season starts soon and we'll be doing that every weekend.)

So this past Saturday, it was stormy again and we opted to not be adventurous again.  (For the record, we would much rather it be storming during the week and sunny on the weekends so we can then tromp around in the week's storms' leavings.)  We went up to Alta in the late morning to pick up our season ski passes: there wasn't a ton of snow up there but there were plenty of people, hiking up the ski trails and skiing down, building kickers and little jumps next to the Wildcat lift, hiking around on snowshoes among the trees.  People are ready for winter sports to begin in earnest and now that we've got our passes, so are we.

Our next stop was the Beer Nut where we picked up the ingredients for another batch of IPA and some corks since we should be able to bottle the batch of red wine in a couple of weeks, provided it's clear enough.  We then stopped by a couple of furniture stores (the loveseat in the t.v. room is starting to show its age).  The first place we went to was Civilizzation (2900 South 300 West, SLC).  We didn't like the furniture at all - it was all enormous and mostly ugly, looking made for McMansions, and even though they're claiming big sales because they're closing, nothing was marked down very much - but the old building the store is in was incredible.  It's an old meat packing plant, "Joe Doctorman & Sons Meat Packing Company," built in the 1920s, and they've left most of the interiors intact, with huge wooden beams, metal tracks along the ceilings where the carcasses would hang, and thick freezer doors - very cool space.

Even tho' H was getting antsy, I made him go into another store (Eldredge Furniture, 4750 South 900 East, Holladay) where we liked the furniture much better: more classic and less overstuffed, with beautiful fabrics. I think the only reason H agreed to go in there was because it was just around the corner from a pub and grill we hadn't yet tried, the Leprechaun Inn, and after we cruised through the showrooms, we stopped in for a beer.  The Leprechaun Inn is a rather local establishment, sports bar-ish with comfy new booths, at least twelve televisions (all showing various college football games) and reasonable prices.  We got a pitcher of Full Suspension ($9.50) and a couple of grilled bratwursts (the Saturday special at $2.50 each, served with potato chips).  We were just finishing the brats when my phone rang.  But that's the next post.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


On Sunday we tried to come up with a good way to say goodbye to daylight savings.  The forecast looked to be mixed - sun early, then clouds, with possible snow in the mountains.  We grabbed the dog and drove up to downtown SLC for breakfast at The Other Place (scrambled eggs with tomato, onion and feta for me; a Denver omelet for H).  After that, we took B on a walk up City Creek Canyon, one of the few area canyons that is not a Salt Lake City watershed and thus one of the few that allows dogs.

About three miles up City Creek Canyon

City Creek Canyon is sneaky.  At first it feels as though you're just walking in a gully back behind a swanky neighborhood.  Then, once you get a couple of miles in, cliffs loom overhead and you realize that yes, this is an actual canyon.  If we'd kept going, we would have connected with the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and the multitude of hiking/MTBing trails that crisscross the foothills.  We only went out about three miles though, at which point B started dragging her feet.  She perked up on the downhill return, but we knew the six mile roundtrip would be enough to wear her out for the rest of the day.

We two-legged people weren't too tired after the walk, however, and stopped by Squatters for a couple of Full Suspensions.  These were cask-conditioned and were much smoother than the regular brew - tasty!  After that it was home for laundry, watching the New York Marathon on the DVR and racking the current batch of homemade red wine before the sun went down early.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

winter's here

It started snowing last night, the temperature falling swiftly from 60 on the commute home to cold enough that the snow was sticking on the lawn by the time we went to bed.  And Saturday morning?  Still snowing - not a ton here in the valley but socked in enough that you couldn't see the Wasatches at all.  So we spent the morning cleaning the house, doing laundry, putting things away, until the sun came out right around noon.  B and I went for a walk in Dimple Dell, where there were a few other folks out enjoying the new snow (cross-country skiers, dog-walkers, runners).  I hadn't been anxiously awaiting the start of winter but it was really nice to be out there, tromping around in the snow, dressed in the right layers and the air cold on my face.

Snow over my boots - it's a start!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

mormon pioneer trail

H was a man with a plan last glorious Sunday morning: he found us a new point-to-point hike to do.  We each drove a car to Ruth's Diner first - and since we got seated outside on the patio, we ate very quickly, not wanting to linger in the chill despite having a heater right next to our table (note: corned beef hash is not the best pre-hiking breakfast but it was certainly tasty) - and then kept going up Emigration Canyon to leave his truck at the Little Dell Reservoir parking area.  As we continued to drive my car up to the Jeremy Ranch Road (outskirts of Park City), we noticed something that gave us pause: lots and lots of hunters garbed in blaze orange, parked and/or milling about on the sides of the road.  Dang: we'd totally forgotten about deer season!

Lots of history right here

Unlike in Maine, where deer season lasts the entire month of November but there's no hunting on Sundays, in Utah deer season is only for one week/two weekends including Sundays ... in a state where hardly anything is open on Sundays.  But we'd come too far to turn back now, so when we got to the trailhead at Mormon Flat (where there was a small, quickly-drying puddle of deer blood in the dirt), we tied our red and not-blaze orange fleeces to the outside of our packs and decided to talk for the duration of the hike.  We saw some folks coming off the trail with their dogs who told us that while they'd seen a couple of hunters, everyone seemed to be coming out for the day, so that was reassuring.

Nice path for descending

This section of the Mormon Pioneer Trail from Mormon Flat to Little Dell Reservoir is  9.1 miles long, following the creek up Little Emigration Canyon to the pass at Big Mountain, then continuing down the other side into Mountain Dell Canyon (total trip elevation gain: 1,364 ft.).  The trail is quite pleasant, hardly taxing in the bright sunshine.  It's a pretty fateful stretch of trail, however as it was right here in 1846 where the Donner party took more than a week to get through what H and I did in about three hours.  It was because it took them so long here that they were caught in that winter storm in the Sierra Nevada a couple months later - and that, of course, ended badly.

Free apples!

It went much better for us.  H kept up a running commentary for the duration (I'm not sure he's ever talked so much in his life); the trail was mostly hardpacked dirt and easy footing; and just before we reached the terminus, we spotted a beautiful feral apple tree.  Deer had gotten all the fruit on the lower branches (and the drops) but there were plenty up higher so I gave the tree a shake and then snacked on a tart, blemish-free apple as we strolled into the Little Dell recreation area.

This is a great hike, pretty, not too challenging aside from the length.  You do need two cars since it's a point-to-point, and it'll be easier on the nerves if you go when it is not deer season, but it was cool to walk right where all those pioneers walked 150+ years ago.