Wednesday, September 28, 2011

bad beer, worse officiating

H and I finally got to a Real Salt Lake soccer game tonight.  Someone at his work had vouchers for free tickets and, as I always say, you should never underestimate the power of free - we ended up with seats about eight rows up from the field near the north goal.  RSL was playing the Chicago Fire and although RSL is currently third in the Western Conference and the Fire is seventh in the Eastern Conference, Chicago blanked RSL 0-3.

This was actually one of the worst games of soccer we've ever seen.  The refereeing was absolutely appalling: nearly every single call was against Salt Lake, including a red card to a key midfielder in the 11th minute.  Chicago is an amazing bunch of actors and dove more than Jacques Cousteau.  RSL did manage to score in the second half, when it was already 0-3, but the ref called it back, we think for offsides although what with the scrum of players wrestling in front of the goal, I'm not sure how you could have been sure.

The best part of the game were the fans.  One corner of the stadium stood up and played music - drums, horns - constantly throughout the entire game.  Our section was not the family section due to the hilarious and obscene cheers and taunts emanating around us.  I don't think I've heard that much swearing since we moved to Utah (and I did feel back for the LDS family next to us, but their kids were savvy enough to plug their ears for the "Oooooooooooooooooo - you suck, @$$%!%#" on every goal kick).

That linesman right there? Awful.

Rio Tinto Stadium, Real Salt Lake's home field in Sandy, Utah, is a gorgeous little (20,000+ capacity) stadium, with a natural grass field and swooping roof sections that glow at night from the interior lights.  Their beer options, however, leave quite a bit to be desired: Budweiser, Bud Light, Shock Top and Michelob Amber-Bock (all Anheuser-Busch products).  We went with the "amber-bock" as it was the darkest option ($5.50 for a tiny; $9.00 for a large) and after the first couple of sips, H looked at me and asked, "Does this beer have any taste?"  No, no, it does not, for the record.

On the plus side, since parking at the stadium is quite limited, we learned that if you go to the Sandy Crown Burger (9604 South State St.) and purchase at least $14.00 worth of food, you can park for free in their lot for the duration of the soccer game, stadium located just about a block north between 9000 and 9400 South.  We had a Crown Burger combo and a Junior Crown Burger combo and were very happy about all of it.  Except the soccer game.  May RSL have better luck, and better referees, next time.

Monday, September 26, 2011


We got a late start for our hike last Sunday, sleeping in, walking the dog and then going out to breakfast (Cottonwood Cafe: french toast for me; Denver omelet with home fries and sourdough toast for H), but since we're in the end of September, the heat wasn't an issue.  Sunday was just gorgeous with cloudless, Utah bluebird skies; the temperature at noon at the trailhead in Millcreek Canyon was around the low 60s and even in the sun, later in the afternoon, it didn't get above 80 F - perfect.

Alexander Basin

The trail we did is one we've been talking about ever since we started hiking out here, but we'd never done it because it was described as being so steep: Alexander Basin to Gobbler's Knob, described in our guidebook as "[n]o one lost any time cutting switchbacks when making this trail."  No kidding.  We hiked 4.9 miles round trip with a 3,083 elevation gain.  Let me repeat that: almost 3,100 feet of elevation gain in just under 2.5 miles.  The trail (hard packed dirt, some loose gravel, rocky) goes straight up the center of Alexander Basin and the up starts right from the trailhead.  It's really, really steep.  Really steep.

Looking east down towards Mt. Reynolds/Butler Fork

Alexander Basin itself is a tiered bowl, full of the remnants of the summer's wildflowers.  At the top of the basin, the terrain falls away to the south, opening up into another gorgeous bowl that drains into Big Cottonwood Canyon above Butler Fork.  We walked along the ridgeline first to an overlook a little to the south of the peak, floored by the expansive views in all directions.  To the south and east, we could see the top of the tram at Snowbird and Devil's Castle at Alta over in Little Cottonwood Canyon, the Silver Fork Lodge and Solitude's entry in Big Cottonwood Canyon; to the northeast we were able to pick out Parleys and Emigration Canyons and the backsides of the Park City area ski mountains.  It's really fun now as we're getting more familiar with the area to know what we're looking at.  And from up on that ridge, we were looking at a lot.

We figured out the self-timer!

We retraced our steps along the ridge to summit Gobbler's Knob - just a few feet higher but if you're going to climb a mountain, you might as well reach the top.  Our descent was slow at first, what with the loose rock underfoot and the steepness of the trail, but once we reached the middle of Alexander Basin we were able to make pretty good time (just under three hours hiking time, with just over an hour spent soaking in the views at the top).

Once down we changed into dry clothes and drove back down Millcreek Canyon until we found a spot by the stream (we had to go quite a ways down since all the picnic spots were full of families enjoying their late September dinners al fresco).  There, we cracked open a couple of PBRs (naturally), watched a couple of funny little American dippers* ducking and diving into the creek for their own meals, and just enjoyed being outdoors again on a glorious Utah afternoon.

* Thanks to Paul for the ID!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

xterra national championships

The XTERRA National Championships are up at Snowbasin Resort this weekend, with the triathlon USA finals Saturday and the trail run national finals on Sunday.  We often watch the XTERRA tri series on television and decided to head north to see the race in person today.  (Because Lance Armstrong recently decided that he wanted to do this race, a lot of other people went too, who might not normally have gone to the event.)  Snowbasin is, as always, a gorgeous venue and today was no exception, with a mix of sun and thin clouds and red foliage dotting the mountainside.  The temperatures were pleasant: low 60s in the morning and warming up to high 70s in the afternoon - pretty good conditions for a race.

The swim portion of the triathlon was down in Pineview Reservoir: a 1.5 km swim broken up into two 750-m laps with no running in between.  After the swim, the racers jumped on their mountain bikes - because, unlike the Ironman series, for example, XTERRA is not on pavement and both the bike and the run are on trails - for the 28 km climb from the reservoir to Snowbasin, a 3,400 foot elevation change.  After the bike, the athletes switch to their running shoes and head out on the 9.8 km trail run, across the ski trails and through the woods, with another 700 feet of climbing.

Lance heading out on the run

We opted to skip the swim portion and drove straight to Snowbasin,  We snagged a spot on the fence at the bike-to-run transition area, right by the run exit, and were able to easily see all the pro leaders, including Dan Hugo and Conrad Stoltz (So. Africa), Nico Lebrun (France) and Josiah Middaugh and Lance (USA) for the men, and Melanie McQuaid (Canada) for the women.  Lance's transition was a little slower than the other guys (understandably, since they do this regularly throughout the year) and Josiah had to walk the last mile of the bike segment because of a shredded rear tire.

Women's event podium

After the leaders and a good portion of the amateur sports came through the transition, we moved up the hill under the gondola to watch them finish the run.  The final fifty meters to the finish was lined with cheering spectators and the racers slapped high fives as they came down the last stretch, except for Lance who seemed to be struggling slightly.  For the event, Nico Lebrun came in first for the men, with Dan Hugo, Josiah Middaugh, Conrad Stoltz and Lance rounding out the top five; Melanie McQuaid took first for the women, and Lesley Paterson (Scotland) took second, then Danelle Kabush (Canada), Kelley Cullen (USA) and Emma Garrard (USA).

Men's season podium: Stoltz took the season;
Lebrun (to his right) won the event

Snowbasin put on a great event with burgers, BBQ and beer, vendors, gondola rides and live bluegrass music to keep everyone entertained and involved.  It's apparently a tough course - in a post-race interview, when asked if he had fun today, Lance deadpanned "No" - but the athletes seem to like it and XTERRA will be back again next year, having chosen Utah for its finals home.

Friday, September 23, 2011

moab long weekend (day 3)

Our last day in Moab dawned sunny, clear, dry and warm.  We packed up our gear and meandered over to Main Street for breakfast on the patio of the Peace Tree Cafe.  We were the first people sitting out there but by the time I'd finished my homemade granola with watermelon, apple, dried cranberries and yogurt, the patio was hoppin'.  We checked out of the Kokopelli Lodge and drove straightaway up to Dead Horse Point State Park.  On Saturday, when H rode his bike up there, he couldn't see a thing it was so socked in with clouds.  On Sunday, however, we could see for miles.  DHPSP is perched on the edge of a mesa, looking down over incredibly high red cliffs to the Colorado River wandering through its canyon below; the state park stood in for the Grand Canyon in the last scene of Thelma and Louise, by the way - it's just that impressive.

Looking at the Colorado River from DHPSP

After wandering around the scenic overlooks (the whole frickin' thing is a scenic overlook, really), we saddled up on our mountain bikes and hit the new Intrepid Trail System (as recommended by the Chile Pepper Bike Shop MTB chick on our second inquiry), which "offers slickrock for beginners."  There are three loops of increasing length and difficulty: the 1.1 mile Intrepid, the 4.2 mile Great Pyramid and the 9.0 mile Big Chief.  H decided that we would do all three of them in order, starting at the parking lot for maximum trail time.  It was so much fun!  The trails are fantastic - hard pack, slickrock and a little sand - with rolling hills, rocky step-ups and views absolutely everywhere.

H tearing it up on the trails (so focused!)

I did get a little dehydrated (not fun and not recommended) so after our ride, when we cleaned up and drove into the neighboring Canyonlands National Park/Island in the Sky district, I had to sit in the truck, drinking Gatorade for a little while before I felt well enough to walk about.  Canyonlands is just incredible (I seem to say that a lot about the Utah scenery, don't I?): wild-wild-wild, rough, desolate and gorgeous.  The Island in the Sky district is the easiest one to get around in, with its scenic drives and short, user-friendly hikes; the Needles district to the southeast and the Maze district to the southwest are pretty much only accessible by backcountry permit, and out in the Maze was where Aron Ralston lost his arm and nearly his life (see 127 Hours for slightly moviefied details).  We did walk out 1.4 miles to the Upheaval Dome, a possible meteor crater or burst salt bubble, marveling at the colors and swirls of the rocks around us.  We agreed that we'd like to go back to Canyonlands and do some more exploring, especially down on the White Rim road, a 4x4 road that follows the rim of a sandstone bench 1,200 feet below the Island mesa and still 1,000 above the canyon floor (explorable by 4-wheel drive vehicle and/or mountain bikes).

Why do they call it the White Rim?

It was starting to get late - we wouldn't end up getting home until after 10 p.m., making poor B stay another night at the kennel - but it was difficult to tear ourselves away from the sun-scorched beauty of southern Utah.  It's so very different from where each of us grew up, and we like it so much; there's just so much to see and do out there, we'll have to go back again soon.

Shafer Trail heading down to the White Rim

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

moab long weekend (day 2)

The rain was just letting up Saturday morning as H headed off for the Moab Century Tour at 6:45 a.m.; the two-mile ride in the drizzle to the start guaranteed that he'd be wet for the entire ride.  I lingered in the motel room until about 7:30 a.m., then got in the truck and drove the short distance to Arches National Park.  Having a national park pass meant that it was feasible for me to drive in early, do the 3 mi. round-trip hike to Delicate Arch and get back out of the park before it got busy.  There were a few other people out and about but by the time I got to the arch, perched precariously on the slickrock, there was just one other hiker up there.  We'd seen Delicate Arch from a distance when we were in Arches in 2008; up close it's much more fragile-seeming.  The canyons surrounding it are just gorgeous: curved and swirling red rock.

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

After that little hike, I headed back towards town and drove ten miles down the Potash Road, Scenic Byway 279, to the trail head for Corona Arch.  This was another 3 mi. round-trip hike, fairly gentle, which first followed an old road up to a gap, and then meandered up a cairn-marked wash to the red rock cliffs.  The canyon is just stunning, with the railroad tracks just barely visible below, and there are two arches up there: Bowtie Arch and the impressive Corona Arch (140 x 150 foot opening).  I hung out under the arch for a little while as the skies cleared and the sun came out, wondering how many more amazing natural features might be hiding in the neighboring canyons.

Corona Arch (there's tiny people in there, for scale)

I got back to the truck at 11:45 a.m. and started driving back to town, keeping an eye on all the cyclists as Potash Road was the second leg of the century, as well as the sum total of the 40 mile ride, when I realized that I recognized the jersey up ahead.  It was H, well ahead of schedule and almost done with his ride!  He flagged me down and asked me to bring shoes and dry clothes to him at the finish, so I hurried to the motel and then back meet him to get the full story.

The first leg of his 100 mile ride was to Dead Horse Point State Park and back (60 miles) and was completely fogged in the whole way - he couldn't see a thing.  He did learn, however, at the turnaround, that only three guys were ahead of him, so he went charging back down the hill and to the second leg, the out-and-back on Potash Road along the Colorado River (40 miles).  He ended up being the fourth finisher overall (out of 928 riders), with a blistering time of 5:18:56 - absolutely fantastic since he hasn't done any long rides all summer.  I was so proud of him!

100 miles later, still smiling

He was a little worn out, understandably, so after we had some tacos and beer as provided by the race organizers, we went back to the motel.  H vegged out for a little bit while I walked up and down Moab's Main Street, stopping in at Lin Ottinger's Rock Shop and Moab Coffee Roasters, and generally window shopping.  When I got back, he was starving and ready to go, so we strolled back down to the Moab Brewery for beer, fish tacos (me) and a big plate of pasta (H) and the Chile Pepper Bike Shop for MTB trail recommendations for Sunday and a new helmet for me.

It was an early evening, as you might imagine.  Back at the Kokopelli Lodge we watched the Utah Utes crush the BYU Cougars into smithereens before calling it a night.  On the schedule for Sunday: more mountain biking!

Monday, September 19, 2011

moab long weekend (day 1)

On a bit of a whim, we decided to go to Moab, Utah, for a long weekend getaway.  There was a big road ride going on - the Moab Century Tour - so when I managed to snag a last minute motel room due to a fortuitous cancellation, H registered for the century, we tossed B in the kennel and loaded up the truck.  We really need to get a bike rack but H managed to fit it all in: two MTBs and a tub of gear in the back of the truck; his road bike and our overnight bags behind us in the cab.  It's about a four hour drive from our house to Moab so we got up and got going Friday morning, and rocked out to country music the whole way down.  (You really have to listen to country music when you're driving through the back of beyond in Utah.)

We made one brief refueling stop in Green River, where I picked up a Crenshaw melon from a Vetere family melon stand - growing the famed Green River melons since 1958.  We arrived in Moab in time for a late lunch at the Moab Brewery, the only microbrewery in town; I had a Deadhorse Ale, a traditional English mild ale, and H had their Scorpion Pale Ale, which is a tasty and hoppy brew.  Next door to the brewery is one of Moab's many bike shops, the Chile Pepper Bike Shop.  There, a cute MTB chick gave us a suggestion on some beginner MTB trails.  Moab is a mecca for outdoors sports - hiking, river running, canyoneering, climbing, 4x4ing, and especially MTBing - the surrounding slickrock is pretty gnarly, though, and much of it way above my skill level, so we wanted some advice from the locals.

Kokopelli Lodge in downtown Moab

First, however, we checked into our motel, the funky little Kokopelli Lodge (72 South 100 East).  Built in the 1950s, this eight-unit motel was just what I hoped for: extremely reasonable, quiet, just a block off Main Street, colorful and not a cookie-cutter chain.  The room was small but comfortable, with a private bath, mini-fridge, microwave and coffee maker, and the A/C cranked.  Two office dogs, Ruby and Jed, helped check us in; we kind of wished we could have borrowed Ruby for the night since we hadn't brought B.  We will absolutely stay there again.

After we'd checked in, we changed into MTB duds and drove a few miles north of town, as recommended, to the Moab Brand trails.  We opted for one of the two easy rides, the Bar M trail, an 8-mile loop with only about 300 feet of elevation change.  The trail surface was hard pack, a little loose rock and slickrock, and the terrain was rolling ups-and-downs, much more enjoyable to me than the all-up/all-down canyon riding I've attempted along the Wasatch Front.  The scenery was pretty good too - lots of fun.

Always check your brakes before a ride

We only made one loop, though, because the thunderclouds were rolling in.  By the time we'd gotten back to town, the storm was in full force - thunder, crazy lightning and lots of rain - and it rained off and on all night, letting up enough to let us scurry around the block for a quick dinner at Eddie McStiff's (used to be a brewpub but now they contract the brewing out to SLC).  We called it an early night since it was going to be a big day tomorrow - H's 100 mile ride, for instance - and fell asleep to the sound of rain on the roof.  So far, Moab was looking to be a good choice for the weekend.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Been quiet around here, hasn't it?  Well, to be honest, we've sort of laid low this past week.  On Sunday, H rode his bike from our house, up to SLC and then up to the top of Emigration Canyon; I drove up there to meet him and then we had breakfast at Ruth's Diner (Sunrise Spuds for me and a club sandwich for H).  After that we stopped by the Sandy City Hall to see the Healing Field memorial, where more than 3,000 American flags were set up on the lawn, one for each person who died in the attacks on 9/11.

Other than that, we've just been working, road riding (H)/going to the gym (me)/hiding under the bed (B), and hand-tweezing the remaining thorns out of our MTB tires.  We seem to have gotten them all - so far, everything's staying inflated - which would be nice because we'd like to ride this weekend.

Sorry for the unexcitement but sometimes things are just mellow (oh! H started a batch of homebrew but that'll get its own post sometime later).  We'll see if we can't rustle up some doin's this weekend to tell you about..

Sunday, September 11, 2011

farmers' market

We hadn't been up to the Downtown SLC Farmers' Market yet this year, so when the weather forecast on Saturday was for afternoon thunderstorms, we decided to not venture into the mountains (where the thunderstorms like to hang out) and instead head in town.  There was a lot going on in downtown SLC on Saturday: the weekly farmers' market, the Greek Festival, the Dew Tour and a 1,000 bike motorcycle ride in honor of 9/11.

The Farmers' Market is massive, nearly covering Pioneer Park with farm stands selling all manner of produce, baked goods, cheese, pork, lamb, nuts and flowers, craft stands selling all manner of handmade jewelry, clothing, pottery, artwork and metalwork, random musicians (a didgeridoo, a bicycle-towed upright piano, a Swedish fiddle, folkies and bluegrassy types) and a lane of food tents.  We stopped by the Middle Eastern vendor, Amal Wa Salam, which is owned and run by a fellow who works in H's office, and bought a couple of falafels.  They were fantastic: three falafels - molded and fried while we waited by Sami's cute little mom - served on a tender pita with shredded lettuce, cabbage and carrots, ripe tomato slices, dabbed with a very spicy red chile paste and drizzled with a light yogurt sauce.  The falafels were hot, light and crispy - so good.  We stood under a tree and gobbled them down, watching the swirl of people and dogs move past us.

Busy place, the Farmers' Market

After our snack I bought tomatoes, peaches, plums and green beans from a couple of different farm stands.  I've missed going to a farmers' market on a regular basis.  In Maine, there was one every Wednesday not far from my work, so we'd walk up at lunchtime to make our purchases.  Here in SLC, this huge market is on Saturdays and is all the way up in town; we're usually off hiking or biking and it really isn't convenient for us.  There is a Tuesday late afternoon option, however, that I keep forgetting about - just farm vendors, not the crafts - but that I should remember to hit after work.

Buying a bucket o' green beans

Laden with super-fresh fruits and veggies, we strolled back to the car, stopping in at Squatters to hydrate after having been out in the midday sun.  H had the Full Suspension pale ale, of course, but I branched out and had the seasonal bitter - a really nice beer, a little lighter than the Full Suspension.

Friday, September 9, 2011

wine making on the wasatch front

Utah's liquor laws are complicated.  You can still get a drink, no worries: there are bars, and restaurants with liquor licenses; you can buy beer in grocery stores (3.2% alcohol by weight/4% alcohol by volume) and the liquor stores sell booze, wine and higher alcohol beer.  It's really not that big a deal - just be patient with the bartenders when they are explaining it to you because it's not their fault.  But if you don't want to deal with all of that, if you want to stockpile without breaking the bank or if you're looking for a six-week project, you can make your own wine at home.  If I can do it, anyone can!

Salt Lake City actually has a home-brewing supply store, The Beer Nut, located at 1200 South State Street.  It's a cozy little shop, selling beer-, wine- and soda-making kits, ingredients and equipment.  They have a pretty big selection of wine-making juice kits: the majority seem to be red wines but my dad, who has been home-brewing and home-vintnering for decades now, told me that whites are easier than reds, so I picked out a Winexpert Luna Bianca, a chardonnay blend.  We already had much of the equipment we needed because H brews homebrew from time to time (although he hasn't done it out here yet) and I borrowed the most expensive thing I didn't have, a 6-gallon glass carboy, from a work friend.

You do have to be patient when making your own beer and wine.  I started primary fermentation on June 26 ( I had been waiting until the basement temperature was a constant 70 F because fermentation requires 65-75 F), mixing up the juice, oak chips and various additives and then letting it sit.  On July 4, the specific gravity was 1.010 which meant I could decant the wine into the glass carboy for secondary fermentation.  Then I let it sit for ten days.  After that, I checked the specific gravity (which for the variety I was making would not get lower than 0.998) to check that it remained the same for two consecutive days.  Stabilizing and clearing came next on July 15, which involved stirring the yeast sediment back into the wine and adding clarifiers.  Then I let it sit for eight days to clear.

On July 23 I racked the wine - siphoning the clear liquid off of the dregs into a clean container - and then let it sit another two weeks to finish clearing.  It looked pretty good on August 7, but my dad said that at this point, I could leave it there in the carboy almost indefinitely before bottling.  That was good because we got busy with friends and summer stuff in August and it wasn't for another month that we finally got around to bottling the stuff.  I rented a corker from the Beer Nut, washed all the bottles we'd collected and soaked the natural corks.  Then H and I did the bottling, six gallons of wine into 30 bottles, with just over two wineglasses of overage.

It looks like wine, so that's a plus

The bottled wine is supposed to age for at least a month but we had to drink those two glasses: it's kind of fruity and a little sweeter than I prefer (note to self: next time buy "dry," not "off-dry") but it's absolutely drinkable and a splash of seltzer takes away most of the sweetness, turning it into a refreshing wine spritzer.  We're calling it "Cecret Chardonnay," from the nascent WeWentWest Winery - I'll put up another photo when we get the labels done.  Looking at those thirty bottles on the counter was a hoot - I don't think I've ever had so much wine in the house all at once.  With the cost of the kit, the corks, the sanitizers and the corker rental, the price per bottle comes out to about $5 - or the price of a pint of beer at the Porcupine.  I'm not saying we're giving up on going out, I'm just saying it's kind of fun to have homemade options.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


The plan was solid - it was a good plan.  We were going to take our MTBs out to Antelope Island State Park and ride on the trails there.  The island has lots of dirt roads and hiking/biking/horseback-riding trails which run along ridgelines or follow the undulating foothills, nothing too hilly or steep or rocky or switchbacky, so I should have been able to ride them no problem.  The weather was perfect: clear and sunny, high 70s with a steady breeze.  We checked in at the visitors' center and the super-friendly ranger there talked us through our trail possibilities; we decided to try the Mountain View trail which runs the length of the island on the east side and continues past the Fielding Garr Ranch, heading towards the southern end of the island which is inaccessible to those folks in cars.  We drove a little ways down the road to the Frary Peak trailhead road where there was access to the Mountain View trail, put on our gear and jumped on our bikes.

the scenic Mountain View trail

For the first 1.4 miles it was wonderful.  Gentle terrain, a dirt path (with some sandy spots) surrounded by wild sunflowers, pronghorn antelope bounding away through the grasses and bison watching us unconcernedly as we pedaled on by.  At about 1.4 miles we stopped so H could take some photos of the picturesque path and as he laid his bike down, I heard a hissing.  "Hey," I said, "I think one of us has a flat."  We inspected our tires. Yes, one of us did have a flat, and the other of us had a flat too, and actually both of us had two flats each as our tires were simply pincushioned full of thorns.  We were each carrying a spare tube but that would have left us still with a flat tire apiece, so there was nothing to do but push our bikes back to the truck, sorely disappointed but grateful that we'd only gotten 1.4 miles out and not, say, ten.

When we got back to the truck, we started pulling thorns out.  We stopped counting when we got to 200, and that was only the big ones; our tires were still riddled with tiny thorns that will require bright light and tweezers to remove.  And we're going to have to get them all, because if we miss any at all it'll mean an automatic flat as soon as the new tube is inflated.  Like I said, we were pretty disappointed - because it would have been a great, easy ride in such a beautiful spot - but we found that a cold PBR eases the pain a little.

All. Four. Tires. Are. Flat.

We also found a party going on over at the other side of the island: the sixth annual Antelope Island Stampede Festival, which we hadn't known was even going on until the visitors' center handed us a brochure.  Hot air balloons (only in the morning, so we missed those), tons of colorful kites, live music, food vendors and a BMX bike team demo managed to keep us entertained for a while.

This guy? Doesn't have flat tires (or any fear)

In order to break up the drive home, and also continue to keep ourselves entertained and ease the pain, we dropped by Squatters for a couple of Full Suspension pale ales (they've also got a very nice seasonal bitter on tap right now, but I was going to be one and done today and the pale ale was what I went with) and some food.  There were a decent number of folks there for such an off time on a Sunday afternoon, and quite a few people were enjoying the pleasant temperatures out on the patio - always a good time at Squatters.  And there at the bar we toasted to good plans gone amok: because even we didn't get to ride like we wanted, we still got outside on a nice day in a beautiful spot, and it's hard to hate that - no matter how many thorns there are.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Some days are mellow around here.  Saturday, September 3, was one such day.  H went for a road ride and I took myself hiking, going back up to Alta to do the Catherine's Pass loop H and I had done just a couple weekends ago.  The wildflowers were definitely past their prime, but it was still plenty colorful.  There were lots of folks up there too, holiday weekend and all, I guess, but not so many that they bothered the big ol' bull moose leisurely dining under the Cecret chairlift.

Alta moose enjoying a meal

After we'd gotten home and cleaned up from our respective outings, we went to the Porcupine for the 1 year-11 month anniversary of our arrival in Utah.  Yes, we're still counting, and yes, I cannot believe we've almost been here two years - where has the time gone?  A pitcher of Full Suspension pale ale, a Szechuan veggie stirfry (me) and a BBQ meatloaf with mashed potatoes (H) later, we were back at home, in for the evening early, just content to be mellow.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

trout creek guard station - part 3

Because we never, ever have completely fabulous weather on our vacations, Sunday was pretty much a washout.  We'd planned to do a higher altitude hike (trailhead at 11,000 ft; high point at 12,000) to a lake to see if there were any fish to be caught, but the thunder and lightning evident at the trailhead changed our minds.  Instead we followed our map around a bunch of Forest Service roads, checking out Oaks Park Reservoir, a bunch of range cattle and a good number of folks on ATVs, all wearing raingear.  (The people were wearing raingear, not the cows.)

Riding the storm out

We got back to the cabin in the early afternoon and settled into the long haul - the thunderstorm moved around us for about eight hours.  I read on the porch, bundled up as the temperature plummeted (by dark we could see our breath), while H painstakingly prepared shavings for the evening's campfire and our range cows lowed calmly to each other.  It was pretty peaceful, but we almost ran out of beer.  The rain finally stopped at 7:30 p.m., giving us enough time to build a campfire.  We'd planned to cook a pork tenderloin over the fire but it just got too late and we had leftovers instead.

The master firebuilder gets it done even
on rainy days

Monday meant we had to leave and, of course, the day came in clear and brightly sunshiny.  We packed up our gear, swept out the cabin, took a few more pictures and said goodbye to the cows.  We decided to drive out a different way than we went in, which dirt road took us through winding Brownie Canyon and Dry Fork, the latter of which ends in dramatic red and white rock cliffs and hoodoos.  The drive west was uneventful and we got back to SLC in time for a pitcher of Full Suspension at the Porcupine before we liberated B from the kennel.

A little scruffy and completely happy

The stack of laundry was imposing and we desperately needed/wanted showers, but it was bittersweet to be home again (as much as we like our house): the Trout Creek Guard Station is a lovely place, pulled out of the world where we really felt as though we were in the middle of nowhere, away from absolutely everything.  We're so glad we went there.

trout creek guard station - part 2

Saturday morning brought us mostly sunny skies and ham-egg-cheese sandwiches for breakfast (as well as truly nasty Folgers instant coffee - bleh).  The weather looked like it was going to hold up so we decided to try to hike a loop that we'd pieced together on our map: trail 029 from behind the cabin to trail 025/Highline Trail to ATV trail 009 to Forest Service road 020, which goes right by the cabin.  It was all laid out there, clear as could be on the map, but we decided to bring the compass just in case.

Trail 029 right before we saw the elk

It was a dang good thing we did too.  The first half of this nearly 12-mile hike was really difficult, not because of the terrain but because the trails were so lightly traveled and so very poorly marked.  Instead of paint blazes (which they don't use out here but we're used to from back East), they'd chopped hatchet-slashes into the trees - which tend to get overgrown as the tree ages.  There were occasional cairns too, but those were pretty sporadic, plus there were a lot of blown-down trees so we often had to scramble over them, off the trail, and then find the trail again.  Eventually we learned to search out the old blow-downs that had been chainsawed years ago to clear the trail.  The forest on the 029 section was particularly beautiful and we even saw a herd of elk as they ran away from us.  (Elk are very shy.)

Joyfully leaving 025 behind in Manila Park

The Highline Trail/025 was even tougher to follow than 029, especially when we got to the high point of the trail, a moonscape of strange sandy/rocky dunes punctuated with the occasional wizened tree.  And no trail to speak of.  As thunder rumbled ominously overhead, we searched in vain for 15-20 minutes, trying to find some semblance of a path.  We knew we could go back the way we came, but we really didn't want to try to find the trail again backwards, knowing how tough it had been the first time.  Finally, after getting out the map and compass to orient ourselves, we went back to the last tree we knew had a blaze and then searched until we found one fallen tree that had been sliced by a chainsaw.  And so it went, chainsaw cut to faint blaze to chainsaw cut, until we found the switchbacks and got off that ridge.  I'm not going to lie to you: it was a little stressful, not knowing where the trail was.

Manila Park (no cows)

We picked up ATV trail 009 in a lovely meadow, Manila Park, and from then on out it was easy travelling, the trail well-worn and evident.  We passed through some pretty woods and a couple other parks populated with surprised range cattle.  009 came out on the forest road that, after an hour's trudging, delivered us right at our cabin.  A little while later, we listened to our range cows mooing as we cracked open some PBRs, cooked bratwursts and baked beans (right in the can) on the campfire, enjoying the sitting down as the thunder rumbled - again - and those glorious stars came out.

Big Brush Creek, along trail 009

trout creek guard station - part 1

Up until last weekend I couldn't have told you when the last time was I went camping, but now, after last weekend, the clock has been reset - we went camping last weekend!  After dropping B off at the kennel, we drove east nearly all the way across the state on Utah-40, passing through the teeny towns of Fruitland, Duchesne, Bridgeland, Myton and Roosevelt, plus a whole lot of nuthin', to get to Vernal, Utah, which is near enough to Dinosaur National Monument that every other shop and motel had a dinosaur motif going on.  Then we drove north from Vernal for twenty miles on a paved road (191), and then northwest for another twenty miles on dirt roads until we got to the Trout Creek Guard Station in Ashley National Forest, in the Uintas range.

Trout Creek Ranger Station, elev. 9300

Built in the early 1930s (along with all the other Forest Service ranger/guard stations in the area, only a couple of which still survive), the TCGS sits at an elevation of 9,300 feet, at the northern end of Trout Creek Park, a verdant cow pasture with many creeks and streams and a population of range cows, both curious and cautious about us.  The supercute (and clean) cabin has two rooms and an excellent porch (I love porches), is plumbed and has a shower although the water is currently turned off, a propane stove and fridge, solar-powered lights, bunkbeds and a double futon couch, a kitchen table with four chairs, a woodstove inside and fire-pit outside, screens on the windows and plenty of dishes and silverware of varying condition.  There was firewood stacked on the porch and more filling half of the garage behind the cabin - H was immediately in heaven and started chopping wood for a campfire as soon as we'd unloaded.

Fenceline art shot

Other outbuildings include a small barn and an outhouse, both of the same vintage as the cabin and garage, and a newer vault toilet, as well as a split-rail corral in the woods and a larger barbed wire fenced pasture.  There were cowpies everywhere, so we had to watch where we stepped as we explored, finding a hiking trail out back and a quickly running, clear stream, perfect to use for washing hair and dousing campfires.  The temperature had dropped from 88 in Vernal to 59 as we headed into the forest, the sun mostly out but dark clouds building to the north/northwest.

Looking west over the little barn 
to Leidy Peak (photo taken Monday a.m.)

H built an incredible campfire, lighting it with one match and using neither newspaper nor lighter fluid.  We ate our al fresco dinner of chicken and broccoli alfredo and had s'mores (and PBRs) as the sun went down and the incredible stars came out.  Sitting there, listening to the range cows moo, we could feel ourselves relaxing bit by bit; we'd just gotten to TCGS and we already loved it.