Sunday, October 30, 2011


Sometimes you just have to have some downtime.  Saturday was mostly cloudy in the morning, so our get-up-and-go got up and went, and we just did some home stuff: laundry, cleaning, etc.  B and I headed out to run some errands midday (one of the reasons B likes late fall and winter so much more than summer is because it's cool enough that she can go along in the car - never knew a dog who liked to just sit in the car as much as this one) and by the time we got back, the skies had cleared.  H went out for a road ride and I put on my running shoes and did my 3.5 mile loop from the house, the one that is all up for the first half and all down for the return half.  It was a lovely fall afternoon (high 50s and sunny) and the run actually ended up being fun.  After that, our evening consisted of me trying out a new chicken pot pie recipe: it turned out pretty well but (1) adding some parboiled cubed potatoes will give it some additional heft, (2) need to thicken the tasty sauce somewhat so it sticks to the filling better and (3) need to keep an eye on the puff pastry crust so as not to burn it.  No, seriously, it did taste good.

Anyway, that was it for our Saturday.  Sunday we did go on a hike, but that's a post of a different color.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

bike with mike

On Sunday we loaded our MTBs into the truck and drove out to Captain Mike's house in Park City.  He lives in a great spot, in the foothills on the far side of the valley, so he's got a great view of the three (Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley and Canyons) ski resorts.  He's also got access right out his front door to Park City's fantastic network of trails, accessible to MTBers, runners, hikers, snowshoers, nordic skiers and horseback riders.

Mike and me - action shot!

We took some nice singletrack through the fields and around the foothills, gently climbing up until we connected with the Glenwild Loop above Kimball Junction.  At this point, I recognized the trail that H and I had ridden earlier this summer - correction: the trail that H had ridden and I had walked my bike up and up and up.  For some reason, I did much better this time, especially when Mike was riding in front of me so I could pace myself off him.  He and I were about the same speed, but he is much stronger on the bike than I am, and looked like he could calmly pedal uphill forever.

Another nice day in greater Park City

Instead of going to the top of the hill and picking our way down the difficult switchbacks (as H and I had done), Mike led us up a jeep road and then down a less technical route.  At the intersection at the bottom of the hill, we continued on the Flying Dog trail, following a creek bed a little ways and then climbing up and over another ridge.  I really like those trails out there.  There are hills, sure, but they're not so discouragingly steep and long, and this time I actually pedaled my way up most of them.

We looped back around, ending up back at the house after about twelve miles, and then enjoyed a beer on the porch.  You always should end a MTB ride with a beer.  Captain Mike thinks so too and that's yet another reason why we like Mike.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

faint trails

On Saturday, we joined a group from the Wasatch Mountain Club for a "Faint Trails" hike, led by club historian, Charles Keller.  Captain Mike had told us about the hike, which was going up Grizzly Gulch at Alta, and would talk about some of the extensive mining history in the area.  When we met the group - which ended up being nearly twenty people - at the Little Cottonwood Canyon park-n-ride lot, we were pleased to recognize a bunch of folks: my friend Susan from work and her husband, Bob, Captain Mike and three of Captain Mike's friends whom we had met last weekend on the Park City hike, Skip, Sandy and Hope.

The group, heading down an old mining road

The Faint Trails hikes are just what their name implies, covering old and little used trails.  Charles took us along the Alta-Brighton horse path, the Prince of Wales pipeline trail, mining roads that were laid out in the late 1870s, and several other of the myriad trails crisscrossing the upper Little Cottonwood Canyon.  Charles is a historian, author (The Lady in the Ore Bucket, a history of the Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood and Millcreek Canyons) and avid hiker.  His knowledge of the area is seemingly limitless and he showed us old stone walls, foundations, tunnel entrances, ruins of trestles, a suspension bridge, pump houses and water towers.  Charles is also 82 and is a prime example of how good an active outdoor life can be for a person.

Our guide, Charles Keller

The day was gorgeous - bright blue sky and sunshine over the golden aspens - the company convivial and the scenery spectacular.  We were out tramping around for about four hours (which was plenty, given the size of the group), covering 3.9 miles and doing about 1,400 feet of climbing.  It wasn't our most ambitious day of hiking but it was very interesting to learn so much about the miners who populated our beloved canyon from the 1860s until about the 1960s.  And it was just so nice to be out hiking around - the snow is coming soon and we won't get too many more days like that this fall.

Blue and gold - can't get enough of it

Thursday, October 20, 2011

fall colors

Although we don't get the brilliant reds and oranges that New England gets with autumn foliage, northern Utah does still get some nice color: the golden aspen, obviously, but also soft reds, pinks and pale oranges.  People are saying that this year is one of the best foliage-wise in recent years.

We didn't do much the Sunday after our Park City hike with Captain Mike and friends - out for breakfast, a road ride for H, pulling up most of the back garden, mowing and edging the front yard.  But after our chores were done we drove up Little Cottonwood Canyon and took a bunch of pictures of the leaves.  I wish it hadn't been so overcast as I think the hues would have popped more, but it was still wicked pretty.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

park city hike with mike

After far, far too long, we finally synced up with Captain Mike again for a Park City hike.  We met up with him and five of his friends in the Old Town part of Park City, ascending the stairs on Woodside Avenue to some of the myriad hiking/MTB trails that crisscross the area.  Those Park City trails are so amazing: well-marked and in great shape.  We went up Sweeney's Switchbacks for a while, crossing the Flat Cable trail and then meandering back and forth under the Town Lift (Park City Mountain Resort's chairlift that takes folks from downtown PC up to the mountain).

The gang, heading up the trail

The trail we followed went in and out of the woods and crossed several ski trails, following the old tram line, the rusted metal towers straining to be seen amongst the aspens.  We followed some sunny, south-slope facing switchbacks above the old Silver Queen mine, ending up at the yurt above PCMR's Bonanza Lift for lunch, looking out over the trails and glades of the adjacent Deer Valley Resort.

Park City Mountain Resort, shining in the autumn sun

We backtracked a little on our return, but the prettiest part was a new bit of trail, following the serpentine John's Trail through a gorgeous grove of aspens.  The descent was gentle, the packed dirt path cushioned with fallen leaves, and the afternoon light filtering through the gold of the aspens - just beautiful.

Everything's golden

After the hike (9.3 miles RT, 1700 ft. elevation gain), we stopped in at Hope and Sandy's Old Town home (lot originally sold in 1887 for $150; worth considerably more now) for a beer on the deck.  This was a congenial group of Utah transplants Captain Mike had put together: everyone was interesting, fit and excited about living here and being outdoors as much as possible.  Hopefully we'll get together again for another outing soon, before the snow flies (again).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


It's that time of year again, that giddy time when all the ski resorts start hinting that Opening Day is just around the corner!  Here is a list of anticipated, condition-dependent openings (you can find further details and much much more over at Ski Utah too):

Snowbasin, Beaver Mountain and Wolf Mountain are all currently hedging their bets as "TBA."

Also, Ski magazine has published its readers' survey results for the country's top ski resorts and Utah makes out pretty well:  Deer Valley #1, Park City #6, Canyons #16 and The Bird #20.  More interestingly, I think, is the ranking for the resorts with the best snow, frou-frou amenities aside: Alta #1, Powder Mountain #3, Snowbird #4, Brighton #6, Solitude #7 and Deer Valley #10.  You know where my heart lies: you can have your haute cuisine, exciting apres ski and solicitous staff - give me snow, snow and more snow.  Alta, we're counting the days.

Monday, October 10, 2011

little cottonwood canyon hill climb #2

It's that time of year again: that time when H jumps on his road bike and rides from our house to the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon.  Once again, I met him up at the top with a PBR and the camera to commemorate the event.  One difference this year?  All the snow up there, whereas as last year there was none.  There were tons of ski tracks all over Alta and we could watch three snowboarders hiking up and jumping off an old ski jump on the North Rustler trail.

Happy to have gotten that over with

After we toasted to his not having to do that again for another year, we drove back down the canyon and then over to and up Big Cottonwood Canyon for a celebratory lunch at the Silver Fork Lodge.  The place was packed, surprisingly - I would have thought breakfast was their biggest draw.  Although it was chilly (low 50s) with high, thin clouds, plenty of folks were sitting outside on the deck, snuggled up to the propane heaters.  We opted for an inside table instead, and dined on meatloaf and mashed potatoes (me) and a Cubano sandwich (H).  I thought lunch was okay, not great, but I had been hoping that they served breakfast all day and was thus slightly disappointed when I couldn't get my favorite sourdough pancakes.  Still, the service was good and a nice fire was crackling in the fireplace - it's really hard to complain.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

deep pow pale ale

Right after we bottled our Cecret Chardonnay and freed up the equipment, H started a batch of homebrew, using the kit I'd gotten him for his birthday.  He's made beer before but not for years, and not out here in the west, so we had stopped by the Beer Nut to see if there were any tips or tricks to high altitude brewing.  The folks at the Beer Nut are friendly and more than happy to talk at length about home brewing.  We learned that the only thing that would be different out here is the water: it's really hard in SLC and full of minerals, so you either have to boil all the water and let the minerals settle out if you're using tap water, or buy spring (not distilled) water and use that instead.  Other than that, brew away!

1200 So. State St., SLC

A basic difference between making beer and making wine at home is that wine (from a kit) is easy - basically mix juice and water and a few additives, and then wait for 6-8 weeks - whereas beer is labor-intensive at the start but you get the end product pretty quickly.  The pale ale kit H had used whole grains which had to be steeped in hot water for 45 minutes, then discarded (we tried a spoonful of the warm grains afterwards: would have been tasty with milk and sugar), then the malt added and boiled for 45 minutes; then the hops added and the wort cooled.  The recipe had four different hops: Amarillo, Glacier, Warrior and Columbus.  We like hoppy beers.

After the yeast was added and everything cooled enough, the beer went into the primary fermenter for four days, and then the secondary fermenter for another ten until the final specific gravity was reached, and then bottled.

Good-lookin' and good-tastin'

After bottling, you're supposed to let the beer age for a month or so.  We could only wait for a couple of weeks, however, and opened some last night: nice carbonation, very little sediment, gorgeous color, fairly strong hoppy flavor with no bitter aftertaste ... we deemed H's Deep Pow Pale Ale a rousing success!  We do have to exercise restraint, however, and ration out this new beer - two cases won't last long otherwise, not with a home brew this tasty.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

first snow of the season

It's gone now, but it snowed a couple of inches down in the valley today and it stuck around for several hours.  That means we've had a grand total of 4 1/2 months without snow - the last snow was May 24th, I think - that's a heckuva long winter.  The mountains got a fair amount: Alta's current forecast is for a winter storm warning, temperatures hovering in the high 20s, with accumulations possible between 8-16 inches.  The ski resorts are getting psyched and Solitude has already announced its opening day for November 11, weather permitting.  That seems early!  It's going to warm up again next week, back up into the high 70s, but in the meantime, as I look out into the back garden, I think this early snowfall may have put an end to my tomatoes for this season.  That's okay.  They weren't producing much anyhow.  I can't believe ski season is just around the corner!
I think this is the end of the 2011 garden

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

happy second utahniversary

Yesterday marked our second year in Utah (we were travelling home from a weekend wedding in Minnesota) and we just cannot believe that we've been here for two years.  It goes so quickly!  Here are some of the last year's highlights:

October.  We did some hiking; I tried cooking with tomatillos for the first time; we watched the U crush Colorado State 59-6 in the rain; we tried a couple of new places to eat; H had a birthday and rode his bike up Little Cottonwood Canyon.

November.  We went out to breakfast and raked a lot of leaves; we checked out the Park City ski swap; we picked up our Alta season passes; opening day was 11/20 with a "settled snow depth" of around 40 inches and on 11/21, we skied in another 12" of brand new powder, an auspicious start to the season; I ran the Thanksgiving morning Turkey Trot in 12F temperatures and then we went out for 10:00 a.m. beers, as we do.

December.  We mostly skied, although I hurt my back and had to take a couple weekends off, and by 12/18 we had a base depth of over 6 feet; it took me three hours to drive home from work one day in a snowstorm because Utah drivers are terrible; and we skied some more.

January.  Skiing, skiing, skiing, including H taking up telemark and me going by myself for the first time ever; we ate at a Lebanese restaurant (good) and a BBQ place (mediocre); I had a birthday.

February.  We went to a neighborhood preparedness meeting; we watched World Cup speed skating at the Oval in Kearns, Utah; it didn't snow that much early in the month but we still had some amazing days at Alta.

March.  We tried another BBQ place (no good) and also a downtown dive bar (former dive bar); we had Eastern ski guests and ridiculous amounts of snow in the mountains.

April.  I finally got powder skis; we tried yet another new BBQ place (okay), a pizza place (okay) and an Indian restaurant (good); Alta was looking at a 206" base and 724" snowfall season-to-date and we skied and skied and skied.

May.  Alta closed (snif!); we tried new BBQ (mediocre) and Thai (quite good); we fixed up the backyard, smothering the weeds with two tons of crushed rock, carried by hand; H's parents came to visit and we all went to St. George to explore for a weekend; we bought mountain bikes.

June.  We mountain-biked and started hiking, despite the wet spring; we saw Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in concert; we found a BBQ festival and also went to a Vietnamese noodle house in SLC; we had a friend visit from back East and did some hiking and moose-viewing; I ran 8K all downhill (ouch).

July.  We did a bunch more MTBing and hiking; a California friend came to visit us; H did the Porcupine Hill Climb on his road bike; I discovered a fantastic Asian supermarket.

August.  My two girlfriends came to visit for a weekend; our California friend came back and he and H went camping; we had a blast watching the Tour of Utah (yay, Levi!); we hiked a lot and MTBed; we went back to Log Haven for our tenth wedding anniversary and then went pseudo-camping in a Forest Service cabin in Ashley National Forest.

September.  We filled our MTB tires full of thorns at Antelope Island; we made thirty bottles of homemade white wine; we checked out the big SLC farmer's market; we had a wonderful long weekend of MTBing, hiking and road-riding down in Moab; we saw the XTERRA National Championships, and Lance Armstrong, up at Snowbasin; we hiked, of course; and we saw a terrible Real Salt Lake game.

And now we're starting our third year.  The weather this week isn't supposed to be that good - after over a month of gorgeous weather, it's finally cloudy and raining ... but it's also supposed to snow up in the mountains and that means ski season is just around the corner.  We're still loving it here, and enjoying exploring Utah.  Stay tuned for more adventures!