Friday, August 31, 2012

"shut up legs"

The title of this post is a famous quote by popular, jovial and to-date drug-free professional cyclist, Jens Voight (who was recently featured in this blog), referring to what he tells his body during particularly grueling races.  When we went MTBing on Sunday, we discovered that the Mt. Raymond hike was quite a bit steeper than we'd thought it was when we were doing it - it was my legs telling me to shut up the whole time.

Leaning into the corner (sort of)

We went back to Round Valley and did our favorite loop and instantly realized that we were fatigued and sore from yesterday's exertions.  H still managed to ride all the way up Hammerhead Hill but I learned that I ride much, much better when I am not fatigued.  I went down pretty hard on a corner that I've successfully navigated twice before, scratching my shin, bruising my knee and scraping my elbow up pretty dang good.  That made me more cautious for the remainder of the ride and although I rode up at least one more Rambler switchback than last time, I kept yelping and flinching at the sagebrush branches brushed my wounds.

I did manage to get most of the dirt out

It was still a good ride (17.78 miles; average speed: 9.2 m.p.h.; 23.9 m.p.h. top speed (that would be H's top speed); total climbing: 1,430 feet; time: 1:55) and a pretty day.  But from here on out, we're going to try to MTB first and then hike the next day as it's easier (and safer for me) to hike tired than to bike tired.  Lesson learned!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Jumpin' jehosephat - another year has rolled around, enough so that H and I celebrated our eleventh anniversary last Saturday.  After our Mt. Raymond hike, we got cleaned up and gussied up (for us, anyway) and went to Lugano Restaurant (3364 South 2300 East, SLC) for dinner.  We'd tried Lugano before but had been faced with a packed restaurant and a 45-minute wait for walk-ins; this time, we made reservations.  Which seemed unnecessary at first, since it wasn't very busy until nearly 8:30 p.m.  I guess Millcreek residents eat late.

Lugano has a great wine list and H picked out a New Zealand sauvingnon blanc, Silver Birch.  It was very good, light, crisp and fairly dry.  Yummy!  Then we got a lot of food, most of which were the evening's specials, sold well by our excellent waiter.  We started with a shared bruschetta: creamy ricotta spread on the ciabatta slices and topped with proscuitto-wrapped grilled asparagus and big flakes of parmesan - smoky, salty and quite good.  We then split a "whole leaf Caesar salad," which was more than enough for the two of us, with a flavorful but not overpowering dressing.  We nibbled on the warm and fluffy foccacia and spicy, garlicky olives until our entrees arrived.  I'd ordered the special ravioli which was filled with a light chicken and ricotta mixture, served on arugula and drizzled with a browned sage butter - really tasty (although I gave two of them to H because I couldn't eat them all).  H got the risotto special: local sweet corn and cracked pepper risotto (very good) topped with a large slice of stuffed, rolled pork loin.  We looked at the desserts but none of them particularly captured our interest; we did, however, indulge in after-dinner drinks - port for H, limoncello for me.

We really enjoyed our dinner at Lugano.  The service was solicitous but not overbearing and the food was quite good.  If you cut out the appetizer and the after-dinner drinks, prices are reasonable for the quality, and for our anniversary, a little splurge was in order.  All told, I'm glad we got in to Lugano this time!

Monday, August 27, 2012

mt. raymond

Friday night, as we were waiting for the movie to start, we determined that we would go hiking Saturday morning, getting up and getting an early start to the day.  When Saturday morning rolled around, well, we'd sort of slept in a bit (not B, who insisted that I get up and feed her at 7 a.m.), and hadn't really decided on where to hike.  I wanted to do something a little more strenuous than we'd been doing lately - although since we hadn't hiked since August 6th, anything was going to be more strenuous than what we'd been doing lately - and H always prefers to do something new, if at all possible.  So we picked one out of the book that fit those criteria, plus with the added bonus that the trailhead was Butler Fork, which I haven't done but have wanted to since we moved here: Mt. Raymond.

That's where we were headed - seemed
 far away to me too (but not so bad)

The trail is mostly shaded until you get to the ridgeline, going up fairly steeply through aspen groves and along the creek in the Butler Fork drainage.  There are numerous turnoffs, at least two of which head over to Dog Lake, but we kept to the left, skirting Mill A Basin until we reached Baker Pass (elev. 9,340ft.), where we could see down into Millcreek Canyon and also into the Salt Lake valley.  This pass is the junction of four trails: the one we'd come up, one down to Bowman Fork in Millcreek, one up to Gobbler's Knob, and one - the steepest, of course - heading up the ridge to Mt. Raymond.

Pretty ridgeline walk

The ridgeline walk was pretty steep in sections, but the views were great: to the left, Mill A Basin; to the right, impressive cliffs on the backside of Mt. Olympus.  After a bit, though, the trail pretty much stopped, with the summit still ahead of us.  We left our hiking poles to one side and started scrambling up the ridge.  We both really like scrambling on hands and feet like that - I don't need to do any more rock climbing than that.  It took a little time, trying to find the best way up, but we attained the summit (elev. 10, 220 ft.) ... and stayed there for about two minutes before the big, annoying flies drove us away.  Strangely enough, those flies were only at the very top and didn't follow us down at all.


Our descent was much quicker, even with the steepness and loose footing in some spots.  We got to play good samaritan a couple of times too: once to help two map-less/guidebook-less guys figure out which was the trail into Bowman Fork and once to give half a liter of water to two trail-runners who had sorely underestimated how much water they need.  (I wasn't thirsty at all ... until I gave half my remaining water away.  Stupid psychosomatics.)

Hike statistics:  7.61 miles RT, average speed: 2.0 m.p.h. (it was slow because it was steep in spots), total ascent: 3,050 feet, time: 4 hrs. 50 min.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

movie night

H and I don't have a lot of favorite movies in common: my tastes run more towards 28 Days Later, Let the Right One In (Swedish version) and Alien; he likes Blazing Saddles and Office Space.  One movie we do agree on, however, is The Princess Bride so when we saw that Snowbird was playing for their final free Family Flicks, outside under the stars, we knew we had to go.  We packed a cooler with sandwiches, popcorn, pretzel, PBRs and white wine, grabbed a couple of folding chairs and got up there about forty minutes before sunset.  The plaza deck was full of people - and would ended up being packed, shoulder to shoulder - apparently The Princess Bride was quite a popular choice.  They show the films up on the side of the big cement building that houses the tram cars, a perfect place to show a movie.  It was a lot of fun, especially since there seemed to be quite a few people who'd never seen the flick before.  (There were plenty of fans, however, who cheered when Inigo Montoya confronted the count, plus the final Westley vs. Humperdink scene.)

This was the last one for the season.  Snowbird had shown eleven movies over the course of the summer, each Friday night, with the theme of PG movies from the 1980s and early '90s.  (We should have gone to the June 29th show, E.T., since H has never seen that one.)  The Snowbird staff was taking requests and suggestions for next summer's series.  I hope they pick some good ones because this is a great way to get out of the heat of the city and enjoy a free movie, surrounded by these incredible Wasatch Front mountains.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

tropical dreams

Sorry about the abrupt falling-off in posting, y'all: H and I had a party to go to and a wedding to go to and thus didn't do anything post-worthy here.  We promise to Do Stuff this weekend and get right back on track.

One new thing I did try fairly recently, however, is a new-to-me ice cream shop, Tropical Dreams, in the 9th & 9th neighborhood of SLC.  I stopped by Tropical Dreams the other night when H was busy, and got myself some ice cream for dinner.  They've got a lovely and unusual selection of flavors:  coconut, ginger, mango, avocado, passion fruit-guava, lichee, plus more straightforward stuff.  I went with a scoop of ginger ice cream which was very good, but perhaps too rich for the 95-degree day we were having; I almost went with coconut and the mango sorbet looked marvelous.

Currently open for its third season, Tropical Dreams is open for the summertime only, sharing space with a handmade chocolate shop in the fall and winter.  I will be checking that out as well!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

more riding, less walking

What we learned, at our pre-ToU spectating MTB ride at Round Valley, is that when I'm not afraid of falling off a cliff, I'm actually improving as a MTB rider.  Yay for me!  We decided to do our now-regular loop and, as the stats will show, I went faster and further than I have in the past.  I'm also climbing more of the switchbacks than I have; I still have to walk some of them, but I'm riding more than before.

Cruising through the sagebrush

Distance: 18.72 miles, time: 1 hour 59 minutes, average speed: 9.4 m.p.h., H's fastest speed: 28.5 m.p.h.  Our total climbing came to 1,338 feet, including what we're calling "Hammerhead Hill," which H rode right up like a champ again.  We checked the GPS afterwards, wondering what sort of a grade it has ... short but steep, Hammerhead has a maximum grade of 41.3%.  That is CRAZY steep.  We got a picture of me pushing my MTB up it, to try to show just how steep it is:

I'm nearly bent double, trying to
shove my bike up this thing

We were psyched after that ride, with me getting some confidence back and riding better than I have all summer.  I know H would like to do some more challenging stuff, but it's sure a lot more fun when I'm managing to ride more than I am walking.

Monday, August 13, 2012

2012 tour of utah - stage 6

The last stage of the Tour of Utah was short (76.7 miles) but brutal (6,844 feet of climbing): starting and finishing in Park City, it wound through Heber and Midway, up the backside of the mountain to Empire Pass and then descending through Deer Valley to the finish line on Main Street.  What's so brutal about that?  Well, the maximum grade on the climb to Empire Pass is 22%.  That's some wicked steep.

Looking up Main Street to the finish

Levi Leipheimer actually suggested this route to the Tour organizers after he did it on a training ride last year; I'm pretty sure there were riders cursing his name as they struggled up the hill, and a number of them didn't even bother to finish the climb, Dave Zabriskie and Tyler Farrar among them..  It was a good ride for Levi though as he made a heroic move about halfway up the climb, pulling away from the pack with a gap at one time of over 1:30.  He descended like a champ, speeds topping out around 60 m.p.h. - in comparison, when we drive our car down that descent through Deer Valley, we don't like to go faster than 30 m.p.h. because it's scary - and won the stage.  His lead over the yellow jersey (38 seconds) wasn't enough to win him the Tour, but I'm so glad he got the stage win.

Killing time, waiting for the riders to come in

We got to Park City on the early side so we could do a MTB ride first (more on that later).  We had parked at the high school, so when we'd cleaned up after the ride, we caught one of the free shuttles into town.  The Park Silly Sunday market had been pushed up to the top of Main Street so that the bike race could finish on the lower part of the street.  The place was swarming with people - Park City is a great place to finish the Tour because there's plenty for people to do, eat and drink while waiting for the riders to come in.  We bought a couple of sandwiches at a deli, then grabbed spots at the fence just above the finish line where we'd have a clear view of the cyclists charging up the hill.  Soon enough Main Street was lined with spectators and the roar of the crowd was awesome when Levi came across the finish, pounding his chest.

Stage 6 winner: Levi Leipheimer

Johann Tschopp retained the yellow jersey to win his first stage race ever; Levi ended up sixth in the general classification and Chris Horner at seventh.  Tommy D. and Christian Vande Velde ended up eleventh and twelfth, respectively, and Jens Voigt came in 64th, having moved up well from his spot at 129 earlier in the week.  American Joe Dombrowski won the best young rider jersey and, since he finished fourth overall, is going to be one to watch.

Final podium butt shot

The only complaint we had about Stage 6 was that the final podium was located on a narrow street, with the front crowded with press, which didn't leave much room for spectators to see the awards.  We found a spot on the side of the stage: we couldn't see the podium from the front, but we were really close to the cyclists as they were milling about, waiting for the presentations.  It was another good tour and lots of fun to watch.  Congratulations to Johann Tschopp on his first stage race win; congratulations to Levi Leipheimer on his Stage 6 win; and welcome to Utah to the Jensie and Chris Horner - come back and see us again some time!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

2012 tour of utah - stage 5

This year, the queen stage was the Park City to Snowbird road race, 101 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing. That's right: 10,000 feet of climbing.  The route went from Park City, through Heber, up to Sundance and over the Alpine Loop, down through American Fork Canyon, up and over Traverse Ridge  between Alpine and Draper, and ending with the brutal climb up Little Cottonwood Canyon to finish at Snowbird.  I would venture to say that this stage is exactly why the Tour of Utah is subtitled "America's Toughest Stage Race."

Johann Tschopp - Stage 5 winner

The cyclists hit the road at 11 a.m. so we had some time to kill in the morning.  H went fishing up Big Cottonwood Canyon, while B and I took a walk.  We left the house around 12:30 p.m. to head up the canyon.  The canyon was closing at 2 p.m. for the race but there were already tons of cyclists laboring up the hill; the ToU organizers open the course to amateurs who want to try their legs on the Park City-Snowbird stage for the Ultimate Challenge ride.  These folks had started around 7 a.m. and were trying to get up the canyon before the pros came charging in.  That's a helluva ride and the growing crowds applauded for the amateurs almost as loudly as they would for the Tour riders.

Levi, gutting it out

We parked up on the Alta by-pass road and walked down through the Snowbird resort, toting our cooler.  We managed to score spots across from the jumbotron near the finish line that was showing real-time race footage and ate our sandwiches and drank our PBRs while watching the race.  When the lead group of riders turned up Little Cottonwood Canyon, we walked up the hill a little ways to where we stood last year, right where we could see the riders coming up the last pitch before turning down into the resort for the finish.

Christian Vandevelde (in yellow)
and Chris Horner

We knew the riders were approaching because (1) the helicopter appeared overhead and (2) the crowd (which I thought was quite a bit smaller than last year) started really cheering and ringing their cowbells.  We'd heard that Christian Vandevelde had been struggling on the canyon ascent and, sure enough, he lost the yellow jersey when Johann Tschopp, who had only been one minute behind, won Stage 5, coming in 1:38 ahead of Vandevelde.  Levi Leipheimer, last year's ToU winner, came in fifth, only one minute back; we saw him afterwards and he looked frustrated as his team had been absolutely no help to him whatsoever.

Tommy Danielson, finished 16th

They gave out the jerseys on the podium even before the peloton finished up, but the crowd would applaud over whatever the announcers were saying as the last riders rolled in.  Jeff Louder got the best Utah rider jersey, and American Joseph Dombrowski (Bontrager Livestrong) claimed the best young rider.  Vandevelde is only 38 seconds behind Tschopp, however, so it's still possible that he could win this thing with tomorrow's race.

Stage 5 podium

Saturday, August 11, 2012

2012 tour of utah - stages 3 and 4

We didn't go to either of these (work does get in the way of doin' stuff) but here's what happened:

Stage 3 - 8/9/12:  85.5 mile road race from Ogden to the University of Utah, 7,134 feet of climbing.  After climbing the North Ogden pass, the cyclists went past Snowbasin, around East Canyon Reservoir (where H and I have gone on occasion to get out of the city heat - the water looks way low right now), up and over Big Mountain and down Emigration Canyon to finish at Research Park at the U.  Watching on t.v. was fun because we know that area fairly well and we could pick out landmarks we recognized.

Aussie Michael Matthews, from the young Rabobank team, won the stage and Christian Vandevelde retained the yellow jersey.

Stage 4 - 8/10/12:  This was a long one: 136 mile road race, starting in Lehi, doing a loop along the Pony Express trail through rolling sagebrush desert, then heading north along the west side of the Salt Lake Valley to finish in downtown Salt Lake City.  It's neither the hilliest nor the most scenic ride I can think of but it is long, so they had that going for them.

There was a six-man breakaway out in front for almost the whole ride, finally getting caught by the peloton with about 6K to go to the finish.  I always feel so badly for the breakaway guys who get caught like that, doing all that work all by themselves, all for nothing.  Jacobe Keough, an American from Unitedhealthcare, won the stage; Vandevelde is still in yellow.

Fan favorite Jens Voigt is near the back of the pack in the general classification but seems to be enjoying himself out here in Utah, judging from his Twitter feed.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

2012 tour of utah - stages 1 and 2

Here we are again, Tour of Utah time.  Boy, between the Tour de France just finishing, being in the midst of the Olympics and the Tour of Utah kicking into high gear, we are doing a lot of sports-watching!  This year the ToU has some big names: defending champ Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma), Tommy Danielson (Garmin), Jens Voigt (Radio Shack), Chris Horner (Radio Shack), Christian Vandevelde (Garmin), former local Dave Zabriskie (Garmin), current local Jeff Louder (United Healthcare), Tyler Farrar (Garmin), Brent Bookwalter (BMC), 2009 ToU champ Francisco Mancebo (Competitive Cyclist) and Ben King (Radio Shack), many of whom are just off the Tour de France.  Hopefully their recent time in those mountains will help them with ours!

Stage 1 - 8/7/12:  A 131-mile road race, starting and finishing in Ogden, Stage 1 threw the guys right into it with 8,939 feet of climbing.  Rory Sutherland, an Aussie on the United Healthcare team, got the stage win.

Stage 2 - 8/8/12:  Out at Miller Motorsports Park, this was a team time trial, something not usually seen.  We took the day off and went out there, where it was hot, just a little windy and smoky from a wildfire on the other side of the mountains.  The teams did three laps of the race course for a total of 13.5 miles; each team started together but their time would be the time of the fifth rider to cross the finish line, so you could drop your sixth and seventh riders if they couldn't keep up, but you had to keep five in the pace line.

Dave Zabriskie, current U.S. time trial champion,
is a huge comics geek and has a 
Captain America time trial kit

They put three teams out on the track at a time, starting them four minutes after each other.  It was a much smaller crowd than it had been last year, the noontime Wednesday start keeping a lot of people away, I imagine.  Because there were fewer people, we were able to move around, watching the riders out on the course from one lofty grandstand, checking out the starting line from another grandstand and hovering at the sidelines for the finishes.

Winning team Garmin finishing

Poor Levi's team had a bad showing, coming in last and leaving him with over a 2 minute deficit to make up for the next road ride.  It was the Garmin team with the winning time of 22:35, stripping the yellow jersey from Rory Sutherland and putting it on Christian Vandevelde.

Team Radio Shack pace line

I would have to give the sportsmanship award to the Radio Shack team, however.  Veteran riders Chris Horner and Jens Voigt were just lovely to the fans after their ride: Horner offered to sign autographs for a bunch of kids without being asked; and Jens charmingly told an old lady to give him a kiss when she asked for a photo with him.  Nice guys, those two.

Jens Voigt, cooling down

Random notes:  This year there was food to be purchased (after my complaint about that last year) from a hot dog cart and the park's own concession stand.  You could get beers too but they were 24-oz. scuba tanks of Bud Lite and Coors so we decided to pass.  The podium girls were slightly better-looking than last year's models but their shoes were still pretty hookerish.

Stage 2 podium, with Christian Vandevelde
in the yellow jersey

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

riding the trails at sundance

I have got to stop getting cocky about MTBing.  The last time I did that, after two consecutive successful rides at Round Valley, we did the Mid-Mountain Trail at Deer Valley and I flew over the handlebars, luckily only dinging my bike and not myself.  This past Sunday, after two consecutive successful MTB rides at Round Valley, we went to Sundance Resort whereupon I got completely terrified and lost all confidence.  At least I didn't crash my bike this time.

When H and our recent house guests took the scenic chairlift ride at Sundance a couple weeks ago, H checked out the MTB trails and decided that we could do them.  You have to pay to ride at the resort: $12 for trails only ("riding uphill") plus one scenic chairlift ride or $20 for all the lift rides/bike descents you want.  Since neither of us is all that keen on clattering downhill, riding our brakes with all our weight on our wrists, we opted for the first option.  When asked about the easier trails, the guy at the ticket window suggested that we take Archie's Loop, around Scott's Pond, through Switchback Alley to Sunny Side Way.  Perfect!

First, however, was a climb from the base lodge up to the upper parking lot to pick up the Boneyard Trail, which meant that I was hyperventilating and my legs were shaking even before we got off the pavement.  When we got on the dirt - narrow single track, mostly dirt but studded with some rocks - I was dismayed to see that the downhill side fell away very steeply.  I tend to ride with my left foot unclipped on uphill single track because I go so slowly that I often start to tip over and have to put my foot down.  Unfortunately, the way the trail was running, my left foot was on the downhill side so if I were to put my foot down, I'd be over the edge.  I got a little tense.  I got even more tense when I came up to H who had stopped on a corner by some orange "caution" signs; the signs were there because of the actual cliff that the trail was atop.  Exciting!

There was no way I was riding that

I must admit that I had to hike-a-bike for a good portion of our ride: along the cliffy parts of Archie's Loop and all the way up Switchback Alley - which H amazingly rode all the way up, except for this one corner that was decked over with pallets to stave off erosion.  If the trail had not been carved into the side of such a steep hill, I believe I could have ridden most of it, but I was so nervous about falling over the edge that I just didn't dare.

Sunny Side Way was a wide dirt access road (yay!), and then we wound our way down Upper Lift Line, another switchback-filled trail.  By the time we got back to the base, I was exhausted, mostly from nerves but also from pushing my bike up all the hills.  I was dismayed to learn that we'd only been riding for an hour (it seemed so much longer than that!) but I just couldn't ride up any more hills.  H was a really good sport about it, even though I know he could have ridden more, and said that the cliffy bits had made him nervous too.

Some of the scenery along
Archie's Loop

We changed into dry and less dusty clothes and got sandwiches at the deli.  Most resort food is a rip-off but my BLT was so good - chewy ciabatta bread, red leaf lettuce, pesto mayonnaise and bacon stacked at least an inch high - and only $6.50.  Seriously, I have never seen so much bacon on a BLT ever. Nicely done, Sundance deli.  After our sandwiches, we put our PBRs in our backpacks to take our scenic chairlift ride, and is Sundance ever scenic with Timpanogos looming above, and smaller, forested peaks all around.  (I really want to go skiing there - it looks like such fun.)  As we sat in the sun, drinking our beers and pointing out the trails we'd just ridden over (or, in my case, trudged up), the day's earlier tension faded until it was just another great day in Utah.

Monday, August 6, 2012

squaw peak via rock canyon

H is really good at picking out hikes for us.  Knowing that it was going to be quite hot on Saturday, and knowing that we've knocked off quite a lot of the mid-range (i.e., not too long, too steep or too esoteric) hikes in the Millcreek/Big Cottonwood/Little Cottonwood Canyons, he selected Squaw Peak down in Provo for us:  approximately 7 miles round trip, elevation gain around 2,700 ft., moderate difficulty, mostly shaded - the last point being key since this peak is at a much lower elevation than most of the ones we've been doing, topping out at 7,876 feet.  The trailhead is nestled up behind the Provo Temple, pretty swanky with a huge parking lot and flush toilets.  This hike is quite popular, given the trailhead's proximity to town; while there were a fair number of cars already there, we really didn't have to deal with nearly as many people as I thought we might.

One of Rock Canyon's cliffs

The trail is divided into three sections, really: the rocky first bit, along the bottom of Rock Canyon; the middle section going up through the trees; and the final peak approach up above treeline.  The trail up Rock Canyon is wide and made of crushed rock, ostensibly to help with erosion since a creek (mostly dry now) runs down the canyon.  Soaring cliffs reached high above us on either side, some faces with climbers clinging to them.  After about 1.5 miles we turned left/north off the main canyon trail, taking a trail up the First Left Fork.

Peeking over the edge

This section was nearly completely shaded by aspens, oaks and a few conifers, providing nice cover for critters, including a flock of 8-10 wild turkeys that we startled off the trail.  (Note:  Our guidebook said that "In the hillside forest, you may spot deer and small cats.  Mountain lions and even bears make an occasional appearance in Rock Canyon, but they are rare."  H and I were all, let's go back to that "small cats" bit - what does that mean?  Feral house-cats?  Bobcats?  Baby mountain lions?  Yikes.  Needless to say, we spotted no cats whatsoever, small or large.)  The trail through here climbed steadily and, in some places, steeply; it seemed fairly humid, which must have been from all the vegetation, and we were soon pouring with sweat and drinking a lot of water.

Utah Lake and greater Provo/Orem 
behind us

After crossing a mountain meadow, we wound our way up along the ridge to the summit, still climbing but not as steeply.  The views were simply wonderful: Timpanogos looming to the north; three big (10,900-11,068 ft.) peaks to the northeast/east/southeast; Mt. Nebo down south; and Utah Lake and its valley to the west.  If you peeked over the cliff edge, you could see the Rock Canyon trail far, far below.

Squaw Peak from the parking lot

It had taken us a little over two hours to come up but would only be about half that time on the descent - the mostly dirt trail was conducive to a quick return.  By the time we got back to the car I had drunk over 1.5L of my water; I had 2L in my hydration pack and while I usually don't bring that much with me, I had a feeling I'd need it.  We changed into dry clothes and sat on a fence in the shade to drink our post-hike PBRs, watching the blue skies over the cliffs and pleased at having tackled another fun hike.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

wildflower festival

The Cottonwood Canyons Foundation puts on the Wildflower Festival every year about this time, giving tours of the spectacular blossoms in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.  This year they did guided hikes in Brighton last Thursday, at Solitude last Friday, at Alta last Saturday and at Snowbird on Sunday.  That's why we went MTBing on Saturday: we wanted to do the Snowbird flower hike because for a $5 donation (all proceeds going straight to the CCF) we got to ride to the top of the mountain in the tram and then walk down.

Butterfly on a western coneflower

We got up there a little early, signed up for the hike we wanted (and were slightly offended when the girl asked us if we really wanted to do the advanced hike - like we can't walk down Snowbird (in all fairness, I think she was asking everybody)) and had breakfast at the Forklift (Denver omelet for H and fruit, granola and yogurt for me) while waiting for our 9:30 a.m. tram.  We ended up with about fourteen people in our group - only one really annoying woman, but DANG she was annoying - and two volunteer guides, there to offer up all their knowledge about the wildflowers and geology of the area.

Ski trail bursting with lupine
and Wyoming paintbrush

The descent, mostly on the access roads but a little on hiking trails, was 3,000 feet and took a long time since we were walking as a group and stopping a lot to look at the flora.  My word, though, these wildflowers are just incredible.  The blossoms were all a little smaller or shorter than usual due to the low rainfall, but the variety and colors were glorious.  We bought a CCF Wildflower Guide book after the hike and I think we saw 90% of the flowers in the book: Wasatch penstemon, fireweed, death camas, bluebells, lupine, dock, gentian, Lewis's monkeyflower, yellow monkeyflower, coyote mint, elephant head, Whipple's penstemon,showy daisy, paintbrushes, columbine, Richardson's geranium, cinquefoil, yarrow, thimbleberry, sulfur buckwheat, asters, buttercups, ivesia, western coneflower ... If you're ever in SLC towards the end of July, you really should venture up the canyons and look at the flowers.  Ferdinand would have been in heaven.

Gentian blossom

It was nearly 2 p.m. by the time we got down the mountain and we were hot and hungry.  We nabbed an umbrella-ed table on the Snowbird deck; H fetched the beer from the car and I bought us a Regulator Johnson sandwich from the General Gritts deli to share: turkey breast, spinach, cheese and carmelized onions - delicious.  We noshed and people-watched, and looked at our new wildflower book, and once again enjoyed a great day up on the Wasatch Front.