This past weekend I went down to Phoenix to see my two best girl friends, leaving H and B to fend for themselves. They did pretty well on their own, I think. While I was sitting under palm trees, drinking wine, H managed to, among other things, get his ski boots adjusted and his hair cut, take two road rides and one MTB ride, go out for breakfast, try a new restaurant, take B for a walk in City Creek Canyon and watch the sun set from the Living Room. Here are a few photos from the weekend's adventures:
Chipotle steak wrap at Gracie's
Enjoying the walk up City Creek Canyon
Enjoying a drink after the walk up City Creek Canyon
After our hike up to the top of Sundance Resort, we were pretty hungry. I'd packed a little bit of cheese and crackers in the cooler with our beers but from the rumblings of our tummies, it was clear that wasn't going to be enough. H made the suggestion of getting BLTs from the resort's deli and I thought that was a brilliant idea. There are a couple of sit-down restaurants at the resort, as well as the Owl Bar, but there's also a little general store/deli where you can get soups, sandwiches and wraps.
The BLT is really the way to go - unless you don't like bacon. Served on thick, toasted white bread and spread with a garlic aioli, this sandwich has a couple of slices of tomato, a couple of pieces of mesclun mix and more bacon than you can possibly imagine on a BLT, all for just $7. It is, to my mind, the finest BLT I have ever had.
That's a half sandwich right there.
OMG that's good.
We took these excellent sandwiches outside to a park bench and devoured them in the afternoon sunshine. (I think everyone who walked by gave those sandwiches double-takes.) I count that as a pretty fantastic autumn day: good hiking, terrific scenery, cold beer and spectacular sandwiches. Can't ask for much more than that.
Picking hikes in October is a little tricky because of the deer hunt. This last Saturday we decided it'd probably be safe to go down to Sundance Resort and hike up to the very top of the ski mountain, Arrowhead Summit (8,250 ft.). It's in-between season at Sundance right now and all the signs for the hiking/MTBing trails had been taken down; we'd hoped to go out to Stewart Falls first and then ease on up to the summit, but we had trouble finding the trail head. We knew where we wanted to go, however, and figured the access road would connect us with other trails that would get us there.
Big white wall, big blue sky
It was a stunningly beautiful day as we started up, the white-clad backside of Timpanogos looming overhead in the bright blue sky. Although the temperatures were cool (high 40s), it was warm enough in the sun, especially since we wasted no time gaining elevation. We took the access road up to connect with the Black Forest trail, which clung to the steep hillside through a broad swath of slide debris, then switchbacked up some aspen-ringed meadows. At the saddle, we got back on an access road for the long, steep slog to the top, pausing for breath and the views at the top of the Flat Head lift. The last push to the top of Arrowhead was very steep and it was a little dismaying to see a couple of hunters up there, cozy in their pickup truck, checking out the opposite hillside with scopes - we'd worked a lot harder to get up there than they had.
Pausing in a scenic flat spot
There is a wicked cute little log cabin ski lodge up on top of Arrowhead Summit, complete with a deck, beer on tap and wooden furniture (it wasn't open but we peeked in the windows). The wind was brisk and we layered up to enjoy the great 360-degree views, including through Provo Canyon to the Utah Valley on one side, and out over Deer Creek Reservoir on the other. The terrain looked pretty good for skiing too: Bishop's Bowl looked like it would be lots of fun.
Deer Creek Reservoir down below
We got down a lot faster than we'd gotten up (deciding against the Stewart Falls loop since that was the general area those hunters had been scouting) and our knees were complaining about the steep bits by the time we got back to the base. A couple of beers in the parking lot seemed in order as we changed. We were hungry too - but that deserves its very own post.
Last night I was in the mood for Mexican food and suggested to H that we travel all the way up town to the Red Iguana (736 W. North Temple; also 866 W. South Temple). Although I love their food, I am very particular about when to go to the Red Iguana; because it is so popular, there's always a wait, which means standing outside, which is unpleasant in the blast-furnace heat of summer and frigid cold of winter. Mid-spring and mid-fall are better. It was in the low 50s as we waited to be seated, huddled under the glowing heaters and sipping hot cider the restaurant thoughtfully provides, watching the full moon rise over the mountains.
Once seated, we were given water, chips and homemade salsa immediately, followed quickly by our waiter to take our drink order (Dos Equis for H and a margarita for me, rocks with salt). Despite the gargantuan menu, we took little time deciding what to have for dinner. H had two chile verde burritos and I had the mole coloradito. The Red Iguana is particularly known for their moles and that's what I go for. The coloradito is made with pine nuts, almonds, peanuts, sesame seeds, ancho and guajillo chiles, chile poblano and Mexican chocolate and served over grilled pork loin. The pork was sliced thinly and a little tough, but the mole was the important part and if I could have licked my plate clean I would have. This is the fourth of their moles that I've tried: it was a little salty but the depth of flavor is amazing. The mole negro is still my favorite - I have four more to try before I've had all their regular ones.
If you're ever in Salt Lake City, and you like Mexican food, you should go to the Red Iguana. It's worth the wait every time.
Knowing that Saturday was going to be the only really good day out of the long weekend, we made sure to plan a hike. It was pretty chilly first thing in the morning (mid 30s) and between that and the possibility of snow up higher, we thought we'd give Grandeur Peak in Millcreek Canyon a go. We'd done Grandeur Peak a couple years ago and it's a good hike for this time of year: it's a south-facing trail without much tree cover, which means no snow and warmer temperatures, and at about six miles round-trip, a decent but not taxing distance.
Looking down Millcreek Canyon to the Salt Lake valley
We drove up Millcreek Canyon and parked on the road outside the Church Fork picnic area (NFS-run picnic areas being closed due to the government shut-down). We walked up to the trailhead and then, after about a half mile, checked out the trail sign: to the left was the Grandeur Peak trail and to the right was the Pipeline Trail. Since we hadn't done this section of the Pipeline, we made a spur of the moment decision and went right, figuring we'd just see where we'd end up. This trail is mostly broad, smooth and flat, which means it gets a lot of use, by hikers, dog walkers and MTBers. It is very easy walking and, because of this, we had a fast pace going: 3.1 m.p.h.
Dark and chilly on the north-facing slopes
When the Pipeline Trail ended at Elbow Fork (where the trailhead to Mt. Aire is), we consulted our map and decided to make a loop of it, crossing the canyon road and starting up the trail to the Terraces picnic area. This trail could not have been more different than what we'd just been walking, located on the shady, extremely steep, north-facing slope. As we wound our way up steep switchbacks and then walked along the ridge, H noticed that this trail was a clear example of the differences between north- and south-facing slopes, the vegetation abruptly switching from damp evergreens to dry scrub oak as we crossed from one side of the ridge to the other.
Hot and sunny on the south-facing slopes across the canyon
The trail ended at Terraces and we walked along the canyon road for a little bit before crossing and getting back on the Pipeline Trail for the finish. By the time we got back to the car, our feet were getting tired and my hips had tightened up. We checked the GPS and realized why: we'd walked 9.93 miles - nearly twice what we'd intended to do. After that, there was clearly nothing left to do but change into dry clothes and hit the Porcupine for beers and nachos. Those nachos went down fast too, I must say.
The snow is still up pretty high at this point
Trail stats: 9.93 miles with 1,973 feet of climbing, 3 hrs. 15 min. hiking/20 min. resting, 3.1 m.p.h. moving average speed/2.7 overall average.
Our recent house guests were H's parents, back to visit for a record sixth time. We lucked out on the weather for a change: it has sometimes been hit-or-miss, with 5 F in December, 60s in St. George in May and early fall snows for some of their prior visits. This time it was clear and cool, with the rains holding off until the day of their departure.
Because of the nice weather, one day we were able to take a scenic drive from American Fork to Sundance, up and over the Alpine Loop. We took a chairlift ride to admire the stunning scenery (and H and I marked out another hike to do at another time) and then admired the old bar at the Owl Bar over beers.
Visions in blue
Another day found us on a moose hunt, driving over Guardsman Pass to Park City, then over the Jeremy Ranch Road to Morgan County, looping around to come back down Emigration Canyon. Moose count: zero. We didn't let this get us down too much, however, and went up to Snowbird for Octoberfest. The place was mobbed with people, largely due to the spectacular weather. We enjoyed beers, kettle corn, polka music and a tram ride. H's parents, who live in upstate New York, figured that 11,000 feet was as high as they'd ever been with their feet on the ground. Again, the views were stunning and we were able to point out to them some of the places we've skied. Moose count: zero, but several big mule deer were spotted from the tram.
Atop Hidden Peak with Alta in the background
Their last day out here I had to go back to work, so H, his folks and B went out to Antelope Island. Moose count: zero, but hundreds of bison, pronghorn antelope, mule deer and birds. Maybe next time we'll bag H's mom her first moose (visually speaking, not with a gun) - we'll need to since after six visits we're running out of new stuff for them to see in the greater SLC area!
We've been busy with houseguests (more on that later), so busy that I forgot to remark on the fact that last Thursday, October 3, 2013, marked our four year move-iversary, a/k/a amazingly we've been out here in SLC for four years! It's gone so quickly. We try to stay busy and yet the more we do, the more we realize is out there to be done: more skiing, more MTBing, more hiking, more camping... So stay tuned for the continuing adventures.
We went back to Park City and the Round Valley trails on Sunday, to do our regular 20-ish mile MTB loop. It was sunny and breezy, a perfect temperature to ride, although I struggled whenever we rode into a headwind. Despite the recent stormy weather the trails were in great shape: not at all wet or muddy, and the spots that had been dusty/sandy earlier in the summer were now back to that great hard-packed dirt that I like so well.
There were a couple of changes that we noticed this time out. They (whoever maintains the trails) have cut a new trail in the Rambler vicinity; we didn't try it since it's still really new but that may give us some more options in the future if we decide to branch out. They have also installed a fancy new stone marker naming the hill we have been calling "Hammerhead": Pladsen Hill. I don't know who Pladsen is (or was) but now he's got a serious hill named after him. I managed to pass a guy going up (!!) the Rambler switchbacks, which is pretty awesome for me. And even more exciting, on three downhill switchbacks where I have put my foot down, every single time I've ridden these trails, I did not have to put my foot down and rode through the turns successfully. That made me feel pretty good.
Kinda chilly for late September
Afterwards, we went up Guardsman Pass again, stopping in a dirt pullout out for beers and a snack. Although we could see snow-covered Timpanogos today, the weather was definitely turning: the temperature dropped, the sun went behind the clouds and the wind picked up. I had to bundle up in all the clothes I'd brought - plus wrap up in an old flannel sheet we keep in the truck - but I still managed to drink my beer while drinking in the views.
The weather changed shortly after we got back to SLC, ushering in chilly temperatures (we refuse to turn the heat on this early and thus we had a 55 F morning inside the house) and dropping six inches of snow in the mountains of the Wasatch - and over a foot out in the Uintas! We wanted to go for a hike on Saturday to play in the snow before things warmed up and it melted so H found us a great one that we hadn't done yet, up to the Maybird Lakes.
All bundled up for the start of the hike
The trail into Maybird Gulch splits off of the Red Pine Lakes trail, about 2.5 miles from the White Pine/Red Pine trail head. It was sunny and 35 F when we got to the parking lot Saturday morning. There were several other cars there but not nearly as many as you would see on a summer weekend. Snow covered the trails: it was quite beaten down and slick along first mile of the old road from the trail head to the Red Pine turnoff, and well-traveled for the next 1.5 miles to the bridge marking the Maybird route. No one else had gone up into Maybird, however, so we were breaking trail as best we could, not knowing the route at all. There were tons of animals tracks - deer, fox/coyote, squirrel, mice - and we ended up following the footsteps of a fox or coyote for much of the trail ... until he stranded us on top of a cliff and we had to backtrack to find the real trail.
Great colors along the way
We found the frozen little lakes nestled in a talus bowl underneath the Pfeifferhorn, bright blue sky arcing overhead. As we enjoyed the dramatic scenery, a solo hiker came up behind us, and another one shortly after that, and both guys thanked us for breaking the trail for them. There are apparently three lakes up there although we only saw two of them; the snow-covered boulder field made for treacherous shoreline hiking and we decided to leave further exploration of the bowl for another, summer day.
Section of the Red Pine Lakes trail
With the sun so bright above us, temperatures rose quickly through midday and as we descended, it was almost like hiking through a rain forest in places as the snowmelt cascaded from the branches overhead. What had been icy on the way up was mostly slushy on the way down and our water-resistant hiking boots finally gave in to the repeated drenchings. There were dry shoes and socks waiting for us at the truck - and beer - an excellent end to an excellent hike. It was steeper than we thought it was at the time and both of us ended up with tight calf muscles - something to remember when we go back to see the Maybird lakes the next time.
The Pfeifferhorn rising above Maybird Gulch
Hike stats: 7.66 miles round-trip; 2,254 foot elevation gain; 2.0 m.p.h. average speed.
If you're planning to visit SLC and find yourself here, specifically looking for information on restaurants, click on the labels below - "beer," "breakfast" and "non-breakfast eating" - and all my posts with those tags, and thus restaurant reviews and/or addresses, etc., will come up.