Thursday, August 28, 2014

sun valley, idaho - last day

Our weather luck broke on Tuesday, our last day, with it raining right where we were and to the south and east of us.  We breakfasted at Perry's again: it was very crowded in there with locals; our food choices (H: french toast and A: granola, fruit and yogurt parfait) were not quite as successful as they had been the day before.  After breakfast we packed up and checked out, and drove to the Adams Gulch trail head, as recommended by Sturtevants in Ketchum.

Post-ride, Adams Gulch

The bike shop had been sold out of the official trail map but gave us a photocopy of a hand-drawn map for general guidance.  Under cloudy but clearing skies, we started out on Shadyside, hoping to hook up with Adams Gulch or something else to make a loop.  The trails were in great shape, mostly smooth and generally not rocky or rutted.  The trails seemed to be randomly marked and numbered, however, and not consistent with our little map.  We ended up taking Shadyside until it did get a little rocky, and then rode out on Eve's Gulch at a steady climb until it got too steep, then reversed our course - which was pretty much downhill all the way.  We were impressed with all the hikers, dog walkers, trail runners and few MTBers who were out there on the trails with us - it was late morning on a Tuesday, after all.

Post-post ride

Our camera's batteries died as we were out on the trails, so we didn't get any pictures out there.  When we got back to the truck, after a short ride of about seven miles, we re-examined the map board at the trail head; it made a lot more sense after we'd been out there riding around for a while.

At this point, we needed to get back on the road.  So we did, but stopped for lunch in Hailey at the Sun Valley Brewery (202 N. Main Street).  We had Cranky Uber IPAs (very good) and sandwiches (reuben for H and pulled pork for me (nothing special)), all served by a surly bartender.  It was a funky space in a former garage and apparently they have a lot of live music throughout the summer.  After lunch we couldn't put it off and longer and headed back to SLC, in time to liberate B from the kennel.  One more great, western, long weekend in the books.

Monday, August 25, 2014

sun valley, idaho - day 3

Breakfast on Monday was at Perry's, a slightly more local place off the main drag in Ketchum (113 West 4th Street).  H had his usual, a Denver omelet with sourdough toast, while I ordered biscuits and gravy with bacon - and wisely went with only a half order, which was plenty big enough.  The sausage gravy was a little sticky but quite flavorful and the bacon was fantastic.  After breakfast, we drove across town to the Sun Valley Resort center.  What had confused us when we arrived in town is that the swanky resort center is a couple miles away from the main ski mountain, Bald Mountain, and is situated at the foot of tiny Dollar Mountain instead.  They run a shuttle service back and forth between the resort and Bald Mountain in the winter time so all the celebrities and rich people can ski.  The resort center itself is quite lovely, very upscale and packed with high end lodging, restaurants, spas and shops.

Starting up Bald Mtn. Trail

Back at our somewhat less upscale motel, we changed into hiking clothes and went down to the River Run Lodge at Bald Mountain (there is another base lodge, Warm Springs Lodge, for the ski mountain as well as several mountaintop lodges).  Our initial intent was to ride up the gondola and then hike down, until we learned that we could hike up and then ride down for free - which would also be easier on our knees.  We took the Bald Mountain Trail (6.4 miles with about 3,400 feet of elevation gain; average speed 2.7 m.p.h., 2 hours 20 minutes walking), which is actually a combination hike/bike trail, but since it's uphill traffic only for bikes we didn't have to contend with any MTBers.  Hiking up ski mountains is always steep and this trail would have been a long, long slog on a bike.  On foot it wasn't too bad and we made great time, cruising up the switchbacks as they wound through stands of pine and wide-open fields.

Bald Mtn., trail on the right

From the top we rode the Christmas chair down to the mid-mountain lodge and then took the Roundhouse gondola back to base.  Our knees thanked us!  Post-hike beers and snacks were on the quiet, shady banks of Trail Creek; and after that, we took a refreshing dip in the motel pool.  After getting cleaned up, we rode our MTBs 3.5 miles on a bike path (Ketchum/Sun Valley has a TON of bike paths, plus the motorized vehicle drivers are amazingly careful and considerate of cyclists) out to the Warm Springs base area/ski lodge.  This lodge was quite a bit smaller than River Run and we got the feeling that more locals (and fewer celebrities) skied out of it.

Ketchum/Sun Valley down behind me

After taking the bikes back to the motel, we walked to the Cellar Pub (400 Sun Valley Road) for drinks (Manny's Pale Ale out of Seattle and a Moscow Mule or two) and dinner (burger and a nice salad with grilled chicken).  It wasn't too busy at first and we started talking with a local guy, as well as the bartender and waiter.  As it turned out, all three of them had connections to Maine - one was originally from Connecticut and used to ski at Sunday River/snowmobile in Jackman; one's cousin is a ski coach at Gould Academy in Bethel; and the third, also originally from back east, has a buddy who just moved to Maine and works at the Oxbow Brewery in Newcastle.  They bought us a round of drinks and when we finally walked back to the motel after a nice evening, we marveled that it is, in fact, a small, small world.

Pretty nice view from the top

Saturday, August 23, 2014

sun valley, idaho - day 2

We slept in a little, then got up and got ready for everything the day might bring us, grabbing both hiking and MTBing clothing and gear, and walked to The Kneadery for breakfast (260 Leadville Ave. North; Denver omelet for H and eggs Blackstone* for me).  After the meal, we drove north on 75 over Galena Pass to tiny Stanley, Idaho, pausing at the overlook to gawk at the spectacular views of the Sawtooth Mountains and the gorgeous, lake-studded valley, only wishing that it was a little clearer so the jagged edges of the peaks would stand out more.  The Sawtooths are just stunning and so different from our well-loved Wasatch range.

View of Sawtooth Mountains

Stanley was hopping with river outfitters and fishing guides but we didn't linger there long, instead driving out of town a little further.  We picked out an easy MTB ride, a 16.8 mile out-and-back on Cape Horn Road, a Forest Service road through Sawtooth National Forest and Salmon-Challis National Forest land.  Despite a little logging in the area, the rolling road was in excellent condition for riding, only washboarded in a couple of spots.  In addition to the great views of Marsh Creek winding through the valley with the Sawtooths looming in the distance, we saw hawks, deer, herons, sandhill cranes, fish, osprey and tons of songbirds.

Marsh Creek

After our ride we were looking for somewhere scenic for snacks, so we drove to the pretty and immensely popular Redfish Lake, scoring the very last day-use parking spot at 2:30 p.m.  We drank our beers on the beach, watching the SUPers, kayakers, waterskiers and sailors enjoying the day; when we walked down to wade in the lake, an extremely cheeky chipmunk climbed onto our tote bag and pulled an apple core out of the empty Pringles can we were using for trash.


Back in Ketchum, we cleaned up and strolled through town for dinner.  Again timing it just right, we got a patio table at Rico's on Main Street and devoured tasty Oregon IPAs, salads, margherita pizza and a well-stuffed calzone.  Food in our bellies, we stopped back by the Sawtooth Brewery where the friendly bartender was serving two other people.  After they left, it was just us and we sat and chatted with her for a while, talking about Sun Valley and Jackson and Yellowstone.  When we left to go back to our room, we wondered how much longer she'd keep the place open that night.

H in Redfish Lake

*  I'd never heard of eggs Blackstone before.  How have I never heard of eggs Blackstone before?  It's eggs Benedict but with chopped real bacon instead of Canadian bacon. Mmmmmmmmmmm!

Redfish Lake

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

sun valley, idaho - day 1

H and I have a tendency to find something that we like and then stick with it (also known as "getting stuck in a rut").  We know this about ourselves and try, on occasion, to branch out and do something new.  Although we loved going to Jackson, Wyoming, last year for our anniversary, H suggested that we not go back there this year; instead we went to Ketchum, Idaho - Sun Valley - for a long weekend.  After loading the truck with MTBing and hiking gear, we dropped B off at the kennel and headed northwest into Idaho.

Cinder hill.  The white bits are
dwarf buckwheat flowers

To break up the trip a bit, we veered off course by about fifty miles and explored Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, located on a lava flow in the middle of nowhere, between Carey and Arco, Idaho.  The area's volcanoes started erupting about 15,000 years ago, with the last activity occurring just 2,000 years ago, and scientists believe that it's not done yet.  The national monument was established in 1924, and in 1970 Congress designated much of it as wilderness; the Great Rift and its lava fields were added to the national monument in 2000 and in 2002 Congress established the national preserve.  Because it's a national monument and not a national park, however (and because it's in the middle of nowhere), Craters of the Moon wasn't crowded even in the early afternoon on a Saturday in August.

View from Inferno Cone

We bought an Idaho gazetteer in the visitors' center (but neglected to pick up permits which are required to explore the CotM caves - dang it) and then had lunch at a small picnic area, accompanied by a bold chipmunk.  We did some short hikes - up to the top of the cinder-covered Inferno Cone, out the North Crater Trail to the Big Craters, up to peek into the Spatter Cones and the Snowcone (which, true to its name, still had some ice down inside), and out along the Blue Dragon [lava] Flow to the Tree Molds, which were formed when hot lava flowed around upright and fallen trees, and preserved the trees' forms after the wood burned away.  The whole place is weird and otherworldly and worth a visit.  Just be sure to drink lots of water: it was dry and very windy and we got parched, even on short walks.

One of the Big Craters

Back to Route 75 up through the Magic Valley, we arrived in Ketchum around 6:00 p.m. and checked into our dated but clean and serviceable Tyrolean Lodge.  We tidied up a little and then walked around downtown Ketchum, stopping by a bike shop for a MTB map and insider information, and then making our way to the Sawtooth Brewery (600 N. Main St., but moving to a more foot traffic-favorable location within the year).  The brewery is tiny, and never had more than four other patrons at one time despite our going there on Saturday and Sunday nights, but they make most of their money selling their beers at stores and other bars and restaurants.  They don't serve food but you are welcome to bring your own in; the bartender who served us both nights was super-friendly and full of information about the Sun Valley area.  H had the Flow Trail Pale Ale, which was quite good, and I had the False Summit Amber, which was good but not as good as H's choice.  Fun fact: in Idaho, bartenders are allowed to drink on the job!  They have to keep to BAC of .04% or below but they can and do enjoy adult beverages during their shifts.

Tree mold

Despite the bartender's suggestion of various high-end restaurants, we opted to go with a recommendation from one of H's co-workers for dinner: Grumpy's (860 Warm Springs Road).  Established in 1978, Grumpy's is about as proudly dive-y as you can get.  The building is covered in beer cans, signs, skis, stickers and random kitsch; the staff is, as you might imagine, just short of surly; the cleanliness is questionable; they serve beers and burgers; and in the ski season, Tom Hanks drops by whenever he is in town.  He was not there that night, though, and we just walked back to our room after our beers, burgers and fries.

Blue Dragon Flow

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Update coming soon: Sun Valley trip

Y'all - we just got back from a long weekend in Sun Valley, Idaho.  We're unpacking, doing laundry, organizing photos ... and a post will be up tomorrow, sharing our latest adventures.  In the meantime, here's a picture of a cheeky chipmunk stealing an apple core out of a Pringles can at Redfish Lake.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

2014 tour of utah - stage 7

Stage 7 (8/10/14) Park City to Park City, 78 miles, 7,633 foot elevation gain.  Like last year, we got our Round Valley MTB ride in before the final stage of the 2014 Tour of Utah.  We went later, which meant that the trails were quite a bit busier than we've been used to the last few weeks; we also still had to navigate the channels cut into the singletrack from the hard rains we've been having.  We had parked at the high school so after the ride we cleaned up, ate some snacks and hopped aboard a shuttlebus that dropped us off in Park City's Old Town.

Tommy D. finish

Again, we cruised Main Street, checking out the vendors and people-watching.  (There is always good people-watching in Park City, with or without a major sporting event.)  We were able to try out a couple of different vantage points to watch the finish, settling on the same spot we were in last year because (1) we would be able to see the cyclists charging up Main Street to the finish line and (2) we would be right in front of the podium for the jersey presentations after the finish.

Jersey winners

The stage route was the same as last year: leaving Park City, out to Heber and Midway, up and over the brutal Empire Pass (average grade is 10%, maximum grade is over 20%) and then descending through Deer Valley to Park City, with that slight uphill finish.  Tom Danielson and Winner Anaconda broke away from the peloton on the climb up Empire Pass, joined shortly by Chris Horner and then Wilco Kelderman just before topping out.  The four of them descended - hitting speeds over 55 m.p.h. - while, unbeknownst to them, Cadel Evans was quickly gaining ground.  Evans caught the four leaders on the descent and then, in a gorgeous swooping move on the final corner into the straightaway, blew past all over them to easily take the stage win.

GC podium celebrating

Tommy Danielson finished the stage in fifth but as he was only five seconds behind, he won the general classification - the whole enchilada - for the second year in a row.  As he did his post-race interviews, he was charming and gracious, giving huge props to his team for all their hard work.  He seems to really enjoy this race so I assume we'll see him again next year as he tries to go for a three-peat  Cadel Evans seems to have caught the bug too - he's already said that he hopes to come back and ride the Tour of Utah again in 2015.

Lampre-Merida celebrating their team standings

Stage podium:  Cadel Evans; Wilco Kelderman (Belkin/Netherlands); Winner Anaconda Gomez (Lampre/Colombia).  General Classification:  Tom Danielson; Chris Horner (+52 seconds); Winner Anaconda Gomez (+1 min 43 sec).  Team standings: Lampre-Merida; BMC; Trek.  Sprinter:  Jure Kocjan.  King of the Mountain: Joey Rosskopf.  Most Aggressive:  Winner Anaconda Gomez.  Best Young Rider: Dylan Theuns (BMC/Germany).

2014 ToU champion: Tom Danielson

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2014 tour of utah - stage 6

No hiking on Saturday: there's bike racing to watch!  We had hoped to squeeze in a short hike but couldn't work the logistics, since both Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon were going to be closed to car traffic during the day.  Instead, H did a road ride and I did a run, then we packed a couple of coolers with food and beer (we needed two coolers because we planned to stay up at Snowbird after the race to watch the last Cool Air Concert of the season) and headed up LCC around 1:00 p.m.  The traffic was heavy heading up the canyon, drivers carefully navigating around the Ultimate Challenge riders and the spectators setting up camp on the roadside.  Tanners Flats was full of bike fans/crazy people but the fandom was not limited to that location - there were a lot of people out to cheer on the cyclists.

We finally found a parking spot next to the Wasatch Powderbird Guides helipad, above Snowbird on the Alta bypass road.  In prior years it has been quite warm and sunny watching the Queen Stage but not in 2014: clouds were building and it was off-and-on chilly.  We cruised through the vendors, nabbing some granola bars and Sierra Nevada stickers, before finding a place near the jumbotron to watch the race.

Chris Horner and Tommy D. finishing

Stage 6 (8/9/14) Salt Lake City to Snowbird, 107.2 miles, 12,643 foot elevation gain.  The route was changed a bit from years past, starting at the University of Utah and heading up Emigration Canyon, summiting Big Mountain, cruising through East Canyon to Park City, and climbing through Deer Valley up and over Guardsman Pass.  From there, the racers descend Big Cottonwood Canyon, then immediately start climbing up Wasatch Boulevard, then turning east and climbing Little Cottonwood Canyon [oh the pain!!!] to the Snowbird finish.

Stage 6 jerseys

Things started getting exciting on the BCC descent.  Cadel Evans (2011 Tour de France winner), Joey Rosskopf, Riccardo Zoidl and Wilco Kelderman broke away and stayed in the lead, with Tom Danielson and Chris Horner chasing them.  The chase group got close near the top of the LCC climb but never caught the break.  Right before the turn into Snowbird, Rosskopf was in the lead, pushing as hard as he could  but Evans surged past him like he was standing still to take the stage win.  Horner finished fifth and Danielson sixth, both of them fourteen seconds back, so Tommy D. held onto the general classification lead.  Stage podium:  Cadel Evans (BMC/Australia); Joey Rosskopf (Hincapie Sportswear Development/USA); Riccardo Zoidl (Trek/Austria).

Cadel Evans, Stage 6 winner

Sunday, August 10, 2014

2014 tour of utah - stages 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

This past week, Utah has been taken over by the 2014 Tour of Utah, now increased to seven stages and taking place throughout the state.  Tommy Danielson returned to defend last year's title; 2013 Vuelta a Espana winner Chris Horner came back to try to take it away from him; and 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans decided to join the Utah party.  Due to distance/work issues, we were only able to see stages 6 and 7 in person, but here's what happened in the first five:

Stage 1 (8/4/14) Cedar City to Cedar City, 113.5 miles, 8,873 foot elevation gain.  This was a new course, cruising through the Red Hills of the Escalante Desert, through the Parowan Gap, up to Brian Head and Cedar Breaks, and then back to Cedar City for a couple of circuits before the finish.  Stage podium:  Moreno Hofland (Team: Belkin/Nationality: Holland); Jure Kocjan (SmartStop/Slovenia); Andrea Palini (Lampre/Italy).

Stage 2 (8/5/14) Panguitch to Torrey, 130.7 miles, 10,162 foot elevation gain.  This stage was a repeat of last year, so here's a repeat of what I said last year:  "This stage was just stunning, running from Bryce Canyon National Park to Capitol Reef National Park.  It followed Route 12, the "Journal through Time" scenic byway (which H and I have yet to do), through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, then up and over Boulder Mountain, passing right by the Singletree campground [that we stayed at in May 2013] on the descent into tiny Torrey."  Stage podium:  Michael Schar (BMC/Switzerland); Jure Kocjan; Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly Cycling/Romania).

Stage 3 (8/6/14) Lehi to Miller Motorsports Park, 118.3 miles, 3,953 foot elevation gain.  After following the Utah Lake coastline for a while, the course turned westwards, hitting a summit in the ghost town of Eureka and following the old Pony Express route to finish at Miller Motorsports Park.  Stage podium:  Moreno Hoflin; Andrea Palini; Eric Young (Optum/USA).

Stage 4 (8/7/14) Ogden to Powder Mountain, 104.7 miles, 8,893 foot elevation gain.  With a return to Ogden, this stage 4 is brand-new.  From Ogden, up and over the North Ogden Divide, around Pineview Reservoir and back down through Ogden Canyon to do it again, then peeling off after the second time around Pineview and finishing with a brutal climb up to PowMow.  Tommy D., the stage winner, said afterwards that the climb to Powder Mountain was the hardest he's ever done.  Stage podium:  Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp/USA); Ben Hermans (BMC/Germany); Chris Horner (Lampre/USA).

Stage 5 (8/8/14) Evanston (WY) to Kamas, 101.4 miles, 5,706 foot elevation gain.  A relatively flat stage after the oh-so-tough stage 4, the riders started in Wyoming and rode to tiny Kamas, traversing the scenic Mirror Lake Highway, up and over Bald Mountain (topping out at 10,759 feet), then descending for two circuits through Kamas, including a two-mile dirt stretch in Peoa.  Stage podium:  Eric Young (Optum/USA); Jure Kocjan; Kiel Reijnan (UnitedHealthcare/USA).

Thursday, August 7, 2014

monsoon season

We are smack-dab in the middle of monsoon season here in Utah, which means that despite having almost no rain in July, we are getting pummeled with massive, fast-moving thunderstorms in the afternoons and evenings.  Recent, extremely wet storms are wrecking all kinds of havoc all over the state - flash floods, landslides - and they are even impacting us.

We went to Round Valley in Park City on Sunday for our regular MTB ride.  H hadn't seen anything on Twitter about the trails being too wet ("Mud is murder!") so we were optimistic that we could ride, despite seeing puddles on the side of the road.  The trails were fine, fortunately, with only a couple of easily avoidable soft spots.  It was nice and cool, and not very crowded, and although our legs were stiff from Saturday's awesome Storm Mountain hike, we got along just fine - except that the monsoon rains were starting to carve into the single track.  We didn't find any major washouts but there were quite a few channels wide enough to make trouble for our front wheels.  This meant we had to be cautious on the downhills and H had one briefly exciting moment riding up Hammerhead/Pladsen Hill when the channel tried to drag his wheel to the left as he wanted to go right.  (He still rode all the way up whereas my already sore and tired legs complained as I pushed my MTB to the top.)

En route to the Nouvelle Loop [so-called]

The Wasatch Front got a monster storm on Monday evening and then another, smaller one Tuesday afternoon.  I would assume that some of that weather made its way over the mountains to Park City - it'll be interesting to see what sort of shape the trails are in next weekend.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

storm mountain via ferguson canyon

With my apologies for the posting gap (we took a trip back east to celebrate H's parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary), we're back!  And with a great hike to share: Storm Mountain, via Ferguson Canyon.  Despite its proximity to civilization (trailhead in a neighborhood near the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon), we hadn't done Ferguson Canyon since May 2010, mostly because if you go back and read my post about it, we weren't that fond of it because of the steep, loose, rough trail.  But we did some more research and learned that you can get to the top of Storm Mountain if you keep hiking up Ferguson Canyon.  We'd never done it and we figured that since it was a lesser-known hike, we might have the place to ourselves.

This is a good part of the trail.  I'm not kidding.

We started early again and as soon as we got past the favorite rock-climbing walls, my memories of this trail came crashing back to me.  Steep.  Steep and rocky.  Steep and rocky and loose underfoot.  It was humid too, because the trail follows the creek up until it starts switchbacking up the south-facing wall of the canyon.  At 1.6 miles, we turned right (to the southeast) (if you go left, just a little bit further brings you to the Salt Lake Valley overlook) and immediately noticed that this was a trail less-traveled.  The further we went, the more the underbrush encroached until, as H noted, it was really more of a game trail than a hiking trail.  At about two miles in, we kept climbing, following the now dry streambed.  The trail was very steep and rocky; we had to push through the bushes, forcing our way upwards.

Scrambling up the cirque from the upper meadow

After climbing through a couple of meadows, we paused in the horsemint-filled upper meadow for a snack, Storm Mountain cirque looming above us, trying to figure out where to go next.  The trail, such as it was, had pretty much disappeared (despite two lonely cairns sitting atop random glacial erratics).  We looked at the summit and decided to go with the eastern ridge, following game trails through the meadow until we were able to stow our hiking poles in our packs and start scrambling.  The walls of the cirque were steep and the scree underfoot was loose in places, so we took our time and picked our route carefully.  Higher up, the loose stuff disappeared and we were able to scramble over slabs to the top of the ridge.

Looking east up Big Cottonwood Canyon

The top of the ridge was as far as we made it because (1) the views from there were spectacular, falling away dramatically to the Big Cottonwood Canyon road far, far, far below and (2) H noticed carabiners helpfully placed in the rock for the remaining 80 or so feet to the summit proper - we do not need to be going places where there are helpful carabiners.  Nope, we were happy right where we were.

Can you see the BCC road way, way, way down there?

Because the trail was so steep, we knew it would be a slow return.  We cautiously picked our way back down to the upper meadow, then made our way down the trail, shuffling our feet since we couldn't see through the overgrowth.  We knew that this would be a sore-making hike: tight calves from the ascent, tight quads and sore knees from the descent and innumerable scratches and microcuts on our shins from the overgrown trail.  The pain and discomfort didn't bother us much, however, because this was such an incredible hike.  Yes, it's steep.  Yes, someone needs to get up there with a machete soon before the trail disappears entirely.  But we saw no one all day until we were within half a mile of the car, despite how close the trail is to the city, and the unexpected views were just breath-taking.  Storm Mountain via Ferguson Canyon is a really great, difficult hike and we were psyched to have done it.

I may consider long pants next time

Hike stats:  7.21 miles round trip; 5 hours 53 minutes hike total (4:16 moving); average speed 1.2 m.p.h.; 4,100 feet of elevation gain in 3.6 miles.