Friday, July 21, 2017

aftermath

It is entirely possible that I overdid it on our Brighton ridge run hike.  By Saturday early evening, my quads and calves were tightening up, due to the steep sections that I was under-fit for.  And I ended up having to take a nap - due to the heat and extra mileage - which meant we skipped the Snowbird Cool Air Concert.  By the time Sunday morning rolled around, my quads were very sore and I was avoiding going down any stairs at all cost.

But MTBing seemed like something we should do, to shake off the cobwebs and loosen things up.  We managed to get over to Round Valley and on the trails by 9 a.m.  There were enough cars in the parking lot that I ended up being surprised when we didn't see more than a couple of dog-walkers on the front half of our ride.  We did have to stop for a few minutes to encourage a tiny baby desert cottontail off the trail and into the sagebrush; while H shooed him away, I drank a lot of water and was grateful to rest my legs.

Grimace? Smile?  Hard to say exactly

I have not had enough time on the MTB this summer to get my groove back entirely, continuing to be skittish on rocky downhills.  I'm working on it and H and I have decided to go back to parking at the in-town lot to give me another four-ish miles on the bike.  This day, I did manage to ride a couple of sections pretty well and surprised myself by riding all but two of the Sweet Sixteen switchbacks, those two being the ones I have never ridden.  I did spew an impressive string of obscenities while wrestling my MTB up one rocky switchback - but I rode it without putting my foot down, and if high volume swearing is what it takes, then that's what I'll do.

By the time we'd gotten to the far side, however, my legs were toast.  H took the newer portion of our dirt trail back while I cruised the paved bike path.  He beat me back to the truck although only by 30 seconds or so - he'd clearly been held up by other trail users because I was s l o w.  Moral of the story:  do your MTBing the day before you do a big hike or suffer the consequences.  (Said suffering was alleviated somewhat by judicious application of G&Ts at home Sunday evening.)

Monday, July 17, 2017

brighton ridge run

Three years ago, we did a great hike up at Brighton, running around the ridge and picking off six peaks all above 10,000 feet.  Last year, we climbed Clayton Peak (a/k/a Mt. Majestic).  This year, we hadn't been hiking all that much and I was really jonesing for a decent hike.  I thought we could link the two together and really make a good walk out of the so-called Brighton Ridge Run.

Unnamed peak; hiker name: H

We were on the trail at 7 a.m., enjoying the cool air and the almost-but-not-quite-at-peak wildflowers on the lower ski runs under the Majestic and Crest Express lifts.  We encountered just a couple people before the Dog Lake turn-off and then no one (other than a fair number of unwelcome but slow-moving mosquitoes) as we made our way up.  That trail through Brighton's bowls is just wonderful.  It climbs steadily but is smooth and gentle underfoot, hard-packed dirt and pine needles - super-cushy.  The last bit to the summit is steep with small boulders to scramble; cross-sounding pikas scolded us as we made our way up.  Then it was summit #1, Clayton Peak, at 10,750 feet above sea level.

Lakes Mary and Martha from Pioneer Peak

There was no time for lingering, however, because this summit had taken us longer than I thought it would (failure to adequately research falls on me).  We also weren't sure how to get to our next summit and had to descend much further than I had hoped before finding a dirt access road which would take us up.  This "ridge run" does have a trail but it is faint and fades in and out; a recurring theme for the hike would be losing and re-finding the path.  We made our way up through the wildflowers to the ridge behind the top of the Crest Express lift and started around.

Catherine's Pass/Lake Catherine and Tuscarora

That first summit is apparently unnamed (elevation 10,315 ft.) and the trail is barely there either.  It's easy to know where you're going on a ridge, however, so we picked our way through the boulders until we found the trail again.  There is a fair amount of up and down on this hike, as we descended to the low point and then scrambled up to Pioneer Peak (10,447 ft.).  From here, on our left a gorgeous green drainage fell away towards the Heber Valley, and to our right, the Brighton lakes were as full as we've ever seen them, compliments of all the wonderful snow we got this past winter.

Last summit: Mt. Wolverine

From Pioneer Peak to the popular Sunset Peak is probably the sketchiest part of the ridge run.  We lost (and found) the trail several times; the footing is extremely sandy and loose; and the ground falls away very steeply, so that whole section is absolutely a "no-fall" zone.  It is also a no-other-hikers zone, which is always a treat in the increasingly busy Wasatch.

Wolverine Cirque

There were, however, scads of people atop Sunset Peak 10,648 ft.), as we knew they would be.  Lots of hikers will nab that summit as it is an easy extension from Catherine's Pass, whether you've come up from the Alta side or the Brighton side.  We left the crowds behind us as quickly as we could, pausing for snacks at Catherine's Pass (where we grievously disappointed the resident chipmunk who had been hoping for dropped goodies) before continuing on.  Again, there was a bit of route-finding as the trail faded in and out, but we eventually found ourselves at the summit of Mt. Tuscarora (10,654 ft.), a popular winter summit for backcountry skiers.  We had to cross a bit of snow on our way down and back up to Mt. Wolverine (the high point at 10,795 ft.), and then the footing was a bit precarious in spots - narrow, rocky, loose - as we skirted Wolverine Cirque.  We even encountered a skier, resting a bit before his second run down the cirque.  When asked how it was, he said, "It's a little wavy.  But it's good for July," and then grinned at us.  Wish we'd gotten to see him ski.

I love this map

We continued around the ridge, picked our way down the boulder field to Twin Lakes Pass.  Here, two things were evident: the wildflowers are truly on the verge of peak gorgeousness; and there is so much water in the reservoir that Twin Lakes is just one lake right now.  It's great to see.  From there, it was basically a long slog out via the ski resort's access roads.  It was hot and the gravel footing is looser than I like since my hiking boots tend to slip on the loose stuff.  But cold beer and sandwiches were waiting for us at the car and that's good motivation.

Pretty sexy profile there

When the stats were pulled together, we ended up doing 10.64 miles with 4,100 feet of climbing (4:37 hiking and 1:19 stoppage time meant about six hours on the trail all told).  That was a longer hike than I had envisioned [see above re poor research skills] but it is such a beautiful hike, and manages to avoid the teeming hordes even located where it is.  Totally worth it, every time.

Friday, July 14, 2017

crushed it

The day of the Crusher in the Tushar itself, all the cyclists in town were up and about early, milling around the staging area before 7:30 a.m. All shapes and sizes of riders were in attendance but it was clear that most of them were riding gravel bikes, although we did note a few more MTBs and hydration-pack wearers than we originally expected. H had waffled about wearing his hydration pack but the ability to carry more water (and tools/tubes) outweighed the weight of the pack.

Pre-race, clean and smiling

 After announcements, the start was at 8 a.m., with this start order: pro men; all women (and there were more women than I thought there would be); 45-49 men; 60+ men; 40-44 men; single speed/tandem riders; 50-59 men; 29 and under men; 30-34 men; and last, 35-39 men. H looked very focused as he rode past and I spied our motel neighbor Dan in there too.  It was still cool as it neared the start but the day would get much, much hotter.

Pro Men lined up, Dave Zabriskie on the left

 When the final group left, the PA system played the Benny Hill theme and the William Tell Overture to see them off (which I thought hilarious). I walked to El Bambi for breakfast, sitting at the counter and eavesdropping on locals who were talking about the bike race: "Why would anyone want to do that?!?" I stopped by the room for a little while and then, around 11:30 a.m., drove to the finish line. 

H's group starts

The Crusher in the Tushar has been described as "apocalyptic" and "a suffer-fest." Two-time Crusher winner Levi Leipheimer ranks it up there with the Leadville 100 and the best (worst) climbing days in the Tour de France. Simply put, the 69+ mile pavement/gravel race is just brutal.  Here's the course profile:


 The first ten or so miles are not so bad, on pavement, climbing gently out of Beaver. Then first dirt starts, climbing aggressively and topping out at over 10,000 feet. (Elevation in town:  5,902 feet.) Next is a very steep, washboarded, switchback-filled, loose descent, losing nearly 4,000 feet of elevation.  The pavement kicks back in at mile 31 and continues downhill to Junction, then mostly flat to Circleville.

Lonely road, final stretch (that's not H)

 After that respite, the route gets dirty again at Doc Springs Road - which has been called the Sarlaac Pit due to its hellish steeps and loose sand and gravel. The grind continues up the Col d' Crush (most steep, more sand, more loose gravel), topping out at the KOM/QOM around 9,400 feet.

 That's how steep the Col d' Crush is
(photo credit: tusharcrusher.com)

There's a bit of flat as the road goes by Puffer Lake and then it's back on the pavement for the final four miles to the finish at Eagle Point. The TOP of Eagle Point, mind you, with a finishing elevation just under 10,500 feet above sea level.  There's really no way to explain just how difficult this route is.  The dirt sections, although not technical singletrack, were loose gravel and sand, rarely nicely hard-packed dirt, with switchbacks, swooping curves and ruts.  The grades ranged from the gentle-but-constant 2%, on the initial stretch up the canyon from Beaver, to a brutal 14% on the Col d' Crush.  The temperature swing was mind-boggling as well, from the hot, dry, exposed 100 F sections down in the valley, to the cold, rainy 40s up in the mountains.  The Crusher is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one but boy, the physical bit is no joke.

When the weather rolled in at the top

H had some goals for this ride.  The first one, the one he was most anxious about, was making the cutoff: if riders hadn't gotten to the second aid station (approx. mile 25.5) by 11:00 a.m., they would be yanked from the race and sent straight to the finish.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.  If he made it past the cutoff, he figured he could - at worst - do the ride in 9 hours with a 5:00 p.m. arrival.  If he really pushed it, he thought his best possible time might be 7 hours 45 minutes.  The plan was for him to text me at various intervals to let me know where he was along the route although I was skeptical that there would be enough cell signal to get through.  He did send me a bunch of texts (15 miles to go at 12:54 p.m.; passing the KOM at 1:26 p.m., etc.) but I only got the first - and most important - one: he made it past the cutoff with thirty minutes to spare.  For the record, I had always been sure that he would make the cutoff.

The Big Flat (cyclingtips.com)
Photo: Catherine Fegan-Kim.

Without any way of knowing where he was after that point, I didn't really know what to do with myself up at the finish line.  The organizers had a great set up with tents and beer and food and volunteers and bathrooms; the ski lodge was open too.  I had brought a book with me, thinking I could find a spot to sit overlooking the finish and keep one eye on the road while I read.  Spectator parking was at the resort's lower lodge, with shuttle buses running back and forth on the 1+ mile between.  I opted to walk and when I got up there, it was gorgeous, sunny and very pleasant.  Then the clouds started building and the wind started picking up.  It got dark and cold and started to sprinkle.  (I had not bothered to bring a raincoat because it hasn't rained in about two months.)  We spectators managed to ignore this until the organizers announced that there was lightning within one mile of our location.  They shooed us all into the ski lodge while keeping a skeleton crew of volunteers outside to help the riders as they came in.  There was lots of thunder and wind and it just poured rain for quite some time, the temperature plummeting.  Unfortunately, I had left my additional layers in the truck since my backpack was full of dry clothes for H after he finished - they weren't doing me much good down there.

Descent to Junction (cyclingtips.com)
Photo: Catherine Fegan-Kim.

The storm finally/mostly blew through and we spectators moved back out to watch the riders struggling and/or charging up the final pitch.  Where it had been around 100 F in the valley, it was now in the low 40s - more pleasant for the hard-working riders, less so for the chilled watchers.  It was still sprinkling off and on so I found a place below the finish line, on the side of the road under some trees where I could see the riders from a distance as they approached.  This turned out to be a great spot until a DNR truck drove up and parked right at the bend in the road.  Now my view of the coming cyclists was blocked until they were right upon us.

ALMOST FINISHED

A little bit before 3:00 p.m., just when I was thinking of leaving my spot to go find a snack, I peeked around the truck.  OMIGOSH! THERE'S H! HE'S ALREADY HERE!  Pedaling steadily, face in a breathing and/or grimacing rictus, two hours early.  I grabbed the camera and ran (sort of) up to the finish, pack bouncing, to get a photo of him as he came in.  He looked so strong.  As soon as he crossed the finish line - with a time of 6:56.03!!!! - volunteers came up, wrapping him in a space blanket against the chill and putting his bike in a rack for him.  He sat in the riders' tent for a while, drinking a Coke and trying to wrap his head around the fact that he didn't have to pedal anymore.  Some of the riders were animated, commiserating with each other about the hellacious ride they'd just finished; others just sat there in a daze.

Finished! Here comes the space blanket

Before H could get chilled, we went to the beer tent (free Epic cans for riders!) and went into the warm lodge.  With some sugar, caffeine and beer in his system, H bounced back quickly, telling me highlights of the ride while he changed into dry clothes.  He was pretty hungry - he can have a difficult time with nutrition on long rides because his stomach can get upset - so we went to the food truck (free veggies and rice and protein for riders!) and he wolfed his portion down.  The organizers were getting the finishers' list up quickly so we kept scanning it for our new friend Dan.  His name wasn't on there though, and by the time the very last rider came in, just a couple minutes under nine hours, we knew that Dan must have bailed out.  We caught the shuttle bus down to the lower lodge and stopped in at the bar/grill for a beer.  The Renegade Lounge bartender and her husband were working, so we were able to say hello to them both.  As we sat at the bar, we talked with another rider and his wife for a bit before heading back down the canyon.

Post-race, not at all clean but still smiling

I was (and am) so proud of H's accomplishment.  He beat his projected time by a substantial amount, even on a heavy MTB, carrying a pack.  He never had to stop or put his foot down, other than at aid stations.  [Note: a word about the aid stations.  All the riders had nothing but effusive praise for the nutrition and hydration available, as well as the outstanding volunteers.  People would fill their water bottles, hold their bikes if they need to use the portopotties, spritz them with cold water, crack open a PBR for them.  Kudos and big thanks to all the Crusher volunteers!]  He managed the heat, the steeps, the ruts and loose rocks and just didn't stop pedaling until he was done.  The Crusher in the Tushar is a diabolical race and many people say never again once they're done.  H didn't go so far as to say that and, what may be even more telling, was back on his bike half an hour after we got home midday on Sunday, saying, "No sense in stopping now."

Quick recovery

Summary:  H finished 315 out of 682 total riders and 58 out of 140 in his age group (per the start list); 6 hours 56 minutes 3 seconds; 69+ miles and 10,400 feet of climbing.

More Crusher coverage, if you're interested:
And here's a short video that gives a pretty good idea of what the Crushers went through:

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

further afield

As we weren't really sure what we would do for the entire day on Friday in scenic Beaver, Utah, while H went for a twenty-mile morning road ride before it got hot, I searched the internet/gazetteer for something for us to do.  First off, we went for breakfast (oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar; and homemade cinnamon rolls) at El Bambi, as recommended by our bartender and her husband from the night before.  El Bambi was just up the street aways, easily walkable.  We noticed several other Crushers in the little truckstop/diner (breakfast all day, 6 a.m.-2 p.m., closed Sundays, open at 5 a.m. for the Crusher in the Tushar by special arrangement) and ended up talking with Dan from Phoenix, who turned out to be our next-door-neighbor at the motel.  He had driven the course on Thursday so as to know exactly what he was up against; this was directly opposite H's approach where, in a departure from his usually wanting to know absolutely everything about anything he's getting into, H preferred to not know and just deal with things as they came up.

Image result for el bambi beaver utah
I love this sign

Since we had some time to kill before we could pick up H's race packet, and since I really had been unable to come up with anything better (there is definitely hiking in the area but (1) it was already getting hot and (2) H, wanting to focus on the race, hadn't brought hiking boots with him), we drove west on Utah Route 21 through Minersville and Milford.  We were in search of a ghost mining town, Frisco, which from 1880-1885 had around 6,000 (!) people, hotels, a hospital, a weekly newspaper and schoolhouse, a red light district (!!) and some twenty-three saloons (!!!).  We found it, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, about fifteen miles from Milford, carved into the side of the hill.  We drove in a ways but the road was rough and our aging truck's suspension is not to be trifled with; we considered getting out and walking in further but ultimately decided not to since the temperature was flirting with 100 F.

Image result for horn silver mine utah

We retraced our steps, pausing for a beer at a picnic spot alongside the Beaver River, then headed south on I-15 for a couple of exits before heading east on Utah Route 20, a pretty road through the mountains that goes through Bone Hollow and Bear Valley.  This road ends at US 89 (which runs south to Panguitch, not far away, or north to Circleville and Junction, which H didn't want to go to because he'd be riding his bike there the next day).  So we stopped at an RV park for drinks and to take a photo of the smoke from the still-lingering Brian Head fire, at this point 70%+ contained but still smoldering.  The air was thick with smoke and we felt grateful that it was not finding its way up to Beaver.

Such a bummer

When we got back to town, the place was starting to get busy with cars/vans laden with bike racks.  We hung out at the room for a little while, waiting for it to cool down a bit, then walked to the center of town to pick up H's race packet at the visitors' center, a really cool old log cabin.  The packet pick-up was scheduled from 2 - 9:30 p.m., so while the influx of racers was constant, there was never a long line.  Amazingly, I even knew one of the volunteers: my old massage therapist who left Salt Lake City about 1.5 years ago when her husband got a Forest Service job based out of Fillmore.  The scene was super-chill with a couple of food trucks and a band, Mad Max and the Wild Ones.  We went and picked up a pizza from Freestyle Pizza - which took an hour and seven minutes (!!!!) because they were getting slammed by all the Crushers - and ate it in the park while Mad Max et als. wrapped up their set.

Pizza al fresco

There really weren't that many cyclists hanging out (which is what we had expected), so when the band quit at 7:30 p.m., we walked back to the motel, stopping first at the grocery store to pick up a Gatorade for H.  At this point the motel parking lot was full, with what were obviously Crushers' vehicles.  The rest of the evening was organizing for the race and then, once that was done, out on the motel balcony, drinking beers and chatting with neighbor Dan.  Early to bed, though, for tomorrow we would crush!

Mellow vibe at the packet pick-up

Monday, July 10, 2017

something new

On Thursday, I worked just a half day so we could get on the road by 3 p.m.  Once we were south of Spanish Fork, we got clear of the traffic and there was a whole lot of nothing - other than mountains, valleys, hayfields, cattle, horses and roadkill - all the way down to scenic Beaver, Utah, birthplace of Butch Cassidy.  You might ask: why did you go to scenic Beaver, Utah?  Because H had a momentary lapse in his sanity and signed up for this LUNATIC road and dirt bike race - the Crusher in the Tushar.  You might ask: what is so crazy about this Crusher?  It's seventy miles with a 40/60 paved/dirt split, with over 10,000 feet of climbing, starting in downtown Beaver and finishing up at the top of the local ski mountain, Eagle Point Resort.  And H, for some reason known only to him, momentarily thought he wanted to do it ... and then regretted signing up for it ever since.  But not enough to give up his entry.  Nope, he was determined to ride it, good sense be damned.

Crusher in the Tushar

So that is why we were checking into a motel in Beaver on a Thursday evening.  I had thought going down a day early would be a good idea - give us a chance to explore, poke around, get our bearings.  Of course, as I researched dining options, I grew a little fearful that we would be in a Panguitch situation.  After we had checked in, we cruised Main Street to reconnoiter.  Beaver is similar to Panguitch, having a short, historical Main Street with a number of funky old motels and a few restaurants.  Beaver is bigger, however, with lots of surrounding farms, a big garden center/nursery and a mix of homes (new construction, trailers and very cool older brick places).  More importantly, it also has one bar.

"Ugh - papparazzi"

We had a quick dinner at the Crazy Cow (salads, veggie burgers and beer - a bottle each of Corona and Budweiser, no I am not kidding), then left the truck at the motel and walked a few blocks to the center of town.  We found a gorgeous old courthouse and an opera house - with falcons nesting in a vent; we also located where we thought the race packet pick-up would be on Friday.  Then, thirsty from all that exploring, we went to the Renegade Lounge where we were the only ones there, until the bartender's husband stopped by after getting out of work.  It was like having our own private club - with only Bud Light on tap.  Not able to face that terrible excuse for "beer," I drank bottled Coronas and H had bottled Guinness.  We talked with Keara and Jimmy all night, mostly about Eagle Point Resort (a/k/a "the mountain" per locals), where he is the executive chef and she is the pastry chef, but also small town stuff like having polygamist neighbors, open range cattle (if you hit one with your car, you have to pay the farmer for not only the dead animal, but any potential future progeny you have deprived him of), the Brian Head fire, etc.

One-bar town

After a couple of hours, we walked back to our motel.  Although it had been close to 100 F during the day, it had cooled off nicely and was very pleasant.  So far, we were much preferring Beaver to Panguitch ... but H was all, "What are we going to do all day tomorrow?" which was a good question, actually.

Friday, July 7, 2017

alta evening

Ah, the scorching hot days of July are upon us - time to go out early or late and hunker down in the shade and/or air conditioning in the middle of the day!  On Independence Day we followed that rule to the letter.  In the morning, while the hoi polloi were out waving their flags at various valley parades, H did a road ride and I did my from-home loop on foot.  It was already hot by 11 a.m., so we stayed inside for the afternoon, catching up on laundry and watching the Tour de France.

Moonrise above Sunnyside chair

But around 6:30 p.m. we threw on our hiking boots and went up to Alta.  Where it was 97 F in the valley, it was in the 80s up there - still warm, for Alta, but definitely tolerable.  We assume that earlier in the day it was super-busy up there but at that point, people had headed back down to the valley for cook-outs and fireworks.  We parked at the upper Albion lot and started up the meadow trail.

Paintbrush just opening

It is VERY green up there right now and the wildflowers are about ready to burst into color.  Some have already started: bluebells, pink geraniums, a few paintbrush and lupin, gentians spiking up but not yet in bloom, several columbine here and there, and alpine buttercups rampant up high.  That may sound like a lot but trust me, the wildflowers are only just getting started at this point.

Alpine buttercups

We went up the meadow trail, stared dolefully at the replacing-Supreme-lift construction and then continued up towards Catherine's Pass.  Although there were cars in the parking lots still, we only crossed paths with four people on our way up and one trail runner on our way back down - ideal crowds.  The sun was getting low in the sky as we gained elevation.  I could definitely feel it in my legs and my lungs that I haven't been doing much hiking; despite the struggle, it felt good to be out there.

I see a little silhouetto of a ... deer

After a brief stop at Catherine's Pass, we kept going up and across Catherine's Area towards the top of the [Supreme] lift.  Although we didn't see any moose (which we had expected), we did see a whole bunch of individual mule deer, including one young male who, cautiously but curiously, followed us for a little ways, peeking at us through the trees.

Catherine's Area is high enough to still have some snow

The sun went down on our descent, first behind Superior and then behind the horizon.  The nearly-full moon was out, however, and there was still light in the sky almost all the way down, through the campground (closed this summer due to the lift construction) and then again through the meadow.

H amongst the buttercups

We paused for a few minutes back at the truck, enjoying beers and the cool air, counting the stars as they popped into view and watching the headlights of an ATV trundling around in the trees below us.  Then we headed back down to the heat of the city, marveling at the hundreds of glittering fireworks displays sprouting from the valley below.

There she goes

Hike stats:  6.99 miles, 2 hours 49 minutes (including stoppage time), 2.8 m.p.h moving average and 1.708' of climbinb

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

old friends

There's no doubt (judging from the number of posts that have gone up here recently) that I haven't gotten many miles on my legs this spring/summer.  All for good reasons, mind you: it's not like I'm out shopping or playing video games or sitting around eating bonbons.  First, there was so much more snow in the mountains this winter that it took much longer for the hiking trails to clear and dry out.  Then I spent two full weekends back east with family.  More recently, H has been training hard on his road bike and I like to be available by phone in case something goes wrong; reception is pretty spotty up in the canyons (at least with AT&T) so I have chosen to do short runs and walks down in the valley (early, before it gets hot) where phone reception is better.  By midday, when he's back, it's too hot for MTBing and/or too crowded at the Big Cottonwood/Little Cottonwood/Millcreek hiking trails.

Most recently, we had an excellent reason for staying off the trails: we had visitors from back east, in town for just a couple days.  For years we skied, canoed, had chili cookoffs and drank beer with Jim and Irene, some of the founding members with us of the "Quiet Dan Ski Club" in greater Bethel, Maine.  Every winter weekend the QDSC would meet for first chair at the Barker lift at Sunday River.  We (there was a small pack of us, including me, H, Jim, Irene, Kent, Andy, Jim C. and, of course, our fearless leader, Quiet Dan) would ski together and then, when done for the day, head to the Sunday River Brewing Company (a/k/a "the Brewpub," now under new management) where we were all mug club members.  In the summers, the QDSC canoed on the Androscoggin River, had cook-outs and hung out at the brewpub.

Together again

H and I have not been able to get back up to Bethel on our few trips back to Maine and so it has been about eight years since we've seen Jim and Irene.  When they proposed driving to SLC from Fort Collins, Colorado, where they were visiting family, we were thrilled that they would be willing to make that trip.  They showed up at our house Saturday afternoon; we introduced them to Utah beers and went to the Porcupine for dinner; we packed a cooler and drove up to Snowbird's Cool Air Concert (Too Slim and the Taildraggers, southern blues/rock).  Sunday morning we all breakfasted on the deck at the Silver Fork, then drove up to Brighton and over Guardsman Pass* to Park City.  We couldn't linger since there were other local friends of theirs who were anxious to see them.  So about twenty-four hours after they arrived, we hugged them goodbye and handed them off.  Hopefully it won't be another eight years until we see them again.

*  New this summer at Guardsman Pass: there are newly installed barriers right at the top of the pass, prohibiting people from parking on both sides of the road.  It was MUCH easier to navigate two-way traffic when there were vehicles only parked on one side.  Bravo to whoever did that - thank you!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

(over)herd at round valley

As I have mentioned recently, I have been struggling more than I like on the MTB this year.  I can't figure out why - it's not like I crashed - but it has been noticeable.  It's like the better H gets, the worse I get.  And that's not fair!  (I suppose I should just bite the bullet and sign up for another Trek Dirt Series camp - that would fix everything.)

So it was with surprise and pleasure that I found myself riding much better at Round Valley last Sunday.  Again, I don't know why.  Maybe I'm just taking longer to ramp up this year and have needed more miles under my wheels to feel comfortable.  Maybe I'm shaking loose whatever is in my head.  Dunno.  But I did feel like I was handling the bike better, putting my foot down less in places I know I can ride ... until I started getting stomach cramps just as we started the Sweet Sixteen climb.

Ugh - I'm pretty sure it was dehydration (which I know better) and I didn't let it stop me, riding up all but the two switchbacks that still elude me, but I was feeling pretty crummy by the time I got to the top where H was waiting for me.  On the way down the other side, I drank way more water than I usually do and by the time we got to the paved bike path, my stomach was mostly okay.  My legs were a little shaky, however, so I went old-school and rode back to the truck on the paved trail while H hauled ass back on dirt.  Amazingly, I beat him by about 45 seconds - he'd been held up behind a couple of other riders just as he reached the end.  While he went around the loop again, I drank another bottle of water and read, and by the time he got back for beers and sandwiches, I felt okay.  Note to self:  don't let that happen again.

Blue skies and sagebrush

The coolest part of our ride was towards the beginning.  H was, of course, ahead of me, waiting at a trail junction.  I crested a hill and was starting to descend when I jammed on my brakes to let a herd of eight plump mule deer go by, bounding ("stotting") through the sagebrush.  They went between me and H, crossed the jeep road and bounced up the hill across from us.  Then they all stopped and turned, watching us for a few minutes.  When it was clear that we weren't going to follow them, they continued up the hill, single file on a game trail, and disappeared into the brush.  Mule deer are common around here but we still find it a treat to see them so close.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

yak attack

H is really in the zone right now on his bike, and went for a 72+ road ride Saturday morning, his longest ride since (I believe) 2012.  While he was riding from our house to the top of Emigration Canyon and back (and then some), I just went for a run on my regular loop from the house; when he goes on long rides, I like to stick close to home in case he gets two flat tires and needs a pick-up.  It was a gorgeous morning, not too hot, and I managed to meet several friendly dogs (and their people), including one sweetie who looked just like a slightly smaller version of our pre-Becky dog, Yukon.

That evening, as it had warmed up considerably in the valley, we packed our cooler and went up to Snowbird for the Cool Air Concert series.  We had to park further down than usual, halfway to the lower lot, in fact, due to the weekend's Adventure + Gear Fest (which, I don't know how we hadn't heard about that).

Mountain brews

The evening's [free] entertainment was a little different from the usual bands they get for the Cool Air Concert Series.  The opener was DJ Che, a local club DJ spinning the tunes - or at least syncing up the files on his laptop.  The headliner was Yak Attack, a Portland, Oregon, "live electronica trio."  Featuring a percussionist, bassist and keyboardist, they blended jazz, funk, house and electronic music, including live loops set up by the keyboardist.  It was mellow and pretty funky stuff, and the photo below doesn't show that there were actually a fair number of people up dancing, including a group of kids who danced for the entire set.  


They even got called back for multiple encores, which was pretty cool even with a smaller crowd than they're likely used to playing.  Their music isn't what I'd search out to see live but it would be great playing in the background all day at home or at work. 


Thursday, June 22, 2017

freewheeling

 Sunday was a gorgeous day in northern Utah - the clouds moved off, leaving the skies clear and blue, and it was warm but not too hot.  Perfect!  We got to Round Valley around 9:30 a.m. or so (realizing that as the summer wears on, we're going to have to go earlier before it really heats up), parking in the Quinn's Trailhead lot.  Although the parking lot never completely filled up, we did encounter over 35 MTBers out on the trails, which tells me that other people found the day perfect weather-wise as well.

As far as the riding went, I had a less-than-perfect outing.  For some reason that I can't determine, I have lost all confidence in my MTBing. I've never been very good but I've also never been so chicken, and I don't understand why my head is where it is.  I get very nervous on loose/rocky bits, which means I ride more slowly, which means the bike is less stable, which means I have to put my foot down or even fall into the bushes.

Upright!  Yay!

I did actually fall over once, just before the start of the Sweet Sixteen climb.  An older lady was coming towards me on the singletrack.  She looked terrified, so I pulled over to let her by.  She didn't say whether she was riding alone or not, so I waited for thirty seconds and then continued on.  Of course, her husband was just cresting the top of a short, steep hill that sometimes gives me trouble.  He eventually pulled over but I was going too slowly, not sure if he would get out of the way (even though as the uphill rider, I definitely had the right of way), so just as I got to the top, I tipped over, landing on my left side, feet still clipped in.  If I'd been going faster, I would have made it.  Hopefully that's a lesson learned.

H was, per usual, riding really well.  In the interest of his getting lots of miles, when we finished our loop, he went out and did it again (much faster), while I sat and read and patted various dogs as they came by.  When he came back, we had snacks and surreptitious beers, then headed home.  I wish I could get my head on straight when it comes to MTBing but it was still a gorgeous day to be outside, even if I couldn't keep it rightside up the whole time.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

and the beat goes on

After the finish of the Porcupine Hill Climb, H rode back down Big Cottonwood Canyon for home.  Since I hadn't had any exercise yet, I put on my hiking boots to try to get up to Clayton Peak.  I had underestimated the amount of snow up at Brighton, however, and lost the trail shortly after turning at the Lake Mary junction.  I could mostly remember which way to go and ended up side-hilling around the bowl towards the Crest Express chairlift.  Footing was sketchy - I had to stomp each foot into the snow - and I was a little nervous about slipping and sliding into a tree, which would not be recommended.

I made around the bowl and changed course, walking up the access road instead.  I made it up to the ridge when I decided that I wasn't having all that much fun.  As you can see from the photo below, it was completely cloudy and, with the wind picking up, chilly.  I decided to cut my losses and retrace my steps back to the car.  My feet were getting wet anyway.    

That's not very summery-looking

After yard- and sprinkler-repair work that afternoon, H and I still were not ready to call it quits.  The first Snowbird Cool Air Concert Series of the summer was that evening, so we packed our cooler and a bunch of warm clothes (mid-mountain temperatures were only 55 F at 5:30 p.m.) and headed up to the 'Bird's patio for an evening with Annika Chambers (Cory Mon opener). 

Annika Chambers showing us how it's done

Ms. Chambers rocked the joint with her soul- and rock-infused blues; she and her band had been in town for the Utah Blues Festival (which I didn't even know was a thing - will have to check that out for next year).  Lots of fun, great audience response and a fantastic way to kick off the summer season.







Sunday, June 18, 2017

porcupine hill climb 2017

After a few years off, H signed up for the 2017 Porcupine Hill Climb.  He has been riding a lot this year and is in really good shape.  The last time he did it was 2012 and he did it in about 90 minutes; he was interested to see what he could go with five more years on his legs.

The citizen start

The ride starts at the bottom of Big Cottonwood Canyon and goes all the way up to Brighton Ski Resort: 14.7 miles and 3,800 feet of climbing.  I mean, it's all climbing.  There are some flattish sections but it's truly all uphill, all the way up.

Just before he flashed me the peace sign

This year the "citizen" (non-licensed cyclists) start was at 7 a.m.  H rode from our house to the start, as a warm-up; I left a little later and drove to meet him there.  The weather was cool and there looked to be a tailwind chasing the cyclists up the canyon, so that was good.  I watched H start, then headed back to my car.

Just above Solitude

Like before, I leapfrogged the cyclists: riding ahead and then stopping to cheer and take photos.  Both times H looked great, really strong, even on my second stop above Solitude, when the already long climb kicks it up a couple notches.

Strong finish

I got into position at the finish and watched H come in, beating out another cyclist right at the end.  I thought he looked very strong coming across the finish line and he confirmed that he felt pretty good.

What? No podium girls?

It took the race organizers forever to tabulate the results - and it seemed longer because it was cold, with clouds covering the sun, wind and temperatures in the low 50s.  But it was worth the wait because H got second in his age group and took ten minutes off his 2012 time!  I'm so very proud of him and I think he feels pretty good about his performance as well.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

it's hard to believe

It's hard to believe that we're halfway through June and we still haven't gone hiking!  Part of that is because H has been kicking butt on two wheels these days and we're trying to keep that momentum going.  But mostly it's because this has been the year of never-ending winter (which, is fine, if I'm honest) where yesterday it was 48 F and raining in the Salt Lake Valley but up in the mountains it was snowing - Snowbird picking up 3-6" of creamy, heavy, still-skiable snow.  I mean, we didn't ski it but some people did. 

It's melting quickly - and next week the temperatures are going to jump right up into HOT - but for now, if you're looking to hike at the top of the Cottonwood Canyons, waterproof your boots.

Sugarloaf Mountain Cam

Friday, June 9, 2017

snowshoeing 'round the mountain

Memorial Day rolled around, mostly sunny and warmer, and we suddenly remembered that we have snowshoes!  We have old-school Atlas snowshoes that don't get a whole lot of use: when it's winter, we prefer to ski, and then in the last several years the snow has melted quickly in the spring so we've been able to segue easily into hiking.  Not so this year unless we want to battle the hordes of people in the now-dry foothills and the lower Wasatch Front hiking trails - where we like to go, there's still a lot of snow.

Gorgeous sky over Gunsight

Where we liked to go on Memorial Day was up to Alta.  We were curious to see if there were lots of people skiing at Snowbird (fewer than we expected) and we were curious to see how much snow is still up there (quite a lot, really).  We parked by the Albion Lodge - not yet open for summer, although the bathrooms are available - strapped on our snowshoes and headed up the bunny slope.  Note:  the bunny slopes never seem steep unless you're walking up them.

Skiing dude heading out

We weren't the only ones out and about at Alta.  We saw tons of songbirds, numerous potguts, at least nine skiers, a guy driving a sno-cat, a couple of hikers and one fat-biker (the bike was fat, not the cyclist).  There were guys hard at work on the lifts too, doing maintenance on the Sugarloaf chairs, which surprised us a little, being a holiday.  A fair number of trees had been taken down near Alf's, getting ready to put in the new lift.  The Cecret lift has been dismantled: the top and bottom were still there but all the towers have been taken down and the chairs and cables are gone.  It looked like they were getting ready to do the same to poor Supreme.

In-progress lift removal

After giving a couple of hikers directions to Cecret Lake, we continued up past the top terminus of the former Cecret chair, slogging past some cabins and topping out in the trees under Devil's Apron.  It was fun traipsing around in there.  When we ski it, I'm not paying much attention to my surroundings since I have to concentrate on the skiing, but walking on snowshoes allowed me to gawk around.  Mostly - I did slip a couple of times on some steeper sections, the soft spring corn snow sliding away underfoot.

Still looks like winter up in the Apron

We did a lollipop, looping through the upper trees and returning down Sunnyside the way we came.  There were more people heading out when we got back to the truck just over two hours and approximately four miles later: walking up the Summer Road, toting sleds up and a couple of young guys packing salt and a big shovel.  We asked them what the salt was for: building a jump.  Memorial Day mayhem at Alta!

Slip-sliding away