Monday, September 1, 2014

return to white pine lake

It's a cliche, of course, but time does fly and since we've been out in Utah, it seems to go by fast than ever.  Case in point: Labor Day weekend, the meteorological end of summer.  We can scarcely believe that it's September - it seems like we just got started on summertime!  Rather than sitting around and moping, however, we got out and did a hike on Saturday.  Since I have hopes that we might climb Lone Peak this fall (which is a long and arduous hike up a mountain that looms over the Salt Lake valley), I thought it would behoove us to do something a little longer, something in the ten mile range.  White Pine Lake fit the bill.

No bluebird skies today

White Pine Lake is, with the exception of the Catherine's Area loop I do through Alta, the hike we have done the most; this would be my fourth time up it and H's fifth (he did it last year without me when our friend Paul came to visit).  We didn't get a particularly early start this time and the popular trailhead was pretty full by the time we got up there, to get on trail just before 9 a.m.  The skies were a little threatening too: cloudy, with virga appearing across the valley.  Although we prefer blue-sky hiking, we figured we'd give it a go and see how far we got before the rain set in.

Lots more water than we expected

H's legs were feeling really strong and he set a brisk pace; I couldn't quite keep up with him, but managed to keep him within sight for the duration.  We passed a ton of people on the steadily-climbing old jeep road: thirteen for me and sixteen for H, because I ran out of real estate before passing the last three guys.  White Pine Lake seems slightly less popular than Red Pine Lake, I think because the round-trip is longer, although RPL is much steeper.  WPL only gets steep right as you come out of the woods and start the switchbacks through the boulder cirque.  Up at the lake itself, we were surprised at how much water was there - August's rains had done a great job filling the lake, as the lake level was easily ten feet higher than the last time I'd been up there, even with this past winter's subpar snowpack.

Teensy tiny bit of snow still up in the cliffs

We only paused for a few minutes because we were getting chilled, and on the way down the only people who passed us were a group of trail runners, bombing their way down the mountain.  With half a mile to go, it started sprinkling on us, so we timed it just right - good thing we'd been walking so fast.  We stood under the open hatchback to change out of our boots and drink our post-hike beers, watching the low clouds swirling around the canyon walls above us.

Charging up through the meadow

Hike stats:  10.48 miles round-trip; 3.0 m.p.h. moving average speed; 2,529 feet of elevation; 3 hours 29 minutes.

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.

Cruising

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