Thursday, September 18, 2014

camping, abbreviated

Unbelievably, it's been since May 2013 since we went camping.  We had hoped to go earlier this summer but got rained out; we were determined to go back to the Uintas this September.  Plus, B is getting old and a bit rickety: at age 14+ she may not have too many more opportunities to go camping and since she seemed to enjoy it in 2012, we wanted to get her up into the Uintas and fishing at least one more time.  After MTBing at Park City last Saturday, we swung by Fish Tech to re-up our fishing licenses and ask what was biting in Mirror Lake these days (red ant flies was their answer), and then spent the afternoon packing and getting organized.  When we got the truck loaded on Sunday morning it looked like we were going to be gone a week, not a couple of days.  With B settled onto the front seat between us, head on H's lap and already asleep before we'd gotten out of the driveway, we were off.

Shady Dell campsite #9

Since it was a Sunday afternoon well after Labor Day, we figured we wouldn't have too much trouble finding an available campsite.  To our surprise, Cobblerest CG was closed for the season so we ended up at Shady Dell.  There was someone just leaving the one site we were coveting, so we circled around and lurked unobtrusively until they took off.  Once in there, #9 was perfect: sunny, with trees between us and the drive to provide privacy, and just steps to a little brook.  As we set up camp, B roamed around, not quite sure of what was going on at first, and then settling down enough to dig a hole and chew on a stick or two.  She amazed both of us when, after baking in the sun for a while, she voluntarily walked into the brook and laid down to cool off - this from a dog who doesn't like to get her feet wet when the neighbors' sprinklers are running during our morning walks.

Cooling off in a Provo River tributary

We spent a lazy afternoon hanging around camp.  B can't go on long walks anymore so we just explored the nearby "Fairy Forest" a bit, read and drank some beers while the sun was still above the mountains.  As evening fell, H made a very nice fire - one match and no lighter fluid - and made us dinner: steak, onions and broccoli served over couscous.  We kept an anxious eye on the weather, especially as it clouded up right after dinner.  But once darkness set in, the clouds dissipated and the nighttime sky was spectacular with stars.  When it was time for bed, we put B in the truck and I bundled up, wearing two pairs of wool socks and my fleece gloves - the last two times I went camping, I got very cold overnight - but I needn't have worried as it didn't get nearly as cold as before (although H still commented that we were probably pushing the boundaries of a "3-season" tent).

A landlocked reef of river rocks near our campsite

Morning was gorgeous, with bright sun peeking over the mountains.  We startled a couple of mule deer and ate our breakfast of french toast, sausage and instant coffee, then loaded up to take B fishing at Mirror Lake.  We all climbed in the truck, H turned the key ... and the truck wouldn't start.  Or rather, it sluggishly started and then died.  We looked at each other in mild panic and he tried again.  This time, reluctantly, it turned over, caught and stayed running.  We looked at each other again: if the truck stopped running while we were out on the Mirror Lake Highway, twenty miles from the nearest cell signal, and with reduced hitchhike-able traffic due to it being after Labor Day, we would be completely screwed.  So we jumped back out of the still-idling truck, hurriedly packed up everything that was still out and headed back to SLC with fingers crossed.

Here comes breakfast!

We made back to our house, hastily unloaded the truck (again still-idling since we were afraid to turn it off), installed B on the couch and drove off to the mechanic, me following in my car.  We got a preliminary call from the mechanic while we were having a consolation beer at Dick 'n' Dixie's: it needs a new battery for sure, plus they were going to keep checking the other systems.  We were pretty disappointed that our camping trip was halved, and that we didn't get to take the dog fishing, but it was absolutely the right call to take the truck in rather than risk getting stranded out in the middle of the Uintas.  On the plus side, we got to have a couple of campfires and see the stars and drink beers outside in the dirt - I'll take that whenever I can get it.  And I think B was just happy to get a couple of car rides that didn't end up at the vet.

We wouldn't let her in the tent, so 
she's as close as she could get

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

trail mix

Taking advantage of the nice weather (after waiting for it to warm up out of the 40s), we decided to mix things up a little and do our Round Valley MTB ride on Saturday instead of Sunday.  We were a little leery, figuring that the trails could be super-busy, but we ended up being pleasantly surprised.  The paved bike path was pretty well-populated but the trails themselves were not.  It was a little warmer and a little drier than the previous weekend and the wind wasn't bad at all.

Grinding my way up My Nemesis.
Altho' you can't tell, this is actually a long hill.

H has been doing a lot of climbing on his road bike lately and his legs were feeling it.  He still crushes me on everything - uphills, downhills, flats - but this time he didn't pull away quite as far as he usually does.  He still managed to ride right up Hammerhead (Pladsen) Hill and looked strong doing it.  For me, my bike-handling sucked (I think I was having trouble focusing and kept letting my mind wander, which is a total no-no for me on a MTB) but I was climbing really well.  I did the best I've ever done on My Nemesis, not even having to shift all the way down for a change; rode all but three of the Sweet Sixteen switchbacks (and it should have been all but two except I - again - lost focus and put my foot down on one corner I usually ride with no problem); and made it all the way up the Staircase.  H is a good coach: before we got to the Staircase, we pulled over and he reminded me, "Remember, when you get to the car, shift down and pedal like a [redacted*]."  I did just what he said and rode right up the three rises.  And he was right there at the top, cheering me on.

Animal sightings:  hawks, buzzards (at one point, there were five of them, circling above me), songbirds, a bison and a zebra.  Yes, a zebra.  There's a small ranch on the way to the RV trails where the guy has a pet bison and a pet zebra in amongst the llamas and goats.  

*  Because this is a family-friendly blog.  But you get the gist.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

sole mio

A new Italian restaurant, Sole Mio, opened up in our town earlier this summer and, after giving it a couple of months to work the kinks out, we gave it a try.  When we first moved out here, almost five years ago, everything we tried was new to us; now, we don't branch out and try new stuff quite so much.  We need to be better about that.  It may not always work out but you're never going to know until you try.  Sole Mio didn't quite work out but at least we broke out of our rut for a bit.

Owned and run by a recently-arrived Italian family, Sole Mio (8657 S. Highland Drive, Sandy, where the Foxhole II used to be) was pretty busy when we got there a little after 7 on a Friday night, and people kept pouring in.  Although we hadn't made reservations, we were seated right away.  The large space was pretty noisy and even though we had a small table, there was a lot of "What?" going on in our dinner conversation.  Because it's Sandy, Utah, most people were not imbibing; the restaurant does have a small, serviceable wine list and a lame beer list: Bud, Bud Light, Stella Artois and one other pale, large brewery lager.  Horrified, H stuck with water and I ordered a glass of wine.  They were out of the pinot noir and I don't recall what I ended up with.  It was fine but I did have to ask for it twice.

The service is the weakest part of Sole Mio.  There were only three waiters for the whole space (plus a busboy and a water/bread girl) and they were running pretty ragged, so service was slow.  After we'd placed our order with one waiter (who seemed distracted the whole time), another one came up and introduced himself as our waiter.  When we told him we were already taken care of, he seemed surprised.  Our salad plates were never cleared when our entrees showed up.  We ended up paying cash for the bill after we watched the table next to us wait for at least ten minutes before their credit cards were picked up.

The food was fine, just okay.  We each had mixed green salads which were huge and mediocre.  H had the lasagne - again a huge portion, again nothing to write home about.  I had the spinach ravioli, which I do think was house-made, in a tomato cream sauce.  It was pretty good but wasn't served with any sort of panache: just plopped on a square plate with no garnish.

Everyone around us seemed to be enjoying themselves, however, and several tables had been back enough times that the host and waiter recognized them.  I wish Sole Mio luck but don't think we'll be back.  If we're looking for Italian food in Sandy, we'll go back to Fratelli's where the service is good, the food is better and they have Utah microbrews on tap (and serve sparkling rose by the glass!).  You know, back in our rut where we belong.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

that's more like it

Sunday turned out to be much less conflicted, weather-wise, with clear skies, bright sunshine and warmer temperatures.  We debated driving out to the Uintas to do that Lofty Lakes hike, but determined that our late start (we had to pause for bacon and eggs) wouldn't be in our best interests.  We opted for MTBing at Round Valley instead and that ended up going quite well.

It was less crowded, for one, what with it not being a three-day weekend, and less windy.  The deciduous trees are definitely beginning to change color, providing pops of pink and orange on the hillsides, making the pretty views even prettier.  We did our regular route and my legs felt strong for a change, no doubt due to the fact that I only put 3.25 miles on them on Saturday instead of 7+.  I rode the flats faster, was right behind H on the climb up My Nemesis and managed to ride all but three of the Sweet Sixteen switchbacks, including #5, which has eluded me for several weeks since the rains washed out the trails.

My word, what a nice day

Best of all, I felt strong enough to follow H back on the trails rather than taking the paved Silver Quinn bike path from the backside of Round Valley to the trailhead.  I've been wanting to do this all summer but have been waiting until I felt I had the legs - on Sunday I did and, now having seen what that section of trail is like, I feel like I can abandon the paved portion going forward.  The trails (I have no idea what we rode on, except for part of Rusty Shovel, and then we landed on trails we take on the outward bound portion of our ride, just riding them backwards and ending up at the Nouvelle [Practice] Loop) were in great shape, not washed out at all, and just rolled up and down.  The only steep section I have dubbed the Staircase - a short steep uphill section, then short and flat, then short and steep uphill, then short and flat, then short and steep uphill - and H warned me about it, telling me "when you get to the [junker] car, get in your lowest gear and then don't stop pedaling."  I followed his advice and made it to the top without problem, albeit panting a bit.

The last slog back to the truck wasn't even too bad since there wasn't really a headwind.  H did have to stop for a moment or two when a friendly off-leash dog decided he wanted to run with H rather than with his people, but aside from that it was uneventful.  I'm not about to give up hiking to spare my legs for MTBing, but this was a really good ride.  My legs are just going to have to get stronger.


Monday, September 8, 2014

curses, foiled again

Darn these mountains and their tendency to gather the weather!  No, not really: it's these mountains and their tendency to gather the weather that brings all the delicious snow in the wintertime.  But in the summertime, the mountains tend to attract thunderstorms and lightning which [obviously] impacts outdoor activities.

We had planned to do the Lofty Lake hike on Saturday; I was stoked about that because we haven't done that hike since 2010 and it's just beautiful.  But the forecast for the Uintas was a 50% chance of thunderstorms - and 50% is too high out here.  So we regrouped and thought, well, maybe we'll MTB at Round Valley instead and then do the Lofty Lakes hike on Sunday.  But the forecast for Park City was a 50% chance of thunderstorms.

So we did valley stuff - H went for a road ride and I went for a walk/run - and then, later that afternoon, considered going up to Snowbird for Oktoberfest.  But then the partly-cloudy skies over the Wasatch Front changed to all-cloudy and the breeze picked up, and I declared that Oktoberfest in the cold and rain is not that much of a party.  We threw stuff on the grill for dinner and, after checking the evening's forecast (mostly clear in SLC; clear in Provo), thought we might cruise on down to Sundance for their full moon chairlift rides.  But then we double-checked the schedule and realized that the full moon chairlift rides happen on the actual full moon - this coming Tuesday - instead of the closest weekend (when they might actually have some folks who want to ride - who's going to drive all the way out there on a Tuesday?), so we didn't do that either.

All these plans come to naught.  It was okay.  We opened all the windows to catch the cool breezes as a monster thunderstorm blew through and watched the Real Salt Lake game on t.v. (RSL won).  Some days, it just happens that way.

Friday, September 5, 2014

popular place, that alta

When Labor Day Monday rolled around, we got all leisurely, making bacon and eggs and toast for breakfast, puttering around in the cool morning sunshine with coffees, etc.  H decided that he wanted to go for a road ride so that pointed me towards my Catherine's Pass/Supreme loop up at Alta.  Because of the leisurely start to our day, I didn't get up there until close to noon ... and was amazed at the hordes of people up there.  HORDES.  I have never seen so many minivans in all my life.   Quite a lot of these people were all queued up, waiting for the shuttles to take them up to Albion Basin, but I knew the first section of trail would be busy.

Awful nice day for a hike

I pushed a really fast pace going up that first section, up through the meadow to Catherine's Pass.  I lost count but I wouldn't be surprised if I passed more than seventy people, it was just that busy.  Once on the trail to Catherine's Pass, however, the crowds thinned way, way out.  I didn't have the place to myself as I often do, but I only passed ten people, including one family who had stopped to gawk at a "badger."  It wasn't a badger.  It was a marmot, as I helpfully let them know.

Soon enough, we'll get to see this with snow on it

Up on the pass, there must have been twenty-five people sitting on the rocks and taking in the view.  I continued up the trail, past the turn off for Sunset Peak, at which point I found some solitude, not encountering anyone as I traversed the ridge over to Supreme and down to the campground.  There were no moose or mule deer to be seen on this trip; with the hordes, I imagine they'd all taken off for parts less populated.

Remains of the summer wildflowers, with 
Superior in the background

Monday evening, we took ourselves to the Cottonbottom Inn for some garlic burgers.  Eating a local Utah food after a great long holiday weekend doing local stuff outside seemed like a good way to wind things up.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

wicked windy

Sunday morning brought bright sunshine, cool temperatures and fairly strong winds as the remains of Saturday's low pressure system moved out of the area.  We lingered at home for a bit, waiting for Park City temperatures to get up into the low 60s before loading up our MTBs and heading out Parleys Canyon.  Since we got such a late start (around 11:00 a.m.), the bike path was swarming with walkers, dog-walkers, runners and bikers but once we got out to Quinn's Trailhead, the crowds thinned out.

Heading into the Nouvelle Loop (our name for it)

It was, as I've mentioned, very windy.  We had a headwind on the paved bike path out to Quinn's, and then once we got on the dirt, the wind seemed to change direction so that we were headed into it no matter which way we went.  I felt pretty good on the bike, despite not having ridden the weekend before and even with the current trail conditions.  The recent rains have done a number on these lovely Round Valley trails, washing away a lot of that nice packed dirt and exposing the rocks underneath.  Still, I felt like I was faster than I've been, although I did have some trouble on a couple of the uphill "Sweet Sixteen" switchbacks.  The best section was the downhill Rambler switchbacks through the sagebrush: we didn't encounter any other traffic - foot, MTB or dog - until the very end, so it was easy to develop a swooping rhythm through the corners.

There was, of course, a headwind on the uphill slog back to the truck, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.  And even though we battled the wind the whole time, H took two minutes off his usual time, finishing at 1:48, with an average speed of 11 m.p.h.