Park Silly Sunday!

June 15, 2014

Today we spent another morning chilling around the fire at the condo before we headed out to Park Silly Sunday, a market on Main Street.  The market included booths featuring art, hats, jewelry, produce, clothing and more.  At the end of the block, live music played on the stage while folks took a try at hula hoops and ordered bloody mary’s, fried donuts, and jerk chicken at the food stands.

I got to catch up with a sorority sister of mine that I hadn’t seen for 20 years. Thanks to Facebook, I knew she moved to Park City about a year ago, so we planned to meet up at the market. Fun!

IMG_4549 jb

After an afternoon at the market, we enjoyed a final dinner at Zoom, owned by Robert Redford. It took me until halfway through the dinner to figure this out, so it did not influence my opinion on the food. I thought it was absolutely fantastic regardless of the famous owner!  I ordered tuna tacos that were served with mango salsa and the best guacamole I’ve ever tasted. The macaroni and cheese with bacon is a must!  The artichoke was delicious as well.  The elk carpaccio could have been served with some basalmic vinegar with a little less oil, but was also good.  I understand the ravioli was delicious too.  Their new summer menu didn’t disappoint!

Our final stop with the family together was at the Montage for a night cap.  On our way to the famous hotel, we saw a baby moose!  It caused quite a traffic jam while it stood in the middle of the road.  After sipping drinks by the fireplace in the elegant surroundings, we called it the night and wished each other farewell in the morning.  It was a nice get-a-way to Utah. ETB

photo 3 (10) fam

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Hiking Deer Valley Resort

June 14, 2014

This morning was low key. The family trickled into the sitting room over all hours. Some folks cooked while others read. I decided to go for another hike as the weather warmed up after a huge windstorm blew in last night.

Sterling drove me up to the resort where I chose two hiking trails to follow. The first was called “Sultan Out and Back”. On the map it appeared like it was relatively flat as it crossed the base of the mountain to the boundary and then turned into a road for the return.

The rocky path steadily declined through aspen and across open ski runs with sweeping views of the Jordanelle Reservoir below. It eventually reached a deck with picnic tables, a perfect lunch spot, but only being a three mile hike, I didn’t need to rest for lunch. I can imagine it would be a lovely area for skiers on a warm winter day.

Here I connected with the road where it soon forked without a sign pointing the direction to go. Logically, it seemed like turning left was the best option. The road was open to the sun and steadily climbed 900 feet back to the trailhead. Along the way, I spotted a marmot!

The way my aunt has been feeding us, three miles was not enough for the day, so I chose another trail, this time the “Silver Lake” which gains 1,400 feet over 2 miles as it leads to the 9,400 foot summit of Bald Mountain.

The smooth dirt path switchbacked through the conifers and aspen where robins flitted about. Fallen aspen leaves from the previous season blanketed the path while fallen trees covered the steep terrain.

I slowly paced myself up the mountain as I stopped to photograph some lovely wildflowers, one I’d never seen. Tiny white flowers climbed a stem. This trail was a little more active than the other. Six people passed me, all going downhill as they had ridden the chairlift up for $15.

The trail occasionally left the trees and and crossed the ski runs. These areas were the only level spots, but that only meant there was more elevation to gain in a shorter distance. I didn’t find the grade to be too steep though.

As I continued climbing I came out onto a road and followed the signs back onto the trail. It was well marked. Eventually, I was hiking in the tundra through a strong breeze. Near the summit, the views were fantastic. I could finally snap a photo that didn’t include houses or a town below.

Once I made it to the ski lift, I bundle up in my ski sweater and fleece while mountain bikers prepared to ride down other trails. I considered hiking down, but I like having my hiking poles, so I sat on the chairlift which is free going down. During my ride down, I realized two more reasons why I don’t ski. First, I didn’t get the bar pulled down right away, and then I was too chicken to release my death grip on the back of the seat to pull the bar down.  As I get older, heights seem more bothersome!  Second, I was freezing with a ski sweater, fleece, and gloves on in the middle of the summer!

I took the short stroll down the road to the condo and chilled for evening while watching some World Cup matches and enjoying some fantastic filets that did not catch the grill on fire! ETB

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Utah’s Olympic Park

June 13, 2014

This weekend we had a family reunion in Park City, Utah. My aunt and uncle, Risa and Sterling, purchased a summer place last year, and invited our small family to visit. I had the easiest flight in from Denver. My cousin Cate and my Uncle Casey took a long, but uneventful flight from Houston. And my mom drew the short straw coming in from Dallas. She she faced mechanical delays, aircraft swaps, etc., but finally made it to SLC where Sterling picked us up and drove us to 35 miles or so to Upper Deer Valley.

Our dinner was as about as eventful as my mom’s trip. The grill along with the lamb chops looked like a Texas A&M bonfire, not once, but twice. Miraculously, after Sterling singed all the hair off his hands and burned his fingers on the knobs that were too hot to touch without a cloth, the chops were cooked to perfection! We enjoyed lovely dinner in their new summer home!

Friday, in order to stretch our legs, we walked up the road to the ski village and wandered around a bit. It was a short stroll, but nice to get out in the cool breeze. I opted for another hike by the house while the family rested. Probably within a tenth of a mile from their unit is a trailhead where hikers and bikers can follow switchbacks up and down the mountain to the road below. There was not a trailhead sign, so I have no idea of the name or the distance of the trail. I probably only walked 2 miles tops and didn’t finish the trail but enjoyed all the wildflowers that lined the path. Colorado has had so much snow, I’ve hardly been on a hike, much less gotten to enjoy many wildflowers.

I returned to the house just in time to go to the Olympic Park which offers a variety of activities. Skiers practice aerial jumps on the trampolines and in the pools. They offer aerial shows every Sunday in the summer. Tourists can visit the museums or be more active and choose from ropes courses, zip lines, a drop tower, or a bobsled ride.

Each individual activity costs $15-20 or there is a day pass available for $65, I think. The only activity that was more than $20 was the bobsled which was $75 and worth every penny for the 60 second ride. The bobsled ride required watching an instructional video and signing a waiver before we took a bus ride to the start. Cate and I tried on helmets and decided on our positions in the sled. The farther back the rider, the rougher the ride. She took slot 3, I took slot 2, and an experienced driver steered us down the course.

She jumped in first and slid back to her position. The driver got in next and I was last to slip in between the two. We fastened our seat belts, shrugged our shoulders upward to protect our neck, arched our backs, braced our forearms on the extra padded sides, and stuck our wrists through the hand straps, twisted and grabbed hold.

We started off slowly but worked up to 66 mphs and endured 5 G forces. WOW! I recommend keeping your head up and straight and enjoying the view of the helmet in front of you. I turned to look once and was stuck in that position through at least one turn. I had to use all my strength to keep myself in position and was thankful the we finished the course in 1 minute, six seconds. I can’t imagine lasting much longer, and I have a new-found respect for bobsledders who go close to 90 mph and have less padding and no seat belt!

We questioned the driver a bit. He was in his sixth year of driving and said it takes at least a summer to learn. The sled goes faster in the winter and with more weight, so he has to adjust his turns accordingly. It’s all by feel. We certainly put our lives in his hands. He sometimes drives 30 times a day! YIKES!! I’m not sure I could take that. He said the four man track record was 88 mph. We were well below, but there were only three of us and that was plenty fast. The bobsled ride made the rest of the activities feel like games.

Next, Cate and I went to the drop tower to free fall, only twenty feet. I would not recommend this for anyone who has bungee jumped or sky dived. It was such a short drop, our stomachs didn’t even make it to our throats, and it was over as soon as it started.

Finally, Cate went on the extreme zipline which was above the ski jump. That looked pretty cool, but I have zip lined a few times and while it is sort of fun, there is not a rush for me, so I passed. She had fun, but said the same thing. The conclusion was, for thrill seekers, do the bobsled! It was a blast, and how often does a bobsled opportunity come along?

After 3 hours at the park, we made it home just in time to clean up and go for Mexican food at Tarahumara in Midway. We took Guardsman Pass over the Wasatch Mountain Range through the densest aspen grove I’ve ever seen (I will have to come back in the fall) for a 30 minute winding drive to town. It was lovely. The dinner and live music was too, and by 10:30 I was beat with the lights out!  ETB

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Day 203 – Flaming Gorge Getaway

Day 203 – Flaming Gorge Getaway, Thursday, July 7, 2011

I finally tore myself away from Steamboat on Wednesday and
traveled to Dinosaur National Monument where I found a campsite near the Green
River and tried staying cool in the shade for the afternoon and evening.

Today was simply crazy!
I don’t even know where to begin.
For what felt like a blistering hot morning (though I suspect it wasn’t
even 80 degrees) and an afternoon full of thunder showers, I have to say, my
day was nothing short of excellent.  I
began the morning in Dinosaur National Monument, a park that spans across the
Utah/Colorado border.  I took a variety
of short hikes beginning with a short uphill climb to Cub Creek Petroglyphs
where I found some of the largest rock carvings I have seen on my
adventures.  The carvings included
triangles, swirls, and faces in addition to large lizard like animals and a figure
that looked like a flute player.  The
well defined petroglyphs seemed to have weathered the harsh, desert conditions.

After admiring the cliff wall, a squirrel perched on a
nearby boulder, and countless lizards that scurried across my path, I stopped
at the Josie Bassett homestead.  Josie Bassett
Morris grew up in Brown’s Park with her family who hosted many guests including
outlaws like Butch Cassidy.  Josie, a
pioneer, was also a progressive woman.
She married five times, divorced four husbands and widowed one at a time
when divorce was unheard of.  When lands
near Vernal opened up for homesteading around 1913, forty year old Josie found
land she wanted at Cub Creek.  She built
a cabin, raised livestock, poached deer, bootlegged whisky and planted crops on
her land where she lived for the next fifty years without plumbing, electricity
or a telephone.  In order to run her
remote ranch more efficiently, she switched from wearing skirts to wearing
pants and cut her hair short to keep from getting tangled in brush.  After falling and breaking her hip at the age
of 89, she was moved from her cabin and died a few months later.  From the cabin, I took a short trail past a
small, mosquito infested pond and through a valley of tall grasses and
wildflowers to a box canyon where Josie penned her animals.  On my way, a bunny stood perfectly still in
my path until I was only a few feet away from it!

Before I left Dinosaur National Monument, I took the shuttle
to the Fossil Discovery Trailhead where I visited three areas of fossils within
¾ of a mile of each other; Mowry Shale, Morrison Formation, Stump

Once an inland sea, the Mowry Shale was deposited 100
million years ago.  It is thought that
volcanic ash in the water killed the fish and strong currents tore the bodies
apart leaving fossilized fish scales.

The Morrison Formation, approximately 150 million years old,
is peppered with dinosaur fossils.
Vertebrae, femurs, and other fragments of bones from ten different
species of dinosaurs can be found in this formation.  In addition, clam fossils and impressions of
tortoise shells can also be found in the rock, once a creek bed and now
uplifted and eroded into tilted layers.

The Stump Formation is estimated to be 163 million years old
and shows evidence that it was once part of an ocean as it displays fossils of
clams, snails, ammonites, and belemnites.

I’m certain Petey was happy for me to finish my lesson in
fossils and join him in VANilla to continue north toward Red Canyon.  VANilla charged up Hwy 191 which cuts through
Ashley National Forest.  The road rises
and falls with the surrounding landscape marked with interpretive signs
pointing out areas of fossilized sand dunes, petrified forests, and formations
where crocodile teeth and dinosaur bones can be found.  After passing through a variety of rocky
formations, the roads climbs the hillsides through pines and aspens and into
open meadows.  As I was singing to Lyle
Lovett’s “Give Back My Heart”, about 75 yards ahead on the right hand side of
the road, a mountain lion trotted down a small mound and across the road.  Stunned, I braked as smoothly as possible and
reached for my camera as I came to stop in the middle of the two lane highway
where I had hardly seen any traffic despite it seeming like a main road.  By the time I had raised my camera to my
face, the cat had disappeared into the brush on the opposite side of the
road.  Just after the small mound, I
turned onto a dirt road cut through the meadow.
Oh how I hoped it would reappear!
It was right in front of my eyes, yet I couldn’t spot it, and logic
prevailed…I DID NOT get out of VANilla to look for it.  I’m sick I missed the shot, but it was truly amazing
to watch it saunter past me in broad daylight.
It gave the illusion like it was moving slowly, yet it was hidden by the
time I did a double take, reached for my camera, and traveled fifty yards.  SO COOL…and such a highlight of my day!  The rest of the day could have been a
complete disaster, and I would have still claimed it was AWESOME!

IMG_7740 marmotShortly thereafter, we reached Red Canyon, where a marmot
scampered across the road.  A car was
behind me, so I kept going to the Visitor Center and canyon rim.  Petey joined me for a walk along the rim
which offered amazing views of the vast reservoir, surrounding red cliffs and
snow capped mountain in the distance.
Not five minutes after we began our stroll, thunderstorms rolled
in.  We quickly found two caches, both a
physical one and a virtual one before returning to VANilla.  As soon as we took cover and turned to exit
the area, the rain seemed to stop.  As
luck would have it, the marmot was next to the tree to which it had dashed
thirty minutes prior, so I snapped a photo, before continuing on to see a deer
leap over a five foot fence.  It was just
a day of wildlife!

After visiting Red Canyon, I followed Hwy 44 to Dowd
Mountain Overlook, where I took a red, dirt road through the forest about three
miles before I opted to turn around.  The
thunderstorms had returned.  As water
funneled to both sides of the road and filled old tire tracks, I thought my day
would end better if I didn’t get stuck in the woods!  I had hoped to hike the trail to Hideout
Canyon, a hill-hidden nook where Butch Cassidy and other outlaws sought refuge
from pursuing posses…oh well, perhaps another time.

Once again, as soon as I turned around, the down pour turned
to sprinkles and the road dried up as fast as it had turned into a drainage
ditch.  I took advantage of the next
burst of dry weather and followed the Sheep Creek Canyon Geological Loop to the
Ute Mountain Fire Tower, one of the first fire towers constructed in Utah.  The fire tower, situated at 8,834 feet in
Ashley National Forest was built in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  It is the only fire tower in Utah that
doubled as a fire detection tower and living quarters.  While I would have liked to continue my drive along the loop through the breathtaking forest of aspen, pines, and wildflowers, the road was closed, so I had to return to Hwy 44 which offered superb views of Flaming Gorge:  rolling
green hills, flaming red cliffs, and deep blue waters.

As I was leaving the mountains and beginning to enter the
high desert, I passed by a family of big horn sheep!  Seven of them rested on a cliff side rock and
one lay in the grass fifteen feet away from the herd.  I don’t think I have ever seen that many in
one spot nor have I seen them lying down.
Generally they are maneuvering over steep terrain.

I finally reached Green River late in the afternoon, turned
west toward Bear Lake as I passed by countless prairie dogs and descended down
through Logan Canyon.  I almost stopped
at Bear Lake as I will be returning to the area tomorrow, but I am so glad I
didn’t as I would have missed this fantastic scenic drive along Logan River,
beneath limestone cliffs and rolling green hills that looked like Ireland with
pines, junipers, sagebrush, maples, and firs.
I complete the same drive in reverse direction tomorrow and plan on
stopping at dozens of pullouts to capture some breathtaking views on film (or I
guess on an SD card)…ETB.

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Colorado, Utah

Day 184 – Monument Valley Meander (Part 3) and San Juan Skyways

Day 184 – Monument Valley Meander (Part 3) and San Juan Skyways, May 30, 2011

The full moon glowed through the dust filled sky and the wind continued in force for a few more hours.  Midway through the night, the gusts subsided and we awoke to a glorious day.  As we left Hovenweep National Monument, we passed by prairie dogs, sheep, goats, and a herd dog as we headed south toward the Four Corners Monument, where we will say farewell to Utah and hello Colorado.

Four Corners Monument is where Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico meet.  It is the only place in the United States where four borders meet.  For some reason, I was expecting the monument to be a National site and owned by the federal government, despite the fact “National” wasn’t included in the name.  Little did I know the monument is on an Indian Reservation.  I paid the $3 admission so I could stand in all four states at once.  All of us tourists took turns posing on the dot.  Almost everyone had their hands and feet touching each square.  When it was my turn, I made sure Petey got a paw in each state.

I tried some Indian fry bread before leaving, and actually briefly drove through Arizona and New Mexico before turning north to Durango, Colorado.  I stood in and drove in all four states in less than an hour!

Colorado…or heaven on earth…at least to me anyway.  As soon as I arrive, peace overtakes me.  I’m not sure why except perhaps it due to the amazing summers I spent in Colorado as a child.  Upon arriving in Durango, I took 25th street to Junction Creek Road where I found the trailhead to the Colorado Trail and just around the bend a campground.  After claiming my site, Petey and I returned to the trailhead parking and meandered down the path along the river.

I expected to take an hour stroll before packing it in and grabbing a bite to eat in town, but as I passed countless hikers and mountain bikers returning from their adventures, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a special spot on the trail.  I asked one couple if there were any “must sees” and they replied pointing, “See those rocks up there…if you don’t mind a climbing up a few switchbacks there’s a bench and a fantastic view.  You just cross the bridge about a mile up the way”.

With Petey in tow, I didn’t think we could make it up to the bench, but I decided the bridge would be a good turn around point.  Once we reached the bridge, the rocks didn’t seem that far away.  Petey walked much further in the heat the other day, so I decided to take advantage of the crisp cool air, ditch the main trail full of people, and continue up the mountain.  The rocky switchbacks, while not that steep, were extremely long.  At Petey’s pace, it seemed like forever to get up there, especially as mountain bikers passed me going uphill.  We finally reached the peak for a view of the valley below and promptly turned around as it was approaching dinner time.  Our hour-long stroll turned into 2.5 hours and helped me work up a big appetite.

I left Petey in VANilla to rest while I found a spot at the bar at Ore House.  I went to a steak house and ordered a spinach salad and a fried calamari and artichoke appetizer!  I just needed some greens and the artichokes included with calamari sounded too intriguing to pass up.  I loved every bite!  ETB

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Day 183 – Utah Byways – Part 6

Day 183 – Utah Byways, May 29, 2011

All through the night, VANilla jiggled like a bounce house full of ten year olds.  Sand sprayed VANilla so hard, at times, the sound of it made me wonder if it were raining.  We found no relief from the wind this morning as we headed southeast to Natural Bridges National Monument.

Natural Bridges National Monument showcases three bridges; the Sipapu (meaning the place of emergence), Kachina (named for the rock art symbols on the bridge), and Owachoma (meaning rock mound).  The three bridges were originally discovered in 1883 by Cass Hite as he wandered up White Canyon in search of gold.    In 1904, the bridges were publicized by National Geographic Magazine and in 1908 Roosevelt established Natural Bridges National Monument, the first national park in Utah.  The bridges have been subjected to several names over time.  First named President, Senator, and Congressman in order of height, they were later renamed Augusta, Caroline, and Edwin by later explorer groups.  When the park was expanded to protect nearby Puebloan structures, the current Hopi names were assigned to them.

Sipapu Bridge, its height equal to a twenty story building and its span the length of a football field, is the second-largest natural bridge in the world.  A 1.2 mile roundtrip from the parking area led down two metal stair cases, across a sandstone ledge, down three more ladders made of tree limbs weathered like drift wood, and finally through a grove of trees before hikers could stand below the bridge and stare up at its enormous arch.

Beneath the bridge I met a couple from Houston. Each summer, they leave the Texas heat behind in exchange for any area above 6,000 feet.  After a brief chat about our itineraries, I climbed up all the ladders and stairs to join Petey in VANilla.  We made a brief stop at Kachina Bridge, the youngest of the three, before venturing to the oldest bridge, Owachoma. The 180 foot span is only nine feet thick, as is expected to be the first of the three to fall.

About fifteen miles east of Natural Bridges National Monument is Mule Canyon Rest Area, where Anasazi ruins can be found.  A well preserved kiva as well as additional adobe and stone structures blend in with the surrounding stone.  Petey with a smiling face, bouncing ears and prancing step joined me on the short, sidewalk path that looped around the display.

Soon after we departed the rest area, we entered into a dust storm.  Not long after, VANilla participated in a two mile stretch of dodging the tumbleweeds.  I don’t recall ever having driven in a dust storm.  After climbing atop a plateau, we drove several miles toward the middle of nowhere and finally arrived at Hovenweep National Monument.  For a moment, I thought, “what have I done?  If there isn’t a campsite available here, I have a 40 mile drive back to civilization.”

Thankfully, I believe the dust storm chased campers off, as I had a choice of sites.  An even more pleasant surprise was to see the sign that said, “This is one of the few national park sites that allow dogs on a leash.”  Petey and I got to take a 1.5 mile walk along the Rim Trail Loop that led around Little Ruin Canyon, home to at least nine different structures of various shapes and sizes, including small houses as well as remarkable square, oval, round and D-shaped towers.  Though out of the way, I’m glad I made the trek.  ETB

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Day 182 – Utah Byway – Part 5

Day 182 –   Utah Byways, May 28, 2011

We started our morning drive to Capitol Reef National Park, a park we quickly passed through at the beginning of the week while traveling to Bryce.  I recalled seeing a trail to Chimney Rock, so I stopped there on the way into the park and started the trek that ascended 240 feet in the first quarter mile.  It was already relatively late in the morning and a somewhat warm day, so after reaching the plateau for a panoramic view, I returned to VANilla to rescue Petey instead of continuing on the 3.5 mile journey.

Before leaving the park, we made one more stop at Hickman Bridge.  The two-mile roundtrip to the bridge briefly followed the Fremont River, turned upward for a steep climb at least half the way, and finally leveled out across the sandstone.  While most the kiddos on the trail were skipping along to the bridge or exploring the nooks and crannies of the surrounding canyon, the one I was following spent most the time crying because he wanted his mom to carry him on her back since his dad was carrying his younger brother on his shoulders.  His older sister finally shouted, “Feed him to the rattlesnakes” as she marched forward.

As I returned from the bridge, a group of older folks, winded from the steep ascent, found nearly the only shaded area, and with a hopeful look in their eyes questioned me, “She wouldn’t lie to us, we’re half way, right?”  Frankly, I couldn’t recall the half-way point in distance, but they had at least completed the “half-way point” in effort.

Upon leaving the park, we again passed through the most fascinating, geological landscape that I described at the beginning of the week:  multi-colored mesas, grey buttes with sand cones beneath them giving an appearance they have been mined, and sandstone lifted at angle from the earth’s crust.  Eventually we passed by some farmland, spotted a few bison, and later entered into canyon land where we stopped at the overlook for Lake Powell.

Lake Powell, some 200 mile long, took 17 years to fill Glen Canyon after the Colorado River was dammed.  In the process, the water wandered into so many side canyons that its shoreline extends 2,000 miles, longer than the West Coast.  For some reason, I was expecting the lake to appear blue in color, but it fashioned the nice Gulf of Mexico brown color from local dirt.

We took the bridge at Hite Crossing to enter into Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, where we found a primitive campground and got an up close view of the lake.  To camp, I paid a $6 fee and drove onto the red sand land surrounding the lake and parked wherever I felt like it.  I aimed VANilla perpendicular to the strong breeze coming from the Southwest as I wanted a cool, crosswind for the evening.  With each hour, the wind intensified.  It was at least 30 mph, gusting to much higher speeds.  White caps formed on the lake as a layer of sand sprayed through VANilla’s screened windows.  Hopefully this won’t be an all night affair.  ETB

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