Monthly Archives: August 2010

Have Mountains. Will Bike.

I thought I knew what mountain biking was.  In fact, if you asked me I would have told you that I’d been mountain biking.  But that was before I moved to Salt Lake City.  That was before my eyes were opened to REAL mountain biking!  Turns out riding your Huffy along the dirt back roads of small town Washington State and poppin’ wheelies off of tree roots doesn’t count as mountain biking . . . who would’ve thought?

For you unfortunate souls who have yet to visit Salt Lake City, let me fill you in on one simple fact:  mountain bikers flock to SLC like flies to . . . well, you get the idea.  Why?  Two words – Wasatch Mountains.   From tall, gnarly peaks and ridges to low-lying wooded foothills, the Wasatch’s terrain is as varied as the riders flocking to it.  Lung bursting ascents? It’s here.  Fun, swooping double track? Check.  Buttery single track? You betcha.  Breathtaking descents and scenery? Definitely!

 

I’m new to the mountain biking scene, recently purchasing my first mountain bike.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on the day, I’ve got a group of hardcore mountain biking friends looking to initiate me to Salt Lake City’s trail systems as quick as possible. Like any newbie, I’ve bonked, captain crashed and endo’d with the best of them.  I’ve been left in the dust and had to walk my bike.  But I’ve still ridden on some sweet trails in some amazing areas!  Here are a few of my favorites so far:

The Bobsled – Steep.  Fast.  Gnarly.  Challenging.  Epic.  Not to mention one of the most famous trails in Salt Lake City.  Drop into the creek bed that is home to this twisting, turning downhill trail, and you’re in for the long haul.  Over 1.6 miles you’ll drop 1,000 vertical feet, flying up and around steep banked turns, through tight single track and over jumps.  First-timer or beginner?  Take your time and enjoy the ride.  Experienced?  Cut loose, keeping your eyes open for the unique features and big air opportunities.

Clark’s Trail – Located in Corner Canyon, Clark’s Trail is perfect for intermediate riders, with the loop from the mouth of Corner Canyon to Traverse Ridge and back registering at just over 3 miles.  After a short climb to the top of Traverse Ridge, you’ll get to enjoy some awesome downhill.  Looking for a longer ride?  Hook into the Draper Race Loop, Clark’s Ghost Loop or any of the other trails in Corner Canyon.

Wasatch Crest Trail – By far the prettiest trail I’ve ridden to this point.  And that’s saying something considering I rode it at night!  The views from this trail are amazing, and I can only imagine how pretty the aspen groves and meadows look during the day.  Not to mention great views of Big Cottonwood Canyon and Park City.  We started in Mill Creek Canyon, taking The Great Western Trail and hooking into the Wasatch Crest Trail for a couple of miles.  Despite a tough climb, the swooping single track on the descent made it all worth while.

What are you waiting for?  Grab your bike and hit the trails!  But know that once you start you won’t want to stop.  Check in at Two Feet to Adventure for more of my adventures.

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Ski Season Means – Hitchhiking

Powder Magazine launched its gear guide (which I’ve read cover to cover).  Ski Utah announced it’s “Ultimate Powderhound” competition.  Industry magazines are releasing their resort guides.  Season passes are going on sale.  And last week Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort received a dusting of snow on their highest peak.  Ski season is officially on its way!  If you’re anything like me, you’ve been looking forward to this season ever since you tearfully put your skis away last spring.  And if you’re anything like me, which I’m guessing you are since you’re reading this post, there is more than one reason why you live for ski season.  Is it the face shots?  Maybe it’s the après ski scene? Or maybe still it’s the people you meet?  In honor of the impending season, I present you with my latest series of posts – “Ski season means.”  From now until the lifts start spinning, I’ll be posting regularly on the things I love and look forward to most about ski season.  Consider it my personal effort to spread the stoke!

Hitchhiking – I know what some of you are thinking.  Hitchhiking?  Really?! What does that have to do with ski season?  I will answer your questions with a question.  How else do you get up to the mountain when your car is not considered “safe” to drive in the winter, you have no money for gas or you missed the bus heading up the canyon?  The answer, and my main mode of mountain transportation this past winter, is hitchhiking.

Before you judge me, let me just say that hitchhiking has gotten a bad rap.  Contrary to popular belief, hitchhiking, particularly to and from salt lake area resorts, is safe, fun and surprisingly efficient.  As evidence, my longest wait this whole winter was a whopping 10 minutes!  Even UTA can’t compete with that!  True, I could have ridden the bus or even carpooled with friends, but hitchhiking, in my opinion is part of the skiing experience.  It allows you to meet new and interesting people.  It allows you to trade stories and share secret stash information.  And if you’re lucky, it leads to a friendly beer in a crowded ski bar at the end of an epic day.

I’ve hitchhiked with and without my gear.  I’ve hitchhiked in snowstorms and on beautiful days.  I’ve hitchhiked with fellow hitchhikers and I’ve flown solo.  All have led to different experiences and results.  But all have helped me formulate a few key ideas on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to hitchhiking during ski season.  Here’s what I know:

  • Thumb positioning is vital.  Too high and/or straight screams desperate.  Too low says, “I don’t really care.”  A slight bend to the elbow with the thumb at a 45 degree angle to the ground is perfect form.
  • Tall tee = long wait.
  • Luggage = longer wait.  Traditionally, the more gear you have the longer you’ll wait.  Tip:  Hitchhike fully dressed (ski boots on).  The appearance of less gear makes you more likely to be picked up.
  • Smile.  Look excited.  And for god sakes try not to act hung over!
  • Sport resort gear.  If you’ve got resort apparel wear it with pride!  The resort name and logo gives you credibility.
  • Ditch the headphones.  Nobody wants to pick up someone who won’t say a word the whole ride.
  • Share the wealth.  A thermos of coffee or box of donuts can do wonders for your wait time – think about it!
  • Early bird gets the worm.  Show up early.  Those heading up for first chair are more likely to pick you up than those rushing to get the last of the freshies.

Consider these tips my hitchhikers guide to, well . . . hitchhiking.  Hopefully they help you in your quest for fresh tracks.  And the next time you see a hitchhiker on the side of the road, pick them up.   After all, its ski season!

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Just Call Me G.I. Joe

Have you ever had your name chanted on a crowded boardwalk in a foreign country?  I have.  Here’s my story . . .

Barcelona, Spain is an amazing city.  It’s culture,  food, architecture, nightlife and street performers are virtually unmatched anywhere else in the world.  Not to mention its beaches . . . and the people who make the beach their place of business (Yes, I am talking about drug dealers).

His hair was in dreads.  And for no other reason but that he looked eerily similar to Bob Marley, whose famous mug graced the front of his shirt.  He was deeply tanned and his bare feet were as dirty as the knees of his baggy pants from walking and working in the wet sand.  But if you were to think he was a bum you’d be wrong.  He was a drug dealer.  And a clever one at that.

You see, this guy didn’t just peddle pot.  He was an artist too.  His plan was simple, yet effective – use his artisitc ability to attract prospective customers.  I’m by no means condoning the dealing of drugs, but this guy had a good thing going. Seriously, how can you resist wanting to get a closer look at a HUGE dog or dragon made out of sand? 

His name was Matthew and our first conversation went something like this:

Me:  “Nice sand sculptures.  How long did those take you to build?”

Matthew:  “Not long.  Hey man, you want some grass?”

Me:  “No thanks, bro.”

And that was it. From sand sculptures to drugs in ten seconds flat.

With the sun out, and the sand warm beneath our feet, we spent the rest of the day lounging on the beaches of Barcelona drinking warm Spanish beer and fending off propositions for “Massageys” from the small Asian women scurrying up and down the beach.  The groups of tourists and locals came and went – some clothed and others leaving nothing to the imagination – but all providing great foder for people watching. 

As the sun retreated into the ocean and the boardwalk filled with people eager to experience Barcelona’s renowned nightlife, we pulled ourselves from our comfortable spots in the sand, grabbed our remaining beers and began the trek back to our hostile.  Weaving my way towards the boardwalk, remaining beers in hand, I realized three things:

  1. Awkwardly carrying three beers through the throngs of foot traffic on Las Ramblas would be a pain.
  2. Matthew was slaving away creating another sand sculpture.
  3. It was hot and he was probably thirsty.

Always looking to improve foreign relations, I stopped and offered the beer to Matthew.  His response was priceless.  Pure amazement and gratitude as he immediately cracked one open.  We made small talk as he drank.  He told me his name was Matthew and that he was originally from Germany, but now called Barcelona home.  Matthew then asked my name and I told him Joe.  His response:  “Joe . . . Like G.I. Joe?!” After telling him that I was from the state of Washington, we shook hands and I merged into the stream of people on the crowded boardwalk.  As I walked away I turned around and saw Matthew, to the bewilderment of many onlookers, pumping both hands in the air and chanting “G.I. Joe!  G.I. Joe! Washington State! Washington State!”

Chances are, I’ll never see Matthew again.  But you can bet I’ll always remember that evening on the boardwalk in Barcelona.  And that is exactly what I love about traveling.  New places, activities and experiences are only part of the story.  Traveling is about the people you meet.  Because it’s the stories you create with those people that you’ll always remember.

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Rock climbing at Reservoir Ridge

Have I mentioned that I love living in Salt Lake City? Since moving here permanently in July, I’ve been having one great outdoor experience after another.  I’m like a kid in a candy store down here . . . except instead of candy I’m gorging myself on cycling, mountain biking, hiking, bouldering, rock climbing, canyoneering and trail running.  Whoever said “Too much of a good thing is a bad thing,” obviously never got the chance to live in SLC.

 

After spending this past winter climbing at Momentum and the early part of this summer bouldering in Little Cottonwood Canyon, I finally got the chance to head to Big Cottonwood Canyon for some real rock climbing.  For those of you who don’t know, Big Cottonwood Canyon is a great place to climb, offering routes for beginners (such as myself) to challenging routes for the seasoned climber (such as Nick, my patient teacher).

We decided to head to Reservoir Ridge, which offers seven routes that are perfect for fine tuning your top roping skills and practicing sport and trad climbing – which is exactly what we intended to do.  To get used to climbing outside, I top roped my first two routes (Iraq In The Back Attack, Error of Our Ways).  Both were relatively easy with ample foot and hand holds – perfect for my first outdoor climbing experience.

With my confidence up and the light quickly fading in the canyon, I decided to attempt leading my first sport climb.  I returned to Iraq In The Back Attack, a 5.6 climb, and started climbing.  I quickly realized sport climbing is a whole different animal requiring patience, skill and confidence in your climbing ability.  There is much more to think about when sport climbing such as rope and carabiner placement, making it both fun and challenging.  Luckily, I made it to the top, successfully completing my first, and definitely not my last, lead on a sport climb.

Was there anything negative about this experience?  Yes.  I’m now thoroughly obsessed with climbing, which adds another expensive hobby to an ever growing list.  Can you say second job?

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