I’ve lived my entire life here in Utah. This is the ideal place to live. Surrounded by so many other amazing states, Utah is centrally located. So road tripping anywhere in the west is a matter of hours away. And where else do you have climbing, hiking, mountain biking and canyoneering all with in a 30 minute drive from home..? Not to mention the wide variety of winter sports this great state has to offer. Not sure there is another that compares.
Two weeks ago I was rappelling into a sandstone slot canyon and mountain biking Moab’s slickrock trail. Enjoying the amazing views of the desert. The dry heat and just the over all difference of climate from my home town 4 hours north. A great sand covered orange desolation. The vast diversity of landscape in this amazing state never ceases to amaze me…
This past weekend, I had grown to miss my beloved Wasatch mountains. I was in desperate need to escape high into the quakies and discover a new place. So I picked up my new Teton Sports Oasis 1100 pack and headed up to the Big Cottonwood Canyon park & ride to meet up with Shawn Parry. We decided to hike up to Dog Lake and test out some new Teton gear coming out soon.
The trail was busy that morning, we hiked at a quick pace, and pretty much passed everyone we encountered on the trail. Other than the altitude bothering me slightly, I felt good. I had my hiking legs under me, I’ve put a lot of miles on my feet this season already. It was roughly a 5 mile hike round trip, so not too bad. After completing the hike Shawn and I decided to get a bite to eat at my brothers restaurant Salt City Cheese-steaks. A convenient drive straight out of the canyon right down Ft. Union Blvd.
I did not feel I was done with the canyons for the day. Although I was going to be doing some serious climbing the next morning, I wanted more elevation. I called my friend Willie and asked if he still wanted to hit the MTB trail. We met up at my house and were soon at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Checking my Wasatch Hiking trail map, we decided to venture out on a trail that started at Guardsman pass. Heading down canyon towards the Great Western Trail, we hit a serious of switch backs and couldn’t help but wonder how the return trip would be..? All up hill?
We made it over Scott’s pass and the trail intersected with GWT. We continued on an upward ride toward the ridge. And neither of us being very skilled at MTB, we ended up walking the bikes most of the way up hill. One guy we ran into referred to it as “Puke Hill”. Before heading back down the steep hill, we decided to ride on and see if we could figure out the up hill motion… We were able to get in a pretty good ride, and going back down the steep “puke hill” was definitely the highlight. I felt like I was skiing the mountain in the summer time… On wheels.
We decided to skip the switchbacks and ride the dirt road down to the main road, thinking this would be easier. Little did we know, we had to trek back up the main road about a mile, and it was probably steeper than the switch backs were. So we chained the bikes to a mile marker post and walked hiked back to the car. Doing our best to avoid the courteous Utah drivers trying their best to run us over. After picking up the bikes, we made our way to the Cotton Bottom for a garlic burger & a beer. And went to see World War Z at the theater. Willie was given permission to hang out with me while his better half was having a ladies trip in Vegas. (You see, I’m the good influence friend).
The next morning I was up bright and early for some serious climbing in Maple Canyon with the man whom started me into climbing… Mr. Sean Kenny. I rather enjoy climbing with Sean. When you climb with someone better than you are, they push you to reach your full potential. We rally and usually climb somewhere between 4-8 routes per day. So you can see how quickly I get strong. Plus, he usually laces all the draws for me…
We chose to climb in Box Canyon for the day, a 200′ tall slot canyon off shoot of Maple. Composed of pure conglomerate rock (cobble stones shaped strategically by Mother Nature over millions of years). The canyon is an old river bed, and can be used for some amazing ice climbing in the winter time I’m told. We warmed up on an 5.11b, which I struggled with due to no endurance and it being a harder warm up then I like. Following that climb, we quickly moved onto Watermelon Sugar, a 5.12a. I dogged my way up the route, doing every move, but once again not completely warmed up and my endurance is currently for bouldering.
As Sean began to project the steep 5.12d, I set my sights on something a little more my speed. I flashed 5.11a on the wall, but was clearly getting tired. This was my first real serious day of climbing this season, having been slowed down by a couple of surgeries earlier this year and my lack of climbing partners. I finished out the day getting completely pumped out on another 5.11b. The route felt greasy and my hands were beginning to open. Holding strong to the rock was a distant memory from earlier that morning. But I continued and topped out the route getting a chance to use my new Camp carabiners and Petzyl runners. My new favorite draws. All in all, I would say the day was a success. I climbed 4 routes, all rated 5.11a or harder, and did every move. Sean as usual crushed, but decided to save the project for another day.
As we were driving back towards SLC, I had a moment to recollect… A moment of clarity on my own life. Realizing what it was that I truly wanted out of life, the things that made me happy. In the past when my life was “less than stellar”, I was depressed and angry. I concluded that my love for the outdoors, the mountains and rivers, slot canyons and especially climbing were what I needed. This is where my passion lies, my heart belongs to the earth. The sorrows I had bestowed upon my own shoulders were just that, something I placed on myself. And realizing that happiness is a choice… My choice. And though I have responsibilities, things I must do that I may not want to (go to work). I can find solace in the little moments that can live infinitely if we list them. Relax, breath… Let life take you where you need to be. And you will accomplish your goals.
I titled this blog “I ❤ Utah” because I wanted to show the diversity that this great state has to offer. In one weekend, I went hiking, MTB and climbing, and never got further than an hour and 1/2 from my house. And that was only because we chose to climb on Maple. Utah is an amazing place, at this time I couldn’t imagine myself living anywhere else. From the great orange slick rock and slot canyons of southern Utah, to the beautiful Wasatch and Uinta mountains of northern Utah. The Great Salt Lake, really fun to kayak. And the Colorado plateau (yes, that extends into Utah). Utah is home to 5 of the best National Parks on the planet. One of the most popular trails in the world – The Narrows in Zion. And the most popular MTB trail in the World – Slickrock trail in Moab. And we have the Greatest Snow on earth. If you haven’t yet visited Utah, I urge you to do so, you may be surprised at its greatness… But watch out for the crazy Utah drivers. Get outside, even if it’s just for the weekend.