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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Fall ATV Ride in Utah's Castle Country

There are a few towns between urban Salt Lake City and outdoor mecca Moab that do not get a lot of attention.  They have been known as Pee Town (the place you stop to pee on your way to Moab) or the "Speed Trap" (Wellington) as you make your way to southern Utah’s famous deserts.  This area between these two famous hubs, portions dubbed Utah's Castle Country (you will see why) is a beautiful area very few even know exists.  This once booming area which grew rapidly as a coal mining town, has slowed down and since earned the reputation as "The Moab Layover". 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Ensign Peak Hike - Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City has a few classic hikes. You know what I am talking about…. the hike you bring out of towners to, your chance to show off the city you adore and the mountains you love. I have a list of these hikes I keep in my back pocket, ranging from distance to elevation, summit views or solitude. 

For a good sweat and a sunset at a unique location with views, I take them to hike the Living Room. For a long meandering trail above the city, we head to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail or head to Twin Peaks. But for a really quick climb to see the city before dinner, I take them to Ensign Peak. Anyone who has ever visited me out west has likely climbed Ensign Peak. 1/2 mile and you are there, with sweeping views of Salt Lake City below. You can see State Street and its parallel neighbors stitching out into the horizon. You can see the traffic and the city buildings standing in stark contrast next to the beautiful Wasatch Mountains banking the city. The sun starts to set and you can sit up here with a view, your thoughts, and a beer. I have hiked this spot a dozen times, with out of towners, to see the super moon, or just with my dog to clear my head. If you find yourself in Salt Lake City, with a hour to kill and a desire to see the city from a different view, I hope you head to Ensign Peak.

Trailhead: 1002 N. Ensign Vista Drive, Salt Lake City. The trailhead is located just above the capital building. Pair this hike with a trip to the capital building to walk around the grounds. There is no formal parking lot but instead, you just park along the road at the trailhead/park/. The trailhead comes up in google maps. It is right across from Ensign Peak Memorial Garden. There is a little memorial park a the trailhead. Follow the stairs up the park to start the trail.

Distance: 1 mile roundtrip
Amenities: No formal parking lot (park along roads), no bathrooms.
Elevation gained: ~400 feet
Summit elevation: 5,414
Route: The dirt trail is well marked and easy to follow. There are fences up to keep you on the trail. The trail has steep sections with a few switchbacks. Stay on the trail as re-vegetation efforts are under way. You will see the stone tower, black railing and plaques marking the summit.
Kids: Yes, short but steep, doable for kids.
Dogs: Yes, on-leash

The monolith at the summit was erected on July 26, 1934. The plaque on the monolith reads “July 26, 1847, two days after the mormon pioneers entered this valley Brigham Young and Party climbed to this point and with the aid of field glasses, made a careful survey of the mountains, canyons, and streams……Wilford Woodruff, first to ascend the peak suggested it as a fitting place to set up an ensign". It was then named Ensign Peak.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Mt. Aire - Millcreek Canyon, Utah

Pumpkin Beer on the summit of Mt. Aire
My plane landed in Utah at 10:15 and truth be told, I was out on the trails by 12:00.  I was itching to be back in the Wasatch, hiking Utah's beautiful mountains at the edge of Salt Lake City.  When trying to pick out a hike, I knew I wanted something I hadn't done, something close to the city, a shorter distance (but still a workout), and with some great fall colors and a view.  I put out a "call to action" on Instagram and when someone suggested Mt. Aire, I was sold.  Pretty views, peak, 4 miles round trip, steep and steady, just next door in Utah's Millcreek Canyon.  

Friday, October 5, 2018

Backpacking the Moriah and Carter Mountains Traverse - White Mountains, New Hampshire

For someone who loves to spend time in the woods, who loves to hike, camp, sleep under the stars and drink wine by a campfire, it's surprising that I have never been backpacking.  Backpacking as in carried everything I needed for two days and one night deep into the woods to sleep under the stars, far away from a road or my car.  No car camping here, everything has to fit in an oversized pack on your back and there is no running back to the car for forgotten items.  Truth be told, I was always a little intimidated by the idea, but as I saw friends out in Utah on these great backpacking trips, I became more comfortable with the idea that I too could carry all my crap into the woods and sleep under the stars away from crowded campgrounds. 

I didn’t want to wing it so for my first backpacking adventure, I called my friend Ryan and we got some dates on “Katie Wanders Ryan Saunters” shared google calendar. Our original plan was to do an overnight on the CT section of the Appalachian Trail, some other backpacking trip further up north, and then tackle the famous Presidential Loop. Well, summer slipped on by as it tends to do and two weeks out I was looking at my google calendars reminder that it was PRESIDENTIALS WEEKEND (I had yet to step into the woods with my heavy pack and tent).  I asked Ryan to find something a little more doable for my first backpacking trip and he sold me on the Moriah and Carter Mountain Traverse in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.