Science fiction is my favorite entertainment genre, which is why I gobble up good sci-fi faster than the Crystalline Entity chomps organic life. Therefore, it should shock no one that Jason and I are Firefly fans, tasty sci-fi to be sure, and count ourselves among the rough and nerdy followers of that series commonly referred to as “Browncoats.” Also not surprisingly, we opted to attend the Browncoat Ball in Salt Lake City this fall like others with similar tastes in outerwear.
Although we were the only ones in our rail group to do so, Jason and I wore attire befitting the ‘Verse.
It was fun to see a different side of Deer Creek Reservoir.
The Browncoats put on a national shindig annually that happened to be in Utah this year. Even though I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from this event, I signed us up. After all, sci-fi is all about going daringly into the unknown and I am nothing if not daring… except when it comes to small places, high places, germs, swift water, sun exposure, meat, insects, crooked lines, movie gore, and so forth.
I love this picture of Jason except his oddly-placed arm.
Not only did we decide to attend the actual ball, a black-tie evening full of great food, singing, heists, auctions, and dancing, we also opted to do a day activity with some of the Browncoat crew, a three-hour outing on the Heber Creeper. Yes, clearly a reference to “The Train Job.”
The Heber Creeper stopped at Vivian Park to switch the position of its engine.
We enjoyed chatting with this bunch of fan strangers while our train ambled down the track.
The Heber Valley Railroad, AKA Heber Creeper, runs from Heber to Vivian Park in Provo Canyon primarily on the power of steam locomotives over 100 years old. We had never gone through Provo Canyon on these bygone tracks before so we thought we might as well give it a whirl with some Firefly friends.
Because of the Asian influences in Firefly, I chose to purchase my dress for the ball from India. Claustrophobics of the world take note, Indian dresses do not have zippers. You have to wiggle your way out of them.
The Heber Creeper has been accurately named, in case you are wondering. Our train definitely crawled unhurriedly but the scenery we passed was pretty and we had a shiny time chatting with a group of people, most of them out-of-towners, with whom we had an instant commonality.
We did both old-school and run-of-the-mill dancing at the ball.
I’m glad that exploring unusual pursuits with strangers does not intimidate me. Perhaps I am ready now to journey to the stars or tackle touching food without washing my hands.
I had to attend a conference in Midway recently for an industry group. Per his habit, Jason tagged along. We were only there for a day and a half but we still found a little time for fun on four wheels.
In the few afternoon hours we had free between my seminars and board obligations, we rented a Polaris RZR. We took this hardy vehicle on a 30-mile jaunt across backcountry dirt roads and trails that started in Wasatch Mountain State Park and twisted around to American Fork Canyon before coming back along Deer Creek Reservoir, a journey that took nearly three hours.
Impressive outlooks were frequently encountered during our drive.
This ride contained an ideal mix of roads that bounced and scenery that struck. We crossed creeks and dodged furrows while yellowing leaves clinked their decaying percussions in a pleasing breeze.
We rode a mix of trail types.
The downside? Dirt. We were so dusty when we returned that our schnozzles were literally black. After I washed my hands a few times, they still left grimy smears on the hotel towels. (Sorry hotel!)
Jason did most of the driving because I couldn’t reach the pedals comfortably.
What a quick and dirty yet enjoyable escapade. Incidentally, I would recommend a RZR ride around Midway to families and adventurers alike. The RZR felt safer than other ATVs I’ve ridden and more appropriate for all types of passengers.
With the start of school looming ahead, I decided that I needed one more summer vacation before giving up my fleeting freedom. (Apparently, Europe, Vegas, Steamboat Springs, etc. weren’t enough for me.) Jason and I hadn’t been down to the Utah Shakespearean Festival in years so I thought it would be nice to spend a couple days in Cedar City to catch some culture and nature. Predictably, I was correct.
Between that dot, AKA Jason, and the amphitheater bottom tumbled 2,000 feet of unforgiving rock.
We saw two productions during our stay. Cocoanuts, with its frequent sticking and slapping, was quite entertaining but the Utah Shakespearean Festival’s take on Henry V was outstanding. Jason had a bit of difficulty understanding the play’s fancy English, as usual, but he did grasp enough of its plainer parts to not completely drowned in that sea of fine language.
The views at Spectra Point are astounding and a little frightening.
This bristlecone pine is over 1600 years old and has the widest span of any known in Utah.
Following our play day, we opted to take a detour through Cedar Breaks National Monument on our way home. Although Cedar City was a little hot, Cedar Breaks was not. Instead, a storm threatened to put a swift and electrifying end to our hiking. Thankfully, it grumpily passed us by and singed the ridges to our north.
Bristlecone pines live thousands of years, to which our lifespans are measly blinks.
Thus, we made the four-mile roundtrip trek to Spectra Point and Ramparts Overlook without becoming rim fries. This trail, a section of which we hiked years ago, was full of dizzying panoramas along the perimeter of Cedar Break’s half-mile-deep amphitheater. It’s not a path you’d take a young child on unless you have a few of those to spare.
At Spectra Point, color plummets in every direction.
Afterwards, we had time for a casual romp over the Alpine Pond Nature Trail, a two-mile loop. Although the wildflowers that grace this route during parts of the summer had already died and the outlooks were blocked by trees, it was a pleasant wander.
The trail connecting Spectra Point to Ramparts Overlook takes a surprising dip through a quiet forest full of wildlife.
Traveling to Cedar City was a great idea; I have lots of those. Even though we were down there and back again in less than 48 hours, we still succeeded in witnessing some of man’s and nature’s best material. Good thing I’m needy and demanded one more pre-school break.
My sister Kristen lives more than a comfortable drive away. So, this summer, Jason and I rendezvoused with her and my parents in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, a scenic destination in between our homes. There we enjoyed a long weekend of relaxation and exploration. Perfecto!
The condo we rented was pretty sweet.
Our first morning in Steamboat, Jason and I hiked to Fish Creek Falls with my parents while we waited for my sister to arrive, if you can call a half-mile-roundtrip stroll a hike. Fish Creek Falls, a 283-foot cascade, is pretty but popular. I think most visitors that day had to walk farther from their cars to the trailhead than from the trailhead to the falls due to the parking mess.
The pools at Strawberry Park Hot Springs were enormous.
I love this cute picture of my sister.
After my sister and her husband John appeared, we spent most of the rest of the day at Strawberry Park Hot Springs. These springs have an exceptionally productive outpouring. The park contains five massive pools filled with varying mixes of 104-degree mineral water and cold creek flow. Eat it up Evian! We spent hours alternating between chilling ourselves in the river and scalding ourselves in the hottest of the pools. It was incredibly soothing and a lot of fun.
J.J. Abrams would like this picture.
Our trip to Steamboat Springs gave me a better opportunity to reconnect with my sister than I’ve had in years.
The next day, we started the morning with a very long accidental detour through the local farmers market. We sampled fine maple syrups and bought handmade jewelry for each other before heading back to our condo for lunch, boxes of Palisade peaches in tow.
I adore these ladies!
After a mellow meal on our condo balcony, we wandered around the Yampa River Botanic Park. This peaceful six-acre garden is taken care of exclusively by volunteers and the love shows. Kristen and I, both avid photographers, went a little picture happy there and enthusiastically pointed out shot spots to each other constantly.
Kristen showed me this great spot with lots of light contrast.
The reflections and ripples of Peter’s Pond made this picture magical.
We stopped and rode The Howler Alpine Slide afterward, John’s special request. Neither Kristen nor John had ever ridden an alpine slide before. Kristen was a bit nervous but she didn’t need to be; the breaking mechanism on her cart was malfunctioning and she probably could have walked down the mountain faster than she moved through the chute.
The world has changed around this barn yet it remains untouched in a corner of one of Steamboat Resort’s giant parking lots.
The photography mania continued that evening. Kristen and I went to a historic barn that has been encircled by Steamboat Resort over the years to take pictures; Jason tagged along. Frankly, this dilapidated structure was a little creepy, which made Jason really happy.
Through the gaps in the creepy barn, I shot Kristen shooting me.
I found the worn but vibrant grains of this barn fascinating.
We spent the remainder of the night eating Indian food, chatting, and playing games. My dad was the quiet winner of both Phase 10 and Saboteur. Sneaky boy!
The Vista Nature Trail was easy enough for everyone in our group to enjoy.
The next morning, after checkout, we went to Steamboat Resort. There we took the gondola up Mt. Werner and trekked around the one-mile Vista Nature Trail. Then we ate lunch with over 9,000 feet displayed below us like the prickly green face of some unshaven crag giant.
These were the only lines we saw in Steamboat.
On our way out of town, we made one last picture stop. The More Barn, an iconic feature of Steamboat Springs, was a great place for yet more barn photography. (Yes, that clever wording was intentional.)
The More Barn was built in 1926 and has since become one of Steamboat’s most photographed structures.
What a wonderful weekend! I’m so grateful for a family I can vacation with and return appreciating and enjoying even more, instead of less. Too often with relatives it is the other way around. I know you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I am a big fan of Utah’s mountains. So when I realized a few months ago that it had been a couple years since I’d hiked to the top of one, I resolved not to let summer pass without doing just that. I invited my family to come along with Jason and me on my “hike-a-mountain day” and a group of them opted in. Together, we reached the crest of Desolation Peak. It was beautiful family-bonding time. Geeze, I am just full of monumental ideas.
We started out early but still didn’t make it back until late afternoon.
The path to Desolation Peak, at least the route we took, starts in Big Cottonwood Canyon and ascends 2,706 feet in total. About four miles in, it reaches Desolation Lake, which sits in a colorful basin 766 feet below the summit.
Desolation Lake was a perfect snack spot.
My sister, two of her boys, and my dad were our companions on this trek. Everyone but my dad started out early in the morning. He came up three or four hours later due to a scheduling conflict but it only took him an hour and a half to reach us as we were descending the tippy top. Yup, my dad is a rock star.
Desolation Lake was incredibly clear.
Our initial climb may have been missing a father but it wasn’t missing the gumption to go farther. We rose up that mountain like silk boxers on a bull rider and then took a waterside break at Desolation Lake. Desolation Lake was beautifully clear, vibrantly teal, and uninhabited… except by salamanders that didn’t seem to be dwelling it well because there were quite a few dead ones about the water. We ate lunch in this gorgeous bowl, away from any decaying lizards, and then we aimed for the summit.
The boys thought the undisturbed lake waters needed to be skipped.
Panoramas of Park City were a surprise bonus with this trek.
When we reached the saddle, we noticed ski lifts directly below us on the opposite side of the ridge. That’s when Jason and I had an aha moment. The valley on the other side was Park City. Desolation Peak, which tops out at 9,990 feet, sits directly above Jason’s favorite run at Canyons Resort (now part of Park City Mountain Resort), Ninety-Nine 90. Aha indeed.
Everyone made it to the summit without too much strain.
One of the best things about hiking a mountain is what you find at your feet.
The scramble from the saddle to the summit was a little tricky simply because there wasn’t an established trail. We circumnavigated most of the zenith trying to find a defined route before giving up on that and just climbing. That did it!
Desolation Peak’s saddle offered spectacular views of two valleys.
Desolation Peak was a fantastic 10-mile trek. The boys went against youngster tradition and did not complain at all but rather seemed to enjoy themselves. The weather was nearly perfect, not too hot; we did get rained on a little on our way down though. Even the wildlife indulged our undertaking. We ran into a moose mommy and her calf during our ascent and a bull moose as we were returning. Bully!
I’m glad this bull moose wasn’t nervous around people because a nervous moose would make me nervous.
I’d highly recommend this trail to all of those that love hiking and to all of those that don’t. The distance is decent but not strenuous and the compensation, in the form of outstanding views and waterfront opportunities, is lucrative. Also, I’d recommend hiking in general. There is something almost mystical about stepping up a mountain. The whole world seems to slow down to the rhythm of your feet. Moreover, it can stimulate conversations like few other activities can. When your primary goal is simply taking one stride after another, a talk about almost anything can be quite welcome. Yes, monotony becomes your ally and discussions erupt. So connect with your kin and nature. Go hike a mountain!