Our 99 Favorites of 2013






Desert Escape:
Chesler Park in Canyonlands National Park

Chesler Park

Candyland. That’s that I think of each time I crest that
slickrock ridge to enter a grassy meadow surrounded by pink, white and red
spires of sandstone known as Chesler Park. In the right light, those rock
formations resemble candy canes and gum drops, and are the backdrop for one of
the single greatest backcountry camp sites in Utah. The hiking isn’t bad
either.  The Joint Trail encircles the
meadow as it goes from cairn-marked slickrock to well-established singletrack.
The trail also descends into a short slot canyon that is fun to explore. The
entire loop is 11 miles and can be linked with an excursion to Druid Arch, a
huge natural arch standing watch above Elephant Canyon. However you choose to
explore Chesler Park’s “Candyland,” it’s bound to be better than sitting at
home playing a children’s board game. –Jared


Milt’s Stop & Eat

Milt’s Stop & Eat, on Millcreek Drive, has been a
Moab burger-and-milkshake mainstay since Milt Galbraith opened it in 1954.
Though it’s changed owners a couple times and though ingredients like local,
grass-fed, hormone-free beef and buffalo meat are now served, everything from
the countertops, to the walk-up window, to the mood of Milt’s is the same.
Husband-and-wife pair BC Laprade and Danelle Ballengee have owned the joint
since 2007. They bought the restaurant about a year after Danelle’s life,
literally but oh-so-slowly and painfully, flashed before her eyes. Then a
professional adventure racer living in Moab, she took a big fall while trail
running with her dog, Taz. She broke her pelvis, couldn’t move, and lay in a
red-rock canyon for 56 hours until search-and-rescue authorities located her
(With the help of Taz, but that’s whole other awesome story.) –Meghan Hicks


Place to Zen: Meditation Point

Whatever your preferred mode of travel, a stroll in the
wild does wonders for an anxious mind. And while the journey itself can blaze
the path for endorphins and enlightenment, lest not forget that the destination
can cultivate just as much wisdom and joy. (Sorry, Mr. Emerson.) Meditation
Point might not be the final stopping place for your daily journeys, but it’s
important to arrive here every now and then. You won’t find Meditation Point
with the help of any GPS coordinate. Instead, you’ll know it by a state of
mind, when the sights and sounds of nature become the catalyst for clarity and
contemplation in life.

Stephanie Nitsch

 Spring Activity: Backpacking in Southern Utah

Backpacking is a sure way to disconnect from the
Internet, iPads and iPhones intruding upon my life. For me, nothing beats warm
spring days in the canyons of Southern Utah as the world reawakens from the
long cold winter. A carpet of green grass, flowers and budding trees confirm
the arrival of a new season. Bugs are nonexistent before mid-May and the long
days allow plenty of time for exploring or covering ground. Temperatures are
forgiving and water is plentiful. Well known areas can draw many a fellow
hiker, but solitude is plentiful off the beaten path. Favorite places include
the Needles and Cedar Mesa.

Ron Penner

Summertime Retreat

Bear Lake

Straddling the Utah and Idaho border is Bear Lake.  This Caribbean colored body of water is
rarely crowded and provides the novice sailor an excellent opportunity to hone
their skills.  Its benevolent blue-green
water entices visitors from their first views as they crest the hill from Logan
Canyon.  During the month of August, the
Raspberries are in full bloom and you can enjoy a refreshing milkshake from one
of the local purveyors.  In addition to a
relaxing getaway, Bear Lake plays host to numerous endurance and multisport
races.  Perhaps the next best part about
venturing to this oasis is the proximity to full-strength beer.  What better way to wind down for the evening
than sitting on the calm shoreline enjoying the sunset over a nice Fat Tire
fresh from Gladdy’s General Store?

–Sean Zimmerman-Wall



Nothing says you are in the mountains in summer like the
perfumed air brought by wildflowers. Stinky or sweet, pungent or subtle, pale
or vibrant, the reward is still the same. Some years are big, such as 2011, or
some years are lean, such as last as water tends to be the key element of
blooms. You can always count on finding a great grove of color in Albion Basin,
above Alta, whatever the year. Typically in June and July, there can be over
100 different types of wildflowers in bloom across Utah. Other good spots
besides the alpine environment include Capitol Reef and the other desert areas
where the cactus and claretcup bloom. At Cedar Breaks National Monument (10,000
ft.) near Cedar City, the annual wildflower festival in July gives a chance to
take in enormous displays of bloomers such as kittentails, aspen bluebells, and
scarlet paintbrush fill the meadows with color. –Paul Oelerich




Pre-No-See-Um Season Camp Spot: Tomsich Butte

In some locales, the complementary yin-yang elements are
palpable, but biting midges and horse-flies can be a superlative buzz kill to
grooving on the mutual whole. Camping at the base of Tomsich Butte along the
willow-lined Muddy Creek during early spring gives you the opportunity not only
to embrace the yin and the yang without befouling your skin with Off!, but also
to tube a section of low-class rapid waters. The climbable butte, also an
historic uranium mine, rises to the north next to cottonwood dotted campsites
on freedom-of-the-west BLM land. Wild, wild horses roam the flats. In a
discernable yin-yang way, the landscape is both beautiful and unforgiving. –Paige Wiren


Feel Good Spot in the Wasatch Wilderness – Lake Blanche

The Sundial, Lake Blanche

Located in the heart of the Twin Peaks Wilderness area
near Salt Lake, Lake Blanche and her sister’s, Lake Lillian and Lake Florence,
have to be one of my very favorite spots in the Wasatch. Only three miles from
the “S”curve trailhead in Big Cottonwood Canyon, the path weaves through pine,
wildflowers and stands of aspens. The hike can be done as a quick pre-day run,
a casual gaunt, a basic overnighter or as an approach to alpine climbing. The
hovering peaks of Monte Cristo, Dromedary and Sunrise create the alpine feel,
but it’s the Sundial that sets it apart. This iconic cathedral-like peak looms
large over the entire zone and is a worthy climbing objective in itself.  Whether your there for a moment, casting a
line for pan-fryers, camping at any number of primitive sites nearby or
climbing a peak, the energy and grandeur are a delight on any given day. –Louis Arevalo





Environmental Activist Extraordinaire: Rick Reese

If you hike, bike or recreate on the Bonneville Shoreline
Trail, think of Rick Reese. A long-time SLC resident, climber, skier and
champion of the environment, he was instrumental in finding funds, negotiating
land purchases and right-of-ways, etc. to make the bench trail happen. Although
still not complete to his vision, it has come a long way down the Wasatch

Reese has also done some thinking and research about the
Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow, and the ever-increasing traffic issues. He’s
suggested a tunnel (roughly two-miles long) between Alta and Brighton, that,
when coupled with a high capacity bus system, could transport riders from the
Salt Lake Valley via Big Cottonwood Canyon to Solitude and Brighton and on via
tunnel to Alta-Snowbird. Perhaps even more realistic for the people as a whole
(including non-skiers) than the Ski Link boondoggle, this is a solution that
could prove as functional as it is necessary. All it needs is public and
politician support.

Tyson Bradley

Alta’s High Boy Party

Last Day at Alta

Every ski resort in the country has a tradition to mark
the end of ski season. From pond skimming contests to parking lot barbeques,
these rituals give us a chance to say goodbye to snow and hello to summer. But
Alta’s High Boy Party is easily the most entertaining and surreal. Imagine
watching a David Lynch movie on acid, and you’ll begin to understand what
you’ll be witness to atop High Rustler when the lifts stop turning. This
shindig is lousy with hilarious/clever costumes, bottle rockets, nudity, and
tons of drinking. Hell, you’ll probably even get to meet Scuba Steve complete
with fins, wetsuit, and a pony keg strapped to his back in place of an oxygen
tank. And when you’ve had enough of the shenanigans, prepare yourself to be
hammered by snowballs as you ski down High Rustler one last time.

-Jared Hargrave

 The Living Room with a Beer at Sunset

That the Living Room above Red Butte Gardens in Salt Lake
City is the best seat in the house is no secret. On an average sunset evening,
you’ll find a dozen or so like-minded folks perched among the “furniture,”
pieces of flat, coral-colored sandstone that have been titled this way and that
to create lounging stools, chairs, couches, and beds. Park on Colorow Drive and
access the social trail about a half-mile south of its intersection with Wakara
Way. Navigate across the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and head east up the
obvious gully just south of the gardens. The trail eventually hooks left and
out to the Living Room on a ridge. The round-trip effort rings in at less than
2.5 miles and 1000 feet of climb. Don’t forget to bring a beer or other
beverage of choice (as well as a flashlight, camera, and perhaps a blanket)!

-Meghan Hicks

 Utah Souvenir: Cactus Preserves

Was there anything particularly noteworthy about this
sun-bleached jar of homemade cactus preserves from a roadside stand just
outside of Hurricane, Utah? Other than the novelty of spreading the sweet and
sticky fruit across a couple of burnt pancakes that were cooked over an open
flame and finished with a fine garnish of red rock sand for texture, which were
fuel for a sunrise desert pedal — not really. The jelly was a little
too…jelly-like. But souvenirs aren’t meant to be the greatest thing ever;
they’re meant to remind you of the greatest thing ever. Which is to say,
they’re a token of FUN. And who doesn’t like a little fun smeared over their
morning breakfast to start the day?

Runner Up: Desert sand that ends up e-v-e-r-y-where –Stephanie Nitsch

 Winter Workout: Nordic Skiing

Strength, balance and endurance are the advertised
benefits of Nordic skiing. The release of pent-up winter tensions, fresh air,
dreamy landscapes and some old-fashioned adrenaline are often more satisfying
reasons to Nordic ski. Recently I have been humbled learning the refined skills
of skate skiing. I am told that the worse the technique the better the workout.
Thus many an excellent workout I get. Classic Nordic skiing yields the same
benefits as skate skiing, but without the steep learning curve. We are lucky to
have access to so many areas: Soldier Hollow, White Pine, Willows, Millcreek
(free), Mountain Dell and East Canyon (free). –Ron Penner


Car Camp

Sometimes you just don’t feel like carrying your dinner
on your back.  For those instances where
you and a couple friends or a loved one wish to get away from the high paced
city life, I recommend heading east.  The
Uintas hold a special place in my heart, as they were the first Utah range I
laid eyes upon during my drive from Tennessee nearly eight years go.  On up the Mirror Lake Highway is Lost Creek
Campground.  This is perhaps one of the
smallest campsites in the Unitas that allows vehicles.  Each site has plenty of space for multiple
tents and they all butt up against the shoreline of Lost Lake.  Easy access to Bald Mtn. Trailhead is just up
the road, and the sunset views across the lake are delightful.  Sitting out under a full moon around a
campfire with a cold beverage refreshes the soul and calms the mind.

Sean Zimmerman-Wall


Large Mountain Mammals


The moose is the largest member of the deer family, and
they are always a striking sight to behold as they lounge about unexpectedly on
the side of a trail or in the aspen grove as you hike or pedal by. These large
and gangly animals can also be spotted in winter as they forage in the snow in
the less populated side canyons as you ski tour to your high destination. Cows
are most often spotted, sometimes with calf. Usually sedentary, they will move
fast if threatened, and coming around a corner on a mountain bike with a moose
on the trail will certainly startle the bejeesus out of anyone. Mountain goats
are dispersed throughout the Wasatch, usually in herds, and can be spotted
around Little Cottonwood Canyon, Timpanogos, and the Tushar Range. To view these
amazing animals traverse the high, rocky, and steep terrain with ease as you
struggle to gain purchase on a high peak is mind blowing. Elk are the often
rare, though occasionally spotted mammal in certain alpine environments. Large
and regal, the chance to encounter any of these animals is always a treat and
is a simple joy of human/nature interaction that satisfies the outdoor soul. –Paul Oelerich


Blessed Bike Ride:  Huntsville Monastery

Spring road riding is a blessing, and Ogden Valley offers
a bucolic setting for a unique spin. The valley, cradled by mountains and fed
by three rivers, is a divine masterpiece. Two-lane blacktop outlines Pineview
Reservoir’s beaches and tree-lined coves. On the east side of the reservoir
roundtrip is a point-of-interest sign directing the way to the Holy Trinity
Monastery. Take it. It’s another eight out-and-back miles to the property, a
respite from any of our distracting modern trappings. The monks who live, work
and pray at the monastery are kind, cordial men whose numbers are too few to
sustain the community as they age. Visitors are welcome to sit in the chapel
during any of their seven daily prayer times. There’s no other place like it in
Utah; and when the monks go, so too will the opportunity to experience this rare
treasure. –Paige Wiren


Gear I Never Leave Home Without – Camera.

As a lover of many outdoor pursuits, my favorite piece of
equipment is a digital single lens reflex camera, DSLR. With the ability to
manually focus, adjust the aperture, control the shutter speed, get real time
exposure feedback and shoot hundreds, maybe thousands of images in a day, it’s
a must take. Nothing is worse than taking photos of something beautiful
(flowers), exciting (skiing a chute) or adventurous (summiting a peak) to only
find out the subject of the photo is not in focus. Being able to adjust the
depth of field through the aperture creatively allows you to draw attention to
a specific area (only the climbers hand is focus, or the entire landscape is
sharp) or control lens flare when shooting into the into sun. Controlling the
shutter speed can eliminate motion blur or create it. I learned the basics of
photography by shooting film and persisted with it until recently, but now I
only shoot digital. Being able to shoot hundreds of images without having to
swap out a single roll of 36-exposure film allows for never missing the moment
is the payoff. Besides, I’m such a hack that I need all those images to get one
that’s halfway decent. –Louis Arevalo

 Recreational Advocate- SLCA

Salt Lake Climbers Alliance is an advocate and service
group acting on behalf of the climbing community. It also, by default, protects
and promotes the interests of backcountry skiers and hikers. The alliance works
in conjunction with the USFS and private land owners to do volunteer service
projects and address safety, access, and environmental issues. Examples of
projects include terracing the base of Salt Lake Slips climbing area, and
removing “social trails” and graffiti from cliffs and boulders.

As Governor Herbert, city and county mayors, and the
public make plans for the Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow, the role of SLCA is
critical. With Wasatch Mountain Club, they are the only organized group
lobbying for the needs of dispersed recreation.
Take a proactive role in determining the future of climbing, hiking and
touring in Salt Lake’s mountains by supporting and volunteering with SLCA. Most
importantly, recreationists must weigh in on where public transit stops and
trailhead parking will exist.

Tyson Bradley

 Outhouse with aView: Pit Toilet on the Thunder Mountain Trail

Books have been written about classic outhouses of the
west; those relics of the past that live on amongst the deserts and mountains
of Utah. While most are of the government-issue variety, there are still some
2×4 and slat-board styles in existence out there. One such antique is the
outhouse along the Thunder Mountain Trail in Southern Utah. The trail in itself
is a classic mountain bike ride, but the true classic is a random outhouse that
sits just before the infamous section of trail known as “The Fin.” Perhaps the
outhouse was put there so you can do your business before pedaling a
pants-filling section of singletrack. I like to think it’s for the view of red
rock hoodoos and Ponderosa pines that is so spectacular the outhouse doesn’t
even have a door. Hell there’s even a moon carved into the top… Outhouses don’t
get much classier than that. –Jared Hargrave

 Astronomy Programs at Bryce Canyon National Park

Because of its remote location, away from light and air
pollution, Bryce Canyon National Park as some of the darkest skies in America.
The National Park Service says that on a moonless night, 7500 stars are visible
to the naked eye! To celebrate such stellar darkness, the park hosts more than
100 annual astronomy programs and an astronomy festival. There is even a name
for the men and women who conduct these programs; they are the Dark Rangers!
Bryce’s night sky can, of course, be enjoyed independently. Imagine sitting in
a camp chair at the park campsite, watching the universe go by. If it seems
like magic, that’s because it almost is. –Meghan


Gear Swap: Young Riders’ Bike Swap

The Young Riders’ Bike Swap in Park City is so good that
all the decent bikes will most likely be gone by the time you get there. Even
if you arrive early on, the quantity of bikes is simply overwhelming. Road
bikes, mountain bikes, cruiser bikes, kids’ bikes, tandem bikes, unibikes. You
don’t need to be cycle savvy to attend — it’s a safe bet that almost any ride
you pick up in Park City will be a quality find — but for the stumped shopper,
the teenage members of the Young Riders club are happy to school you on bike
selection (with the help of a few knowledgeable shop employees). –Stephanie Nitsch



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