The UAJ 99 of 2014



The UAJ 99

A Non-Scientific Compilation of our Favorite Things in Utah

The more we tried to cover, the more we realized we were leaving out. This is by no means thought of as a definitive list, just a sampling of all the great stuff in the outdoors in Utah. Some of it isn’t even outdoors. In no particular order, and not another “best” list, we present the 2014 UAJ 99 with the intent to inspire unique adventures for your year. A sampling of our “Favorites.” Send us your list!


Text and photos by Louis Arevalo, Tyson Bradley, Jared Hargrave, Maggie Hughey AbuHaidar, Whitney James, Stephanie Nitsch, Paul Oelerich, Ron Penner, Andrew Scarcella, and Alex Stoy.


Hiking Upper Calf Creek

If you arrive in Escalante too late for a long trek but too antsy after the long drive to wait until morning, head to Upper Calf Creek for a quickie.  Hike, that is.  Navigate 1 mile down the steep slick rock slope, watching carefully for cairns.  As you near the falls, the distant Navajo sandstone walls are stained by desert varnish and the trail splits.  Take the left fork to reach the bottom of the falls, where slight bushwhacking will yield a cool stone alcove and pool access.  Or, better yet, go right to the above-fall ponds for a refreshing dive.  Dogs welcome.  Look carefully for the trailhead off scenic Highway 12, about 23 miles east of Escalante, between mileposts 81 and 82. –Maggie Hughey AbuHaidar


Favorite Park in Utah

Zion in the off-season – Nothing like having space in the Watchman Campground where you can sleep soundlessly through the night and practice morning yoga without stepping on your neighbors toes. Try a slot canyon like Mystery and not see another soul until you rap into the narrows. Climbing is still happening, but the queues are much shorter. For your tastebuds enjoy a whole Bumbleberry Pie from the Bumbleberry Inn, located in Springdale, all to yourself. –Louis Arevalo


Superior Alpine Climb

Spring is my favorite time to scale Mt. Superior’s South Ridge, as supportable corn and good coverage allows a glissade descent. In winter one can cap off an amazing climb with an extreme ski descent or the south face or a relaxing run down Cardiff Fork. In summer don sticky-rubber tennis shoes, and see if you can match the 2-hour round-trip time of Alex Lowe. But stay out of the Suicide Chute, because it is filled with thistles! In early winter shallow, faceted snow makes cramponing slippery. It’s akin to mixed routes of the Alps and Himalaya. –Tyson Bradley


Flask Filler: High West Distillery Campfire – I’ve been on a whiskey kick lately, and love to sample everything from Scotch to Kentucky Bourbon. But my favorite flask-filler is Campfire from Park City’s own High West Distillery. It’s a blend of rye whiskey, straight bourbon whiskey, and blended malt scotch. Now, my palette is not terribly refined, but I think this golden liquid literally smells like campfire smoke on your jacket after a night in the mountains. And the flavor? It’s smooth, spicy, and tastes like I’m chewing on rough-hewn, cedar floorboards. Delicious. At around $60 for a 750ML bottle, it’s pretty pricey to pour into something as utilitarian as a flask. But I don’t care, because Campfire is the perfect sipper while relaxing by, well, the campfire. –Jared Hargrave


Day Trip 

Incorporate a little American History into your desert adventure. Book a guided horseback ride through the barren landscape of Moab, where parts of Geronimo: An American Legend and City Slickers were filmed. Hauer Ranch will set you up with a custom trail ride perfect for your entire family’s level of riding experience. You can even stay in their incredible rock house built directly into the scenery, or pick the river house that’s been made TV famous. Family owned, Hauer Ranch provides an incredible way to experience Moab off the beaten path. You won’t feel like a city slicker for long. – Whitney James


Coffee Shop

Naming a favorite coffee shop is a subjective claim. But I’m willing to bet that the River Rock Roasting Company in La Verkin is an objective favorite for many. If the Frisbee-sized, made-from-scratch cinnamon rolls or the fair trade, small-batch roasted coffee doesn’t do it for you (or the occasional live music, local artwork or homemade dog treats), then the patio will flat-out blow your mind. The terraced backyard sits on the edge of a canyon wall, looking down to the Virgin River a few hundred feet below. It’s best before the intense summer heat kicks in for the day, but fortunately there’s a ‘hidden’ trail that leads down to the banks of the slow-flowing river, shaded by a canopy of leafy trees. –Stephanie Nitsch


Roof Boxes

A common sight in outdoor towns, the roof box is an indication that you have gear to carry. They are the perfect vehicle transport tool for skis and other odd shaped gear that gives you more room inside your car, as well as protecting the stuff from the elements, and provides a place to put your wet gear after a day in the snow. In the summer, it will carry all of your car camping stuff, allowing more room for beer inventory inside your car. They also make the perfect place to put all of your stickers showing what ski resorts you’ve schussed, and any other outdoor related sticker. Making the commitment to paste all of them on your vehicle is serious business, but the roof box is the perfect alternative, and preserves your view out the back window. Bonus when a UAJ sticker is prominently displayed. –Paul Oelerich


Guide Books

Many a great Utah adventure starts in the pages of a guidebook, and my favorites are Tyson Bradley’s Backcountry Skiing Utah, Andrew McLean’s The Chuting Gallery – A Guide to Steep Skiing in the Wasatch Mountains, Stuart and Bret Ruckman’s Rock Climbing the Wasatch Range, and Michael Kelsey’s Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau (Non-Technical). I often wonder what my curriculum vitae of adventures would be like without these great resources. I’m not discounting individual initiative, but these four books make outrageous adventure as easy as following an EZ Bake oven recipe. Caveat emptor – follow directions carefully and double all Kelsey times unless you are running. –Ron Penner


Dating-scene for masochists: Citizen Series SkiMo Races

Speed dating is for wimps. Try the local SkiMo race instead, if you can keep up. Guys, be prepared to be passed by girls like you’re standing still. Girls, be prepared to be chatted up by every guy with skis and a mouth. You don’t have to wear a Lycra race suit, but if you’re fixing to chase a top tier hottie, you might want to look the part. –Andrew Scarcella


The Slanted Hallway

Wear clothing you don’t anticipate on seeing ever again is what I tell my friends who journey into the Leprechaun Canyons.  Here you’ll find yourself rappelling into Middle Earth, scraping through the sands of time.  You’ll squeeze down, up and through a Navajo Sandstone Slot canyon formed millennia ago.  Most likely, you will lead with your left body down canyon, tearing holes to your pants as you slither down a 60 degree, left-leaning hallway which eventually deposits you into the Belfast Boulevard.  If your timing is spot on and the light just right, you may be awarded with a re-entry into a life.  –Alex Stoy


Fishing Chriss Lake, Boulder Mountain

During your next family foray into Southern Utah, when you’re searching for a day hike suitable for both the kids and Grandma, head to Chriss Lake.  An out and back trail, about 3.5 miles round-trip, with a gain of only 800 feet, the whole gang can do it, almost-whine-free.  But, as you and your fly rod wander through meadows and late fall, blinding yellow, aspen forests to a high mountain lake teaming with cutthroat trout, you won’t feel at all cheated.  Catch the trailhead on scenic Highway 12 about ten miles north of Boulder, between mileposts 96 and 97. –Maggie Hughey AbuHaidar


Bonneville Shoreline Supertrail

The Bonneville Shoreline Trail continues to grow and more segments (including the one below Mt. Olympus) are completed each year. This is an amazing resource for Wasatch Front residents both in and of itself, and as a route to many small canyons and gulches heretofore inaccessible along the east benches. The brainchild of Rick Reese and other recreation visionaries, this trail has taken decades to piece together. My hat is off to all those who donated land, funds, and easements to make it possible. It greatly enhances the quality of life for bikers, hikers, climbers and ski tourers for this generation and to those to come. –Tyson Bradley


Voile Strap – The situation: you’re skinning out of the mountains after several laps, the sun is setting, temperatures are dropping, and your climbing skins are so frozen they keep falling off your skis no matter how hard you ratchet down the tail clips. In a word, you’re screwed. This happened to me recently, and thank God I had Voile Straps in my pack. A simple wrap around the skis and skins and viola, I’m no longer looking at a night of post-holing my way out to the trailhead. There’s also about a million other uses for ‘em. Any backcountry skier worth their salt has three or four in their pack, –Jared Hargrave


Scrambler Hike 

Hiking in Utah is definitely all it’s cracked up to be. There is just something about the way you have to scramble on all fours to conquer rock formations, scoot on your butt to slide down ravines, and kick up your heels to avoid getting sand in your sneakers. It makes the whole experience more fun than just plodding along a trail. Maximize your experience on the Devil’s Garden Primitive Loop in Arches National Park, a seven-mile scramble that takes you through enormous sandstone fins. You’ll constantly be on the lookout for the next cairn and surprising natural feature to navigate. It’s like the original obstacle race, except no one’s timing. –Whitney James


Climbing with Kids

It’s always rewarding when your kids reach the age and show an interest and desire to follow in your outdoor adventure footsteps. Teaching them the ways and techniques are as fulfilling as skiing deep powder or overcoming a crux by yourself.  The mind game that climbing can be often proves absent as kids take to the crag for the first time, it’s more an approach of “I’ll just move up this face, what’s the big deal?” The speed of which they move over the stone, the balance and the confidence is evident, the progressions seem to come naturally, and they are always up for more.  All the while you’re thinking that it’s an inherited talent, and you don’t mind belaying all day. –Paul Oelerich



Made In Utah Gear
This is a tough call. Between skis, snowboards, snowshoes, helmets, hats and poles, it’s hard to pick the best Made In Utah gear. But if there’s one company that has had an impact on local gear, my vote goes for Doppelmayr – the household manufacturer of modern chairlifts and the reason ski resorts are as “cutting edge” as they are today. The fabrication and engineering of engine rooms, lift towers, electrical components and even the chairs themselves take place in Salt Lake City, with just a few other parts imported from other Doppelmayr locations around the globe. –Stephanie Nitsch

Mount Wire

Mount Wire, elevation 7,137’, is the prominent peak between the Emigration Canyon and Red Butte Canyon. It offers immediate gratification with a two-hour stout hike – it’s perfect for ski season conditioning. It’s a favorite because it’s a steep peak that keeps one honest, sweaty and thirsty, and it has multiple trailheads for access (Utah Natural History Museum and the Hogle Zoo, among others). Diversions include the Living Room and the Rollercoaster. The peak hosted two microwave reflectors until last summer but still sports an airplane beacon on the summit that can be climbed for a spectacular view up Emigration Canyon. The proximity to downtown increases its appeal when time is short. –Ron Penner


Totally Unnecessary Necessity: Backcountry Espresso Makers

My pack is heavier than your pack. But when I’m toasting the sunrise with my freshly pulled double shot, any regrets or tight shoulders melt away like morning fog. Espresso in the backcountry may be decadent, but so what. So are pillows. So are tents. Get over your purist packing tendencies and live a little! –Andrew Scarcella


Summer Respite From the HeatMillcreek Canyon – July and August in Salt Lake tend to be a little on the warm side for me. Luckily this well kept canyon offers a break from the heat with beautiful trails, babbling brooks, thick forests of evergreens and idyllic meadows of wildflowers all within minutes of downtown.  On even days you can take your mountain bike to the upper trails of Big Water, Little Water and Great Western trails or if it’s an odd day park your car at the mouth and climb the road to Elbow Fork and the top of the Pipeline Trail then ride it back down to your car. This canyon will feed any single-track hunger to get you to the weekend. Not a bike person, no worries. Any and all the trails make for fantastic running and many trails may be linked to create a length for anyone. Sunrise up to the Wasatch Crest can’t be beat and soaking your feet in the stream afterward is must after any hike, run or ride. –Louis Arevalo


No Powder No Problem

What do you do you when get bored of skiing groomers or descending icy chutes filled with rock and avy debris?  You go sand skiing.

Rising almost 700 vertical feet, Sand Mountain stands ‘tall’ in the West Desert about an hour west of Santaquin in the Little Sahara Recreation Area.  Park your vehicle at the bottom of the mound of sand, open up the trunk and cooler, strap your skis and boots to your back and begin hiking up the ridge 350 vertical feet to an east facing slope.  Click in and drop down giggly all the way back to the tailgate for a cold brew. –Alex Stoy


Long Runs around Lamp Stand

Spring in Northern Utah may be great for early morning skate skiing or late afternoon sunbathing on ‘the beach’ at Silver Lake, but it can make training for a late April half-marathon a little challenging.  If you’re tired of treadmills and soggy shoes, drive south.  There are many dry roads and trails from which to choose, but my favorite is the Lamp Stand Area off the Burr Trail.  Just a short, beautiful drive down the Trail and you can put in the miles (and miles) on relatively flat, soft, dirt roads.  Get plenty of scenic ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ without company or the agony that often accompanies your hilly training grounds back home.  –Maggie Hughey AbuHaidar 




Engelmann Spruce, Granddaddy of the Wasatch

In my travels through the powdery glades of the Wasatch, I’ve always been impressed by the tall stout Engelmann Spruce trees that live up to 450 years on the moist, northerly-facing, upper-altitude slopes. One 225 year-old specimen was felled by avalanche control work at Alta in January of 2005, in the slide that greatly widened the Rock and Roll ski run. I planted one on my wedding site under Patsy Marley’s west face near the Memorial to Alta’s founding fathers. It has a bit of scoliosis from life in an avalanche runout zone, but it had a 3year head start, and is growing faster than my sons! –Tyson Bradley


Mountain Music: Gregory Alan Isakov – What is mountain music exactly? It’s different for everybody I suppose, but for me, songs by Gregory Alan Isakov have provided the perfect soundtrack for driving up snowy canyons, breaking trail in aspen groves, and long road trips beyond Utah’s red rock desert. This singer/songwriter from Boulder, Colorado writes tunes that are poetic, bluegrassy, and invoke images of the simple life. Maybe I’m a fan because of his musical travelogues, or the fact that his songs have been featured heavily in Sweetgrass Productions ski films. Whatever the reason, Gregory Alan Isakov is absolutely perfect when paired with a mountain view outside the windshield of an old truck. –Jared Hargrave


Spring Couloirs

Everybody loves skiing powder, but as winter slides into the longer days of spring and the cold nights and warm days deliver the magic metamorphosis of the snowpack that becomes corn, it’s time to hit the steep lines. All winter you’ve been heeding the warnings to stay off of steep upper elevation terrain due to the avy hazard, but once that snowpack solidifies you know you’re in for some early mornings to get up and get at the high country before the sun turns the snow to mush. Annual objectives are realized, and often become rites of spring. My favorite- the Cold Fusion Couloir on Timpanogos. A tour to this big line on the north side of Timp signals the impending end of the ski season, as it’s difficult access and north aspect means it is often one of the last lines to melt out in the Wasatch.

–Paul Oelerich



Creepy Gas Station 

Every road trip deserves a memorable truck stop. This one can’t service any semis, but it definitely fits the bill for memorable. Located in the tiny town of Boulder, Utah, the Canyon Country Store is the perfect pit stop between Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Park. It’s been known to host banjo dueling locals in the parking lot while serving up a mean offering of organic and delicious packaged goods – items that typically never grace the shelves of gas stations. Culture and convenience, all in one! Grab a box of Newman’s Newtons and throw a dollar in the tin can while you enjoy your figs to the sound of local jams. –Whitney James



Dinosaur Fossil

Fact: Utah’s official state dinosaur is the carnivorous Allosaurus, a nimbler and smaller version of the T-Rex. (Technically, it’s the state fossil, but it’s practically one of the same.) If it were left to me, I’d give the official state emblem to the aptly named Utahsaurus. How many other states can claim they have a freakin’ dinosaur bone named after them? It makes as much sense as our state tree, which, until recently, was the Colorado Blue Spruce before some local elementary students rallied the Senate to change it to something with a bit more Utah pride: a quaking aspen. Yes, the vote passed, 26-0. –Stephanie Nitsch

This favorite website is for every Wasatch backcountry winter user who wished they had the same overview of the Wasatch Front as the heliski guides. It provides perspective to help fill in the blanks on the mental map that can be so difficult to obtain from the bottom of drainages or from thick stands of trees. The 360 degree interactive controls allows a user to hover like a large-winged avian on a warm updraft. Zoom features can pinpoint hallway size chutes. Everything with a name is identified, including locations of accidents. The alphabetic drop-down menu makes finding runs by name as easy as spending money on the Internet. –Ron Penner


Wake-the-Bleep-Up Beverage: Coffee Flip

When it’s that kind of morning, there’s only one thing to drink. Slap yourself hard across the face and pour an espresso, a shot of bourbon, a half shot of simple syrup, and an egg into a shaker with some ice. Shake as vigorously as you can muster. Strain into whatever container is nearby and consume. Good bleeping morning. –Andrew Scarcella


Desert Adventure ClimbFine Jade, The Rectory, Castle Valley – When viewed from the top of Castleton Tower the south face of the Rectory is alluring. The narrow, orange face appears chiseled by the hand of a climber. Closer inspection reveals a clean line of weakness leading nearly to the top. While the guidebook offers the second pitch as the crux most folks consider the bulging big-hands of the first pitch to be the real difficulty, but don’t let that deter you. Ongoing hands climb past the bulge and through changing corners above. The splitter finger’s of the second pitch comes quickly but it’s the thoughtful climbing afterward that stays with you. The original route heads left for an airy traverse and is topped by an overlapping dihedral to the summit. A more direct bolted finish avoids the traverse by climbing the small features on bulletproof calcite. I suggest doing the original finish then rapping down the final pitch to lead the direct finish second, because you haven’t done the route if you haven’t done the original finish. –Louis Arevalo


Life Elevated

Utah is an amazingly scenic state with its snow-capped mountains, wide-open spaces and famous red rock landscapes.  Most of us see this beauty from ground level and should really take an opportunity to see the conglomerations of color from a bird’s eye view.  OK3 Air in Heber City are the ones to make that happen. 

Whether it’s a scenic flight or a high-speed aerobatic fly-by, these pilots love what they do. Placing a wing tip close to a red rock wall or circling a snowy peak, scouting your next ski line, these pilots do it right.  Charter your next adventure with them and I’ll guarantee you’ll walk away saying the flight was the best part of your day. 

Alex Stoy

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