Saturday, July 21, 2012

Vacation, in a Glass, on A Bike

30 years I worked on a vineyard on the shores of Seneca Lake. It was brutally hot in summer and oppressively gray in winter. The grapes were mostly catawbas, a local red wine grape. While we also tried growing some french hybrids there really was no where to sell them. What grapes we did grow we trucked over to Taylor on Keuka Lake, just like most of the other grape growers in the Finger Lakes.

The predominate culture was pretty traditional. Traditional agriculture, in middle-class America. Only in Ithaca, 60 miles to the East on Cayuga Lake, was there any hint of another way, of anything organic, or any type of appreciation for local food, or quality wines. The Moosewood Restaurant was there, but they had yet to become famous, had yet to publish even their first cookbook.

During the Seneca Lake days, I also don't remember seeing a single bike. Considering the hills, I think if I had seen someone ride by, I might have thought them crazy.

Today, however, S.D. and I are heading back to the Finger Lakes for 6 days and 500 miles of bike riding. The Bon Ton Roulet is an annual
ride around the lakes, through the farm lands, small towns and vineyards. According to Summer in a Glass: The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes , the presence of bike riders isn't the only change in the Finger Lakes.  Apparently the agricultural scene, and especially the wineries have improved greatly in the last 30 years. In the oblivion of youth, the only time I'd attending a wine tasting was on the hot summer days, and only as a prelude to a swim in the freezing waters of Lake Seneca. Now apparently, there are a number of highly regarding wineries producing excellent Rieslings, Pinot Noirs, Gew├╝rztraminers and others. Many of which we'll be riding (perhaps stopping?) by.

The Tour de France ends tomorrow beginning with the traditional 40 km ride where the preemptive yellow jersey winner (Bradley Wiggins) will ride and drink champagne. Next week, I'm going to do a whole new tour impression. Riding through the Finger Lakes, I'll stop at few wineries, appreciate the work and change that has come to area and raise a glass in celebration.

Friday, July 20, 2012

When in Rome. SD and I go Mountain Biking

On the last day of our hiking vacation, SD and decided to try something different.

Summer in Park City, is mostly known for mountain biking and beer drinking. SD and I had already enjoyed a number of fine Utah microbrews but we had not gone mountain biking. In fact, I'd only gone twice before in my life (the second time ripping my hamstring) and SD had never gone. And so, being in Park City, we signed up for a two hour mountain bike lesson/ride with a guide from White Pine Touring.

The Guide was great. Very patient in explaining the differences between road and mountain biking. She didn't laugh too hard when she caught me drafting her on a single track. And she took us on a great spin through Cemetery Hill. At the beginning of the tour, she also spent time showing us how to turn and descend. Which is surprisingly different from turning and descending on a road bike. I did okay. S.D., who approached the lesson a bit more ambitiously than I,  took two 'diggers'. But he got up from both and seemed to enjoy the rest of the ride. It was only as we were driving to Salt Lake City that he began to wince in pain. On the plane he was grimly silent. It was only after returning home that he informed me that he thought he'd cracked a rib.

Good thing we went mountain biking on the last day!

Dog Lake Loop - There's a lot of Geology Going On

Seems a dog's age since we did this hike in May, here it is July and I haven't written it up. Which isn't to say it wasn't a great hike, it was! So here goes.

While I still haven't gotten my head around all the geological stuff going on in the Wasatch Range. This hike up to and around Dog Lake, took us through most of it and as it rolled through all the major mico-climates in the Wasatch Range.

Leaving the Mill D trailhead off Big Cottonwood Canyon we hiked North up a narrow, stream-carved valley with hundreds of wildflowers just beginning to bloom. Looking to the East we often caught glimpses of various veins, outcroppings and fault-lifts of the Wasatch Ridge where we'd just been climbing through snowdrifts the day before.

Dog Lake was a nice spot, beside what could only a glacial drumlin, from the summit of which you could look south and see the terminal moraines from the glacier that carved the valley we were about to descend.

Leaving the lake to the West we passed through a wide glacial valley of budding aspens,  through a stream carved break in the moraine, and a dark fir forest, back down to the valley floor.

It was a fitting hike on which to end this Utah vacation.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Trapper, or the Park City Dark and Stormy, or the ???

While on vacation SD and I occasionally take a break from the hiking (or biking) and scout out the towns and the local hangouts.
After only two days we found that the rooftop deck of No Name Saloon on Main Street in downtown Park City was a great place to hang out,  eat a Bison Burger and invent a new drink. Below on the street the tourist stroll by and the locals ride their bikes up and down the street, repair them, talk about them, etc.  The meter maid strolls by taking photos of offending cars (but never ticketing them), the Historic Park City Free Bus drives by every 4 minutes.
On our second night at the No Name, the waiter, Trapper, informed us that there was a new heifenwieser on tap, a "summer, lemony thing". He brought it, and added a lemon saying he “wasn't sure if it needed it, or what it needed.” After taking a sip, I wasn't sure what it needed either. If you wanted a lemonade beer, then it didn't need anything. But if you wanted a drink, it was lacking...something. A shot of SD's beer helped but not enough. What it needed was a shot of dark rum. Trapper was skeptical but game and so a new drink was born. It tastes a bit like a Dark and Stormy but crisper, cleaner, not so foggy. The perfect drink for those New England summer days on the water, that are bright and clear and not stormy. What it should really be called however, remains unclear.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Crest Walking with Heidi

After an entire day of walking above treeline, we were ready for more! While we had been hiking yesterday Guardsmans Pass and the road over the mountains to Big Cottonwood Canyon had opened. Winter snowfall had been below normal and the road cleared a month ahead of the usual time and opened up access to even more great ridge walks. Scanning the maps and books we set our sights on the Wasatch Crest Trail.

Everything we read mentioned this trail as great for technical mountain bikers and for the views. We hadn't seen a single mountain biker all day yesterday, and with snow still on the peaks we doubted we would see any today. But the sky was clear and with the prospect for more awesome views we arrived at the trailhead at STHT (Standard Trailhead Time - 8:00am).

Less than a mile up the trail we hit the crest, and the view was stunning! A few more feet further, down the North side of the peak and we hit the snow, and the walking was postholing. Through the trees we could see clear ground, but getting to it was laborious, and painful. Stepping out, then down into thigh-deep snow is bad enough, doing it in shorts is painful. The truth is, snow hurts! Every one of those itty bitty little ice particles just slices into your skin.

But anyway, we got through that section and were soon back to smooth walking and gorgeous views, and a whole other batch of wildflowers. The Wasatch Crest runs at about 10,000 ft., 2000 ft higher then yesterday's hike. Looking South-east we could even look down on yesterday's trail. After roughly 7 miles, as we were back on the North side of another peak we came to another very deep, very steep snow section and decided it would be a good time to turn around for the day.

I'm not much of an out-and-back hiker perferring to hike loops whenever possible, but as SD reminded me, and is correct about, the views walking back are completely different, and just as gorgeous.  Or should I say awesome?

I've never been to the Alps, but as a kid, and with my kids I watched "Heidi" a lot. Much of the time on the Wasatch Ridge, hiking along among the peaks, the snow, and the fields of wildflowers I kept feeling like I'd run into Heidi, Clara, and Uncle Alm.