Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Wind Rivers in a Fifty Year Storm

It is a story that is probably better told in person. Basically every step I took in that place was awe inspiring. No permits, no people, widely varying beauty. The trails are good. The hiking is moderate and accessible.

We walked for eight miles along the head waters of the Green River. The trail was gradual and flat. After the second Green Lake the river turned a milky color with glacial minerals. We hiked until darkness covered us and we slept in moderate temperatures in perfect stillness. The next morning we woke before dawn and were hiking as the first light of morning appeared. The granite canyon walls now towered above us two thousand feet. We crossed the river on a sturdy bridge built back when the forest service had money to spend on such projects.

We then hiked out of the canyon on gradual switchbacks that took us up a thousand feet. Now above the valley we could appreciate the grandeur that it provided. In all directions we could see soaring granite. Numerous waterfalls cascaded down into the Three Forks Park at the head of the valley. We ate breakfast by a babbling brook shaded by the foliage of the forest.

Traveling through Vista Pass I began to realize that what I was so impressed with before was only becoming more incredibly beautiful the higher we got. We could now see not only the Green River Valley but the distant peaks that dominate the Wind River Range and the Continental Divide itself. We hiked through a narrow canyon filled with granite blocks the size of automobiles and then by a small lake that was filled with pure, clear water reflecting the walls that surrounded it. Past the lake we descended slightly to Peak Lake which stands in the shadow of Stroud Peak. Over the towers to the east we could see light clouds piling over the ridges as they flowed into the valley. Here we ate our lunch and marveled that such a place of beauty could also be a place of such solitude.

Shouldering our packs we began our ascent up the nameless trail towards Knapsack Col. We were then above eleven thousand feet and would reach well over twelve before we descended again. Glaciers now covered the sides of the peaks that surrounded us. They hung like ancient gardens created during the ice age. Crystal streams flowed from their base into the valley that we were ascending. The glaciers that once filled the valley created huge debris mounds that we ascended and navigated around.

Rising swiftly, our legs tired but our goal gradually grew closer and closer. By now clouds filled the view behind us, but they appeared high and non-threatening. Finally, we pulled over the ridge of Knapsack Col. We were immediately greeted by a continuous blast of wind, strong enough to push us backwards as we glimpsed the range beyond. Here the clouds were darker, heavier, and shrouded the high peaks of the range. Gannett Peak, only the next ridge over, was completely hidden. Looking down at the Twin Glaciers was not a sight that I was prepared for. Instead of the clear pristine flows of a healthy glacier I was greeted by a dying glacier, looking more like the remains of a massive eruption mixed with ice and flowing streams. With the turn of the weather our objective turned to that of quickly descending to lower elevations and a less exposed position. The last weather report that we had seen showed a 50% chance of scattered showers. This looked like more than that, but we were confident that if we could get to the lower Titcomb Basin that we could set up camp for the evening and let the storm pass.

We advanced quickly. Soon we were down below ten thousand feet, but the rain which had only been scattered before now turned to a constant downpour. The wind had picked up considerably as it became a constant force pushing us forward. From all sides, the valley began to flow with water. If the valley had not been a quarter mile wide it would have been a flash flood. We hiked quickly on, descending to the lakes that dominate Titcomb Basin. The clouds became darker. The rain fell harder. The wind blew powerfully down the canyon, approaching gale force levels. Now soaked from head to toe, we abandoned our goal of reaching the end of the valley as we realized that the weather would be at best marginally calmer there and if we did not get shelter soon we would risk hypothermia. We found a slightly raised spot of ground, free of rocks, that looked over Upper Titcomb Lake. Quickly setting up the tent, we crawled in and stripped off our wet clothes. It was early, around six o'clock. We assumed the rain would last for a few hours and then let up. It didn't. It got worse.

The moisture from our wet clothes, bodies, and the leaky tent made it a very long night. The gusting wind caused the tent poles to invert, raising the specter of a break that would tear through the fabric of the tent. That would have been life threatening. We were 18 miles from the nearest trail head. We were 30 miles from the nearest civilization. On through the night the gusts continued and the rain poured down. The sound of the river continued to increase in intensity as more and more water turned it into a torrent. There were a few moments where the rain would lighten to a sprinkle, only to quickly return to a gale. We covered our sleeping bags with a light tarp to try and prevent the moisture from destroying the protective warmth of the down. This partially worked, but little by little they were getting wet. Slowly the hours of the night passed. We had hope that the storm would die down so that we would be able to dry out.

With the light of morning we began to discuss our options. The storm did not appear to be losing strength. Looking out of our tent the dark clouds continued as far as we could see. With our sleeping bags on their way to failure we would be left with no defense against hypothermia. We had to get out. We had to get somewhere dry. The most direct path back to the car was 22 miles back over Knapsack Col.  However, two thousand feet of elevation gain, over the glacier in pouring rain, in our exhausted state, seemed a dangerous path. We could continue on our planned loop course. This would require us to cover 30 miles. Neither of us had ever covered this much ground in a single day. Doing this over unfamiliar terrain, in pouring rain, also seemed likely to be headed for failure -- the ultimate failure. The third option was to go for the nearest trail head. I knew vaguely where it was and that it was around 18 miles from where we were. However I had not planned to go this route and so I did not have a map that covered it, and I couldn't even remember its name. This meant that we would be trusting to luck our choices at the trail junctions. Since we were at the far eastern side of the Wind, that meant that we would have to navigate many junctions successfully. Hoping that a fork that trended west was really a trail that would eventually take us west. Those were our options: A climb over a Col now covered with snow, a marathon march, or a roulette wheel. In the end we chose the fastest way out on the unknown trail. Tipping the scale was the thought that we would drop elevation faster, had less miles to cover, and had a greater chance of running into other people as we would pass through popular areas in the range. We only had to stay on the correct trail and move as quickly as we could.

We put on our wet clothes, tore down the tent and were on our way in a few minutes. Traveling down Titcomb Basin it felt like we were canyoneering. Even if it wasn't raining there was no way to stay dry. The trail was a river and the landscape was soaked so that the entire valley had a quarter inch of water on it. The best you could do was try and stay out of the deeper puddles so that the water in your shoes stayed somewhat warm. The three miles to Island Lake passed quickly. As we had hoped, the weather seemed less severe as we dropped elevation. However, Island Lake, one of the most popular destinations in the range, was totally devoid of people. Everyone else had seen the signs and gotten out before the storm hit. Our hearts sank. At this point there was little other choice but to keep moving in the most likely direction. We met our first fork:  Lester pass or Seneca Lake. Lester pass trended southwest. Seneca Lake went directly west. Seneca Lake seemed the obvious choice but the consequences of a wrong choice -- the fatal consequences -- weighed in the back of our minds. I wrapped the tarp around me in order to trap the heat of my body and to try and keep the rain from getting into my pack and further soaking my sleeping bag. Off we went. The trail was mostly level or downhill, but the occasional rise slowed our progress to a stumble. I realized how tired I was. This confirmed that the direct route was our best hope. I would not have had strength for either of the other two choices. Going those paths would have resulted in another overnight ordeal, this time with nothing to keep me warm.

We reached another junction. This one headed due north. The sign read Lost Lake. The name seemed to suggest a forgotten location, not likely to be on the main path. We continued on the other fork in a southwestern direction.

Then a glimmer of hope. We started to notice in the mud the occasional faint footprint. There had been too much rain for those prints to be from a previous day. It was likely that someone was ahead of us on the trail. We only had to catch up with them and then we could be sure we were on the right trail. As we hurried along the foot prints became more distinct. We were gaining on them. Dropping down into Seneca Lake we caught our first glimpse. A group of three that were plodding along in the rain. I am sure I looked strange wrapped up in my tarp yelling as I ran to meet them. My first words were, "we don't know where we are, we are looking for the fastest way out. Do you know where the closest trail head is?", the response, "Elkhart. We're headed there now. I have an extra map that you can have." All my dread vanished. I knew that it would not be convenient, but there was little chance of disaster.

For the first time since we passed over Knapsack Col I again began to enjoy the beauty that was around me. Seneca Lake was a paradise. The views from Photographer's Point are unsurpassed. As we continued to descend, the rain began to lessen and then quit entirely. Past Barbara Lake the sun broke through the clouds. We were sill wet, but the sun plus our rapid pace kept us warm. I was able to shed my plastic wrap. Looking behind us we could see the high mountains that a few hours earlier, we had huddled among. I stared in surprise to see that they were blanketed with snow. That had been no scattered shower. The Winds had been hit by a sixteen hour torrential rainstorm with freezing temperatures at the higher elevations.

A couple hours later we were at the trail head. The sun disappeared and the rain began again. We hitched a ride into Pinedale from a friendly man named Dave from Missouri who was doing his 18th trip to the Winds. We then paid a shuttle for the hour and a half ride back to our car. As we drove home we could see the clouds building over the range. By the time we got on the highway the hurricane once again had begun. The entire range was engulfed in a black cloud that extended for fifty miles. We cranked up the heater and headed south.

Apparently the mountains weren't the only place hit by the storm. South of La Barge, flooding had shut down the highway and we were forced into an hour detour. We drove through conditions alternating off and on with heavy rain. Meanwhile, the flooding from the same storm in Colorado forced the evacuation of thousands and took the lives of at least four people.

It was an adventure in the end with little more consequence than getting very wet. It could have been very different. I came out more experienced, more respectful of the weather, but already planning to go back at the first chance I have.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Wind Rivers - Green River/Titcomb Loop

This trip covers 50 miles of the northern portion of the Wind River range over four days. On Tuesday afternoon we drive to the Green River trail head north of Pinedale. It should take us six hours to cover the 300 miles from. If we leave at 4 PM that would put us in at 10 PM.

Returning home on Saturday we should arrive late in the evening.
The route is basically a big figure eight. It can be turned into a loop trip by taking the alternate route shown in blue. The alternate route doesn't seem as scenic and it is a bit longer, but has less elevation change. 

Day one - 15 miles - 2000 feet gain. Two half a mile steps of 1000 feet. Camp two miles before Peak Lake
Day two - 10 miles - 2000 feet gain, 1500 feet loss. Camp end of Titcomb basin/Island Lake
Day three - 13 miles - 1600 feet gain, 1600 feet loss. Camp clark basin
Day four -  12 miles - 1000 feet gain, 2500 feet loss. Drive home

In this Google Earth overlay you can see the general topology of the hike. You start out on the top right and move along the Green River to the Southeast. You ascend up into the high country, past Peak Lake, and go over Knapsack Col into Titcomb Basin. The return trip takes you back to Peak Lake and then up Clark Creek and eventually to Porcupine Pass back down to Green Lake.

Related Trip Reports

This trip report covers the top half of the figure eight over four days.

This trip report comes it from New Fork (closer to Pinedale) and loops the Clark Lake/Alternate route portion of our hike.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Uinta Highline Trail 2012

July 31st - August 4th, 2012 the clan did a long walk across the Uinta Range. We did about 70 miles with the focus on hiking.  Focus on hiking means keeping the gear to a minimum and filling the days with a casual strolling pace. Our pack weights were between 28 and 14 pounds. Not ultra-light, just enjoyable-light.

Google Earth Overview - those are 13k peaks down there
Elevation Profile

Starting the trail at Chepeta Lake 

Day One

Our first day took up from Chepeta Lake over North Pole pass (4 hours to this point) and through the some beautiful woods in the basins. The starting trail head was relocated a couple years back and is very hard to follow. The key is to look for the tree scars that they use as trail markers. I think tree scars are terrible markers, but because this portion of the trail is not fully established they will be the only thing keeping you going in the right direction.

Stormy day on the Kings Peak ridge
We hiked for 11 and a half hours and ended up camping about a mile after Kidney Lake. That night it rained for four hours and my bivy tarp combo failed me. Matt kindly saved me by allowing me to crawl in with him.

Day Two

We followed the "hike a couple miles in the cool and then eat breakfast model" for the entire hike. This worked out really well and on this morning allowed us to dry out all of our wet gear while we ate.

We saw about five different groups doing the Highline during our trip, which is five more than I saw last time I did the trail. There are portions of the trail that are very clear and well traveled, but other ones require constant vigilance to keep you from ending up in a swamp. Which is exactly what happened to us on our approach to Anderson Pass. Luckily, it wasn't too bad, but I have been sucked into Uinta swamps that rivaled the Dead Marshes.

Summit of Kings Peak
Rain threatened all day with periods of blue sky followed by rain and hail. Between storms we ran up Kings Peak and had the summit to ourselves. Coming down Anderson Pass the mountain got its vengeance. "Why did the temperature suddenly drop?" I asked myself minutes before the storm hit us. Our makeshift rain coats did the job, but more rain or colder temperatures would have forced us to seek shelter.

We camped in the shadow of Kings Peak along the head waters of the Yellowstone Creek. We hiked for ten hours this day. 

The Passes

Ultra-stupid rain gear
There are six major passes on this hike: North Pole, Anderson, Porcupine, Red Knob, Dead Horse, and Rocky Sea. I have done the hike both directions and I think it might be slightly easier to go East to West, but it is highly dependent upon the mileage you do per day and where you place your camps. Going up Anderson from the West is by far the most difficult, with the West approach to Red Knob coming in second. Coming down North Pole from the East I found very enjoyable. The rest of the passes are simply fun. Someone deserves a lot of thanks for the well graded switchbacks.

Day Three

Approaching Lambert Meadows
The flat open expanse of Garfield and Oweep Basins allow you to do some significant miles. I loved powering through the wide open expanses surrounded by towering ridges and green forests in the distance. We made camp in the shadow of Red Knob with sheep bleating in the distance. This took us well over the half way marker. We did 12 and a half hours of hiking this day. Everyone was feeling good.

The Food

Dead Horse Lake
We tried to keep our food light on this trip (remember the focus on hiking). It mainly consisted of oatmeal for breakfast, candy and granola bars, bagel sandwiches for lunch (tuna, peanut butter, and salami), with burritos, turkey, or beef stroganoff for dinner. The food was more than nourishing, but I longed for tasty. I need to spend some effort on recipes that incorporate better seasoning and texture.

Day Four

The dead horse of Dead Horse Pass
 This was the day of three passes. In the morning we went over Red Knob and then Dead Horse before noon. I found the traverse to Dead Horse Lake to be especially beautiful. Wooded forests, flowing stream, and steep cliff walls. The trail up Dead Horse pass looked intimidating, but the switchback grades made it manageable. After spending an hour looking for half of our team we wandered down in the beautiful forests of Rock Creek and had a nice dinner in the shade of Rocky Sea Pass before crossing over and making camp about seven miles from our final destination.
7 of 8 passes
Rocky Sea Pass


You never really need to worry about water in the Uintas. There is a stream or pool within a mile of any place you stand. The question is how do you treat the water. They graze livestock in this national forest and so there is a lot of possible contamination, but other then that there is very little threat of water borne illness. On this trip we chose to use a chlorine dioxide mix. This was very light weight, with minimal hassle. It is probably faster to mix then pump especially in you do it in parallel and on the move. Unfortunately, I didn't quite bring enough mix for liberal usage, and so we did ration a bit and I ended up drinking a few liters of untreated water. However, my skepticism  of the whole water treatment necessity continues to grow. I think it is time for the backpacking industry to prove some significant evidence that all this treating and pumping is really beneficial.

Day Five

Minimal camping gear
This was a pleasurable romp on a flat trail that got us to Kamas for lunch before noon. We passed by Naturalist Basin and Mt. Agassiz, which I still have not visited, and considered a detour, but in the end the desire for completion won out. I think we could have easily done the trip in four days, but as it was we had a lot of fun without much aches or pain.

Success party at Hi-Mountain Drug

Facebook to Foureyes

Along with millions of others I joined Facebook in early 2008. Facebook brought people together in ways that one-sided blog posts, discussion groups, and instant messaging never could. They succeeded by combining the best aspects of each of those older social paradigms into a single space and on top of all that they gave us Farmville. Nirvana achieved?  Hardly. We are ready for more and Facebook is not providing it.

The ultimate social interface immerses you in your current situation. It categorizes your surroundings and prioritizes them in a way that is personal to you. It then allows you to add yourself to that context for others to experience. For me the ultimate social interface would be a cross between two emerging storms: Foursquare and Google Glasses.

Foursquare knows where you are. Foursquare knows where your friends are. Foursquare knows what restaurants, entertainment venues, and activities are around you. It knows your context and it knows when you move from home, to work, to shopping, to a night out. It knows what you like and it knows when things you like are around you. Foursquare has a way to go, but they are headed in the right direction and they have the data to do it.

The other piece, the hardware, is a bit further out. Smart phones are getting there, but are still clunky and often get in the way of social interaction rather than enhancing it. The Microsoft “Really” commercial is sadly spot on. Google Glasses are a step in the right direction, but they need to look more chic and less cyborg.  They also need social context. When you are standing in line at the movies you should see that your friends liked “The Artist” and hated “Brave”. In the art gallery you should see that your sister Nicole loved the Monet. At dinner you should know that your date is way into Oscar Wilde. You should know that the snowboard you want next week for your trip to Utah is on sale at the store you are walking past.

So what do you get when you cross Foursquare with Google Glasses? Foureyes. Facebook is social in a “stay at home on Friday night typing on my computer” kind of social. With Foureyes I can actually get out and be social.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Using Scripts for Unit Testing

Coming up with a readable, maintainable way to unit test service resource boundaries is an important part of service development. Commonly developers use source code implementations of their unit tests. This has the benefit of utilizing the same development language for your testing that you use for your development, but it has the disadvantages for being hard to read and being directly tied to your implementation. Readability problems result in costly maintenance as developers spend more time trying to figure out what a test is trying to do. Coupling to the implementation means that if you have a 100 coupling points that you now have 100 changes to make.

Consider the following Java example where a simple resource is requested and then the response is examined to make sure it contains the expected elements.

   /**     * Encoded URL should be decoded properly.     */     @Test     public void encodedQueryInfo() {         ClientRequest request = new ClientRequest(serviceId, "/echo/1?msg2=2&msg3=% 3D3%20cow");         ClientResponse response = ServiceRuntime.makeRequest(request);         Assert.assertTrue(response.isSuccessful());         Assert.assertTrue("msg was not found in the response", "1".equals(response.getData().getString("msg")));         Assert.assertTrue("msg2 was not found in the response", "2".equals(response.getData().getString("msg2")));         Assert.assertTrue("msg3 was not found in the response", "=3 cow".equals(response.getData().getString("msg3")));     }

There is nothing really special about this code, but it takes time to unwind what it is doing. We can attempt to clean up the example by embedding the payload string in the Java code, but this requires us to escape the string.

   /**     * Encoded URL should be decoded properly.     */     @Test
    public void getQueryInfo() {
        ClientRequest request = new ClientRequest(serviceId, "/echo/1?msg2=2&msg3=%3D3% 20cow");
        ClientResponse response = ServiceRuntime.makeRequest(request);
        String expectedResponse = DataProperties.create(
            "{" +
                "\"msg\": \"1\"," +
                "\"msg2\": \"2\"," +
                "\"msg3\": \"=3 cow\"" +

        Assert.assertTrue("wrong response given", expectedResponse.equals(response.getData().toString(1)));

The + and \" encoding makes it more difficult to maintain the test, and so we can try drop the encoding by putting it on one line and allowing single quotes, but that only trades the encoding problem for an long string readability problem.

    String expectedResponse = DataProperties.create("{'msg': '1', 'msg2': '2', 'msg3': '=3 cow'}").toString(1);

If we instead abandon our desire to use our implementation language as our testing language we can get closer to the actual interface and produce a much more human readable (i.e. maintainable) version of the test. This has the additional benefit of decoupling the code so that there is only one place to update whenever we change our backing implementation.

        "description":"Encoded URL should be decoded properly.",
                    "resource":"/echo/1?msg2=2&msg3=% 3D3%20cow",

                            "msg": "1",
                            "msg2": "2",
                            "msg3": "=3 cow"

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Maximizing Happiness

Given the fast paced accessibility of so much that our modern world provides it is really easy to loose track of what really matter. Keeping up with the Jones, filling your life with unnecessary distractions and responsibilities, as well as living your life though your children are all major pitfalls. But the most dangerous trap that Americans fall into is the accumulation of junk. Things don't make you happy. Things only enable happiness when applied to something that truly matters.

Here are some general rules that express this line of thinking.
  • You don't appreciate what you don't take care of yourself.
  • Hoards of treasure are a poison to the things that matter most. It makes you focus on things rather than people. It encourages an attitude of thinking of people as things.
  • You become the servant of the things you surround yourself with.
  • We actually need very few things in this life. Most of which we could carry on our backs.
  • The less things we have, the more useful and appreciated they become to us.
  • The less things we have cluttering up our lives the more we see the things around us that really matter.
  • If you find your pleasure in things, what will you do when they rust, fall apart, or are stolen?
  • The best thing you can do for the environment is to do without.
  • The best thing you can do for those in need is to not eat your dinner and then their dinner also.
  • The thrill we associate with acquiring things is very similar to a heroin addiction. The more we feed it less it satisfies and the more it destroys us.
Here are some examples of how to live these ideas.
  • If you can't afford it then don't buy it.
  • If you have to hire someone to take care of it then get rid of it.
  • If you have to rent storage space to store something then get rid of it.
  • If you don't use it most weeks then get rid of it.
  • If it encourages you to not interact with your family then get rid of it.
  • If one extravagant item could be exchanged for ten suitable items then don't buy the extravagant one. Instead buy 10 and give 9 to those in need.

Some Great Utah Hikes

For the past forty years I have been discovering the beauty of Utah. I started with Zion, followed by Lake Powell, the Wasatch, Uintas, Moab, Bryce, San Rafael Swell, Escalante, and the West Desert. After all of this I have still only tasted what Utah has to offer. Every year I discover a new corner, such as Maple Canyon or Lake Blanche. It makes me wonder what is yet to be discovered. Here are some of my favorites.

The Devil's Garden

The fins (Courtesy of Google Images)
Nestled at the far end of the road in Arches National Park is an area called the Devil's Garden. The northern part of the garden hosts the fantastic and fragile Landscape Arch as well as a dozen other lesser known formations. However, the really fun thing to do is explore the formations south of the Devil's Garden campground. There is a moderate trail that weaves through terrific slots of sandstone fins that tower up into the sky.

Fisher Towers

Ancient Art, notice the climber on the very top
East of Moab, within view of the Colorado River, is a place where Mother Nature made thousand foot towers by letting mud drip through her hands. An easy trail winds among the shade of the giants. This is one of those places that you thought only existed in the imagination of the mind. The Fisher Towers are very popular with climbers. A great activity is to bring a lunch, find a shady spot, and watch them climb the spires.
The Cobra

Goblin Valley

View from above
The southern end of the San Rafael Swell contains a place that feels like another planet. In fact the movie Galaxy Quest used this as the home for the rock monster Gorignak. Goblin Valley is full of hoodoos to scramble over, caves to explore, and plateaus to ascend. If you stay in the state maintained campground then you can wander the hoodoos late into the night. This is especially attractive since this part of the swell is located in one best night sky viewing areas of the United States.
Climbing on the hoodoos is encouraged

Little Wildhorse Canyon

Having fun avoiding getting wet
In the slots
Just down the road from Goblin Valley is an incredible walk that takes you through the heart of the San Rafael Reef. A half day hike will allow you to walk through body width slots and lose yourself in the shade of towering cliffs. For a longer adventure you can walk though the entire length of the canyon and then make a loop by coming down Bell Canyon.

Buckhorn Wash

Little Grand Canyon
At the northern end of the San Rafael Swell is a good twenty mile dirt road that takes you through towering sandstone walls and past ancient Indian artwork. A worthy half hour detour will put you at the top of the Little Grand Canyon as you peer down thousands of feet to the San Rafael river flowing below.
Rock art

Orderville Canyon

Beautiful light
The Zion Narrows justifiably draw visitors from all around the world. This incredible canyon formed by the constant flow of the Virgin river creates a feeling of reverence and awe. One can enjoy the narrows by simply walking up the river from the final stop of the Zion shuttle bus. However, in order to get the full experience you need to hike down from the plateau above. This can be done as a long overnight hike down the main canyon, as a highly technical canyoneering adventure via Imlay canyon, or as an enjoyable adventure by way of Orderville Canyon. While Orderville does still require some abilities with a rope in order to assist your group over a couple of fifteen foot drops it is not technical enough to require a full understanding of climbing technique. You will find that the soaring walls of Orderville create an intimate experience as you reach from one wall to the other while hundreds of feet above you a streak of blue reveals the world beyond.
One of the obstacles

Lone Peak

View of the cirque
Located among the peaks that surround Salt Lake City are several mountains that are reminiscent of the granite mountains of the Sierra Nevada. One of my favorite is Lone Peak. The cost of entry to the towering cirque of vertical walls is a strenuous three hour hike. However, once there you will easily forget that two million people live just down the trail.

Looking down at climbers

Island Lake

Exhilarating fun
On the western side of the Uinta range is a beautiful lake accessible by an easy three mile hike. Island Lake puts you into the back country where you can take a nap in the beauty of an alpine setting, hike the surrounding eleven thousand foot peaks, or jump off the forty foot cliffs into the cool snow fed waters of the lake. It is easily doable as a long day trip, or even better, as a overnight stay. No permits required.

Peaceful beauty

Lake Blanche

A short drive out of Salt Lake City and up Big Cottonwood Canyon will take you to the trail head for a moderate three mile hike that will deposit you deep in the heart of the Wasatch Mountains. Here you can view the visible effects of the glacial history of the Wasatch, sleep under the shade of a giant pine tree, fish in a pristine lake, or scale up to the ridge of Sundial peak.

Sundial Peak (Courtesy of Google Images)

Maple Canyon

Amazing rock
Just one hour south of Salt Lake City this canyon is a hidden gem of Sanpete Valley. Conglomerate stone, that looks like vertical paving stones, form canyon walls and spires that weave around tree shaded paths. Don't miss Box Canyon (a narrow side canyon off the main road), as it provides a easy romp up a narrow slot that ends in a waterfall filled amphitheater. If you are a climber, this is sport climbing paradise.