Destinations

winter cooking in the backcountry

You have just finished a seemingly endless day of snowshoeing up to Lake Blanche. You are cold, exhausted, and starving, but it is 5 p.m. already and the sun has just a few rays left peeking over the far side of the valley. What you need is a warm, big bowl of something delicious to spur your camp set-up; but nothing sounds more unappealing than cooking a traditional meal while your hands slowly turn to icicles. Luckily, your friend has come prepared with retort meals to save your stomach (and hands).

Retort is a method of cooking where all food is prepped at home and put in bags to reheat in boiling water. It is by far the easiest and most efficient way of getting a meal out of your backpack and into your mouth. Although fairly simple, here are a few tips to make the process even smoother.

  • The looser the meal, the faster the reheat time. This means soups, chili, sauces, and broths are ideal.
  • Cut up large chunks of food. Big pieces of meat, potatoes, vegetables, etc. take a longer time to reheat. Cutting them down can shave minutes off your cook time.
  • The more surface area the meal has, the faster the cooking time as well. Squishing the food down into a flat pancake will heat more food and will ensure that terrible cold center disaster does not happen.
  • Always double bag foods when transporting. Nothing, and I really mean nothing, is more unpleasant than finding frozen chili strewn throughout your gear six miles into the backcountry.
  • Get a stove that can hold a large pot. Nobody wants to have to cook one meal at a time, and even less people want to be the last person to eat. Also, don’t let the bags touch the sides of the pot. This is sure to melt them.
  • Plan and prep at home. Spending an hour in the warmth of your kitchen cooking and bagging a meal means spending fifteen or twenty minutes in the cold snow before you can eat it.
  • Not every part of your meal has to be reheated. Bring a bag of Fritos, some cheese, lettuce, and sour cream. Add warmed taco meat and you have yourself a nice bag of walking tacos.
  • Use Ziplock or Glad freezer bags. Both these brands don’t use BPA in their products and the freezer bag will hold together better in the boiling water.

From here, the possibilities really are endless. I have seen people reheat whole steaks they grilled at their house, bring all the components of a real ramen out and add the hot broth, even soft boil eggs. Since you are camping in cold temperatures, you need not worry about food spoiling. Bring the milk, meat, and cheese! Be liberated by having a way to cook good food in the beauty of snow-covered mountains. If all else on your trip hits the fan, at least you’ll remember the curry you had sitting next to frozen Lake Blanche.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Carolyn Webber

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Spend the holidays outdoors

It’s the most wonderful time of year, and what could be more wonderful than spending it the great outdoors? Whether you’re looking for an escape from the crowds of Christmas shoppers in the backcountry or join them singing carols on the slopes, we’ve got a few options for you.

Santa and Sunsets at Deer Valley

The man with the cherry red nose andeight reindeer will make a special appearance at Deer Valley on Dec. 24, for photos and wish lists at the Snow Park Lodge area in the morning and Silver Lake Lodge area until 1:30 p.m. There will be a sunset ski down the Homeward Bound run on Bald Mountain from the Sterling Express lift.

Snowbird Traditions

Throughout December, Snowbird is popping with holiday traditions. From Dec. 6-13 Hanukkah candle lighting will take place every night at sundown. On Dec. 18 and 19, there will be a Torchlight Parade and fireworks as well as a ceremony on the Plaza Deck in remembrance of Dick Bass, the former owner of Snowbird Ski resort and also a man who summited the seven peaks. A tree lighting ceremony in honor of veterans will also take place on Dec 19. Christmas Eve will be filled with skiing Santas, as the first 100 Santas enter for free. There will be another Torchlight Parade followed by fireworks, a candlelight service, and Christmas Eve dinner prepared by Snowbird’s finest dining from 5-10 p.m. for those who join. On Christmas, Mr. and Mrs. Claus will ride the ‘Bird and attend a Christmas dinner.

Stay in a Yurt

Adventure like the nomads, go off the grid for a few days and enjoy a getaway with your family in a cozy yurt for the holidays. A yurt is a circular tent made up of thick skins or other various materials that has a collapsible frame. These were once used by nomads in Siberia, Mongolia, and Turkey. They are available all over the Wasatch, but the top rated ones are in Goblin Valley, Blue Sky Antelope, and Castle Peak. Yurts are an ideal way to escape the distractions of the world and enjoy a peaceful time with family and friends this holiday.

m.mensinger@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Carolyn Webber

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How to: Hike With Your Pup in the Wasatch

If you enjoy immersing yourself in nature, odds are your dog does too. With four points of contact to the rocky soil and an instinctual connection to all things outside, your dog is a much more effective hiking buddy than you may think. This week, we share with you some helpful guidelines for experiencing nature with your pup safely and responsibly, as well as some opportune, and prohibited, places to embark.

Pack for Two: Dogs exert a great deal of energy while climbing a mountain, and they need plenty of food and water in compensation. Pack double water and enough treats for a subsequent snacks — especially on longer hikes. Rather than relying on your cupped hands or the tiny lid of a water bottle, bring a drinking bowl, ideally a durable one that won’t break in your pack or against a rock.

Be Conscious of Location: While the four-legged form is exceptionally well-equipped for steep and rocky terrain, it’s best to avoid anything too technical, lest you overwhelm or potentially endanger your furry companion. Smaller peaks and regular trails are fine, just avoid anything with serious scrambling or exposure. Many places are explicitly prohibited to dogs- more on that below.

Be Respectful: Be respectful and conscious when in the alpine. Regardless of how warm, kind, and obedient you think your doggy is, bring along a leash in any circumstances, one never knows how their dog will react to certain stimuli and personalities in nature. Bring along a few baggies to collect your dog’s sporatic waste. Yes, it’s gross, but you should carry a larger bag for trash anyway — you won’t even notice a bit of extra, contained cargo.

Also — and this one is important — be sure that your furry friend is in good health and up to the task. Last summer I had to carry Rosco (the smiling border collie above) down two plus miles of hiking trail on the account of an injured dewclaw that I had thought wouldn’t be a problem that day.

Where to Go: A Few of My Favorites and Permitted Areas
Grandeur Peak and Mount Wire are very close to campus and great for both humans and dogs — really, most trails along the foothills, smaller mountains, and Bonneville Shoreline Trail are exceptional.
Neff’s Canyon
East Canyon
Mount Olympus Trail — a bit of technical scrambling after saddle though virtually no exposure.
Mill creek Canyon — a multitude of great dog hikes, off-leash permitted on odd days.

Permanent Prohibitions: No Dogs Allowed, Watershed Areas
Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons
Parleys, Dell, and Lambs Canyons
I strongly recommend not marching your dog up any of the Wasatch’s 11,000ers, even those outside of watershed areas.

d.rees@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Dalton Rees

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Insider’s Guide to Brighton

The 80-year-old resort has more than 1,875 vertical feet of skiable terrain that caters to a wide range of skier abilities. Located at the top of Big Cottonwood, the resort is only 35 minutes from the Salt Lake airport and offers some of the cheapest lift tickets in the Cottonwoods.

Patrick Kolbay, a PhD student in biomedical engineering, is currently going through training to become a part of the Brighton Ski Patrol for this upcoming season.

Q: What kind of people go to this resort?

A: We definitely get a large variety of people ranging from park lovers to families. If you know where to go, Brighton almost always has pockets of powder days after the storm.

Q: What’s it like working there?

A: The employees and management are absolutely awesome. When I first joined the ski patrol I was told I’d be joining a family, and that’s absolutely the case. Everyone has each others’ backs and we’re there to help people. No attitudes, just good times.

Q: So, is the job as good as everyone thinks it is?

A: It has its pros and cons. We do have to be up at the resort hours before they open, and while it may seem like all we do is ski around in our patrol jackets, there are times when we spend hours of manual labor maintaining the resort or alternatively hours of boredom waiting in the patrol shacks. That said, we do get to take a few turns before the public gets access after storms, and helping those who are hurt is always rewarding. It’s a mixed bag, like most things, but all in all I love the job.

Q: Any stereotypes of ski patrol that prove true?

A: We can definitely seem like wet blankets a lot of the time, but that’s because we’re legitimately worried about everyone’s safety. After you see some of the accidents and what can happen when a body hits a tree at 30 miles per hour, you definitely become more cautious.

Q: What are some secrets to the resort?

A: I’ll keep the best runs a secret for myself, but I can say the trees below Snake are definitely underrated. Night skiing is also a great time to get some turns in without much competition when it’s nuking.

Q: Backcountry powder or groomers? Park rat or speed demon?

A: Definitely backcountry powder and speed demon.

Q: And after a long day boarding/skiing, where do you fuel up?

A: The best deal is the Porcupine Grill at the base of BCC. Don’t bother with any of the entrees, just get the nachos from the appetizer menu with added black beans. That thing will feed four people no problem for like $7.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Kiffer Creveling

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Insider’s guide to Alta

In the United States there are three skiers-only resorts, two of which are in Utah. Alta Ski Resort is one of the oldest resorts in Utah, beloved by visitors and locals alike. The Alf Engen Ski School at Alta was the first ski school in Utah, and for years its focus has been on teaching people of all ages to ski. Twenty-five percent of the runs are beginner, 40 percent are intermediate and 35 percent are advanced, meaning Alta has great terrain for skiers of all levels. Lismore Nebeker, a junior in health society and policy, worked at Alta last winter as a ski instructor. Here’s what she said about working the mountain.

Q: What kind of people go to Alta? What attracts them to this resort?

L: Having it be an all-skiers resort makes it extremely unique, it keeps the terrain perfect for skiers, and it’s something that sets it apart.

I think something that’s also pretty cool about Alta is that it’s been kept pretty traditional over the years, they do a lot of different maintenance updates but it really feels like an old school resort when you get there…Alta’s biggest focus is the mountain, and the skiing, and good snow and good friends.

Q: And you? What makes Alta your resort?

L: I have been skiing at Alta since I was two years old. I grew up at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon and I have a family cabin in Albion Basin. It was the first cabin on the mountain that my grandpa built 60 years ago. My last name is Nebeker and we always say “You’re not a Nebeker if you don’t ski at Alta.” My dad, my granddad, and all my aunts and uncles grew up skiing at Alta. It was a family resort for us.

Q: What are some of the pros of working at Alta?

L: The best part about last year is I was up there four-to-five times a week. I was on the mountain, I was skiing with friends, and I was teaching little kids how to ski which was so fun. It was so unique to be able to see it click in kids’ heads.

Q: What has been one of your favorite days while working at Alta?

L: We had a crazy day last winter. It was a complete blizzard, it was just dumping snow. We were put on interlatch in the lodge. Interlatch means that you can’t leave the buildings while patrol is trying to take care of any avalanche dangers within bounds. All of these kids were asking “When can we go back out to ski? When can we go back out?” All they wanted to do was go back out and ski even though it was a crazy blizzard outside. The kids love it.

Q: Any stereotypes of ski patrol or lift workers that prove true? Or false?

L: I think some people would argue that the atmosphere is too chill. The biggest stereotype is the idea of ski bums smoking weed, drinking and hanging out, skiing all day. I’ve definitely found that that’s not the case, these people have really made a career out of ski instructing. There are plenty of people up there that have been doing this for many years. Some have previously skied professionally, or raced, or have instructed at other resorts and ended up at Alta. It’s definitely something that’s a career-driven place to work.

Q: Where’s the best place to get food at the resort after a long day of skiing?

L: A lot of the ski instructors go to the P-Dog. It’s a bar in the Peruvian lodge at Alta. It’s a hangout spot whether or not you drink. The ski instructors hang out after work, kick their ski boots off and talk about their day.

Q: In the future, would it be a conflict of interest to marry a snowboarder?

L: Yeah, probably. *Laughs* No’ I’m just kidding. I could probably manage a boarder; our kids would definitely need to know how to ski so they could get into the family cabin. So they would have to know skiing first and then if they wanted to pick up snowboarding they could.

Q: Why do you love what you do?

L: I think more than anything, just having [skiing] be a lifelong sport for me. It was a part of growing up. I think the reason why I wanted to work in the ski school was wanting to teach to have fun while skiing. It’s good to remember that it is a recreational sport and that you’re supposed to have fun. It doesn’t really matter how good you are, it can get pretty competitive and aggressive really quickly, but if you remember that it’s something you do for fun, and something you can with friends, it’s something that you can do for life. My grandma skied well into her seventies. It’s something that I’ll be able to do my whole life.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Lismore Nebeker

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Island Biking

Have you ever seen that mountain that seems to sit inside the Great Salt Lake? Ever wondered what it is? Antelope Island, a sagebrush and bison-covered chunk of 42 square miles plopped in the middle of Utah’s biggest lake. Conveniently, it’s only two hours north of the U and a great place to explore different terrain on your mountain bike.

Each of the trails have varying levels of difficulty.  Split Rock Loop (five miles) and White Rock Loop (6.4 miles) are both on the western end of the island near the bison corral.  The popular Split Rock Loop descends very quickly towards Split Rock near the west shore. Once there, continue on the trail up the mountain to the historical horse corral. White Rook Loop is a nice warm-up that will get the blood flowing in your legs. You will definitely want to do this ride first on the island. If you continue south on the island, do the Elephant Head Spur or Split Rock Loop. On the east side of the island is the Mountain View Trail — an 11.8 mile one-way trail which goes along the edge of the shore from north to south, all the while featuring a backdrop of the Wasatch Front.

The trail to the highest point on Antelope Island, Frary Peak, does not allow cyclists due to the difficulty of the trail, but you can hike to the top if you desire.  The east side of the island is still in the development process of mountain biking trails.

Because of the excess of insects, pack bug repellent and go in early spring or late fall when the insect level is decreasing.

Once you make your way to the island, bison will welcome you. William Glassman and John Dooly introduced bison to the island in the late 1800s. Today, there are nearly 700 bison that call Antelope Island home. Depending on the time you head out to ride your bike, you’ll come across these muscular, car-sized beasts grazing in the fields.

To get there, head north on I-15 and take the Antelope Island Dr. exit in Syracuse. Before crossing Farmington Bay, stop at the ranger station and pay the $10 entrance fee.  Head west along the Davis County causeway, the only road accessible to the island.

k.creveling@dailyutahchronicle.com

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The Real Reason Locals Don’t Swim in the Salt Lake

The Great Salt Lake: the largest lake in the Great Basin, the namesake of Salt Lake City, and the body of water everyone ignores just northwest of town. In the summer, the lake reeks of rotting brine shrimp carcasses. In the winter it just sits there, frigid, while everyone is preoccupied with the more enticing skiing nearby. Sketchy chemical plants and refineries appear to drain into the reservoir. Plus, it’s really salty — five times saltier than the ocean.

Perfect conditions for a swim.

It seems like very few people from Utah have swum in the Salt Lake and/or have no desire to. I embarked on a personal quest for answers as to why this is the case. I approached some friends and asked if they had been in the lake before, receiving looks of confusion in return. Swimming in the lake was heresy to them; the in-staters had never even considered it. When I asked if they wanted to join me in my baptismal dip to find out what we could be missing, I was greeted with a more alarmed reaction of repulsion: “You’re going to swim in the Salt Lake?! That cesspool? Ew!” These responses only ignited my fire to give it a try. After this investigation, the only real option that remained to understand why it seems nobody swims in the Salt Lake was to jump in it myself. The only never-before-swam-in-the-Salt-Lake Utahn willing to come along was Wasatch editor Carolyn Webber. We headed out to Great Salt Lake State Park in the afternoon on a Thursday after class.

Arriving at the beach, we were initially discouraged by the sand reeking of a sulfuric scent and the refinery smokestack towering above acting as a likely suspect. But we pushed on, and the lake itself wasn’t too smelly. The only possible gross deterrents were the expected foam and a few live brine shrimp.

Finally on the shore, it was the moment of truth. We tested the water for temperature (not bad!) and went for it, sprinting in and going all the way under. The first words from Webber were, “Don’t open your eyes! It’s salty!” That about summed up the experience: salty. The novel fact that you can float without any effort because of the salt content held true. The water tasted significantly more salty than the ocean. The salt burned a scrape of mine as the online guides said it would. After getting out and drying off with a towel, a layer of salt remained behind.

However, this saltiness was secondary to the tranquillity of the lake. There were no waves and the flat lake extended for miles. This unique beauty was easier to appreciate while  actually soaking in the water, altogether surprisingly close to an ocean-swimming experience.

So,  swimming in the Salt Lake: pass or fail? We rate it as a pass. Just make sure you bring some lotion.

c.hammock@dailyutahchronicle.com

Photo by Chris Hammock

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Find Adventure at Farmington Bay

Eighteen thousand acres on the Great Salt Lake of underrated, adventure-filled territory — that’s Farmington Bay. Whether you’re bird watching, mountain biking, kayaking, or hiking, this wildlife sanctuary is a must-see. Watch baby ducks take their first flight in September or snowshoe along a frozen trail in February. Although the open water is too salty for fish, it is home to invertebrates such as brine shrimp and brine flies, which serve as a feast for migratory birds in the fall.

There are two main loops to hike — a short one and a long one. Both loops offer opportunities to view wildlife at every corner and a rarely seen view of the Wasatch mountain range. The short loop is a little over six miles along a flat dirt road that is closed off to cars. The big loop is about 10 miles through the marshlands of the bay area. Both loops are open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily from the beginning of August to the end of February. The short loop is closed from the beginning of March to the end of July to allow for bird nesting. Only certain parts of the bay are open year-round, so it is important to check online to see if any changes have been made. The bay is also open to recreational use such as kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding. Floating along the Salt Lake, you’ll get views you can’t get anywhere else. Plus, the vast size makes you feel as if you could paddle forever.

If you end up here during the beginning of August and September, bug spray is a must. In the winter, dress warmly because it can get windy.

p.creveling@dailyutahchronicle.com

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Birding on Utah’s Salty Shores

Despite its seemingly dead appearance at first glance, the Great Salt Lake is a fascinating ecosystem rich with life. It happens to be one of the most important bird migration stops in western North America. Thanks to the mostly arid Utah climate, birds congregate around bodies of water, making the vast lake home to millions of shore birds, water birds, songbirds, and birds of prey, such as bald eagles and falcons. Birding enthusiasts and conservationists flock to the lake from all over to experience its diverse and colorful bird life. In late summer, watch in awe as giant flocks of red necked phalaropes create their signature whirlpools in the salty waters, stirring up brine shrimp and other invertebrates to feast on before their long journey to South America. In the winter, spot a majestic barn owl on the hunt catch a rabbit in its powerful talons.

One of the hotspots for bird watchers is Antelope Island. This 28,800 acre state park is open year round and hosts antelope, bison, and bighorn sheep. Don’t let the dropping temperatures fool you, now is prime time to bring your binocs and watch the show. Some birds to look for in the winter months include grebes, tundra swans, horned larks, and chukars.You’ll find tundra swans aren’t hard to miss with their symphony of honks, while horned larks are a bit more subtle with soft calls, sometimes seen singing with their yellow colored faces and white underbellies visible while perched on rocks or signs.

Before you embark on your birding adventure, you’re going to need some essentials.

Binoculars: These will transform tiny flying specks into colorful and detailed patterns and feathers. A pair can range from $30 to upwards of $500. With a bit of research you can find the best pair for your needs.

A field guide: Specifically a field guide with pictures, so you know what you’re looking at. You can get a reputable and relatively low cost guide for under $10 from National Geographic or the National Audubon Society. You can also find guides regional to Utah for under $5 at most bookstores.

A camera: One with a telephoto lens if possible. Short-range portrait lenses don’t capture detail from a distance, much like your naked eye.

If you are interested in going full-on bird-nerd and learning more about the Great Salt Lake and its feathered friends, the Salt Lake Audubon Society is hosting their biennial Friends of The Great Salt Lake Birds n’ Bites: Highlights of the 2016 Great Salt Lake Issues Forum on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 7:00 p.m., at the Tracy Aviary Education Building.

You can also check out the Great Salt Lake Audubon official website for a calendar of events, including a number of guided field trips with bird watching experts.

a.winter@dailyutahchronicle.com

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Haunted Wasatch: Spooky Thrills for the Fearless Outdoor Adventurist

Sepulchral winds and the discarded leaves of dying trees mark the gloomy insurgence of fall, beckoning intrepid fright-seekers towards eerie locations of urban legends. While the essences of revenants in discord typically dwell within the decaying walls of their places of demise, several outdoor excursions are said to serve as refuge for lingering entities. Each slice of northern Utah wilderness in this list is within driving distance and ripe for spooky exploration before the snow falls — if you dare.

Moon Lake

Nestled within the High Uintas of Duchesne County, Moon Lake is an opalescent alpine lake heavily frequented by hikers and campers alike. While the area is one of unique natural beauty, frightened visitors have reported their stays at Moon Lake to be cohabited by the shivering apparition of a drowned young girl. Typically appearing in broad daylight, the phantom is said to have blue lips and be adorned in soaked clothing, approaching only those who are alone. Bewildered campers have also attested to inexplicable sounds of splashing or sobbing after dark, even the rapid patter of footsteps through the campground despite the absence of other [living] visitors.

Gobbler’s Knob

Since its initial monetary exploitation at the hands of prospectors nearly two-hundred years ago, this Wasatch peak has become a hot spot for inexplicable occurrences and disappearances. Legend has it that “Dirty” Joe Taylor, the Knob’s name-giver and one of the original miners to extract the mountain’s natural resources, conceived the name in reference to a series of encounters he supposedly had with an otherworldly entity that has inhabited the mountain for millennia. Entries recovered from Taylor’s enigmatic, nearly illegible journals describe the creature as a gargantuan turkey, adorned in golden jewelry, silk, and a luminescent crown. In its telepathic mode of communication, the fowl monarch instructed Taylor to abandon his mining operations at once (lest he is gobbled into oblivion). Later in life, Taylor wrote extensively about the mountain’s existence as a spiritual refuge for the droves of turkeys massacred at the hands of human beings near Thanksgiving—a knob at which the birds could gobble freely in the next life. It is advised that non-vegans avoid the area after nightfall.

Mercur Cemetery

Among high desert sands and scrub oak lies the Mercur Cemetery, approximately 10 miles south of Tooele. This decaying burial ground is like something from an old western film, and is said to be the haunting grounds of the dead of decades past. Witness accounts of this place are multiplicitous as they are varied, ranging from the chance sighting of a phantom rider prowling the grounds after dark to the inexplicable conjurations of shadowy figures and sounds of scampering footsteps.

Fremont Island, Great Salt Lake

Along the foul-smelling, foggy banks of Fremont Island, individuals have sighted the ghost of late 19th century gravedigger, Jean Baptiste, wandering on moonlit nights. A pathological tomb thief, Baptiste was accused of disturbing the graves of over 300 deceased Utahns, specializing in the collection of their clothing. For his protection from vengeful family members of the deceased, the rouge was transported to Fremont island to await trial before mysteriously vanishing shortly thereafter. The curious specter carries a loose bundle of clothing in virtually all sightings.

Photos by Dalton Rees

Photos by Dalton Rees

d.rees@dailyutahchronicle.com

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