Weber/Cache Counties

Misadventures Down the Weber River

Utah’s summer can go from frying an egg on the sidewalk to ground-shaking thunderstorms with a 110% chance of downpour in what seems like very little time at all. Throughout those summer months, whether you’re trying to escape the heat or racing home to find shelter from the rain, the Weber River always prevails. Named after the American trapper Henry Weber, this 125-mile stretch of flowing water begins in the northwest ridges of our beloved Uintah mountain range and finds its way to the Great Salt Lake. For the outdoor adventurer, floating that stretch makes for a perfect day activity.

If you’ve ever floated a river, you know you must carefully pick your choice of floatation device. A $10 floatie that was on sale at your local grocery store isn’t going to cut it. Trust me, I know.

The first time I had ever floated the Weber was an utter disaster. It started when my friends and I realized we were not about to waste a beautiful summer’s day sitting inside watching TV. Instead, we found ourselves out in the heat, sitting around what looked like a campfire–but was, in fact, a small plastic kiddie pool. I had the brilliant idea of filling it with ice and water to keep cool (because, you know, we’re poor college students who don’t have access to a nice pool). With a beer in one hand and sunscreen in the other, this got real boring real fast. My roommate mumbled about how uncomfortable and sweaty she was and she wished she could lie out on the giant ice cream-shaped floatie she had just bought at the mall. She continued to talk about how she got it on sale and suddenly she stood up, an idea on her lips. “Let’s float the Weber river, guys!” she screamed. At this point, all I could think of was submerging myself in ice-cold running water, so we threw our swimsuits on and departed.

For preparation all we did was Google “Weber River” and Google maps took us towards what we hoped was the correct location. I had no idea what I was doing other than floating a so-called river out in the middle of nowhere. We continued driving alongside the river until someone saw an area of the river where people were occupied. We took the nearest exit shortly after the sighting and headed towards the people. From there we hopped in the river and started our adventure, following a family down the stream. It was all fun and games until the massive boulders in the river began creating rapids, at which point it became clear that my ice cream-shaped floatie and I were not equipped for this moment. I began to kick my legs, maneuvering around the rocks with some little success, occasionally experiencing sudden pain whenever my body collided with the partially submerged rocks all around.

Soon enough, the pickup area was in sight. We watched the family ahead begin packing their things in a car they had left previous to getting in the river, and slowly, we all realized exactly how big of a mistake we had made. Everyone had been so excited about escaping the heat, no one had thought about how we would be getting back to the car.  All I could do was the classic face palm. “How did we not think about this?!” I thought. Luckily, my friend Andy hurried over to the family and asked for a ride back up to our car. They agreed and we patiently waited for Andy to arrive.

While this makes for a great story, I think any one of us would rather be prepared than taking the chance of being stranded in a canyon. So I suggest one of two different ways you can float this magnificent river and avoid the mistake we made.

Option One: Self-Service

Take two cars, parking one at the end before starting, and then using the other to drive to your start point, and bring your own tubes and life jackets.

What you’ll need:

  • Two cars— One to park at the drop-off site and one to leave at the pickup site.
  • Tubes— This isn’t the lazy river at a water park. You’ll occasionally run into sharp rocks, which can pop your tube. So bring an extra and strap it to your current tube. You can also rent tubes/life jackets at the University of Utah’s Outdoor Adventures located in the Student Life Center if you have room to pack it in your car.
  • Life Jackets— Safety first; it’s the law. Weber County DNR officers frequently drive up and down this river to make sure everyone has a life jacket. It’s a hefty fine if they catch you without one so make sure it’s on even if you decide to take a pit stop on the shore.
  • Sturdy Shoes—Don’t wear flip-flops. No one wants to chase after a rogue sandal or stub a toe.
  • Relevant Clothes— Rapids means a chance of flipping over. Plants mean a chance of getting caught in branches and/or weeds. Being outside means a chance you’ll smell. I wore a swimsuit and swim shorts.
  • Waterproof Bag— Some keys aren’t meant for water. Even with the bags, best to leave cell phones in the car.
  • Snacks— Don’t forget this float is approximately two hours. You’ll probably get hungry. DRINK ANYTHING OTHER THAN WATER AT YOUR OWN RISK. If you decide to do so, make sure you are still able to guide yourself around rapids, and through the right tunnels. And be warned, there’s always a chance of getting arrested for public intoxication. No matter what, don’t forget to pack out what you pack in. This means DON’T LITTER.

How to get there:

  • If you’re coming from the good ol’ SLC, take I-15 north towards Ogden.
  • Continue onto Highway 89.
  • Head east towards Evanston, WY on I-84.
  • Continue east through the beautiful canyon, and then take Exit 108 to drop off the second car where you’ll end. A left turn off the ramp and under the overpass will take you to a parking lot.
  • For the first car, continue on I-84 until Exit 111 for Croydon (this is where the fun starts).
  • Follow the road under the bridge and you’ll find parking on your right.

Barefoot Tubing Co. Photo by Annie Duong.

 

 

Option Two: Business Service–Barefoot Tubing Co.

Tube through an actual business. This is one I highly recommend, especially if you don’t have the gear on hand. Barefoot Tubing Co. was the service I have had experience using. The people there are great, the equipment is provided, and they’ll give you a good idea of what you’ll be going up against before you hit the river. The best part about this service is the shuttle rides. For $25 dollars, they provide you a heavy-duty tube, a life jacket, and shuttle rides up and down the river.

 

What you’ll need:

  • Reservations— With a max of 25 people per shuttle ride, you’ll need to call ahead and let them know how many are in your party.
  • Money— You can’t put a price on fun but you sure can on rentals. The $25 per person fee includes: a heavy duty tube, life jacket, and shuttle rides up and back down to the parking lot.
  • Sturdy Shoes— See above
  • Relevant Clothes— See above
  • Waterproof Bag— See above
  • Snacks—See above
  • Forgot something? Unprepared?— Barefoot sells sunscreen, water shoes, sunglasses, and waterproof pouches!

How to get there:

  • The address is 1400 E Round Valley Way, Morgan, UT 84050. It’s as easy as searching “Barefoot Tubing Co.” in your Google maps.
  • Once you’ve arrived, all you have to worry about is leaving your keys safely with Barefoot and you’re off for some floating fun.

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Quick Escape to the Foothills: The Triple-Tower Loop

In the midst of these final weeks of the semester, you may crave a bit of decompression in the beautiful wilderness surrounding us. You probably lack an entire day you can expend on a long excursion, so why not get your nature fix with something local, accessible, and doable in a single morning? Something like the Bonneville Shoreline Triple-Tower Loop.

In two to three and a half hours, the average hiker can reach each of the three large radio towers overlooking the Salt Lake Valley. Entirely visible from the valley, these towers stand directly over the capitol building and the iconic Ensign Peak. From atop these sloping green hills reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands, ambitious hikers are met with an expansive view of the city, Oquirrh Mountains, and Great Salt Lake. Plus, it’s dog-friendly.

Getting there:

Begin this hike at the Ensign Peak trailhead on Capitol Hill and park along the street (prohibited between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.). While there are alternative routes, it’s best to follow the regular trail leading to Ensign. Once atop the ridge, you’ll see a fork in the trail and a monumental plaque: left towards Ensign Peak, and right towards the Bonneville Shoreline. Go right. From this spot, two of the towers and the underlying basin are visible, the last remains obscured by the ridge that the trail is soon to guide you up.

Once you’ve followed the trail up the ridge, you will enter a small scrub oak forest. Continue toward the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, but before you are directly connected along the basin, you’ll run into a steep, unmarked trail leading to the first, southernmost tower. This trail is essentially at the very end of the scrub oak forest. Upon this next ridge, the route to Tower 1 is obvious, particularly since the tower is in sight for most of the traverse. Caution, this ridge gets very windy, especially in inclement weather.

After reaching the first tower, simply follow the beaten trail toward the remaining two. At the last tower, you’ll find an access road. Follow this down about a half-mile until you reach the Bonneville Shoreline trail to the left, which is clearly marked with a large sign. Follow the trail along the lower part of the basin until you’re reconnected with the original trail. Retrace your steps back to the car. Note: don’t be fooled by the subsidiary trail to the left on the way back. If Ensign Peak isn’t visible, don’t start hiking down the hill or you will end up in the backyard of a home in a gated community (yes, this comes from experience).

This hike isn’t difficult, but it’s still important to wear good boots and remain hydrated. Take a break from your studies and head to these lookouts for some inspiring views.


d.rees@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Dalton Rees

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Take Your Running to the Hills

Concrete grids and treadmills may rule the winter months, but it’s spring and it’s time to hit the trails. Fresh air in your lungs, ups and downs, winding paths, and scenic views atop mountains — these are the moments runners live for. Convenience and flat terrain attract runners to the roads, but nothing compares to an escape to fields of pine boughs and wildflowers in Salt Lake’s foothills.

Joey Campanelli, a local trail runner, lives for those sights. The first time I saw him, I was skiing down a run at Alta. I saw a flash of florescent pink and turned to identify the shorts over leopard leggings running up the ski slope. Soon, I saw his big, goofy grin. Campenelli wasn’t going to let snow deny him his passion for trail running. He used it as a tool to train harder. In his books, trail running is the only way to run. The freedom, the peace and quiet, and the beauty are hard to beat.

“The trails take you to the most amazing places,” he said. “You also meet a lot of cool people if you do it enough.”

It’s easy to lose touch with the natural beauty of the world when you’re accustomed to staring at a sunrise in Yosemite National Park on a computer monitor. Escape the chaos of city life and burn off the stress and strains of the day by running in the hills.

Trail running offers a mix of challenges: one moment you’re running uphill with your heart pounding and the next you have time to relax after you crest the peak and jog along a stream. But this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, variation means a wide range of muscles get exercise. You can also be distracted by the beautiful scenery and stimulated by what’s around the next bend.

Strap on some running shoes and hit the trail. The Bonneville Shoreline Trail along the Salt Lake foothills and Pipeline Trail in Millcreek Canyon are great for beginners. *Warning* Trail running can be highly addictive and make you want to sign up for a race — so here’s a list for you:

 

April 29, Amasa Trail Runs, 15.5M, 9.5M, 6.5M, Moab, Utah

June 3, Vigor Solitude Trail Series Races, 13.1M, 8M, 5M, 3M, Cottonwood Heights, Utah

June 10, Park City Trail series 5K, Park City, Utah

June 17, Wasatch Steeplechase 17M, Salt Lake City, Utah

s.guirguis@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Carolyn Webber

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Paragliding with Braedin Butler, a Family Tradition

Some say they’re adrenaline junkies, and some say they’re idiots asking for death. To us, they are adventure seekers living the dream. We took a look into the niche world of paragliding through a firsthand account of the sport from Braedin Butler, an aerospace engineering student at Utah State University and avid paraglider. He says most people miss the point of paragliding.

“The first thought of people who aren’t too familiar with the sport is ‘Oh that’s so dangerous, you’re crazy,’ but it all comes back to the fact that it’s just as safe as you play it. Be smart about it. If you play it safe, it’s safe, just like driving a car.” On first glance, it may seem like reckless recreation but in reality it’s a way to soar with hawks, bond with friends and family, and experience a view unlike any other.

Butler got into the sport at 15 years old, after a three-generation family tradition of dads teaching their sons how to paraglide. He lives the adventure sport lifestyle skiing and mountain biking in the wasatch, but the sky is his favorite outdoor playground. He loves kiteboarding, kite skiing, and a unique sport called kite buggying that involves using a kite and a large trike getting up to speeds of 50 miles per hour on wide open spaces like the Salt Flats. To top it off, Butler is also a cross country track athlete at Utah State, but he says paragliding is probably his favorite of them all.

His favorite place to fly is a zone near Centerville, Utah by the Great Salt Lake. “Especially at sunset,” he says. “It’s the best time to fly.” There, he was enamored by the sport. “Paragliding is just beautiful; that’s the reason I love it so much. When you are in the air and everything is silent, you get a bird’s-eye view of everything and you just feel so free.”

“[I love] when you’re in the air next to another pilot flying … my dad and I would fly wingtip to wingtip, close enough to where we can just have a conversation with each other.” Of all the ways to bond with your dad, having a one-on-one conversation soaring a couple thousand feet in the air might take the cake. Some other favorite moments include birds circling around and sharing thermals (an upward current of warm air) with paragliders, flying up and gaining altitude together in the same pocket of hot air.

Butler hopes to use his aerospace engineering degree to contribute to the safety of the world of flying sports, especially paragliding. He will continue to fly for the rest of his life, following his grandpa’s lead.

c.hammock@wasatchmag.com

Photo and Video courtesy of Braedin Butler

 

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Guide to Discount Ski Tickets

Living along the Wasatch during the winter season can feel particularly incapacitating.The typically accessible trails are covered in a thick snowpack, requiring high levels of technicality, resources, and devotion. For most, the only recourse from the inversion and languid indoor blues is adrenaline-pumping immersion in Utah’s trademark “Greatest Snow on Earth” atop a pair of skis or snowboard. Unfortunately, the average student shredder can hardly afford to sustain themselves, let alone expend much-needed cash on absurdly expensive ski passes. Not to worry—we here at Wasatch care about your happiness and strained income, and this week we share with you some screamin’ deals to get you on the slopes without breaking the bank.

The Any-Day Discount Pass Approach—Discount Vouchers in the Valley

If you have the extra money and are compelled to go where you want, when you want, evade full price passes by visiting one of the many savvy outlets. On-campus folks in a rush can stop by the Student Union services desk and purchase tickets at a slight discount (really, only about $5).

Discount tickets can also be found at Lift House, Canyon Sports, REI, Salty Peaks, Sports Authority, Milo Sports, Sid’s Sports, Wasatch Ski Connection, Ski-N-See, Harmon’s grocery stores, Canyon Sports, and AJ Motion Sports.

Pro-tip: Passes tend to be significantly less expensive if bought in bulk—a good option if you intend to ski multiple times, though not enough to justify purchasing a season pass.

Or, if you prefer surfing for discount passes at home, check out these online resources:

  • Liftopia.com
  • Ksl.com
  • Groupon.com
  • Uofuonelove.com
  • freeskiersociety.com

As Good as it Gets: Specialty Promotions and Circumstantial Offers

Browsing many of the options listed above, you may think to yourself, “Wow! Lift tickets are still super expensive!” And you would be right! For those of us with more modest budgets, a couple of our local resorts offer specialty promotions that, if properly seized, can be an astoundingly inexpensive way to hit the slopes:

Powder Mountain:

  • College Days:  $27 – Every Wednesday and Thursday. Must present current student ID.
  • College Night: $15 – Every Thursday night, with student ID.
  • She Shreds Ladies Night: $15 for women every Wednesday night.
  • Family Night: 6 tickets for $65 every Tuesday night. (Your “family” can be brothers from other mothers, and sisters from other misters.)

Brighton:

Unfortunately, Brighton is pretty stringent with standard day passes, though they do offer several awesome deals for night skiing (usually $45 regular rate)!

  • Monday: Family Snow Evening – $99 for a family or group of 4 or less. Includes lift tickets and a 24″ pizza from the Alpine Rose.
  • Wednesday: Buy a combo meal at participating Arctic Circle Restaurants and receive a buy one get one free night skiing voucher.
  • Thursday: Snow Sports School Thursday Night Lessons; Get a two-hour lesson + a night lift ticket for $50.

Best of luck out there, savvy skiers.

D.rees@wasatchmag.com

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Best Hikes for In-Between Seasons

The end of February and beginning of March aren’t necessarily seasons. It’s a little too sunny and mushy for winter, but not warm or rainy enough for spring. For avid trail users or even casual walkers, this makes trails difficult to navigate. High elevation hikes are especially at risk for avalanches while lower trails are mucky and trapped in the inversion. Here are four of our favorite hikes to hit during this weird in-between time.

Spiral Jetty in February. Photo by Carolyn Webber

Spiral Jetty

Spiral Jetty is one of the easiest and most unique off-season hikes in Utah. If the weather is nice and the road is in good condition, this is more of a roadside attraction than an actual hike. The parking lot is a five minute walk from the jetty unless the road is impassable, in which case it’s up to three miles long. Water levels are low enough to reveal this man-made spiral of rocks, but, depending on temperatures, there might be a light dusting of snow. Get your mileage in by hiking on the oolitic sand to touch the Great Salt Lake.

Antelope Island

Another lakeside destination, Antelope Island, offers a different sort of barren beauty. In the summer, there is little protection from the baking sun and in the winter, no refuge from the ever pervasive cold wind. This means post-winter, pre-spring time is the Goldilocks of seasons on the island. Roaming around the island are herds of buffalo, and Antelope Island is one of the few places in Utah to see these impressive mammals in the wild. There is a $10 per day use fee for the area and a variety of crisscrossing trails you can hop on and explore.

Hiking up to Donut Falls in Big Cottonwood Canyon in the winter. Photo by Kiffer Creveling

Donut Falls

One of the Cottonwood’s most famous hikes, Donut Falls is usually characterized by crowded trails and full parking lots. In the offseason, both disappear, making it the perfect time to visit. The falls themselves might be frozen, an interesting view alone, but temperatures could be warm enough to let some water sneak through.

Killyon Canyon

Killyon Canyon is the best destination when The Cottonwoods are closed or bumper to bumper from ski traffic. The hike is in Emigration Canyon, just a five-minute drive from campus. Unlike the Cottonwoods, dogs are allowed up Emigration, so bring your poop bags. This time of year, there’s almost definitely snow, possibly enough to snowshoe. The trail is about 5.5 miles round-trip and gains a little over 1,700 feet of elevation. As far as Wasatch hikes go, it’s mild, but still just as scenic.

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The Perils of Filmmaking in the West Desert

After weeks of painstaking exploration, bartering, sabotage, and espionage, I managed to secure an interview with the avant-garde filmmakers known only as Visage. Rumor had it that the illusive crew was stuck in town, treating hypothermia and shock after a failed attempt at producing something “truly transcendental” in Utah’s West Desert.

This clandestine group, led by Chad Powers, traveled the world on a quest to “capture the golden ratio between extreme and obscure,” ultimately leading them to our slice of Northern Utah just three weeks ago. Powers, with his customary head-mounted GoPro and surrounding turtleneck posse, relayed to me the trials and turmoil involved in their recent, largely unsuccessful project.

Shortly after releasing a silent film based on their time living amongst the manatees of Crystal River, Florida, Visage was tipped off about the local Faultline Film Awards. “This was to be the ideal platform for another monumental release,” Powers recalled. “A creative gathering hosted by a little-known student outdoor publication — extreme, yet obscure. Plus, the swamp was incompatible with our attire; it was time for something new.”

The ambitious project they intended to submit was Powers’s magnum opus, the creative masterpiece to get them on the map, while remaining simultaneously off the map, ironically. The premise was simple: “for seven days and seven nights, we were to walk into Utah’s sandy flatlands on a journey… to find ourselves.”

Powers, and the four other members of the crew at that time, drove west on I-80 for an undisclosed distance, only to turn off at what seemed to be the most introspective point-of-departure. “Tents, bags, insulated boots — these are the objects of domesticity. We needed only open minds, open hearts, and our Chacos; the rest was to be revealed in the sands.”

The initial days of their creative spiritual journey were successful, with reportedly over eighteen recorded hours of 360-degree wide-angle panning and sepia still frames of crew members in various positions and poses. This experiment in creative expression and self-discovery took a turn for the worst, however, as the filmmakers came into contact with the then encroaching winter storm.

“We were shocked to see snowflakes falling around us,” the documentarian recalled with difficulty. “All the google images of this bogus state indicated dry, red desert. We saw ground snow on our way in, sure, but we assumed that was just part of the aesthetic, artificial.”

The subsequent couple of days were a whitewashed blur, it seems, as Powers recalled experiencing only perpetual torrents of snow, and the inability to discern anything else, while other members chose not to speak to me for the entire duration of the interview, merely nodding occasionally to ostensibly jive word-choice. “Without any point of reference outside the powder, we experienced the cold, we were the cold, you dig?”

Shivering in a collective ball, Visage was discovered several days later by a good samaritan on the hunt for old aluminum cans and artifacts.

Powers expressed that the crew’s next project will be somewhere with neither sand nor snow, and likely a place that I’ve never heard of.

While Visage’s 72-hour ambient film from this perilous journey will not be shown at the Faultline Film Awards, you are still encouraged to attend nonetheless — it will still be very hip.

d.rees@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Carolyn Webber

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