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Cedar Breaks National Monument

On the banks of the sea of national parks in Southern Utah sits a breathtaking national monument just 3 ½ hours from Salt Lake. 60 degree Fahrenheit temps in the summer months and the highest base elevation for skiing at Brian Head Ski Resort during the winter make Cedar Breaks the perfect get-away for any season.

The hikes in Cedar Breaks are easily accessible and moderate. The 2-mile Alpine Pond Nature Trail takes you through a lush meadow filled with lavender columbines and mountain bluebells. Take a lunch break at the spring-fed Alpine Pond.

If you want to see the famous red rocks of Cedar Breaks, take the Rampart overlook and Spectra Points trails. The first part of the hike is only a mile long and brings you to the Spectra overlook. You’ll stand on a ledge over 10,000 feet in elevation, gazing at the hundreds of hoodoos and trees below you. Above, you feel as if you’ve entered a giant sand castle with red pillars striped with white. One mile past the Spectra overlook is the Rampart overlook- a smattering of red, yellow, and orange sandstone twisting into unearthly hoodoo spires.

The entrance fee for the park is only $4 per person and camping is $18 a site. If you’d like to avoid the camping fee, there are many primitive campsites close to Cedar Break. Coal Creek Campground is just 20 miles from the monument. It’s a small, beautiful campsite with a creek running adjacent that drowns out noise of the nearby highway. Because Cedar Breaks is a very busy national monument, being able to spend the night in a secluded campground is a relaxing choice.

Pets are allowed on most of the trails as long as they’re leashed, and near the visitor’s center is a short wheelchair accessible hike with a great view of the amphitheater. If hiking is not your thing, the monument also offers many ranger-led programs during the day as well as stargazing at night. As an international dark sky park, be ready to see some incredible stars.

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The Art of Hanging Out

Few things convey the message of “I’m outdoorsy, yet I like to relax” better than an artsy pic of yourself hammocking on Instagram. The trend is infectious, spreading through college campuses across the nation faster than student loan anxieties. But what exactly is the appeal? The short answer is the three C’s: comfort, cost, and carry-ability.

Anyone who has spent a sleepless night struggling against the incline of a hill or an unfortunately placed rock can appreciate the beauty of simply not being on the ground. A hammock allows this liberation, freeing your aching back from all the lumps and bumps of a lesser used campsite, while at the same time keeping you relatively level on even the steepest of slopes. With comfort being their greatest appeal, hammocks have been convoluted into all kinds of odd contraptions in order to squeeze out every last drop of coziness.

For example, inventions such as the Hammocraft, a bizarre mash-up of poles, straps, and hammocks, allow for five people to sway in their sacs on the water atop two paddle boards. Or, better yet, the HydroHammock, a hot tub/hammock combination, allows for all the comfort of a 50 gallon portable hot tub in a tree. However, these Frankensteins of the hammock world have tipped the scales too far in terms of comfort, sacrificing the two other critical components to the appeal of hammocking.

In order for a hammock to be effective, it must also hit the criteria of cost and carry-ability. A decent hammock will run you anywhere from $35 to $100 and will be able to pack up into a sack slightly larger than a softball. By comparison, a good backpacking tent could easily run double or triple the price and quadruple the weight. A failure in these last two categories clearly rule out both the Hammocraft and HydroHammock as viable contenders to make a pack list. There are versions out there that hit all three criteria, however, and do it well.

We at Wasatch Magazine have taken the terribly arduous task of spending hours upon hours researching, firsthand, the ups and downs of different brands and styles of hammocks. Below is our compiled list of those and the perks, or downfalls, of each type:

 

Serac Classic

This is likely the most accessible of the hammocks on the list at just $38, straps included, and is the only style available for rent at Outdoor Adventures. Weighing 16 ounces, it’s perfectly suited to throw in a day bag or even overnight pack, and is almost as comfortable as any of the competing brands. However, the six-foot straps are seriously limiting. Finding two trees of suitable diameter and spacing is a quest itself worthy of a Tolkien novel. The parachute nylon material, standard among most hammocks, seems to be of a lower quality and is not as dynamic as more expensive models. Although, since it only costs about the same as a serious three person Chipotle run, the Serac Classic stacks up to be the perfect model for the casual hammocker.

 

Thermarest Slacker Double

The only double hammock on the list, the Thermarest Slacker Double provides a reasonable option for getting closer to that special someone. Unlike most hammocks, Thermarest utilizes a ripstop polyester designed to, they claim, offer a better next-to-skin experience. The validity of that assertion is hearsay, but the material does make the hammock slightly less breathable than its parachute nylon counterparts. As far as doubles go, the Slacker runs a little on the heavy side at 1lb 7oz and doesn’t pack down that small, only managing a relatively big 9×12 inches. Although, the $80 price point, not including straps, is reasonable for this style. Not necessarily a spectacular hammock, the Slacker Double mainly serves as a sufficient alternative for those looking to move away from nylon.

 

Tribe Provisions Adventure Hammock

What Great Value is to food, Tribe Provisions is to hammocks: not as flashy, but usually almost as good. For $40 you get a ripstop nylon hammock and heavy duty cordage that acts as straps. No instructions are provided on how to hang the hammock with the cordage, so some basic knot skills, or some good YouTube videos, are needed. Prolonged hanging without proper straps will also result in tree damage so some kind of tree protection is needed (this can be as simple as a piece of cardboard between the rope and tree). Weighing in at 1lb 2oz without the cordage, the adventure hammock isn’t the lightest option on the market, but isn’t too heavy either. If your goal is lightweight backpacking on a budget, this would be a good choice.

 

ENO Singlenest

Essentially The North Face of hammocks, Eagles Nest Outfitters have set the standard for the ideal nap facilitator. Weighing just 16 ounces and packing down to 4×5 inches, without straps, the Singlenest is the prime lightweight alternative to a backpacking tent. The hefty $60 price reflects this. However, the 70D nylon taffeta, heavy duty cordage, and aluminum wiregate carabiners ensure that this investment has the durability to last you many, many trips. If you’re serious about your outdoor naps or are willing to spend a little more to save some weight in your pack, this is the hammock for you!

n.halberg@dailyutahchronicle.com

Photo Credit: Peter Creveling

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WATCH: Road Tripping From Montana to Mount Rainier

Follow along on this road trip as we head out from Missoula, Montana to backpack Hidden Lake Lookout in North Cascades National Park, to be tourists in Vancouver, British Columbia/Seattle, Washington and to ending the trip driving through Mount Rainier National Park.

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Opinion— Running Dry: Frivolous Water Usage and Uncertainty on the Wasatch Front

Walking along the winding avenues and seemingly endless parallels of Salt Lake City during the summer months is cathartic, and even blissful for the appreciative observer. Sprawling gardens and lawns come to life in technicolor splendor as careless homeowners and local businesses nurture their holdings in spite of the oppressive heat; the desert is in full bloom. Radiance however, comes at a price.

A bidecadal study conducted by the United States Geological Survey indicates that the average Utahn uses 248 gallons of water each day, a disheartening statistic comparatively greater than any other state in the nation. In 2010, Salt Lake County alone consumed over 300 million gallons of water per day. Currently, Utah is the single largest water waster in the U.S.

More alarming yet are the mounting projections that Utah’s population is to double by 2050—with an additional 2.5 million people to the 2.9 million currently inhabiting the high desert state. Our rate of consumption at present is hardly sustainable; how is the state to compensate for this unprecedented growth?

The rising global temperature — despite what many proponents of ignorance would have you believe — is undeniable. These increases are resulting in a dramatic reduction in mountain snowpack levels, particularly in western states. EPA researchers noted “large and consistent decreases observed throughout the western United States… the average change across all sites [amounting] to about a 23 percent decline”. Inhabitants of the Wasatch Front are heavily reliant upon snowpack as a source of drinking water and serve to suffer most as these levels continue to diminish.

Local conservationists and lawmakers are well aware of the uncertain future of Utah’s water sources and recognize the looming potential of a mega-draught similar to that currently ensuing in California. Multiple questionable initiatives have been proposed, from the halfhearted “Prepare60” that intends to address the problem by developing Utah’s water delivery systems and infrastructure, to more radical approaches that involve actions like drilling into our state’s groundwater or diverting resources from Lake Powell. Yes, these initiatives are just as environmentally irresponsible as they sound.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that with increasing global temperatures, booming population growth, and decreasing snowpack levels that action needs to be taken to preserve Utah’s status as an inhabitable chunk of desert, though the responsible course of action may not be appealing to many. Rather than looking towards new sources to compensate for our superfluous water usage, we should focus primarily on preserving the water we already have as its perceived abundance diminishes with catastrophic climate change and rising consumption.

So, where to begin? Here are just a few ideas:

· Water-pricing based upon individual use to discourage wasteful practices.

· Tax rebates for businesses and homes that use environmentally friendly appliances and methods.

· Additional regulations barring excessive water use during temperate seasons.

· Transition to regionally-adapted plants that are known to use less water.

· Regulation of the agricultural industry’s excessive water use.

· Public service campaigns providing helpful tips and methods for conserving water.

It is understandable that Utahns derive a great degree of pride from maintaining beautiful yards and lush ornamental features in such a dry, inhospitable climate, but if our state is to remain an inhabitable place, the state’s population as a whole must reduce its overall water usage dramatically.

d.rees@dailyutahchronicle.com

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Get your gear and adventure on: Reviews of rental equipment from Outdoor Adventures

Outdoor Adventures has 8,500 square feet filled with everything you could ever want to explore with. It’s like the Mary Poppins bag of equipment rental stores; it just never seems to end. With new gear purchased every year and cheap prices, the gear center will get you ready for any adventure you have planned.

Mountain Bikes

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GT Avalanche Elite 27.5”

With mountain bike trails practically on campus, it’s easy to fit in a full day of biking even after classes. Crawl over rocks while staying comfortable on this durable, tough aluminum frame. While it is targeted to beginners, this bike handles almost every terrain and the 27.5 inch wheels roll easier than smaller ones. Comes with patch kit, pump and helmet.

Cost: $25 a day, $50 a weekend

Number of bikes: 15

Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Inflatable Kayaks

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NRS Maverik II

Easy to use, lightweight and sturdy, it’s everything you could dream of in an inflatable kayak. Plus, a self-bailing system keeps you worry-free when water splashes into the boat. For beginners and experienced kayakers, it is reliable and transportable, with carrying straps on the side. With the ease of blowing it up, deflating it and rolling it up, you’ll feel like you’ve cheated. The comfy seats will make it so your never want to leave.

Number of kayaks: 26

Harnesses

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Black Diamond Momentum DS

Tailored for entry-level climbers, this harness is comfortable, durable, and fits just about everyone. The double-backed, Speed Adjust buckles on the waist and legs take one less check out of your list before you “climb on.” Four gear loops and a haul loop that holds up to 12-kilonewton means you can feel safe and secure as you explore all the rocks Utah has to offer.

Cost: $4 a day, $6 a weekend

Number of harnesses: 35

Sizes: XS-M, L-XL

Helmets

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Black Diamond Half Dome

The keyword here is adjustable. These helmets fit snugly on your head and lock under your chin, keeping you safe from rock fall with you barely noticing 12 oz. of hard plastic. It’s on the heavy side, but these guys are durable and are sure to keep your noggin safe from falling rocks and ice.

Cost: $3 a day, $4 a weekend

Number of helmets: too many to count!

c.webber@dailyutahchronicle.com

e.aboussou@dailyutahchronicle.com

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Top Mountain Biking Trails of the Wasatch

As summer scorches the Wasatch front, escape to the mountains and let the wind cool you down. Jump on these mountain biking trails, water bottle and helmet suggested, just a short drive from campus.

Bobsled

Bobsled is perfect for beginner and intermediate riders; the 1.5-mile trail descends almost 1,000 feet and is filled with easy-to-navigate terrain for newbies to get their feet wet. Technical corners and loose dirt periodically give you a chance to exercise newly developed skills. The beginning of the trail is the most difficult, so a keen eye and unwavering attention to detail is a must-have. This portion of the trail loosens you up in order to fully navigate the remainder of the trail.

 

The trail mellows into a straightforward approach with smoother corners at mile 2, an excellent place to test your limits and gain speed. You will notice many options to choose from depending on your skill level, so riders repeating Bobsled never get bored. The trail offers difficult obstacles including sharp turns and sudden drops for those willing to challenge themselves, but also has right-around routes (smaller trail that circumvents obstacles) for those less brave. The trailhead is located on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail via Popperton Park.

Bonneville Shoreline Trail

This classic trail covers 7 miles of Utah’s finest country with non-stop views- just remember to stop for sightseeing so you don’t end up over your handlebars. The climax of this trail is the Bobsled descent (which is well-earned through a tedious climb). Bonneville Shoreline is an extensive trail with many access points, but my favorite is to access via Bobsled, the aforementioned trail. Weaving through wide corners in and out of a ravine, the trail gradually narrows and riders, stay alert! The spectacular views of Salt Lake City may distract you. This trail is a moderate 3.2 miles and is mostly uphill. Save your energy; though, because the trail has a sharp incline before hitting level terrain. At this point, pull over and take a break before the descent. There are three forks in the trail- the middle fork contains the famous drop into Salt Lake City while the other two provide scenic routes through Ensign Peak. Bonneville Shoreline is located near Popperton Park. A paved trail found east of the parking area leads you to the trailhead.

 

Wasatch Crest

Wasatch Crest is the go-to spot for a day filled with mountain biking. There are extensive routes and trails spread out over Big Cottonwood and Mill Creek Canyons. For the beginner riders, rolling hills and gentle curves cross miles of forest. Endurance riders can climb Mill Creek Canyon’s Big Water Trail over the Wasatch Crest itself for a lengthy 20 mile round-trip. For the more experienced riders, Puke Hill presents a worthy challenge. Rightfully named, this hill sharply inclines hundreds of feet in under half a mile. The key is to pedal hard and not stop pedaling. Otherwise, you’ll end up like most before you – pushing your bike up the trail! Veterans, don’t feel left out. The Ice Age made “The Spine” just for you- a treacherous descent with rough terrain and rocky obstacles. The trailhead for Wasatch Crest is near Park City between Pine Cone and Great Connector.

 

Corner Canyon Trail

This collection of trails offers innumerable views and routes for everyone, such as Ghost Falls, Clark’s and the Rush. Ghost Falls and Clark’s are both uphill trails that provide a great workout for your legs. They feature ranging terrains with varying degrees of difficulty riders of all skill levels can enjoy. New riders, be prepared to pedal hard and take breaks often (bring snacks). The Rush is an exclusively downhill trail to provide a great line worry-free from uphill riders. The Rush is an exhilarating trail, but should only be attempted by those extremely at-home on their bikes.

z.grimes@dailyutahchronicle.com

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Sacajawea Peak: Montana Mountain Goats and Sunset Summits

I’m spending the summer in Bozeman, a growing college ski town in south-central Montana just north of Yellowstone. Just six hours from Salt Lake City, it’s the perfect home base for adventure excursions.

Sacajawea Peak (9,665 ft.) is the highest point in the Bridger Mountain Range just north of Bozeman. As a ridiculously accessible peak for its elevation, it makes for a perfect kick-off to the dry peakbagging season. Anxious to get outside, my brother and I loaded up and headed for the Bridgers the same day the gated access road opened.

ridge

We left the trailhead around 6 p.m., hoping to catch sunset lighting on the way back down. After bushwhacking through trees and negotiating snowfields in tennis shoes, we gained the saddle to find winds carrying ominous clouds. What had been a pretty straightforward hike was about to become a little more interesting, but it wasn’t because of the weather.

Further up, we were greeted by a lone mountain goat descending toward us. We stepped off the trail to get out of its way, but instead of continuing on as we expected, it redirected and headed straight at us. We had seen mountain goats at Glacier National Park and assumed they were generally passive animals as long as you keep your distance. This goat was different. Its fur was matted, its muscles defined and its hard eyes locked in on us as it got closer. It didn’t match the description of the docile mountain goats willing to share the mountain we had read about on trail reviews. Maybe we were just more scared of the goats than other people. Yelling and waving our arms, it reluctantly turned away.

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We continued to a point where we could spot the top of Sacajawea Peak, but we also saw four pairs of menacing mountain goat eyes and horns peering down at us, visibly alerted by our presence. Climbing to a point probably 50 feet from the summit, we decided it wasn’t worth being tossed by the goats off the mildly exposed ridge. They were obviously more in their comfort zone than we were.

We finally bailed when they started walking toward us. Some personal research later told me they might have have been protecting the kids, who would have been higher up. Either way, it wasn’t worth the humiliation of getting mauled by a goat to knock this peak off the list. The fun we had glissading on the way down mostly made up for not making the summit. What a crazy, short trip.

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Back to Utah and the Wasatch, what are some of your favorite peaks from which to watch a summer sunset? Mount Van Cott and Mount Wire above campus are nice, accessible hills for watching sunsets over Salt Lake City. Mount Raymond and Gobblers Knob require less work compared to higher-elevation peaks for catching evening light, and are not as dangerous to descend in the dark. Clayton Peak or the tops of the summer ski lifts are also good options for capturing that perfect sunset shot for the Gram’. And if you’re looking for a drive, there’s always tourist-packed Ensign Peak or the hills on Antelope Island. Let us know what your favorite spots are!

c.hammock@dailyutahchronicle.com

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The Future Of Spring Skiing Predicted By U Researchers

It’s not uncommon to see a Utah ski bum tossing their gear into the trunk of their car, driving up the mountain wearing shorts with unrolled windows. Sure, it’s 70 degrees outside but in Utah, there’s still snow on the mountains.

Yet, a new study released by U professors indicates spring skiing might be on a quicker decline than bombing down Brighton’s Milly Bowl on freshly-waxed skis. Court Strong, associate professor of atmospheric sciences, says that elevation matters for the amount of snow a resort receives, and that elevation threshold is crucial.

Think of it this way: most ski resorts are above 6,500 feet because that is the current threshold. Past that elevation, precipitation is a good indicator of how much snow the ski resorts get while the temperature is practically irrelevant. By 2090, that threshold will be around 7,300 feet. It’s doubtful the four Cottonwood resorts will be affected, but resorts in Park City, Sundance and Beaver Mountain will be. Instead of any precipitation being good for these resorts, they’ll soon have to enter temperature into the equation to figure their presumed snow pack.

“People will come and ask, ‘Hey should I buy a ski pass this year?’ Right now, the question is, ‘How wet is it going to be?’ 70 years from now we also need to be thinking along the lines of, ‘Will this be an unusually warm or cool year?’” Strong said.

Strong found this information using the Weather Research and Forecasting model he developed with Adam Kochanski, research associate of atmospheric sciences.

For about five years, the team has been perfecting the regional-scale climate model and running simulations for snow patterns and temperatures with data from 1985 to 2010.

The model took future temperature changes into account, and uses a 4-km horizontal resolution of the Wasatch Range. They also used a 12-km domain for a model of the Western U.S.Is there somewhere that we can find this research data?

Strong and his team will now use the simulations to study monsoonal precipitations in southern Utah and air quality in the Salt Lake Valley.

c.webber@dailyutahchronicle.com

@carolyn_webber

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A Non-Fisherman’s Excursion to Flaming Gorge in Pictures

Spanning the border of northeastern Utah and southern Wyoming, the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area encompasses over 200,000 acres of forested terrain and water. Outdoorsmen familiar with the Gorge typically associate the region with its prestigious Blue Ribbon fishery status, deservedly merited by the flourishing Green River inlets.

I spent a weekend in the heart of the region at a small lodge located in Dutch John, Utah. I, however, do not fish. Rather than investing in a fishing license and taking up angling, I approached this excursion with more exploratory intentions, seeking to experience the area not as a participant in sport, but as a naturalistic observer. With my camera and garbage-bag poncho in hand — as the forecast called for incessant rain — I took to the area in hope of capturing the inexpressible beauty of the region that is often overshadowed by its recreational usage.

The Green River and surrounding forests, illuminated through a lull in the storm. These transient and scarce moments of respite showed off the region’s technicolor aesthetic.

Early the next morning, I went to Little Hole Trail, a sidewinding 14.1-mile stretch along the Green River. Overhanging cliffs offered temporary shelter from the encroaching downpour.

Early the next morning, I went to Little Hole Trail, a sidewinding 14.1-mile stretch along the Green River. Overhanging cliffs offered temporary shelter from the encroaching downpour.

A spherical cactus flower in bloom—surrounded by towering pines and rainfall, it is easy to forget that the region, like much the rest of our state, is entirely high desert.

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Within the manifold trees of Skull Creek Campground, a temporary stream is created by the torrential rain.

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Downriver, a group of fisherman stationed themselves at the base of an inlet waterfall in hopes of capitalizing on the fall’s bustling underwater traffic. A veteran fisherman at a nearby tackle-shop told me getting “skunked” on the Green is profoundly bad luck.

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The banks of the river are populated by a diverse variety of wildlife.

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Dense forests are accessible from Flaming Gorge Lodge.

 

d.rees@dailyutahchronicle.com

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Mount Olympus: An Early-Season Ascent for the Herculean Hiker

Along Salt Lake City’s Wasatch Front, summer’s emergent heat waves are melting the slick snowpack coating the region’s formidable peaks and traverses. Mountaineers rejoice; the time has come! Keep in mind however, this is a gradual process. Ambitious outdoorsmen intending to attempt some of the range’s more prominent peaks (e.g., Twin Peaks, Lone Peak, Mt. Timpanogos, or the grand Pfeifferhorn) will need ice-climbing equipment and skills. If crampons and ice axes aren’t your thing, fear not, weary traveler. A grand ascent awaits you, Mount Olympus, the two-pronged gem of the Salt Lake Valley.

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At its heavily-exposed position along the westernmost face of the Wasatch Front, Olympus perpetually absorbs sunlight, rendering it — even during these early phases of summer — almost entirely without snow. Despite the goliath size its name evokes, Olympus pales in comparison to the region’s larger peaks; at a mere 9,026 ft. This mountain, however, is not to be underestimated. The vast majority of Olympus’ moderately groomed trail maintains a rough 45 degree incline, imagine operating a StairMaster machine for five-and-a-half hours (4,100 feet of elevation gain in just over three miles). After completing the contentious climb to the “Saddle” (the highest point between Olympus’ rocky spires) the true challenge appears as you scramble over the steep boulders that comprise the peak. Despite the mountain’s apparent difficulty, a successful attempt is greatly rewarded. From both Olympus’ saddle and peak, intrepid hikers are exposed to breathtaking vistas into surrounding canyons and — in clear conditions — an omniscient perspective of the Salt Lake Valley.

I’ve hiked Olympus twice this year — with profoundly varied results.

The first was admittedly ambitious, even foolhardy, as a friend and I resolved to take to the mountain during a mid-March snowstorm. Equipped with waterproof boots, snow pants, poles and snowshoes, we began our attempt at approximately 7:00 am with the intent of beating the encroaching flurries. Fortunately, the initial first third of the hike was mostly barren — if not a bit muddy as a result of early snowmelt and rain — and proved to be easygoing despite the encumbering weight of the additional equipment and boots. This quickly changed, however, when we reached the forested stretch bridging the mountain’s underlying foothills and saddle to find a trail buried in snow. Trudging up the forest’s steep inclines in our snowshoes, we stopped to admire the serene, mystifying winter landscape before admitting defeat in the face of the storm and returning to the bottom.

Unwavering and resolute like the Virgilian heroes of Greek mythology, we returned to Olympus earlier this month with grandiose intentions of conquest and redemption.

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From Olympus’ apex, our party was greeted by transparent conditions and access to an expansive perspective of the surrounding mountains, high-desert wastes, waters of the Great Salt Lake, and beyond. Light snowpack remains along the peak — while the threat is minimal, be wary of weak patches.

Adventurous hikers attempting Olympus will find solace in its easily-accessible trailhead located a short distance south of 4500 South, along Wasatch Boulevard. The small parking lot sits on the east side of the road and connects to the well-maintained trail.

I suggest starting the trail no later than 8 a.m. to avoid ascending in the heat of the day. Ensure that you pack plenty of food and water, and provide yourself with ample sun protection. I, for one, am an avid proponent of big hats.

d.rees@dailyutahchronicle.com

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