My time in Moab left me hungering for a bit of rest and relaxation surrounded by good friends. Luckily, Park City was the next stop on my itinerary. Before I arrived in Park City, however, I had to do a circuit through the gear shops in Salt Lake City. Nestled in the valley below the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges, SLC’s climate stays relatively mild, even though the horizon is studded with snow-covered peaks. With unparalleled access to the outdoors, I knew I had my work cut out for me when it came to gear hunting.
From the Black Diamond flagship store to Second Tracks consignment, from REI to the Backcountry.com warehouse, I made my way from shop to shop. With a strict list of needs, I did more browsing than purchasing. That said, I did find a sweet Patagonia Mixed Guide Hoody for $30. It was absolutely filthy, but I was hoping to do several rounds of tech washing once I arrived in Park City. Normally, it retails for $350, so I figured even if the dirt didn’t come out that it would still be a good investment. More than 90% off of retail is just too good to pass up.
Before I headed to the Backcountry.com warehouse, I stopped in at City Cakes Café, an entirely vegan bakery. There, I checked email while I devoured a massive and delicious cinnamon roll. When I went back up to buy more goodies for the road, a young man asked if I had been to Portland, OR recently. I said I had been there a few months ago. It turned out that I wasn’t who he thought I was, but he still insisted on buying me a pumpkin muffin once he learned about my trip. Just one more random act of kindness to be thankful for…
With my muffin riding shotgun, I headed for Backcountry.com. For those of you who have never shopped through their online store, it is basically a mecca for all mainstream outdoor gear. All of the major manufacturers sell through Backcountry.com. As a testament to their following within the industry, it is almost impossible to avoid the goat sticker that adorns so many helmets, cars, and water bottles. With a stellar return policy, Backcountry.com has a seriously loyal following.
In Salt Lake City, they have a store connected to their warehouse. The showroom itself is relatively small with only a small number of offerings available. Along one of the walls of the store, however, runs a bank of Macs. From these computers, shoppers can ask the warehouse to pull out any item they want from the warehouse. This means that shoppers have access to the entirety of Backcountry.com’s offerings. If you want try on shoes, just have them bring a few different sizes out. Want to test out the sizing of different merino wool t-shirts? Ask the warehouse wizards to grab a handful of options for you to try. It was a dream come true. I tried on approach shoes, belay gloves, merino base layers, visors, sun glasses, harnesses, and countless other items. The gearhead side of my brain was in total heaven, while the frugal side balked in terror.
My retail experience in Salt Lake City culminated with a quick stop at REI, where I snagged a few more maps and a waterproof journal. From there, I headed through a canyon and around a bank of snow-capped mountains to Park City. There, I pulled into the driveway of a house shared by a pair of Apogee leaders and a smattering of other Colby graduates. Noah, a former Apogee leader, greeted me with open arms. As I unpacked my car, we chatted about my trip and about his adventures over the last few years. Then, he suggested a mountain bike ride.
I lowered the seat of Garth’s bike, borrowed a pair of bike shorts, and off we went. Heading for the Round Valley trails, we started off spinning along pavement, but soon found our way onto the bouncy debris of the single-track trails that weave through the rolling hills of Park City. It had been quite awhile since I had done any mountain biking, so I stayed safely behind Noah as he led the way through the maze-like trail system. As the sun drooped in the sky, we headed back. All of that bouncing around had done a number on my forearms.
Although I hadn’t necessarily planned on an extended stay in Park City, I kept finding excuses not to leave. I dedicated a few days to a round of spring-cleaning. I completely emptied Sam, pulling all of my gear out into either the garage or my small room. I scrubbed every inch of Sam’s interior, pleasantly surprised at how clean I had kept it throughout the trip. I reorganized my gear once more, offloading a few items that I no longer needed. Although I will do a post soon about my living system on the road, here is a sneak peek at the vehicle I have called home for the last nine months.
While I worked through gear lists and organizational schemes, the washer and dryer ran consistently. Using all of the Nikwax products I had ordered before I arrived, I proceeded to clean and waterproof all of my jackets, pants, and boots. Although the strong scent of chemicals wafting from the laundry room was a bit disconcerting, I knew that I would be nice and dry moving forward, regardless of the weather. After multiple washes, that Patagonia jacket I bought smelled much better, but the stains seemed permanent. Luckily, that doesn’t bother me at all!
In between loads of laundry and rounds of cleaning, I tried to fit in as much time for writing and processing as I could. With the end of my trip rapidly approaching, I seriously had to catch up on my blog neglect. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. Sometimes I worked from home, but I tried to get out of the house as much as possible. In downtown Park City, I found a killer little coffee shop-book store combo called Atticus. With solid tunes and speedy wifi, I had no trouble whiling away a few hours with a hot cup of coffee on the table in front of me. My favorite spot to work, however, was the library. The Park City public library is a stunning, new building near the city park. It is everything a modern library should be. From Xboxes to 3D printers, it has all kinds of ways of enticing young people to come to the library. With study nooks and reading rooms, it still maintains the feel of an old fashioned library. I even ran into an old friend from Bayfield, WI while I was there! It was a great place to get some work done.
Whenever I wasn’t working on my own projects, I was procrastinating and spending time with my housemates. I had met Noah and Garth through Apogee, but quickly bonded with their roommates Anna, Peter, and Sarah. In short, there was always someone around who I wanted to spend time with. One day, Garth, Noah, Peter, and I went climbing in Echo Valley. Garth walked us through some more rope skills and lead-climbing basics before setting us loose on the knobby rock. Unlike Wall Street in Moab, these climbs had a plethora of handholds. The conglomerate rock had countless hand-sized rocks cemented into the wall. Despite one overhanging route that gave me a bit of trouble, we all spent the afternoon effortlessly scaling the friendly routes.
After Garth and Noah headed back to work, Peter and I continued to climb for a while. When the clouds above signaled a potential for rain, however, we decided to head back to Park City. The rain never came, so we headed up to Empire Pass, high above the city streets below. Snow still covered much of the road, so we had to walk much of it. Since we had been climbing earlier, we only had our Crocs with us. While it definitely wasn’t the optimal choice for snow travel, we suffered our way up the pass, cursing the snow that snuck through the holes in our shoes.
Once at the top, we were met by an endless horizon of sharp, snowy peaks. I immediately felt like I had left civilization behind, even though I could still see Park City far below. The rest of the world felt so far away. I pulled out the drone and we flew through the valleys for the next hour. After a surprisingly uneventful crash, we headed back down the mountain. Small adventures like this punctuated my time in Park City.
Whether I was cooking up a sweet potato smorgasbord with Kate, watching Reel Rock 10 with Noah, Garth, and Peter, or doing melodious core workouts on the kitchen floor with Anna, I felt utterly at home. The grand finale of my time in Park City was a Game of Thrones season six premiere viewing party. It felt way too good to be back in Westeros. The beginning of Game of Thrones, however, marked the end of my time in Park City. I had to move on to my last two National Parks: Grand Teton and Yellowstone. I piled back into a spotless car and headed for Jackson.
I really should have more pictures from this section of my trip, but this map will have to do…