Hiking trails

Q & A: Park City in the summer

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Q: My husband and I have skied several times in Park City, Utah. We love the town and are wondering if it’s a good place for a summer vacation.

A: In our humble opinion, Park City is even more fun in the summer. The weather is gorgeous — lots of sun, no humidity — the restaurants are less crowded, and the surrounding mountains play host to loads of activities. The resort areas (Park City, Deer Valley and TheCanyons) offer all the standard summer mountain resort fare, including hiking and mountain bike trails, alpine slides and hot air balloon excursions. We particularly enjoy watching the U.S. Olympic aerial freestyle ski jumpers fling themselves into the sky before plunging into an enormous pool at the Utah Olympic Park.

Off the beaten path highlights include hiking in the Uinta Mountains and an evening at the Summit County Fair’s rodeo (held this year from August 1-8).

Hump day getaway: Hiking in Switzerland’s Appenzell

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Much has been made in the past day about a New York Times story chronicling Swiss hikers taking to the trails in the nude. “There’s not much to discuss,” one hiker told the Times. “It’s freedom. First, freedom in your head; then, freedom of the body.”

The hikers were interviewed on the trails of the Appenzell region, an idyllic slice of the Alps near the Austrian border. I’ve written about the area in this story for the Star Tribune. There were lots of laughs and peculiar sights along the way, but, alas, no nakedness. What I experienced was more akin to this video of senior citizens lapping the youngsters who clogged the trails.

A cool dip in Lake Alice

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

You can fry an egg on a sidewalk out there. But why would you do that when you could be floating on your back in a clear, calm lake, listening to the baking-hot breeze tickle the pine boughs?

My favorite close-by place for a dip is Lake Alice in William O’Brien State Park, just north of Stillwater on the St. Croix River. It’s packed on weekends, but during the week, the swimming beach can be pretty quiet. There are plenty of trees for shade, and the bluffs all around shelter it from the morning and evening sun. That’s my theory as to why such a small lake stays so nice and cool, even in the dog days of summer.

O’Brien is also one of my favorite nearby spots for a hike. I like to walk the Upper Prairie trail to the high point there that gives a great vantage on the St. Croix Valley. Afterward, Lake Alice is very inviting.

Who else has a good place for a swim within an hour of the Cities?

Amid the travel gloom, a bright weekend in Boulder

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

blder3.jpg Above: Royal Arch in Boulder, Colo.       The Escape Artists have been dwelling on travel negatives lately (and it can’t be denied there are a lot of them these days). But the title of the blog implies that against long odds we can still find ways to get where we want to go. A case in point was this weekend’s trip to Boulder, Colo. My spouse and I are moving there in August for a nine-month sabbatical (me at CU in environmental journalism, she at some yogic institution of higher learning yet to be determined) and we wanted to scout the territory. The tickets to Denver on Frontier, procured four weeks ago, cost $250 each. The hotel, a Residence Inn, was about $145 a night. (All the cheaper digs were booked. As it turned out, this was the weekend of the Boulder Creek Festival and the Bolder Boulder 10K, in which 53,000 runners from across the globe descend on the town). The rental car for three days, a steal at $84 bucks (a rate snared through a new site: rentalcarmagic.com, which compares quotes and finds coupons. it’s offering trials fee at the moment).      We fell in love with the place.  The town is very walkable and bikeable, with designated paths crisscrossing the town, and lots of traffic calming measures (landscaping, raised crosswalks, turnabouts). To save money on food we shopped at the farmer’s market, which was incredible. Organic greens, tomatoes, fresh bread, homemade granola, cheese. There seems to be a Whole Foods or Wild Oats every three or four blocks, and we supplemented our cache there. And we went on some incredible hikes. The City of Boulder, with about 100,000 people, has 40,000 acres of open space, mostly along the Flatirons — the dramatic peaks that rise just west of town. The town ends abruptly at the parklands, and within minutes you can be in the wilderness (with a lot of other people, granted.)Our favorite hike was a 1,100 foot climb to Royal Arch, with a spectacular overview of what will be our new home. It was a four-day trip. The airfare was reasonable. Frontier’s service was polite, helpful and the planes were on time. The town was drunken with spring (and I get the feeling that Boulderites may always feel a little giddy, just being where they are). So, all in all, a successful escape. Anyone else have good news to share? I’m also welcoming any and all advice on food, hikes or other ins and outs of life in Boulder.    Below: The view of Boulder from Royal Arch. blder2.jpg 

The scoop on traveling ultra-light

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008


One of our campsites — Little Claire Lake — in Sequoia National Park.

I received something unexpected in the mail last Friday. It was a hand-written letter (first one I’ve gotten in months.) The writer, Hans E. Arlton, said that he normally enjoys my articles but that the recent tale about backpacking in Sequoia National Park puzzled him. “Why would anyone carry a 50-pound pack today? When I started wilderness camping in the ’70s, I used a 35 lb kit. Now it’s half that.” He enclosed a list of his gear for a 13-day trek on the distance of the John Muir Trail; The sum total? 17 pounds, 10 ounces. Plus 12 pounds of food.
I have gone on serious backpacking trips only four times in my life. I don’t own a good light backpack. I had borrowed a friend’s vintage Lowe backpack, which by itself weighs 6 pounds. I also had a 4.5 pound sleeping bag. And, I’ll admit it, I overpacked on clothes. But I also don’t own the latest ultralight doo-dads. Arlton goes on to upbraid me (gently) a little more. “The question is not what you ‘need’ to bring. It’s how much risk, deprivation and discomfort are you willing to assume.”

I had a great time on that trip, and I enjoyed myself. But there was a fellow on the trip who managed even better with just 35 pounds of gear (including his 12 pounds of food) and it convinced me I need to try to lighten up next time. I wrote back to Mr. Arlton, and swore on a titanium camp cup that I will pare down next time. And i’ll buy my own ultralight backpack and bag. It’s time. Anyone else care to “weigh in” on the topic?Sequoia National Park (more…)