When I started writing for this column one year ago, I figured it would give me the perfect excuse to play. In the name of research, I’d allow myself regular time to hike a new ridgeline, fish a new lake, float a new river. I’d explore places that I’d always seen from a distance, and read about, but had never been to.
Then life got in the way. I didn’t get out nearly as much as I wanted to. I never went as far as I imagined I would.
New Year’s resolutions aren’t typically my thing, but with so much still left on my outdoor-recreation wish list, I think it’s time to set some goals for 2014—and maybe give you some good ideas in the process.
Explore the Oquirrhs. First things first: In 2014, I’m finally going to memorize how to spell “Oquirrh.”
After I master that, I’m going out to visit the Oquirrh Mountains. From the Wasatch side of the valley, the Oquirrhs might not look like much, but think about it like this: Just like space—which because of its sheer size likely holds other life forms—the Oquirrhs, running north to south for 30 miles and stacked with 10,000-foot peaks, probably have some really cool and beautiful places.
The Oquirrhs have a maintained trail system by which intrepid users can access great hiking, mountaineering, climbing, backcountry skiing and fishing—something for all four seasons. I want to discover Flat Top Peak, Lowe Peak, Kelsey Peak (named after the first white woman to cross Utah) and more. For reportedly the most authentic and impressive Oquirrh experience, I want to hike Bald Mountain West and Bald Mountain East.
The biggest obstacle to using these mountains is limited access. Private property hugs right up to the forest boundary, squeezing trailheads to three main points. The closest access for Salt Lakers is probably through Herriman at the south end of the valley. From there, roads lead to trailheads in Butterfield Canyon and Middle Canyon. Total trip one-way: 35 miles, about one hour.
Paddle the Great Salt Lake wetlands. This past fall, I missed an opportunity to kayak through the Great Salt Lake marshes with biologist Phil Douglass. He was taking small groups out to visit tundra swans as the birds came through on their annual migration. Judging by his blog post, the moonlight float was spectacular.
Starting out from Rainbow Pond at Harold Crane Waterfowl Management Area, Douglass and his group saw drake pintails, a barn owl, green-winged teal and 1,000 wild tundra swans feeding on pondweed, a critical food source for the birds.
The next chance to see the tundra swans will come this spring as they move back north. A sure event on my 2014 calendar will be the annual Tundra Swan Day celebration held at Farmington Bay and Salt Creek Waterfowl Management areas in March.
Climb on. After a year-long hiatus from rock climbing, my housemate got me back on the wall this winter. We spent a couple of fun sessions trying indoor bouldering routes, where I quickly remembered how much more fun the sport is when done outdoors. My friend was brave enough to actually join a climbing group in freezing temperatures for a day outing to American Fork. I was not woman enough to brave the cold, but when the warm weather returns, I’d be more than happy to get out and climb.
Thanks to invitations from more eager and experienced friends, I’ve tagged along on short trips to Ferguson Canyon and Little Cottonwood. I’d love to return for another round. I also hope to accomplish a goal that’s been on my list for years: attempting the technical scramble up the face of Mount Olympus.
My last two resolutions are pretty simple. Like probably everyone else out there, I really want to get out more often in 2014. And, though I enjoy hiking alone with just my dogs for company, my final resolution will be to take a friend (and carpool).