Tom Clyde: Wrapping up summer
I spent last week on a fully supported backcountry mountain bike trip. It was great, with spectacular scenery in Bryce and Zion. We did some hiking in both parks, and they never fail to inspire. The companionship was as good as the scenery, and the riding was as good as the company. We camped at Strawberry Point with a little frost on the tents, swam in Navajo Lake, and had lunch along the way by three abandoned tourist cabins out in the middle of nowhere. We set up our chairs in the blessed shade of the only tree for miles, and had lunch surrounded by petrified cow pies and shot up refrigerators. I tell you, it doesn’t get any better than that.
The best part of the trip was the total news blackout. I didn’t know what was going on, and frankly, didn’t much care. With the exception of a couple of places where we crossed what passes for civilization in that part of the state, there was no phone service. A 16-year old boy traveling with his father struggled with that, having never been out of cell range before in his life. It wasn’t quite panic, but the inability to text his girlfriend every 30 seconds was a new experience.
For me, the blackout was therapeutic. I’m not one of those people who is on the device all the time. There is no cell service where I live. I’m a bit of a hermit, and have never seen any use for social media. But I have fallen into a habit of watching too much cable news and getting sucked into the national soap opera. It felt good to be away from that, and I haven’t turned it on much since I got home.
I left a pile of problems hanging at the ranch, and enjoyed the trip under the delusion that they would solve themselves before I got home. A couple of them did, but there were new ones waiting. With the dry season, the second hay crop wasn’t going to be worth the effort of cutting it. The plan was to let the alfalfa dry out enough that the cattle could eat it without bloating, and just graze it off this fall. Harvest on the hoof. In the meantime, the Provo River dried up. It’s running about 30 percent of normal for this time of year, and just slightly above the lowest flow on record. There’s no way to get water to the fields for the livestock to drink. You couldn’t bail water out with anything bigger than a shot glass at this point. Plan B is no longer possible. Plan C isn’t really obvious yet, other than it probably involves finding a tanker truck and somebody with a water source to fill it from. It may prove more expensive than it’s worth.
If it doesn’t snow a whole lot more than normal this winter, next summer will be even worse. But the lawns in Park City are still a deep, lush green. With enough money, anything is sustainable. I’m not sure where the snowmaking water will come from this year.
On the last day of the trip, my bike had a mechanical melt-down. It was nothing serious, but it required replacement of a 50-cent plastic part and a special wrench that nobody had to install it. So I rode the last several miles with the pedal crank flying off unpredictably. It took the guy in the shop about 15 minutes to repair it, but that planted the seed about buying a new bike. I don’t think of this one as being old, but a lot has happened to mountain bikes in 6 years – they cost more.
At the same time, the idea of new skis is also bubbling to the surface. There was no reason to buy new skis last year. I’ve always liked to have one pair of skis that are all-mountain and all-condition. I’ve got friends who have skis for every condition imaginable and, at some point every day on the hill, say they wish they had brought something different. If you only have one pair of skis, they can live in the trunk of the car all winter, and you always have the right skis with you.
But after last year, I’m thinking it would be nice to have something that really shines on hardpack. The optimist says buy new powder skis. The realist says get something designed for New England ice. The budget says last year’s gear is still perfectly good, and this is no time to be buying either new skis or bikes.
The good part is that we have a few months of Park City’s finest fall weather ahead of us, with the leaves turning and plenty of time to think it over on the trails.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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