When my 9-5 job came to me with the request of “go to Utah to help with a symposium,” I jumped at the chance as the kicker was, “when you aren't at the symposium you are free to explore as much as you would like.” My mind raced with the possibilities, they had just gave a pyromaniac matches!
Snowboarding was the top of the list, and I set my heart on it...right up until I checked the weather. Weeks of 45 degree weather left none of the Ski Areas open yet, slamming the door on snowboarding dreams. Alas, I would take the opportunity to duck hunt the great Salt Lake. A duck hunting destination that had been on my bucket list. My fingers raced across the keyboard as I did all the research necessary to track down guides, research seasons, figure out expenses, and the logistics. All the reputable guides were booked with it being the peak of the Tundra Swan Migration, and my heart broke again. Sensing my anxiety of going to an outdoor meca city and having to sit in the hotel, my Best Amigo Charley said, “fly fish dummy,” in the simple nonchalant Charley does. Why didn’t I think of that!
Back to the keyboard for a third round of research. One email to Utah Pro Fly Fishing with my dilemma, followed by a return phone call with employee Justin, and I was back to smiling ear to ear. It actually worked out perfect. Utah Pro Fly Fishing supplied all the gear so I didn't have to fly my own gear commercial. I would meet my guide Jerry at 5:45 am Monday morning and be a popsicle by first light!
Walking to my flight out of Charlotte Sunday night I checked the weather for the following morning. Oh perfect, 0 degrees and 4” of snow, what did I sign up for? I shot Jerry a text to see about pushing the trip to Tuesday when the weather would warm up to a scorching 15 deg but with no snow. I could sense the relief in his return text, he didn't care to babysit my thin North Carolina Pre-Amatuer Fly Fishing blood in a blizzard anymore than I did. Tuesday morning it was.
4.5 hour direct flight, sweet AWD Mazda CX5 rental, and a much-to-fancy-for-my-country-bumpkin-self hotel in downtown Salt Lake later and I was settled in. I woke up Monday morning at 6 am MST and was already bored...I don’t sit still well. I didn't have to be at the convention center until 10 and something prompted me to pull up Google maps. What did I find? A hike up Ensign Peak only minutes North of my hotel.
I threw on some clothes, and away I went reaching the trail head right at sunrise. Immediately I realized I was the only person there and would be cutting fresh tracks through last nights snow as I ascended. Inches of white fluffy goodness blanketed everything including the trail. Thankfully a jackleg fence ran parallel for most of the way up the trail, leaving only the question of whether there was firm footing under the snow or not.
The hike was quick and steep, perfect to get my blood flowing. Also perfect to remind me how out of shape I was. The path wound up the front of the hill on the lower section, than wrapped around the back for the final steep climb to the peak. The entire time I hiked (well...when I wasn't gasping for air) I kept my head on a swivel to try to spot some wildlife. Upon seeing none my only logical conclusion was they must have been wise and stayed in their beds. It couldn't have been the bumbling stumbling flat lander attempting an early morning ascend.
Upon reaching the top I realized I had made a rookie mistake; I pushed too hard or didn’t shed enough clothing as I heated up. I had broken a sweat. Sweat that instantly made me cold when I stopped moving and was exposed to the wind at the top. One would have thought I didn't grow up in the cold whether? How 11 quick years int eh Southeast will make you forget.
I uncapped the coffee I had stashed in my thermos, and broke out the camera for some quick shots. The sun was peeking behind the eastern edge of the snowstorm that loomed to the south creating all types of contrast over the city. I snapped the shameless ‘this is actually me on top of the mountain selfie,’ and repacked my things to start the descent.
Down was easier on my lungs, but a bit tricky on my legs as the snow was slippery. Tuck and roll was my backup strategy. I sent my Mom a quick video, to assure her I was almost back to the car safely (and because I knew she would enjoy the fact that I had gone hiking). Reaching my car I looked back over my shoulder to see what I had accomplished before heading down to the hotel. It was only a 1 mile hike, only 400 vertical feet, and only an hour long. But an hour worth of mountain air in my lungs fueled me for the rest of the day.
...stay tuned for Utah Part 2: Winter Fly Fishing