part 1: “i believe in the future / i may live in my car,” an ode to the North American summer

**A quick apology to those of you who may have received an erroneous notification from WordPress yesterday about a new Going Glacial post. Technology briefly got the best of me.

With the turning of leaves from vivid green to fiery shades of red, yellow, and orange, and the first dustings of white gracing our highest peaks in the West, I am suddenly made aware of the imminent change in seasons (and thus, of the pressing need to at last emerge from blogging hibernation). The summer of 2012 in the Salt Lake Valley proved to be a scorcher, with record-high temperatures and raging wildfires prompting steady use of air-conditioning, ample ice cream consumption, escapes on-foot and on-bike into the high-alpine enclaves of the Wasatch, and, quite often, more dramatic excursions to mountains, lakes, sea, and even to overseas snow for those changes in scenery so integral to satisfying the daily leaps and bounds of my imagination. The mountains climbed, food (as well as snow and dirt) tasted, conversation and company experienced, and languages spoken during these toasty few months have all done their part to contribute to a fulfilling and high-adrenaline, if not eclectic, summer, and to a compel a new period of hibernation for early autumn writing, picture-making, and editing…perhaps even before those fiery leaves fall to the ground and our beloved mountains welcome the graceful falling of snowflakes and make way for the delightful cold of winter.

-AK, Alta, Utah, 09.2012

**

Red rock reconnaissance on the flanks of Pikes Peak after a day of bouldering and climbing in the Pike National Forest. Near Manitou Springs, Colorado, 04.2012.

May in Half Moon Bay. Seeking opportunities for exfoliation and exploration on the Northern California coast, 05.2012.

Record “low” snowfall during the 2011-2012 ski season (a meager 400 inches), alongside rapid melting from ample spring sunshine, made way for an early show of Little Cottonwood Canyon’s riotous wildflowers in mid-July. Snowbird, 07.2012.

On an innocent Thursday night in early July, I sat with a good friend in a popular Mediterranean restaurant in Salt Lake City, devouring hummus with piping hot pita, sipping potent Armenian beer, and, inevitably, travel-plotting. Early the next morning, we hit the road, mountain bikes, comparatively uninteresting Utah beer, and a puny, single-wall tent in tow, en route to Jackson, Wyoming, and Grand Teton National Park. While we initially fancied ourselves clever for dodging a grim Salt Lake City forecast, we soon found ourselves in the midst of classic, but nonetheless epic, Teton summer thunderstorms, strong enough to frighten even the bison that linger near the shores of Jackson Lake. The clouds parted for a few photogenic moments as we hit the trail with plans to complete an epic loop linking Paintbrush and Cascade Canyons. While menacing clouds ultimately turned us around near the lush shores of Holly Lake, decorated with rampant wildflowers, our quick bolt back to Jackson and a subsequent feast on bison sausage-adorned, hand spun pizza and full-strength Wyoming beer were satiating enough. Grand Teton National Park, 07.2012.

Pink petals and a burbling mountain brook lined the rigorous switchbacks up Paintbrush Canyon, providing a natural distraction from the ominous thunderheads. 07.2012.

Back in Utah, I welcomed my family for on-trail delights in the Wasatch, July 4th revelry, and a sunset trip to Jordanelle Reservoir for an evening of waterskiing with convivial conversation, retro wetsuits, and, par for the course, evening thunderstorms. Once the thunderheads had passed, I plunged into the water, skis, wetsuit, and all, ready to reinitiate a long-held tradition of summer slalom waterskiing. I lasted all of five impressive seconds before some serious muscle spasm in my hip took me down in the middle of Jordanelle, cause unknown (although weeks of mountain biking without sufficient stretching followed by a random waterskiing session seem plausible culprits). While I certainly took pleasure in watching my family glide over glassy waters as the clouds moved east and as the sun hung low over the verdant hills, I focused my reserves of energy on looking forward to a certain Johnnie Walker Red to help ease my age-inappropriate hip pain. Jordanelle Reservoir near Park City, Utah, 07.2012.

Slalom shenanigans.

You can’t claim true familiarity with the state of Utah without knowledge of Pioneer Day, an ode to the state’s Mormon heritage, an institution in the state’s cultural mythology, and a “follow-up” holiday of sorts that actually seems to eclipse our celebration of nation on July 4th. Rather than hang around a town for what local ski bums have affectionately (or perhaps offensively) dubbed “Pie and Beer Day,” a friend and I took to the road on the Friday preceding the long weekend, mountain bikes perched on the back of the car and trunk stuffed with sleeping bags, tents, helmets, and an oversized cooler bursting with exuberant quantities of hummus, avocados, salami, cheddar cheese, and Clif products of various shapes and sizes. 700 miles, several shrimp burritos, and a few too many car games later, we found ourselves in the outdoor enclave of Bend, Oregon, at the unholy hour of 3:00 a.m. After catching a few hours of much-needed shut eye in an RV parked haphazardly in a friend’s driveway there, we initiated an action-packed weekend of mountain biking, beer drinking, dirtbag camping, and spectating a rowdy criterion (a genre of road bike race). Rather than opt for a day of rest after a character-building mountain bike ride of 27 miles among the lava fields and lush vegetation that line the banks of the McKenzie River, we convinced ourselves to drive further west–both to glimpse the famous Oregon coast in the town of Newport and to feast on fish and fresh brew at the Rogue Brewery, an ode to Oregon beer heritage and the purveyor of a certain Hazelnut Nectar Brown Ale. Suffice it to say that the nectar flowing at Rogue provided ample distraction from our hefty task set for the Pioneer Day holiday–making the ~900-mile trek back to Salt Lake City in time to go to work, to seek out pie leftovers from local “pioneers,” and to place our treasured trove of fresh Oregon brew on ice. “Good to Sea,” Newport, Oregon, 07.2012.

Backyard bluebird. Despite my persistent state-hopping and travel-plotting, I reserved plenty of summer afternoons for two-wheel playtime among the craggy limestone peaks, riotous wildflowers, and high-alpine lakes of my own Little Cottonwood backyard. Alta, Utah, 07.2012.

On a whirlwind research trip to Washington, D.C., at the end of July, I explored the concrete, albeit humbling, environs of the National Mall, indeed protected and preserved by the National Park Service. I escaped the windowless confines of my research room at the Library of Congress for an early-morning stroll with all-too-potent coffee and a strange amalgam of American history tidbits and the lyrics to “Wagon Wheel” swirling in my tired head. Washington, D.C., 07.2012.

Wildflower welcome. Despite my persistent travel-plotting and state-hopping, I made haste back to Alta to catch a glimpse of Little Cottonwood’s yearly explosion of riotous wildflowers. Albion Basin in the majestic presence of Mount Superior, Alta, Utah, 07.2012.

Back in the Salt Lake City vicinity after a wild odyssey through the mountains and desert of Chile (which surely merits its own distinct post on the wonders of summer turned to South American winter), I explored some singletrack only minutes away from and a few hundred feet above the swelter and bustle of the Valley. On the Bonneville Shoreline Trail en route to the famous, adrenaline-inducing Bobsled descent, Salt Lake City, 09.2012.

A visit to the dwindling waters of Red Pine Lake, perched high among the steep walls of Little Cottonwood Canyon and patiently awaiting rehydration by imminent snowfall. 09.2012.

View from on high, from the summit of the Pfeifferhorn at 11,326 feet. Little Cottonwood Canyon, 09.2012.

Until the next…go on, get out there!

**

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