Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Day In the Wasatch Mountains

I woke up Wednesday morning excited to think that I was actually in Salt Lake City to run the Big Cottonwood Marathon/Half Marathon!  The previous afternoon, I climbed into my SUV and headed north to the airport in Houston to start this journey.  The flight was easy and navigating the SLC airport even easier.  Only downside is that it was late - close to 9:00 PM and raining.  Thankfully I had my GPS with me and could let it lead me to my hotel on the south side of the city near Sandy UT.

My first order of business for the day was to make a quick trip to the Target store right acoss the street to buy some fresh fruit, Cheerios, and makings for salads for dinner each  night.  I was staying in a Hawthorne Suites hotel with a full kitchen and I planned to take advantage of this.   I also purchased an inexpensive pullover fleece in the boys department to wear race day morning.  We will be bused to the race start line 13 miles up into the Wasatch Mountains at an elevation of 7400 feet.  It will be cold up there!  And we'll have close to an hour to hang around waiting for the race to start.  Oh yes....there was a Starbucks in that Target store.

Purchases safely put away in the fridge and freezer back at the hotel, I fired up the GPS, put the Starbucks cappuccino into the cupholder and I headed due east on Fort Union Blvd which becomes Cottonwood Canyon Road as it rises into the mountains.

The race route starts at Spruces Campground on Cottonwood Canyon Road and finishes just a block away from the hotel I'm staying in.  My drive will cover the race route in its entirety, only in the reverse direction. we go!!

Within just a couple of miles from the hotel, the road changed dramatically as it snaked its way into the deep mountain folds and into Cottonwood Canyon.  It was breathtakingly gorgeous!  I could not believe that I would be running down this road in just a few days.

The road alternated between gentle sweeping curves and hairpins as it gained over 2,000 feet in elevation.  Only short stretches were relatively flat or straight, but everywhere the views are breathtaking.  Leaves on some of the trees are beginning to change color, adding to the beauty.

Before I realized it, I was upon the campground where we half marathon runners will be dropped off by bus.  I continued on up the road to Brighton and the ski resorts where the full marathon will start.  This is the end of the road, so I back-tracked to the road to Park City, route 220.

Oh, my!  This is the back way to get to Park City and the road was relentless in its climbs and hairpins and steepness.  It's a much more primitive road, barely two cars wide, no shoulder and very steep drop-offs.  But the views were spectacular!  The road had me up above the ski resorts of Brighton and Snowbird and the trails of winter are, today, beautiful verdant glades sweeping down the mountainsides.

One more very tight hairpin turn and the road became a single lane road with no painted lines, no shoulder and patches of gravel and sand in places.  I was beginning to worry what would come next on this primitive road but cars were passing from the other direction so I knew it had to go somewhere!

After what seemed like an eternity but was really only 16 miles, I began to see civilization and that gradually turned in the town of Park City.   I had done a little Google satellite view research and identified a parking garage right off the main road and just one street away from Main Street.  It was well-marked and easy to find.  Perfect!

Park City is a cute town, but very touristy.  What were once shops of a typical Main Street USA are now high-end jewelry, clothing, art shops and held no interest for me.  But there was one shop I definitely wanted to shop buy postcards for the grandkids.  I found a shady bench to write them little notes and address the cards and then mailed them at the post office just a block away.

I had lots of choices for lunch, cruising the main street down and then back up to check them all out.  I settled on Bistro 412 with its outdoor dining and interesting menu.  a nice appetizer - duck proscuitto with roasted figs and pistachios - won out.  It was the perfect choice for me, having grown tired of the lack of creativity and the mundaneness of many restaurants I've encountered in my recent travels.

I'd seen all I wanted to, here in Park City, so I headed back to the car and let the GPS guide me through town and the few short miles to I-80.  Definitely the civilized way to get to or from Park City!

I was about 45 minutes from my hotel, but it went far more quickly than did my drive up Cottonwood Canyon Road and along 220 to get to Park City.  I still had a portion of that cappuccino I'd purchased earlier, so I sat outside on a bench at the hotel and sipped the coffee, nibbled on a chocolate I'd purchased in Park City, and enjoyed the beautiful day.

A quick walk back over to Target to purchase a forgotten item, and I settled in to my room, had a delicous salad with grilled chicken sliced on top, and watched TV.

Tomorrow:  go into downtown Salt Lake City to see Temple Square, the capitol building, and other downtown sites.