Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Oquirrhs

I headed west today with little more than a vague memory of some doubletrack near Herriman and a rough connector road to Middle Canyon, one of my favorite places to ride back when I was a non-mountain-biker living in Tooele, Utah. More than a million people live in the Salt Lake Valley, a once-barren valley surrounded by two large mountain ranges. The Wasatch Range, to the east, was deemed the crown jewel and is now home to a dozen ski resorts, countless campgrounds, trails, paved roads and mad development in general. The Oquirrhs, to the west, remain largely unvisited and unknown.

For all the years I lived in Sandy, Salt Lake and Tooele, my Oquirrh experiences are limited to Middle Canyon and one mountain bike ride near Herriman in which I tore a calf muscle on an endo and couldn't walk normally for two months (I wasn't a mountain biker back then, mind you. I'm so much more graceful now. Ha!) I was feeling really lousy this morning - in an emotional sense - and decided I needed to wash out the malaise with some tough climbing. I hoped some Oquirrh roads and trails would suffice, and I was not disappointed.

Postholing in wet slush up a steep grade ... this has to be good practice for something.

The Kennicott Copper Mine posted "No trespassing" signs everywhere but the scenic viewpoint road. Nothing says scenic like open pit mining. I could not see the bottom.

The trails were much better - or at least less restricted - to the southwest, my old stomping ground - Tooele County.

Look ma, 9,100 feet! I'm going to take a picture every time I reach my "highest elevation of the training season thus far."

Thunderstorms moved through all afternoon. For about five minutes it would pour and I'd be completely soaked, then the sun would come back out and within 10 more minutes I'd be completely dry. It was actually quite refreshing, bursting through a spray of sweet-smelling rainwater and relishing the first real chill I've felt in a couple weeks.

I can't say the rainstorms or the ride washed away all of my malaise, but springtime in the mountains, with the intense colors and smells, definitely provides a good dose of dopamine.

I stopped at the car wash on my way home to finally wash the layers of caked-on red sand off my bike. Even the car wash was pretty, although I lost about two quarters worth of spray time looking for my camera. I have no idea where tomorrow will take me. And maybe that's not a bad thing.


  1. Jill...again...thanks! I'm really enjoying your adventures. Also, the photos were spectacular.

    I grew up with open-pit mining on Northern Minnesota's Iron Range, but I have never seen anything like that copper mine. Ugh!

  2. Jill,

    The good thing is that none of know what tomorrow will take us. A lot of us would hide with fear if we did - you embrace it and take it for what it is - a learning experience to grow from!

    Enjoy the journey!

  3. A continuing treat to get to go along for the ride. I wish I could run away and join you for an unknown tomorrow.

  4. That first photo is so pretty.

  5. Yeah, I made it my background for today. Go get that dopamine.

  6. Oh man, I gotta bring my mtn bike the next time I go to SLC. That looks like some prime mountain country you were riding!

  7. Is the mine still active? When I lived there, decades ago, the economy of the valley hinged on that mine; every time the miners went on strike the valley economy tumbled into the red.

    But it is great area once away from the mine, and the damage from the refinery effluent at the north end of the range.

  8. Jill, it seems as if you're starting to heal. Slowly.

    Sounds like (to these Australian ears) you are near Fatcyclist country?

  9. Hey Jill, you should see if the SLC Library has the book "A Historical Guide to Utah Ghost Towns". There are some pretty cool rides in the Oquirrhs that go up to remnants of long-gone mining towns, some with ruins still intact...Ophir, Jacob City, Mercur, Ajax. Good climbs to some--like Jacob City--up hardscrabble, sometimes gravel mining roads. Might be worth a check.

  10. I know the exact carwash you are at, because I wash my car there too (I live right around the corner). And that first picture of Butterfield Canyon, I have a similar one on my blog. For some reason, it makes me feel special that you've visited so close to me ;).


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