March 26 – April 4, 2019
We left home early enough in the morning (which required a nap on my part) to make it to the Park City Home Depot and pick up our aluminum diamond plated Lund storage box, that we modified into a “ski-coffin”. As we (meaning Paul) drive E/B on the I-15 toward Las Vegas, we can’t help but notice the depth on contour that the currently thriving vegetation gives this once bland tapestry of the desert and its rocky hills flanking us on either side. The previously stark canvas is painted with vast swaths of green, yellow and burnt orange. Lengthy portions of the freeway are lined with thick blooms of bright yellow flowers, leaving us with the impression that we are on a “yellow brick road” to Vegas. Suddenly, traffic comes to a near stop, and are forced to squeeze past a recently overturned toy-hauler that now lies in a tangled mess in the #1 lane. As we pass, the owners, unharmed, survey the damage, in obvious shock and disappointed realization that their excursion has come to an abrupt halt. (I felt too bad to take a “looky-loo” picture of their disaster) As we near Baker, a long and narrow glissening “lake” appears to our right, a natural catch basin for this season’s voluminous winter storms. Climbing out of the Mojave desert basisn, and now at 4000ft, I awake to an expansive and dense forest of Joshua Trees in full bloom with the tips of their bottle brush limbs frosted antique white. ( I couldn’t get Paul to slow down, or pull over, to take a picture of the Joshua trees)
We thread through the familar sites of the Virgin River gorge, an ever growing St. George Utah, past our turn-off in Parowan where we mule deer hunt, and on through Orem where we make our turn “uphill” onto Hwy 52 that melds into Hwy 189 in search of the Park City Home Depot. We arrive in what we believe to be “plenty of time” to pick up the box, install it, and get to the Park City RV park, where a blog I had recently read said that in the winter they are “first come, first serve” . We pick up our box enclosed in what can only be described as “tired” cardboard. For when we rolled the box out to the truck and unpacked it, we couldn’t help but notice that it had obviously been dropped more than once, having suffered multiple dents in the lid and on the sides. Not wanting to accept an inferior product (at full price), I wheeled that bad boy back to the pick-up desk, showed them the damage and joked, that if there are going to be dents in this box, we should at least be the ones that do the “denting”. (Little did we know how true that statement was going to be.) They offered to order us a new one, but that would take 10 days for delivery, of which we did not have the time to wait. I was, however, able to negotiate a significant refund and 30% discount on the box in hand.
Having done so, I triumphantly wheeled the box back out to the truck where Paul took a hammer to the dents, and once he fastened the box (after drilling the appropriate holes) it straightened it out sufficiently. By now, night had descended, which required a stop at Park City’s Whole Foods Market for our evening’s meal. We made a point to park where we had room to maneuver with the box now attached to the rear of our truck. We were concerned how the extension of 3 feet would affect our turning radius and distances when backing. We would soon put this to the test. For when we arrived at the Park City RV park, rather than take a perfectly flat and “empty” RV site, we dutifully headed to the area earmarked for truck campers. We located a site and initially pulled head-in, but thought otherwise of it, as everyone else was backed into their sites. We imagined that they had done so because the weather could change at any moment. Prior to Paul backing up (in the pitch-black night), he implored me to watch so he didn’t back into anything. Well…before I could put on my phone’s light to see where I was going, Paul was slowly backing. At the same time, I literally walked into our “neighbor’s” black Toyota truck and as I was attempting to alert Paul to the truck I had just bumped into, I became painfully aware that it was too late. Paul had already backed up past me and had now, ever so slightly, scraped past the tail end of the black truck and was now pulling forward with the wheels turned to better set up to back into the site. I yelled for him to stop, which he obviously could not hear over the sound of our diesel engine, nor could he see me waving wildly in the dark of the night. What then followed was the most horrible crunching sound of metal and plastic, as the ass end of our newly acquired shiny box intersected with the taillight and rear bumper of the black truck.
SHIT! Well that’s one way to put our “own” dents into this box. Suddenly the pitch-black night is awash with light, followed by an irate, fist-raised couple who now demanded that we buy them a new truck. We assured them we had insurance, and there was no need for this to escalate into a violent encounter. Only the taillight of their truck had been damaged, as we had incurred the bulk of the “damage” to our new purchase. Thank goodness we had not yet loaded our skis into the bin, nor had we installed the stabilizing bars that would have attached to our truck, or I’m sure things would have been worse. Insurance information was exchanged and the Sheriff was called for good measure. In order to further diffuse the situation, we limped our way back up and into an open RV site, pissed that we didn’t just “bend the rules” and park in an RV site in the first place! As our continued “luck” would have it, the bathroom was locked and our site had no electricity. Additionally there were no “self-serve” pay envelopes, so we decided we would pay in the morning (This turned out to be disasterous, for as we went into pay the next morning, and more importantly get the “code” to the bathroom, we got a lecture about not having paid. It also included a “rant” (which we understood) on how important it was for us to have paid last night because they have a lot of people that park and leave in the morning without paying before the office opens. Standing in front of her with cold hard cash and a multiude of credit cards in hand (to pay for the previous night), it was everything we could do to bite our tongues and not reply with a snarky comment. It was obvious that she was NOT having a good morning. Unfortunately for us, she also did not have space available for another night.
After we took care of business, it was time for an in-depth survey of the actual damage. Nothing a hammer couldn’t fix with regard to the box, but the basket arm into the rear hitch was another story. This would require a metal fabricator, or a new piece of angle iron…and it was Saturday…in Utah. Thank goodness for smart phones! For nearly 30 minutes, I Googled every metal fabricator in a 50-mile radius, and remarkably found one who answered the phone. He was in Centerville, near Salt Lake City. He was open till 2 pm. It was now 10 am. The rub was that he was the only one in the shop, and as he told us, he only had one arm. After Paul had explained our predicament, he told us to come by anyway, that he would call his son and see what he could do to help us. What did we have to lose? We un-bolted the box from the carrier, dismantled the carrier and prayed that it would all fit into the back of the camper. Success! We arrived at Metric Motors and met with the owner, Chris, whose arm was cocooned in a sling. So in actuality, he had two arms, just one was working. He was not able to find any angle iron to fit our purpose, but he did have an air operated press, that luckily didn’t require two arms to operate. As such, he was miraculously able to straighten out the seriously deformed iron tongue for our basket. Not only did he help us, but did it free of charge!
From there he directed us to the nearest Home Depot where we reinstalled our “ski-coffin”, attached stabilizers and loaded our ski gear. With still plenty of daylight, but not much time to ski, we headed up the mountain into Big Cottonwood Canyon to check out the Solitude Mountain Ski Resort and Brighton Ski Resort , and to see which (or if) any of the US Forest Service campgrounds were open, and explore the possibility of parking overnight in one of the ski area’s parking lots. The answer…NO and NO, for there was too much snow, as if there is ever such a thing. Dejected, we headed back down Big Cottownwood Canyon as snow began to fall and the temperature read 18 degrees. We soon found ourselves at the Salt Lake City KOA , next to the fairgrounds, and bedded down for the night. I have to say that this place it MASSIVE and one of the BEST KOAs we have ever pulled into. The people there were extremely pleasant and accomodating. Better yet, it was in walking distance (2 Miles) to a church, and went to Saturday evening Mass. We figured that considering how our trip had started, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea, especially if we planned on skiing…Sunday. The remarkable thing that also differentiates this KOA from all the others we’ve stayed in, NO TRAINS!…Okay, there was one, but not an industrial sound was heard all night long! Pure, and utter, bliss.
8am, and a full night’s sleep, we were up and ready to hit the slopes! A stop at the the most sad and pathetic Walgreens for some KT tape for my knee, followed by three missed turns (that lead us into Salt Lake City’s significant homeless population, who were patiently waiting in long lines for a hot breakfast) reminded us of our true and sustained good fortune, even in the face of our regular misadventures. Once onto the correct freeway, our morning’s destination would be Big Cottonwood Canyon (34 miles or so away) where we skied Solitude Mountain Resort under azure blue skies for the entire day.
It was a wide open and sparsely populated mountain of snowy goodness whose elevation and steep terrain seared our lungs and our legs. Once fully exhausted, we searched again, for a nearby place to camp for the night in order to ski Solitude’s next door neighbor, Brighton the next day…to no avail.
Forlorn, we retreated to Heber City and found space available at the Mountain Valley RV Resort, where the following morning we would have the pleasure of skiing Deer Valley…for three glorious days. Courtesy of our Ikon passes, we skied just about every inch of Deer Valley till we couldn’t, with the final day being not because we were tired, but that we couldn’t see, as a freshly snowing cloud engulfed the upper regions of the mountain, making for dangerous whiteout conditions.
We stayed one more night at the RV resort and then tried out the Jordanelle State Park for our final night in Utah before heading toward Washington. For $16/night we had the state park to ourselves. Rain fell all night long. We awoke to the sound of seagulls squacking, leaving us with the impression that we had camped on a seashore instead of a lakeshore.
Winter campers, (according to the park manager, are relatively few) are relegated to the parking lot of the boat ramp launch area complete with a heated and lighted bathroom facility. From our “campsite” we had a (mostly frozen) lake view wherein we could see evidence of more than a few ice fishing excursions. This will be our go-to camping when we head back out to Utah for next years ski-cation.
…continued, An “Ikonic” Winter – Part III