Monday, March 16, 2015

Skin Track Rage

** the interests of point-making this post is a bit fraught with a bit of non-family-friendly language....

I recently heard of an interaction.....nay, I think it can be called an "altercation"....that happened in the Wasatch that was pretty disturbing, and I think warrants a bit of discussion.

A friend  -let's call him "John",  since that's (sorta) his name - went out solo one fine midweek morning into the Cardiac area to get a little untracked powder, since that's what we do in these parts when it snows.  A few people were in the 'hood, the skin track was in, and there were a few sets of Wasatch Wiggly (ie small, slow turns) tracks on a pretty mellow, pretty popular, pretty low-angle slope.  John got to the top, pulled his skins, and had one of those sublime runs that some of us practically (do) live for: untracked mid-boot powder turns under a bluebird sky.  Because he has the mid-phat skis that he'd happily invested in (along with thousands of other folks) and has the skills bequeathed to a person who's been skiing his whole life, he didn't really feel like wiggling his way down the slope at a near-walking pace, and opened 'em up and let his skis run a bit, making maybe one turn to every two that were adjacent to his tracks, and kept them pretty tight against the old tracks.  He definitely did not take the 1100 foot run in 10 turns, which is actually a very viable thing to do.

He got to the bottom and slid to a stop, breathing hard and glowing in the unique sensation that skiing such a run creates.  When suddenly his sublimnity was shattered by a scream from the skin track above:  "Hey you MOTHERFUCKER! WHY DON'T YOU GO BACK TO ALTA, SINCE YOU'RE A  FUCKING GAPER WHO DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO SKI IN THE BACKCOUNTRY!" and so on.   Whoa! Huh? John literally looked over his shoulder to see if there was someone around whom he hadn't seen who was the recipient of this tirade, but no, he was indeed the target.  Apparently he had violated someone's "rules" of how "we" should ski, and was therefore subjected to the wrath of The Gatekeepers:
Ghostbusters reference; a bit of a stretch, but still...Sigourney Weaver's finest role....
John - who is about the mellowest cat I know, and not easily ruffled - understandably got his dander up a bit and  (also blessed with an unusual level of fitness) hustled up the skin track to have a chat with the assailant and find out why she (yes, it was a woman) felt compelled to literally ruin his day by shrieking at him because he didn't feel like mimicking her uninspiring turns.  I won't go into the details of the rest of the interaction because it wasn't that pleasant nor does it matter, but it brings up coupla good questions:  how should we ski  -or do anything, for that matter -  and do we have an obligation to do it the way that others do?

The venerable Wasatch avy forecaster Drew Hardesty has been working on promoting a "Backcountry Code of Ethics" that has been years in the making due to the ever-increasing numbers of people in the backcountry in the winter and the implications of those visitors, but it mostly deals with avalanche safety:  basically, as participants in a communal activity that involves inherent risk to the community, we all have an obligation to each other to practice safe protocol.  Makes sense.  However, does obligation to the community extend to aspects with much lesser impacts, such as the "style" with which we choose to partake?  And if so, who determines The Style? And does Style-conformance need enforcement?

Recently Andrew McLean did a good blog post of things to avoid when backcountry skiing that are pretty common sense.  But Andrew  -whose seen a lot in his years embedded in the backcountry ski world - wisely didn't talk about how we all enjoy what we do.  Big turns, little turns, straightlining,'s all good.  I have often said that I've been tempted to get one of those Mad River Rockets 'cause they look like a hoot; use snowshoes to climb and then ride the things down (but I haven't because I'm not sure my knees could handle them); would I make ski-worthy turns?  Yes, no, I don't know.  All I really know is that it's really fun to slide on snow.

But apparently there are the handful of the righteous among our "community" who apparently have chosen to not only ignore the advent of big skis, snowboards, skimo skis - basically, the cool innovations that have essentially changed the sport for most of us - and the implications of these new tools, but also feel compelled to RAGE in a really unfortunate manner against those who partake in one of the best activities known to man in a slightly different way. Ironically, it would seem that if indeed everyone had their big rigs - and/or the skills - that enabled the fast, long radius turns, then we could all "farm" those tracks, but apparently "we" need to farm the little wiggly tracks, simply because......?  Come come now, people!  It's not necessarily the same as it ever was!

To be fair, untracked powder is a scarce resource - particularly here in the Wasatch  -and we all know that scarce resources make people do crazy things....
2nd old movie reference:  Mad Max
But the intersection of scarce resources and people also creates the absolute need to be able to share those resources, and understand different perspectives.

Don't get me wrong; I've done my share of griping at what people do in the backcountry, but I've tried to understand that while that's not what I would necessarily do, as long as we don't jeopardize each other's safety, there's plenty of room for everyone to do what they want:

without resorting to Skin Track Rage.

It's the best activity I know; please don't ruin it.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Cataract Canyon Pack Raft, or "what a coupla geeks will do to get some winter whitewater!"

A year and a half ago when I did the River of Return pack raft trip with Tom MacFarlane he was talking about pack rafting Cataract Canyon and how it was such a straightforward trip to get down into the heart of it, do the 14 mile whitewater section (of the 100 mile long canyon that is otherwise flat water) and hike back to to the start.   I remember getting home and looking at a map and shaking my head thinking wow, there's not much of a horseshoe in the river and it seems like an awful lot of desert walking for a little whitewater!

But time goes by, the allure of a good adventure remains - and grows, of course - and finally Tom suggested we give it a go now before the meager snowpack starts to bump the river volume up to possibly non-pack raft-friendly flows.  So, with my legs and body still weary from a weekend of powder kegging (which Noah summarized well enough that I don't need to do here, or maybe I will later), Tom and I found ourselves at Elephant Hill in Canyonlands feeling very far from water but ready to charge to the rio.

But before we got to the trailhead we had to run the gauntlet of the National Park Service permitting system.  We knew that permit availability this time of year would be a given, but the NPS is notorious for making river running more challenging than it should be (despite the fact that Yellowstone is as populated as it is and powerboats are allowed on all it's lakes, actually boating the rivers is apparently too impactful, so all rivers in Yellowstone are banned to watercraft!  But don't get me started....).  In the case of Cataract, the regulations include a required extra paddle, a fire pan, a groover, and an extra pfd.  Challenging stuff when you're already carrying a boat, dry top/bottoms, food, full camping gear, water, helmet, and pfd....on your back.  We of course considered blowing off the permit completely - which cost us $70, for two days - but a few minutes on The Google indicated that the fine could be upwards of $5k, so it seemed like a worthy investment, despite the fact that we knew the ranger gave us a bald-faced lie when he said "the river is well-patrolled, so keep this permit handy!"

But back to the trip.  We went up and over Elephant Hill (that Ash and I had traversed a month ago on our bikes, and again I marveled at the four-wheelers who are bold enough to drive over that) and then headed down Red Canyon, for a 10 mile total hike to the river.  I thought at one point we had gotten to the river, but there was a slight problem with it:
But eventually we plunged down a deep canyon:
And found the drainage that seemed more appropriate for floating a boat:
Immediately we both realized how much we've missed being on the water; living in the desert makes it tough to get on rivers very consistently, and all it takes is a few paddle strokes to reinvigorate the stoke.
Tom bobbing along merrily
Tom has been running rivers for a long time and spent a lot of time with his family in the Needles area, but amazingly had never been down Cataract Canyon!  It definitely has a bit of a mystique; despite the fact that it's 85% flatwater, the whitewater section is pretty formidable at high flows, and it has a reputation for creating an unusually high level of carnage.  I had done it only once at the medium-high flow of 50,000 cfs, and it was indeed sort of eye-opening big and powerful, but at near-basal flows the rapids were just bobby class 3.  We ran them all on the fly, with the exception of the notorious Big Drop 3, which with a quick scout went nice and clean down the middle with the correct trajectory and some strong stroking.

The beta that we had was that there was a viable exit from the canyon in a break in the canyon walls a mile below the Big Drops, and after a long day - that had started in SLC that morning- we were happy to see a great little beach camp right at the base of what looked like the ramp out.  We had a nice fire - that, yes sir, was in our fire pan, Sir!  - and were lulled to sleep by the mellow roar - if that's not an oxymoron  - of the rapid out our "door".

In the morning we rolled up the boats and started the haul out of the canyon.  The chute that we climbed was probably something along the lines of 1500 feet of 3rd class at probably 30 degrees, and coming off of ski season, we both had the great thought that it would be a killer line to ski once it "fills in!"

Once up on the mesa we navigated our way cross-country to the bottom of the Imperial Valley, which  - according to our maps, which were mostly accurate - had a faint double track in it, and we commenced our long slog back towards our start.

And it was nice that the scenery kept improving from austere to sublime as we went:
And we kept ourselves entertained 
This shot was taken some time after I accidentally kicked over an open water bottle and therefore wasn't quite as jovial.....I was tempted to try to suck it out of the sand, since water is a bit of an issue in those parts......
After hiking most of the day we got to the entrance to the fabled Chesler Park, where we were able to go off the sandy doubletrack and onto the nice park trails, and the views got pretty nutty:

We finally saw a few folks in popular Chesler Park, and they rightly wondered what the hell we were doing with kayak paddles when there didn't seem to be water....anywhere
We decided to camp for the night in Chesler Park just a few miles shy of the trailhead, since it was so amazing out there, and I had to try try out my new Scrabble "board'  that I had hauled the entire way:
Cotton!  doubles as a napkin or wash rag, not that I ever actually use either of those!  But nice and light.  Thanks JD!
And a quick jaunt out in the morning brought us back to the trailhead.  here's a map of the route:
the yellow is our hiking route; we put in just below the confluence.  
a bit more detail
Thanks again to Tom for having the idea and keeping it alive.  And now he's cooking up another variation that's about 5x the distance and also includes mountain bikes.....that'll be another tale fo sho.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Mountain Accord, or Mountain Discord?

Over the last year I've been very involved with the Mountain Accord process as part of my role as the "Assistant to the Vice President" of the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance. I haven't written about it much here because....well, because it seems like I have spent so much time on Mountain Accord that it's almost felt like a (unpaid) job, and I write this for "fun".  But now it's getting important, and is worth a call to action to anyone who might read this.

If you have recreated in the Wasatch, currently recreate in the Wasatch, will recreate in the Wasatch, or drink the water out of the taps here, now is the time to opine on what is the beginning of a phase change for the Wasatch.  I have been here for 15 years, and this is The Biggest Thing To Happen in the planning and management of our beloved little range.  Having so many different entities with different agendas/goals that are - in many cases  -contradictory makes for a very complex process that is sometimes difficult to wade through, but it's very much worth a bit of time for education, because the Wasatch is gonna change, and will do so with or without your input!  So you might as well add your thoughts to the process at the appropriate time, and now is very much the appropriate time.

We have created the opportunities to meet with many of the leaders of the Mountain Accord process and I'm becoming increasingly convinced of two things: 1) there are no conspiracies or back-door deals happening, just people pushing their respective agendas (some harder than other), and these can be changed by public opinion (outrage), and 2) it is vitally important that this "succeeds", somehow or another, regardless of the muddiness of it.  As Mayor Ralph Becker put it to me (and undoubtedly everyone else): "we are at a unique point in time" with the right players in the right positions and the willingness of all to make some deals.

To be sure, Mountain Accord's biggest shortcoming has been it's woefully-bad lack of communication to both members and - particularly - to the public, but they recognize that and are working hard at improving communication.

Here is a link to Mountain Accord's "blueprint" (which should really be called a proposal), and here is a Question and Answer doc that tries to distill the Mountain Accord process into a fairly easily-digestible bit  on the WBA site (if you aren't a member yet, join!  Lowest impact activist org going!)  The survey on the MA site is really awkward and misleading and I'm convinced that it will yield very little actionable info into the process, but it does have plenty of space for comments.  I would suggest writing your own email to  If you live out of town, or have friends who live out of town and visit to b/c ski, please comment as well; out-of-towners represent those tourist dollars that our leaders value above....most things!

Below is the letter that I will send to them myself; feel free to use/poach as you wish.
Mountain Accord Blueprint Comments


I have been very involved in the Mountain Accord process from the inception as a member of the Recreation System Group, and these are my formal comments regarding the “blueprint” put forth by the Executive Board.  

·      I recognize that the traffic situation in Little Cottonwood Canyon is unsustainable on some winter days, and while I understand the impetus to promote a train version of a fixed guideway, I feel that the bus system is far from optimized and with proper implementation, could service both the ski resorts and dispersed users on a year-round basis far more effectively than a train. 
·      Providing copious parking near the mouths of the canyon would be a critical component of this.
·      Without trying an optimized bus system using the existing infrastructure I feel it is impossible to justify major infrastructure changes (adding lanes or a installing a train)
·      Charging a per-vehicle fee - either via a daily fee or an annual pass – would help subsidize the optimized bus/parking system and provide an incentive to ride the transit system
·      Incentivize ridership by making the bus fee free or only a nominal price.   
·      The bus system would need to have both a Snowbird-servicing bus and multiple Alta express buses.  
·      Current and future UDOT plans to add passing lanes on hwy 210 for private vehicles should be focused on improving bus transit systems. 
·      Snowsheds and/or bridges over slide paths can/should be added for increased avalanche mitigation for the highway.
·      I fully support optimizing year-round Bus Rapid Transit for Big Cottonwood Canyon.  Again, with copious parking at the mouth of the canyon. 
·      A tunnel linking LCC and BCC is not needed.  Improved public transit would alleviate the traffic issues associated with LCC, and the “safety” issues that have been ascribed to a tunnel have been overblown; there have not been any documented injuries/fatalities associated with overuse of LCC that would not be overcome with improved transit.
·      Tunnel connections would create more defacto resort sidecountry terrain, effectively increasing the resorts’ footprints. 
·      The tunnel would basically be a taxpayer-funded connection that would exist to benefit four businesses (ski resorts) with no/very little validation that such a connection would actually be economically beneficial to those busineses  There are no significant “problems” that an LCC/BCC tunnel would solve, despite a considerable cost to taxpayers.
·      The same argument is applied to a fixed guideway system connecting BCC to Park City.  It would not necessarily save time for PC-BCC travelers, is not supported by Park City officials, and would again be a taxpayer-subsidized benefit to a handful of businesses (ski resorts) who have not proven that such a connection would even be beneficial today, much less in the future considering global warming and the flat/declining trends of the resort skiing industry (according to their own study).
·      The question on the survey asking if the transit “solutions” are “environmentally-sustainable” is fundamentally flawed:  transit systems are not intended to be “environmentally sustainable”; they are intended to transport people from point to point. Since NO ONE – including trans engineers who have looked into this project – knows if they’ll actually be environmentally-sustainable (eg degrading the watershed) that point is misguided at best and badly misleading and irrelevant at worst.  The question should be “Is this a solution that I as a user of the Central Wasatch would actually use and be willing to pay for?”
·      At the moment parking is the limiting factor for pressurized use in the Cottonwood Canyons; enabling as many people as possible to use the canyon will result in more user pressure.  Optimizing Bus Rapid Transit will be an intermediate step to moving possibly-somewhat more people up the canyon to put only moderate additional use pressure on the canyons. 
·      I am in full support of a year-round bus shuttle system for Mill Creek Canyon.
·      I am in full support of a train/light rail system linking the Salt Lake Valley with Park City.  This is a system that I feel would be used far more extensively by commuters and lower-income resort workers around the clock on a more-regular schedule than a LCC canyon train that would be associated almost exclusively for time-intensive recreation. 
·      The rationale provided for abandoning the Parley’s rail transit  - that was favored in the Trans system group - is that it would not be competitive with the freeway; however, this rationale was not applied to the successful SLC airport Trax line. 

·      I am in full support of creating a trails network in the upper reaches of the two canyons
·      The trails should be a mix of hiking exclusive, mountain biking exclusive, and and shared (and/or with management techniques conducive to habits; ie Snowbird’s new trail being uphill til the tram runs and then it becomes downhill).
·      Any new road/transit construction must have improved road cycling facilities (wider shoulders, exclusive bike lanes, disconnected paved bike paths)
·      LCC/BCC parking areas need to be enlarged and enhanced for the major dispersed user trailheads, with optional stops for the Bus Rapid Transit at White Pine, Argenta, Butler Fork, Mineral Fork, etc.
·      I support the permanent protection of the Emma Ridges to Superior ridgeline from development. 
·      I do NOT support a chairlift in Grizzly Gulch.  I recognize that it is private property, but I also appreciate that much of Alta’s operations are on public land and that they stand to benefit greatly from enhanced base development on a lot of lucrative land, additional water use, increased snowmaking, and improved LCC transit.  Grizzly Gulch and the surrounding area should be put into some sort of permanent protection. 
·      I could be supportive of chairlifts and development into the American Fork Canyon depending on alignment and scope.   
·      I could be supportive of a re-aligned chairlift in Honeycomb Canyon, depending on the alignment, provided there are no effects on Silver Fork backcountry
·      I am supportive of Brighton’s formal adoption of Hidden Canyon, provided any chairlift reaches back towards the Great Western chairlift.
·      I am supportive of increased connectivity between Brighton and Solitude in the SolBright area.
·      I am supportive of enhanced facilities at identified high-use nodes to both concentrate use in appropriate close-in areas and disperse use in more-remote areas
I am in support of modifying wilderness boundaries to accomodate new and existing sections of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. 

·      I fail to understand how the Mountain Accord can consider all forms of recreation in the Central Wasatch except for one of the most significant and controversial forms:  Wasatch Powderbirds.  To me this “oversight”  of neglecting helicopter skiing in our tiny range –that was based on a Forest Service administrative timeline that was arbitrarily changed from 5 year renewals to 10 years  - is an egregious omission. 

·      I support enabling the ski resorts to utilize more water for snowmaking
·      I support adding potential land and altering zoning for additional development at the various resorts’ bases. 
·      I support enabling the ski resorts to expand their summertime activities within their existing footprints.
·      I support enhanced modern avalanche mitigation techniques (ie Gas-X) above Alta. I do NOT support a chairlift on Flagstaff peak
·      I do not support extraordinarily-expensive, taxpayer-funded “solutions” to “problems” that enable profit maximization for ski resorts whose lift tickets are pricing their customers out of an already-flat-to-declining market. 

·      I am not an environmental specialist, so I cannot comment on the survey question:  “does the Blueprint achieve environmental stewardship of the natural resources?” 
·      I know that the EPA has determined that ski resort development has a more profound effect on watershed integrity than ANY other development.  But I am cautiously optimistic that SLC Water and various other governing bodies will ensure water quality despite the threats associated with increased use, transit, and development.
·      I am in favor of a re-forestation effort on (particularly) the Emma ridgeline area
·      I am becoming increasingly convinced that simple people-pressure on the canyons is having a degrading effect on the watershed, and dramatically increasing opportunities to transport people up the canyons will have a commensurate effect on the watershed quality. 
·      I am concerned that the ski resorts are getting many of their desired “gets”, and their “gives” are more along the lines of “we are not taking as much as we could take”, at the expense of potential environmental and backcountry terrain preservation. 

Overall I have found the “blueprint” (it should have been called a “ proposal”) to NOT be reflective of the thousands of hours of work that people put into the system group meetings and submeetings over the summer; it confirms to me that the Exec board was made up of a lot of Important People who were not very engaged in the process and therefore created a plan that represented their impressions/interests rather than what was determined by the System Groups. 

Therefore I do not support the “blueprint” in its current form, but I am a strong believer in the Mountain Accord ideals and timing, and am very hopeful that a more equitable balance of gives and takes can be achieved to accommodate many constituents’/stakeholders’ desires, IF they are all willing to concede on some of their desires. 
(end of comments)

We at the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance have become emboldened over the last few week or so that not only can the blueprint be changed dramatically, it very likely will be changed, but again we can't emphasize enough that the impetus to do so will be driven in large part by the winds of change that the public comments may blow.  We hope it's a hurricane!  So please take the bit of time to educate yourself a little, send in your comments, and encourage anyone you know who has, does, will, can, or might recreate in the Wasatch to do so as well.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

Underneath the Wasatch

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity  -ostensibly as a function of my membership on the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance and on the Mountain Accord committee - to get a tour of the tunnels that web the hills that we recreate on.  As almost anyone who has been to this area knows, the Cottonwood Canyons and the Park City side were basically developed not for the snow and hiking that people appreciate today but for the ore that lay(s) underground.  There's a reason that there's not one but two Silver Lakes as well as a Silver Fork, a Mineral Fork and a Mineral Basin, features like Pittsburg lake, Michigan City, and Montreal Hill weren't named after ski bums from those places, and Mary/ Catherine/Martha and Black Bess and Emma of lakes, hill, and ridge fame were not freeride ski hotties.  Mining was the deal, and as such there are 1200 miles of tunnels between Little Cottonwood Canyon and Park City!  So even as the Mountain Accord process discusses a fully interconnected canyon system, it actually already is!

Our tour started at the new water treatment center near the Cliff Lodge at Snowbird.  This is the place that treats all the water that bubbles up out of the ground that Alta and Snowbird uses, and the water district used this site to create a new onsite office for the whole system.  Part of the office is devoted to some fun local history:
Eagle's Nest, after being denuded and then re-forested as it is today.  Upper LCC was pretty much strip-logged for lumber for the tunnels and to build the town.  

wow, I hope that someday I could be honored with my own memorial sewer system!  A civil engineer's highest honor...
And then we went into the local treatment plant; a tunnel angling downward towards where it felt like Little Cottonwood creek was.  Our Tour Guide was the affable Keith Hanson, who has worked for the water district since the beginning of time, is clearly so smart that he's got the confidence to be very humble, and has a deep appreciation for not only the rich history of Alta but also the responsibility he has to deliver "good" water for hundreds of thousands of people.

This was a huge plug that they had to put in to keep the water funneled into the pipes on the sides
In addition to silver, there's also iron in them thar hills.  
a pretty big system to keep that water nice for Alta and Snowbird

and clearly well-controlled.  Note that they got the "Silver Bullet" brand of gizmo; only appropriate for silver mines? 

lemme see, "approved drinking water, Backwash Tank"?  clearly good engineers, not as good at marketing.
Noah trying some of said backwash drinking water.  Looks like it's going quickly to his head!
And then we headed up to Alta for the "real" tunnel.  The portal is the Bay City Mine, which is the little concrete building just up from Alta Central.  I was glad we had Keith as our guide, because it's clearly quite a maze:
this is just the system under the Emma ridges
the first part of the mine is well-lit, and used a fair bit with a steel grating walkway, but it's still low enough that everyone has to hunch over and the provided hardhats come in handy.  They were doing some work at the end of that section:

but then Keith took us to The Goods.

It's quite the maze, and there are interesting relics everywhere:
old ore carts

Noah checking out some various goods
Silver miner or Dork?
The miners used tar/tallow headlamps, and used the resulting grease to create graffiti:
they were still mining in the 20's

I think that's a canary?

Is that Emma?  or Black Bess?  
We wandered down some corridors that were in pretty good shape:

And some that got a little tight:

This crawl was a bit of a test for us for Keith, as he wanted to make sure that no one in our crew would freak at the claustrophobic nature of being deep, dark, and tight, because he wanted to take us to his special spot, that was only accessed by a bit of a sketchy climb:
We apparently passed the test, because he led us high into a cool room that he said he figured only about 50 people had been in over the last 30 years.  
Powderwhore or Silverminer?  
Using the fixed line to get down.  I guess you don't have to worry about UV degradation of the ropes!
Nearby is also the impromptu grave of a miner who was killed in a collapse; he resides there still.
A portrait of the boss. 
One of my fundamental questions about the tunnels was relevant to what's happening to the Mountain Accord:  could existing tunnels be used as conduits to what UTA is proposing as the LCC/BCc connecting tunnel?  Very simply: no.  The rock we were in was a mix of limestone and quartzite (hard to believe they were able to blast through that in the 1800's; we saw a lot of old fuses and such) but the granite that is so obvious down at the mouth of Little Cottonwood is the layer that's tunnelable by today's standards, and that was a couple/few hundred feet up from where we were.  So the tunnel would somehow have to get up the hill a ways in order to go through.  

I asked Keith about the proposed trans tunnel, and he was mixed; there was no doubt that it could be done, but was it really worth all the effort, and who would benefit?  (a question we share!)

I asked him about the train up LCC, and he was cautiously in favor of it; he thinks that it "could" be done so that the precious LCC water was not compromised, and he said that the worst thing for that creek are the 2.3 gazillion tons of salt poured on the road all winter, so if a train could help alleviate that, then that's a good thing.  But at what cost?  

I went into this tour thinking that I'd need about an hour to get the gist of what went on under the Little Cottonwood ridgeline, but when we popped back out into the sunlight almost 4 hours had flown by!  It was intended to be a fact-finding mission to learn more about the potential interconnection the canyons, but the truth is that it was just a rare opportunity to go deep into the running historical narrative by our great guide Keith and the minor thrill of stepping back into a pretty hardscrabble time. 

Thanks to Todd for the (actually good, as opposed to my very mediocre) pics, to Newell Jensen of SLC for setting up the tour, and to Keith, who is probably not that far from retirement and definitely needs to figure out how to privatize his little chunk of underground paradise and guide other folks through his beloved maze!