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September 12, 2008

John’s 99, John’s Trail, Empire Link and other favorites

Filed under: MTB Travel, Park City 2007 — anotherheader @ 9:26 pm

The town of Park City from the bottom of Sweeney's Switchbacks

The town of Park City from the bottom of Sweeney

Our breakfast at Squatter’s was interrupted by a phone call from Alex, the condo’s handyman, who was eager to get started on our punch list. The breakfast service was fast and we arrived in time to meet Alex at the condo. While solving 75% of the condo’s outstanding issues, Alex also provided us with multiple restaurant options, mountain biking route advice, and reassurance that there would not be too much mud up on the trails. Alex was truly living up to his job title!

Shortly after noon we were able to break away from the condo and head up the hill. We chose a route that would get us up to the areas that we feared might be muddy so we could see which rides would be viable.

I had called three bikes shops on Sunday and received grim news immediately post Saturday’s storm about the trail conditions (“Too muddy,” “Don’t go up.”) and even an

Bill climbing John's Trail

Bill climbing John

inference that the mountain biking season might be over. Contradicting the gloomy bike shop reports, the mid mountain web cam from Park City Mountain Resort showed only a dusting of snow. With warm weather forecasted, we thought we had a chance. Bill posted a condition information request to the Utah forum on MTBR and we heard what we wanted to hear—give it a couple of days and the conditions will be good. Emboldened by our selective hearing, we headed out to Park City but still had some concerns about the conditions.

The day was clear with winds higher up on the hill. The temperatures at the start of the ride were in the low sixties and would rise to the high sixties latter in the day. The short sleeve conditions were a surprise as Bill and I both brought every piece of cold weather riding gear that we owned.

Old Mine in the Park City Mountain Resort

Old Mine in the Park City Mountain Resort

We headed up under the Town Lift taking Sweeny’s Switchbacks to John’s Trail. John’s Trail is a tight and twisty number that winds back and forth through a dense aspen grove on the nose of the ridge. John’s Trail is one of our favorites in Park City. Last time, though, it left a mark. I clipped a tree with my handle bar last summer and ended up gouging a groove in my shin. Knowing that I had even wider handlebars on my new bike, Bill was insistent that we do John’s Trail multiple times. I guess he wanted to see the blood for himself!

Gasping at the thin air, we climbed up the hill to the mid mountain level which is around 8,300 feet. Though not at their peak, the aspens glowed golden. The trees had lost many of their leaves which allowed the sun from the clear day to strobe in, lighting the trail tread that was camouflaged in yellow leaf litter. Despite our fears, the trail conditions were perfect. There was no dust, no snow to roll through, and only a couple of easily avoidable muddy spots. The bikes came back clean with no work needed on either the frame or the drive train. We had the trails to ourselves meeting only one local rider and a couple of hikers from out of town (we didn’t check their driver’s licenses, but they were asking us for directions!).

Using a combination of the map and the Bill’s Confused Position System (his GPS was kept safely tucked in his Camelback lest actual data enter into the “Where are we” discussion), we connected to John’s 99. Usually, the trails in Park City are well marked but many of the signs were missing on this visit perhaps because of the looming ski season. We took John’s 99 through the aspen sprinkled pine forest towards Deer Valley until it terminated in a new ski lift and straw covered ski run. We could have crossed over and continued, but it looked like there was a lot of construction ahead and we were going to face similar situations.

Panorama looking towards Deer Valley

Panorama looking towards Deer Valley

After backtracking, we took Empire Link/Mid Mountain Trail back to John’s Trail that Bill was insistent on descending. At the higher altitudes, the aspens were almost completely devoid of leaves standing in stark grey white contrast to the brightly colored bushes and tree leaves on the ground. John’s was dropped harm free with twisty, helmet cam worthy pleasure. A combination of Sweeny’s and various braids dropped us on to Empire Ave near the house.

It was a beautiful ride and one of our favorite non-technical rides of the season. We returned to the house to find that the TV was still not functioning. I might have to talk to Bill this evening. That, in and of it self, is not so bad. It’s just that the resulting therapy bills can start to get expensive!

Pictures for the day:

Look, no mud!

Look, no mud!

Restaurant recommendation (inexpensive Mexican, a local’s favorite): El Chubasco, 1890 Bonanza


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