One Mile Closer to the Sun

There was a moment Tuesday afternoon when I thought I was going to die.

I was standing on a platform 7434′ in the sky, looking down at a distressingly thin pair of cables about to whisk me on a 60-mph, 1400-foot drop, wondering how I’d gotten myself into such a jam.

ZiplineMaybe I’m being a bit dramatic (“no maybe about it!” Tara says), but waiting in line for the Extreme Zipline at Utah Olympic Park in Park City forced me to confront my fear of heights dead-on. When we were planning this vacation months ago and my wife suggested we ride the zip line, I was like, “Yeah! Let’s go!” But my macho bravado faded in increments with each additional foot of elevation gain. In the end I not only survived but enjoyed the exhilarating rush and incredible view, and when I reached the bottom was ready to go again.

This whole vacation has been nothing short of amazing. It’s also been very hot, in the 90s and 100s everywhere we’ve gone, but I have not let the extreme early summer heat dampen my enthusiasm one bit.

We’ve been on the road for one week now. Home feels distant and far away. As great a time as we’re having, living out of a suitcase gets old after awhile. Audrey misses the cats. We long for the comfort of our own bed. Hell, I miss sea level; we’ve been one mile closer to the sun for the better part of a week now.

Our adventure began last Thursday when we drove to Baker City, Oregon after work. We spent the night and continued on to Ely the next day, meeting up with Tara’s cousin for lunch in Twin Falls along the way. Her dad greeted us with homemade fish tacos and booze. Great “homecoming!”

The main purpose for our trip was a wedding on Saturday; one of Tara’s close friends was tying the knot. The ceremony was nice and the reception, held in the Ely train depot, was a lot of fun even if it had a decided country theme about it. Think cowboy hats, belt buckles, and a DJ spinning plenty of Brooks & Dunn. We had fun regardless, and I even got to line dance. My feet had other ideas, but we clumsily pushed through somehow. I can cross that one off my bucket list.

The remainder of our time in Nevada was spent visiting with family and friends. Our last evening there we were sitting out on Mike and Doreen’s back porch after sundown when a bat swooped in and chased all the females away. I have never heard such a loud and prolonged scream. All I can say is, those are some impressive lungs you’ve got there, Doreen!

Monday afternoon we left Ely and drove to Park City, Utah, passing through the Bonneville Salt Flats along the way. Fascinating area, and I couldn’t help but scrape some of the salt off the ground and stick it on my tongue. Tasted exactly like the salt that comes out of the shaker back home. Go figure. Next up was the Great Salt Lake. It’s an impressive body of water but boy, does it smell bad. And swarms of gnats reside along the shoreline. I waded in up to my knees. The water was very warm – I’d guess at least 85. Tara and Audrey chose to watch from shore.

90 minutes later we arrived at our condo in Park City, a quaint ski village east of Salt Lake that is best known for the Sundance Film Festival. There were no celebrities in town this time of year, and no snow either. Try 90 degrees instead, even at 7000′. Summer, I hate you. Our condo was nice, but had a few weird quirks. Hot water came out of both taps; when I called the front desk, they said to turn on all the cold faucets and let them run for a few minutes. This worked, but got tiresome as we had to do it almost every single time. And though the place advertised central A/C, the thermostat couldn’t be set any lower than 69, and the air-conditioner struggled to cool us to even 76. Add A/C to the list of things I miss about home.

Nevertheless, Park City was picturesque and quaint, and we enjoyed our time exploring the area. Had a great dinner the first night at Wasatch Brew Pub on Main Street, and because our condo had a kitchen, we cooked most of our other meals there, including some delicious steaks and corn on the cob thanks to the onsite gas grills. Highlights of our visit: the aforementioned trek to Utah Olympic Park, a stroll through downtown Park City, a ride on the Deer Valley Ski Lift, and a hike to Donut Falls in Big Cottonwood Canyon. But the best part was catching the sunset (and moonrise) from atop Ensign Peak in Salt Lake City last night. I can’t decide which was more impressive.

SLC Sunset

Moonrise

Both were pretty stunning. And well worth the mile-long hike to the top of the peak, especially with the lights of Salt Lake City twinkling far below. Last year, I struggled to walk a block in the thin air of Ely. This time around, the elevation never bothered me. Yay for being in shape!

We’re leaving Utah this morning and driving to Boise to spend the night before making the journey back home tomorrow. Luckily, we’ll have the weekend to recover from our vacation.

Happy 4th!

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10 thoughts on “One Mile Closer to the Sun

  1. What a wonderful trip. I’ve enjoyed following along on Instagram. However, Donut Falls? Complete misnomer! Ha! And I would like to know where you gained access to the Great Salt Lake. We walked all over the GSL Preserve in Layton and couldn’t get to the lake. Confusing!

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    1. We found out later that you have to scramble up a slippery boulder slope to see the falls. Ripoff! But the trees, wildflowers, and gophers still made for a scenic walk up there. As for the Great Salt Lake, we went to GSL State Park. Easy access there, and a marina.

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  2. BRAVO! Mark, I APPLAUD you for going on the Extreme Zipline because just reading about it made the palms of my hands sweat!

    1400-foot drop?!?!

    OH. MY. GOD!!!!!!!!

    And I’m glad to hear that the extreme heat has not dampened your enthusiasm. But boy (90s-100s), that IS hot!

    “the thermostat couldn’t be set any lower than 69, and the air-conditioner struggled to cool us to even 76.”

    I would have DIED!

    STUNNING photographs! That one of the moon is spectacular!

    Have a great rest of your vacation and safe journey home!

    Happy 4th of July!

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    1. Thanks, Ron! I’ll admit it was scary waiting in line for the ride down, but with the exception of the first stomach-dropping two seconds, it was a lot of fun. Hope you have a happy 4th in the city of independence!

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  3. Height ? I go into cardiac arrest changing a light bulb on an 8 foot ladder. Oh and those fair rides. Insane. I do eat the hot dogs, corn on the cob and ice cream but the only ride I go on is in the car going to and leaving from the fair. Also need two seasick pills to get in bathtub.

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    1. Tara rode a zip line in Mexico that was considerably more primitive, for lack of a better word. This one was much more tame. Good to know, but in the seconds leading up to the drop, I wasn’t exactly mulling over safety stats!

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  4. I’m getting antsy for our road trip just from your stories and instagram pics. Joe and I are headed for Tennessee at the end of the month! Graceland and Dollywood, here we come!

    That zipline sounds amazing. I would totally do that. But I can understand getting antsy while going up. I never used to be afraid of heights, but I developed that fear a couple years ago. Now, even in museums, if there’s nothing but a railing separating the upper floors from a plunge to the main level, I walk closely along the wall and refuse to even be on the outside near the railing. Why is that? I haven’t had any near death instances to freak me out. I just get dizzy looking at the floor. But I still love roller coasters and have gone sky diving. #Enigma? LOL

    P.S. Love that silhouetted shot of Audrey against the sunset. :)

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    1. “Enigma” is putting it mildly! Tara and Audrey also want to go skydiving. I think they’re both nuts, and in fact, told them that – as fun as the zip line was – it definitely reinforces my desire to make sure both feet are planted firmly on the ground for the foreseeable future.

      Your road trip sounds like a blast! Can’t wait for those posts.

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