Monday, November 30, 2009

Buy your own ski resort

Only a few minutes left in the auction for a Utah ski resort. Elk Meadows is down a few hours south of here. This was supposed to become a grand resort with golf, skiing and hiking. Unfortunately, it went out of business and has resulted in a foreclosure auction.

The auction for the ski resort includes:
  • 1100+ acres of land
  • Two lodges
  • Several condos
  • Ski lifts
  • Some roads and utilities already installed

The auction was supposed to end a few days ago but it was extended. Why? No one was willing to pay enough. Now I understand the recession and everything, but I was stunned to find out that the highest bid was $1.48 million. For 1100 acres of land with a running ski resort? Primo lots in Park City can go for that much with less than an acre.

So, curious as I am, I filled out the online paperwork so that I could see all the auction details. Now I get it. You not only want your wallet when you buy, you want your team of lawyers. This thing is a rats nest of lawsuits, unpaid taxes, and challenged permits. Builders didn't get paid. People put money down on lots and got nothing. None of the local taxes have been paid in a long time. Worse, it seems some of the conditional use permits have been challenged in court, and they lost. When you sign to buy, you have to release the current owner from all these problems and accept them as your own.

Only a few hours left to get in your bid!

An Update: Someone made a higher bid, raising it to $1.58 million. That extends the auction another 24 hours. More time to jump in. Feel free to visit the web site.

Final Update: Unless you were the one who bid $1.58 million, looks like you missed an opportunity. I would have enjoyed coming to ski at your resort.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Another wonderful day!

So many different things can make me appreciate the life I am blessed with.

I went to the airport this morning and took this picture through the windshield on my way back home. You should be seeing an entire mountain range in the background. How does this make me happy? I just love that we live in a wonderful little town, nestled up in the mountains, where the smog doesn't seem to visit. Deep breaths.

NC State - 28 UNC - 27

NC State is having a crappy year. We even lost to Duke! If you are only going to win one game of the year, this is the one. For the third year in a row, State has beaten a much-favored UNC. The best description I heard was from a UNC blog: "Butch Davis (UNC coach) is Tom O'Brian's (State coach) bitch." What more can be said?

And of course, another party. A day after Julie's birthday and a day before Lisa Rudy's. Sounds like something to celebrate.

Not only did we have leftovers from the turkey dinner, we had new food show up. I am pretty certain I am up five pounds.

My mom, enjoying the conversation.

All the ladies. From left to right: Joan Fernane, Lisa Rudy, Kathy Compton-Covaleski, Teresa Schumacher, Julie Joyce, Loris Benson, and Emily Joyce.

After all the partying, it was time for the moms to head to the airport. While I was in the role of chauffeur, Julie got to exercise Jasper. He has a little bootie on his paw, again, because he keeps tearing up his toe nails.

A rare appearance from behind the camera. Joan snapped one of the Joyce side of the family.

Wonderful family. Wonderful friends. Excuses for gatherings. A great place to live. And another win over Carolina. Giving Thanks just comes easy.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Just one big celebration

First we have to put the tree up. This came out looking better than I expected. We have a tree, some lights, and a nice collection of balls, but the rest of our Christmas decorations are still in Raleigh. It's enough to get you in the spirit.

On Sunday, the moms rolled into town. That's Joan Fernane (Julie's mom) on the left and Emily Joyce (my mom) on the right. No idea what she was talking about, or even to who. (whom?)

The birthday girl! Julie's birthday is the 26th and this year it fell on Thanksgiving Day. A bummer since we were doing dinner for eight and she was in charge.

How may experts does it take to put some candles on a cake? Joan, Loris, Bill and Kathy all seem to be playing an active roll. Seems like a lot of help when you see how few candles are actaully on the cake.

The great news is that Julie picked a Deer Valley Carrot Cake as her birthday cake. Yum!! We also had two different homemade pumpkin pies in case the cake wasn't enough.

Not sure why Bill Benson (left) is smiling. That's his wife Loris with Jim Covaleski, and they are both smiling.

The birthday girl, blowing out all the candles. Instead of having trick candles that keep relighting, we had one that seemed to refuse to stay lit.

It was a great day. We had family in town. Friends over for dinner. Awesome, sunny warm weather. Food to die for. And of course, wine. What an excellent Thanksgiving and Julie birthday!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Real Salt Lake wins

In this area, we only have two pro teams, the Utah Jazz (NBA) and Real Salt Lake (soccer). The soccer team was pretty mediocre all season long and it looked pretty certain that they wouldn't make the playoffs. Then they started winning. And winning.

They made the playoffs and won every game, including a huge upset in the cup game against the LA Galaxy, who stars the famous David Beckham.

The team gets a fair amount of support, but they have only been in existence for five years and just now got their own stadium. This win should be great for fan support, ticket sales and such. I was surprised to hear that Utah has the most kids playing soccer per capita. Now they have more to cheer for.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Interesting stuff from the week

Just a bit of a collection of odds and ends:

The High West Distillery opened just off Main Street in Park City. It has an active Rye Whiskey and Vodka distillery along with a bar and restaurant. They have been running out of Salt Lake while they were building in Park City. Their beverages having been winning some pretty big awards. Yet another thing to go do.

Long time friends, the Kahn family, moved to Australia earlier this year. Bruce happened to be flying through on his way back from NY to Australia, so we got to go do lunch together. Great to see him. We miss the whole Kahn klan.

We had a little snow storm last night. Only 3-4 inches, but enough to get the snow blower out and blow the driveway on the north side of the house. Once it gets cold enough, you have to stay on top of it. Otherwise it starts to ice up and makes it a real challenge when the big storms roll in.

The moms are in town. My mom came in yesterday morning and Julie's mom came in yesterday afternoon. Both are here through the Thanksgiving week. No big plans other than turkey dinner.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Keeping us busy

Well, I should be busy running. I have a marathon down in Phoenix in two months. Unmotivated. Sore knees. Tight back. Slow. Cold. Ran 9 miles today, but whimpered to myself most of the run.

Julie and I are both doing a bit more with other organizations.

Julie is now on the board of directors for Friends of the Animals Utah. This is where we got Jasper (our dog) and Cosette (our cat). They do fantastic work in the area. In October alone, they placed 90 animals. They are on track to place 800 animals in 2009. Julie is working with the financial, marketing, and technology teams. Feel free to donate.

I have started doing some work with the Christian Center of Park City. Kind of a funny choice for someone who doesn't visit church unless it is something special, like a wedding or a funeral. This group is pretty awesome. I started working there because Julie and I are big supporters of food banks. We have supported them financially in both NC and Utah. The Christian Center is the food bank for Park City. They also have a thrift store and do a lot of work for the international work force that shows up each winter. I am not a board member. I do things like stock food bags with cans and haul things to a Big Brothers donation box.

I will be starting my work as a Park City Mountain host again in a few weeks. In enjoyed it last year and met some nice friends. This year both Julie and I get free season passes to Park City in exchange for this volunteer work.

Our recent visitor

It is a terrible photo but I only had seconds to grab my "truck camera" and shoot one almost directly into the sun. This pretty red fox has been hanging around the neighborhood lately. We've seen him right outside our front door on two occasions. This morning I saw him just wandering down our street. Then Jasper started barking at him and he took off.

Pretty cool.

Yesterday was a big day for Jasper's animal buddies. On our way home from the Home Depot, he got to see cows, llamas and a herd of mini-donkeys. When you deal in smells, it doesn't get much more exciting than that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Last day in Arches

I woke up early again, checked out of the hotel and headed into Arches for another sunrise. I felt bad for a couple I met yesterday who waited until the park opened at 8:00. The gates are open 24 hours a day, which is the only way to see the sun come up.

It was another pretty, cloudless day.

I like Balanced Rock so much, I stopped back by. It looks much better in the evening light, so I went with a different approach.

More of nature's stacking. These are each about the size of a building.

If you look closely at the left half of the picture, you can get a good idea of how thin some of the fins are. There was a huge pile of crumbled rock at the bottom where the fin used to be whole.

Then my pleasant surprise. I decided to take a quick wander along the Colorado River before heading home. It was after 10:00, which makes for a pretty intense, glaring sun. I was expecting very little.

I found that every once in a while you could find:
  • No rapids
  • No wind
  • Sun on the walls
  • No sun on the river
That gives you spectacular reflections.

There wasn't much flexibility on picking location. I was hacking through bushes and climbing down rocks to get to the places I could. My kingdom for a nice pair of insulated hip waders!

But I love the outcome. Sometimes if you expect little, you are rewarded with some little treasures.

I'm home now, so that wraps up my trip to Arches. The next photo outing will be either Bryce or Canyonlands.

Travel tips (mostly just reminders for me):
  • Moab and the parks are slow from November to early March. As March rolls along, the crowds roll in. It was so quiet that I felt no concerns about stopping my car almost anywhere. At one point I had my tripod set up in the middle of the road.
  • The Hampton Inn was wonderful. Very new and clean. Big rooms. Free breakfast. I will stay there every time I am in Moab.
  • Driving through Duchesne adds about 10 miles, but is a lot more scenic. Not a great idea with snow on the roads.
  • Paradox Pizza and Singha Thai were both excellent.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Photographing Arches National Park

Wow! Utah's parks are simply spectacular. Arches is about 250 miles south of Park City. The entrance is only two miles north of the town of Moab, which has a lot of hotels and restaurants to chose from.

This area has more natural arches than any other place in the world. This is North Window right at sunset.

And there are arch wanna-be's. It was amazing how many arches you could see in different stages of their development. The rule is that an arch has to be at least three feet across to count. This one is more like 200 feet.

Pine Tree Arch isn't a big one. However, double click on the image and then look at the woman standing below the arch.

One thing you need for a good arch is a slab of rock thin enough that you can get all the way through it. For this, we have "fins". This is The Courthouse at sunrise.

This gives you a better view of how thin it is. Keep in mind it is hundreds of feet tall, so "thin" is relative.

Here is collection of fins on the edge of the Fiery Furnace. This area is so convoluted that you can only hike there if you are with a ranger or get training and a hiking permit. There are no trails. It is just wandering through miles of fins and spires.

In the distance is Delicate Arch. This is one of the more famous arches in the park. It's featured on Utah's license plates. Wasn't one of my favorites, so I didn't bother to hike to it. I thought the dead tree was more interesting.

Much more interesting and attractive is Landscape Arch. This is the longest natural arch on earth (for now) at 306 feet. Back in 1991, some sightseers were at the arch when they heard it start to crack and pop. It dropped 180 tons of rock, much of which is visible at the bottom right. No one is allowed to go close any more.

Now you tell me: shouldn't this one be called "Delicate Arch" instead? I stopped at the visitor center and suggested to a Park Ranger that they switch the names for Delicate and Landscape arches. Didn't sound like it would be done any time soon.

I didn't get a picture of it, but another arch in this same general area, Wall Arch, collapsed last year. When you consider that arches have lives of tens of thousands of years, having a "major" one collapse in our lifetime is pretty cool.

My favorite things weren't even arches. This is Balanced Rock. It is the size of a house. Ask yourself: "how did that happen?"

This one didn't have a name, but I like how Mother Nature can stack a big cairn so neatly. The white cap makes it even nicer.

Spires at sunset. I had the Park Rangers add the mountains and snow for contrast.

This area is called the Petrified Dunes. They aren't actually petrified, but are sand dunes that set up like concrete over the millenia.

A slightly different view of the Dunes.

I think this is one called The Organ, but to me it looks like a hand coming out of the ground.

The best name goes to one called The Gossips. It really looks like three women (each hundreds of feet tall), with dresses and some form of hat.

The Fiery Furnace

Sometimes looking down was more interesting than looking up.

The plants were very different. I would love to catch a spring when the wildflowers are blooming.

And the trees seemed to always be struggling to survive. There were twisted, gnarled trees everywhere.

This tree wasn't as lucky.

In this picture, most of the differences in color aren't from different soils. The color changes are from a cryptobiotic soil crust. It is a very fragile living mixture of algae, fungi, moss, lichen and bacteria.

I named this formation Monument Gnads. I doubt that will be added to the park brochure.

Even after the sun went down, there was still a lot to look at.

One day I took a scenic bypass around Moab. It's an hour wander around a mountain pass. It was obvious that a fairly large fire had come through in the past decade. There were acres and acres of burnt trees. Even they were pretty though.

Heading back into town, you near the Colorado River. This huge tower was visible for many miles. It is still difficult for me to imagine a river eroding thousands of feet of rock and soil. Makes you wonder why it got everything but those two slabs.

Ever hear stories about a GPS sending someone into trouble? I was very happy with my new Garmin 255 GPS. I got it on sale a week ago for $130. When I took this picture, I was impressed that it was showing every little curve, with 100% accuracy, on a little road WAY back in the mountains.

Later, it was telling me how to get back to Moab. It suggested I make a left turn on Sand Hills Rd. I could have, but it was a very steep, very curvy, dirt road, 6 inches deep in snow. It could have been quite the ride. I drove off, confident that at some point, someone will make that turn because the GPS told them to.

I'll take a few more pictures tomorrow morning before driving back to Park City.

If you want to take up photography as a hobby, I really suggest finding somewhere as scenic as southern Utah.