7c: Lehi

September 4: 7 miles total, 0 miles official BST, 5.5 miles unofficial route

Spencer and I had a great hike along the base of the Traverse Mountains to wrap up our filming of Episode 7. And Utah County. And Season 1 of the State of the BST. We need to take a break for the fall so Spencer can focus on paying jobs, including teaching a filmmaking class at UVU (yes, this professor dad is very proud of him). Originally, we had planned to skip most of this area because Lehi, Draper, and Highland have plans for the BST here, and there is no way to follow their intended route. However, for the sake of having a nice ending, we decided to cross the general area however we could. Fortunately, there are several old 4×4 roads crossing the south face, so we set out from the Hog Hollow Trailhead in Highland and headed West. It turns out Highland has very little involvement with BST planning, as this trailhead is at the extreme northern edge of the city, 50 feet from the Draper city limits. But we do appreciate the trailhead at least.

Jeep roads seem to have been created with little regard for grade, and we spent a lot of today going up hills and down into ravines. Clearly, this was not a good route for a permanent BST, but it is in the general vicinity for the planned route, and it was a lot shorter than a more level route that would have to zig zag a lot more around the topography. For example, the Fango trail just uphill, which could actually become part of the BST, covers the same breadth of the hill as we did with twice the length.

Much of today’s hike and discussion revolved around the Micron memory chip plant, which was visible below us most of the time. It is amazing to remember when they built this plant in the early 2000s, people thought they were crazy to build a high tech facility up on this barren hillside, so far from all the tech companies in Provo and Orem. They were able to buy 1,000 acres of “practically worthless” land for a steal. And we all thought the “little town” of Lehi was nuts for giving them a huge tax break, with the pie-in-the-sky idea that they might attract other tech businesses to the Point of the Mountain. Boy, were we wrong! Lehi has more than doubled in size in 20 years to become Utah County’s third largest city with the boom of the Silicon Slopes area. This year, Micron sold most of their undeveloped property to developer D.R. Horton; I’ll bet they made more profit with that sale than with chips this year. D.R. Horton has big plans for developing this hillside. Although there is a lot of debate in the community on the details, it looks like they will be preserving a fair amount of open space, especially in the upper reaches where the BST will pass through. Lehi and Draper have a good track record of reserving large blocks of open space on this mountain while allowing pockets of development.

As we walked through the upper part of the Micron property, I was amazed at the beauty and solitude of oak woodlands and meadows, despite the houses and businesses visible above and below us in the distance. We did not encounter a single other person the entire time. I hope the inevitable future development will retain significant areas like this.

Eventually we returned to civilization in the Traverse Mountain neighborhood. Here the Traverse Mountain Trails Association (TMTA) is actively working with Lehi City to build a multi-use trails network, and they already have an exemplary track record. Their first project, the Sensei Trail, is a well-designed, well-built, well-maintained trail that is as enjoyable to hike or run as it is to bike. Much of it could easily become part of the BST, depending on how Lehi, Draper, and Geneva Rock figure out how to get the trail around or over the Point of the Mountain. We followed it for a little while, but another 5 miles would have been too much today, and this episode is already chock-full of footage.

Here’s our route in Trailforks.

7b: Alpine

August 21: 4.3 miles total, 0 miles official BST, 3.9 miles unofficial route

This was a very interesting segment, the first in a long time that I have not hiked before (at least, a lot of it). This segment goes in and out of private property and the National Forest, actually the Lone Peak Wilderness. In 2017, Alpine City proactively secured public trail easements across the private segments, which makes them ready to be designated as the BST. However, the wilderness sections are more difficult, because the BST is intended to be open to all non-motorized traffic, but mountain bikes are not allowed in wilderness areas (despite the fact that 75% of the traffic on this trail is on bikes). Yes, fixing that takes an act of Congress; for the last two years, Senator Romney and Congressman Curtis have introduced bills (currently S.1222/H.R.2551) that would adjust the boundary of three wilderness areas along the BST (here, Mt. Olympus in Salt Lake, and Mt. Naomi near Logan) to exclude the BST, a total of 250 acres that would compensated by adding 250 acres up Mill Creek Canyon to Mt. Olympus Wilderness. Seems like a good solution to me, especially since the area we hiked through has lost any wilderness character as houses have been built right up against it. However, it is hard to get much done in Congress these days, both seem to be lost in committee, although the Senate bill has a chance of being rolled up into another omnibus public lands bill, which tend to have a better chance of passing.

Along our hike, we had a fun visit with one my best trail friends (and a former student), Brandon Stocksdale, who has a great job that most people wouldn’t imagine even exists. He’s a community planner with the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA) of the National Park Service. Yes, the Park Service, and no, he is not associated with a national park. Brandon and his colleagues basically act as consultants for cities, counties, and trail associations to help them plan and conserve open spaces and outdoor recreation opportunities. He is especially good at going into an area and getting all the stakeholders (cities, counties, state, federal, private landowners, citizens) around the table to have productive discussions about how best to manage urban open space. That’s how he helped to create the Utah Valley Trails Alliance (UVTA), of which I am currently the chair (and desperately trying to keep a little of his momentum).

We had a great chat about the great outdoor opportunities we have along the Wasatch Front and the challenges of making them available to everyone, the joys of cat herding (i.e., running stakeholder groups), and the prospects of getting the BST through Alpine, which he has worked on extensively.

We finished our trip by following some mountain biking trails through Lambert Park, one of the first dedicated Mountain Biking trail parks in the state, built about 20 years ago and managed (quite well, if I may say) by Alpine City. How the BST would pass through here I’m not sure, but it was a nice path we took.