Many great US cities are surrounded by or neighbor great mountain ranges: Los Angeles and the San Gabriels, Phoenix and its many ranges, Albuquerque and the Sandia range, and there's so many more - but nothing quite beats the Wasatch mountains that stretch from North of the greater Salt Lake City area all the way down past Provo. These are massive peaks, many of them well over 11K feet, and they literally rub right up against the major metropolitan areas they tower over. As one of the owners of the cozy Orem Herb Shop told us on our first day in the area "They're as good as the Swiss alps, and just wait until you see them from inside!", which we took as a good reason to set up camp deep in the mountains - if we could find a spot!
Before we headed into the mountains though, we had to finish hanging out at Orem Herb Shop and pick up some provisions at Real Foods Market. The Herb Shop of Orem is a small family business that prides itself on great service, and it really is great. We felt like family ourselves, hanging out almost an hour talking about health, nutrition, living off the grid, and the forest. They've got extensive bulk herbs and spices, high quality herbal supplements, and dried food staples (nuts, dried papaya, raisins) for great prices. The fact that the shop itself is super cozy helps a lot too, it feels truly homey, which only adds to the sense that you're part of the family there. Tell Dustin we said hello!
Real Foods Market is a short drive from Orem Herb Shop, and is yet another fantastic Utah health food gem. They're a small chain (5 stores total) owned by Redmond, the Real Salt people, and they've brilliantly circumvented the legal limitations that restrict the sale of raw milk within Utah by literally being the farm that produces the milk (and tests it), which then allows them to sell it in their stores!
It was a real treat to pick up raw milk at a great price, but things just got crazier as we wandered their shelves and discovered more of these super well priced products from their own farm - pastured eggs / beef / pork / chicken / dairy products of all kinds, all at great prices, which they then craft into amazing prepared foods including a wide variety of delicious soups, quinoa salads, chicken salad... we could go on all day.
On top of all that they've got a killer chocolate selection, lots of local produce, an impeccably curated selection of premium natural body care & organic skin care products, and a well-educated staff that actually know about all this stuff! You have to see it to believe it, so go check them out.
Once we were stocked up, it was time to head up into the Wasatch Mountains for the weekend. After a lot of searching, we found a dispersed camping area only 45 minutes from Orem named Salamander Flats. There wasn't much information online about it, but we hoped that just meant it also wouldn't be popular... we sure didn't know Utah!
We got there an hour before sunset and it was an absolute zoo with easily over a hundred people all out camping for the weekend. Utah does not take its nature for granted! Rightly so, as the mountains were truly gorgeous, packed with all varieties of delicate alpine wildflowers, dense with aspen and pine, and still capped with snow in early Summer.
When we say packed with wildflowers we mean it too. To spare you the bandwidth we're limiting ourselves to just one wildflower photo, but we documented well over 20 varieties in the short time we were in the area, and they were all super different. These mountains are a glory in spring, with the wildflowers in full bloom and the waterfalls flowing hard, in some places even bursting through or under the snow.
Quick PSA: Take some time whenever you're camping or hiking to pick up trash, and obviously don't leave any trash of your own. We're constantly shocked to find litter in very remote areas. It's not going to get cleaned up by a member of the forest service, BLM, or any other organization either, we need to work together to keep these places clean. We've seen rangers literally walk right past empty aluminum cans while walking to their trucks! It all adds up, so whether it's a couple shreds of candy wrapper of a dozen empty soda cans, throw it in your recycling box. Nature clean-up pro trip: find a littered plastic bag and use that to put other trash in!
Since everyone in Utah is exceedingly cool and loves to recommend awesome outdoor experiences, one of the cashiers at Real Foods Market in Orem (who is an avid hiker) had suggested we check out the second-highest peak in the Wasatch Mountains, Mt. Timpanogos. She told us of the manifold wonder the full day hike offered, but warned of the possibility of snowpack near the peak (11,752 ft) and ever so kindly offered to let us borrow a couple pairs of crampons to help us reach the summit. As it turns out, we weren't able to pick up the crampons, and there was indeed some snow close to the top. We played it safe, but still got rather far and spent the bulk of our day on the mountain.
Hikes like this aren't all about summits anyways, they're just about being outside all day, appreciating how unbelievably awesome the natural world is. The trail up Mt. Timpanogos is peppered with small waterfalls (plus one huge one), packed with more alpine wildflowers, and some sections are even lined with delicious wild mint, which makes a perfect addition to the ice cold water you can filter or charcoal treat from the waterfalls up here.
In total, our Timpanogos ramblings took 8 hours round trip (on which the world's best natural deodorant - our Probiotic Deodorant - never failed us). Any speed hikers reading this should know we took generous snack breaks, photo breaks, and wildflower documentation breaks. Plus our doggie hiking buddy needed to take sniff breaks, waterfall drink breaks, and smile adorably breaks. Hiking with dogs helps you appreciate things you might otherwise miss, as you can sort-of experience the natural world through their very different perspective and senses.
Coming down from the mountains is always hard, but at least we were greeted by even more good food and people. Real Foods Market in Salt Lake City had a totally different selection of prepared foods, Harvest Moon Health Foods in Layton had solid natural product coverage from natural body care and supplements to natural foods (including free roaming local eggs), and Dave's Health & Nutrition in West Jordan had all kinds of essential oils and obscure holistic skincare products we'd never seen before!
Utah truly is amazing, from the nature to the people, to the many independent businesses that thrive here. We've got one more section of Utah to cover, and it's sure to be as good as all the rest. Thanks for traveling with us, hope to see you soon!