Wharton: Site offers Wasatch hike suggestions
Finding hikes in the Wasatch Canyons often involves a bit of research. Hikers can do some online searches, grab a classic guidebook such as Hiking the Wasatch or visit a U.S. Forest Service office.
Now there is an excellent alternative.
Local hiker Eric Bean had combined his love of the outdoors, a forestry degree and computer skills into a wonderful website called www.wasatchhiker.com">http://www.wasatchhiker.com to provide a trove of information to those looking to do a hike in Salt Lake or Utah counties.
"I own every book and map on the Wasatch and I read them cover to cover," said Bean, who works for Ancestry.com. "I get historical books so I know the history. I study maps and do research online â¦ I use every resource I can find. Over the last four years, I've hiked over 1,000 miles of Wasatch Trails."
One of the best things about the site are the tools it uses to help hikers pick a trail they might want to try. It allows you to click on the location you want to hike, tell it whether you are a slow or fast hiker and add the time you want to spend hiking. Then it will help you select a hike meeting that criteria.
The site also includes links to information on canyons and hiking and tabs to check the weather, examine photos, look at maps, learn about individual trails, what books and equipment you should have, a blog and a question and comments section.
Bean tries to look at that question section daily. It's a dialogue with hikers asking questions, sharing stories and offering suggestions. He also has a Facebook page where similar discussions take place.
"When I first started hiking in the Wastach in 2000, I could not get information on trails and trailheads," he said. "You would hear about popular ones. So I created a site so people who want to get in the mountains who don't know where to go have a resource. We also cover the basics such as what you should take and how to prepare for a hike to make it a form of enjoyment, not a form of torture. It is oriented to new hikers and families."
The avid hiker said the site just celebrated its four-year anniversary. Interest in it has been growing. Though he has made $300 total since putting up the site, it's mainly a hobby and a labor of love.
Many ask Bean about his favorite hike. He said he likes Upper Mt. Wolverine and the Wasatch Crest Trail where the Cottonwood Canyons connect. Though they can be hot in the summer, he enjoys hikes that offer views.
One thing not offered on the site is technical climbing information.
"I don't like to get into technical areas, and I don't like exposure," said Bean.
He said he finds most trails in good shape, though he hates to see people "bushwhack" trails, especially where switchbacks are involved, because it can add to erosion. That said, he considers himself more of a conservationist that an environmentalist.
One of Bean's co-workers, an avid backcountry skier, once criticized him because the website had the potential to send more people into the trails.
"Developers are going to come in and do everything they can to take over these areas," said Bean. "If we get people to go into the backcountry and learn to love and appreciate it, they are going to want to protect it. The site is oriented to people who will protect and preserve it, rather than develop it."
Mostly, though, the site is about providing information on hiking in Salt Lake and Utah Counties' wonderful Wasatch Mountains, an activity guaranteed to keep folks in shape and offer them a great place to spend their spare time.