Pint-sized Adventures in Park City

By Jane Gendron

It’s a bluebird day. Without a cloud on the horizon, the sky is that deep Utah blue that no one can seem to replicate—not even the Crayola people with their vast selection of shades and hues. It also happens to be a Monday, which means that the trail should be ours for the morning.

We’ve parked at the Silver Star lot. Peanut (age one) is loaded into the baby hiking backpack. Small Fry (age
five) has his socks pulled up to his knees and a CamelBak stocked with water and treats on his back. We’re sunblocked and ready, but no one is more excited to hit the trail than our golden retriever escort. As soon as his paws land on the ground, he yanks us past the cool mine tunnel—where Small Fry wants to explore, but thankfully, the entrance is locked—past the Sundance Institute offices, past Vidalia the bulldog and her owner’s ski and bike shop, past the café, past the ski lift and up the trail, where the hound is unleashed.

Our destination: The new Armstrong Trail… and the Silver Star Café… and, if everyone is still in good form, a cool-off trip to Basin Recreation’s Splash Pad. It’s a big day.

The Armstrong trail—the fruit of the tireless labor of a slew of entities including the city, Mountain Trails Foundation, Summit Land Conservancy and the landowners who agreed to conserve the area the trail passes through—has all the charms of its neighboring Spiro Trail without the speedy mountain bikers, sharp inclines and, well, traffic in general. It curves gently uphill, gaining altitude in an undulating manner that is perfect for little legs. We pause at the old mine building, where a bench overlooks the golf course, the town, the Park City Hill and the peaks in the distance. A trio of hot air balloons and a Red-tailed hawk capture our attention while we nibble on raisins and Goldfish before stepping into the shade around the bend. Here, Small Fry gallops ahead, running down one dip and up another as Peanut claps and cheers his big brother along. The yellow sunflowers and columbine greet us as we make our way through alpine meadows and groves of aspens and conifers.

Then—wham!—I throw my water bottle to the ground and disentangle a pair of horrible insect legs from my upper lip. Thirteen years I’ve walked these trails and finally, today, I’ve come face to face with a mean ol’ wasp.

Mama Mia!

Thankfully, the boys are unscathed. But, instantly, my face transforms into a puffed up disaster. So we hike no farther than the King Con chairlift before turning around and heading back down, a good 45 minutes (at five year-old pace) back to Silver Star, where upon seeing my Botox-gone-wrong appearance, the property’s sweet general manager swiftly produces a couple of popsicles for icing and kid-pleasing purposes. Bless him. It is the perfect distraction for a speedy retreat home.

I must reiterate that this is the first and only creature-related mishap on Park City’s phenomenal trail system that my family has encountered in more than a decade. Sure, we’ve stumbled over rocks and roots, bushwhacked around a moose and simply been too grumpy to walk more than a football field’s stretch of trail. But these trails are a treasure. And, yes, sometimes wonderfully unpredictable. Please do not let this sorry tale of wasp woe deter any adventure into the 400-mile trail system, a magical playground for all ages and stages—and usually void of pesky insects.

And, so our adventure resumes.

We return just a few days later—on yet another blue sky day—to complete our mission: lunch at Silver Star Café, this time with Papa Bear in tow. We sit on the patio under a cheerful red umbrella, drink some refreshing suds (beer for grown-ups and lemonade for Small Fry and Peanut), relish our burgers, peer up at the big bear sculpture and chat with dog owners, hikers and bikers as they pass.

Then, we pack up the clan and head out to Basin Recreation’s Fieldhouse for the overdue trip to the Splash Pad. Nothing cools off a pair of overheated tykes like this colorful expanse of water spouting fun. Sheer glee grips Small Fry as he grapples with a giant, green spraying feature, shooting it across the splash pad at a new- found friend, who returns the onslaught with a hearty dousing. Peanut just dips his toes in the chilly water before toddler-stumbling his way back to me and the sun-warmed rocks.

The sky is still blue. The kids are cool and calm as I wrap them up in bright beach towels. And Mother Nature and I make peace in the warmth of another perfect summer day.

Before Departing:

  • Check out mountaintrails.org for trail maps and information regarding trail conditions.
  • Silver Star is located at 1825 Three Kings Drive.
  • The Splash Pad is free and open to the public daily from 11 am to 7 pm from Memorial Day through the summer (as long as weather permits). The Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District’s Fieldhouse is located at 1388 Center Drive.