But returning home was a downer. Battling the fog day after day, living for weekend escapes, made me hungry for spring.
The weather prognostications say storms are lined up out in the Pacific, aiming at us, and my optimism won't change the fact that we face several more weeks of winter. For the most part we've had a wet, mild winter. My aching bones suggest the next couple months will be wet and cool, with storms timed perfectly to interfere with my recreation.
Still, there will be plenty of mild, sunny, late-winter days when it will be pleasant to fish, hike, bike and camp. And almost every day will be good for skiing, snowmobiling and other winter sports.
Here are some of my favorite spring fever remedies:
Hike Arches National Park
Mild days in February and March are ideal for hiking in this sunny, dry desert country. And you'll never find a place that offers greater rewards for modest effort. The scenery in Arches is stunning.
Some of the most famous sites can be seen from the roadside. But the best views are reserved for those who lace up their boots and hike the easy to moderate trails. (There are a few difficult trails in the park but you can avoid them and still see the most impressive sites.)
If you only want to do one hike, take the three-mile round trip trail to Delicate Arch. It's an amazing sight and the hike is relatively easy.
If you want to do more, hike Devil's Garden. Take the easy out and back hike to Landscape Arch, or challenge the 7.2-mile loop that takes you past Double O and Dark Angel.
Always stop at the Visitor Center to get info on current conditions, and to get maps.
For more info: www.nps.gov/arch
There are dozens of other great winter hiking possibilities in southern Utah, in places like Canyonlands, Grand Staircase Escalante, Goblin Valley, Glen Canyon, Zion Park and in the desert around St. George.
In general, you want to hike low-elevation open country where you can enjoy the sunshine and keep your feed dry. Canyon hikes are not particularly good this time of year because they are often shaded and you sometimes encounter pools of water.
March is a prime month for serious backpacking into places like Grand Gulch and Dark Canyon. Permits are needed for overnight stays in many areas so plan ahead.
Drive the Burr Trail
This is one of our best scenic drives, with plenty of places to stop and hike, picnic or camp. The road stretches for about 67 miles, from the town of Boulder down to Bullfrog, providing beautiful views into the Henry Mountains, Waterpocket Fold, Circle Cliffs, Capitol Reef National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
This road can usually be driven in a passenger car when the weather is dry. Wet weather may make the trail impassable even to 4x4 vehicles. Watch the weather and check the road conditions before heading out.
For more info: www.nps.gov/glca/burrtr.htm
This is also a great time to drive the 4x4 trails in Canyonlands National Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and many other areas.
Camp at Kodachrome Basin State Park
This park has become more popular in recent years, but is still a lesser-known gem offering an excellent campground in an area with a series of brilliantly colored sandstone pillars and columns. It is located about nine miles south of the town of Cannonville, along the Cottonwood Canyon Road.
Horseback riding opportunities are excellent in this area. There are also good hiking, biking and 4x4 trails.
Over 180 million years of geologic time are recorded in Kodachrome's brilliantly colored and ever-changing rocks. Amid the park's many awe-inspiring rock formations are towering, monolithic spires called "sedimentary pipes," which are unique to the area and reflect its geologic past. Scientists believe that the Kodachrome region was once very similar to Yellowstone National Park, with numerous underground springs and geysers. In time, the subterranean thermal spring channels dried up and filled with sediment, which solidified into rock. The softer Entrada sandstone surrounding these ancient geyser plugs, vents or tubes eroded away and left behind free-standing pillars and spires. Approximately 67 of these rare chimneys have been identified at Kodachrome, ranging in height from two to 52 meters.
Other popular late-winter camping spots include the state parks at Goblin Valley, Quail Lake and Sand Hollow.
For more info: www.stateparks.utah.gov
ATV Coral Pink
ATV enthusiasts love to ride the dunes in this extremely scenic area, which is located west of Kanab off Hwy. 89. Photography is also popular here, where the rust-colored sand is flanked by green pinion and juniper trees, with red cliffs providing a colorful backdrop.
This state park offers a nice campground with modern facilities.
The new Sand Hollow state park also offers great opportunity to ride ATVs. For more info: www.stateparks.utah.gov
And fish, or course
Sneak off to the Weber River and fly fish for trout or whitefish. You don't need to plan or fuss. Just wait for a warm afternoon, grab your rod and a few nymphs, and break for the water. Your boss will understand.
When you have more time, ice fish Strawberry or Fish Lake. These and a few other waters should offer safe ice and good action. (Ice has been rotten or non-existent on many waters so use extreme caution.)
In March the midge fishing will become consistently good on the Green River. Maybe, if winter remains mild, it will start this month and will offer decent action.