We Survived Donut Falls – (Mmm Donuts!)

Big Cottonwood Canyon, Donut Falls, Utah
Big Cottonwood Canyon, Donut Falls, Utah



I am shocked that we survived.

Donut Falls Hike
Donut Falls Hike

Honestly, I am always amazed we survive! I will tell you why.  It is simple. People die while hiking. And people die at Utah’s Donut Falls (some spell it, Doughnut). Last year at Donut Falls a woman fell 100 feet to her death.  In 2003 a giant boulder crushed a young man. He was killed as he heroically pushed his friend out of the way. And just yesterday, (the day we were at Donut Falls), a guy fell 12 feet, landing on his back and was seriously injured.   Why oh why would I take my children (and the children of our friends) into the death zone?

Yellowstone National Park: I'm not overreacting. It is scary!
Yellowstone National Park: I’m not overreacting. It is scary!

I just said it: taking my loved ones here makes no sense.  And in the interest of full disclosure, I think it is also important that I also mention (here and now) the fact that I may be totally obsessed with freak accidents (I am).  I have read every death-in-the-mountains book I can get my hands on. Additionally, I was seduced by our friend’s coffee table book, “Death in Yellowstone,” while visiting a cabin near Yellowstone National Park.  I will never forget reading about the dude, that generous man, who was burned to death jumping in a hot spring after a dog. No. Not his dog.  Someone else’s dog slipped into a boiling spring, and this man was killed trying to save another person’s dog.  Um, and thank you, stupid “Death in Yellowstone” book! The scars you inflicted are deep! Your scary stories haunt me! And your warnings freak me out! May I give your owners a suggestion? A book called “Death in Yellowstone” placed in a cabin near Yellowstone National Park may not be the best reading material to offer your houseguests.

Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park

Here is where my obsession with freaky stories jumps into my own reality. I have watched, helpless, our two-year-old Kyle walk his cute little toddler self off of a giant cement sculpture, and (thankfully?) landing on the crumple zone of his face. His teeth still wear the scars. Consequently, for years I death-gripped Kyle’s arm, grabbed the back of his shirt, and the back of his head (his hair), in my successful attempts (knock on wood) to save him (completely unaware) from running off of a fifty foot cliff (Moab’s Fisher Towers, for example, and Bryce Canyon’s Wall Street, for another). Now every single time our family goes on a hike, the blood leaves my brain, fills my achy-breaky heart, and the crazy voice in my head screams,

“Alert! Alert! Alert! Keep your eyes on your boys! Keep your eyes on your boys. Must save them! Must prevent crisis! They could fall to their death! Alert!”

Then as I see Kyle wander desperately close I yell,

“Dave, Dave, D’ah’AVE, Please! Look at how close they are TO THE EDGE! Please!” followed by a, “Kyle, Kyle. KYLE, please, STAY ON THE PATH! If not for yourself, do it for my sanity! Please!”

Ask Dave (or the boys).  They will tell you.

“Yes, Beth is full of death grips and crazy screams!”

I would argue that in all the cases my crazy screams are founded. Dude, I do not have a spare. Sure, Dave may laugh a little, but he knows, as you do now, that our lovely Kyle has come way too close to base-jumping without a parachute. (Oh thank God, Eli stays on the trail!) Parental-Hiking-based-PTSD, absolutely!

Donut Falls Hike
Donut Falls Hike

Sunday (Father’s Day) we went on a hike with our friends Nate, Emily and their three lovely red headed children. As we all stood in in a very long line of people both coming and going in the 90 plus degree high-altitude heat, next to a fast flowing mountain stream, I imagined that we were actually waiting in line to climb Mount Everest’s deadly Khumbu Icefall. In case you do not know, the Khumbu Icefall is the place where people waiting in a long, stalled line, lead to great disaster.  Here at Donut Falls the lines were also uncertain. People were walking in water to get around one another. Babies seemed fragile in wet arms.  Feet were getting wet, shoes and tall socks were getting soaked (especially Eli’s). One flip-flop was last down stream, and Dave sent Kyle after it. And near the big warning sign there were people sitting eating watermelon. They offered us a piece.

I watched Kyle climb higher. He was completely out of my reach. He is taller, stronger, and bigger than I am. It made no difference. His life flashed before my eyes. There were so many people between us. Eli was sitting on a boulder. Dave was half way up the rock face between Eli and Kyle. I was on the other side.  In a matter of seconds, my face went from acceptable summer glow to Goth-white.  As I felt the blood rush out of my head, I knew it was time to executive-decision myself. Then I uttered these words:

“I do not want to project my hiking PTSD onto my boys.”

Donut Falls Hike
Donut Falls Hike
Donut Falls Hike
Donut Falls Hike

Instead, I took a deep breath and watched. I distracted myself. I looked through my camera lens. I gave the boys several thumbs ups as I continued watching from afar.  Kyle and Dave kept climbing higher.  I will admit I was freaking out, especially as I watched them get so close to the wet rock and the raging waterfall.  So far away from their listening ears I blurted, “I cannot look,” and as I stared up at Dave and Kyle, I asked, “Emily, Will you look?” She said,

“Of course.”

I quickly followed with,

“Ok. I have to look. No. I can’t. Nate, Please tell me when Dave and Kyle are on their way down. Please!”

Kyle and Dave both made it down. Sure, Dave ripped up the backside of his shorts, and Kyle was a sweaty mess, but they made it. Here is the deal. Hikes can be crazy, dangerous, and out of control. Heed the warnings. Be prepared. Bring and drink plenty of water. Wear proper shoes. Know your limitations, and pay attention. If there are too many people waiting to climb safely up, be patient. You will get your turn. I promise. You will be ok.

We survived the Donut Falls hike!
We survived the Donut Falls hike!

By the way, I love the Donut Falls hike. Utah’s Big Cottonwood Canyon is one of the most magical places on earth and Donut Falls is one of its many gems. As long as you are careful, stay on the path, and are patient, I promise the Donut Falls hike is safe. And really the only think you will have to survive is trying to get your too-tired-for-walking kids up and down the path [wink wink]. Trust me.

Lovely Dave talking Max up the Mountain.
Lovely Dave talking Max up the Mountain.


  • Regarding Donut Falls: Here is a hot tip. Only park in designated spots or you will get a ticket!
  • As many know, Utah has many amazing hikes. We recommend taking a hike in Big Cottonwood Canyon, which is located at the eastern edge of the Salt Lake Valley. In the summer there is nothing like driving over the Guardsman Pass Scenic Backway to get between Park City and Salt Lake City. If you make it that far be sure to say hello to our year-round-living-in-Big-Cottonwood-Canyon friends, Travis and Troy! They will make you feel right at home.
  • If you are interested in falling down the rabbit hole of death-in-the-mountains stories may I recommend the classic page turner, Jon Krakauer’s, “Into Thin Air.” If you need a little non-mountain death and survival, there is always, “Endurance: Shakelton’s Incredible Voyage.” And a book I haven’t even read yet, is highly reviewed. but uses both the words, “dead,” and “mountain,” in its title: “Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident.”
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Hiking: Rob’s Trail, Park City, Utah

Rob's Trail, Park City, Utah
We LOVE our tired  boys muscling their way up and down Rob’s Trail, Park City, Utah

You may have noticed that my title begins with the word “hiking.” Indeed hiking/walking may be my very favorite aspect of travel/exploring. Today I am going to tell you about one of Park City, Utah’s very best hiking trails, a trail that leads into one of the world’s best trail systems. That being said, if you take anything away from this post, please take this: Explore. Hike. See.

Rob's Trail, Park City, Utah
Rob’s Trail, Park City, Utah
The Top of Rob's Trail, Park City, Utah
The Top of Rob’s Trail, Park City, Utah
The top of Rob's Trail, Park City, Utah
The top of Rob’s Trail, Park City, Utah

Onto my post…

Dave and I have always found a way to hike, walk and move. Daily walks to our local Sugarhouse, Utah neighborhood Starbucks and Einstein Bagels were a must. And when our son, Eli was no more than three, he brilliantly uttered the phrase:
“I am too tired for walking.”
I am certain we were on an ambitious hike like Arches National Park’s Delicate Arch (but more likely it was while walking in our local neighborhood). Our need to move has not stopped, and until recently, Eli’s I-am-too-tired-for-walking sentiment has not waned. Nevertheless, as too-tired as he was, he did (walk, that is). So when we learned that the home in Park City we were building was literally in the backyard of some of the world’s finest hiking and mountain biking trails, we knew we would find a way to urge our tired little walker on.

Sledding Rob's Trail, Park City, Utah
Sledding Rob’s Trail, Park City, Utah

Thank you, Rob’s Trail! Eli’s love of Rob’s Trail came in the winter, actually. It was Dave’s idea, and it was sort of a trick.

See, Dave is an avid mountain biker and was already familiar with the Park City trail systems. One winter day he strapped his Yak Trax on and hiked up Rob’s. An hour or so later, I looked out the window at just the right moment to see Dave walking in the gully up to the right of our yard and carrying something.

“Wait. I thought he was hiking Rob’s. Why is he coming from the other direction?”

I ran to meet him.

“Beth, I hiked up Rob’s. I had no idea if it would work or not. I had to bushwhack a little, but sure enough you can hike up and then sled back down. The gully comes right through our yard.”

The boys were eight and six when Dave shared this news.

“Boys, grab your sleds. I found the best sledding ever!”

We quickly dressed in our winter gear. We each grabbed a sled. And of course, little Eli had no idea there would be a lot of walking before there was any sledding. Yes, he was indeed too-tired-for-walking. Nevertheless, we ALL made it. We hiked up Rob’s Trail and took a left when Rob’s meets up with Colin’s trail. We hiked a few hundred yards, and when we saw the little canyon/gully,

Dave said, “this is it!”

Those first few runs were so slow, and yes, there were large sticks, crazy dips, and unsuspecting rocks in the way. We eventually packed the snow down into a sort of toboggan run, and our boys continued to be tricked into walking up Rob’s so we could sled. It did not matter. The boys loved it! Not only that, I rarely ever had a problem convincing Eli to hike Rob’s. Soon after that Dave and the boys used Rob’s as a way to ski home from the Canyons Ski resort. Seriously, it was the craziest thing to drop them off, and then hours later see them skiing into the back yard. I loved it!

Top of Rob's Trail, Park City, Utah
Top of Rob’s Trail, Park City, Utah
Rob's Trail, Park City, Utah
Rob’s Trail, Park City, Utah

Selfishly, I like to think of Rob’s as our own. We used that trail all year round.During times when Dave and I needed a walk-talk, there was nothing like Rob’s, its beautiful Aspen forest, and stunning mountain views, to clear the head. In the summer we hiked it as a family. I often hiked it with my lovely hiking ladies, Eileen, Christy, and Stacie.  At other times I would drag my  bestie, Beth (no not my inner self, but I totally wish…) up the mountain so we could deconstruct our world. I love that my friend MB hiked all the way up Rob’s in flip-flops.  Probably my favorite was when I would be hiking and somewhere along the trail I would run into Dave, who was  biking. We even took our friend Markus, our owl specialist, to look for Flammulated owls there. And yes, we found Flammulated Owls higher up, right off Rob’s trail.

Rob's Trail, Park City, Utah with my most awesome friend, MB
Rob’s Trail, Park City, Utah with my most awesome friend, MB
Running into Dave on Rob's Trail, Park City, Utah  -- he was on a mountain bike ride and I was hiking with my friend, MB!
Running into Dave on Rob’s Trail, Park City, Utah — he was on a mountain bike ride and I was hiking with my friend, MB!

Today I share Rob’s with you. I know I am not the first to share. Rob’s is popular, well-known, and well-loved. It is also our little piece of heaven!

Sledding Rob’s


Rob’s Trail is a hiking/Mountain Biking trail that feeds into the Mid-Mountain Trail. “Park City’s Mid Mountain Trail bisects the Wasatch Mountains at 8,000 feet—earning it the nickname the ‘Eight Thousand Foot Trail’—and cuts across Deer Valley Resort, through Park City Mountain Resort and The Canyons Resort.” Rob’s connects with the Mid Mountain trail on the backside of the Canyons Ski Resort. You head up Park City’s Bear Hollow Drive. When you hit the horseshoe bend (about 1.1 miles up), you will see a cul-de-sac with four houses. Ours was the sage green one on the right. Just a few feet past the cul-de-sac is the parking for Rob’s. You cannot miss it!

Map of Rob’s Trail

Rob’s is also a popular snowshoeing destination. In truth, after each snowfall, the early morning snowshoers packed it down enough that neither snowshoes nor Yak Trax are necessary until you get many miles up the trail or head off trail into the untracked backcountry. We would just throw our Sorels on and get walking. Sometimes, if you veered off the center of the trail, you’d end up sinking in to your knee or thigh (it’s deep up there), but you just dust yourself off and keep walking.

And of course the Trail Runners love Rob’s for its accessibly.

As Far as sledding goes. I hear there are spots that do not intersect into people’s yards. I also have friends who sled down Rob’s on cardboard during the summer.

Collin’s Trail intersects with Rob’s Trail.

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Owning who we are & speaking up (with a little victory)!


Reflection: Upper deck at the Utah Natural History Museum

Can we make a difference? Does it matter if we speak up? Will people reject me for owning who I am; even when who I am doesn’t fit into one particular space? Will people reject me because I think differently than they do? Probably. No. Some definitely will. Some already have. I have spent a good percentage of my life trying to figure out where I fit in. I know how I feel. I have strong opinions. To make it easier for everyone, I try to understand and define my beliefs even though my beliefs sometimes change. However, what I realized long ago is that I do not think that I fit into labels and I actually get annoyed when I am only defined by another person’s label. I struggle to know what to do about my “on-the-fringe”-ness.

Most times I keep my mouth shut. Even with family I try to remain quiet. Trying to shove my differences down my mother’s throat just doesn’t work. Talking religion and politics can alienate and often hurts. More specifically it seems like habit to judge others based on the labels our world assigns us. I am not even sure if this is a bad thing or not. We put people into boxes and then bias them based on those boxes. We read the bullet points on a topic and are often too busy to learn the “whole” truth. Currently in our busy, super busy and overstimulated world it seems like it is too much effort to see past those labels, boxes and quickly-digested bullet points, doesn’t it?
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Nocturnal Us & Our Salt Lake City, Utah Adventures

Evil Cat Graffiti
Evil Cat Graffiti Gone

Dave is lying beside me. He helped me with my computer needs and I think he is playing Solitaire. He is. I just checked. I used to blog this way. I would set my laptop on my lap and begin to write, often late at night. I was always surprised about what came out and how those words, whatever they were, seemed to have these magical healing properties. I loved that long-ago groove I was in.

It is 1:36 AM. I should be asleep. I have developed a terrible sleep pattern. I have been off schedule since the holidays. Oddly, I kind of like it. I just paid the boys’ Nutrikids School Lunch bill and then signed myself up for an American Express promotion. After I signed up I had to hashtag a bunch of offers on Twitter, so I did. Now that H&M has made its way to Salt Lake City, I skipped hashtagging the H&M offer. As Dave filled in earlier this evening and before I could finish, he said, “H&M is not as special now that you do not have to go out of town to buy their clothes.”
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