One whole year, 365 days in the books living up on the mountain. My wife and I have experienced and grown so much since moving into our dream log cabin in August 2021. But now is a time to recap on all the highs and lows that we’ve gone though living in Tollgate Canyon just outside of Park City, UT.
First thing that comes to mind is the wildlife! Before moving up here, I’d seen maybe 3 Moose in total in Utah. Within our first month, we had seen a moose on our property 4-5 times a week! And let me tell you, the sight of a big bull moose, or a cow and her calf, come walking through the yard, it always makes your heart race just a little (or a lot), and never gets old. Throughout the year, we saw tons of Elk, Mule Deer, Porcupines, Turkey, Marmots, Badgers, Beavers, Eagles, and everything in between. Though we never witnessed it our severed, our neighbors caught photos of Coyotes and even a Mountain Lion or two! Living amongst the wildlife, and not just near them, has truly re-wired my brain for the better, in a more primal way of sorts.
It is not uncommon to walk out our front door and see a moose lying in the yard, startling both of us. Or when Gregor and I are on a run to run into wildlife consistently. It’s gotten to the point we sort of expect to see something around the next turn in the road, so we prepare for it. To be honest, my favorite is in the fall, when the Elk start bugling in the early hours of the morning. The sound carries throughout the whole canyon and really does make you feel like you’re out in the wilderness.
The sense of community in Tollgate is unparalleled. We went from living in a dense condo unit where we barely knew a single neighbor, to becoming close friends with people who live in the deepest parts on our mountain. Living here is not for everyone, most people moved up here for the peace, quiet, and sense of solitude. At the same time, because we are in a remote area, especially during winter, you really must depend on your neighbors. They are the ones you call when a pipe bursts or if their vehicle is stuck, not the repair or towing service. It’s really unique, and we didn’t really expect to be this close with some of our neighbors. Everyone up here has a unique story and everyone is so interesting in their own way.
For example, when random dogs show up at your house, it’s not uncommon. Dogs are roaming the neighborhood all summer long. Well it just so happened these dogs belonged to our one neighbor who ended up helping me repair the leaking window on my roof. Or when someone’s snowmobile needs to be dug out of a ditch miles away during a cold winter evening, you give your friends and neighbors a call. Or when the oldest lady on the mountain needs firewood, you help out by delivering a few cords to her without question. Even when the neighborhood has a cleanup day, everyone shows up to help clean the mountain up from deadfall trees and brush to help prevent a catastrophic forest fire.
Admittedly, winter was tough. Living up on the mountain, there are two seasons. Winter, and preparing for winter. Fall is spent prepping your house for pending snow and ensuring you have enough firewood to get through the winter. If you were wondering, we went through 9 cords of wood. Winter is spent plowing or snow-blowing your driveway or lane and moving snow a lot. Sometimes we get to ski or snowmobile the snow packed roads. Then spring is spent cursing the snow that doesn’t stop and suffering through mud season. Finally, summer is spent getting all your house projects done and fixing things that the 6feet of standing snow in the yard inevitability ruined on the ground. Of course there are tons of fun times to be had throughout the year. But in the back of your mind, you can always hear Jon Snow saying, “Winter is Coming.”
Snowmobiling was a huge thing for us this winter. The previous owner left two snowmobiles here, which one of them worked great. We were able to rip around the neighborhood all winter long, giving us a new level of excitement during the long winter months. Flying around on those snow machines is just pure fun. Their power-to-weight ratio is shockingly insane. If you grab a fist full of throttle, you will feel like you’re going to take-off, for how fast you go. It was really fun to get all my friends on it who have never ridden a snowmobile before and watch their faces have the same shocked reaction that mine did. We also got it stuck a ton, especially in our own yard where we couldn’t go too fast.
This was our first house, which meant this was the first time we had our own property. And it was the difficulties previously mentioned which were pretty much the only way we could afford a house in a ski town in the first place. With that being said, going from a condo to a house, or better yet, a Lincoln log style log cabin was a huge jump. I don’t think my wife nor I realized the amount of work that was going to go into this place. When we moved in, there wasn’t a shower, just two bath tubs. There’s no natural gas lines, and our propane tank wasn’t hooked up to any appliances. The wood burning stove was determined to be a fire hazard and required to be replaced. And all of the electrical in the basement was exposed and needed to be redone. Those were just a few of the fun projects that we were thrust in to. I get it, everyone’s got a house, and everyone has an endless project list. It was the urgency that we needed to get the work done before the first snowfall, because then the roads become snow packed from November to May, meaning you need 4WD and snow tires or chains to get uphill. So we cannot get anyone to deliver or service anything.
Of course, we didn’t just choose to live here because of convenience. This place is magical. Living on a mountain at 8,000ft with panoramic views of both the Wasatch Back and the Uintas is unparalleled. To add to that, it’s only a short 12 minute drive to get to park city. This allows us to easily get groceries, commute to work, go to restaurants, ski during winter, and use all the bike trails in the summer. Once up on the mountain, the air is fresher, and you feel so much more alive. Sure, is life hectic and is it hard to find the time to enjoy living in such a wonderful place, yes. But is it all worth it in the end? I’d like to think so!
Hi there, my name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.