Thursday, August 25, 2011

Another fabulous Wednesday hike.

Yesterdays hike was not only to a place I'd never been before, but to one I'd never even heard of.... a place in Big Cottonwood Canyon called Willow Heights. One of my hiking buddies knew of this spot, driving the canyon you would never know it was there. This area, which was saved from development in 2001, has no parking lot or turnoff. The trailhead is marked by a carved boulder that says Willow Heights Conservation Area. You have to know what you are looking for;I know I've driven by many times and never known the trail was there.

The trail heads straight up hill through aspen forest for about 3/4 of a mile, where it takes you 600 ft up to Willow Lake. It's a pretty little lake surrounded by wetlands and willows, and looks like perfect moose territory. We found a trail and headed around the lake and up the drainage that feeds the lake. It was not much of trail, more of a steep goat trail that was quite lush with vegetation, so we kind of bushwacked our way up. The trail led up behind the ridge to a dry lake bed, that wasn't terribly scenic, but the view from ridge made the trudge up the hill worthwhile.

On the way back we headed around the lake and through the most amazing aspen forest. I have never seen aspen so big, they must have been really old. We were speculating on the age of the trees, and next thing you know we came to a section of the forest where the trees had been scarred by names and dates carved in the bark... some carved back in 1937. These trees must have been been 80 to 100 years old, which I think is pretty old for an aspen grove.

Of course I had to take some pictures the interesting carvings which are now ancient raised scars on the bark. As I snapping pictures, suddenly my friend are screaming. I jump and turn quickly, thinking we are about to be charged by a moose or something, but what I found were my friends in a panic, one having grabbed the other in a choke hold when she was startled, and two guys in camo carrying weapons. Elk hunters, apparently it is bow season. Scared the bejeezus out us. They said they wouldn't shoot us, but it sure felt like scene from Deliverance.
What an odd moment.

And as I said before, it seemed like prime moose territory, and sure enough as we headed back we spied a moose across the lake. What a lovely hike, one I'm sure I will return to, as it will surely be amazing there in the fall when the aspens turn.

Bushwacking the way up to the ridge above the lake.

Dry Lake

Willow Lake, with Solitude Ski resort behind, from the ridge.

What a verdant spot! I was amazed at how tall the blues delphinium flowers were....

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