Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Desolation Lake

Another picturesque local hike. Desolation lake from the Mill D trail head in Big Cottonwood Canyon. 7 miles round trip, but only 1900 ft up, so it was a slightly more moderate hike than many we've taken lately. The trail was wet and smelled lovely from the thunderstorm the night before. I was really glad we started the hike early so we could enjoy the cool dampness, as well as have the trail, and the lake, mostly to ourselves. And I love taking pictures in the morning light!!!!

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....

Sunday, August 21, 2011

White Pine Lake

This weekend's addition to the places I'd never been collection... White Pine Lake. About 9 miles round trip and 2400 ft up to the lake. So a long hike and up hill for sure, but for the most part not horribly, hatefully steep. This winter's record snow fall was still evident as we got above treeline and a good section of trail was snow packed. Climbing up the snowfield and then picking our way through a boulder field added to the adventure. Of course what goes up, must come down, and it is the gingerly trek down the snow field on the way back that I find a bit unnerving. I was amused by the spider I found walking across the snow, for the life of me I can not figure out why a spider would be out traversing the snow.

Utah is a desert, so even in the mountain trails tend to be fairly dry, except at sporadic steam crossings. This trail surprised me by crossing numerous, presumably spring fed, boggy areas. So we were treated to moss, ferns elephant head flowers and even some liverworts. You all my think I'm crazy but I was thrilled to see liverworts. I studied botany in college, so of course I had a class where I had to learn all about these primitive, non vascular plants. It felt good to reach back into my botanical knowledge, kind of like going back to my roots (pun intended). Yes I am a nerd, but I thought it was nice to get to do little bonding with some bryophytes!

And while I am on a botanical bend I have to mention something about the Indian Paintbrush plants that I am so enamored with. The pretty colored "flowers" aren't really flowers, they are bracts, specialized leaves, that in this case are colored. Colored in beautiful shade of pinks, oranges, magentas and reds! But on today's hike the paintbrush was really in flower. See the yellow petals nestled among the orange? Those are the actual flowers. Thanks for enrolling in Botany 101!

Oh, and while we are in botany class.... yes, it's called White Pine Lake, but the "pine trees" are actually firs! (Same is true at Red Pine Lake)

It sure is hard to get a picture that really gives a feel for these steep snowy spots.

Indian Paintbrush

Elephanthead - another favorite of mine.... genus Pedicularis, just had to say that because I like how it sounds, almost as much as I like how the flowers look!


Perhaps it's easier to traverse the snow if you have 8 legs!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wednesday hiking...

More from the "I can't believe I never took this hike" series. Today after work we headed up Big Cottonwood Canyon, where we hiked up to the Brighton lakes... Lake Mary, Martha and Katherine. These were the lakes we could see from our Katherine's Pass/Sunset Peak hike a few weeks ago.

The trail starts at Brighton ski resort, and that section of the trail is bit of trudge. We headed up the trail or what my hiking partner had thought was the trail, because it is the way she has always gone before. They were re-vegetating the area, but since we didn't know where else to go we headed up. Suddenly some guy appears, and he is yelling at us "That is not the trail, that is not the trail" we turn and look at him and he starts ranting, and ranting, about how people keep using that trail and how it's "not the trail". Eventually he tells us where the real trail head is, and continues ranting and yelling at us things like "Don't enjoy, just destroy" and spewing about how he lives there has worked at Brighton for years and "That is not the trail!" and other weird stuff. We are standing, staring, dumbfounded, not really understanding why this guy is being downright RUDE. We eventually retreat back and head in the direction where he said the real trail started and are just reeling at how rude this guy was. All he really had to do was nicely ask us to walk back to where the not very well marked real trailhead was. You know the old lesson from my Grandma "You catch more flys with honey than vinegar"

The weird episode with bizarre, rude guy really got my friend Rebecca going. She bombed up that hill, proving to me that I really need to get in better shape, as I was having a hard time keeping up. Eventually the trail headed up over the ridge and off of the ski slope and up to the lakes. The lakes of course were beautiful, but the amazing thing about today's hike was the wildflowers. The flowers were absolutely stunning today, making us quickly forget the odd start to today's hike. I wish my pictures did them justice!!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Trails again.... can you tell how I've been spending my summer?

Better late then never... some photos from last weeks hike. We headed up to Red Pine Lakes in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Another place I've heard of over the years, but have never hiked to. Another butt kicker of a hike, about 3 miles and 2000 ft up to the beautiful lower lake, and short hike and another 400 feet to the upper lakes. From the lower lake you look up and see a bouldery ridge, presumably the upper lake was some where above the rocks. We saw no clear path to the top, and decided to make our way up a snow field to the ridge. It was careful walking up the snow, as it was of course slippery, and much steeper than the pictures make it look. At the top it was a scramble over the huge boulders lining the ridge and down to a huge flat boulder near the lake where we had lunch.

The landscape at the upper lakes was far more surreal. The rocky cirque in which the lakes lay was mostly devoid of vegetation, and still covered in a fair amount of snow. There was still ice on the lake. It looked like a cross between frozen tundra and alien landscape.

We decided not to try hiking down the snowfield, since hiking down the slippery slope seemed a little too dangerous, so we carefully picked our way across the slope and found our way down through the trees.

Being a winter kind of girl, it always makes me happy to hike up to the snow. So when I found a a good patch of snow, I stopped and made a snow angel. A snow angel... in August!!!

Lower Red Pine Lake

My friend Rebecca, hiking up the snowfield

The upper Red Pine Lakes

Thursday, August 04, 2011

More from the trail....

Tonight I took yet another hike that I can't believe I had never done before... I went with the gals from the pottery studio up to Catherine's pass and on up to Sunset Peak. It's just a couple of miles and 1200 or so foot elevation gain up to the 10648 foot peak, and worth every step. Especially this time of year as the wild flowers are beautiful. The Albion basin, where the hike starts, is world renowned for it's wildflowers, and for good reason. How lucky I am that can take a great hike like this after work on a Wednesday, and lucky to found such a great group of people to share an adventure with!

Indian Paintbrush

The view of Lake Catherine from Catherine's Pass.

The view from the top.

More from the top.

Everyone who knows me knows I love snow.... we spied a little snow love on the mountainside!