Wednesday, September 5, 2012

mineral fork

That's where we're headed

We had a leisurely start to our Sunday, heading up Big Cottonwood Canyon mid-morning to try a new hike: up the Mineral Fork trail to the Regulator Johnson mine.  Mineral Fork had been on our to-do list since last year, when we looked at the map during a hike to Lake Blanche and noticed it; you can actually do a two-fer, Lake Blanche to Mineral Fork, but you'll need a shuttle car since the MF trailhead is a couple miles further up the canyon from the LB trailhead.

Some of the many, many switchbacks

The Mineral Fork trail rises steadily but not too steeply.  The trail, an old mining road, is quite rocky - which is a little hard on one's feet - but pretty, following along creeks and shaded for the first couple of miles, then coming out of the trees so that you can see where you're heading, way up into the scree-filled upper bowl.  Once you're out of the trees, there are many, many switchbacks leading up past the old Wasatch mine and into the upper cirque.  The book said twenty-four switchbacks, while H and I thought we counted twenty-seven - no matter: there's lots.  The Regulator Johnson mine remnants consist of some old machine parts, tram tracks to nowhere, a small mine dump and a wonderful view back down Mineral Fork.  We didn't summit on this hike, as the ridgeline is another 200 or so feet further, with no trail, just a loose and rocky scramble.

Goat on the rocks

On the way back down, we startled a number of marmots who would cheep loudly, scurry away and then stop and stare accusingly at us.  More exciting than that, however, were the two mountain goats we came across, walking along some of the trail's switchbacks for easy grazing.  They allowed us to get pretty close - within 30 yards or so - before becoming nervous enough to move a little ways away.  Once their hooves were back on the rocks they seemed more confident, as though they knew we couldn't follow them up the cliffs.  We took a bunch of pictures and then continued back down the switchbacks.  They watched us for at least fifteen minutes - I hope we were half as entertaining for them as they were for us.

Looking down Mineral Fork towards BCC

Hike stats:  10.03 miles RT; 3 hr. 48 min. walking, with nearly another hour of stoppage time for photos, etc.; average speed: 2.6 m.p.h.; 3,194 ft. elevation gain.  This was another really nice hike, the gorgeous scenery and good walking made extra fun with the mining history and large mammal sightings.  And all so close to home!

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