Friday, September 20, 2013

brighton lakes

After last Saturday's torrential downpours, Sunday was clearly our best bet to get out into the mountains.  We got up, threw our hiking gear and a cooler into the truck and were driving up Big Cottonwood Canyon just before 9 a.m.  Even at that hour we got seated right away at Silver Fork Lodge; we opted for an inside table since the skies were heavily overcast and the temperatures were hovering in the low 50s.  I had oatmeal with strawberries, bananas, walnuts and raisins (although I was really tempted by the new chorizo and egg breakfast sandwich) and H tucked into huevos rancheros.

We then continued up the canyon to Brighton to do the Brighton Lakes hike, up to Dog Lake, Lake Mary, Lake Martha and Lake Catherine (4.5 miles RT, plus some extra).  We had a little bit of trouble finding the trail head because our book said it was located on the southeast corner of the parking lot when in fact it was located in the middle of the eastern edge of the parking lot, right next to Brighton's Majestic lift.  Once we figured that out, we charged up the well-worn trail which crossed several ski trails before heading into the woods.

Lake Mary's granite bowl

We gained ground quickly (because hiking at ski areas is usually steep).  At just under a mile, we veered down a side path to teeny Dog Lake - not to be confused with the Mill D North Fork Dog Lake - which should have had a moose in it but didn't.  Back on the main trail, we went a couple of tenths of a mile further to reach Lake Mary, quite low this time of year but with plenty of water still gushing out of the dam's spillway.  Mary is surrounded by granite cliffs and on a sunny day is a popular spot for novice hikers; even with the chilly temperatures and descending clouds, there were still quite a few other folks up there.

On the shore of Lake Catherine

We continued along Mary's eastern shore, passing by the smaller and, to my eye, lovelier Lake Martha.  The trail kept going up, switch-backing a couple of times with nice views back over Brighton, passing several mine dumps of various sizes, before arriving at Lake Catherine.  Just above us was Catherine's Pass; we've been up there innumerable times from the Alta side and decided to see what it was like from the Brighton side.  The winds picked up a bit and the clouds dropped some more, occasionally obscuring Sunset Peak and Tuscarora from view.

On Catherine's Pass, with Lake Catherine behind

From up on the pass, we wondered if it would be possible to get around to the Twin Lakes side and make a loop, but the trail we tried petered out and we couldn't find any routes that looked good, especially with the sketchy visibility.  So we headed back down the way we came.  With less than a quarter mile to go, it started raining - not more than a seriously sprinkling - and we hurried to the truck.  We managed to find a dry spot under the overhanging roof of one of Brighton's lodges and had our PBRs there.  It's funny: Brighton was the very first resort we skied when we moved out to Utah and yet it's taken us nearly four years to do a hike there.  A nicer day would have improved the views a little but the scenery is still great, even shaded gray.

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