Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Knowing that Saturday was going to be the only really good day out of the long weekend, we made sure to plan a hike.  It was pretty chilly first thing in the morning (mid 30s) and between that and the possibility of snow up higher, we thought we'd give Grandeur Peak in Millcreek Canyon a go.  We'd done Grandeur Peak a couple years ago and it's a good hike for this time of year: it's a south-facing trail without much tree cover, which means no snow and warmer temperatures, and at about six miles round-trip, a decent but not taxing distance.

Looking down Millcreek Canyon to the Salt Lake valley

We drove up Millcreek Canyon and parked on the road outside the Church Fork picnic area (NFS-run picnic areas being closed due to the government shut-down).  We walked up to the trailhead and then, after about a half mile, checked out the trail sign: to the left was the Grandeur Peak trail and to the right was the Pipeline Trail.  Since we hadn't done this section of the Pipeline, we made a spur of the moment decision and went right, figuring we'd just see where we'd end up.  This trail is mostly broad, smooth and flat, which means it gets a lot of use, by hikers, dog walkers and MTBers.  It is very easy walking and, because of this, we had a fast pace going: 3.1 m.p.h.

Dark and chilly on the north-facing slopes

When the Pipeline Trail ended at Elbow Fork (where the trailhead to Mt. Aire is), we consulted our map and decided to make a loop of it, crossing the canyon road and starting up the trail to the Terraces picnic area.  This trail could not have been more different than what we'd just been walking, located on the shady, extremely steep, north-facing slope.  As we wound our way up steep switchbacks and then walked along the ridge, H noticed that this trail was a clear example of the differences between north- and south-facing slopes, the vegetation abruptly switching from damp evergreens to dry scrub oak as we crossed from one side of the ridge to the other.

Hot and sunny on the south-facing slopes across the canyon

The trail ended at Terraces and we walked along the canyon road for a little bit before crossing and getting back on the Pipeline Trail for the finish.  By the time we got back to the car, our feet were getting tired and my hips had tightened up.  We checked the GPS and realized why:  we'd walked 9.93 miles - nearly twice what we'd intended to do.  After that, there was clearly nothing left to do but change into dry clothes and hit the Porcupine for beers and nachos.  Those nachos went down fast too, I must say.

The snow is still up pretty high at this point

Trail stats:  9.93 miles with 1,973 feet of climbing, 3 hrs. 15 min. hiking/20 min. resting, 3.1 m.p.h. moving average speed/2.7 overall average.

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