Sunday, November 17, 2013

still grand

Much to H's and my delight, a decently-sized snowstorm moved through the Wasatch Front this weekend.  It started Friday afternoon and continued through Saturday night, leaving about sixteen inches up at the ski resorts.  It also left us with glorious blue skies and bright sunshine for Sunday - and after the last couple of weekends of not doing much, I was determined to get outside and enjoy it.  H decided not to hike, preferring to get another road ride in before winter completely takes over, but that fazed me not at all and I headed up to Millcreek Canyon to have a go at Grandeur Peak.

Looks like winter

Grandeur Peak (6.0 miles RT) was one of the early hikes that we did upon moving here (it's also the one that we intended to do a few weeks ago).  When we did it before, it was early summer, hot and sunny.  This time, mid-November, it was still sunny but it was mid-30s in the shade and low 40s in the sunshine.  There were 4-6 inches of snow on the ground, from top to bottom, and since I was not the first person up the trail that day, there was a nicely packed path for me to follow.  Packed snow is one of my favorite hiking surfaces: gentle on the legs, even underfoot and fast for descending.

Pretty day for a hike

The first mile is well-shaded by trees and follows a stream that was flowing pretty well due to the recent precipitation.  After that, you come out of the trees and follow long switchbacks up the exposed hillside.  The climb is steady but fairly gradual here, and although I got hot in the bright sunshine, I made good time climbing, passing three different hiking groups (totaling seven hikers and four dogs).

The summit is thataway

The switchbacks ended at a saddle with a nice view, but that wasn't the top so I kept going.  After passing those hikers, the trail was much less packed down, so my feet were wet at this point.  The trail got steeper here, and the footing a little more treacherous.  The views from the top were well worth it, however.  It was clear enough to see out past the Stansbury Mountains to the west as well as the Uintas in the east - it was great to see snow on all the hills again.

All natural tree-flocking

I was a bit chilled for the first part of the descent, so I moved as quickly as I could, glissading a little in the steep sections.  Once I got back to the switchbacks below the saddle, it was a different story.  Although I hadn't been up there that long, that nice packed snow trail had melted in the direct sun, leaving a slippery, muddy slush.  My feet got completely soaked and I slipped to one knee a couple of times.  It was pretty terrible to walk in - not that it bothered any of the very happy dogs I met.   It was still pretty slick down in the trees for the very last section of the trail but it wasn't as wet and for that I was grateful.

Looking east towards the Uintas

Back at the car I changed clothes and shoes quickly - if I could have wrung out my boots I would have - glad that I'd thought to bring dry pants and socks.  The canyon road was busy with people coming and going and while I was sitting there, drinking my post-hike beer, at least three cars pulled in with people and dogs headed towards the trail I was just on.  Seems I wasn't the only one happy to get out on a sunny Sunday.

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