Sunday, June 1, 2014

bowman fork to baker pass

We decided upon Mt. Raymond for our Saturday hike, but going up from the Millcreek side as opposed to the Big Cottonwood side that we'd done in 2012.  We weren't sure we'd make it all the way to the top since there's still a bunch of snow at elevation but we figured we'd go up as far as we could and see where that got us.  We parked in the small lot across from the entrance to the Terraces picnic area in Millcreek Canyon and hiked along the drive a quarter-mile to the Bowman Fork trailhead.  It was another beautiful day, with a 20% chance of afternoon thunderstorms; we planned to keep an eye on the clouds so as not to get caught in an exposed place.

Southwest view from Bowman Fork 

Right from the start we liked the trail.  It was totally shaded, lush and green, following a small creek up the drainage.  Underfoot was wonderful: packed dirt with a little give to it, which felt nearly cushiony to walk on; the only rocky bits were once we exited the Bowman Fork drainage and were on the ridge into Baker Fork.  The climb was steady but not extreme, although the next day my stiff legs told me that it was, in fact, steeper than we thought it was.  It was a little humid there by the creek but the temperature was very pleasant.  Because of all these factors (good footing, water, lots of shade, manageable incline), it was a fairly popular trail; because it was in Millcreek Canyon and an odd-numbered day, there were friendly off-leash dogs with almost every other hiker we met.  It was great: sweet golden retrievers, lots of labs, a Great Dane-lab mix, border collies, samoyeds, a golden-doodle and mutts of all kinds - we must have seen close to fifty dogs, most friendly, all polite.

And the snow begins

We ran into our first patch of snow at about 8,000 feet, after White Fir Pass, and the trail became mostly snow-covered not too long thereafter.  We climbed a ridgeline and then began to traverse a bowl on the north/northwest slopes of Gobblers Knob.  This bowl was very steep and mostly snow-covered; we were very careful with our foot placement because a fall would mean a very long slide down.  (It looked like it would be awesome back country skiing in there.)  We finally climbed out of the snowbanks to stand on Baker Pass, with Gobblers Knob on one side of us, Mt. Raymond on the other side and Big Cottonwood Canyon laid out in front of us.

Wishing we had our skis for this bit

Even though we were just a ridge walk and a rock scramble away from Mt. Raymond's summit, the winds were picking up a little, bringing more clouds in, plus some of the scramble looked to have a fair amount of snow on it.  Prudence won out and we turned around, heading back down the way we came.  The snow in the bowl had softened in that little time and we were doing a lot of post-holing, scratching our calves and soaking our boots.  Once out of the snow, however, the descent went pretty quickly and we continued to appreciate the soft conditions underfoot.  We really liked this hike a lot.

The summit, so close and yet so far

The round trip had taken us 4 hours 20 minutes for 9.1 miles (3,265 elevation gain) and we were pretty psyched to change out of our wet foot gear when we got back to the car.  We were also psyched to see that we had enough time to get to Dick 'N Dixie's for beers and the second half of the Real Salt Lake game vs. Seattle (except that RSL got their butts kicked 4-0).  That's what's so cool about Salt Lake City - world class mountains just minutes away from funky downtown bars.

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