Monday, July 14, 2014

grizzly gulch

Even when you have a good hike to look forward to, hearing the alarm at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning is not that much fun.  But we rallied - up, dressed, fed and walked the dog, shoveled healthy breakfasts of granola bars and PopTarts down our gullets - and headed up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Alta.  We had decided to hike up Grizzly Gulch to find the Prince of Wales mine; we'd been up in Grizzly Gulch back in 2011 but we hadn't made it all the way up to that mine due to some icy conditions.  The conditions weren't going to be icy this time.

Still a little snow on Superior

It was pretty quiet when we parked in the top parking lot of Alta's Albion Lodge but cars were already starting to file up the canyon.  It's the right time of year for the alpine wildflowers and Albion Basin gets extremely busy with looky-loos.  We started up the steep dirt trail from the sign in the parking lot, getting our heart rates up quickly before we joined the old mining road that would take us up the gulch.  Even on the road we gained elevation fairly quickly, however, passing by innumerable mine dumps and piles of tailings, rusted mining wreckage poking out of the underbrush.

Looking down the PoW mine shaft

We followed the old road up the gulch, paralleling a creek for a while before consulting the GPS and bearing left when the road split.  The right fork headed up to Twin Lakes Pass (where we'd just been the weekend before) but the left climbed steeply, curving through fields full of flowers and leading us up to a pass to Silver Fork Canyon.  We kept to the right this time, following the less well-traveled trail into up to the Prince of Wales mine.  There is some mining equipment still there - a boiler, steam engine and winch (from Ames Iron Works in Oswego, NY), installed up there in 1875 - and the nearly vertical shaft into the mine is caged over to keep people out, although they stopped working the profitable mine in the 1930s.

Part of the steam engine


After getting a little chilled from checking out the mine ruins in the shade, we backtracked to the pass and hiked up Davenport Hill in the sunshine.  The trail was quite faint in places but as a couple of trail-runners passed us and didn't come back, we figured it had to go somewhere.  The trail crossed sunny, steep, flower-filled meadows, switchbacking and losing elevation quickly.  We weren't crazy about the footing - steep and very loose in spots - but it was gorgeous, with Alta spread out below us, red-tailed hawks circling above and deer bounding away from us through the trees.

Davenport Hill false summit

When we got back to the car, we sat at one of the picnic tables, chatting with road cyclists and having a second breakfast of trail mix.  This Grizzly Gulch hike isn't one of the longer or more physically challenging hikes in the Wasatch (but you do have to focus on the footing, so it's a bit mentally challenging, plus the elevation would be a factor for non-locals) but it's quite pretty - especially this time of year with all the flowers - and loaded with local historical significance.

Hike stats:  4.73 miles; 3 hrs. 18 min. total (2:18 moving, with moving average speed of 2.0 m.p.h.)

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