Tuesday, July 1, 2014

rocky road

A couple weekends ago we had meant to hike up Mineral Fork again but changed our minds at the last minute due to the Big Cottonwood Canyon Marathon that would snarl traffic for the whole morning.  We decided to follow up and hike it this Saturday, trying for another early start.  We didn't manage quite as early as our Butler Fork morning, but we did get our boots on the trail by 7:45 a.m., which is still earlier than most folks - we were the first people parking at the trailhead.  Mineral Fork is a good one to get going early on: once you get up to the top half of the trail, it is completely exposed as it zigzags (or switchbacks, if you prefer) across the bowl, baking in the sun.

We're going up into that bowl, way far away

The first time we did Mineral Fork was over Labor Day weekend a couple of years ago.  This time, at the end of June and after a big thunderstorm had moved through, there was quite a lot of water flowing down the drainage.  You have to cross the creek several times before the trail decides on a bank and simply follows it up the drainage.  An old mining road, the extremely rocky trail (rocky in part because this is one of the only trails in the Cottonwood Canyons that allows dirt bikes) rises steadily.  It was pretty humid (for the high desert) and we were sweating pretty good, despite the cool morning.  We had hoped to see some critters with our early start but all we scared up was a little family of chukars.

Just before hitting all the snow

Once we got out of the trees, we started hitting snow.  At first, we just had to cross patches of the white stuff as we made our way up the innumerable switchbacks crossing the bowl.  As we gained elevation, however, there was more and more of it until finally we gave up trying to stick to the trail and just hacked our way straight up the snow to the trail's end point.  Because of how rocky the walking is, Mineral Fork is not my favorite trail for walking but the views are undeniably spectacular.

A direct line is much more efficient than following the trail

We could see glissading tracks coming down from the ridge above us and H suggested that we scramble up there, take a peek at Lake Blanche and then slide down ourselves.  I was game and we started up, but it didn't take long before the steep and very loose shale underfoot made me chicken out.  Instead we glissaded down from where we were, making it down and out of the snow very quickly by skipping the trail.  The bowl is pretty steep (hence the need for all those dang switchbacks) and I slipped once, sliding on my butt for about eight feet before I could dig my heels in and arrest my fall.

Straight shot

On the way down we stopped for a couple of minutes to talk to some dirt bikers who had brought skis up with them to make a few turns on the remaining snow.  It wasn't that good, what with all the rocks and dirt, but still ... skiing at the end of June.  We continued back down to the car, only running across another ten or so hikers - which is pretty incredible given this trail's proximity to the city.  I don't know whether Mineral Fork is less popular because of the possibility of encountering dirt bikers or because it's so rocky or because the hike is on the longer side (9.1 miles with glissading; 10.03 miles sticking to the switchbacks).  Regardless, it's a gorgeous hike and it's a gift not to have to share it with hordes of people.  Additional hike stats: total time 4 hours 47 minutes, with stoppage time; 6,598 ft. at the start and topping out at 10,244 feet; average speed 2.0 m.p.h., again factoring in stoppage time.

View from trail's end

Coda:  We went up to the Snowbird Cool Air Concert Series Saturday evening to hear the Jaden Carlson Band.  We'd heard them last year - they're slightly different this time around as a more funky jam-band trio - and they're soooooo good.  What's simply incredible is Jaden herself: she's thirteen years old and plays the guitar like, well, a rock star.  She needs to work on her stage presence a little bit but she can make that guitar wail.  If you ever get a chance to see her, do yourself a favor and go; press play on the audio on her website and see if you would have guessed that was a thirteen year-old girl playing.

No comments:

Post a Comment