Tuesday, May 26, 2015

spring is the new winter

All that moisture that we wanted back in January, February and March?  We've been getting it in May.  In addition to the unsettled weather we had in Moab, the last two weeks have been literal wash-outs in northern Utah.  On average, Salt Lake City has 1.57 inches of rain through this point in May.  This year's May (month-to-date):  3.87 inches of precipitation and eighteen days of wet weather.  Last weekend we didn't do anything out of the house (other than breakfast at the Cottonwood Heights Cafe in its new Highland Drive location).  By Sunday of this past weekend, we had cabin fever enough to get out and try a new hike, inclement weather be damned.

H at Silver Lake Flat Reservoir

The first order of business was to find a hike.  We wanted (a) something low enough that we wouldn't be trudging through too much (if any) snow and (b) something totally new, which ruled out Millcreek Canyon, which we feel we've been in rather a lot of late.  H got out the books and the maps and we settled on hiking to Silver Lake (no, not that Silver Lake) in American Fork Canyon, above Tibble Fork Reservoir.  We drove up the canyon and past Tibble Fork Reservoir, parking at a small parking area just before the entrance to the Granite Flats campground.  The road continues, pavement ending, up to Silver Lake Flat Reservoir but we went on foot on a hiking/horse trail, thus avoiding the traffic (cars, pickups and ATVs) on the dirt road.

View across Silver Lake Flat Reservoir

The trail also cut off close to a mile of distance that the road has.  It was fairly steep in spots, and rocky with loose stones, and eroded from the rush of seasonal water hurrying down the hillside.  For a good chunk of the trail we were actually walking in a creekbed, picking our way carefully to keep our feet dry.  It was pretty chilly at 48F (and would only warm up to 52F) and wet feet seemed like a quick way to misery.  We saw tons of deer tracks but only one deer, standing at distance across a wash; there were also lots of dog paw prints (and, later, dogs) which might explain the dearth of actual deer.

Standing on mine tailings, looking back from whence we came

We came out across the access road at the end of Silver Lake Flat Reservoir, an unexpectedly beautiful man-made reservoir ringed with trees and snow-coated cliffs peeking out of the low clouds above.  We walked along the gravel shoreline to the far end, briefly consulted the map at the trail head and continued up towards Silver Lake.  It was cool, very humid and very green, initially winding through aspen groves before starting to climb via switchbacks on the south-facing slope.  We gained elevation quickly - the whole trail is a steady climb, right from where we parked - and there were a couple of creek crossings which required a little bit of focus.

Approaching Silver Lake - it's 
actively snowing/raining at this point

The ponchos had to come out about halfway up and as we ground up the final steep and rocky stretch, the rain came down in earnest, switching to sleet/snow just as we got up to the lake.  Silver Lake is a very pretty little alpine lake, reminiscent of Cecret Lake at Alta, but we didn't linger there at all; worried about the weather, we took a couple of quick photos and started back down.  It was slow going at first since the rocks were a little slippery.  Descending was chilly too and although the snow/sleet/rain stopped before too long (the weather would not move out entirely, however, and by the time we were back down in the aspens, we could see that it was precipitating up at the lake again), we kept our ponchos on for a while, just to stay warm.

Silver Lake in the snow/rain

Silver Lake Flat Reservoir was busier by the time we walked around it on our return, picnickers and fishermen braving the changeable weather - some teenagers were even swimming!  We weren't the slightest bit tempted by that and continued to retrace our steps back to the truck.  After changing into dry clothes, we drove down canyon a little bit until we found a vacant picnic spot.  The prior inhabitants had not completely doused their campfire (always douse your campfire! if it's too hot to touch, it's too hot to leave!) so we huddled up to it to stay warm for our post-hike beers.  We decided that we had liked that hike and would like to do it again, in the fall to see the aspens, but next time drive up to the trail head at Silver Lake Flat Reservoir and then continuing to hike past Silver Lake to another, smaller lake, Silver Glance Lake, a mile further on.  Next time!

Just trying to stay warm

Hike stats:  7.97 miles RT; 2,181 feet of elevation gain, topping out around 9,000 ft.; avg. speed 2.4 m.p.h.; 3:16 moving time, 4:03 total hike time.  And look, a map of our actual hike:

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