Tuesday, June 23, 2015

bringing the heat

This weekend brought the official start of summer - complete with seriously hot temperatures, nearly ten degrees above normal in the mid- to high 90s range - and also our good friend R.  He had a work thing scheduled in Salt Lake City and asked if he could come out early to do some hiking with us.  The last time he'd come out was in 2011 and the last time we've seen him was 2012, when we had Thanksgiving with him and his family.  We picked him up at the airport and had dinner at Squatter's (no Full Suspension on tap - scandalous!), then went home and stayed up far too late talking and catching up, as we always seem to do when guests come to visit.

R and A on Catherine's Pass

There was some debate Saturday morning about what we should hike.  H was adamant about not going back to Millcreek Canyon since we've been hiking it so much lately.  I wanted to make sure that we did a long enough hike that R didn't feel like we were taking it easy on him, coming right from sea level and all.  We decided to do my beloved Catherine's Loop, figuring it was a good, medium length hike with some (but not too many) steep spots and fantastic views.  H suggested that we throw in the Sunset Peak spur, R and I were game and we were off.

H and R with Lake Catherine behind them

We parked above the Albion lodge in bright sunshine over the very green mountains.  The gate across the Summer Road is still closed - it will likely open in July when the campground opens - so we began our hike from there, grinding up the Sunnyside bunny slope, cutting back on the Summer Road and then heading up the trail to Catherine's Pass. It wasn't long before we got to some snow, lingering in patches in the shadier spots and then, as the elevation mounted, even across the sunny fields.  We didn't see any moose (although we were hopeful of it), just a bunch of potguts, a couple of marmots and a small herd of campfire-scented Boy Scouts, heading home after a couple of nights camping out.

View of Superior from Sunset

There were a few people up on Catherine's Pass but when we summited Sunset Peak, we had it to ourselves.  We continued along the loop, crossing the top of the in-bounds Catherine's Area on top of snow and then continuing down the access road to the campground.  The wildflowers are just beginning to come out in the meadows, sunflowers, early lupine and sticky geranium mostly.

Making our way across Catherine's Area

We briefly thought about going up to Cecret Lake before returning to the base, eventually deciding against it because of the up involved.  Cold beers and snacks were waiting for us at the truck and we felt like we'd earned them.  It was pretty warm there in the sunshine, warm for Alta anyway, and it was be much, much warmer back down in the valley when we got home.  There was some discussion about whether we should go back up Little Cottonwood Canyon for Snowbird's first Cool Air Concert of the summer but the lure of central air, a fridge full of beer and televised soccer games proved too seductive for us to resist.

This map is kind of fun, with Alta's ski trails and lifts listed

Hike stats:  7.84 miles; 2,000 feet elevation gain; 3:16 walking time, 4:01 total trip time.

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