Sunday, June 14, 2015

who keeps picking the steep ones

H came up with steep ol' Porter Fork a couple of weekends ago but this Saturday, the precipitous Mt. Aire was my selection.  I hadn't hiked it since 2010 and it's been since 2011 for H (who did it when our friend Paul came for a visit); I couldn't recall the trail very well, except for remembering that it went up alongside a creek and was thus a little humid, at least for out here in the high desert.  We got an early-ish start (we'll have to start earlier from here on out, however, because it's going to start to get hot), nabbing one of the last remaining parking spots at the lot next to the gate five miles up Millcreek Canyon at about 8:15 a.m.

H at the saddle

With all those cars so early, we were sure that the trails would be inundated with people, but once again, we got lucky: three trail runners exited the Mt. Aire trail just as we headed up and one trail runner with two dogs went up ahead of us, but that was it.  Maybe it wasn't luck, however, but other people having better sense than we do, because Mt. Aire is a steep little bugger of a trail, grinding straight up the drainage (alongside a lovely little stream which was (a) humid for us but (b) great for thirsty dogs) with nary a switchback.  Despite its steepness, it's a nice trail, mostly shaded and packed dirt underfoot.

View to the east from the Mt. Aire summit

We came out of the shady trees at a sunflower-studded saddle and then turned east up switchbacks to the summit.  This section of trail is rocky underfoot and less shady, with only gambel oaks and junipers at that elevation, and while there were long switchbacks crisscrossing the hillside, it still gained elevation quickly.  We met up with the two-dog trail runner at the top, just as they were heading back down.  H asked him how his run was and he laughed, confessing that due to the steepness of the trail, it had really been more of a hike.

Where's the snacks?

At the summit, we climbed out on the ridge another 200 yards or so and perched there to eat our snacks.  There was a light, cool breeze, very pleasant and enough to keep the flies away, and we had the place to ourselves with a 360 degree view.  An early forecast had threatened midday thunderstorms but that had later been recanted and we enjoyed our trail mix, beef jerky and granola bars under cloudless skies.

View to the northeast-ish

I was slipping on the loose rock on the first part of the descent but once we got below the saddle, we were back on that lovely packed dirt trail and we cruised back down.  We ran into a few other hikers who were on their way up - and also a young moose, shy enough not to stick around for long - but the trail was still pretty quiet for busy Millcreek Canyon.  Things picked up a bit as we walked down the road from the trail head back to the car, and as we drove out of the canyon, the lower picnic and parking areas were full to bursting, but once again we were thrilled to have found some peace and quiet along the Wasatch Front.

The moose is loose

Hike stats:  6.75 miles RT; 3 hours 20 minutes trip total (2 hrs. 32 min. hiking); 2,300 feet of elevation gain.

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