We planned ahead Sunday night, getting our gear and clothing laid out, so we were able to get out of the house early, getting onto the trail head at Elbow Fork in Millcreek Canyon at 7:20 a.m. We could tell that it was going to be a very busy day for Millcreek Canyon: trail heads and picnic areas were already starting to fill up, even at that hour. The trail starts at the Mt. Aire trail head but splits off from that trail after about .2 miles. Like the Mt. Aire trail, this trail to Lambs Canyon is steep, mostly shaded and easy to walk on (except for being so steep). It was pretty humid too - for out here in the high desert - with all the creeks and heavy vegetation.
The wildflowers were absolutely spectacular, especially on the way up to the pass. At the end of a particularly steep grind, we ended up on a ridge for a little bit and it was like walking shoulder-deep through a garden. The vegetation crowded the trail and we had to just push through; every now and again we would see flattened spots where deer or moose had spent the night. There were paintbrush and bluebells and sunflowers and lupine and wild roses and horsemint and columbine and geraniums. Stunning. I love the wildflowers out here.
We crested the pass and continued down the other side. The trail widened and got even smoother, very easy to walk down. Not too far along, H stopped and waved me forward: there was a huge young male moose standing in the middle of the trail. He wasn't that impressed with us - refusing to stand still long enough for a photo - and continued down the trail a ways. We trailed behind him until he got off the trail and went crashing through the underbrush, far enough way from the pesky humans. That was our first moose of the year and a very welcome sight.
After the first up and down
The Lambs Canyon trail descended very quickly. It was drier on this side, although there is a creek running down the drainage, and some different flowers, including mountain mallow (possibly - H disagrees with me on that one), common cow parsnip and not-yet-blooming coneflowers. At this point we started to meet people coming up from the Lambs Canyon trail head side and we started to wonder if we'd catch any of them when we turned around and headed back up.
Mountain mallow (maybe)
We stopped for just a few minutes down at the bottom at the trail head, fueling up with some beef jerky, apples and trail mix before girding our loins for the return trip. The trail on this side is not nearly as steep as the Millcreek side but we still climbed steadily, sweat soaking our hats and dripping off our chins. There were a couple of spots where the sun broke through the trees but for the most part it was shady and for that we were grateful. We did pass several of the hikers whom we had seen on our way down, including one girl who exclaimed, "Wait - did you already do one trip? That's awesome!" We told her that we had left beer in the car in Millcreek as motivation and she laughed at that.
After up and down and up again
After reaching the pass, we got down the Millcreek side very, very quickly, despite the steepness of the trail. We started to meet people and dogs on their way up, including a fairly sprightly fourteen-year old Lab mix, but we were fairly sure that none of them were going to do the front to back to front that we had just accomplished. The beers in the car tasted pretty good post-hike - as did the garlic cheeseburgers at the Cotton Bottom, where we stopped on the way home. Everyone has burgers on the Fourth of July, don't they?
Hike stats: 8.09 miles; 2:52 hours hiking, plus a half hour standing around; 2.8 m.p.h.; 2,786 feet of elevation.