Thursday, October 27, 2016

snowbird appreciation

I had been back east*, visiting family for a week and returning to SLC late Friday night.  Saturday morning I wanted to stretch my legs and H suggested going up to Snowbird.  The last two weekends in October are Snowbird customer appreciation weekends: bring a food or monetary donation for the Utah Food Bank and get a free tram ride.  We thought instead that we might hike up the mountain and then ride down, getting the benefit of the exercise but also saving our knees.

Looking at Superior from about halfway up

We waited a while for the sun to get up above the mountains before heading up the canyon.  The weather was mild and mostly sunny with a light breeze.  There were some cars up there but we didn't expect crowds like we had seen for the final weekend of Octoberfest.  After double-checking that the mountain was now closed to MTBers, we started heading up the Big Mountain Trail, which is a downhill-bike-only trail in the summertime, winding its way up the Gad Valley to the top of the ski resort.

Coyotes are allowed in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Within minutes we had warmed up and I had to delayer, then shortly thereafter putting on my arm warmers for an optimal outfit.  The trail covers a lot of ground via long switchbacks; because of all the switchbacks it is never really steep although you do gain ground steadily.  They put a lot of work into this trail, augmenting it with plank bridges and smoothly bermed corners.  It was good to walk on too, with not too many rocky sections.  I had been a little concerned about re-acclimating to the Wasatch after a week at sea level but the gradual ascent made it easy.

After we got above the mid-mountain Mid-Gad lodge, the trees opened up and we were traversing an open bowl.  There were tons of deer hoofprints everywhere, in the dirt/mud/snow, but we didn't seen any of those critters.  We did, however, see a coyote.  S/he saw us too, stopping to stare for a moment before continuing on down the mountain.  After that sighting, we saw its pawprints along the trail as well - all the animals take advantage of the human-installed trails, it seems.

Atop Hidden Peak

The Big Mountain Trail comes out under the last tram tower, with the steepest portion being that final short push to the top.  We had only seen five hikers on our way up but there were lots of folks milling about at the summit, having taken advantage of the "free" tram ride.  One guy asked us if we'd come up all the way from the bottom and then told us "good job!" when we confirmed that we had.  He asked us how long a hike it was and when we told him 7+ miles, he seemed markedly less interested in going down that way.  Hike stats:  7.2 miles (all up); 2,500 feet elevation gain; about 3.5 hours because we weren't trying to break any speed records, plus we had to watch that coyote for a while.

*  PS - This is what fall near my family's house looks like:

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