Thursday, November 17, 2016

sol-bright, switched

Winter is definitely late to Utah this year.  Ski resorts have begun pushing their openings back because there is just no snow in the mountains and it's not even been cold enough to make snow.  In the past we have gone for a hike at Solitude/Brighton right after the first snow of the year; this year this first snow really hasn't come yet but we decided to do the hike anyway, in reverse this time, in an effort to jumpstart winter.

No snow at all down low

We sort of puttered around in the morning, finally getting up to the Silver Lake Nordic Center in Big Cottonwood Canyon to start our hike around 11:30 a.m. Saturday morning.  Because the weather was so [too] warm and beautiful, there were lots more people out hiking around the lake and Brighton's reservoirs than we would see in a normal November.  Most were inadequately dressed in city boots or sneakers and we soon pushed past them as we headed up the Sol-Bright trail from Brighton to Solitude.

Just a little snow on Millicent

The trail was variable, muddy in the exposed spots and snowy/icy in the shade.  The temperature was variable as well - sweaty on the sunny uphills but chilly for shady descents - and there was a light, cool breeze blowing.  Once we got past the other people, we were delighted to hear and see several pikas scurrying around the rocky slopes and piling up grasses to dry for storage.  We also saw tons of deer and coyote tracks.

A skim-coat of snow in Honeycomb Canyon

Since we hadn't seen the fully-installed new Summit chair, we ground our way up the very steep access road to the top of Solitude to check it out.  Where the old two-seater unloaded in a narrow space surrounded by rock walls, the new quad dumps its people out into a characterless wide open since they blasted huge chunks of the cliff away.  I'm sure lots of people are thrilled but I wish they'd kept the old chair.  I like old stuff.

The new Summit quad

We headed back down before the breeze could chill us, following the access road under the lift to Lake Solitude, then picking up the trail on the east side of the lake back to Silver Lake.  The lack of snow was really a bit shocking; you just don't expect to see bare ground under Utah lifts in mid-November.  We finished the hike by going around Silver Lake and then lifted a beer in the parking lot (pouring a little bit out in a hopeful tribute to Ullr, just in case), as more and more cars poured in, people taking advantage of the mild weather.  It was a nice little hike on a pretty day but we are over mild weather.  Bring on the snow.

Hike stats: 5.07 miles; 1,300 feet elevation; 2:03 hiking time, plus 24 minutes of standing and gawking; moving average 2.5 m.p.h.

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