Sunday, May 27, 2018
Looking at Red Baldy as I drive each day to work, when the mountain gets almost clear of snow, it's time to hike across snow fields into White Pine Lake, Little Cottonwood Canyon.
I put my sights into Saturday. I headed to the trailhead before 8. The weather, clear until afternoon, awesome. I started one layer chilly as I know my hiking style will warm me up quickly. The trail ran wet in places, muddy in others, no snow until the last odd mile, which is all snow. From experience, modern shoes need not be pampered, they often are all synthetic, dry quickly. I don't mind stepping in water unless it'll create erosion issues. Reguardless what time of year, this trail is always wet in areas as it crosses several wetland type areas, just give up on keeping your feet dry all day on this trail folks. If you desire dry feet, wear Wellies.
I made quick time up. Pausing a moment here and there to view the budding spring and to gaze into the basin a head. Several camper groups passed me heading down. I regret not asking where they camped as I know the area well enough tp know camping is limited at the lake.
Tracks headed into the basin before the trail jumps out of the trees. I followed suit. The snow, softening, yet, no post holing. I spotted tracks going towards the dam. That's a wicked steep route. I chose to stay towards the east and down below the summer trail. Two wet slides from the day before didn't even come close to the road. I aimed to be on the road about 100 yard before the rocky pass into the lake well out of slide danger zones.
Tracks crist crossed each other. High above me two skiers descended a chute. My poles, with small baskets, punched through the softenng crust. My microspikes bit effectively on the slope. Before I head to the Sierra's, I'll come here to train for the passes and practice self arrest, I thought. That won't be for a few years.
I stopped at the pass for a few photos. Made my way lake side, wrapped around to the dam, not much of a trail here. I kept looking for a large campsite. The only thing I found was a hot campfire ring with glowing coals. I shoveled snow bare handed and stired. I know fires are allowed up here however, when they are not out out, cold to touch, they become a major fire hazard. Coals can be carried on the wind into tinder else where. This fire ring, on the dam, a view of tinder a short mile below.
I scouted the area. I'm always looking for another spot to camp. I returned to the dam, set my BRS stove up for a hot lunch. Shielding it from the wind took a trick. Then when I wasn't looking it flash boiled, well that's a Ramen mess.
The dam seemed to be the place to come up, several groups made that way as their choosen route. Personally, nope, too step.
I returned the way I came, enjoying a long butt side off the summer trail. Note to self: don't forget the trash bag, burr. As I slushed a long at the bottom, I looked up. There were two more wet slides since I headed up. They too, did not pose any danger however, the later one is in this area the danger rises. The danger is not only from above off of Red Baldy but from the snow itself. Not being on the trail puts one into a rocky region, post holing into a void is to be avoided.
As I highlight the danger, I can't say enough about the beauty this area is blanked in snow, a lake of ice rimmed in turquoise, barren peaks rising another 800 plus feet.
Salt Lake Tribune put this as one of the 5 must do spring hikes. I agree, so do the dozens I passed must agree too. 8 miles round trip with 2400 ft elevation gain. I count is as strenuous for the out of shape for the distance then the snow. Once the snow clears, the rating dips. The snow is replaced by a mix of wet trail, rocky tread, and the occasional atream crossing. Mostly, its good hard pack dirt. The White Pine trail is an old jeep road. It's not wilderness so mountain bikes are allowed. Please be respectful of all users.
If you have not reviewd Leave No Trace Principles, please do so. I try to promote this as possible. I believe we are all responsible for keeping the land in pristine condition for the enjoyment of others. This includes not blasting music on portable speakers; to hiking with one ear bud out so that the other ear can be alert to sounds around or other hikers (I'm light on me feet, I'll surprise an unsuspecting zoner); watcjing where breaks are taken; scaring of the land with the use of campfires; etc. Leave No Trace is located at https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles
I found myself back at the car, parking lot over flowing to the highway, sky still clear, thinking how lucky Utahains are for the mountains so close to the metropolitan. Let's protect and preserve this resource from development for money while helping backcountry users better manage access and mitigate ruin of trails and basins but, how? Save Our Canyons (http://www.saveourcanyons.org) is one organization adressing these qurstions. For me, it's about treading lightly, picking up trash, and breaking up those pesky fire rings, fires long cold out of course.
Hike on, Hike wise.