UT – Wasatch Plateau, Huntington Canyon (05/22)

Famous for the Huntington Mammoth and popular with locals, this canyon was recommended by staff at the Manti-La Sal USFS office in Price. It’s NOT an area that pops up on “where to hike” apps, and wouldn’t make my WOW per mile list, but no regrets! I was glad to have a new area to explore that challenged my fitness, provided high altitude training and was just the right temperature. Every hike doesn’t need to be #epic to be worthwhile.

I launched from the town of Huntington and began the drive up Highway 31 which is known as the energy highway due to coal mining. It’s early season with roads and trails just beginning to open. I’m guessing it would be much too busy for my liking during the summer. Much of the forest was burned in 2012 and then flooded during monsoon season. Seeing the damage, recovery and intervention a decade later is a reminder of the slow process.

Tie Fork Canyon

This is one of the first trailheads off the main road. While you can drive the first 1.7 miles it’s not suitable for all vehicles. I wanted to hike so I walked the road. At the Y junction, I first went left on Wild Cattle Hollow Trail but was soon turned around by down trees. Gentry Hollow Trail is to the right. The trail was in good condition and I made it almost to Jack’s Hole junction. I was feeling the altitude and found myself huffing and puffing plenty.

Nuck Woodward Road

I met a couple of rangers upon arrival at the Stuart Guard Station. They informed me they just opened the gate to the trailhead. The “trail” starts as the road, which will be open later in the season. The 2012 burn and subsequent flooding is evident in this canyon. I decided to stick with the road this day as most likely the trails needed spring maintenance. I hiked to the Sawmill Canyon junction. I saw a bald eagle and hawk but wasn’t able to photograph either.

An example of one of the hiking trails. I could see blowdown as well as a creek crossing. Easy to choose roads walking when trail conditions are in the Type 2 category.

This is the first trail junction. I considered trying this trail but with the wildfire warning sign I suspected a lot of deadfall.

Love bear scratch trees!

I saw a fair amount of bones and skeletons. Obviously this was fairly fresh kill. The most interesting and scariest was seeing a cougar cache of an elk near the trailhead. I notified a ranger since the cache was still being actively eaten. You can smell it, the flies were happy, and about half was buried.

I camped at the trailhead and woke to snow on my face, as it blew in through my cracked windows.

It was time for a town day!

Left Fork of Huntington Creek, a National Recreation Trail

I was pleasantly surprised to find single track trail limited to hiker and equestrian traffic. It was a nice change from the previous hikes given it’s proximity to a creek. As expected there were some challenges with down trees, washed out trail, overgrowth and a tread with some slippery mud and snow sections. I hiked about 5 miles to the Scad Valley Trail junction. It would be a great backpack trail if it was in better condition.

Horsetail Fern

This was an interesting sulfur-smelling, cold-water creek.

Electric Lake, Cleveland and Huntington Reservoirs

As I traveled north I found half frozen lakes and lots of snow. It was going to be a while before those trails opened so I enjoyed exploring the lakes.

Yogi was awake!

This was the trail I planned to hike.

Nope, won’t be driving or hiking that road for a few weeks.

I found a small patch of glacier lilies while wandering around.

Huntington Mammoth

The deeper snow to the right is where the mammoth was found.

Mill Canyon Trail

I wanted to assume since the trail began with a newish bridge it might be in good shape and was worth a try. This turned out to be my most challenging hike with 2000′ elevation gain in 2.25 miles ending at 10,000′. There were a few down trees and snow blocking the trail toward the top but the elevation gain and altitude tested my fitness. This canyon has lots of aspen trees which will provide nice shade when they leaf out. I saw my one and only hiker of this trip on this trail.

And then the trail was blocked by snow, with deep postholing. Time to turn back or go for Plan B.

I found a way to the ridge where four elk greeted me.

I had a view down into the lakes basin where I’d explored the previous day. This trail provides an optional way to Candland Peak.

The ridge to the right was my Plan B when the trail was blocked by snow on the left.

Spring Beauties (?)

Tips:

  • Ask at the Price USFS office for the hiking trail map and list aka Popular Non-Motorized Trails in Huntington Canyon.
  • The town park at Huntington has clean restrooms, public WiFi, a water spigot and power outlets. Everything a traveler could ask for. The market met most of my other needs.
  • There are plenty of camping options in the canyon from paid to dispersed, some reserved and some first come. I didn’t see any garage bins nor water spigots.

Resources:

WA – Mount Rainier National Park, Paradise (July 2021)

After a couple days at Stevens Canyon (link) it was impossible to ignore the pull of the mountain. So on a Sunday, yes a Sunday, during peak summer tourist season, two crowd-adverse gals decided to test the waters. Joan and I left our campsite at 5:30am for optimal crowd-avoidance strategy. It worked! We got our pick of a parking spot in the main area at Paradise.

After a stop at Reflection Lake, we decided “sub alpine” filled with hordes of skeeters was less appealing than hordes of people at alpine. I was reminded of my hike around Mt Rainier on the Wonderland Trail in 2014 (link).

Reflection Lake

Skyline Trail

We couldn’t ignore a calling to the Skyline Trail. With much trepidation about my knee and body performance, we began our hike. The views kept me smiling. It was my kind of WOW per mile. So many views and wildflowers. I felt like I could touch the mountain. How lucky to have beautiful blue skies devoid of smoke and fires. Temperatures were warm but with plenty of water and snow we stayed comfortable. At the end of the day, I was thrilled with my recovery and performance. The long steep downhill tested my body but my hips complained more than my knee so I figured this meant I’d moved on from knee rehab to rebuilding general fitness.

The first section of the Skyline Trail is paved which really helps with dust and erosion given it’s high use. Notice the marmot laying on the big rock in foreground.

The marmots are such portrait hams.

This was a flower power tour.

The lupine smelled strongly of grape jelly.

We had a few snow patches to hike through and were wishing we’d carried our microspikes.

This is the Nisqually Glacier. Notice the waterfall.  There are 25 major glaciers on Mount Rainier and numerous unnamed snow or ice patches, which cover about 35 square miles.

Nothing like Glacier Lilies to accompany the Nisqually Glacier.

Trail reality . . . we definitely weren’t alone. Funny this viewpoint is of the Goat Rock wilderness where Joan had hiked the PCT the previous week (link), and where I’ve hiked two times previously.

I was thrilled to find Sky Pilots (Jacob’s Ladder).

Water water everywhere, fields of green and loads of floral color.

This was my third day in a row to hike. I was beyond excited about my performance and recovery.

DATE(S) HIKED: July 25, 2021

RESOURCES:

Other Jaunts in Washington (link) including the Wonderland Trail (link)

CA – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Tangle Blue Lake Trailhead . . . spring jaunting

While you’ll find information for Tangle Blue Lake in guidebooks, it takes more than casual preparation to find the trailhead as there’s no signage at the highway junction. In fact this sign at the trailhead no longer exists. This is a photo from my 2013 visit. 

This is your 2020 welcome board.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone refer to this as the Grand National Trail, named for an old road to the Grand National Mine. This sign has been defaced since I took this photo in 2013. Maybe because the mileage isn’t exactly accurate. It’s now 3.75 miles from the trailhead to the lake although I’m not sure how far along the trail this sign is located.

This sign is long gone as well. I’d like to think it was removed by the Forest Service for maintenance rather than stolen.

Expect 1,200 feet in elevation gain on a well-used, rocky, easy-to-follow trail. According to Mike White’s Trinity Alps book, “Legend suggests that Tangle Blue Lake and Creek were named by an early resident of the area who started his trip into the wilderness after awaking from a long night of partying to find his feet tangled and the air blue.”

It’s a rare treat to get the lake to yourself like I did. There are far more private campsites along the creek or further up the trail.

Marshy Lakes

There are several options for exploring off the main trail, although signage is somewhat lacking and trails are not necessarily maintained. My goal for this trip was to hike to Marshy Lakes, then up to East Boulder Lakes, followed by a northwest jaunt on the Pacific Crest Trail, then returning on the Tangle Blue Lake Trail which connects to the Eagle Creek Trail.

You’ll need decent navigation skills to find the lakes. Along the main spur trail, you’ll see a pond before finding a trail near a “no hunting” sign which leads to Little Marshy Lake.

There is a mighty fine camping area which is on private property, a carve out in the wilderness (shown below on the map). The memorial is for a mule or horse. They even have piped water to a faucet. So fancy!

The lighter shade on the map represents private property which includes a little more than half of Little Marshy Lake, the end with the camp.

At the far end of the lake, you’ll find this waterfall created from Big Marshy Lake’s outlet.

Big Marshy Lake.

East Boulder Lakes

I recommend reversing direction slightly from Big Marshy Lake to reconnect with the old road and current use trail to the PCT. Attempting a short-cut ends up being a lot more wasted time and effort. You can see my track on the above map photo when I wandered to the left of the trail.

When I hiked the PCT in 2015, I wasn’t inclined to add miles so I was excited to see the East Boulder Lakes basin. I explored the ridges on both sides of the pass but wasn’t motivated to hike down into the basin itself.

Pacific Crest Trail

The PCT provided spectacular views down toward Big Marshy Lake and the mountains towering above Tangle Blue Lake.

The close-up details of the rocks was worthy of closer inspection and pondering the geologic history.

You can expect snow on the PCT in early spring. Some patches had serious consequences should you slip.

I spent a night along the PCT where I got to watch this bald eagle hunting for it’s dinner.

It was a perfect place to watch the nearly full moon rise while smiling at this sunset view.

The next morning I enjoyed a brilliant sunrise with Mt Shasta hidden within.

I continued hiking northwest on the PCT. My next POI was Middle Boulder Lakes basin. It was filled with a frog choir. I’d need earplugs to camp there. I considered hiking the loop that connects these lakes with Telephone Lake.

I caught a little cell signal for an updated weather forecast which told me no lollygagging.

I found a great view of the northern side of Caribou Mountain and other major peaks of the Trinity Alps.

I tried to find a view down to West Boulder Lake but without a trail and steep cluttered hillsides, I wasn’t too motivated to play hide and seek. However, there’s a trail junction on the PCT for another lakes basin which includes Mavis, Fox Creek, Virginia and Section Line Lakes.

The lakes aren’t visible from the junction but if you hike up a bit and explore the ridge, you can find this view of Mavis Lake.

I was able to see Virginia Lake with my naked eye, but it was hard to capture with my camera. It’s tucked just below the granite side of the mountain. I met a group who were staying at Fox Lake. They said it was a great base camp from which they’d spen one day hiking to all the lakes in the basin and the next up to the PCT and down a side trail to Wolford Cabin. So many options for loops and trip extensions. Be warned though, trail conditions are a big unknown especially given recent fires.

Bloody Run Trail / Eagle Creek Divide / Eagle Creek Trail / Tangle Blue Trail

I reversed direction back to this trail junction. I had no idea if I’d find remnants of trail or if it would be a big mess or . . . it was a big mystery but one I was willing to at least take a stab at ground truthing. I was happy to at least see this sign on the PCT (it reads Bloody Run Trail and Eagle Creek Divide).  As you may recall I found the sign for the Eagle Creek junction when I was on my way to the Marshy Lakes.

Step 1, go the 1/4 mile to the divide. Take a look around and see if I could find a trail that matched my digital map.

I found the divide without incident on a fairly well used trail to a campsite. From there I wasn’t able to find the trail that connects to Wolford Cabin but found the light use trail continuing down Bloody Run to this junction. By this time I was beyond hopeful as I’d dropped quite a bit of elevation and was not looking forward to reversing direction.

I was thrilled to find this sign at the junction of Eagle Creek Trail and Tangle Blue Trail.

According to the map you can connect to/from the PCT to the Tangle Blue Trail. I didn’t find any evidence on the PCT but I found this sign along the Tangle Blue Trail and it looked like a fairly straight shot through an open meadow but I didn’t check it out so it remains a mystery.

I found a few old trail blazes on trees. I wouldn’t attempt this trail without excellent off-trail navigation skills. When you temporarily lose the trail, backtrack and watch the digital map as the old trail stays fairly true to what’s shown on the maps.

Cairns were well placed in many spots, and very helpful with the navigation game.

It was a beautiful area filled with meadows, flowers, streams and views.

The lower section is more in the forest and bit messier than the upper section. Had I been paying better attention and not gotten off track a one point where I found myself in a manzanita quagmire, I would have been 100% thrilled I’d taken this alternate. Buy hey, I came, I explored, I survived.

I was especially excited to find this sign on my way back to the main trail. Yes, the Tangle Blue Trail exists!

After that wild day, I found a cozy spot to call it a night. If I hadn’t gotten off track, I probably would have camped along the Tangle Blue Trail where I would have had more open views. But that too is all part of the adventure and something that will keep this trip memorable.

Grand National Mine

On a previous trip I took the side trail to explore the mine. I didn’t find a sign this trip, but it’s pretty easy to spot the old road. You can see the red roof of the old stamp mill in the lower left corner of this photo I captured as I was coming down the Tangle Blue Trail from the Marshy Lakes/Eagle Creek junction. You can see the old road above the mill. Someday I want to come back and continue further up the road to the ridge. I’m sure it would offer excellent views.

As of my 2013 visit there was lots of debris left behind. According to the Trinity Lake Revitalization Alliance, “The Grand National Mine produced about 1,500 ounces of gold, 2,200 ounces of silver, and 1,900 pounds of copper between 1934 and 1937. A few ounces of gold and silver were produced in 1930 and 1931. Nearly 54 percent of the gold was from quartz veins, which assayed at an average value of $23 per ton. The owner estimated that some 22,600 tons of material was in the three veins of the main mine diggings as of the late 1960s. At some $20 per ton, that was a value worth pursuing. Of course, now that the mine is wholly within the Trinity Alps Wilderness, it has been retired for all practical purposes.”

Flora and Fauna:

Early spring flowers were abundant on this trip. I was especially happy to see the lavender pasqueflowers just waiting to become Dr. Seuss blooms.

Although I thought these were all bleeding hearts, it appears a couple are really steersheads, all in the Dicentra family.

This trip was devoid of bears, instead my wildlife was this snake and a lot of frogs.

For a high-use trail, it had very little trash or obvious TP. I picked up quite a lot of micro trash on the first section and later on found these sunglasses. They were covered in mud and looked like they’d been lost a long time ago.

A little something new to get used to as we experience this COVID-19 global pandemic.

Adventure Dates:

  • June 2-5, 2020

Hike Details:

Resources:

Links:

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links may be included which provide me a tiny kickback to help pay for this site.

 

CA – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Long Canyon Trailhead . . . early spring jaunting


COVID-19 message from Shasta-Trinity National Forest. “Please continue to recreate locally and practice self-sufficiency & responsible recreation when visiting the forest. Pack it in, pack it out. Pick up all of your trash and dispose of waste properly. Trash overflowing the receptacles becomes potential sources for the spread of COVID-19. Law enforcement and/or search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19 issues. High risk activities such as rock climbing or backcountry activities that increase your chance of injury or distress should be avoided. Please avoid visiting national forests if you are sick and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. If an area is crowded, move to a less occupied location. Also consider avoiding the forest during high-use periods.”


At 3,800 feet, this trailhead is between Stuart Fork and Swift Creek Trailheads, both logistically and elevation wise.  But as you’ll see beginning elevation does not always equate to similar snow conditions.

On this day, my objective was Bee Tree Gap, the pass at the top of this photo. Looks can be so deceiving. The summer trail is on the left through the snow.

You get glimpses of the pass well in advance of arrival.  It’s a continuous 5-mile climb from the trailhead to just below the pass.

You’d think it would be no problem to find a way to the pass given these conditions.

Well . . .  on this early season jaunt, looks were indeed deceiving. The purple track represents my efforts. The green line is from a February snowshoe adventure (the tent symbol was from that trip and the objective on this day). The red is the summer trail. After a couple hours of effort, it was time to cry uncle. Microspikes might have helped.

Early spring trips for me mean taking time to enjoy the journey. Views like these make every step worthwhile.

It’s a time to be grateful for sleeping mosquitoes.

It’s a time to enjoy watching the sun slide behind the mountain.

How cool to see the shadows of the western peaks overlaid on the eastern ridges.

Sunset magic is a part of the journey.

And if you’re really lucky you might be perfectly positioned to catch the full moon rising.

Early to bed, early to rise.

With a foiled attempt at going higher, it’s nice to have other options.

The trail to Bowerman Meadows has much lower use than the Deer Creek Trail. In early spring, the first consideration is whether you’re up for a wet feet crossing of the creek.

Then you have some fun navigating through thin to non-existent trail tread. Tip: stay to the right side of the first meadow and look for the trail darting into the woods.

There were a few ties marking the route.

While down trees and deadfall is typically indicative of early season, my guess is that this is no longer a maintained trail.

You might find some patches of snow.

I believe this is an old snow survey station.

I have photos of me sitting on this boulder from my first trek on this trail many years ago.

Continue staying high and to the right.

You’ll be tempted to drop down low, just say NO!

Watch carefully for this escape hatch to cross the creek.

Notice the cut branches.

The white rope trail markers switched to a few red ribbons.

These miles are hard earned. But the reward is worth the effort.

Remember that snow patch I showed earlier? It was obvious that bear prefer the trail to bushwhacking. There was plenty of bear scat along the trail, some nice footprints and finally a beautiful shiny black-colored bear in the green meadow. While drinking coffee the next morning I watched, mostly likely the same bear across the ravine from my campsite. The bear’s location is circled in yellow in the top right photo. The zoomed image is on bottom right. I thought the left bottom photo was funny with a beer can between two piles of bear poo. Hmmm did the bears take it away from a human?

Keep your eyes peeled for little tree frogs.

What else does spring mean? That’s right wildflower blooms.

Early spring means it’s a little winter mixed with a little summer. It’s best to key your eye on the weather and make plans to exit the high country when you see a forecast like this one, unless of course you like risking hypothermia.

Adventure Dates:

  • April-June, any year, depending on winter snow levels

Resources:

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links may be included which provide me a tiny kickback to help pay for this site.

MT – Glacier NP – Going to the Sun Road . . . where 2 are better than 4

Experiencing Glacier National Park has been tops on my list for the past few years. While I wasn’t planning an April visit, it seemed destined. When it became apparent Utah’s tourism season had arrived, I escaped to the north spending time in Wyoming visiting Flaming Gorge NRA, Wind River RangeGrand Tetons NP, and Yellowstone NP before continuing onward to Montana and eventually to Glacier NP. First stop was Lake McDonald.

Crews were working hard to open the Going-to-the-Sun Road, but with it still closed I had limited options for early season camping and hiking. Apgar is only open to tent camping and since I planned to sleep in my car, Saint Mary was my best option. It took me a couple hours to reach the northeast side of the park.

You won’t hear any complaints from me when you have near solitude and this great “dinner with a view” lakeside seat. 

This was a pretty great campsite. How about going to sleep and waking up to this scene?

While wondering around I came across this lily. According to my research, this lily is not native to Glacier and may have been planted as a joke. I took this photo with my phone and I believe it was a solo plant. Is this really a Fawn Lily aka White Beauty (Erythronium californicum)?

The next morning I hiked the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It was mostly clear of snow and obstacles. I was a little jealous of the cyclists cruising the pavement but in other ways it was nice to take my time and enjoy views along the shores of Saint Mary Lake. 

The flat light and gray skies may have reduced the drama of these spectacular mountains, but they didn’t dampen my spirits. I know I’ll be back to capture these images with a pack on my back and feet on real trail.

The 2003 Roberts Fire may have left a 135,000 acre scar; however, it opened up views once hidden by vegetation.

Are you St Mary or Virginia Falls?

Are you Gunsight Pass? Are you Jackson and Blackfoot Glaciers?

With all the snowmelt, water was plentiful. Who needs recorded music when you have nature’s soundtrack?

As much as I wanted to make it to Logan Pass, I decided it best to turn around after 7.5 miles at the Jackson Glacier Overlook. My decision was reaffirmed when I met a guy on his bike who said he was blocked by snow at Siyeh Bend, not far from my turnaround point.

The burned trees were a sad distraction.

I’m looking forward to returning another day when I can experience the beautiful colors of these mountains. 

Making my way back to the Saint Mary Lake campground. 

When I wasn’t tripping over my feet staring in awe at the big mountains, I found a few wildflowers, including Eastern Pasqueflower (Anemone patens) and Yellow Avalanche or Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum).

I just loved the pasqueflower. I’ve seen them frequently in the post-bloom stage when they look like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book, but never in this soft pastel lavender fuzzy stage. 

Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum) and Spring Beauty (Claytonia lanceolata)

Shooting Star (Dodecatheon pulchellum)

Darkwoods Violet (Viola orbiculata)

? Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)

Rocky Mountain Clematis (Clematis occidentalis).

A good reminder to carry bear spray and be bear aware. ‘Tis NOT the season to surprise a hungry bear, especially a mom with cubs. 

Date(s) Hiked: April 22, 2016

Road Trip Day(s) #64 out of 88

Tips:

  • The hike from Mary Lake Campground to Jackson Glacier Viewpoint is about 15 miles round trip with 2,000+ feet elevation gain/loss.
  • The only campgrounds in the park open during the winter/early spring season are Apgar and St Mary
  • Come prepared with grizzly bear spray or buy at Visitor’s Center upon arrival
  • Microspikes or YakTrax are a good option for early season travel.

Resources:

Links: