Last year I enjoyed the freedom of not photographing and writing about each and every hike we did over the summer, so I decided to do the same this year. A big chunk of our summer was spent on the road in Canada (which I’m slowly recounting…) but we still managed to get out and cross some hikes off the list before fall (read: snow!) descended on the mountains of Utah.
Twin Peaks/Little Black Mountain
At the end of May while there is still snow in the mountains, we can hike the foothills above the city. May is an ideal time to take advantage of the foothills. It’s not too hot, the hills are still green, and the views of the valley are clear. We started out with the intention of hiking to the Twin Peaks, but then Zach set his sights on Little Black Mountain in the distance. We were due for afternoon thundershowers, so we kept an eye out. We reached an area just below the true summit and decided to head back down. We could see the rain approaching and didn’t want to get stuck exposed on the ridgeline on our way down. We still had stunning views of the city, the Wasatch Mtns., and even Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake.
I told Zach we needed to do a more rigorous hike to prep for our hikes in the Canadian Rockies. He told me we should do Deseret Peak, an eight mile loop hike with 3,700 feet of elevation gain. Yikes. The hike up wasn’t so bad. We decided to go clockwise and traversed through shaded forests and lovely meadows for a good chunk of the ascent. Once we made it to the ridgeline, we just had to make it to the top. Although cloudy overhead, we had magnificent views from the summit. We could see over the Oquirrh Mountains to the Wasatch in the east, all the way to the Salt Flats and Nevada to the west, and of course the Great Salt Lake in front of us. The descent was certainly more challenging. My knees were beat by the end of it. We had one final view of the peak and a gorgeous valley below, before retreating back into the forest to finish the descent. We earned our beers that day.
The following weekend, I aimed for a slightly more tame hike to Desolation Lake. Accessible from either Millcreek or Big Cottonwood Canyons, it’s a popular destination for day hikers, mountain bikers, and backpackers. We used the trail from Big Cottonwood Canyon for a tranquil 7.6 mile round-trip hike. Our ascent was pretty pleasant. The trail was lined with wildflowers, and there were few people out. Our descent was filled with mountain bikers and lots of day hikers heading toward Dog Lake. However, the lake itself had few visitors, and we were able to find a secluded spot to snack and relax.
When we returned from Canada, we were eager to hike in the Uinta Mountains before the short summer season ended. We took Truman out for an easy 3.5 mile (RT) hike along the Fehr Lake Trail. Surprisingly, there were very few people out and we had the trail mostly to ourselves. We found a secluded spot along the banks of Hoover Lake and hung out for a while on a breezy day.
This was supposed to be a short simple hike to a bourbon-colored lake. When we arrived at the trailhead, there weren’t any other cars. We felt like we’d won the Uinta jackpot – no other people! We weren’t far up the trail when we came upon a moose cow with her calf. Initially, we thought the trail was leading us away from them, but it turned straight toward them. We spent the next twenty minutes slowly advancing up the trail trying to stay far enough away. It felt like ages when we finally reached a point where the trail split, one path led to a dead-end at Whiskey Creek and the other led up toward the lake. I took Truman up to the creek while Zach scoped out the trail. Soon, I saw Zach backing slowing down the trail. He told me to be ready to jump the creek. No sooner had I picked up Truman, than I glanced up and the moose cow was standing above us. I bolted across the creek and up a steep rise before turning around. She continued up the bank, but kept an eye on us. It was terrifying. Truman didn’t seem to understand what was going on, so he didn’t bark at all – phew. We waited a little while and decided to continue up the trail. We kept eyes on them as best we could, and thankfully, the trail finally led away from the cow and calf. We easily made it to the lake – which we had to ourselves – and set up for a leisurely afternoon.
On our return we were prepared for another encounter. Halfway down we spotted the moose cow laying down 100 feet away. She stood up as soon as she caught sight of us. We decided to put more distance between us and got off the trail until we were father down. Feeling like we’d avoided another encounter, we progressed happily down the trail to Whiskey Creek. I branched off toward the creek with Truman when suddenly we heard a loud noise. We turned to see ANOTHER moose cow and calf. They had been farther down at the creek’s banks when we’d come down the trail toward them. So, we were trapped at the creek again. This time the cow stood very close to the trail for a while making our descent impossible. We sat on a log by the water’s edge biding our time. Finally, we could skirt around the cow and away from the creek. But she wasn’t going to let us go that easily. She kept watch and again, we were forced off the trail to put more distance between ourselves and the mama. Eventually we made it far enough down that we rejoined the trail and could breathe. At the very bottom we met another couple coming up. They had forgotten their bear spray and asked if we’d seen any. Hah, bears were the least of their worries. We gave them the run-down on our moose mama encounters and wished them luck. I was happy to get out of there. I still have a scar on my knee to remind me of their wrath. Moose are no joke.
*My camera was in my backpack during our hike, so I didn’t document any of the moose encounters. Not that I would have. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind.
The end of August and Labor Day weekend generally signify an end to summer and the beginning of fall. This year, though, summer clung on far too long – through the end of September – and was unusually dry. A large fire south of the city brought a lot of smoke pollution and hazy days into the valley. In an effort to escape it and get outside, we drove to the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon to hike Sunset Peak. This peak can be reached from either Big or Little Cottonwood Canyons. I prefer the ascent from Brighton – though I haven’t done the ascent from Alta – because I enjoy hiking to the Sister Lakes (Mary, Martha, & Catherine). Plus, we like to stop at Lake Mary and string up the hammock on our descent. We were able to get above the smoky haze, but it’s still visible in my photographs from the peak. The peak provides a gorgeous view of the lakes below and on a clearer day, the Heber Valley. (We hiked this same trail last summer, but opted not to go to the peak.)
I probably shouldn’t include this hike, but since I did it at the end of September when it felt like summer in SLC, I’ll include it. While Zach was in Macau, Tru and I escaped to the cool air of the Uintas. I called it Truman’s birthday hike since he turned eight the previous day. I chose the Ruth Lake trail because it’s short (2ish miles RT) and always well trafficked (girl hiking alone with dachshund). It was unexpectedly breezy and overcast which was a nice change. The trail is simple with little to no elevation gain, and we reached the lake within 30 minutes. I wanted to sit and hang out, but Tru wasn’t interested. He was invigorated by the chilly air, so I let him run around off-leash for a bit. Ruth Lake was the perfect destination for our solo hike; maybe we’ll share it with Zach some day.