Winter Trail Trials…
A few weeks ago, I purchased my first set of gaiters for deep snow hiking in the wintry Wasatch. When I went out on the Little Cottonwood Trail last weekend, I had the opportunity to see how well they did with snow in the mid-calf range. This weekend, I was able to try them out in the above-knee range of snow depth as I hiked the trail up to the Bells Canyon Upper Falls in the mountains just south and east of Salt Lake City. The gaiters worked wonderfully…I didn’t have to stop every five or six steps to dig the snow out of the sides of my boots to keep it from melting down into my soon-to-be-soaked socks like I did last year.
I hope you enjoy the pictures of my second snow-hike of the season…Bells Canyon Reservoir and beyond….
The weather forecast for the day mentioned something about a seventy percent chance of snow…and the clouds were very convincing. It was too warm for just snow, however, so I had the rain-jacket on to help keep me dry. Low clouds and looming…they were almost mysterious…and threatening….
If you could look to the left, or north, of where the above picture was taken, you could see into the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon…more low clouds….
It is still quite early in the winter season; it’s not even late fall, actually, but the lower reservoir of Bells Canyon is already almost completely frozen-over.
It’s strange and beautiful how the shifting clouds can change the whole appearance of the mountains in a matter of minutes.
I’ve been up here almost a dozen times already, and I still find it breath-taking to watch these falls…. Even though they’re not flowing with crazy and raging white water, the lacy ice and snow create an incredible frame for this natural water-feature.
The falls shown above are about an hour to ninety minutes up the trail from the parking lot, depending on the weather and the condition of the hiker. Somewhere between another half to full hour, you will come to a house-sized rock that will be an indication that you are about another fifteen minutes or so away from the upper falls. This is what the trail looks like between the lower and upper falls. The red slash on the tree tells you that you’re headed in the right direction…when you can’t see anything that resembles a trail….
I think these are the prettiest of the many types of cones on the fir and pine trees in these forested mountains. These are cones from the White Fir tree.
As I was looking down and choosing my next step in the almost knee-deep snow, I noticed that a black fleck seemed to be sliding or moving along the surface of the snow. A closer look revealed that it was a little beetle…not yet dead or hiding away from the freeze….
A little while later, I lost sight of any further red slashes on the trees and decided to go “off-trail” and see what I could see. It seemed safe and that the chances of getting lost were pretty much nil, as I only had to turn around and follow my tracks to take me back to what I knew was the trail. As I slogged through the deepening snow the further up the mountain I progressed, I happened to round a little bend or protrusion on the mountainside and almost bumped into an elephant…first a beetle and now an elephant in the snow-covered Wasatch!
Another half hour of hiking through the still-deepening snow led me to a boulder field and white powder that was at least half a foot over my knees. Given that I was hiking alone and had never been this far up the side of the mountain, it seemed like a good idea to turn around and head back to more familiar territory. Sometimes when I’m hiking and watching the actual trail to see where my feet are going, it’s easy to miss part of the scenery. As I turned around and was making my way back down the trail, I noticed the snowy granite sides of the mountain. It was almost like seeing them for the first time….
Through the spring and summer of this past year, I’ve found that the return trip from wherever I’ve hiked usually takes about half as much time as it took to get there. With the snow, it took a bit longer. While I knew where I was going and had been the one that made all of the tracks on the trail, there was quite a bit of difference between going down a snowy trail and climbing up one…it’s much easier to lose your footing and slip.
When I reached the bottom of the trail from the waterfalls and was back near the lower reservoir, the clouds were still moving all over the valley….
Looking to the north…
And then to the south…
Overall, it was a wonderful day for a hike…cloudy and rainy and snowy and even a little sunny…with temperatures in the low to mid thirties up in the mountains.
As for the gaiters…they passed the second trail trial.
This final picture is actually from last week when I was trying the gaiters for the first time….