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….

6 responses

  1. Are the gaiters the leg-warmer things you’re wearing? Why not just go with pants? Although, I do love the naked knees look, but it must be cold in the snow!!

    November 17, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    • The gaiters look like leg-warmer type things, yes, Shannon, but they aren’t thick and they do strap underneath the bottom of the boot and are tied securely so that snow doesn’t fall into your boot with each step. Pants wouldn’t prevent the snow from getting in the boots either, as the pants aren’t tied beneath the boots…and besides…pants are too hot when climbing/hiking up huge steep mountainsides, etc. I like the naked-knees look, too…thank you!

      And thank you for stopping-by again. 🙂

      November 17, 2011 at 6:20 pm

  2. Ouch! shorts? in snow? You must be tough! I’m very bad in that I’ve had gaiters for years but never remember to wear them and, even when I do remember, I can’t be bothered so don’t. I’m always having to scrape the snow out of the edges of my boot-tops and getting cold, wet feet!

    Those look tough mountains – much steeper than ours!

    November 27, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    • Yes, shorts, Carol…I would just get entirely too hot if I wore pants…as it is, I get incredibly hot and am constantly wiping sweat off of my face…some kind of screwed-up biology or something. I’ve only had the gaiters for a couple weeks and love them…can’t imagine hiking in the snow without them now…especially with my shorts and nothing to even begin to keep the snow out of my boots. And they are tough mountains, incredibly rocky, but with beautiful trails and forests and waterfalls, too.

      November 27, 2011 at 6:54 pm

      • I have to admit to getting hot myself out walking – even in winter – I generally strip down to a t-shirt – but I usually keep my legs covered though. I often meet people in the hills when I’m walking the snowy mountains in my t-shirt and they look at me like I’m nuts. I think some people do just run hot 😉

        December 1, 2011 at 7:06 pm

        • Yes, Carol, there have been times when I’ve taken off my sweatshirt and only had a long-sleeved t-shirt underneath, but I can’t imagine starting in long pants; it would just be too much…and I do get the looks at my legs and an occasional comment, “Shorts…in this?” I just smile and say that I don’t want to get too hot…as they walk away, shaking their heads. And you’re right, some of us do just run hot. Thank you. 🙂

          December 1, 2011 at 7:30 pm

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