It is almost as if I had been a child again, out exploring unknown and unsanctioned regions, far from home and the general safety that accompanies being in a place so named, a place where there were expectations and things that could be anticipated, good or not. I was out in an area that had at least an essence of wildness and things not seen before, things not encountered previously other than in imagination or wonder, in an area that was not touched by expectations or any anticipation other than the ones that compelled me to be there to begin with. Memories of my childhood situated me along slow-moving streams where the water was clear enough to see crawdads sitting motionless and tucked up under various shades of brown and gray rocks on the bottom, where my arms would be unknowingly scraped and sliced with moving among the tall reeds and brush that I had to penetrate to make it down to the stream, standing along the inside of a bay where I imagined that I could see dolphins’ and sharks’ fins cutting through the smooth or choppy water while military jets soared overhead, and where my presence in that other world was a welcome escape from the one where things were known and anticipated. I find images in my mind, too, of old country roads with black and red raspberry bushes growing in hedge-form on the other sides of ditches that separated grassy fields of Dandelions and Queen Anne’s Lace growing in wild profusion…a road leading to a ruined castle, or another one or two that carried me to a sportsplatz and a logger’s camp in the deep pine forest…roads and pathways that led to places crammed full of a child’s joy in being out and away.
I had thought of those things then and now as I recount the day that I noticed the bright groundcover on a berm that we had to cross to make our way down to the lake…two hundred yards or more between where we parked and where we were intent on going. The tightness of the leaves and the tiny cups of bright green, the inhospitable looking soil where they seemed to thrive, and the image of the lake and the snow-capped mountains beyond…all things noted and tucked away…stored now with what must be emotions or sensations of peace, contentment, and real happiness…a word that I don’t often use because the gap between perception and experience has been so wide. But that’s where those memories are now, the lake and the mountains and the myrtle spurge and the company of my son…they are enveloped in a spot of truly happy serenity back there in the memory files somewhere.
I had visited the canyon probably multiple dozens of times during the three-plus years that I lived in the Salt Lake valley, but this was the first time I actually hiked/walked on this particular trail. It’s more of a nature walk…or even just a pathway going from one picnic area to another…in the forest, alongside a stream, in the mountains, alone, with an occasional car to be heard coming or going up or down the canyon road…no crowds, no yelling teenagers or smaller people, just the sound of the stream, the chilled air, and the smell of a wet forest floor caught riding the occasional breeze to make me feel that I was where I belonged.
Near the trail-head of the path that takes one up to the White and Red Pine lakes, as well as the Maybird lakes in Little Cottonwood Canyon of the Wasatch Mountains….
The parking lot was already mostly full when my son and I arrived at the trailhead, but that was okay, as we/I prefer to park just off the road in the canyon…it’s easier to leave that way…hours later when the hordes of people are milling about with their comings and goings…. Aside from simply driving up into the canyon, one of the first wonderful things about this particular trail is the bridge crossing over the Big Cottonwood Canyon stream. Whatever the month or season of the year, it’s an almost magical, soul-moving experience to stand on the bridge or next to the rushing stream, watching the water make its way down-canyon. This photo shows the crush of the snow-melt…those billions of flakes that have returned to their primal form, filtered through the mountain’s soils and rocks and the vegetation’s roots…and now come at last to the stream-bed where they will be carried away and out into the city below.
Can you hear it…the rushing liquid surge that sounds like a a storm of wind in the high trees…can you feel the chilled air rushing with it down the canyon and into your face…enveloping your body…marveling your mind…soothing your soul…?
It had been more than three years since I had hiked this path, and being honest with myself, I had forgotten how steep the trail was at times…had forgotten how the faces looked of the people struggling up it as I had come down it on my many returns over the years…. It was the roughest hike I had made in quite some time…and one that didn’t use to be such a challenge.
Wonderful life in its simpler forms…the magic of a coming transformation found along the trail.
We’re not there yet, but this is one of the first glimpses of Sundial Peak as viewed from down the canyon…with the brilliant greens of the new summer growth, the patches of snow still extant on the east-facing slopes of the surrounding mountains, and the white trail of the stream that I know is running in its fullness as it drains from Lake Lillian.
Still on the approach, we can see Dromedary Peak to the right and the “Play Doh” like red rock in the foreground whose surfaces were smoothed by the passing of ancient glaciers many millions of years ago….
Looking over those smooth red rocks and back down the canyon in the photo below.
Getting even closer now, preparing for the final ascent up to the flat land before the lake…with a couple of hikers for near perspective.
I never made it up to the top of Sundial Peak during my years of living in the Salt Lake valley, but it was always something I wanted to do…something that I thought I would get to do on some weekend jaunt up there when those mountains were in my every-day…when they were a steadfast part of my eastward view.
The clouds were alive and moving with the strong breezes and winds that blew through our morning up at the lakes…constantly causing shadows to move over the water and mountain peaks….
Below is the view further to the west of the above images…where we can see the breached dam a the far end of Lake Blanche…
…and we know that the water continues down to Lake Florence and Lake Lillian…seen below in their descending order…stair-steps of cascading wonder….
We didn’t have sufficient time to explore for hours and hours like we did the first time my son and I made the trip up here in 2011…but the reward at the end of our hike up there was rich enough in itself to have made the entire effort worthwhile.
Lake Blanche and Sundial Peak in memory form.
Thank you for being here….
It was five months ago yesterday that I took the hike and made these photos, so I should probably finish the series and post the images that have been sitting here in draft form since February…
You might remember from the previous posts that there was a chance of rain and that the skies were overcast for most of the hike…. You might remember, as well, that the significant landscape feature of the hike was Weaver’s Needle….
I had hiked out to that lone pinion pine in the above photo and made some closer-up images of the Needle…and also in the above photo, if you can imagine us to the far right and out of frame, that is where I was when I made the first image of this post, looking south and east from that bit of a plateau that leads to the pine tree. I was heading back to the Fremont Saddle to descend the trail on the hillside that would take me down and to the west of the Needle when I made the above photo.
On the level trail now, still looking at the southern aspect of the Needle…in among the rich desert foliage that was largely unfamiliar to me, but contained some type of willow, mesquite, and occasional palo-verde.
It had rained earlier in the week and the park ranger said all the streams had stopped flowing. The rushing course had stopped, but the water was still seeping slowly in the deeper parts of the canyon, still moving enough that I could hear the occasional trickling that seemed so out of place in my surroundings.
The desert is not all dessication and waste….
If I had more time, I would have enjoyed climbing the hill, walking around the Needle, and capturing some images of what the prominence looked-like up close and personal.
Looking at Weaver’s Needle from the north…the Fremont Saddle is reached by going back through that rich path of green toward the right and climbing the switchback trail up to the lower portion of the horizon just below the patch of blue in the photo above.
Clearing skies on the way back…looking toward the north…
And then the broader view, looking north again, from the beginning of the switchback trail leading up to the Fremont Saddle.
One of the last photos I made of the hike back, heading down the trail from the Saddle, through the “hordes” of other hikers making their way up to it; I stopped to capture an image of the rolling purple waves of the Superstition Mountains…and the Tolkienesque sandstone spires that adorned the ridge of the western aspect of Peralta Canyon.
As always…thank you for visiting. I hope you enjoyed the little glimpse into Arizona’s Superstition Mountains.
I have stood in this exact same spot, on a bench mind you, overlooking the Bells Canyon lower reservoir so many times that I cannot begin to number them from memory.
…and I have walked this trail in all seasons, heading toward the lower and upper falls, and even toward the upper reservoir another couple of miles up into the mountains.
If you look closely, in the above and below photographs, you can see a tiny splash of white that is brighter than the rocks below and to the left of it…that white splash is what I perceive to be the lower falls…something that I have observed from several miles down the road, and even as far away as the back balcony of my children’s home in West Jordan on the other side of the Salt Lake Valley. Some might suggest that it is the upper falls, but there are no singular monstrous rocks beneath the upper ones, only the lower ones, where I and my hiking companion sons have rested and snacked after admiring the falls face to face.
Below is a favorite spot along the Bells Canyon stream…another special place that I have photographed multiple times…with snow on the banks and perched like cones or caps on top of the rocks with the water barely trickling among them, or with the rich greens of spring and summer when the water was crashing or running over the tiers of rocks like a flood.
It’s always such a pleasure to stand back and watch as someone beholds the falls for the first time…to see the delight in their eyes, and to watch the slight grin grow into a full-on smile as they are slowly christened with the over-spray and mist….
My daughter shared with me that someone had slipped into the falls a couple of weeks earlier while attempting to jump over the stream that led into them…and of the near futile efforts to locate and recover the body from under the logs where it was eventually found…a rescuer saw a flash of color in the crush of water that didn’t belong in the middle of it all…the red or yellow or blue jacket that was still on the the body….
In the last 100 yards or so climbing up to the falls, more than 30 hikers passed us on their way down the trail…and fortunately, there was only one other person up there when my daughter and I arrived…another quiet individual who we only glimpsed once or twice as we cherished the amazing wonderfulness that surrounded us.
The above photo is from near the spot above the falls where the individual likely attempted to jump across the stream. I have sat there in the past with at least one of my sons…admiring the view and the crush of the melted snow that thundered over the falls…while having a snack of a crisp apple and “Indulgent” trail mix.
My daughter and I continued up the trail to the upper falls (to be shared in a later post)…but this is what it looked like, in the above photo, facing back up the canyon on our return trip down to the reservoir….
And lastly, an afternoon view of the Bells Canyon lower reservoir…. It used to take me 15 minutes to drive to the trailhead for the trail that leads to the reservoir…now it takes more than 10 hours….
On the trail to Lake Blanche and the other Sister Lakes in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. An image to take one away…to another place and time…another existence or life, even…so it might seem.
One could probably say that I’ve been guilty of overdoing things with my posts on Lake Blanche and Sundial Peak, so I’ll keep this one to a bare minimum and only post one photo from my most recent trip…although it’s been more than three years since I have been able to make the hike up there, so I should probably lay it on thick and post something like 20 or more photos…. Anyway, here’s the postcard image with the little people included so you can appreciate the grandness of the place….
If you’re relatively new to the blog, you can start here in viewing other posts on the lake and it’s surrounding area…or you can scroll down a little bit past this post, find the “Search” widgit, and enter “Lake Blanche” or “Sundial Peak” into that feature to be presented with a veritable list of options for seeing more of the place.
By far, I have found it best to be on these desert trails shortly after sunrise, or within the first hour thereafter….
…the light is more pleasant and provides for greater character in the subjects found along the way.
Two Sundays ago found me hiking south on the Black Canyon Trail from the Bumble Bee trailhead. I have hiked this stretch of the trail once before…on a sweetly cloudy day in July of last year.
I didn’t go as far with this present hike, as the day’s heat was growing more oppressive and casting something of an ugly hue on everything that caught my eye.
I didn’t get out hiking in the earlier part of Spring, and have therefore missed the rich greenness that all of these wild grasses and flowers must have added to the area.
I love the pearl-like clusters of the creosote or grease-wood bushes…especially when the morning light is behind them.
The desert, overall, wasn’t especially attractive on this particular morning, but when I stopped along the trail to look more closely, I found plenty to admire.
And in the photo below, a glance skyward brings a reminder of what can happen if one tarries too long…..