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….
You might remember the lake from last year when I did the posts on the Sister Lakes of the Wasatch Mountains. You can click on “Sister Lakes – Lake Florence” to learn more about this lake. The earlier post also has links to the other Sister Lakes if you’re interested in the more complete history of the area.
I was searching through my photo files a little while ago and came across this image of a couple on the hills over Lake Florence in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. While this image is strikingly different, it reminded me of a post by Adrian Chillbrook at his site, Cornwall – A Photographic Journey. Adrian shared this photo of a couple standing at the top of Helman Tor for a weekly photo challenge with the topic of “silhouette.” The beauty and drama of color and light in his photograph are characteristic of much of Adrian’s work…if you haven’t visited him already, I hope you’ll do so…spend some time traveling over Adrian’s island home of Cornwall…participating in the beauty that he has captured for us in photo-form.
You might remember from my earlier post about Lake Blanche that there are three sister lakes situated in what has been referred to as the Hidden Valley…at the end of a drainage or tributary canyon, Mill B South, which extends off of Big Cottonwood Canyon, just south and east of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
I think I’ve probably already provided as much of the interesting history of the area as I might, so the remainder of this post and the following one on Lake Lillian will be simply sharing the natural beauty of the area. You might recognize Dromedary Peak in the photo above from another earlier post…as you can see here, it provides an appealing backdrop for Lake Florence…and Lake Lillian, as well.
The above photograph shows another side of Sundial Peak, which you might have seen in a couple of other posts, but probably most significantly in the Lake Blanche post referred to earlier. The rocky and beautifully treed ridge above is what you would find between Lakes Blanche and Florence…and in the below photo (taken in July, 2011), you see the waterfall/drainage that leads from L. Blanche to L. Florence. With the greatly diminished snowfall this past winter season, there was very little water flowing between the lakes this year.
The next three photos are very similar, but demonstrate slightly different perspectives of Lake Florence and the rocky backdrop of Dromedary Peak. You might notice a couple of people toward the right side of the second photo below…I don’t know who those folks are, but they had camped at the location overnight and help to add a bit of dimension to the beautiful orange/red rocks that form a portion of the bowl for the lake.
As I mentioned in the Lake Blanche post, dams were built on each of the lakes to preserve a certain amount of water per year…water that was collected from the snow-melt that occurred each spring. The dams were built over a period of several years, started in 1905…completed in 1934…and then breached in 1972 when they were deemed no longer necessary.
If you look closely, you can see a small portion of Lake Lillian…right behind the skinny finger of a dead tree immediately to the left of the dam…on the far left side of the above photo.
For those who are interested, the trail that leads to the Sister Lakes is approximately three miles/4.8 km in length and has an elevation gain of about 2,600 ft/792 meters, with Lake Blanche being at about 8,900 ft/2,713 m and Lake Florence, 200 yards/183 meters to the west at 120 feet/37 meters lower. Sundial Peak is measured at 10,320 ft/3,146 m, Dromedary Peak is at 11,107 ft/3,385 m. The entire Sister Lakes area falls within several thousands of acres that are designated as the Twin Peaks Wilderness Area, which is part of the Wasatch National Forest.
Aside from the beautiful reflection of the ridge in the above photo, you can also see where the waterfall is missing (mentioned in regard to photo #3) in the rocky cleft near the middle of the image.
Wildflowers on the little ridge behind the dam on the far west side of the lake…I checked six on-line resources and can’t identify them properly, but I’m guessing that they’re from somewhere in the Sunflower family….
Similar images, above and below, but from different perspectives….
I’ve included this last photo from July, 2011, so you can see Lake Florence with a bit more water in it…and with a nice snow-patched mountain back-drop…you can also see Lake Lillian in the background.
I hope you’ve enjoyed visiting Lake Florence in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. The next post in the series will focus on Lake Lillian, the smallest of the Sister Lakes in the Hidden Valley area of Mill B South, in Big Cottonwood Canyon….