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….
After my daughter and I hiked to the lower falls, as featured in this post, we continued up the trail for about another hour and then arrived at the upper falls. Amid the spray and the treacherous footing on the soaked boulders and ground, it was difficult to manage another angle that would have provided a better or more clear perspective or presentation of this natural water-feature.
We stood in literal awe for several minutes, shifted our positions to gain different perspectives, stayed there again for several more minutes, and then retreated a bit into the woods that we had just come through to approach the falls.
You can still see the falling water through the trees to the right and behind my daughter in the above photo, so you can probably imagine how loud it must have been to be so close. There was a pervasive serenity, sitting there in the woods, even with the roaring of the falls as near as they were…with the crashing water on the granite boulders and then the rushing of the stream in front of us….
White patches up in the trees caught my eye….
What a refreshing spray after the steep hike to get there…melted snow…living water….
Just a little further downstream is a bridge that has been chained to the trees on both sides of the bank to prevent the rising and rushing stream from carrying it away. There is a trail that you can take off into the shoulder-high brush that will lead you in a near circular manner out and up to the area just upstream from the top of the falls…and will also eventually lead you to the upper reservoir and beyond.
If you’d like to see an image of the falls later in the season, you can click here to see what they looked like in August of 2013.
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.
Dipping into the archives again…January 8, 2012…an uncommon beauty….
Exactly six years ago today…in another world.
The camera-phone six hundred and some miles away clicked in my daughter’s hand…fingers poked a message into the screen, and the image was transported across digital waves of something/nothingness and caused a small vibration from my phone…and I found it, many hours later, a tiny treasure…full of meaning and memories…of little ones cuddling on my lap, whispered words of “Papa’s mountains,” and the feel of a trail underfoot…images cascading in flashes of recall…sounds of water crashing or quietly rolling down the canyon…a scent of warm summer pine and wildflower…or the comforting wood-smoke on an icy morning while snow crunched underfoot….
I have crossed that bridge dozens of times…under the thick canopy of spring and summer fullness in the trees above, while the heady aroma of the mountains blew light or strong down the canyon….or atop a foot or more of snow piled high and reassuring, while I stood or knelt and made images of Christmas-tree-like reflections in the ice and snow rimmed stream…and then gone home to little one’s arms around my neck…”Did you have a nice hike, Papa…?”
*Iphound treasure courtesy of K. Brill, 8/31/16, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Another visit to the archives brings this image from a hike I took on the Sunday before Thanksgiving two years ago. Exactly four weeks prior to this day, I was sitting atop that summit in the distance, Mt. Raymond, admiring the view of the canyons and mountains around me…360 degrees of wonderfulness…and a fantastic experience rivaled by few others….