I was up at 5:30 am in anticipation of an exciting day ahead! I had checked the SNOTEL reading for Tony Grove last evening and it still showed an inch of accumulation. With that in mind, I knew there would be at least a few inches up higher and realized this could make for more of a Winter hike that a Fall run.
7:00 am - Rob and I met at Green Canyon, as planned, to drop off a vehicle and secure our final plan. With the snow in mind, we had discussed the possibility of changing our plan to an out and back from Green Canyon, however, the best adventures tend to commence with something along the lines of.....ah, what the hell. We drove to Cove, just north of Richmond and headed toward the High Creek trail head. If you haven't had the opportunity to explore this area, you should definitely check in out. It isn't that far from Logan and is absolutely beautiful.
8:30 am - Here we began our journey on foot. It was cool and a bit damp from the recent rain but still free of snow. There were a number of creek crossings at the start, the first of which, I managed to step right into ankle deep. (Yay, go me! Ha ha ....jackass) With some concern about starting such an adventure with cold wet feet, I decided I would make a call in the next few miles. As we ran, my feet warmed right up and those concerns faded (thanks awesome injinji toe socks)
We followed possible fox and deer tracks into the snow as we ascended toward High Creek Lake. High Creek Lake was beautiful and cooooold (windy). We took a few photos as I sung about tiggers being wonderful things (since their tops are made outta rubber, and their bottoms are made out of springs), and proceeded onward to the trail split for Naomi and Cherry Peak.
Quick stop at what will be now referred to as the pee tree for a picture of the sign, then the haul up to Cherry.
As we climbed to Cherry Peak, we admired how quickly the sky changed with the rapidly moving clouds and fog. We heard a series gun shots and inferred that they were practicing, a terrible shot, or there was nothing left of that deer. Upon our summit, the clouds seemed to have settled on the peak, with an eerie unknown grey-ness surrounding us. It was surprisingly still, as we paused to capture proof of our first summit of the day.
We made our way back down to the sign (and pee tree) and happily proceeded on toward Mount Naomi. I am pretty sure we encountered the deepest snow along this stretch, with a couple of sketchy sections (meaning, careful steps and no desire to go down a steep slide....forgot the sleds at home). As we crossed over the ridge line for the final approach to Naomi, we hit a patch of warm clouds/fog. It was a welcome experience, as it felt as though we ran through the Fall, straight through Winter, and were now entering a warmish bit of Spring. After a little scramble we were on the summit, taking our pictures and leaving a note for the next ascenders (what? I just wrote hello....no dirty drawings in the snow... sheesh)
The run down from Naomi was nothing short of a happy frolick through the snow, with a few pauses for pictures of the once again, ever changing sky. The sun gave the snow on the distant ridges a magical glow (that's right...magical....and I was sober). The magic took a temporary hiatus when I realized that I dropped my phone somewhere. We backtracked up trail for a while, hoping that it was somewhere visible and that the only hiker we had seen thus far had not picked it up. This will be known as Lauren's jackass moment number two of the day. (For the record, I felt pretty confident that it was a goner, tucked under a thin layer of snow and just of out sight.) With a little bit of luck (or maybe a lot), I found the phone, just the edge of it sticking out of the snow. I let out a holler of success and proceeded back down trail to find Rob.
We actually ran into quite a few more folks adventuring up trail as we made our way down to Tony Grove Lake.
Upon arriving at Tony Grove lake, we visited with a group of folks geared up for some spelunking in the nearby Polygamist Cave. We plopped down in the lake overlook, stripped off the soaked socks and shoes and aired out the toes for a few. The sun felt great but the wind was still damn cold. I was happy to throw on my down jacket and keep the core toasty while we ate and marveled on our progress, despite the elements. After sitting for a few, my legs started to charlie horse. Rob brought coconut butter so I wolfed down some of that along with my (super healthy) nutty buddy bars. Amazingly enough, the charlie horses faded quickly and we were on our way over to fill up and purify some lake water (cold fingers!) As a funny visual for all of you, that we didn't photo document, we realized that from the other side of the lake, it likely appeared that I was holding up a dromedary for Rob to pee into. We had a good laugh on that, while trying not to spill our freshly filtered water.
Onward we ventured into Tony Grove Campground looking for the section of trail that would link with the back country trail. The campground was cool and dark, making it suddenly feel much later than it was. Along the switchbacks up and out of the area, the sun managed to peak through and make the snow on the pine trees sparkle.... a little more magic for the day.
We eventually made it to what I described as "a meadow" from my somewhat recent memory's run with Matt through this area. A meadow would imply that it was somewhat flat - not so much. It was uphill all the way to the sign and would have been run-able if not for the running water through the area making it a muddy mess. We opted to jog through the sage off trail to get up to the sign where the trail splits.
We opted to experience the 7 sisters because it comes highly recommended and of course, I thought this would be an easier effort late in the day than the other avenue (staying low and just climbing near Elmer.)
Now, if you have gone running or backpacking with me, we can probably agree that my mental interpretations of elevation profiles is wack and my memory of recently traveled trails is horseshit. With this in mind, you can imagine how the 7 Sisters went - they chewed us up and spit us out on the other side. They provided us with gorgeous but brutal climbs (with lovely intermittent downhill sections, all too brief for my liking). Each time we finished one, there was another happily waiting for us (as if to say, oh.... you thought that was it, along with a clever sounding mountain chuckle....whatever that would sound like.) I had envisioned more of a rolling ridge line, with more mellow descents and ascents. Needless to say, I think we were pretty happy to finally arrive at the base of Elmer and proceed onward to Fudd, choosing to save the Elmer Summit for another day.
Reaching the sign for Beirdneau was another morale booster, reminding us that we had arrived at the last leg of our journey.
From here we had nice packed trail briefly and then proceeded to ski through the mud and slop down almost all the way to the (still running) spring. My GPS watch died somewhere along this stretch and I powered up strava on my phone. Hey, they say if it isn't on strava, it didn't happen, so.....
Phone blows up briefly with missed messages, calls, and emails.
We trucked (on tired legs) down into and through Green Canyon, passing one hiker along the way.
7-730 pm - The trail was getting darker, and here we arrive at Lauren's third and final jackass moment of the day.....leaving the headlamp behind. We were able to see just well enough to stay on trail for the first couple sections but finally opted to hop on the road and power walk it down to the car (as opposed to tripping and breaking my fall with my face). Lesson learned and appears to be one that I have to re-learn once every couple of years.
We reached car, or more accurately, Rob reached the car and I almost continued on right past her. Success! We made a few calls and let everyone know we were back to civilization, safe and sound. (Sorry Erin, Joni, mom, Nicole, and Mo for the worry...) Perhaps SPOT will send me a device to gear test for them and write a review. Eh?
We loaded up and made our way to Carl's Junior for some greasy and fast sustenance to get us through the drive back to the High Creek trail head for Rob's truck and then back home to Logan. (Had I thought ahead and brought a sleeping bag, I would have slept right there in the old Element.)
(Robert, the Bear "RawBearToe" and the Crow (due to the crow-like noises I make when almost falling . . . all the time)
Shoes: Altra Lone Peak 2.5
Pack: Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20
Sustenance: Tailwind, Kind Bars, Honey Stinger fruit snacks, coconut butter, Nutty (buddy) bars
All Lauren's Photos from this adventure
All Robert's Photos from this adventure