Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Hiking: South Willow Lake

The day was still young as I drove toward Tooele. A few geese were flying up above Highway 201 by Kennecott, apparently using the road as guide. They were up ahead of me and I wondered how fast they flew. It took me a little while to catch them and I was driving at 65. They must've been flying at at least 50.
Leaving the freeway, I stopped at McDonald's and bought my breakfast, taking advantage of the two for four dollars breakfast sandwich deal they have going on. I was going to need the energy and I would burn off the calories. I figured I could eat both.
I had gotten out the door later than I'd wanted after helping my wife with a few things. That seems to be my modus operandi the past year or so. Ideally, I like to get to a trailhead prior to the sun coming up, just in case there are some fabulous sunrise pics to be had. I could tell though that it was going to be a stellar day.
As I made the turn off toward Grantsville, the early morning sun highlighted the alfalfa fields and fields of other crops, instantly bringing back memories of times when I had walked through such towns, feeling the breeze on my face, smelling the soft odor of greenness. Early mornings in small towns and farm land are like that all over. But I couldn't linger. I was heading for the Stansburys, to satisfy curiosity, to have adventure, to collect memories, and to breathe in what God meant for me to breathe in.

Same scene as at the top of my blog. That one with me in it was two years ago to the day.
One thing I really like about the Stansbury Mountains is that very few people, relatively, have discovered them as a hiking destination. For a long time they have been a destination for motorcyclists and ATV riders, and long before that they were home to large numbers of hunters. They still are. However, hikers, at least on the week days in May, are few and far between.
I had decided to do my second hiking goal of the year, which was to hike from the Medina Flat Trailhead in South Willow Canyon, north to Mining Fork Road, and then west on that road/trail to South Willow Lake--a 6.8 mile round trip hike. For a good description of the trail check out this blog: clickety-click
These yellow flowers were everywhere. I don't know what they're called.

The trail, which is part of the Stansbury Front Trail, starts out immediately steep for about fifty yards. It had rained heavily the day before, and I found it even more challenging to hike up the muddy hill than it would normally be. Still, it's only a short, steep slog and after that it levels off a bit, with some gentle uphills and downhills. After ten to fifteen minutes, the trail heads sharply downwards into Mining Fork, then cuts across Mining Fork Road. It was the road I planned on following so I turned off the trail to head west and up. The road itself is little used now. As far as I can tell, it's only used by mountain bikers and motorcyclists, and a few people with ATVs or other 4-wheel drive vehicles who have access to it from their private land. I have tried unsuccessfully to find a way onto the road from below.
I had been on this part of the road two years before and as I checked the date earlier, found out that it was two years to the day. The other time had been on a Sunday. I had memories of that time. Meeting some turkey hunters coming down, eating my lunch up among the cliffs, the preponderance of yellow flowers that were there this time too. Like many trails, this one brought back memories that I will never forget. One just doesn't forget how Beautiful an area can be at certain times of year.
Nevertheless, this was two years later and I saw no one else on the trail. My goal was South Willow Lake which I knew was at the end of the road--or so I had heard. As I continued up through the deeply forested canyon, I passed the cliffs where I had eaten my lunch two years ago and was tempted to climb up there and check it out.
Behind these trees is the rocky escarpment where I had my picnic in 2016.
There were a lot of fossils up there and I'm always interested in finding them. However, the still wet foliage discouraged me from taking that route. After all, it's rather unpleasant to hike in wet clothing, and I hadn't brought a change along with me.
Mining Fork Road goes mostly through a heavily forested area.

A lot of new green growth. I liked this so much, it's now my desktop wallpaper.
Awhile later, there was a fork in the road that went left. I looked down it and it looked like there was a bridge across the stream down there a ways. I wondered if I was taking the wrong path by going right, but I found that if I just kept right at every fork, that got me to the lake. Looking due west at the huge peaks that direction, the lake itself is right at the bottom of those rocks. Don't be fooled by the ridges before that. I was thinking to myself I wonder if the lake is on the other side of that. It never was.

The lake is right at the base of the cliffs dead ahead.

A little bit past the fork, the trail entered the Deseret Peak Wilderness Area and truly became a trail instead of an old road. Above this point, the quakies had yet to get their leaves, and there began to be large patches of snow across the trail. The first one I tried to walk through and was sinking in to my knees, using a lot of energy in the process. I exited the snow and walked through the sage brush where there wasn't any snow. Further on, when I cam to a big patch, there were some tracks that had been made with snow shoes and I stepped in the footprints, which kept me from sinking in. The cliffs loomed above and soon I rounded a corner and saw the lake. It was still frozen over and I had to cast aside my plans of diving in. I wasn't going to fish either as this shallow lake freezes all the way to the bottom in the winter and there aren't any fish.

I stood there looking around for a good place to sit. The only flat rocks were down a steep hill and across a snow field, so I wasn't going to make that trip. I finally decided to sit down on a small flat rock I found, just above ground level. From this vantage point, I could gaze out over Tooele Valley, and turn over my right shoulder to take a look at the lake. I ate a Cliff Bar and an orange and took a few pics (I had missed second breakfast and it was time for elevensies). I began getting a bit nervous as some dark clouds were rolling in and a breeze had picked up, chilling things down quite a bit. Nervous mostly because of the heavy rain storms we'd had the past few days intermittently.
When I saw this, I knew skinnydipping was out.

The trail visible crossing the ridge goes into North Willow Canyon.

I had a rain jacket, but like I said, no one enjoys hiking while soaked, even if they do love a good downpour after a hot July day. Hot July day this wasn't and so even though I'd worked up a sweat on the way up and hadn't been able to jump in the lake, at this point I wanted to stay dry.
Looking down into the Tooele Valley, the Oquirrh Mountains, and behind them, the Wasatch.

Bookends! I saw these deer on the way up.

Here they are with the rest, checking back to see how dangerous I was.
I headed back down, estimating my arrival at the parking lot to be two hours away. The trail had been pretty steep with a lot of loose rocks, and there were those snow patches. I wanted to investigate the structure that had looked like a bridge on the way back too. I would still make much better time going down than coming up. On the way up, I had sauntered the first hour, taking pictures and investigating, and after that I had been forced to saunter because of the steep terrain.
When I stopped to check out the bridge, it ended up being a culvert. The stream was diverted underground at this point. I had wondered why I was following a dry stream bed up most of the way. I still don't know why the powers that be thought it was a good idea to hide the stream. It kinds of takes a way a bit of the ambiance.
Clouds were rolling in. It was time to go down.

The culvert.

The stream above the culvert. It would be nice to have it all along the way.

This is the impressive fork that goes down to what I thought was a bridge.

A new cone forming on this tree.
As I got back to where the Stansbury Front Trail crossed Mining Fork Road and I turned off the road and onto the trail I remembered that someone had asked me about Box Elder Canyon, which is just south of South Willow Canyon, and that I had told him there was a trail going up from the campground called "Boy Scout Campground". That's part of the Stansbury Front Trail too and heads down to Hickman Canyon. The trailhead sign said it was 4.5 miles away or somethig like that. Anyway, I spotted the trail across the canyon from where I was and snapped a shot of it.
You can see the trail going up the ridge line.
I got back to the 4runner just under two hours from when I'd left the lake. I had begun hiking at about 7:45 and had reached the lake in three hours, eaten lunch (really elevensies), wished I had some hummus and something to dip in it--carrots, cucumbers--you name it, and made it back down by 1:00. Not bad for a nearly 59 year old. I'm pretty sure I won't be coming back on this trail anytime before I'm eighty, and even then, I might just stop for a picnic and never make it to the lake, but I will be back in this mountain range again someday.
Gotta prove I was there, don't I?

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Help Pastor Ghouri!

Pastor Ghouri with some of the beautiful children he's helping. Praise God!
My friend and brother in Christ, Eric Ghouri, is a Christian pastor in Lahore, Pakistan, a place not known for its friendliness to Christians. You can visit his Facebook page here: Eric Ghouri
He is doing a great work among the impoverished, including widows and orphans. In addition to his pastoral work, he works in a factory for little pay, of which he donates most to help the extremely poor kids and widows whom he serves. He really could use your help with these good people and spreading the word of God. He is trying to find sponsorship for helping these people. Your prayers would also help a lot. It may even be a great cause for a church to be involved in. You can contact him via his WhatsApp number 0923046687720 or through his email address:

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Sometimes death just plain sucks

A great human being died this past Monday. My friend, Mark, who had been battling leukemia for several years finally lost the fight. He was a strong and mighty man, full of vigor, and the disease had to do its best to claim him. He fought on when most would've thrown in the towel. He was a man with a heart of gold and who spread kindness wherever he went. He had a twinkle in his eye whenever I saw him.
I got to know Mark years ago through church service. There I found out that Mark wasn't just a good man, but a great one. I loved him like a brother. The world will miss this guy, and so will I.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Hiking: South Willow Canyon

One of my goals this year in hiking was to explore the Stansbury Mountain Range a bit more. In particular, there is a road called "Mining Fork Road" that I have been wanting to find out about. In 2016 I had been on the road twice, but never to either end of it. Thus, I had no idea if I could drive it, and I only found out recently where I would end up if I did. In my travels around the area, I had yet to find the beginning of the road, so I thought the best way to do that, would be to get on it on foot and follow it.
To do that, I had to head up to Medina Flat Trailhead in South Willow Canyon. The Medina Flat Trailhead is part of the Stansbury Front Trail system.
Nice views of the Oquirrh Range to the east

The surrounding peaks with their snow cover were Beautiful

Another couple of miles up the road from the turnoff to Medina Flat is the Loop Campground and that's where the trailhead to Deseret Peak is located. Another one I'd like to do again and soon.
I arrived about 8:30 and began my hike. The weather was cloudy, and the trail was muddy from the recent snowstorm we had. Most of the snow was melted off the trail leaving a gooey mess in places that clung to the soles of my hiking shoes and added at least a pound to each shoe. As soon as I got to a less muddy spot, I scraped off my shoes. It reminded me of the days of my youth when I had gone on a summer camp as a Boy Scout, which included hiking in for about 27 miles. Luckily we had pack animals. However, on the day we hiked out, we had to deal with mud left over from a torrential downpour the day before, and the huge slaps that accumulated on the soles of our boots. I don't think I have ever been so tired at the end of a hike!
Today's hike wasn't like that and served only as a reminder of things of the past. There were also more pleasant memories of this trail that I decided to spend time thinking about. Like the time the wildflowers were in full bloom which is depicted in the main picture with me in it at the top of my blog.
Probably about 1/2 mile along this trail, it goes down into a canyon and crosses Mining Fork Road. I had already decided that this month I would follow it to the east to try and discover where the road began and to determine if I could get on it somewhere in my vehicle. There were tire tracks on it, so I was hopeful. I was planning on coming back again later on in the year when the snow has melted to find the end of the road. I have already found out that it ends at South Willow Lake, but have yet to visit that lake.
I headed east on the road and it went out to a point which was the furthest I had been on it in the past. There is a fabulous view from this point. The overcast sky made the view not quite as spectacular as it could have been, but it was still Beautiful. Great views of the Great Salt Lake, Stansbury Island, and Antelope Island were to be had from this and  many other vantage points along the route.
The northern edge of the Oquirrhs and the Great Salt Lake

Visible in the haze, the Great Salt Lake, Stansbury Island, and Antelope Island
At that point the road switchbacks to the west and heads down. I followed it for maybe a mile and another switchback or two before it settled in on top of the ridge between South Willow Canyon and North Willow Canyon. At this point the sun began peeking out a bit now and then, but it still remained largely overcast.
There are a lot of interesting geological formations and rock specimens in the area.

Picturesque peaks of the Stansbury Range
I couldn't figure out what this was. Mining stuff maybe?

I followed it for another mile down the ridge before running into a "No Trespassing" sign. At this point I could see the main road going up South Willow Canyon down below and since I didn't want to trespass, I headed down the mountainside, through the junipers and sliding scree. About fifty feet above the main road, I found a nice rock to take home to Ann and I took it with me the rest of the way. I got down to the road, put the rock down where I could find it, as it was too big to carry back to the trailhead,  and began the two mile walk back up the road to where the 4Runner was parked at Medina Flat.
This photogenic truck was parked at one of the cabins.
I had come down near the cabin area and a guy was outside working at one of the cabins and came over and talked to me a bit. I told him about where I had been and the "No Trespassing" sign and how I had decided to come down the mountain.

Later on, when I was just about back to the vehicle, an older guy in a Jeep pulled over and talked to me, asking me where I'd been. I told him the same thing I'd told the other guy and he said "that's my niece's property". I said, "Oh, okay." We then spent a few minutes talking about whether or not I'd seen any deer or turkeys up there. I hadn't, but I'd seen tracks of both, and I mentioned that I had seen a couple of turkey hunters on Mining Fork Road a couple of years ago. He said that both the turkeys and deer had been a bit scarce up there the last year or so. We said our good-byes and I took a couple of pics then got into my vehicle and drove home. Disappointed that I hadn't accomplished my goal of finding the eastern end of the road, and still not sure if there was a way to get on it without crossing private land, but thrilled that I had had another great  adventure. We always discover something even though it's not always what we had planned on discovering. Today was one of those days, but I would be back for more adventure and more discovery in the weeks and months to come.
There's always more adventure to come.