Sunday, October 01, 2017

Hiking: White Pine

White Baldy with the White Pine dam visible in the foreground
My hike Saturday was amazing. It's always great just being in the mountains. I really wanted to go with someone this time and when my brother Mike called me the night before and told me he had the stomach flu, I almost decided not to go. We had planned on hiking Deseret Peak, and I definitely wasn't wanting to do that one again by myself after doing it last year. I had given Mike the choice and that's what he chose, but now that he wasn't going, I wanted to do something a little shorter and a little closer. I chose White Pine because a lot of people have been posting pics of that hike on some of the hiking pages and I hadn't been there since I was about fourteen. Red Pine and White Pine are in adjacent canyons and my dad had taken us kids and some of our friends up to Red Pine, and then we climbed the ridge to the east and went down White Pine. They both begin at the same trailhead.

So I thought it was about time I went back there. Spotty foul weather was predicted, so I went prepared for the worst. The trailhead is up Little Cottonwood Canyon, just a bit past the Tanner Flat camping area. The turnoff comes up right after a blind corner and I missed it like I have several times. I saw it though and went up the road to where I could make a U-turn and headed back. The sign at the trailhead says that White Pine is four miles, but I have seen various trip reports saying that the mileage is wrong and that it's a bit more than that--more like about nine miles round trip. I started  hiking at 7:36 and it was lightly sprinkling. I kept my camera in my pack in a zip lock bag. I took a picture that I posted on Facebook with my phone. After a while the rain stopped so I took out the camera and took some shots, but then the rain started again so I tucked it inside my rain jacket which I was wearing. I probably looked like a guy with a tumor on my chest, but I didn't want to ruin my camera, nor did I yet want to put it in my pack.
Familiar stream at the location where the trail splits, one going
to Red Pine, one going to White pine.

It was kind of dark and drizzly on the early part of the trail.

View into the northern side of Little Cottonwood Canyon


When I got to about 9400 feet, the drizzling rain turned into snow, and at 9800 feet it was coming down hard. By the time I got to 9900, it was practically a white out.

Looking down. Up ahead of me, the snow was coming down so
fiercely that I had to put my camera away.
I looked at my GPS and it showed that the dam was just a quarter mile to the right, but the trail I was on was going left, away from the dam, and it looked like it went a long ways that direction. In the blinding snow I couldn't see any place where it switched back and headed toward the lake, so I began thinking I had missed a turn off and I was on the wrong trail. I didn't want to end up at Snowbird! There had been a guy who had basically played leap frog with me on the upper portion of the trail and he was now ahead of me, but I couldn't see him anywhere because the snow was so thick, and what was worse, I couldn't see his footprints in the fresh snow on the trail. So I decided that he had taken the right trail---the one I must have missed--and that further confirmed to me that I needed to go back and find the fork.

So that's what I did. But there was no fork. I got down a ways and the snow had lightened up a bit and I could see the guy I was looking for walking across the dam. At that point, I was too tired to go back up and get to the lake. On my way back down I was just taking my time. My hands had gotten cold--my right one a bit numb--so I put on my gloves (someone on one of the forums had wished they had gloves, so I had thrown them in my pack, just in case). I had a very hard time getting them on my cold, wet hands though. Kind of like taking wet clothes off--assistance would be my preferred choice.

Even as winter approaches, the fall offers great spots of beauty.

Since the snow finally stopped as I dropped in elevation and the rain did too, it got warmer, and I took the gloves back off. I had my camera out and was taking some pictures of the peaks when the guy from the dam passed me going down. He told me that the lake wasn't really that pretty and that I didn't miss much and that Red Pine was far more picturesque. He also told me that I could have cut across, and saved that long switchback, but at the time with all the snow, I wasn't sure where the dam was. Not until I was a bit lower and looked up and saw him up there and I was too tired to go back up, let alone climb up the chutes I'd have to climb if I cut across without taking the trail.
These flowers were still hanging on at over 8700 feet.

So I hiked about 7-8 miles, didn't quite make it to the lake, but felt the thin line of how close you can get to danger if you aren't prepared for the conditions. Thankfully I was. I had watched earlier as a couple went up the trail before me, probably to Red Pine because I never saw them coming down, and the guy was dressed in shorts and they both had light jackets.

Anyway, it was a great adventure and I learned some things and had a great time. What more could I ask (well, other than having someone else along)?
Happy Trails!