Sunday, June 05, 2016

Exploring Utah's Stansbury Range

This past Friday, I enjoyed a few hours exploring South Willow Canyon, parts of North Willow Canyon, and the Deseret Peak Wilderness area. I began hiking at the Medina Flat Trailhead at just around 5:40 am.

The trail begins off of a spur road that leaves to the right of the main canyon road (South Willow), and leads to a small parking lot where an outhouse and the trailhead are located. It begins steep, but after fifty yards or so flattens somewhat. This trail is part of the Stansbury Front Trail, which leads from South Willow Canyon over to North Willow and Davenport Canyons. I'm fairly certain it leads at least part way to Hickman Canyon to the south as there is another trailhead within the campground that's off to the left of the main canyon road (called "Boy Scout"). That trailhead is clearly labeled "Stansbury Front Trail"

It was the second time I had been on the Medina Flat Trail within the past three weeks. I was hoping to see the sunrise and get a few good pics of it. It was light enough to see as I began hiking, the first pale light of dawn lightening up the sky in the east. I knew I'd have to hurry to get any good shots at all, and probably should have arrived a half hour earlier. As it was, I left my house in West Valley just slightly after 4:30.

The sun began to rise as I was hiking, and I knew there was going to be a small peak in between the eastern horizon and me when it got at its best. It wasn't one of the spectacular ones that we see every now and then, but it was kind of nice. If it had looked like it was going to be one of the all-time great sunrises, I would have stayed down lower on the trail to make sure I got an open shot. It did have a best time though, and that little peak was right in the way.

I continued up the trail to where it crosses Mining Fork Road. Nearly three weeks earlier, I had followed this road for a ways, not knowing what it was called, nor where it led. I had wanted to go back to where I had eaten lunch that day and take some pics, so I followed the road again. The forest closes in around this road and I kept thinking that I'd like to find out how to access it and drive up it to see where it goes. Eventually, it becomes Mining Fork Trail and leads to South Willow Lake.

It was difficult to retrace my steps from the earlier trip, and I thought I knew where I had left the road to climb into the rocks above, but I wasn't sure. I had taken my GPS with me the previous hike, but had failed to check the batteries, so had been unable to mark my coordinates because the batteries had been dead. I walked past the place where I had gone up, thinking I wanted to see where the road went anyway, and to make sure that my point of departure from it hadn't been further up.
The place where I ate lunch three weeks ago.

It's just a little spot, up in the cliffs, using a rock as a tripod.
Eventually, I returned and made my laborious way up to the cliffs where I had taken my lunch the last time. Just a little place to sit and enjoy the view. One thing I really liked about this place was that there were fossils in many of the rocks on the way up. This time, I picked up a small one to take home.
This kind of fossil was found all over up in the Mining Fork Road area.

I've been doing a lot of experimenting over the years with using large rocks in lieu of a tripod, so I don't have to pack the weight. This time I had my tripod with me and began setting it up, but halfway through I spotted a large rock in a great location and decided to use that instead.

I struggled and slid back down to the road, noticing for the second time in a month how dangerous hiking can be, because I spotted a prickly pear cactus hidden amongst the lush undergrowth--something I had remembered from the earlier hike.
Those sharp needles hide themselves very well amongst the foliage. Notice, there are some in the lower left of the picture too.

Once on the road, I headed back down to where the Stansbury Front Trail crossed it. I decided this time to continue down the road on the other side of the trail to see if I could tell where I could begin driving on it. The road ended up going up a sidehill to the small peak that had obscured my view of the sunrise earlier in the day. It took a hairpin turn and headed down to the north at that point. I decided to climb the peak so I could get a good view of the surrounding area. It took less than five minutes from where I had left the road, and was worth the time it took.
View from the small peak, looking south.

New cones on the trees.
I retraced my path, back to the trailhead, noticing the scenic wild flowers along the way. It was only 9:30 at that point, so I thought I'd give the Deseret Peak Trail a little time. The trailhead for the hike to the top of Deseret Peak begins at the Loop Campground, which is actually at the end of the South Willow Canyon Road. To get there, just drive to the far end of the campground. There are restrooms and the Mill Fork Trailhead is right next to them.
A view of Deseret Peak
The path through a sunny meadow filled with flowers.

I started up the trail and was immediately amazed at how beautiful it was. I had thought that the Stansbury Front Trail and Mining Fork Road had been gorgeous, and this was just as fabulous, or even more so. I set a time limit of 11:00 to turn around, having told my wife I'd be home about three, and wanting to do some other things before I left the area. Before 10:30 though, I made it to the stream crossing and it was raging. There were some wet logs and rocks that I probably could have crossed, though I would have felt much better about it had I remembered my trekking poles. The way it looked was that it was likely I would slip and endanger my camera by falling in. In no way did it appear to have enough water to have swept me away and killed me, so I'm thinking that if that's its peak at spring run-off, people would likely be okay around it. Just watch your kids.
It was simply magnificent up there.

Taking a few pics of the stream, I then turned around and made my way back. I was noticing all of the old dates carved in the aspen trees. I saw some from '43 and even older. Of course, someone could've carved fictitious dates into the trees, but looking at some of them, I felt they were legit.
Apparently lovers have been up here too.

I got back to the 4runner with still plenty of time to drive up North Willow and look for the beginning of Mining Fork Road, which I felt must originate over there, for I had found no such roads near South Willow. I drove up the only available side road in North Willow and it quickly became a bed of rocks, very slow going, and I decided that this couldn't possibly be it. Of course, later on, I checked the links above and found that Mining Fork Road does indeed begin near South Willow, so I have some more exploring to do.

And that isn't the only thing left to explore. All in all, the Stansbury Range has a lot to offer in the way of adventure, and I think I've only managed to see the tip of the iceberg. I anticipate spending many days in the future discovering its secrets.

My time was soon up. I stopped and took a pic of myself hanging out in the 4runner, this time, the camera on the tripod. It was at a place lower in the canyon that has special meaning for me.
Ready for adventure? Let's go!

My last stop was lunch in Tooele. I've always liked a burger joint called "Dairy Delight". It's a great place for lunch or dinner after a hard day's hiking or other outdoor activities.

I was going to get home about a half hour early. Ann would appreciate that. And I had left a lot on the table to be explored later. I guess that's what keeps me going back out--because the adventures are always out there waiting.


Benjamin Roe said...

Interesting... Have you ever ascended Deseret Peak?

Shane Roe said...

No. That's on my bucket list.