Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hiking: The Prince of Wales Mine

Last week I had the opportunity to do some hiking up Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah's Wasatch Mountains. My destination was to be the Prince of Wales mine up in Grizzly Gulch. I had never done this particular trail before and a lot of the write-ups on it had said that the trailhead is across from the Alta Guard Station. I got up to Alta just after 8:00 and it was light enough to see. I looked around for the Guard Station and could see it nowhere, though there was a parking area and the truck that had been ahead of me on the way up had parked in it. I drove further up the canyon, but soon got to where the pavement ended and the road continued on to Albion Basin. Before the pavement ended, I turned around and drove slowly through the parking lot where the other vehicle had parked, looking for a trail going up. There ended up being one, quite close to the other vehicle. The parking lot is actually just a little east of Alta's Snowpine Lodge.
As I got out, I still wasn't sure I was in the right place, and the sign for the trail, which wasn't actually visible from the parking lot, did nothing to increase my confidence that I was on the right trail. It said nothing about either the Prince of Wales mine, or Grizzly Gulch.
The sign is a few feet off the road and says nothing about Grizzly Gulch or the Prince of Wales mine.
I went up the trail about 30 feet and stood there, trying to figure it out for a few seconds. Several cars then drove into the parking lot and I decided to wait and ask someone if they knew if it was the right trail to where I wanted to go. My patience was rewarded a couple of minutes later when two women hiked past me and I asked them if they knew and they confirmed that I was on the right trail. They said that they were trying to get a head start on the rest of their group and they were all headed to a different location from the one I was heading to.
Early morning view from the lower portion of the trail.
I saw this doe looking interested in the early shadows
The trees were just plain BEAUTIFUL!

And the views were FABULOUS!
The morning was beautiful for a mid-October day. It was a bit different from most of the hikes I've taken in the Wasatch Range because the mining activity was so prevalent, and indications of it were everywhere, from mine dumps, to old rusty equipment, to the remnants of old buildings. A couple of mine dumps converged with the trail going right between them. I called this part of the trail, the cleavage, and you can see why in the pictures.
The cleavage
Not far past "the cleavage" the trail headed upward and I could see someone ahead of me moving slow. It got rocky, and I caught up with the woman. She was clearly at least 70, and I walked with her over the rocky part, which lasted maybe 200 feet. She said she had gotten a big head start from her hiking group because she hiked so slow, and that she wasn't going to the mine that day, but taking another fork. She knew the area very well and told me that up ahead the trail would split she'd show me which way to go. She also told me about a short spur off the trail to the mine that led to an overlook of Honeycomb Canyon, which is part of the Solitude ski resort. When we made it to the fork, I told her I admired her for still being up there and that I hoped to be still hiking these trails when I was sixty like her. She then introduced herself as Eleanor. I told her my name. And it's true that I admire her and hope to be hiking well past eighty myself. I'm sure me and whoever I'm with at that time will be hiking just as slow as Eleanor, and to tell you the truth, I hope Eleanor is still hiking by then.
One of the old abandoned buildings.

There was plenty of mining activity in the area.
Eleanor had told me to stay high and to not take any of he lower forks in the trail because that would bring me out beneath the mine. I stayed high at one place and that ended up being the spur trail that led to the view of Honeycomb Canyon. That spur is just about 100 yards from the mine, I found out later, and is well worth the effort of taking as it's very short--maybe two hundred feet from where it takes off from the main trail.
Great views abounded.

You can see why Eleanor said to stay high. It would be a steep climb up if you ended up too low.
The trail to view Solitude goes to the right of these rocks. 

Solitude's Honeycomb Canyon. If you look really hard, you can see one of the ski lift buildings
 in the middle of the photo.
The faint trail to the Solitude overlook is here, going up to the right. To the left is the mine..
The mine itself consists of two grated shafts and some old equipment. There is room to get under the grates and into the mine shafts if someone really wanted to. I didn't. I took some pics of the shafts, the equipment, and the views, which were awesome. The mine itself is at over 10,000 feet in elevation, so you can see quite a distance.

I couldn't resist doing some experimental photography with the old mining equipment.
After a while, I began retracing my steps. When I got to the rocky portion where I had met Eleanor, I wanted to take a picture of the spot to post here. I began taking out my camera and slipped on some loose gravel on the slippery rocks, losing my balance, and slamming my camera onto a rock. I lost the battery cover and the camera wouldn't turn on. I spent ten minutes searching for the cover, but was unable to find it.
The rocky place where my camera got banged up. I had to order a new one and it cost me twenty bucks.
Luckily, it was just the camera that got hurt, and not me.
I took a picture of the spot with my phone and continued downward, disappointed in the loss of my camera. Somewhere on the lower portion, I passed a group of people. I didn't really look at them and I found out later that one of them was my cousin, Melanie. So funny that neither one of us knew.
As I approached the bottom, the sun lit up the quakies with a brilliant yellow orange and I had to take some pics. They weren't as good or as detailed as what I would have gotten with my Canon T2i, but they turned out pretty nice. In all the hike took me about four hours, and that was with a lot of stopping for pics etc.

I would highly recommend this hike, even for children, though parents would need to be careful with them around the shafts.


Alicia Baker said...

I've heard many people talking about this lately - seems to be the new popular trail to check out. Thanks for posting this info - nice pics! -Alicia @

Shane Roe said...

I'm glad you liked it!