Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Hiking and Four-wheeling: Timpanogos/Sagebrush Flats

I knew I had a hike coming up this week, but I hadn't yet decided where to go. I wanted to go somewhere that I'd never been before. These days, since I am a caregiver for my wife, where I go and how long I stay is pretty much dependent on her. Once she and I talked about how long she felt comfortable with me being gone today, I decided that I wanted to go to Sagebrush Flats, up near Mt. Timpanogos. The thing is though, I had no idea what it was called, so I jumped onto the Facebook page "Hike the Wasatch" and started asking questions. It didn't take long before the good folks there had me up and running.
I found out that the name of the place I wanted to go was "Sagebrush Flats" and the name of the mountain I could see in front of Mt. Timpanogos was "Mahogany Mountain". I also found out that there are at least three ways to get there. There are two trails (that were mentioned) that begin at the base of the mountain, and there's also a road that goes into Sagebrush Flats. I decided to take the road, thinking that once I got there, there would be some hiking that I could do. There were two reasons I chose the road instead of hiking the entire distance.
The first reason was that with my limited time today, that sounded like the most effective way to use it. The second reason was that my owner's manual says that I need to drive my 4runner in four-wheel drive for ten miles once a month. Since my time hasn't permitted me to go four-wheeling often enough to meet the suggested amount in the owner's manual--and since I love four-wheeling nearly as much as I love hiking, that was enough to sway me into using the road. I figured that I could always come back and hike up the trail some other day. Although I didn't really need my four-wheel drive, except for one mud puddle where I would have gotten stuck in two-wheel drive, high clearance is a must on this road. As it was, it turned out nearly perfect.
The road begins up American Fork Canyon. You pass Timpanogos Cave National Monument, then pass the turnoff to Tibble Fork, and continue on up the Alpine Loop Road to the turnoff for Timpooneke Campground. As you continue up the campground road,  you will pass the parking lot for the trailhead to the top of Timpanogos. This one is appropriately named Timpooneke Trailhead as opposed to the other popular trailhead at Aspen Grove.
Once past the trailhead you continue on up the paved road which soon becomes dirt. Well, dirt, rock, and since it had been raining nearly all night, mud and mud puddles! These are some of my favorite places in my 4runner. On the way in, I drive through the puddles somewhat cautiously, but on the way out, once I have driven through them safely, I hit the gas hard. If you have never done it, I suggest it. Make sure you close the windows--or leave them open on whomever you'd like to soak!
Part of every expedition I go on is scouting for future outings and on this trip I found plenty of camping, hiking, and picnic opportunities.
After about five or so miles on this road, a left fork headed toward Utah Valley, and the right fork, headed straight toward Mahogany Mountain. I took the right fork as it looked like my hiking for the day was going to be up onto the mountain in front of me. The road ended in a loop with a trail heading off to the west. I took the trail and headed up. At that point, the trail was pretty much heading straight up, with no switchbacks. I had to stop and rest frequently, and the views of the surrounding land were amazing. Low clouds hung around the peaks, and I could see down into Utah Valley on one side, and Salt Lake Valley on the other. Wildflowers were in abundance.

Continuing up the trail, I noticed very quickly that there was no way I was going to stay dry. The undergrowth was soaking wet from the rain that had fallen overnight--the rain that looked like it could come back any minute. My shoes and socks were soaked through in the first five minutes of hiking, and once I got into the higher grasses and brush, my shorts became soaked as well.
The trail tops out on a little knob with incredible views before plummeting downward into another part of the flats, and then up again through quakies until it reaches the ridgeline. At least, I think that's where it goes. As I entered the part of the trail that went through the quakies, the underbrush got higher, and I realized that I soon would be soaked from head to toe if  I continued much further. Looking at my watch and noting the time, I thought that there would be no way to make it to the top, or even the ridge before I'd have to turn around anyway, so instead of getting soaked with no hope of getting to a place with any better views, I headed back down.

Looking northwest toward Salt Lake County

About halfway back the rain started again. lightly at first, so I left my rain jacket in my pack. The closer I got to the trailhead, the harder it began to rain. I stuck my camera under my arm a bit and decided I could make it the last quarter mile without having to put it in the plastic bag that I always carry for that purpose inside my pack.

When I got back to the vehicle, I decided that I'd like to drive down the other fork in the road for about five minutes or so, but on the way back to the fork I spotted a female moose and two calves. I couldn't get close to them (and didn't really want to because mama mooses can be dangerous) and I had left the big zoom lens at home, so I took the best shot I could with the equipment I had.
Mama moose and two babies.
After that,  I drove down the other fork a ways, including through a thrilling mud puddle, before deciding that I would one day come back and follow that road all the way. I turned around and drove back down, hitting the puddles along the way, a smile on my face.
The cliffs of "Timp" shrouded in clouds
Thankfully the mud puddles were more water than dirt.
The adventure was over, but once again, it had left me with more places to go and more things to find out. I would be back some day, but until then, there were so many places to explore, that I knew I would never run out.
One thing I'm always on the lookout for is a nice picnic area.

This is Make Out Rock. No further info provided.

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