Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Hiking and Four-wheeling: American Fork Canyon

The Moon was Beautiful low in the eastern sky

I have been on vacation this week and with our original plan of spending two nights in Colorado canceled, I figured I could hike twice this week. Today was the first one. On the agenda was the Tibble Fork Loop hike, which I had heard a lot about, but never done.
I got up early, hoping to see the sunrise while I was up there, and actually I got up there a lot faster than I thought I would and sat back in the new Tibble Fork parking lot to try and get some pictures of the little smile of a moon that was rising in the eastern sky.
Once it started getting light, I headed over to the dam as that was where the trail head was supposed to be. I parked down below it, on the pull out area between the road and the dam. Once I crossed the dam I could see the trail, or what I believed to be the trail, heading up the side of the hill. There were a couple of spots of yellow ribbon around the base of the trail.
I went back later and took these two pics of the trailhead when it was light.

Same picture, but from a distance back on the dam.
I wasn't quite sure that it really was the trail because A) there was no sign indicating so, and B) there was a trail going off to the left, as if it was going to circle the reservoir. I decided that the one going along the side of the lake was not the trail, so I skirted the ribbon, trying to avoid the eroded areas, and worked my way up the trail.
Once on the trail I found that someone had cut trees and branches and put them across the trail.
They had to cut down a lot of scrub oak to cover this trail.
It was definite that someone was trying to discourage hiking on that trail, but I kept going--mostly because there hadn't been a sign at the trail head indicating that the trail was closed. After a while of climbing over the branches, the trail met another one angling in from the left and the branches and small trees no longer covered the trail.
I was able to get up high early enough to catch the light on nearby
peaks.

I made my way up through scrub oak and maple, and then gradually, found myself amongst the quakies and pines as I climbed in elevation.  At about this point it dawned on me that I had forgotten to pay the fee that is charged for doing anything in American Fork Canyon. I had heard of some people who had gotten caught for that and had ended up paying a hefty fine, and I debated heading back down the way I came. But I decided I would just hike fast instead. In a few minutes, I found a junction and one trail headed left over to Mill Canyon, the other part of the loop was that way.
The trail to the right led to Mud Spring. I turned and looked at the other side of the sign, as if I was coming up from the Mill Canyon side and saw that the trail I had come up had officially been closed.
Yep. I had come up the closed trail. Oops!
I had actually been surprised by all of this because it seemed like I had seen several trip reports from people hiking this loop, and none of them had mentioned the closure. Maybe it has been very recently that they have closed it. And there was no actual sign on the Tibble Fork end that noted the closure. I felt bad, but there was really nothing I could do at that point.
I still wasn't sure I was on the right trail though because I hadn't really studied the map and didn't actually know the name "Mill Canyon" so it didn't really mean anything to me on the sign. I met two women coming up and they confirmed that I was on the trail that looped back. One of them was wearing something that to me looked like ranger clothing so I was a bit worried that I might get in trouble for hiking up that way I had. But there had been no badge, so I figured that her hiking clothing just kind of resembled ranger gear and that she was just another hiker.
In the midst of peace and contentment, there are still signs of civilization.
You can still find pockets of color.


The reds are hard to come by now.

Up there at the top, the trail meanders through some large meadows. There wasn't a lot of color left--just patches really---but it was still Beautiful. There is another fork in the trail and it was pretty self-explanatory.
The next sign I saw showed me the way back to Tibble Fork where I was parked.

And it smelled so good and clean up there! I made my way down Mill Canyon, taking pics along the way, still a bit worried as to whether or not I'd have a ticket waiting for me on my windshield.
Looking north 
Stream crossing for motorcycles and bikes.



This looked like a ladder in the sky to me.
Once back, there wasn't a ticket and I breathed a sigh of relief then headed to the fee station to pay my fee so I could be legal for the rest of my stay. I had decided that I wanted to do a little driving on dirt roads, so I headed up to Silver Lake Flat. Along the way I noticed that the Granite Flat Campground had a hand-scrawled sign that you could have a picnic in there, but you had to pay $8 and your canyon fee didn't count. I decided that there were probably better places to have picnics and that my canyon fee would suffice for those other places.
Not that I was stopping to eat. I had jammed down my peanut butter sandwich shortly after getting back to my vehicle and wasn't planning on eating again until I got down out of the mountains. I had promised Ann that I would get home early because I had gotten up at the crack of dawn. There are certain pleasures that only can happen as you are awaiting the sunrise, and I wanted those perks, but that would be at the expense of not staying as long into the afternoon. Part of being a caregiver.
I drove through the stream that gurgles into Silver Lake and headed up the dirt road toward Red Baldy and the other peaks up that direction.

Looking toward Mt. Timpanogos from the Silver Flat Lake Road
Looking north, toward Red Baldy, etc.


From the road above Silver Lake Flat

From the trailhead parking just above Silver Lake.
I didn't spend a lot of time up there, just enough to give my hubs a workout, and to get a few pics of the peaks and remaining colors. And, as always, to leave myself feeling a little bit unsatisfied, so I would be sure to come back. I found a few more trails to take and a few more roads to drive. What more could a man want? I thanked God for letting me have a great time in his world, and headed back down to civilization.
The adventure was over, but another one is just around the corner. I can't wait.
I had a great time. Wish you were here!

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