The Casual Hiker™

Trails, Tips, & Other Topics

Picnic Destinations February 10, 2013

grassy slope skirting Dog Lake in Millcreek Canyon

grassy slope skirting Dog Lake in Millcreek Canyon

Picnics are another way to reward your good work along the trail. Pack a backpack with some sandwiches, granola bars, a juicy apple…and enjoy the fruits of your labor atop a mountain peak or in a wide meadow filled with wild flowers.

If looking for picnic destinations, these are great trails:

  • Burch Hollow
  • Catherine’s Pass (Albion Basin to Brighton)
  • Cecret Lake
  • Dog Lake
  • Elbow Fork to Mt. Aire

(more links to come…)

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Wild Flowers & Fall Colors

autumn colors in American Fork Canyon

autumn colors in American Fork Canyon

While panoramic views are breathtaking, I take a lot of joy in the small details: flowers, twittering birds, and the contrasting colors of rock. This explains why I’m a meanderer. Half the time, I have to remind myself to stop looking down to take in the bigger picture.

Indian paintbrush and lupine in Albion Basin

Indian paintbrush and lupine in Albion Basin

Wild flowers are most abundant along sun-drenched slopes and open meadows. Considering you’re in Utah, you’ll have lots of opportunity to enjoy their array of colors.

Asking which trails have the best wild flowers or fall colors is comparable to asking someone to pick their favorite child. Wild flowers, notably in late spring through summer, are amazing on any of the alpine mountain trails. Look for colorful and abundant asters, wild rose, cardinal flower, columbine, larkspur, bee plant, fireweed, gentian, lupine, phlox, paintbrush, and penstemon.  This list doesn’t even begin to suggest the breath of flowers to be found on the mountains, let alone more arid terrain. This guide offers photographs of some of the common flowers to be found.

Come autumn, the fall colors are amazing on any mountain trail too. I particularly like the golden quaking aspens and cottonwoods and red-orange mountain maples set off by the evergreens.

For wild flowers, check out the following trails:

  • Catherine’s Pass (Albion Basin to Brighton)
  • Desolation Lake (via Big Water Trail)
  • Dog Lake
  • Elbow Fork to Lamb’s Canyon
  • Lake Blanche (via Mill B South Fork)
  • Scout Falls

(more links to come…)

 

Panoramic Views

Martha Lake near Catherine's Pass, American Fork Canyon, and and view from Sunset

Martha Lake near Catherine’s Pass, American Fork Canyon, and and view from Sunset

An obvious attraction is the panoramic view afforded by many trails along the way or at the final destination: valley views, stretches of mountain peaks, and glimpses of other geographic wonders, such as the Great Salt Lake.

A hike may be more about the journey than the destination…but what a lovely destination! I’ll go after that carrot anytime.

Consider these trails for views that won’t disappoint:

  • American Fork Canyon
  • Antelope Island
  • Bell Canyon
  • Catherine’s Pass (Albion Basin to Brighton)
  • Cecret Lake
  • City Overlook (via Desolation Trail)
  • City Overlook (via Rattlesnake Gulch and Pipeline Trails)
  • Grandeur Peak (via Church Fork)
  • Lake Blanche (via Mill B South Fork)
  • Mt. Olympus

(more links to come…)

 

Large Wildlife

Hoping to see a magnificent moose? Or a cliff-climbing mountain goat? The best times to see wildlife are in the early morning or late evening.

female Shira's moose, bison (Antelope Island), and male mule deer

female Shira’s moose, bison (Antelope Island), and male mule deer

To improve your odds, leave the dog home. Tread lightly. Talk quietly. Listen for twigs cracking.

If you’re lucky enough to spy one, be still as possible to not scare them. Deer skitter away with any sudden movement. Moose hold their own ground better. With their bulk and imposing antlers, they can assume more confidence.

However, in the excitement of your Kodak moment, don’t try to get closer. If they spook and charge, guess who’s going to lose. For close-ups, use a zoom lens.

Rocky Mountain goat and black bear

Rocky Mountain goat and black bear

Rocky Mountain goats can be found throughout northern Utah, including the High Uintas, Lone Peak, Mt. Olympus, Twin Peaks and Mt. Timpanogos. wilderness areas. They’re found on the rugged cliff ledges at higher elevations.

If interested in bison and pronghorn antelope, head to Antelope Island. Antelope Island boasts a bison herd of about 500. Pronghorn abound all around. And you might even see bobcat or bighorn sheep.

For better chances of seeing these impressive animals, check out these trails:

  • Antelope Island (bison, pronghorn antelope)
  • Bell Canyon (Rocky Mountain goats)
  • Catherine’s Pass (moose, mule deer)
  • Desolation Lake (moose, mule deer)
  • Scout Falls (moose, mule deer)
  • Timpooneke (moose, mule deer, Rocky Mountain goats)

(more links to come…)

 

Snakes

Filed under: Tips,Wildlife Watching — Chanté McCoy @ 10:15 pm
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“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Gopher snake

Gopher snake

Snakes are cold-blooded creatures. They take on the temperature of their surroundings, and require external heat to move around much. So, in winter—if you’re snowshoeing—you’ll never encounter a snake in the snow. Come summer, all bets are off on Utah trails, especially on sun-exposed, south-facing slopes.

My perspective on snakes evolved over the years. When in my teens, I’d slam a book shut if I came across a picture of a snake. Through educating and forcing myself to face snakes safely ensconced in aquariums, I’ve slowly learned that snakes just want to be left alone. Even the triangular-headed ones with rattlers that evoke our most primal responses, are simply trying to say “please keep away”. They’re equally scared of us.

Seriously. Don’t worry about them excessively. Three-fourths of snakes are non-poisonous, and most are not aggressive. In Utah, only seven of the state’s indigenous snakes are poisonous. Poisonous snakes include the sidewinder and six types of rattlers: midget-faded, speckled, Hopi, Mojave, western, and Great Basin. (Tell tale signs are the wide triangular heads, long curved fangs, and elliptical pupils like a cat’s.)

If you come across a snake, just let it finish crossing the path, appreciate its markings, and add another notch on your list of bragging rights. If you leave them alone, they’ll reciprocate in kind. A snake only bites in defense.

Preventative measures include: 1) don’t try to kill or catch a snake, 2) stay on well groomed trails, 3) watch where you’re walking, 4) wear boots or high-topped walking shoes, 5) step onto rocks and logs rather than over them, and 6) don’t place your hands on unseen ledges or into animal holes.

Ok, ok, you say, but what if I still get bitten? The good news is that, of the 8000 annual snake bites in the United States, an average of 12—less than 1 percent—result in death. More people die from lightning strikes. More good news: one-third of rattlesnake bites are “dry,” and no venom is injected.

If, somehow you’re just a snake magnet and get bit, remain calm and inactive. Use your mouth (not a knife!) to suction and spit out as much venom from the wound as possible. Call 911 with your cell, or have another hiker get to a spot with a cell signal to call for emergency assistance and get to a hospital ASAP. If hiking alone without cell access, walk slowly to get help.

If you hike with dogs, keep them on a leash. Curious dogs have a higher risk of being bitten, and rattlesnake bites are 25 times more fatal in dogs than humans.

 

Aches & Pains & Heavy Breathing

Filed under: Tips — Chanté McCoy @ 9:23 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Ok, looking ahead a little. You’ve already sprinted up a trail and become reacquainted with some muscles. Your joints are in an uproar.

Don’t give up.

For the aches and pain, I’m a big fan of Vitamin I: ibuprofen. If your body is complaining, consider taking your anti-inflammatory of choice a half-hour prior to a hike. Then reward yourself with a nice hot bath afterwards and soak away the complaints along with the sweat and dirt.

If you’re discouraged by getting out of breath easily, no worries there either. Even though I hike regularly, I’m always surprised how, within just the first 10 minutes of a hike with any elevation, I’m huffing and puffing. Then I get my legs, and it all seems to even out. Remember, as you climb in altitude, the oxygen is thinning out too. (P.S. That’s a great excuse as you build your endurance.)

 

Waterfalls

Bell Canyon, Timpooneke (Timpanogos), and Church Fork

Bell Canyon, Timpooneke (Timpanogos), and Church Fork

It may not be Maui, but water always runs downhill on Utah’s splendid mountains. We have torrential drops and delicate-laced falls and rapid white-topped streams working their way to the canyon floors.

In spring and early summer, waterfalls are plentiful and particularly dramatic. So be sure to seek out these attractions earlier in the warm months.

On a warm hike, not only are waterfalls wonderful to encounter, but they are cooling.

Dip your feet.

Take a photo.

Let your dog lap up his fill.

So, despite what TLC says, go chase some waterfalls.

To find waterfalls, go on these trails:

  • Bell Canyon
  • Donut Falls
  • Grandeur Peak (via Church Fork)
  • Scout Falls
  • Waterfall Canyon

(more links to come…)