I purposely saved this hike for fall: I’d been told by many the fall colors were magnificent,
and they were right! I also needed to
hike and get back home early today (my daughter has homecoming football game
tonight) so I needed a short hike.
Last night I checked the weather: 50% chance of snow overnight, but clear and
windy in the morning. I threw a pair of crampons
in my pack and loaded the truck so all I had to do was pour coffee at 2am and I
was on the road.
I was doing great on the drive until about 7 miles down road
390. That’s when my GPS said “You’re
here!”, but I clearly wasn’t. So I got
out my backup instructions (I always have several) and figured the rest of the
way out from where I’d ended up.
Basically when you get to Winfield you turn left:
And then the 4WD road starts. It is most certainly a 4WD road. Here are pictures of some of the worst of it
And some of the parking at the trailhead.
I made it to the trailhead and started at 5:45am. (Yes, these pictures were taken on the way back). I LOVE trailheads with obvious signs!
It was pitch black, so I couldn’t see if it had snowed, but
it was obvious it had rained overnight. There
was a lot of wind, and it felt like a crisp fall morning with leaves raining
down. I crossed a stream
And then came the switchbacks. There were tons of switchbacks, and for some
reason they all had alternate trails at the curves (see picture below). This isn’t a big deal in the daylight, where
you can tell which way the main trail goes, but in the dark it’s not so
obvious. And this was at every single
switchback! It’s like people hiking this
trail really need a place to relieve themselves at each switchback? Anyway, after the second time I figured out
to just expect the trail to actually curve and go up the hill and not to go
straight. I really had to pay attention to the trail to look for it curving
The trail looked like this until I made it to the basin
Just before making it to the basin it began to get light out
and I could see snow on the mountains around me. It was beautiful! I gave myself a silent hi-five for packing
the crampons and tried to capture a few pictures in the dark.
It was like something out of a Thomas Kinkade painting!
I made it to the top of the hill and entered a basin. Huron is the peak to the right.
This is where the hike started getting cold. Really, really cold. Water had frozen on the ground and made the hike
slippery. And that wind! Just as predicted it was flying by at about
25-30mph, and not letting up.
I continued through the basin and saw fresh tracks. They looked to be coyote or bobcat.
Then I saw more tracks (hooves) of an adult and baby,
followed by the tracks I’d seen before.
At this point I realized it was probably a goat or sheep mama
and baby being hunted by the owners of the previous tracks. I never saw any animals this morning. Not even a pika or marmot (but lots of
The trail here is pretty well maintained, but the ice made
At the end of the basin the trail was covered in snow and
slippery in most spots, so I decided to put on my crampons. This was an excellent choice! The snow was over a foot deep in places and where
there wasn’t snow there was ice.
If you don’t own crampons (microspikes) you should. They are amazing! I was able to walk on the ice on the boulders
without slipping. They’re a
It was still cold however, and very windy. I’m overly susceptible to the cold
(read: I was miserable and lost feeling in
my fingers). I should have packed a
scarf. Oh well, next time. At least I
had my ski gloves and beanie.
The sun still hadn’t risen over the ridge when I made it to
the final gain for the summit
When I reached the ridge I was greeted with SUN! The temperature rose a good 15 degrees, but
the wind picked up too. There were
several times it knocked me over, and I thanked the peak for not having serious
exposure. I stuck to the ridge.
The final 500 feet or so of elevation was a bit of a climb,
but fun in my crampons. It looks like loose dirt/scree under that snow, so I’m
not sure how much fun it is to climb sans snow.
The views from the summit were phenomenal! The combination of snow with the changing
colors of the fall made for an amazing backdrop!
I took a summitselfie to prove I’d made it and started my
way down. (I summited at 7:45am).
Funny thing, there wasn’t much wind on the summit, but as
soon as I started back down the wind picked up again. And I was hiking back in the shade until I
made it back down to the basin (read: I was cold until I reached the basin). I saw one other person before making it to
the basin, then 4 people in the basin, and two at the end of the trail. Not many people out today! Oh, and several of these people were wearing
shorts, and were in for a big surprise when they hit the snow!
I made it back to the trailhead just before 9:45am, so I did
the 7 miles in 4 hours (including stopping at the summit and for pictures).
When I got to the trailhead I saw a small pond I hadn’t seen
And beauty everywhere!
The 2WD part of the drive back was magnificent as well! I love the colors of fall!