Monday, October 17, 2005

Box Elder Peak


Hyrum and I hiked Box Elder Peak this past Saturday. It's an 11,101-ft. peak up American Fork Canyon in Utah. We were looking for a nice morning hike that would be a little easier than the marathon climbs we've been doing recently, and Box Elder seemed to fit the bill. It turned out to be a little more than we bargained for.

We planned to leave at 6:00 a.m. from my apartment, but I had a late night and didn't wake up until 6:20. Luckily, I had packed the night before, so we got off to a quick start.

We took the Deer Creek trail route, starting from Granite Flats campground, which is at about 6,800 ft. We were on the trail by 7:20, enjoying the beautiful autumn scenery. The sun shone from just over the easter horizon and lit up the yellow aspen groves like streaks of fire among the dark green pines. When we first arrived we could see Mt. Timpanogos to the south. Its top glowed with the pink light of dawn, while the bottom was still the dark blue of night.

The trail is well-maintained and fairly level for the first mile or two. We managed to get lost for a few minutes crawling through a tangle of avalanche debris, but Hyrum soon re-located the trail. Our detour took us to a still mountain pond that reflected the mountain ahead of us.

After about 1.5 miles the trail begins a series of switchbacks that wind up the side of the canyon. After reaching the top of the canyon we traversed across to the saddle just below Box Elder Peak. We saw a pheasant and passed through a mountain meadow where our trail intersected with the Dry Creek trail.

We were a little unsure how to proceed after reaching the saddle. We knew that we needed to go up the ridge, but there appeared to be no trail or easy route. Undaunted, we just went straight up the face of the very steep ridge. Fortunately, Hyrum discovered a trail not far up the ridge that we followed for the rest of our ascent. Snow had fallen a week before, and we followed someone's footprints up the mountain.

The ridge ascent was tiring, but fun. After moving above the treeline the ridge was quite narrow and covered with snow. I was grateful that the wind wasn't very strong on the exposed ridge. The snow was almost two feet deep in some places, and I more than once filled my boots with powder. I was half-wishing that I had my skis, though there wasn't really enough snow to ski on.

From the ridge we had some great views. We could see the snow-filled bowl on the north side of the mountain whose walls had some really cool twisted rock formations. We got a good look at the snow-covered back side of Timp that many people never see. The Uintas were poking their tops above the horizon to the east.

We reached the top at about noon. We had expected to summit by 11:00, but our detour and my lack of sleep slowed us down a bit. The temperature at the summit was in the 40's, but the wind was quite strong, so we didn't stay up there for long. We signed the logbook and began our descent at 12:30.

Hyrum had to be home by 3:45, so we hurried down the mountain. Our quick travel was interrupted for a minute by a large friend. At the bottom of the ridge, right as we reached the saddle, there was a bank of dirt on our left. I heard rustling just over the other side and stopped to listen. We cautiously looked around the bank of dirt and saw a large male moose with a full rack. Unfortunately, we were a little slow on the draw with our cameras and got only poor pictures.

In all, the trip was well worth it. I had a really busy week, but it was worth getting up early on Saturday to see the beautful fall colors and some of the first snow of the season.