Since I am off to Wendover tomorrow morning I decided that if I was going to get in any hiking that it had to be today. Luckily, the weather cooperated and in the valley we had low 60 degree weather and sunny. Around noon, I headed up Big Cottonwood Canyon in search of a lonely trail called Mineral Fork Trail.
There are no lakes on Mineral Fork, it is just a 3700 foot climb over the course of 4 miles. The first half mile or so is pure up... Nothing too hard, but it is definitely a workout. The trail is also very rocky and not suitable for running.
However, after about .5 mile the climb is a gentle ascent and it goes to packed dirt -- or in my case, crushed snow / ice.
The trail is also used by ATV vehicles and luckily for me, they had done a good job packing down the 6 inches of snow. Most of the time I was walking in the tire marks and happily keeping my feet dry.
I should also say this trail -- located about 7 miles from the mouth of the canyon road is a north facing mountain. So the amount of sunlight it receives in the winter is not very much. While the south facing trails were snow-free, this one was solid snow walking once I hit the mile mark.
Also this trail, while well-marked, is not well traveled. When I arrived there was only one other car in the parking area, compared to at least 2 dozen at the Lake Blanche trail. For a Saturday, I had higher hopes that I'd at least run into other people.
At about the mile mark, I ran into a couple who were heading down. They warned me that 2 moose were up on the trail ahead. I asked how far ahead and they said about a mile. They had turned around after waiting for the moose to move... Suddenly hiking solo seemed fairly stupid.
I proceeded on though. I figured that by the time I'd get there (probably another 20 minutes) the moose would be gone. I hit the 2 mile mark and saw no evidence of moose. However, all of the sudden ALL human footprints had vanished. I was still on the trail but only ATV vehicles had gone this far. Also, the only other footprints on the trail were animal-related. Uh oh.
Anytime a clump of snow fell from a tree I just about jumped out of my skin. I saw the peak up ahead and it was covered with snow. I probably wouldn't be able to climb it but was hoping to reach the base of it, snap a few pictures and head back.
Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I saw some movement in the trees. Since I had been warned about the moose, I was looking for them and sure enough a BIG one was about 10 yards off the trail in a clump of trees. He wasn't moving much and I think he spotted me and was just eyeballing me. I snapped a few pictures and took off in a hurry.... back the way I came. No sense messing with a moose.
Sadly, I'll have to wait until Spring to tackle this trail. It was a pretty one but I definitely look forward to doing this one again. I suspect if there were more people on this trail, the moose would've been scared off... but instead he scared me off. My walking staff is no match for against a giant horse with antlers.
All in all, I hike about 4.5 miles. The trail itself is 4.20 miles each way. I was sad I didn't complete it, but there's always next time.
Enjoy the photos:
Trail Head sign
Overlooking the road, about .25 Miles into the hike
Waterfall from the melting snow
Fairly scenic view. Big Cottonwood road below
Typical stretch of snowy trail
A grotto filled with trees
See if you can spot the moose
I've highlighted the moose
Heading back in a hurry now
Taking a break with an icy cold Arnold Palmer
Stream run off down the trail