I wanted to give in to this peak bagging bug that I've been hit with, but there were time constraints and I'd rather run with the ladies. We wanted something easy, without a lot of vert, that would let us bag a peak, get 10 miles in, and actually let us open stride. It was decided that we would do a loop around 4 lakes that our friend Craig ran recently.
|how to get me to do anything- promise a summit|
...But here's the thing. I HATE loops. They make it so easy to get lost! It gets especially confusing when you spend most of your time below tree level not being able to see where you're going. Hand me a topo map, and sure, I'm fine. So I uploaded the Garmin data to my watch, and J said she'd bring a topo. We were set. Or so we thought.
J, BA, and I got to the parking lot in Alta. Uh-oh, I couldn't figure out how to zoom into the Garmin data on my watch. (I've only done it once before!) We started a bit late and I didn't want to waste more time playing with my watch so I laughed it off and we left anyways.
When we got to the campground we realized something was up. I found out later we had missed the turn-off onto the trail a mile or so before. This would be 1 of 45,000 times we missed a turn-off.
Fortunately we ran into a nice man named Jaymo. We were looking at the peaks and the route print-off trying to figure out which peaks were which. "You look confused," he called out, "do you need some help?"
We pulled out our map and were discussing our options with him, when our conversation was interrupted by J calling out, "Bear!"
"Wait, did you just say Bear?"
"I don't see it. There's a bear?"
"Over there, by the campground" J pointed out.
I still didn't see it. "Is it a moose or something else?" she asks.
No, it was a man's behind bent over by his fire. Oh man, that makes me giggle. :) Unfortunately J tried to make me sound much cooler than I am before I left, probably leaving Jaymo to wonder how I could do the things she said I could and still be lost in a campground a couple miles from a parking lot, with a group confusing a man for a bear. Things would only go downhill (navigationally) from here. The "topo" map was really the print-off of the garmin data, which doesn't show many of the topo lines (but at least showed the route and a few key markers). But without the topo lines, it was difficult to figure out where we were and what we were looking at.
Jaymo pointed out some single track that would get us back on track. He made sure to make it clear that once we hit the saddle we would be staring across to Sunset Peak. We chatted with a few bikers at the pass (one who asked us if AF canyon was on the other side of Sunset Peak. At least we knew enough to know that was far away!)
Up and up! J felt awful going up. BA and I were enjoying some solid conversation. At this point we were moving slow and talking much, and I was getting worried about calories for the others. Fortunately there was a baggie of my smooshed power balls in my vest, and since a nickel sized piece is a hundred calories, there was enough for all of us for the whole day. I shared it around and off we hiked. On top we took pictures. We could see Timp, the entire Cottonwood Traverse, and all the way into the Uintas. Astounding.
Heading off Sunset there was an awesome little trail that shortcut down to the side of the lake we were heading to. It looked like it'd shave off at least a mile. There was another shortcut trail that avoided the pass that wasn't as steep. I was like a little child begging for the steep one, so as soon as the word "Ok" came out I was halfway down the mountain. I guess I missed the other half the sentence that was "Ok, let's go to the left." Oops! But regardless, MAN that trail was fun! My mood improved substantially.
We laughed and chatted our way down past the lakes, hopping over rocks and flying here and there. We got below a retaining wall and got a bit confused. Further down it looked like we were going further off route, so we went back up and took a left.
A bit later I recognized the trail we were on. "This trail goes straight to Brighton," I told the others. But at the point time was becoming an issue, and we had already discussed going into Brighton as a shortcut to Alta. You know, because Brighton and Alta are right next to each other. As we descended into the ski resort we were trying to figure out if Alta was higher up or lower down in the canyon from Brighton.
Yes, you can laugh at us.
Once in the parking lot we saw a nice shirtless runner. "Let's go ask him how to get to Alta, he looks like he knows what he's doing." Well I have my own feeling about men with heart rate monitors (ok, mainly I just like to giggle like the 13year old I am about how they have a bra strap), but he was shirtless and obviously super fit and DID look like he knew what he was doing.
Ya, we know. Tell us something we don't know.
"Brighton is in Big Cottonwood."
Ooooooohhhhhhhh.....That we didn't know. Ooops. Fortunately Clark is a snowboarder (as well as a runner and aspiring ultra runner) so he was able to point out where the ski lifts were on our "map" and if we followed them we'd be able to get back on our trail. So we off we went!
Once we got back on track we ran into two girls named Betsy. They had just finished their loop and offered us the rest of their water, which we gladly took. They also gave BA (who hadn't brought any fuel/fluid/pack/bottles) some fuel as well, since they told us we had an hour left. We hiked up, with occasional running. At some point we climbed too much and hit the pass above Solitude. I was ready to just bomb down it, but J insisted we look at the map. Immediately I was concerned. "Honeycomb cliffs would be on our right if we made it to the right place. Right now they're on our left..."
At this point we were more concerned with hurrying to the car than following the loop. Would going down get us back home quicker? Where were we on our map? We were looking at the options, and a couple hikers came up. "Where did you come from?" I asked. "Solitude" came the answer.
The girls and I looked at each other. We all felt so dumb, but weren't about to repeat mistakes. "What canyon is Solitude in?" No answer. (I think they were out of breath.) "Big or Little Cottonwood, which canyon did you come from?" We hollered down again. "Big," came the answer. Dang. Can't go down there.
So off we went, skirting the ridge, and eventually bushwhacking back down to a trail. So when hit another pass, that looked like the right place, we stopped for a few minutes. I could pick out Wolverine Mtn, which looked to be in the right place. Honeycomb Cliffs were on our right. But based on the map, there looked like there should be a big meadow that we should hit pretty quick just on the left, which I couldn't see amongst so many trees.
We decided to go down with the knowledge that if our trail seemed wrong, there probably was one to our left. No more than a 0.25 mile later, there's the meadow. Huge sigh of relief. We were finally back on our way!
We passed a couple of trail branches off to our right (which based on the route looked like where we wanted to go) but I didn't say anything. There was a light at the end of the tunnel and at this point, all trails lead down. So when we popped out on a road a ways away from where we parked, I wasn't surprised at all. Off to the car!
|jumping shots gone wrong. while highly embarrassing, these are also highly humorous.|
While we found our severe lack of navigational knowledge funny, I'm all to aware of how situations like that can go bad. It's not the first time I've been lost, nor will it be the last. I had water purifying tabs in pack, with my full backcountry first aid/back country kit (about the size of a cassette tape.) We also had cell service and the knowledge that we'd be in rage at least half the time. While none of us had run much that high up in either canyon (obviously) it was a fun pleasant learning experience. Next time I'll actually look at the route before we go (guilty as charged. I uploaded the Garmin data at 1:30am before a 5am alarm, and didn't bother to actually look at the route).
|a navigational hazard|
Later that day I was relating the experience to a friend. "You three? That's just a recipe for trouble." Ha. Maybe so.
Once at the car, I figured out how to zoom in on the garmin data on my watch. Great. Hopefully I'll remember next time...