The fall colors have disappeared at the higher elevations to be replaced with a dusting of snow on the bare aspen branches, but at the lower elevations two weekends ago, the colors were still great. A group of us decided to head up Strawberry Creek for a hike.
The kids didn't mind posing on the rock wall at the trailhead.
We've hiked here below, a simple loop about two miles long. There still aren't any signs, so we didn't know exactly how long. And I had heard rumors of a new trail in the area. I kept that in the back of my mind as we headed up the trail. The kids took off running. They couldn't go too far ahead, because Rule #1 was Stay in Sight of an Adult at All Times.
Soon they came running back and pelted the adults with snowballs. That made us decide on Rule #2: Snowball Throwing at Legs Only.
Jenny, nine months pregnant, was ready to enjoy the hike. She's so awesome!
Soon the kids were ready for a snack, which we decided we would have at the first bridge, along with a photo op. It works well--sit still and you get a snack!
We had one more rule for the hike, Rule #3: No Whining.
Desert Boy managed to fall into the creek from the bridge and drenched himself, immediately breaking rule #3. Lucky for him (and for me), I had a change of clothes with me.
The kids loved the bridges and watching the water go under them.
After about an hour, we reached a trail junction and headed uphill to a nearby sign that said Osceola Trail. We decided to give it a try, hoping my info was good that a trail would then connect down to our vehicles.
The Osceola Ditch was constructed over a hundred years ago to transport water to a mining area. Much of the ditch still exists, and we happened to be in a shady part of it, which meant more snow!
We kept moving in the shady part, it was a bit chilly.
Then we came out into the sunlight and the kids discovered ants.
All the kids were good hikers. And one decided to climb a tree. Guess who.
By this point Desert Girl also required a change of clothes, but I didn't have any more, so she got to wear my fleece as a dress. She was quite stylish in it.
We reached an old road that looked like it headed in the right direction, so we headed down. A few trees were in the way, but the kids had fun crossing them.
Then we came out on a trail! It was easy from there. It will be helpful when some signs are installed so you know where you're going. Overall, we had fun on the loop hike, with about two hours of hiking at a very leisurely pace.
Back in September I had the opportunity to hike to Baker Lake, a 5.5 mile (one-way) hike with about 2,400 ft elevation gain. The view from the trailhead includes False Pyramid Peak. The trail continues past it and past (true) Pyramid Peak to a cirque, which is where the lake is located.
It was a mostly cloudy day, but when the sun came out, it really lit up the fall colors. Aspen trees line many parts of the trail.
The trail also follows Baker Creek for most of the way, although at times the trail switchbacks away from the creek to allow for a gentler gradient. Generally in September the water levels are really low, but due to the abundant monsoon rains, the creek was roaring almost like it was spring runoff. (If you're from any area besides the desert, this probably looks like a tiny creek, but to us it's huge!)
Several spring tributaries made us even have to step on the big rocks to get across.
Some of the aspen hadn't fully turned, but some, like in this avalanche path from 2005, lit up the hillside.
While we were walking, I noticed these mushrooms growing in a cut tree stump.
Some of the leaves were already falling.
Another avalanche area looked a little desolate.
After about two hours, we made it to Baker Lake. It was quite a bit higher than it usually is in late September, thanks to those aforementioned rains.
My friend Chandra had never been to Baker Lake, so I took her to the far end, the west end near the cirque, to get an overview.
As we were walking back to meet the other people in our group, I noticed the moraine above the lake. What was up there? Could there be more water?
There was only one way to find out.
So we turned around and hiked further up.
We didn't find any other lake, just lots more talus and boulders.
It sure was beautiful. There are some great campsites near the lake, but campfires aren't allowed, so if you do go, be sure to take a stove.
Then it was time to get to work, collecting water samples and measuring water quality.
Baker Lake is one of the deeper lakes and supports non-native brook trout and Lahontan cutthroat trout.
The wind blew and we were cold. We worked fast to get everything done so we could get out of the wind and down to a warmer elevation. It was a good day, a fast trip, and some beautiful vistas. Looking forward to hiking up there next summer!
Hi! I'm Gretchen, an ecologist, rancher's wife, mother, writer, and dreamer. I've lived and worked in three of the four North American deserts and visited the fourth. This blog is about what it's like to live in the rural high desert on a ranch, spending lots of time outdoors with kids, and our journey to live more sustainably. To learn more about the area, click here. If you'd like to contact me, leave a comment (I love comments!) or email me at desertsurvivor @ live.com.