Monday, April 25, 2016

South Fork Baker-Timber Creek Trail in Great Basin National Park

 Two Sundays ago I had a last minute change of plans, so instead of a long drive I had some free time. I decided I wanted a challenging but quick hike, so I went up to the South Fork Baker trailhead. My plan was to do the South Fork Baker-Timber Creek loop, which is about five miles long and gains maybe 1,500 feet elevation (that's a guess). I knew there would be a lot of snow up high, so I brought snowshoes and trekking poles with snow baskets.

Then I set off at a fast pace. During the summer I can do the route in two hours. How long would it take with snow?

The lower part of the trail was snow free, and I heard a variety of birds singing.

As I climbed up to the big first meadow along the South Fork Baker trail, I encountered some snow patches, but nothing requiring snow shoes.

The meadow was gorgeous. This view makes me think I'm in Yellowstone, and I expect to see a bear wander out of the trees. But there aren't any bears in Great Basin National Park, so if one did actually wander out, I'd probably fall over in shock.

Beyond the meadow, the snow got noticeably thicker, sometimes a couple feet deep. I eventually got tired of postholing and put on the snow shoes.

The texture of the snow near the next bridge was really cool. I guess you could say I was going at a good pace, but I stopped frequently to take photos. That's kind of my favorite way to travel--I don't want to rush through all the good stuff!

The snow was melted out in places and I found several buttercups. These little flowers come up right after snow melt.

The big meadow at the top also had patchy snow cover. I took off the snow shoes. I saw mountain bluebirds and heard mountain chickadees. I took a few minutes to rest next to a big granite boulder by the trail. This is the same place we had our first family backpacking trip last summer, and it was fun to reminisce.

Then it was time to head to the Timber Creek side, which I knew would be snowier. In fact, the trail totally disappeared!

I put on the snowshoes again.

Then it was time to go down. I loved the late afternoon light on the aspen trees, but quickly realized I had left the trail.

This trail is steep even when you can follow it. I ended up in a mess of downfall and was crawling over logs. It was slow going. I was so happy when I found the trail again.

The lower part of the trail, up to the Pole Canyon turnoff, was mostly snow-free.

It took just over three hours to do the route with the snow and getting a bit off-trail. It was fun doing it with some snow and seeing how different it looked. I look forward to doing it again when more flowers are blooming.

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