Monday, October 8, 2018

Johnson Lake-Snake Divide Ridge Trail Run

I guess I was getting kind of antsy to get out in the backcountry, but I had a limited amount of time. So I decided to do a trail run up to Johnson Lake, down the ridge to Snake Divide Ridge, and then back to the trailhead. Okay, more of it was not a trail than was, but that was okay. And the forecast was for clouds but probably not rain.

I packed some clothes, food, and drinks, and set off. It was beautiful driving up the Snake Creek Road. And as I started down the trail, the sun lit up the aspen leaves.

To be honest, I was walking more than running on the uphill. But I'd try every once in awhile to get some running in.

I didn't take my good camera, just my phone. It can shoot in RAW, which can be a lot of fun with more options for camera settings and more abilities to post process (I didn't do any for these except a little cropping). Even though my main goal was trail running, I couldn't resist taking some photos. I was also listening to an audiobook, A Man Called Ove, which I highly recommend to adults.

There is a new sign up by the Johnson Mill, so I had to stop and take a look at it. The sign explains how the tungsten ore was brought down and put through the mill.

Last year Historicorps restored the old stable (foreground). It looks like it will survive a lot longer.

I found another new sign up by the cabins near Johnson Lake.

This big building was the cookhouse.

Just a bit further I reached Johnson Lake, with clouds covering the mountains around it. The vegetation has turned color, indicating it won't be long until winter reaches this area.

I started up into those clouds, pausing by the old wheelbarrow.

When I got up to the ridge, the trail (more of a route than a trail) heads over to Baker Lake. I wanted to go the opposite direction, so I was on my own. I had hiked this ridge in 2005, so I knew kind of what to expect. But it had also been a lot of years! And now I was in the clouds. Plus my phone battery had plopped down to 5% because of the cold, so I turned it off, ending my route recording and audiobook.

The clouds were thick and I couldn't even see Spring Valley. But as I advanced to the Middle Fork of Snake Creek (Johnson Lake is in the North Fork), the clouds lifted briefly and I could see to the east.

 The clouds kept on floating by, and at one point I was tempted to follow a ridge to the east, but guessed I really should keep going south. That was good, because it took me to the Snake Divide Ridge and the amazing grove of bristlecones. I now knew I was going to be going mostly downhill. And I had to be somewhere in Baker at 2:30, and it was now 12:00. The countdown was on. Would I make it in time? Even though I was running, I paused to take photos. I couldn't resist the Quarter Tree (featured on the Great Basin National Park Quarter).

And at one point the clouds lifted enough I could see the ridge I had just been on with the great colors. That is a really fun part of the ridge.

The "trail" follows an old road for awhile. Then I was going cross country (I had hiked this part a couple years ago so knew more or less where I should be going.) Fortunately I eventually came across this scratched trail. The Snake Divide Trail was never finished (even though there's a big sign about it at the trailhead, and there's no notice on it that the trail isn't finished). This part was about six to eight inches wide.

The clouds kept flying by, and I enjoyed seeing the variety of trees and rocks. Bristlecones abound, but as the elevation gets lower, the trees get higher. Here's the view into the rugged Big Wash watershed.

From a cliff I could look out across the Snake watershed and see the splash of aspen that I had been in a few hours earlier.

The trail improved as I headed downhill.

And finally I reached the Shoshone Trail, which goes further south to Big Wash. I took the other direction and headed to the Snake Creek trailhead.

I found some more pockets of beautiful color. But the clock was ticking, so I had to keep running.

And finally I was in sight of the trailhead! It took about 5.5 hours to do the trail run/hike. A more reasonable amount of time, so that you can savor the sights and eat more snacks, would be about 8-9 hours or even a backpacking trip. If you lose the trail, it will take a little time to re-find it. Definitely know your route here, because there are a couple old mining roads that could take you down into North Fork Big Wash, and then you'll have lots of bushwhacking to do.

The total mileage was somewhere about 11-12 miles based on Google Maps (I guessed some switchbacks, not knowing exactly where they were, especially on the unfinished trail). Map My Run showed it exactly 4.0 miles from the trailhead to Johnson Lake.

Looking at the elevation profile makes me feel better about only going 2 mph. That route had about 3600 feet elevation change! And according to the Google calculator, I probably had over 4770 feet of elevation gain/loss due to additional ups and downs.

If you want to get into some of the rugged backcountry of Great Basin National Park, this is a fun loop, but it is high elevation, long, steep, and most of it has no cell service, so go prepared. There's also no water from Johnson Lake back to the trailhead along the Snake Divide trail.


jhami said...

That is an epic run! Wow!

Andrea said...

What is RAW setting for your phone? We have someone here who is taking photography this semester...and mostly uses the iphone...

Brendan said...

Thanks for the real-world info on the Snake Divide trail.
How would this area be in early July? Snow on the ridge still?

Brendan said...
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