Sunday, January 29, 2012

Snowshoeing Bunchgrass Creek Trail

Yesterday I had the opportunity to go snowshoeing with a good friend of mine (and frequent summer hiking companion), who provided the equipment for me. I jumped at the chance because I love my friend's company and I love winter sports but rarely have the time or the funds to participate in them.

We decided on Bunchgrass Creek Trail in Logan canyon. This trail is not open to motorized vehicles so we didn't have to worry about dodging snowmobiles. It is also not in a dangerous area for avalanches, there are no steep slopes, cornices, or overhangs rising above the trail. It is a very gradual uphill slope that follows a small creek bed. For those of you who have never used this trail, but are familiar with the canyon, the trailhead is just North of the Tony Grove turnoff.

Here is an excerpt about this trail from the 2004/revised 2006 edition of "Cache Trails" by Jim Sinclair. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing in the Cache Valley area. It is an excellent resource.

"Destination: Access to White Pine Lake, Tony Grove, or Franklin Basin. Distance/Rating: Easy to moderate. 3.8 miles to the White Pine Creek Trail; 7.5 miles to White Pine Lake; 9.5 miles to Tony Grove; 7 miles to Franklin Basin. Elevation change: +1540 / -230 feet to White Pine Creek Trail, +2750/-1000 feet to Tony Grove. USGS Maps/Trail Number: Tony Grove Creek, Naomi Peak /051. This route provides easy to moderate hiking, cross-country skiing, mountain biking and horse riding from the Logan Canyon Road. Most of the trails here are old wagon roads, with occasional steep and rocky sections. Water can usually be found in sections trickling down Bunchgrass or White Pine Creek. Route: To get to the trailhead, drive about 20 miles up Logan Canyon, near mile marker 481, to a parking area on the right (east) side of the highway 0.5 miles past the Tony Grove Lake turnoff. The starting elevation is 6320 feet. The trail starts across the road 100 yards South of the parking area and behind the highway guardrail. There is an old gate where the trail starts and 0.2 mile up the trail there is another gate and a stream crossing. Mountain bikers have put up a sign showing the possible routes."
We made it safely to the trailhead parking area, pulled on our layers, got out the gear, and got ready to go. A cross country skier that pulled up around the same time as we did was apparently a lot quicker and a lot more eager to be going, as you can see in this shot we were still milling around the car and he was already up on the trail and heading out.

After we crossed the highway we stopped and got our snowshoes on before climbing the first hill.

In case you can't read that sticker it said "User & Gear, Up To 200 lbs", nothing worries a slightly overweight girl more than doing the math in her head to try and determine if her winter clothing, camelbak, and gear are over 45 lbs. Luckily the shoes took the weight just fine so I guess I managed to come in under 200 lbs with everything.

The day was crisp, clear, and perfect for snowshoeing. The trail was popular but not overcrowded. We passed a few other outdoor enthusiasts but we mostly had the trail to ourselves. The only drawback to snowshoeing with a friend is that it can be difficult to hear what the person in front of you is saying. We solved that dilemma by traveling side by side whenever the trail was wide enough to do so, since at least half of our enjoyment of these activities are the conversations we have. Here are a couple photos near the trailhead, the first one is looking Southeast towards the highway from the trail and the second one is looking North from the trail.

There were a few rest/water breaks and the occasional stop to create snow art.

OK I lied when I said "occasional" stop to create snow art, we stopped a lot. We didn't make it all the way to the White Pine trailhead but these trips aren't really about the destination. Anytime we go hiking or skating or snowshoeing it is about enjoying the scenery, getting a little exercise, and spending quality time together in the good weather. I mean when else are you going to be able to spot the elusive giant snow mushroom!

We heard more than saw the wildlife but we did manage to spot a few tracks, although there weren't as many as there were on this same trail last year. I will make a batch of my chocolate cookies for the first person who leaves a comment telling me what animals made these sets of tracks, just leave your answers and an email address where you can be contacted in your comment. The first one is really easy, the second one is difficult.

Animal tracks 1:

Animal tracks 2:

After we turned around and headed back I only took a few photos. For the most part I was just enjoying the relatively easy downhill slope and the forest around us. The sun was getting lower and the shadows were getting longer.

We made it back to the trailhead in better time than we made it to the turnaround. It got quite cold once we stopped moving so we booked it back to the car as quickly as possible.

We decided on the spur of the moment to stop at Rick Springs and take a look around. If you look closely at the last photo you can see the splashes from the water dripping from the icicles on the roof of the cavern down into the pool below.

The funny thing was that after I got back to my car and started to head home I noticed a flock of birds running across the road between the "golden toaster" and the USU nutrition building. It was more wildlife than I'd seen on the outing in the canyon. These birds are Chukar Partridges. I admit that I didn't know what they were off hand and my husband had to identify them for me.

If you want to take advantage of the snow this winter make sure to check in with the rangers at the station at the mouth of the canyon. They can give you advice on which trails to take but they can also provide valuable information about snow pack and avalanche conditions. Always let someone know where you are going and when you will be back, just in case something happens while you are in the backcountry. In case you've been living under a rock lately, we are experiencing prime avalanche conditions right now, better safe than sorry!

USU Outdoor Rec has avalanche transmitters available for rent, in addition to the regular winter sports gear. Check out their rentals here:

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