August 24, 2019.
10.4 mi | 4600′ | 8:15 hr.
Aaron and I took a trip to Salt Lake City to spend time with our friend Kevin. After an evening of debating where we should go hiking, we decided on a route to the top of Box Elder Peak. Our first idea, Mt. Timpanogos, seemed like it would be too crowded. Based on what I read, it was like SLC’s South Sister. That didn’t sound like a nice way to spend the day.
Based on some late night internet research, I envisioned a grand scheme that would involve ascending the north ridge, descending the south ridge and tagging the south and southeast peaks before returning to the trailhead. But I had to remember that I was not going this alone, and that my hiking partners might not share the same summit lust as I.
So, hoping for some solitude, off-trail adventure and peakbaggery, we set out for Box Elder.
The hike upwards on the steep trail got us warmed up quickly. The air was dry and cool, perfect for a summer day. We were greeted with views shortly into the hike. Then, the wildflowers began. As I was unfamiliar with Utah wildflowers, I paused to admire them and soak in their details. It was fun to be in a novel environment with new sights to see.
We walked higher and higher, sucking the thin air into our lungs and forcing our legs to keep going. The trail turned sharply and crossed a sea of white rock, with colorful blooms poking up between the boulders. And then we reached the meadows: fields of gold, red and purple, stretching down into the yawning gullies below.
Once we reached the saddle, we picked up an unofficial use path leading up towards the summit. Obviously, others had used this path before. A few trailrunners, wearing their signature tiny shorts and arm sleeves, raced down the slippery hillside. We’d see less than 10 people on our whole hike today.
We took more frequent breaks on this portion of the route. The ground underfoot was slippery and steep. I was reminded that not everyone is comfortable walking in this type of terrain. I did my best to make sure my companions felt safe and were having a good time.
I noticed some really unusual flowers on this portion of the hike. Without a guidebook to identify them, I took some photos and kept walking. Ultimately this steep trail left the forest and broke out onto a windy ridge. The path flattened out and narrowed. One of my partners said he’d had enough. With only a quarter mile to go until the summit, I made a quick run for it on my own. This was one of my favorite stretches of trail. It wasn’t any harder than what we had just done and the rocky scrambling bits were just plain fun.
At the summit I chatted with the couple who were enjoying their solitude. They helped me identify some peaks in the distance before I bounded back down the ridge. I met up with my team below where I’d left them; they decided to retreat out of the wind.
In order to salvage some kind of loop from our original plan, we decided to take the unmarked cut-across trail that traverses the east side of the mountain. This poorly maintained trail was adventurous to follow. It crossed through lush meadows and a few twisted tree stands. All along the way we could look up at the ridge we’d just walked across.
Eventually the trail dead-ended at White Canyon Trail, which was signed. We turned east towards the campground and walked on a more developed pathway for the remainder of the hike. Partway down I noticed some ripe berries: thimbleberries! These are my favorite wild foods. We stopped to gorge a bit on these rare forest finds before returning to the car.
This was a tremendous introduction to hiking in the Wasatch. I can’t wait to see what’s next…