October 20, 2013.
11.9 mi | 3100′ ele. gain | 6:15 hr.
Aaron and I took a trip out to Timpanogas Lake to camp and hike. It was a chilly but pleasant evening and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Late October is always a bit of a gamble with weather and snow conditions.
In the morning we packed up camp and headed for Cowhorn Mountain. Following directions in the Sullivan guide, we first hiked to Indigo Lake. This pretty little lake is a destination for easy backcountry camping. It’s only a little under 2 miles to get there.
But we had some work to do. From the lake, the trail switchbacked up to a pass below Sawtooth Mountain. That was on my list, too, but I’d have to save that one for another day. At the pass we turned left and traversed towards Cowhorn Mountain. The forest was quiet. Much of the ground was bare, with occasional soft snow patches. A few unusual fungi sprouted from the forest floor.
Eventually we reached more consistent patches of snow. It was never that deep, but it slowed our progress nonetheless.
Once on the PCT we kept our eyes peeled for a side path leading towards the summit of Cowhorn. No maintained trails head off in that direction. Just as the book described, we reached the path and set off towards the summit. It was in sight, majestic and ready to be climbed. Once we got above treeline, we were faced with lots of bare rock and scree. The hot sun had melted much of the snow off the south and east sides of the mountain. We happily scrambled along the rocks towards the top.
At the very end we were forced back on to the shady side and had to make our way up snow-covered rocks to get to the top. We took our time and picked a path we were both comfortable with. Soon enough, we reached the summit.
Oh, what a glorious day! Not a cloud or human in sight. We sat there, relaxing and refueling for the return trip. It was mid-afternoon and we still had a ways to go.
To return to the trail we retraced the scramble route back to the PCT. From there we worked our way back to Windy Pass trail and continued down the other side of the loop. The trail gently traversed down to Timpanogas Lake. Back in the shadow of the tree canopy it felt much cooler. We hurried back to camp, returning around 4:30 pm. I was glad I didn’t try to lump Cowhorn and Sawtooth together in one trip. Now I just had a reason to come back here.
Fall means colder temperatures, shorter days and the potential for snow. But it also means no bugs, fewer people and more interesting conditions. It was a great day to be outside and I enjoyed sharing the summit with Aaron.