10 June 2015

Pine Valley Mountain: Summit Trail

Dixie National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

(Day 2 of 3) It rained a little in the night, although not enough to need the deployed extra protection. The hoof prints I was following yesterday head off along the edge of the lake and no longer show the way. The trail south is hard to find. It is possible I would have had better luck finding trail if I had followed these prints just a little further, but there is a sign on this end of Big Water, so it seems logical to think the junction is somewhere near it. There is a nice trail leading from it, but it quickly turns into unmistakable cow path. The map suggests I should exit the meadow in a different direction, so I head out to another trail which dwindles and drop down to another until I am finally exiting the meadow in the right direction. It seems a well established path, but it is still a cow path.

well established dirt track following a canyon
A perfectly good trail for now.

The path I am following comes to a low saddle and through the similar valley on the other side, I can see the remains of an old road. It is the trail I am looking for and things are easy to follow again.

many trails through the grass
Finding the trail. Multiple tracks lead through the meadow where the old road is less obviously such.

wide dirt cut through the trees
Under the trees, the wide dirt road is far more obvious.

Once on the road, it is a short way to the junction with White Rocks Trail. The old road heads off the other way at the junction, so route finding is a little harder again. Now there are giant cairns to mark the way as the trail fades in and out. The burned mountain tops are getting much closer.

the trail as it starts
Really, the trail is over here somewhere.

trail sign pointing upward
Just follow the sign.

white puff of flower
One of the flowers along the way.

clear trail for a section
There, that trail is not so hard to see.

The trail drops into the top of Comanche Canyon again and much clearer paths seem to want to stick very near the bottom and keep going down it. My instinct is to stick to the higher routes, but for a while, the lower route looks more likely. I try an even higher route, but that dissipates, so go back to the other as it is starting to fade too. Finally, there is another huge cairn to confirm the route so far, but after it there is nothing. The trail below is still clear and barreling down the hill. A small cairn sits off to the side and the map shows a sudden corner, so I just start walking that direction. It takes a bit of faith, but as I get close to the burned forest above, I am rewarded by a bit more trail.

burned toothpicks that are really quite large
About to reenter the burn.

In the burn, standing dead trees are everywhere, only interrupted by those that have already fallen. A small stream flows down the middle of it. It must have been dark and cool under such a thick cluster of trees. The trail is easy to follow, even when the fallen trees require a new route. Large and small cairns are common through here anyway. At the top, I enter into the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness, which is distinguished by very little, but rolls out in front of me quite impressively.

peaks and valleys into the burned up distance
Many little peaks rolling away along the summit including Big Point, the final point of travel today.

Traveling onto and over Flat Top Mountain is certainly not dry. I seem to cross a new little stream every half mile or so. Perhaps it is still early for the expected dry. Unhappily, someone has left their dead horse in one of the streams.

trickle of water in the grass
Not much now, but this stream is only a few feet from the top and quickly growing.

furry crawling thing
A new butterfly, if it makes it.

grass and burned trees and layered rocks
The one fairly dry alcove in the folds of Flat Top Mountain.

I expected the views to be dominated by the red cliffs to the east, but they cannot be seen from this section. Instead, there are a few views to Pine Valley to the west.

puff of purple
It looks a little like an onion, but I did not smell it.

low green hills through a break
A little piece of Pine Valley below.

green trees on rounded mountains
There are green trees ahead, but large patches of burn can still be seen.

The trail through this section until the junction with Anderson Valley is fairly easy to follow although some pieces seem like nearly no one other than stock actually hike it. There are segments through swampy areas where there is nearly no hiker trail trying to stay out of the mud and few inches of water that is the trail.

muddy track among alders
Keeping to the grass along this muddy track is almost enough to keep things clean and dry.

My Trails Illustrated map shows the junction to have four trails out, two which will join to the Summit Trail just a little bit south. The sign points where I came from and where I will go tomorrow, but nowhere else. One more trail heads down into the meadow and pasture below where it fades and mingles with cow paths. I follow what looks the most pleasant, being dry and fairly flat, down the meadow and it works out. The last fifty feet fade out entirely, but across the creek is a very obvious trail coming up Mill Canyon. There is no sign to alert the Summit Trail hiker coming the other direction to head up the meadow, which seems particularly bad when one trail is nearly invisible and the other like a highway.

Teds Pasture
Heading into Mill Flat or Teds Pasture.

Mill Creek
Mill Creek coming down another part of the meadow.

Heading up the trail again, there is a junction to tell me which bit of trail on the map I am on, but there is never a joining of another trail. As it gets into the trees, there is a big campsite. The creek is flowing very well and it is quite nice to hear. As I climb, I am looking for a spot that looks like a good place to head up the Big Point. Snow patches start to appear as I near 10,00 feet.

pool along Mill Creek
Water rushing in a wide sheet out the end of a small pool in Mill Creek.

tiny orange mushrooms
The end of a log hosts some bright orange mushrooms.

patch of snow under the trees
The snow patches are surprising in that many are getting a bit of sun.

Eventually, I think I can see a pass through the trees and leave the trail. Travel upwards is not too bad. There are a bit too many standing dead trees even in the green section of forest and quite a few logs to jump. This is not much of a worry in comparison to what is to come.

Big Point from southwest
Making a way along the southwest ridge toward Big Point, which has burned quite destructively in recent years.

While I looked ahead, it looked like Big Point was one of the areas of burn and many of the trees have come down. Sure enough, I come out into burn that has been so destructive it left no tree alive. The closer I get to the peak, the more of these killed trees have fallen due to higher winds. To complicate matters, new oaks are growing up through the logs, often less than a foot from each other. There is much climbing and balance beam work to make it to the top.

red and white cliffs in the distance
Of course, the cliffs of Zion and nearby come back into the view from here.

fallen trees and dense saplings
A little taste of the fallen trees and saplings while looking west.

green hills west
Looking out over Pine Valley.

The very top of Big Point has been cleared of standing dead trees and there is even a flat spot clear enough of trunks on which to camp. The weather is not looking unsettled, so I set up. After sketching, though, the clouds over a peak to the west has gone from white cotton to deep grey. After putting up the room, the deep grey clouds have begun to spark. Watching the lightning hit the ground, I do not want to give up my spot on the top of the world looking out over Arizona and Utah. Eventually reason surfaces. If the clouds over there inspired setting up the roof, the lightning should inspire retreat. With the return of good sense, everything is scrunched back into the pack without much order and I start down again, trying to pay more attention to the dangers at hand inherent in traversing so many logs rather than the dangers that could be coming.

a couple lakes and many plateaus
Many plateaus and the reservoirs near St. George can be seen from Big Point.

Before getting back to the trail, there is a small meadow and across it a spot of healthy trees and a little flat space. My disorderly pack expands back into a camp with a little effort. The rain does not start until it is very dark and the lightning is followed after two seconds by thunder, except one. That one has only a tiny fraction of a second between the bright and the loud.

Continue reading: day 3

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 9 July 2015

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