Trip Report: Hike from Grandeur to Murdock

Hike from Grandeur to Murdock
By Steve Glaser
HIKE 09/15/2019 EXT

September 15, 2019. Organized by Andee Thatcher and Steve Glaser//Trip Report by Steve Glaser//Photos by Julie Kilgore and Mohamed Abdallah

Let's face it. The Wasatch is becoming more crowded. We have avid hikers in our club who know places where serenity is still to be found, but they're getting fewer. If you want to find solitude, what's a hiker to do?

Solution number 1: Start early in the morning. We embarked up the west face of Grandeur shortly after 6 am. As we ascended with our headlamps, a lonely trail runner came down. He apparently had an even greater yearning for solitude than we did.

Actually, our 6 am start had nothing to do with leaving the crowds behind. We wanted to a) avoid some of the forecast heat, and b) it's a long hike and we had only so much daylight to work with. Since the Millcreek gate doesn't open until July, this hike has tricky timing. You want to hike as late in the year as possible to stay cool but as early in the year as possible to preserve daylight. We chose mid-September, and were greeted with a forecast of a high in the upper 80's. Damn it. But an early start was our way of coping; having the trail (mostly) to ourselves was a side benefit.

Until we lost our solitude at the summit. Every normal person in the world who just wanted to avoid the heat had taken the trail from Millcreek Canyon and was already on top of Grandeur, ready to greet us. And we kept meeting people for the next half mile on the trail until we came to . . .

Solution number 2: Leave the trail. Yes, just crash through bushes, scratch yourself up a bit, maybe trip a time or two, and you'll have the Wasatch to yourself. For most of the rest of the day, we were on top of the ridge without a human-constructed trail. We just found the best game trail we could through the scrub oak forest and forged ahead. Mohamed frequently had a different opinion about what constituted that route, but we knew that would be the case going in.

Our route sometimes devolved into dense brush where we went through the most promising weakness, but other times everything opened up into free and easy walking. In one of these patches we came across a few toads. Steve had high hopes that these were boreal toads; i.e., the ones the Forest Service has signs asking for sightings at various trailheads. Alas, unofficial club biologist Michelle Stancer debunked the notion after seeing the pictures. It was a horned lizard, aka horny toad. The boreal toads live in wet and moist areas, most definitely not resembling the terrain we were in.

We made our way over Church Fork Peak. There's an amazingly large cairn at the summit. There used to be a route off the Church Fork trail to Grandeur that went here, but now you have to follow the ridge from Grandeur or Burch Hollow. Unless you want to go through even denser scrub oak and try to recreate the original route.

We eventually tumbled down to the pass on the west side of Mt. Aire and were made aware that this was not our personal domain, as once again we were on an actual trail. We felt the heat of mid-day as we made our way to the summit. As we ate our lunch, two other club members - Phyllis Anderson and Karen Perkins - as well as two of their friends, showed up. Julie decided she already had had a satisfying journey, thank you very much, and went with them to the Elbow Fork trailhead.

The rest of us continued eastward along the ridge. Again we had our solitude. Unfortunately, we got bogged down over this stretch, and it took us three hours to get to the Lamb's Canyon Saddle. It was now 4:30, and we would be getting to Murdock in the dark. So we made the decision to also go to the Elbow Fork trailhead, where Deirdre and Mohamed had stashed a bailout car. We all appreciated it, but perhaps we'll try this hike again next year.

One thing we learned though: solitude is great, and trails are for children.

Hikers: Mohamed Abdallah, Peter Ashcroft, Ray Daurelle, Deirdre Flynn, Steve Glaser, Julie Kilgore, and Andee Thatcher

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