Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Lewis Peak Hike

I was not much of a hiker when I was younger. I did it when I had to, usually as part of a youth group excursion. I frequently lagged behind the main body of the group. I first began to enjoy hiking when I spent a couple of summers working on the staff of Camp Loll, a Boy Scout camp near the the Tetons and Yellowstone. Since being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis more than 20 years ago, I have hiked and backpacked more than I did in the years before that.

Not all of my family members share my enthusiasm for hiking. My #3 child has turned out to be more willing to hike with me than any of the rest of the family so far. Yesterday we hiked to Lewis Peak from North Ogden Divide. (See SummitPost for more details and pictures.) This was the fourth mountain peak in Weber County that we have hiked to together. During the past year, we have hiked to Willard Peak, Ben Lomond Peak, and Malans Peak (which isn’t really a peak). We also hiked Little Emigration Canyon last fall and did some hiking in Idaho last summer. We will be going into the Yellowstone back country this month and plan to make a trek to Mount Ogden later this season.

Yesterday was the perfect day for a hike. It was warm, sunny, and clear, but it never got hot. I wanted to get out on the trail early in the day, but my son made me go pick peas with him at a neighbor’s garden. It seems they had a bumper crop this year and needed to get rid of the excess. After our pea picking, we hit the trail at almost exactly 8:05 am.

The first 2½ miles of the 5½ mile trek to the peak is all uphill, with the first 1¾ miles being switchbacks. The trail isn’t terribly steep, but it’s a relentless climb that should tax your cardio-vascular system. When my son complained, I reminded him that you have to climb a mountain to get to a mountain peak. If you need consolation on the way up, you can look across North Ogden Divide and be grateful that you’re not climbing the more extensive switchbacks that lead toward Ben Lomond Peak.

The Lewis Peak trail is well improved and maintained. The switchbacks have no shortage of spots with loose rock. On the way to the peak, we passed fewer than a dozen hikers, a few mountain bikes, and a couple of motorcycles. The highest point of the hike to the peak mounts a hilltop that is actually higher in elevation than Lewis Peak. Once you hit that point, the trail trends mildly downward for about 2½ miles before it climbs the last half mile to the peak. Mountain bikes and motorcycles can drive right to the peak.

Once you crest the top of the switchbacks, you are offered good views of both sides of the mountain range in many spots. You can look north to Ben Lomond and south to Mount Ogden. You can see Pineview Reservoir, Willard Bay, the Great Salt Lake, and the ski runs at Snowbasin resort. You can follow branches of the trail to Pineview and to Ogden Canyon, if you wish.

The wildflowers were beautiful, although, they are at their peak beauty toward the end of July. Once you reach the top of the ridge, you can expect wind just about any time. An eyrie of golden eagles can often be seen near the top of the switchbacks. I have counted as many as seven eagles floating on the breeze up there like they were surfing the wind currents. We didn’t see the eagles yesterday.

We arrived at the peak at almost precisely 10:35. We had made it in almost exactly 2½ hours. A couple of hikers and a motorcyclist had arrived shortly ahead of us. Soon we were joined by eight more hikers and a dog. It seems that Lewis Peak was popular yesterday. One lady was carrying nothing but an empty ½-liter water bottle. There are no water sources on this hike and you can expect to sweat a lot while climbing the hill. So it’s wise to carry plenty of water. Dehydration can be dangerous. As I always carry extra, I gave the lady one of my water bottles for the hike back.

We spent about an hour lunching and hanging out on the peak. More hikers came, as did a couple of mountain bikers and another motorcyclist. We left the peak at almost precisely 11:35 am. After the initial descent, my son was stunned to discover that we had a (relatively mild) uphill climb for the next 2½ miles. It had seemed level to him on the way in. He had to stop and rest a few times before we reached the top of the hill that marks the beginning of the descent to North Ogden Divide.

On the way out, we met quite a few hikers and mountain bikers on their way in. Although I have hiked children as young as eight to the top of the switchbacks, I would personally avoid trying to take children younger than 11 or 12 all the way to the peak. I was surprised to pass several families that had very young children on the hike. A couple of families had young children with mountain bikes. While the trail is quite bike-able, being a mountain biker myself, I’d consider the trail to be too technical for young riders.

After we started down the switchbacks, one mother with an extended family group asked how close they were to the top. She explained that they were headed for the Pineview trailhead. I was concerned. Some members of the group looked about shot already and the Pineview trailhead was more than eight miles away. It seems that some people undertake hikes like this without adequate research or preparation.

Going down the switchbacks can be as challenging as going up, but in a different way. The incessant downhill trek can take a toll on your knees, shins, and toes. We arrived at the trailhead at almost precisely 1:35 pm. We had hiked out in almost exactly two hours. That was very close to my pre-hike estimate.

We met some friends in the parking lot that had hiked to Ben Lomond Peak. They were hampered by snow as they neared the summit, they said. After climbing to the summit anyway, they said the wind howled and that they were very cold. They figured that the bulk of the snow would be gone within two weeks.

My son said that he would take a nap as soon as we got home. But I made him take a shower first. Even though the trail wasn’t particularly dusty yesterday, we were dirty enough. I have a little muscle soreness in my hips, calves, and shins. But that’s a small price to pay for the great hike I was able to enjoy with my son yesterday.

No comments: