First of all, I have to say that the name of a mountain should not include the word VALLEY. That just isn’t right. And that alone should have detoured me from taking the hike up and over Pine Valley Mountain in Southern Utah on Thursday June 30th, 2011.
Usually, a hike like this is my husband, Jared’s idea.
In fact, here is a picture of Jared on the top of Mount Whitney, in California. As you can see Jared is the outdoor adventurer. (To learn more about his adventures go to JRAD.co) He is the real deal. My friend Eric calls him a Purist! I agree.
I, however, usually prefer a 2 hour hike in Snow Canyon, close to home and on a nice level maintenance road with beautiful scenery right out my backyard. Jared prefers paths that few people have taken to go places few people have ever seen. Sure, I want some time away from some people, but I prefer to go somewhere others have been and know that if I fall and sprain my ankle someone will be by soon to “rescue me”. A rescue plan when hiking on a 4 mile maintenance road is very important to me, because I trip and fall walking from room to room in my house–often.
So, for the past week, I have been staring up about 10,000 feet at Pine Valley Mountain and thinking to myself. I want to climb Up and Over that mountain. It is close to home, and I’ve done some short hikes at the base of both the north and south side. I’ve been doing 8 mile hikes 3 or 4 times a week. What is 7 miles up and over?
Let’s just review, I love not having to think about where I am going to place my foot when hiking. I love walking at 4 mph and listening to an audio book on my Ipod. Why on earth did I want to go up and over Pine Valley Mountain?
Let’s just say, I thought it would be fun. And it was… well, most of it was fun!
A good friend and his son, dropped us off at 8:30 AM on the South Side of Pine Valley Mountain, at Oak Grove Trail Head, with a plan to meet us at 3:00 PM at the Reservoir, on the North Side. We made excellent time on the way up. We ascended over 3000 feet in less than 3 hours. We thought that would be the difficult part. The ascent usually is. I stopped every few minutes for a few seconds and Jared stopped with me and then every 50 minutes he wanted a 5 – 10 minute break to eat. We were a good pair, between the two of us we got lots of breaks and were smiling the whole way up.
I was a little upset I didn’t wear my heart rate monitor, however, at around 10,000 elevation and after resting for a few minutes my heart rate was only 78 bpm. Jared’s heart rate was more than mine.
The weather and temperature was perfect for the ascent. We were on the sunny side and the temperature was in the 70′s the whole way up. We were not bothered by the heat or the wind, a rare occurrence in Southern Utah. The trail was marked well by signage, but frequently we had to climb over fallen pine trees. The Oak Grove trail was much easier to recognize than the Brown’s Point Trail on the North Side of Pine Valley Mountain.
We could see Nevada, Arizona, Zions National Park, Sand Hollow Lake, Quail Creek Lake, and many other beautiful land features from the Oak Grove Trail. And the trail itself was surrounded by gorgeous pine trees, wild flowers, and tall masculine boulders. (Sorry, that is just how boulders look to me, masculine and strong… they do NOT look feminine!)
We did not go to the summit of Pine Valley Mountain, our overall goal was to go up and over-SAFELY!
We sat and had a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich near the top and enjoyed the view before beginning our decent. We reached the top before Noon. We were making great time and anticipating an easy descent.
Well, one of Jared’s favorite quotes is, “It’s not an adventure unless something goes wrong”. This was applicable to our “adventure” up and over.
The trail was harder and harder to recognize due to melting snow and fallen pine trees. However, there were 2 sets of footprints in the snow and carefully placed Cairns. (Carins are man made piles of rock placed along the trail or path. Usually smaller rocks are placed upon bigger rocks forming a sort of rock statue.) These footprints and Cairns brought me great peace and comfort as I skied down slushy show in my asics running shoes and tiptoed across frozen snow bridges. I knew that someone had recently been on this trail and they were leading me safely home (and to better bathroom facilities!)
After about 60 plus minutes of following a breathtaking mountain stream down the mountain, the path began to ascend up steep slope towards the ridge. However, the path was obstructed by several large fallen pine trees. Which, by this time we were very comfortable with. But it didn’t look right so we headed back towards the stream and back down the mountain instead of heading up the steep slope.
To be honest, I thought we were done ascending and was making my descent DOWN the mountain! I assumed the trail would follow the mountain stream. So did Jared. However, after what felt like forever of wandering further and further away from the trail, I grew more and more uncomfortable. I finally told Jared, “This doesn’t feel right.” Of course, I didn’t feel right, I hadn’t seen a Cairn or footprint in an Eternity! (Maybe between 20-40 minutes!)
We looked around some more for the trail and reexamined the map, only to discover after careful examination, that the Brown Point Trail followed a ridge and the trail did NOT continue to follow the stream! So the trail had gone up the steep slope and we hadn’t recognized it due to all the debris of fallen trees and pine needles!
Miraculously, Jared found the trail. We headed up the steep slope towards the ridge at just the right time to intercept the trail before it headed east along the ridge down the steep Browns Point Trail. And miraculously, we were only an hour and a half late to our final destination. If there hadn’t been over 200 fallen pine trees to climb over and if we hadn’t gotten lost, I am sure we would have made it in about 6-7 hours instead of 8 hours! (even with very long breaks!)
- I had many thoughts, deep thoughts, after we wandered off the trail. Here are a few of my thoughts. ”The further you are from your path, the longer it will take to get back on.” ”Be grateful to those people who carefully place Cairns to mark the path.” ”Always bring breadcrumbs while hiking, you never know when you will need them.” ”Often times in life there are obstacles in our path that must be climbed over or removed from the path. If others are to follow you on your path, remove the obstacle.” ”The next time I see a ranger with a chain saw, I will personally thank him for removing fallen pine trees from the path.” ”Life is better and definitely more comfortable when you are on the Path! Trust me!”
Video of the adventure COMING SOON!