Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hiking Squaw Peek, Provo, Utah

Labor Day, 2011.  9am.  Rock Canyon Trail Head, just up the road from the Provo LDS Temple, at the mouth of a jagged canyon. Kyle, Keely, Chris Shaw, Dave Wheeler, me, and a gaggle of Dave's pals.  

I wanted to go hiking.  I wanted a relatively strenuous, but shortish jaunt to get my blood pumping in the morning, but allow enough time to get everything done that I needed to before the BBQ at my folks house that afternoon at 4pm.  That's what I wanted.  I got something else.
So, you head up the Rock Canyon trail.  UP.  Its a pretty good incline, and parts of the trail are really gravelly--like really thick/deep gravel that moves and shifts under your feet, threatening to break your ankles with every step.  We passed the part of the trail where rock climbers harness themselves to ropes, climb and repel down the gorgeous rock-climbers-playground.  We passed them by with a nod and a little jealousy.  Take the first left off the main trail, over a wooden bridge.  Keely had decided to take the hike at a slower pace, and we didn't want her to miss the turn, so we had to make a sign for her.
The sticks make the Japanese Kanji for "Shiraki".

We walked up this left fork for about 10 minutes (ish) and came to another fork to the left--when you look down the fork a bit, you see a sign that says "Squaw Peek".  Onward and upward.

And I do mean UP.  Way up.  For a friggin long time.  Sometimes the incline 45 degrees, or more, or something crazy, cause the mountain is right in your face.  Forget the treadmill.  Forget the stair climber.  Just keep walking.

There were beautiful meadows full of thigh-high wildflowers.  The woods were thick, lush, and very western (I don't know the last time I saw an Aspen).  The elevation just kept climbing and climbing, and so did we.  And that part about "forget the treadmill", yeah, I did, a long time ago, so the higher we got the more I hurt.  This is NOT a hike for someone as weak and out of shape as me.  HOLY CRAP. 
It was gorgeous, though.

The trail arches up and over a ridge, which makes it seem like you are almost there.  You are, but for me, the last 20 minutes were the worst.  I'm chalking it up to the altitude (7,800 feet, compared to where I live, 282 ft) and not eating breakfast, because when we were about 10 minutes from the top, I had to stop because I was so light headed I felt like I would pass out.  Pass out, I did not.  Thankfully.  But I scarfed those pop-tarts like you wouldn't believe.  When we got to the top, the ascent was worth it. (Until the hike down, that is.)
This panorama is about 270 degrees, so the valley is quite squooshed.  Just imagine that the view of the valley, from one mountain's edge to the other, which appears to be about 90 degrees in the photo, is actually 180.  It was a phenomenal view.  Probably the best I've ever seen of Utah Valley, including the view from the top of Timpanogas.  Timp's view is incredible because you can see the other side of the mountain, and the hundreds of mountain tops from central Utah to Colorado, but the valley is pretty obscured by fog and distance.  Not the case on Squaw Peek.

 Kyle and I.  Lookin' rough, but feelin' good.
 The back of the Provo Temple with the zoom lens.
Lake Shore, Utah (with the zoom lens)

The hike back down took much longer than expected; mostly because my body wasn't cooperating as well as I would have wanted.  I love my Chacos, you know I do, but I got some nasty blisters.  And my knee was killing me.  And you can't move very fast when you whine as much as Keely and I were, so that must also be taken into account.  However, I feel better about it now that I know that the 2.3 mile (4.6 round-trip) hike that we thought we had taken, was actually 8.4 miles round trip.  That explains why, 5 days later, my calves still hurt.

It was gorgeous, and I'd recommend it to any in-shape hiker.  I'll do it again, but not before I'm in better shape.  Till then, I'll stick with my smaller-but-in-no-way-less-incredible Blue Ridge Mountains when I need a good jaunt into the wilderness.

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