Got out for a little off-trail hiking and mountain wandering on St. Mary's with my husband this afternoon. No trail = no people. The smoke blocked our long-range views (quite common during fire season), but overall it wasn't too bad. We discovered a cool old lichen-covered tree trunk, and came across some rock outcrops for a little break. :)
Rather than hiking a trail or walking a road, last night's little escapade took us off the beaten path up a steep hill on Saint Mary's Mountain to a rocky area with a view of Mill Point and Mill Point West. I find it interesting how a simple black and white photo seems to preserve things in time so much differently than a color photo.
Both of these peaks are on my radar as possible off-trail destinations at some point.
Who knows?? Set no limits. I'll share some pics if I decide to go for it. :)
We enjoyed a bit of sunshine here and there along the way, but the clouds continued to move about on the mountain and over the valley below.
We often find a bit of brass at various shooting spots along the way.
A nice view of the ridge to the south (on the other side of Big Creek).
We took an off-trail trek to get up there from the other side a few years ago.
A close up view of our off-trail destination. (We did it without snow.)
You can see down into Big Creek Canyon from up there.
The snow is quickly moving in.
As the snow approaches, it creates an interesting layered look in the trees above us.
With snow in the air and on the ground, along with the lowering temps,
our spring day quickly turned back to winter for a bit.
The snow continued as we hit bare ground again coming back down.
A bit of warmth returned as the snow let up and the sun peeked through the clouds again. From spring to winter to spring. Our mountain weather is always changing.
We finished with a few glimpses of the Sapphire Mountains on the east side of the valley while the clouds continued to shift around in the skies above.
Having fun on the mountain with my first telemark ski lesson on the road. A little different than cross-country skiing. Baby steps for me, as I'm out of my comfort zone again. :)
Some of our earlier snow had melted off during a warm spell, so we started out driving on bare ground, then hit ice where it had rained and frozen recently (time to put on tire chains), and eventually got to snow as we continued to climb in elevation.
At various places along the way while driving up the mountain, the view opens up to the valley below and the Sapphire Mountains on the other side.
Driving through a hallway of bushes and trees makes it interesting.
We didn't get our ski rack put on for the season yet, so we had to put the skis inside. It was kind of a tight fit, but it worked. :)
St. Mary's Mountain has two main roads with a connecting road that runs between. The road to the right goes to the trailhead. We took the road to the left to ski. You get a view of the peak and fire lookout tower from the switchback road that runs between.
Up, up, and up we go. Where we'll stop, we don't know.
(We've been to the end before, but we're not sure how deep the snow will get.)
Overlooking Big Creek Canyon with Ranger Peak disappearing in the distance.
Not much room for turning around or meeting vehicles on the upper part of the road.
Gotta be prepared for backing up if necessary.
View of the ridge between Big Creek and Glen Lake.
As the road gets narrow up high, the bushes and trees tend to stick out in the way a bit. (Sometimes much more than just a bit.) You can't be too picky about getting roughed up a little if you come up this far, as the mountain is likely to leave its mark on you. :)
We made it to the end of the road without the snow getting too deep for us.
Time to give my tele skis a try. :)
I was a bit nervous starting out (afraid of falling and tearing my MCL's again), but I had fun learning to ski back and forth down the road. Jamie's a pretty good teacher. :)
Eventually we got back to the icier part of the road and had to stop for the day. I'm definitely looking forward to getting back out for my next lesson. Lots more to learn, and lots more fun to come! :)
Although we enjoyed our snowy mountain excursion today, I'm still hoping for a little more fall before winter comes to stay. It's a bit too soon for me to get out my skis and snowshoes just yet. :)
We'd been planning to get out for a mountain peak sunset hike for a little while now, but getting my schedule coordinated with my son's schedule for a partly cloudy evening without chances of thunderstorms has been quite a challenge this summer. I checked the weather Saturday morning and the forecast was right, so I knocked on my son's door (he's our neighbor) and asked, "How about a sunset hike tonight?"
The clouds were very thick and heavy all day looking like rain, so I wasn't very confident in the forecast being correct and was a bit doubtful for our chances of a good sunset. But I decided we would go and just see what happens. Sunset was still a little ways off.
No time to dilly dally. Gotta keep moving along to get to the top in time for the sunset.
The fire lookout tower is in view as we get closer to the treeline, but we still have more to go. The layer of clouds is still very thick, so it's not looking hopeful at this point. :/
As we got to the top, the wind picked up its intensity, giving us hope that the clouds might give way enough for a nice sunset after all. Our hope soon became reality. :)
After an hour and a half of quick-paced hiking, we hit the peak with growing darkness and the wind blowing like crazy. There were still plenty of clouds all around, but color was beginning to appear, too. :) Time to get on some extra layers. We were expecting cold temps and high winds up on the mountain, so thankfully we were prepared for it.
We never ended up actually seeing the sun itself, as it remained behind shifting clouds, but the sky was mixed with vivid color. I wish my camera could have fully captured the intensity we saw with our eyes, but here are some photos to give you a little glimpse. :)
We stayed on the summit watching the changing color and clouds with the wind never letting up for 25 minutes. So as the sunset diminished, we scurried off the top and headed back down, hiking out by the light of our headlamps. A 5-hour round trip from leaving the house at 6:30 and getting back at 11:30. Actual hiking time of 3 hours.
It was another awesome mountain adventure! :) See you on the next one...
We hiked up St. Mary's Mountain to McCalla Lake earlier this week while our son got in a little of his early season, backcountry skiing on the snowy slopes behind us.
Although we started out hiking on bare ground, we had snow underfoot for much of the way up. Shortly after passing the wilderness boundary sign on the summit trail we found the unmarked trail split. Much of the non-maintained trail to the lake was hidden with unbroken snow and was unrecognizable to follow, so we put on our gaiters and found our own way down through the snow, rock, and trees.
We arrived at McCalla Lake and had an enjoyable time hanging out for awhile. The lake was frozen over with exception of the perimeter and the two inlet areas, and the terrain around the lake was a mix of patchy snow and bare ground.
We paused to take in the awesome view before our eyes as we reached the wilderness boundary shortly before getting to the trail split for our descent to the lake.
Because this hike was another one of our unplanned-spur-of-the-moment trips, we got a late start and didn't get back out until dark. But it was another great time in the mountains! :)
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Let me help you get "out here", too. I will soon be offering a hiking related fitness group with coaching and support for getting in shape and getting out in the outdoors more. Stay tuned. :)