Friday, October 18, 2013

Exploring Provo - Slate Creek Canyon.

After traveling for so many days it was good to stop and grow temporary roots for a day or two.  It's nice to sleep in and not have to drive any distance except for locally.  My driving now consisted of two trips - (1) the Seven Peaks Ice Arena, and (2) a Provo Parks and Recreation Trailhead.  My routine was pretty simple - eat, sleep, watch ice hockey, and take a walk with Rocky.

The evenings were filled with cheering on the Utah State Aggies ice hockey team as they played Denver University, Boise State University, and Montana State University.  The "Ice Aggies" handily defeated each team so that was a bonus.  Denver University and Boise State University were particularly interesting games with plenty of goals and action.  I love watching live ice hockey.

My first full day without having to drive had me and Rocky interested in taking a walk, not just a walk, but a long walk were he could run free and sniff.  Both of us could work out those three days of "car legs and butt" that we had earned.  I looked at a map and initially it didn't show much.  There was a city park less than a mile away - Bicentennial Park.  So Rocky and I went to Bicentennial Park.  Ugh. This was simply a facility for young mothers to let their young children play.  This was no park for a dog.  Okay, where to now?

As I was traveling to Bicentennial Park I spied a road sign that said, "Lightning Peak."  I traveled the road but saw no other reference to Lightning Peak.  What I did see though is some rocky outcroppings on the Wasatch Mountains that closely bordered Provo to the east.  Hmm? I thought, that rocky peak looks like it could be a Lightning Peak.  As I drove along literally the base edge of the Wasatch Mountains I saw a turn off to a Provo Parks and Recreation site.  I drove up the very rocky and steep grade and decided to park my truck off to the side of the road and go explore further by foot.  What I discovered was that if I would have ventured another 100 yards I would have come to a nice paved parking lot.  Funny, a nice paved parking lot but to get it you need a 4 wheel drive vehicle.  Anyway I surveyed the area and found a nice wide trail - the Bicentennial Trail - that parallels the valley and the base of the Wasatch Mountains.  Rocky and I walked about 1/2 mile out to a promontory to get a view of the Utah Valley.  From this promontory you could see Utah Lake, and the entire Utah Valley north and south.  The city of Provo and Brigham Young University laid at your feet.  Quite spectacular.
Panorama view of Utah Valley from the base from the Bicentennial Trail by Slate Creek Canyon

Looking west up Slate Cr. Canyon
Looking back towards the Wasatch Mountains you could see a steep canyon that rose high up to some lofty, fresh snow covered, mountain tops.  You also got a great view of the rocks which I thought (and still think) are Lightning Peak.  Not satisfied with our short promontory walk, Rocky and I decided to explore Slate Creek Canyon.

Slate Cr. Canyon trail and what I think is Lightning Peak
The trail started out steep, very steep.  I would estimate an 8-10% grade at least.  I had to stop several times to catch my breath.  My thought was that because it was so steep, we would only travel a short distance up and then turn around.  I turned on my Google My Tracks app on my smartphone to record my distance and travel.  What I discovered was that my curiosity was getting the best of me.  I found myself saying, "Okay, just to the next corner and I'll turn around" or "Just to the next flat spot (relatively speaking) and I'll turn around." What happened was that I kept on going up and up the canyon and reveling in the canyon beauty. The leaves were all turning color from yellows to deep reds.  The sky was incredibly blue.  Several times I checked the My Tracks app to see my distance.  My new resolve was to go one mile up the canyon.  I pushed hard as it seemed the trail was getting steeper.  Finally, I spied a somewhat less steep spot which I deemed was a "flat spot" and turned around.  I had traveled farther 1.05 miles but I was panting so hard that I realized it was time to turn around.  Even Rocky's tongue was dragging and he too probably relished going down hill.

The sun shining on the canyon walls intensified the colors.  I kept on going up and up, each panting breath had me taking another step.  I stopped and dropped off my sweatshirt and hat realizing they were not needed and it was useless to lug them up with me when I knew I would be turning around. Several times I stopped and checked the

Going down Slate Cr. Canyon.
Going down hill was not as fun and as easy as I thought it would be.  The steepness required me to ensure that my footing was good with each step so I didn't ski on the gravel and end up on my butt. I noticed that each step was like hard breaking to slow my downward momentum.  I found that not only did I have to stop on my way up, but I had to stop to rest my knees and calves on my way down.  I found my dropped off sweatshirt and hat but realized I had traveled farther than I had thought. As I continued my legs started to get wobbly, my calves and knees were aching from the boom-boom-boom of my body pounding down on the ground to slow my descent. I finding myself wishing I hadn't gone so far.  But despite my whining, all I had to do was look up and around the canyon beauty to quickly and temporarily forget the agonizing descent. My gosh this is just so beautiful.

Finally, I reached the upper parking lot and then the last descent to my parked truck and the walk was over.  I do a lot of walking and felt that with this walk I had truly accomplished something.  Though my legs were aching I felt fully physically and emotionally refreshed.  Wow! What a walk.  If you ever find yourself in the Provo area I would highly recommend this hike.  A USFS sign said that the Slate Creek Canyon trail ventured up for about 3.6 miles where it connected with some other trail.  I believe it would be beautiful in the early spring when the creek would be flowing with water from melting snow.  There are no bridges and in the mile I went the creek was crossed about three times, so you would have to have some good waterproof boots.  The trail would be too hard to hike if there was snow or ice, and way too hot to hike in the middle of summer.

Finally my legs continued to shake and recover for the rest of the day and well into the evening.  I thought I was in fairly good shape by exercising three times a week, but this hike indicated otherwise. My explorations of Provo were otherwise fairly limited - motel-ice rink-motel and Slate Cr. Canyon. Not sure there was much else to see that didn't already look like any other town.

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