The old saying that “aging isn’t for the faint at heart” has been true for this hiker and writer in 2022.
Stops and starts as physical ailments come and are recovered from has left this a sub-par year hiking wise. Even so, wild and crazy adventures are still to be had up in those blessed hills. And with a warming climate creating more extreme storms, mayhem is always but a drive up the canyon away.
The latest insanity that was faced by this hiker was on Aug. 13. My KSL weather app said it was partly cloudy. After several days of substantial rain, cooler weather with moist trails seemed just perfect after a summer that was breaking records for heat.
Arriving at Butterfield Pass, I noticed I was not alone. Though getting a late start, I thought the trails would have many fellow hikers. Knowing I could hike Butterfield Peaks and then decide if I wanted to traverse down into White Pine and come up the side trail back to Butterfield Pass, I had a good plan.
If the weather turned sour, I could turn around at the Peaks area so there were mitigations that could be taken.
The dogs and I were glad to be out. It was a beautiful day, the ground was moist enough to keep the rocks from sliding under our feet but not so moist as to create slipping. Partly cloudy just as my weather app had said. Happy dogs and a busy iPhone capturing wild flower pictures was a great start.
As I made it to the ridge, I looked south at the majestic southern Oquirrhs. Only one small dark cloud hovered over Lowe Peak. It didn’t seem to be anything of a threat and it did not appear to be much of a worry.
The ridge along Butterfield Peaks is truly a gem. Lined with lupines and agastaches, bees and butterflies buzz and flutter about. The moment of decision on the hike is whether to go down into White Pine canyon or go back down to Butterfield Pass. With only a smatter or light rain and mostly blue sky, I made a decision that would prove regretful.
Once into White Pine, clouds seemed to come from nowhere. And just when I muttered to myself “at least there isn’t any lightning,” I see this flash of light followed by that familiar crash.
Congratulating myself on my wisdom, I noted that I was at least down in the canyon and not on an exposed ridge.
Then the heavens opened up and the rain greatly intensified. The dogs looked at me and wondered what I got them into. Not to worry, I know a shortcut. Instead of taking the longer but more compressed and heavily traveled trail, I went down into a less traveled trail thick with soil that was now nothing more than saturated goo.
The trail I had decided upon was now causing this 60-year-old to slip and slide and fall into the mud. Hiking poles didn’t help as they were crushed under my weight as I fell into piles of mud. Covered in mud, I made it to the main trail and carefully traversed down the canyon. I was thankful that my next short cut would take me along the side of White Pine and Butterfield Peaks where cover would minimize the influence of the rain and possible lightning strikes. The only challenge would be getting up the ravine to the trail. Hopefully the rope would be there.
Arriving at the cut off to the side trail, I was glad to see the rope, but it was no avail, the trail was so saturated that despite my best efforts, I could not pull myself up to the trail. Falling face first into the mud I reluctantly gave up. So I resigned my wet and muddy countenance to hike down to the Middle Canyon road and walk up the long and steep switchbacks to the pass.
And what a long, wet, hike that was. Middle Canyon road was a river and as I walked up the road, the lightning got closer and closer. Two strikes came within a quarter mile which caused me to hug the slope to minimize my exposure. Of course that was usually where the water was flowing. On the bright side, the rain washed the mud off of my shirt and shorts. Just when I had given up hope, around the next switchback was my truck.
I would love to say that was the end of the story. But the storm had thrown rocks all over the road, one of which punctured one of my tires. With the help of a wonderful young couple I was able to get the spare on and arrive just in time to keep my wife from calling 911.
And in case you think I am taking creative liberties in describing my plight. The image of my socks after this eventful day should tell the reader that no such liberties were taken.
David Swan lives on the southeast side of Tooele City with a view of the Oquirrh Mountains.