Oh, There’s a Trail Here. Or, How I Found the Sidney Peaks Trail.
The Sidney Peaks Trail was something I stumbled across in my quest to hike in the mountains. I had been itching to explore the high mountain meadows around Brian Head Peak for the past week since Tom took me on a tour of the Cedar Mountains; so I decided to head in the direction. Not only are the meadows themselves just beautiful, but it’s the highest area in the Cedar section of Dixie National Forest which translated in my brain to “most-mountainy.”
Although it was a sunny and warm morning at the base of the mountains, once I drove up a couple thousand feet the cloud cover intensified and the wind picked up quite a bit. I randomly chose to park at the pull off halfway up Brian Head and we began walking up and across a exposed hill in search of conifer-lined meadows. This particular area of the forest has been hit very hard by the spruce bark beetle, leaving piles of dead wood and many of the standing trees as gray skeletons, yet I found a beauty in the lifeless spruce and yellowing, sub-alpine meadows. But more than anything I loved the freedom of striding up hills and across the flats in the open spaces.
We hadn’t gone far when I sensed an opportunity for a vista and so turned towards what turned out to be an overlook over Dark Hollow. Walking to the rim I crossed a single track which, after exploring the rim, we decided to follow as it paralleled the contour of the ridge. I had been on sheep lookout since we started our walk, but the freshest evidence was probably a week old and so we continued on, reassured that Abby wouldn’t have the opportunity to become a volunteer shepherd…. By which I mean she wouldn’t interfere with any of the flocks who have grazing rights in the national forest.
Oddly enough the footpath we were on seemed to become more defined as we walked leading me to suspect this was a legitimate trail; not long I began to think we were on a trail, we arrived at an exceptionally-well marked junction that informed me that we had been on the Marathon Trail. Straight ahead was the Sidney Peaks Trail, and, as the name included the word “peak,” I chose that one.
The Peaks trail continued through a series of meadows, winding it’s way around the base of the numerous old volcanic cinder cones, between which were the occasional shallow hollow filled with spruce. The amount of open space was staggering and without another person for miles, I felt so incredibly peaceful, just me and the dog and the wind alone at 11,000 feet. Peaceful until, that is, we spotted a sheep. For whatever reason not only was Abby within arm’s reach at the time, but we both spotted it simultaneously, which allowed me to grab her collar and get us turned around. This sheep however started shrieking, alerting his flock in the valley below us, and proceeded to stalk us as we started our return back to the trailhead. His brazenness would have been quite amusing if Abby hadn’t been so intent on attempting to run over and start herding.
After rounding one of the peaks the sheep gave up chase and we continued in peace back to the car, making a mental note to finish this beautiful trail before the flocks arrive on the mountain next spring. Because our hike had been cut shorter than either of us felt like walking that day we drove to the other side of Brain Head Peak to wander amongst the turning aspens. At nearly 10,000 feet, these are some of the highest stands around and were thus some of the first to color up. Many had just turned yellow, but there were quite a few that had already progressed to a blazing orange color. Perhaps this side of the mountain receives more rain too because in addition to the bright yellow and orange leaves were greener meadows. Together, it made for a spectacular sight.