Discovery of a Basalt Gorge along Mammoth Creek

Returning to Utah the first week in June from our trip in New Mexico I thought the high country would be snow free. I was not correct. And so my plan of hiking the rest of the Sidney Peaks Trail, which runs near 11,000 feet had to be revised once we got up there. And so we descended down to near 9,000 feet and then parked at a junction of a randomly-selected forest road near a section of Mammoth Creek. The open meadows and familiarity of the forest made our walk instantly enjoyable for all three of us; Abby in particular enjoyed darting in and out of the trees and wading into the creek. The broad meadows eventually closed in however and we gravitated to walking on the forest road for awhile – until we heard amplified rushing water and began bushwacking through the trees. This section of the national forest is cluttered with piles of dead spruce rotting from previous beetle attacks and so the next half mile was both time consuming and injurious to our legs, but our discovery of clear waters tumbling through a basalt gorge below more than made up for the difficult travel. Of course we immediately embarked on climbing down into the gorge which was a bit hairy but we were rewarded by multiple falls and rapids as we followed the banks along the bottom of the creek.

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Excitedly we told Terry about our discovery and decided the three of us should return in an attempt to climb to the other side of the gorge a few days later. We did locate the same series of waterfalls from slightly downstream but we also determined that getting to them from this side would not be as easy and so we revised our plan and decided to drive a few miles south and attempt to walk upstream. To our delight, this led us through beautiful meadows en route to the creek. Once we reached the creek we began bushwacking again, slowly picking our way upstream past smaller falls and rapids, up the steep banks through ponderosa forest and back down through horsetail grass. All along the way we encountered beautiful pieces of colorful chert and jasper and near the end of our adventure I found a piece of chert that resembled a bottle opener – a sure sign that nature was telling me it was time to call it a day and go crack open a beer. Finally, just because we were passing by on our way back to the house, we stopped for a quick look at the beauty of Cedar Breaks.

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