Trying to Climb to the Top of Things: Another Run up the Whipple Trail
I have mentioned this a few times before, most recently in my previous post about hiking the Skyline Trail, but I have an innate need of some sort to climb to the top of things. Recognizing this about myself makes me wonder how I ever spent most of my life in the mostly flat parts of the northeast. And so my plan on spending a couple weeks hiking in Utah was more or less one of “climb to the top of the largest things.” We did have to do a bit of acclimation initially but as soon as I thought we were all ready I was pushing us all up into the highest areas of the national forest.
Though we ran out of time in Utah however before we were all prepared to do the more difficult hikes at elevation I corralled us up one last steep trail in hopes of getting to the peaks of the Pine Valley Mountains. After reviewing the access points and elevation changes versus miles I selected the most moderate of the hikes up to the summit – the 6 mile Whipple Trail that we’d (partially) hiked last autumn. The trail is seemingly a series of endless switchbacks as you climb over a 1,200 feet to the ridge of a smaller mountain overlooking the small settlement of Pine Valley; from here you walk a 200-foot descent into an aspen-filled valley before the more punishing climb up towards the highest peaks of the Pine Valley Mountains. The steep climb out of the valley is mitigated however by views of the exposed granite north and west. The day we hiked was a bit cloudy and thus my photos were a bit dark, but to see the rock in person is fantastic, impressive.
The trail technically ends at the junction at Whipple Valley, an uncharacteristically lush grassy meadow that stretches towards the Summit Trail which is supposed to offer views over both sides of the range; unfortunately we only made it to the meadow despite hopes of getting to the ridgeline of the highest peaks. Still, our time walking among the ponderosas and gazing upon the granite rockfaces was oh-so worth it. This being our last hike in Utah, I thoroughly enjoyed the smells of sweet caramel wafting through the air and hiking the open, arid forest.