Reluctant Companions: The Hike up Blowhard Mountain
So I’m willing to admit that my choice of hikes are sometimes unpopular with my companions (read: Tom, but in this case, Terry as well). And I’m also willing to admit that my choices are sometimes on the far side of what’s reasonable. But in this case my suggestion seemed sensible, at least to me: I put forward a trail we’d all hiked before – and yes, it’s steep and rocky, and inconvenient in places, and occasionally a bit of a slog… but there are amazing views! And the trail is beautiful almost the entire way minus some short sloggy bits! I mean, why wouldn’t you want to hike this trail?!?
Despite the initial resistance and some counteroffers my choice won out and we set off to hike Blowhard Mountain. There was definitely some grumbling along the way, not all of which was unjustified, but I think at least 2 out of 3 of us were glad we did the hike (3 out of 4 if you count Abby) as we revisited the grandiose vistas over the Cedar Breaks drainage.
Though most of the wow factor comes from the halfway mark to about two-thirds of the way, the first half of the trail is a favorite of mine. Starting out in the lush meadows of Crystal Springs, the route dives into gorgeous aspen and fir as you climb steadily toward the rim of the Cedar Breaks amphitheater. The abrupt termination of the trees at the edge of barren limestone and the first glimpse of the sculpted red pinnacles never fails to impress and I kept that thought in mind as we began marching up one of two steep sections towards the largest break of forest along the rim, a break long enough that it’s easy to forget you were ever hiking in the trees at all. From here the expanse of carved limestone below seems endless, and the toil of trudging up the switchbacks is instantly worth it. Well, maybe after you catch you breath.
The ascent continues as the trail winds around the occasional bristlecone pine grasping the edge of the bowl until you just as suddenly re-enter the forest. Abundant wildflowers and green grasses greeted us as we passed the 10,000 foot point as did the many spruce, those alive as well as those skeletons long since succumbed to the bark beetle infestation that began over 25 years ago. This marked the second steep section of trail, and at this elevation the grumbling from my companions increased as the air thinned. Despite the prolific gray shells of once-healthy evergreens and the plentiful deadfall in this section, I have always loved the forest here and continue to marvel at how it has rebounded despite being located in such a harsh environment.
Reaching the upper trailhead and the top of Blowhard Mountain, we took a break and then returned the way we came, descending first through spruce and fir, then along the rim, and finally back into aspen until we reached the verdant grasses of Crystal Springs. The ease of going downhill cheered us all up a bit and we took our time savoring the views of fabulous red rock and appreciating the soaring trees.