Thursday, June 13, 2013

Winter Ridge

Winter Ridge is appropriately named, based on our experience there. The night temp had dipped into the high 20's and I spent the night huddling inside my sleeping bag, curling myself into the smallest human ball possible just to keep warm. But hey, that's what morning campfires are for and John and Merle had fired one up and we huddled round the fire until the sun came up.

Merle and John search for a trail

Winter Ridge is accessed by the John C. Fremont National Recreation Trail and sadly, the trail was in poor shape. Beetles had killed a lot of the trees in the forest and dead trees have a tendency to topple over and lay across a trail. One tree, no problem; many trees, and the trail tends to disappear and that was the state of things. At one point we lost the trail altogether but not to worry, all we had to do is keep the Winter Ridge dropoff on our right and we could make slow progress along the ridge.

My loyal followers
Perseverance provides rewards and we were rewarded by a faint trail tread with a minimum of trees on top of it about a mile into the hike. After passing through a gate the trail left the ridge crest and headed downhill through a series of meadows flanked by picturesque Ponderosa pines and quaking aspens. Unbeknownst to us  at the time, we had again lost the Fremont Trail and we were on a side trip to Currier Springs.

Hiker trough at Currier Springs
Currier Springs is a highly developed trailhead for the horse riding crowd, what with stout corrals and the spring waters being piped into a series of horse troughs.  All this while us hikers had not even a trail to hike on. I'd say lucky horses, but then again I don't have to carry anybody with spurs on my back, either, unless it's for fun.  And it's not fun. Well, not to me, anyway. Can someone help me get out of this paragraph?

Follow the cairns
At any rate, a short half-mile trail took us back to the Fremont Trail from Currier Springs and we were back in business, sort of. It was the same old faint trail on the ridge but fortunately a series of waist-high cairns marked the way like a yellow brick road for hikers.  

Great views of Summer Lake were a constant

Periodically, we would bushwhack to the edge of Winter Ridge and soak in the view of Summer Lake, a dizzying 3,000 feet below. John Fremont  had explored this area and also dropped down to the lake without benefit of a forest road or established trail. They were a pretty hardy bunch, in those days.
Uh oh, here comes the snow

There was a prominent point that was the logical place to turn around at but there was talk among us about continuing on further along the rim. However, just as we started to struggle through the low growing brush on the point, clouds came in and covered up the blue sky. A wall of belligerent storm system was scudding across Summer Lake, kicking up dust storms in front. Much to our surprise and consternation, the air was soon swirling with small snow flakes. There was no more talk of continuing on further.

A wintry Summer Lake
So we methodically worked our way back along the ridge in the snow storm. We did follow the Fremont Trail along the section we had strayed from, I'm not sure how we missed it because the tread was fairly easy to follow on the return leg. I do know how Merle and John missed the trail: they had simply followed me when I made the wrong turn. After the tedious slog in the last mile of fallen trees we returned to our campsite along Rock Creek.

John sleeps and dreams of dancing elves
The rest of the day was spent huddled around a large campfire, telling stories and anecdotes while snow swirled around. The snow was not sticking so despite the elements, it was a most enjoyable to spend the day. By the late afternoon, the clouds dissipated as we headed into a very cold night. That was not so much fun.

The beginning of a very cold night
For more pictures of this hike please visit the Flickr album.

1 comment :

  1. Richard you are just too funny!! Next time we hike with you and you get way ahead of us, I'm going to yell "Whoa Horsey"!! It'll be our joke. Even though it was cold, still sounds like a great time for the 3 of you.