Location: Mill Creek Canyon
Level: 4 out of 5 – It’s a pretty steep incline, including the road that you start out on
Water: There is a creek along the entire road, but once you get on to the trail, there is water for awhile, but then you cross some dry creeks and the water disappears
Popularity: The road is full of cabin locals and visitors, but once on the trail, there is nobody! I passed one couple at the beginning, but then not a soul
Parking: Parking is great. There is a small lot in front of the gate to the road, and plenty of parking along the road.
Shade/Temp: Being October, I enjoyed the pockets of sunshine, but it was a lot of shade.
Gear: I wish I had worn shorts, but I thought it would be colder. The road is easy and the trail is actually pretty wide in many parts. A few tiny spots of brush to get through, but nothing to worry about.
Flowers: October, so just some adorable little white flowers, but the start of the trail was loaded with brightly colored leaves…a perfect picture of autumn.
Well, today wasn’t one of my favorite hikes. I should have known that morning by how I felt breathless just coming up the basement stairs that I was weak and that my steep climb up towards Mt Raymond was going to be arduous. But it was more than trying to get my tired butt up the mountain, it was the fact that the hike begins with a somewhat steep paved road for the first 1.5 miles. I had no idea that there were so many cabins in the canyon. It was fun looking at them, but when I hike, I like to be in the middle of nowhere…with a lot of people, of course! And this trail had very few people. I saw some on the road, but once on the trail, ghost town. And I mean that literally…it was like a pre-Halloween extravaganza once I got higher up on the trail because there were so many curled up, creepy burnt trees.
So let’s get back to the beginning. We climb up a somewhat newly paved road. There are cabins all along the road, which is great if you’re staying at one, but to hike through them isn’t really what I want when I want to be completely enveloped by nature. The road is surrounded by beautiful autumn colors and a gorgeous creek the entire way. I guess it’s comforting to be by the water and on a road knowing there aren’t any snakes waiting to gobble us up.
We finally arrive at the end of the road and I’m excited to get on the trail! It’s a pretty good climb, not too many zigzags or twists, just a lot of uphill. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it any better had I not felt so weak! The creek takes us up a bit more, but then eventually we are on our own, just the trees and me…and my little assistants.
I can only assume what I witnessed next was a calamity of Neff’s fire from about two weeks prior. It’s interesting that the fire occurred only two days after I literally climbed Neff’s Canyon, and now I’m hiking the exact same area, just from a different direction, and I get to see the aftermath. The mountains and the super tall trees make me feel small and vulnerable today. It’s eerie seeing the trees all mangled as they are, although it’s not all of them that got burnt. It’s as if the fire selectively spared trees all over the area. And many of the tree trunks seemed fine and just the branches were all curled up like a dying little creature.
We hiked for exactly 2 hours, which is when I made a promise I’d turn back down. Since it took me 50 minutes just to get up that road, it didn’t leave too much time for the trail. I am always driven by curiosity when hiking, so when I see a big huge climb, I always go up, dying to know what is on top. We did one final steep climb and after taking in the sights of the next section, we all turned around for the fun run, skip and jump back down.
We enjoyed talking to some of the residents of the cabins on our way back down the road. It seems like a great community and maybe someday when there aren’t so many fires, we can live in a mountain cabin too.
All in all, I did enjoy the actual hiking trail enough. It was steep and uneventful and burnt up creepy, but any time I’m in the mountains I feel like my mind clears and inspiration fills that space. Always grateful for the nature in my life, not to mention it wipes out the girls for a few hours. I would do it again, but maybe not alone. I think with the long road, it would be more enjoyable with a friend.
There is no cell coverage anywhere along the way…not the parking lot, not the road, and not even high up the hill. So if you’re listening to music, be sure to download it first.
I was amused by the overflow of cascading tree roots coming out from behind the rock. It was unbeknownst to me if they are alive or dead. It was a nice composition of nature doing her wild, unpredictable things. I am always amazed at what she will do to survive even the gnarliest of circumstances and find the will to live, even if in a big, high-off-the-ground rock. It made we wonder if the trees that are born in very shady areas of the forest are sad because the sun will never, ever shine on them unless they can grow so tall to get beyond such limitations.
Watch the quaking aspens quake. Watch closely!