|Hiking||17.07 Miles|| 9 Hrs 45 Mns ||2.12 mph|
|4,399 ft AEG|| 1 Hour 42 Mns Break|
|Part 1 of our long 4th of July weekend involved an overnight kayaking trip on the Colorado from Glen Canyon Dam to Lee's Ferry on July 4-5. I'll post a separate triplog for that. For Part 2, we drove down from Lee's Ferry and set up a dispersed camp off FR418, per the Coconino NF MVUM https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DO ... 575890.pdf; however, we saw several folks who had set up dispersed camps in other areas, not noted on the map. There were rangers at Lockett Meadow who, no doubt, drove by these sites, but I guess enforcement is lax--or maybe I'm missing something ....|
In any event, we really liked our site, and it was only a short drive from there to the IB trailhead the next morning. With three kayaks strapped to the top of our car, we joked about telling folks at Lockett Meadow that we were misinformed about the size of the body of water near the campground.
We were on the trail by 8 a.m. on the nose, well in advance of the arrival of most of the Phoenix crowd coming up for the day.
A friend had attempted this hike a couple of weeks ago, but was turned back by deep snow that obscured the trail and resulted in a lot of post-holing at the point where the IB trail turns up sharply to meet up with Weatherford.
With that in mind, as well as the long switchback above Agassiz, I monitored recent photos and we took a hard look at Agassiz on our drive up to Lee's Ferry a couple of days earlier. I had packed hiking poles and Yaktrax, but decided that the snow had probably melted enough not to need them. I still packed the Yaktrax just in case, but left the poles in the car. Ended up regretting the latter decision ... ]
The hike through the aspens was amazing, as usual. A strong and vibrant carpet of green grass under the aspen canopies. I still think that, on the scale of amazing aspen groves, this one is unrivaled.
Upon reaching the IB and the "bus stop," we got a closer eye on snow levels. We could see that Weatherford was clear as it crossed the avalanche zones on Fremont, but couldn't make out conditions in the forested sections. As for Agassiz, there was definitely a stretch of snow that would need to be crossed on the long switchback, but we figured others had probably tromped out a pretty good path.
For a couple hundred yards past the bus stop, it looked like some efforts have been made to repair some of the erosion damage from the prior year, but beyond that, the trail remains deeply washed out, causing alternate trails to sprout up along the edges.
After re-entering the tree cover on the west end of the IB, we started what I consider the only portion of this hike that is just a bit of a slog--the 1-mile, mostly-forested ascent over pretty rocky trail to the turn-up to Weatherford. This section always seems to be a grind in both directions--and always feels a lot longer than it actually is.
On the way to the turn up, we started seeing patches of snow, but nothing really obscuring the trail. At the turn up, however, there were still solid sections with snow, though nothing that would discourage us from proceeding. Near the bottom, there were a couple of spots where we had to look carefully to make sure we were still on the trail, but otherwise, there were just large mounds of snow on the trail in spots where we needed to climb up/over/or around. No real postholing, as what was left was pretty solid, with a layer of slush forming on the top as it melted. No need for the Yaktrax (or poles) here.
Soon enough, we reached the Weatherford junction, and from there to Doyle saddle, again there were some sections where we would climb over or around some snow mounds, but no big deal. In some areas, the snow that paralleled the trail was still 3-4 feet deep.
On the backside of Agassiz, we finally approached the section we knew we would have to cross in snow. It turned out to be more sketchy that we had anticipated. Hiking poles would have added a lot of confidence. My daughter used the Yaktrax, and my son and I just carefully kicked out footholds across a 40-yard or so section of snow-cover that could not be bypassed. We managed fine, but I will say that photos don't do a very good job of capturing the exposure/slope. If you slip, there's no stopping until you hit the bottom of the snowfield, going at pretty solid clip .... I imagine the sketchy section on the backside of Agassiz will be clear in a week or so.
After this section, there were two more, smaller snow traverses at the end of the switchback, then a final snowcrossing just below the crossover before the descent to to the summit trail saddle. From that point on, the trail was clear. At the saddle, we joined in with the expected masses coming up the summit trail. And the summit itself was as busy as I've seen it. Weather was perfect for the hike.
We didn't spend a lot of time on the summit. Upon reaching the summit trail saddle on the return, I realized I had not managed my nutrition very well and was starting to pay the price. I tried to force some food and hydration, but it was a little late, and for the last several miles back to the TH, I was accompanied by some unsettling nausea--from which I didn't really recover until half way back on the drive to Phoenix. A good reminder to make sure to follow my own rules of fueling up early and consistently on longer hikes, because you can't make up for it later on ....
My teenagers were doing fine and managed to keep me mostly distracted by engaging in a Socratic-style Q and A about politics of all things--the differences in views between conservatives and liberals; republicans and democrats; as well as the checks and balances of the U.S. govt (house vs. senate seats; bicameralism; veto power of the president), etc. Not exactly communing with nature, but I guess since it was 4th of July weekend, it seemed appropriate. And I suppose it's always a success whenever you can get teenagers to engage with their parents in thoughtful conversation about any matter of substance. More important, the conversation had a check-and-balance effect on my competing urge to toss up my cookies ....
When we finally entered the aspen grove with 2 miles to go, I was in awe again of the aspens in the afternoon lighting, but only snapped a few photos. My son took the lead and set a 17-min/mi. pace that zipped us back to the TH.
Dinner in Flag for me consisted of Sprite and some Pringles, which did a good job of settling the stomach.
The drive back home was not as bad as I thought it would be. A lot of volume, but no accidents or stop and go. (I'm sure it was much worse on Sunday evening).
Stomach issues notwithstanding, this is always a favorite hike, and a great way to wrap up an excellent weekend of memories with my family.