Monday, July 18, 2011

Quick snow update

There's still plenty of it in and around the Rubies' "Greatest Hits" destinations - the trails out of Lamoille Canyon, Ruby Dome, the passes on the Ruby Crest Trail, etc. The trail to Island Lake is clear - the waterfall is absolutely ROARING at the moment! The short trail up Thomas Canyon is open, as is the trail up Right Fork (as far as it goes, it turns into rock cairn and bushwhack about 1.5 miles in).

Those looking for clear trails would probably be best served taking off out of the various Ruby Valley trailheads, or heading towards the East Humboldts. The Secret-Starr trail will be clear - of snow, at any rate - and both Gray Lake and Smith Lake will be open. The Boulders are likely to still have snow at the lakes.

Keep in mind that these trails receive very little use and thus very little maintenance and you'll have to deal with deadfall, overgrowth and/or route-finding. The mile-long trail out of Angel Lake to Smith Lake is new-ish and in good shape. The Secret-Starr Trail between Angel Lake and Gray Lake is easy enough to find, but past Gray Lake can be pretty tenuous.


  1. Smith Lake is completely ice free and the fish are rising. Getting there still requires post-holing across some pretty tricky drifts to get over the lip. Greys Lake trail is almost nonexistent after the trout creek crossing. It's way overgrown and difficult to find even if you have it tracked on GPS. Since it is privately owned, no forestry work is done on the trail at all...ever.

  2. It's been about eight years since I've been to Grays Lake, and I'm surprised to hear that the trail has deteriorated that much in that time. It was steep but very obvious after Trout Creek when I was there, until you crested the next ridgeline. It was pretty sketchy as it crossed the last little drainage before you dropped into the Grays Lake drainage, but it was not all that necessary at that point. It was generally there if extremely overgrown dropping into the lake, and I had no problem at all getting to where I was going.

    We're going to lose these trails completely unless they get some traffic and some attention from users. The USFS clearly isn't getting them cleaned out - understandably given access issues - and the Backcountry Horsemen group locally isn't as active as a lot of other chapters. That leaves trail fairies to get it done. We have a few of them locally but not nearly enough to address the need. It would take a dozen very active fairies to even make a dent in some of these trails.

    I walked up the Right Fork trail with the kids this weekend. Back in the day that trail went all the way to the back of the canyon and switchbacked up to look over Box Canyon. These days it dies in the willows as soon as you get on the bench - and this is ostensibly one of the most-used trails in the Rubies.

    Use 'em, love 'em or lose 'em. Honestly, that's part of the point of this blog. I'd like to see folks use some of these other trails, visit some of these other destinations. Otherwise, eventually, they won't be able to - unless they're willing to go 100% cross-country.

  3. There is no point in blazing a trail that will be neglected. People who want to visit a backcountry destination will find a way to get there. Part of the fun is travelling on a trail less travelled. Those of you who want a paved trail can find them in California and Colorado. Leave well enogh alone.

  4. That's the point, "Anonymous" - without a minimum amount of maintenance there will BE no "trail less travelled." There'll be no trail!

    If you're willing to benefit from the work of others and not kick in yourself, no worries. You're far from alone in this regard. Somewhere along the line, though, some cool person did the heavy lifting in the past, which is why these old trails are here in the first place. Somebody's going to have to do the heavy lifting to keep them minimally useable. If that's not you, so be it.

  5. There are trails in the Rubies which can be found and followed which are not maintained by humans. Oftentimes they are simply game trails created and maintained by deer or cattle, or the seasonal use of hunters, and most of them are more than adequate. I prefer them. Other people do to. The Ruby Mountains are not Yosemite - part of their appeal are that they are wild and remote and not often traveled. There is no reason to change that - you have enjoyed that experience, it should be preserved for future generations. When traffic increases or people go off trail and cause destruction, it can be dealt with then, but the best course of action when dealing with the wilderness in the majority of cases is to preserve it in its original unaltered state.

  6. If you want to hike off-trail or follow a game trail, go for it. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking specifically about USFS system trails, which are disappearing without use and maintenance. I get what you're trying to say, but there are only 200 miles or so of system trails in the Rubies and East Humboldts. There are 400,000 acres +. You have plenty of terrain to get lost in even with a small bit of trail maintenance. No need to be elitist... we're not talking about building sidewalks here, your previous comments notwithstanding. We are just talking about not losing the trails our tax dollars and our predecessors built.

  7. Just about every canyong in the Rubies has a trail up it. Many of those trails are maintained by the traffic of deer, cattle and hunters in the Fall. If more people used them,they would be even more defined. The hike to Seitz Lake has its challenges, but that is part of the enjoyment. I have lost a trail many a time, and am not as young, fit or experienced as you are. Nature will take care of itself - if more people hike to Seitz Lake, they will improve the trail in the process. This certainly is a cool Summer.