My husband and I took an exploratory drive down the Middlefork Road a couple weeks ago. Typically, in the early season, we’ll go out to Sheep Creek to do some training hikes to an unnamed peak that we call by its elevation, 6125. But this is the first year that we’ve had a vehicle we feel comfortable taking out that way in early April.
Now, we know the route we typically take to the Queen’s River trailhead will still be closed. Even with the early warm weather we’ve been getting, roads like Swanholm are likely to be snowy, icy, muddy or all three. I still wouldn’t anticipate going down those roads much before Memorial Day. But the Middlefork Road is kept open through the winter for the town of Atlanta, so we figured the Subaru could make it.
And we could always turn back.
That morning, I had a few chores to take care of before we headed out. A disappointing dentist appointment, and a very quick and easy blood donation. Now, I had thought that I might hike after this, but then the Red Cross folks reminded me that I shouldn’t be exerting myself too heavily after donating blood, so when I got home from the donation, I made sure to grab a towel and my bikini in case I could convince Ambrose to stop at a hot springs.
He was in a VERY big hurry so I ended up leaving the house with neither my phone nor my camera. Therefore, we saw a lot of cool stuff that we usually don’t see, and I have no photographic evidence to offer!
For starters, the water levels around Discovery Park were abysmally low. There were a ton of sandbars showing, and where folks usually paddleboard there looked like hardly enough water to keep someone afloat. Sand Point had absolutely no water in it, with the spout totally dry. Then, we saw a helicopter taking off from the Lucky Peak Helibase as we were driving along 21. I always see the sign for the Helibase, but this was the first time I’d actually seen a copter taking to the air from it.
As we drove around the Lucky Peak reservoir, I was disappointed to see the low water levels were also on display here. Low water levels will only exacerbate the fire season, and we had a pretty bad one last year. Only a few boats plied the shallow waters on this day, and the floating docks that sprinkle the banks were flat on dirt, well above the water line.
I was hoping that the Arrowrock reservoir would be mostly full. Last year, we never saw any water coming down the spillway next to the dam. This year, I saw a trickle flowing out and sighed with relief. Indeed, when we got to the top of the dam, it was clear that this reservoir was nearly full. Oh, and we finally got caught with another car coming at us driving that very narrow part of road above the dam. I’m always nervous about a car popping up, but it actually went fine. They backed up because they were closer to their end than we were to ours and we got around them on the wider part of the road.
It lifted my heart to see the water levels at Arrowrock higher than I’d seen them in a few years. There were several boats out on the water, and not a whole lot of traffic on the road. As we drove along, we kept an eye out for trails to try. Near one of the pit toilets, we found one that we’ll be trying this weekend. It has no shade and looks like it’s just straight up a ridgeline, perfect for training!
But on this day we drove on. Now that we have a Crosstrek, I no longer dread the speed bumps in Twin Springs. I mean, I get that they need to be fairly aggressive to stop people from driving fast through the resort, but I was always nervous driving the Focus over them, let alone the old Civic. The Crosstrek handles the speed bumps just fine.
Soon after Twin Springs, we drove by a car sitting at the side of the road, looking abandoned. One of the windows was open and there looked to be some damage. So that’s another unusual thing we saw.
The Sheep Creek trail looked like it would be doable, if not that particular day, then quite soon. There was some snow way up on the ridgeline above Twin Springs, but most of the trail we’d take wouldn’t be right on the ridge. So that one should be ready for a mid-May hike, even with the snow we got last week.
As we drove on, because I had indeed convinced Ambrose that a visit to Loftus Hot Spring was in order, we came across yet another abandoned vehicle. But this one was a bit more spectacular. It had clearly rolled based on the damage, and it had also clearly been there a while, judging by the numerous bullet holes in the side facing the road. The license plate was no more, either fallen off or removed.
We arrived at Loftus just as another couple was leaving so the timing was just right. I got to enjoy a nice little hot soak, and Ambrose tested out his InReach Mini. I really ought to get mine better set up, but I keep putting it off. Then we headed back.
Ambrose turned in to get a closer look at the rollover wreck, but I warned him against taking my car tires too close to the piles of broken metal and glass around it. We did get a little closer to it, but not too much.
On the drive back, a large bird of prey caught my eye. It was practically posing for me atop a large, leafless tree. Of course, of course, that’s only going to happen when I don’t have a camera! Based on the side and coloration, I think it was a golden eagle. But it sure would have been nice to have a picture to confirm that guess.
We had a good drive overall. It always makes me feel better to be in the woods, if only for a brief afternoon.