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Grove Creek Trail: We Almost Died That Day

Anywhere along the Wasatch Range in Utah, you can take a few hours or days to hike parts of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail or the more expansive Great Western Trail.  Close to my house there are three very easy access points, the easiest being the Battle Creek Trail, which my kids love because it has a refreshing waterfall.

Utah Mountain Letters

For years I've been wanting to explore more of these trail systems that pass behind "G" Mountain.  I actually started out one time with a bunch of friends, but quickly decided my sea-level midwest lungs were not ready for such an endeavor.  Since then, though, I've known a couple other people who've camped with their families up there, and I've been waiting for the day I'd be motivated to try it again. The painful and frightening journey we encountered when we finally tried it will not be something I EVER forget!

Here is a reference point to use as we move through the hike today...

The Pleasant Grove G

What we attempted to do was hike from Grove Creek over to Battle Creek.  We left a car at the Battle Creek trailhead, and drove the mile or so to where we wanted to begin.  In my mind the hike was going to take 6-7 hours.  We would have an uphill climb, but not too bad, on the Grove Creek side, level out into a much-talked-about green meadow, have an easy walk across the back, and even though we'd be tired, the Battle Creek downhill would be a piece of cake.  

It started out okay, wide and gradually climbing...

Grove Creek Trail

...then narrowing...

Hard Hikes

 ...then narrower and rocky...


 ...and HARD!  Instead of the easy climb I was expecting, we quickly found ourselves in the middle of steep and dangerous switchbacks, heading in the opposite direction we wanted to be going...

Grove Creek Trail

Utah Valley
View of the switchbacks about halfway through them.

It was about this point that people passing by started remarking how brave it was to be hiking with our kids. We're used to hearing that, too many people don't get out and do challenging things as a family.  We didn't realize that this time, they were mostly educated and heeding us a warning.  This is what we were about to come up on...

Pile of shale

The already steep and narrow trail changed from packed gravel to extremely loose rock shale on either side as well as right up the middle.  We'd now gone from slightly harrowing hike to white-knuckled parents clenching onto their over-energetic little boys to keep the whole family from sliding down the mountain.

It was also at this point that we started seeing people who had passed us coming back down and passing us again.  We knew there had to be a turn-around point for people not wanting to go all the way, we just never seemed to be getting there! 

This is how we were feeling...

Grove Creek Trail

...until, finally, we made it to the waterfall...

Utah waterfalls

...where we could see this view of the valley down below...


...and higher up, a trickling stream... 

Utah stream

Surely this means the trail is going to level out and be smooth sailing from here, right? Uh , NO!  All these years we have been lied to!  There's no leveling out and ease on the backside of this mountain.  What we had not taken into account after our legs were already screaming is that we now had to climb the hidden mountain on the left before eventually summiting the visible mountain on the right and then traversing the rest of the way straight back down.

The Pleasant Grove G

We tried to keep on going.  After the waterfall, the terrain changed from brown, hot, and rocky to green, cool, and safely packed.  We even ran into a friend on the trail...

Utah wildlife
Year-old moose
A Local Wander
A Local Wander
Trying to decide what we should do
 In the end, we just couldn't make it.  B, P, and I collapsed to the ground in the middle of a lush green hill while my husband ran ahead to find out where the blasted meadow was.  20 minutes later he came running back down the trail with a discouraged look upon his face.  This is a man who never quits anything, and doesn't always have the best sense about how far to push the boys.  Even he knew we were beat.  The only thing we had left to do?  Turn around and creep our way back down the death-defying way we'd already come.

It was harder.  Poor P had nothing left in his legs to give.  I carried him as far as I could before my own knees threatened to give out on me, and then somehow my husband managed to get back down the rest of the way with baby on back and P on his shoulders, scrappling through the steep rock shale, heading downhill this time instead.

The last photo before we were too exhausted and frustrated
 to get the camera out anymore.
Trust me, it does NOT represent the way we were feeling by the end of the day!
After nearly 5 hours we were back in the car, all alive, barely.  The next three days were not great as exhaustion brought about weak immunity and a round of family flu.  It's the first thing we've ever done that every person agreed equally was not a good idea and has not paled to some of rose-colored glasses nostalgia.  I'm quite certain it never will.

 So, what is the take away?
  •  Don't do this hike with kids.  Nobody told us beforehand, and everyone told us afterwards. 
  •  Don't do this hike as your first big trip of summer after sitting around all winter.  Your legs will scream at you!
  • Don't do ANY hike without first doing your research.  This was so uncharacteristic of me, but we had absolutely no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  Really simple lesson learned the really really hard way!

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