So, I asked my awesome buddy Jessica to accompany us. She's been babysitting my kids for 10 years now, and she's pretty great company. (She just put in her papers to serve a mission --how is that possible!? I can't believe she's almost 21.) Her job allows her time off in the day and so she agreed to be my helper (there's no way I would have gone hiking with a 2 yr old and a baby alone. Plus a 5 yr old and 7 yr old. If my daughters had been here, I MIGHT have tried it). I also convinced one of my favorite blogging buddies to come with us, too. She has two kids (5 yrs and 3 yrs). And so, we set off!
I had gotten sunburned at Bridal Veil Falls on Tuesday (pretty badly on my legs. Ouch, ouch!), so I wanted to do something short and sweet, but still cool. We decided to drive up to Alta in Little Cottonwood Canyon to Cecret (or Secret) Lake. Once you park at the campground, it's a short 1/2 mile hike to a glacier lake. Easy enough, eh?
But easy enough was not meant to be!
We were two days too early. The gravel road to the campground, from where the trailhead began, was shut. Closed. "Ah, well," we thought, "we can just walk the road to the campground and then the trail to the lake, right? It can't be that far."
And thus began our Epic Hike.
First mistake: As we started up the road, six kids in tow, we asked several people coming down if they had been to Cecret Lake and if it was far. We were met with a lot of "yep, it's really far!" and "it took us over four hours" and the like. One couple told us to take a short-cut over to a different trail, one that would bypass the road by almost half. We took their advice and hopped on that trail. Pretty soon, we came to a fork. Armed with google maps on our phones (which worked the entire day, huzzah!), we tried to assess where we were according to where the lake was --unfortunately, the GPS photos had been taken in winter. No visilble trails, anywhere! Just service roads. We talked about it for a bit, made a guess and took a left.
Second mistake: When we realized (after scaling up the mountain --well, not "scaling" but going straight up instead of taking the road which had switchbacks) that we were back on the regular road and probably should have taken a right, it was kind of too late. Oh, well. We stopped and had some snacks. We then ran into four employees of the Cottonwood canyons educational center, and they encouraged us to just go up the road to the restaurant by the lifts, turn right, and hike back to the parking lot through a great meadow. They didn't think our kids would make it all the way to Cecret Lake. We didn't decide then what to do, but instead pressed on. When we got above the restaurant area, we saw a trail cutting up the mountain in switchbacks, conferred with our maps on our phones, talked it over, and decided to try the back trail to Cecret Lake instead of going all the way to the campsites.
Third mistake: By now the kids were hungry. We stopped to eat lunch and get some rest (which made our backpacks lighter!), and then we pressed on. We were going up some steep switchbacks on what we soon learned was a service road. How did we learn this? The truck that passed us on the way down and told us we couldn't get to Cecret Lake that way unless we cut through some land at the next ski lift we came to. He also mentioned that if we stopped up the next switchback, we might be able to see moose in the valley below. We went up another switch back and kind of collapsed. The kids had been having fun stopping at every snow bank we came to, but they were getting VERY tired. It was almost 3PM and we had no idea how far away the lake was. Jessica decided to run on ahead to see where the lake was while we stayed to try to find moose (we never did see any). Jessica texted me when she saw the lift and guessed, according to all of our knowledge, that the lake was a good 45 minutes away from where she was, which, we estimated, for us with little kids, was at least 90 minutes away.
By then it was 3:15PM. We had gotten to Alta at 11:20AM.
We made an executive decision. Jessica took Becca's oldest son and my oldest son and they went on with one of the backpacks (with water and snacks and Jessica's cell phone) to the lake. Becca and I took the four younger kids and headed back the way we came. It turned out to be the BEST decision so far because:
1. Our little kids took FOREVER to get down the mountain. Forever! In fact, we got to our cars in the parking lot only 10 minutes before Jessica and the boys did. That means they had hiked to the lake, hung around for about 20 minutes or so, took photos, and then hiked back.
2. The older boys were really excited to see the lake. I think it would have disappointed them deeply had we made them turn around.
3. Jessica got to see the lake, too.
We learned some lessons throughout our ordeal. We laughed about how we could draw Gospel parallels (the maps and people we encountered were prophets, the ski lifts was rod of iron, climbing obstacles/mountains, etc.) but I think there really were some things we learned (well, at least what I learned):
1. Always have enough food/water when you hike. We ran out of water about 60 minutes before we reached the cars, but we had extra in the cars waiting for us. We had plenty of food.
2. Be prepared for accidents. Luckily, we didn't have any serious ones (just scrapes). But I had the first aid kit just in case.
3. Plan for weather. It didn't rain on us, but it was hot. We had hats and sunscreen --but we should have used more sunscreen (we were gone longer than we thought we'd be!).
4. PLAN AHEAD. Read maps! Know where you are going! Holy cow. The hike that was supposed to be easy turned out to be so long and arduous, but had I just looked up when roads opened and such, we would have simply gone elsewhere and saved ourselves about 4 or 5 hours.
5. Our kids are amazing. Awesome. Troopers! They constantly surprised us at how well they did.
Truth be told, it was a lot of fun. Yes, the kids got tired. Yes, we had to carry three of them most of the time. Yes, my ankles hate me and I got sunburned again (sigh). And a blister on my toe (strange). But we were in nature with clear, clean air, and the mountain smelled just beautiful (pine!). Our kids got dirty and had a lot of exercise. We worked together and made the best of our situation. We laughed more than we cried (well, it was only four of the six who cried more than once), and we promised to do it again --but this time AFTER the gate was open for the season.
Needless to say, for two mommies, six kids, and one almost-missionary young adult, it was epic! Epic for us, anyway.
Photos of our experience!
(At the beginning. When we were optimistic. And had energy, although by the look on my face, you'd never know. Sigh.)
(Jessica holding #5. A common occurance, although he usually rode on her back.)
(Becca with her daughter in my Beco. Jessica and Becca took turns wearing #5 and Becca's daughter. I even put #6 in the Beco after a while when the Moby got too sweaty.)
(That's the dirt trail through the meadow on the way back. We were told that if we come back in just a week or two that it will be literally covered with wildflowers.)
(You see that small smudge up there on the left of the trail? That would be #5, sitting in the dirt, not wanting to go any further. He refused to ride on Becca's back, but didn't want to walk. He did this a lot on the way down, but he always eventually decided to get up and come to me to hold my hand.)