As I’m packing up my bike it starts raining. It’s February, and raining. I consider bagging the trip, but then remember what I learned long ago. If you cancel a trip because of potential bad weather, you’re not likely to go on too many trips. I’ve been itching to get out in the Winter on my fatbike, so after looking at several weather reports, and the Sundance Resort forecast, I decide to head out. My destination is close anyway, so if I did have to bail, not big deal.
I left the Pine Hollow parking lot, up American Fork Canyon, at about 3:30 pm. It’s really warm, and within a couple minutes I am down to my lightweight baselayer top, bareheaded and bare handed (though I do have some lightweight pogies). It was 35 degrees at the trailhead and since it’s all uphill from there, I am really warm. But fortunately the trail is packed out nicely, it isn’t snowing, nor has it lately, so the riding conditions are excellent. My plan is to ride to the summit (of the Alpine Loop), and maybe camp up there.
Winter camping gear is heavier and bulkier than what you might use in the Summer. For example, I use two pads in the Winter, an inflatable pad with a high r-value (the Thermarest Neoair Xtherm), and a foam pad (z-rest), a big puffy jacket, a Winter sleeping bag (Feathered Friends Tern), extra clothing layers in case you get wet, a stove system that works well in the cold (I used the MSR Windburner), etc. So my bike looks a bit bloated. Granted I did take more than I probably needed for this kind of short trip. But I also wanted to see what was possible to load on a bike.
About a quarter mile from the summit the road was completely covered with wind drifted snow, 2-3 feet deep with no snowmobile tracks going through. It was pretty soft and required some pushing (i.e. walking) through it. There was quite a bit of wind drifting at the summit area. With a forecast for high winds that night, I decided not to camp up top. So I turned around and rode back down.
I bombed down the road, then took the singletrack cutoff to the Salamander Flat camping area. I didn’t really see a good place to camp, so continued on down the road to Timpooneke Campground. There is a site near the top of the loop that I have had my eye on for several years. I’ve ridden by it many times. It’s a nice site in the woods with outstanding views of the north summit of Mt. Timpanogos. By the time I had climbed the trails up to the campsite I was feeling pretty tired. Riding a loaded bike on snow is much more difficult than on dirt. It was now close to 6:00 pm. I leisurely set up camp, fed Reggie, cooked and ate dinner, then went for a nice walk through the woods. It is so quiet and peaceful up there. It was nice to just walk for a bit in the silence, light snow falling softly and silently. The bulk of Mt. Timpanogos was highlighted against the light Winter sky.
The other thing about Winter camping is that the nights are very long. It’s usually dark by 5:30 or 6:00 and gets light around 7:00 am. I normally bring a book on campouts, but decided to just spend time relaxing and thinking. I did bring a small notebook and spent some time writing. It didn’t get that cold, maybe low 20’s. We headed into the tent at about 8:45 pm. Reggie is a pretty good conversationalist. He agrees with pretty much anything I say. Once we got into the tent, Reggie immediately burrowed into the side of my lofty down sleeping bag and was asleep within five minutes. He carried his own foam pad and a piece of an old sleeping bag for insulation under him, but he ended up just laying on my clothes and down jacket for most of the night. Oh well, at least he carried his own stuff, including his food.
I slept very warm. Granted it didn’t get that cold, and my sleeping bag is rated to -10 degrees, so no surprise there. I slept well and didn’t get up until 7:00 am when I heard some fatbikers coming up the trail. Oatmeal and hot chocolate for breakfast, then a morning ride (without all the gear). I followed snowmobile tracks up the narrow valley toward the slopes of the North Summit of Timp. It’s really pretty up there. It didn’t take long to start overheating again. I returned to camp, packed up, and headed out. I rode the Timpooneke Campground Loop, then headed down the road to the trailhead parking lot.
Finally, some shots of how I carried everything, and a break down of what I carried for all the gearheads out there.
Revelate Designs frame bag: extra tube, toiletries, fire making kit, knife, stove and fuel, mug/bowl (filled with oatmeal and hot chocolate), pump, first aid kit.
Revelate Jerry can: tools
Oveja Negra top tube bag: chapstick, bandanna, multitool, some snacks.
Oveja Negra Chuck bucket: snacks
Revelate Mountain Feedbag: camera
Tribulus Limited handlebar bag: tent, extra clothes, light puffy jacket, headlamp, food, Z-rest pad, small notebook and pencil, other misc. items
DIY Jones bar bag: extra gloves, Buff, warm hat, T.P. in ziplock bag
Old Man Mountain rear rack: sleeping bag in compression stuff sack, SnowClaw minimalist shovel, 2 Nalgene bottles in Outdoor Research water bottle parkas.
Big puffy jacket (Montbell Alpine down parka) in dry bag stuffed behind the seat, along with z-rest sit pad and Gorillapod.
Bedrock Bags Redwall pogies.
Slingfin Portal 2 tent
Surly Pugsley bike
It was a fun trip. The riding was good, the camping was fun, the scenery beautiful as to be expected up there. Though Winter trips take a bit more planning, gear, and effort, in my opinion, Winter is a great time to get out. When else can you have an entire campground all to yourself? And no cars.