Neff’s Canyon/Mount Olympus Ridge

Posted: 25th June 2011 by Jonathan Wood in Hiking
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Today was an interesting day. I’ve been extremely busy with computer stuff and really wanted to get a workout in the mountains today.

The forecast was calling for highs near 90. I handle the heat pretty well but my dog doesn’t. We started by driving to Bells Canyon, which has some reservoirs that could keep the dog cool. But not only was the parking absolutely packed, but there were signs that absolutely no dogs were allowed on this hike.

So next I drove to Neff’s Canyon, between Mill Creek Canyon and Mount Olympus. Neff’s has a stream for most of the hike and I figured there would be water on this hike as well.

I’ve hiked Neff’s a number of times, but usually in the Winter. When the trail is covered in packed snow, it’s fairly easy to walk on. But in the Summer, the trail is rather rocky and sections of it turn into a creek. And I hadn’t considered the fact that we’ve had some record precipitation this year and higher temperatures would be causing increased snow melt.

Sure enough, I could see sections of the river had overflowed the banks. There have been several drownings this year (both people and dogs) as a result of fast-moving creeks, and sections of the creek looked very fast moving. And, sure enough, we didn’t go far before we had to across it. In fact, we had to walk across it a number of times. Naturally, I was pretty cautious, mostly for the dog. But I was able to find places to cross that weren’t too deep and it wasn’t a problem (other than water in my boots for the remainder of the hike).

It became more problematic higher up. Sections of the trail were now a fast-moving river. There were a number of “side trails” that went around the worst areas. I used several such trails until, finally, I was simply unable to find a way to access the main trail. I had fast moving rivers on both sides of me.

I thought about turning back but I was bent on getting my hike today. The slope I ended up on was very steep and there were no more trails. But I decided to “bushwhack” it up the hill. This took me slightly South, closer to the Mount Olympus area.

We continued up for nearly an hour. It was starting to get pretty warm, which really brought out the deer flies. For most of the hike, I had 20 – 30 swarming around me, and about the same number around the dog. It got steeper until the slope eased up a bit and we stopped at a patch of snow to cool down.

We must have startled a moose pretty bad because he went charging off through the trees. Initially, I could not see him very well and I was startled by all the noise, thinking he might be charging us!

At this point, there was a ridge that ran along on my right. I turned up and headed directly up to the top of the ridge. This climb got steeper than at any point before. I was on all fours for much of this section. Once on top of the ridge, it was difficult to go much further. The ridge was very rocky and extremely steep all around. Mount Olympus has some rocky slopes that require rock-climbing gear to climb. While I wasn’t on Mount Olympus itself, you could certainly see some similar type of slopes.

The deer flies were also really bad on this ridge. I figured I’d got my workout and I headed back down. I stopped for a snack where we had seen the moose, and then we continued on down. I was wearing shorts and my legs got pretty cut up going down. But it didn’t take that long before we were back on the trail.

At one point, a rattling sound caught both me and my dog’s attention. It was a rattlesnake right on the side of the trail. It wasn’t coiled up but it kept doing short bursts of rattling, perhaps to let us know it was there. I haven’t observed this behavior before. It slowly made it’s way up the side of the trail. I made sure it was off the trail before anyone else came along, and then I continued on.

A few canyons with gates that close for the Winter will be opening those gates soon (such as Mill Creek and Butterfield Canyons). This will open up a lot of additional hiking opportunities, including hikes higher up were it can be a little cooler. I’m definitely looking forward to that. As the temperature gets into the 90s and 100s, I need some additional options.

Today was a little rough going. Nonetheless, I did get my workout in the mountains today.

Highest Point: 7,951 Feet
Elevation Gained: 2,466 Feet
Distance Traveled: 4.55 Miles
Time on Mountain: 3.5 Hours

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