Steam Mill Lake, 1 August, 2020
For this outing, hikers had the option of a simple up-and-back trip to Steam Mill Lake or they could come back via Steep Hollow by taking the Shorty's Cutoff Trail. The Shorty's Cutoff hikers needed to place bicycles or vehicles at Steep Hollow in advance so they could get back to the Steam Mill Trailhead after the hike.
On Saturday morning, nine hikers assembled at our usual meeting place at 8:00 and drove 26 miles to the Steam Mill Trailhead. There, we met two others who had driven up earlier so they could leave bicycles at Steep Hollow. We started hiking about 9:00 by crossing Steam Mill Creek, then headed south for a few hundred yards on the White Pine Canyon Trail before turning west up the Steam Mill Trail. We noticed evidence of chain-sawed logs and other recent trail maintenance as we hiked, and before long we met the mountain bikers who had done the work. They were riding e-bikes, which are not allowed on non-motorized trails. We made an attempt to explain the e-bike policy and they rode on, apparently unconvinced.
After 1.6 steep miles the trail moderated after crossing over the ridge into Steam Mill Canyon. Before long we reached the Steam Mill Creek and finally, the old steam boiler, 3.2 miles from the trailhead. It was a very hot day, so we rested in the shade, then one hiker left the group to return via Shorty's Cutoff and others continued the final 1.4 miles to Steam Mill Lake. Some hikers stopped at the east side of the lake for lunch while the others continued on to the west side. The two groups rejoined after lunch and went back to the steam boiler, although a couple of hikers took a different way down in an attempt to locate an old trail.
After a bit of indecision at the boiler, the group split up. Six hikers went north on the Shorty's Cutoff Trail and the others hikers went east, down the Steam Mill Trail for an uneventful hike back to the trailhead. The Steep Hollow hikers stopped to investigate a collection of liquor bottles hanging from a tree, apparently a makeshift memorial, and they made a short side trip to see the Hell's Kitchen yurt. The Steep Hollow road was reached about 4:00, where they found remnants of an old logging camp and played "fetch" with a friendly dog. A quarter mile west they left the dusty road and moved to an old hiking trail for the last half mile of the trip, although that trail had been damaged by cattle so it was not easy to find or follow. Upon arriving at the Franklin Basin road the hikers enjoyed ice water from a cooler waiting in Dave W's truck, a welcome treat on such a hot day. The hidden bicycles were retrieved for the 3-mile ride down to the Steam Mill Trailhead and the other vehicles.
As noted, it was a hot day, but the hiking was good and wildflowers were everywhere. Besides the e-bike riders, we encountered a couple of equestrian groups and some other hikers, too. The GPS track for the Shorty's Cutoff hikers showed 9.9 miles and about 2300 feet of ascent. The other hikers traveled about 9.3 miles with 1950 feet of ascent.
Thanks to Dave W. for the narrative, photos and GPS data, and Jane, Brent, Dave P. and Susan for photos.