Tony Grove to Green Canyon, 13 October, 2019
This was not a scheduled Cache Hiker event, but Dave W. wanted to explore the trail before deer season and before the impending weather event brought more snow to the high country. Dave P. joined for the full distance while Jane and Kathy hiked several miles at the start and provided welcome transportation.
The hikers left Logan at 7:30 and started from the Backcountry Trailhead at Tony Grove about 8:25, following the Mt. Naomi National Recreation Trail south toward Green Canyon This was elk hunting season so they wore "hunter orange' for safety. Fall colors were mostly absent as premature cold weather had killed the aspen leaves, leaving them black and still attached. After the Wilderness boundary they followed the "official" trail to the south, higher on the ridge than the newer route often used by horses. At 10:00 they rested and enjoyed the view overlooking Cottonwood Canon, and about 10:30 Jane and Kathy turned back toward Tony Grove while "the Daves" resumed hiking south. "The Daves" came to the Blind Hollow trail junction about 11:00 and descended into Cottonwood Canyon, stopping for a conversation with a hunter on horseback along the way.
They made a couple of side trips to explore the trail situation on the ascent from the bottom of Cottonwood Canyon. At an unmarked junction Dave W. headed uphill to visit the old water trough at Cottonwood Spring while Dave P. bypassed it on the lower trail and waited. A section of old trail had been abandoned shortly after Cottonwood Spring and just past the junction to Wood Camp. After hiking up the new trail section they expored the abandoned part and found the way thoroughly blocked by fallen trees.
About 1:30 they had lunch at the "sheep camp" area. Here the trail heads west through a meadow before climbing steeply to the Cottonwood Canyon-Smithfield Canyon ridge. They could have investigated the spring about 1/3 mile to the northwest, but they were a bit behind schedule due to their detours (and Dave W. was tired, too). Heading uphill about 2:00, it was a long, slow climb up the steep trail (900 feet ascent in one mile to the ridge and then another half-mile and 300 feet) before before arriving at the north side of Mt. Elmer, where they had to carefully make their way across a steep slope in nearly a of foot of snow.
It was essentially all downhill after leaving Mt. Elmer about 4:00, but they still had 5 1/2 miles left to go. The trail grade lessened and the tread improved at the Wilderness boundary, making for easier walking over the last 2 miles. They finally arrived at the Green Canyon Trailhead at dusk (7:00), where Jane was waiting to drive them back to Logan. The GPS track shows 12.7 miles with 2800 feet of ascent and 4500 feet of descent (after deleting the side trips).
Note: The main objective of this hike was to investigate trail conditions. We found most of the trail signs were missing or damaged and several sections of trail no longer follow the "official" trail route. These observations emphasize the need for hikers to be competent with map and GPS, especially when using lesser-maintained Wilderness trails like this.
to Dave W. for the narrative, photos and GPS data and
Dave P. for photos.