Six enthusiastic hikers embraced a change of plans and headed out for a fine fall hike. After discussing options they agreed on a “lollipop”style loop up Willow Creek rather than the planned trek from Temple Fork to Right Hand Fork. Laurel graciously agreed to substitute for Jim as the leader of the group, consisting of Dave P., Kathy, Jane, Nikolai, and Jeremiah.
After an amazing owl sighting at the Right Hand Fork Trailhead, the group started out in cool temperatures, passing junctions to Maughan and Ricks Canyons before following the Willow Creek Trail, a part of the Great Western Trail. Passing a hillside planting of Ponderosa Pine and several discarded telephone poles generated speculation about past activities along this trail. The loop part of the route began about 2 miles in at the signed junction for Ephraim’s Cutoff, and then climbed the ridge for great views of the Bear River Range and dots of fall color. About a mile and a half from the junction a very impressive sinkhole was found next to the trail.
The hikers continued to the (unsigned) Hunsaker Springs trail before enjoying a relaxing lunch break (and nap for some!) among the aspens at the high point (about 7400 feet). Wildflowers, dried now, were clearly present earlier in the season, but the trail after lunch was bordered by planted clumps of 4-5 feet tall Great Basin Wild Rye. The trail eventually became the Hunsaker Spring spur road, leading to the Temple Fork road, and the return to the Willow Creek Trail at Mud Flat. In a short distance the “lollipop” loop was complete and the group arrived at the Ephraim Cut-off junction again.
This hike was a little longer than the original plan, but didn't require a car shuttle. With only two mountain bikers on the trail and only two cars on Temple Fork road, Cache Hikers had no competition on this lovely fall day.
Thanks for Dave P and Jane for the narrative and photos. Thanks to Nikolai for the GPS work.