Memories of Timp Hikes Past
As a teenager, I recall many hikes up Timpanogos Mountain ( Timp ). Only one of these hikes occurred during the day. Many hikers like to make this hike on a full moon. We try to time things just right so we can be sitting on the summit and watch the sunrise. Having lived my whole life under the shadow of this mountain, sunrises weren’t nearly as spectacular as sunsets for me. It would often be full daylight before sunlight ever reached my yard. But then I watched my first sunrise from the top of this majestic mountain. It is quite the thing to witness.
Like I said, I made this hike a number of times as a teenager. Every year with our youth group, once with family, and a number of times with different groups of friends. One time I hiked to the top from the Aspen Grove trail, but all of the other times we took the Timpooneke trail. There were times that we stopped at the “saddle,” but most often I made it to the summit. Many people slide down the glacier from the summit but I never took that venture. We often met and were scared by the “resident moose.” Once we stopped and played around Emerald Lake. I don’t remember any “bad” trips up the mountain. We had aches and pains, but I don’t recall serious injuries. It was a fun hike which I anticipated every year.
Passing on my passion
And so I decided to try and share these memories with my children. Caitlin (15), Josh (13), and Kristie (11), each decided they wanted to try hiking Timp with me. I invited Charlee (9), but she said she doesn’t like the dark or heights so she was happy to stay at home. I invited my sister, Jenni, and she was as giddy as I was. She brought along her oldest boy, Jake.
I watched the full moon schedule, tracked the snow melt, watched the weather and waited for the right time to hike. We tried to go up in early August, but our adventure was thwarted by thunderstorms. (My dad took scouts up there once and got caught in lightening…Yeah, not something I wanted to do with my kids.) And so we set the date for Labor Day. I was so excited. My kids…not so much. They haven’t really done any hiking and didn’t know what to expect or anticipate.
I packed up apples, 2 different kinds of trail mix, 3 large Poweraides, 3 water bottles, and 2 camelbacks. We had 2 head lamps, 1 mag-light, 2 other flashlights, extra batteries, a pair of hand held radios, a first aid kit, and some random survival supplies. There were 2 backpacks with 3 poweraide/water bottles each, for the kids to trade off carrying along with one camelback. I carried the rest. (Yes, I am a mother who packs WAY too much for her brood, but I was able to heft the heaviest pack so…)
Labor Day Morning: 12:30 AM
I slept through my alarm so Jenni woke me up at 12:30 AM. It’s a good thing she was driving, I would have missed it. We stopped at Walmart for some snacks: bananas, grapes, pop tarts, jolly ranchers, and chewy sprees. (Most of which I hauled but we didn’t eat.) Then we headed up American Fork Canyon to the Timpooneke trailhead. The parking lot was nearly full when we arrived at 1:30am. (Hiking Timp is very popular) We took some pictures and were off!
Altitude Sickness or Sleepy Sickness
We hiked through the dark for about an hour at a nice slow pace. A number of groups passed us (mostly college kids), but we weren’t worried. Slow and steady wins the race, right?!?
Everything was just fine until Jake started getting sick. His stomach hurt and our breaks became more regular and lasted longer with each one. Thinking it might be dehydration, Jenni and I encouraged him to keep drinking water. It is amazing what water, and lack thereof, will do to your body. But things continued to get worse. We made it to the meadow above scout falls when Jake really started feeling poor. We had already seen 2 sets of hikers headed down. Both stated they had a sick hiker. I turned to Jake and told him, “Look! Even big college kids sometime have to turn around. We will stop if you need us to.”
Both Jenni and I were torn. We didn’t want to separate, but the looks on the faces of the kids at the thought of turning around was heartbreaking. Caitlin, Josh, and Kristie were pretty disappointed at the prospect, but they weren’t excited about the thought of leaving Jake either. Jake couldn’t fathom hiking another 3+ hours to the top, but didn’t want to be the reason we all turned around. Finally, Jenni suggested I take the older three while she and Jake tried to sleep for a bit and we would keep in touch via radio. We split up…and around 4:00 AM, Jenni radioed to let us know that they were headed back down the mountain. On the way to the parking lot, Jake threw up (that probably helped the most). By the time he got home, he was feeling great.
Going on alone
My kids were still determined to reach the saddle, but their energy level plummeted after leaving their cousin behind. Instead of joking and singing, there was silence. Breaks were still fairly regular as our altitude increased rapidly. Just a little perspective, the hike to the basin (or what we always called the meadow) is about 5 miles and rises over 3,000 ft in altitude. We made it to the meadow around 5:45 am (a little over 4 hours of hiking). We were only about 2 miles from the summit but the kids were beat. They wanted to rest for a minute. I knew if they stopped they would never go again, but I also didn’t want to make their first hike a miserable one.
I went off in the trees to use the bathroom and by the time I got back, the kids were snoring. Seriously, they huddled up together against the cold and fell asleep and started to snore. I knew we were done but I wasn’t too disappointed. They had done a really hard thing and it was pretty amazing.
This is a picture of our “camping” spot that I took when the sun came up. Below is a picture that Caitlin took when I was trying to rouse my minions in hopes of climbing higher. They weren’t too keen on the idea.
While listening to the sonorous sounds of snoring…I heard a rescue helicopter coming near. It came up over the saddle and circled for a solid 20 minutes. I had never seen rescue people up on Timp before and hoped that they were just checking the area since it was a holiday and there were so many hikers. But that wasn’t so…
As the sun rose and the kids and I were traipsing about the meadow, the chopper came back and landed. We watched them pull out a gurney and some of their supplies. There were no hikers in the area of their landing (we knew cause we had been all over that area messing around). So they were going to have to hike to the injured party and then carry them back to the chopper. So we decided to begin our decent.
view from the basin
As I said before, the meadow is less than 2 miles from the summit but more than 1500 ft higher in elevation. Here are a couple of pictures that I took to show the kids where we were trying to reach in the dark. The first picture shows the summit (even if it is a little out of focus). For their first hike I really only expected us to get to the saddle (picture #2). Alas, after listening to rescue choppers, I was satisfied with our hike and extremely grateful for our safety.
Enjoying the scenery on the way down
One good thing about hiking in the dark is that you don’t see how far you still have to go. It is easier to get into a rhythmic routine of “just keep hiking, just keep hiking, hiking, hiking…All you have to do is HIKE…HIKE.” (Thanks Dory for the theme song) It is also cooler. As the sun hits the trail it can get unbearably hot…fast. I ache for the people just starting their accent as we reach the bottom. Along with the heat of the sun, we have the light to show us the beauties and perils we crossed in the dark. The kids looked around, amazed by the beautiful meadows, and foliage, the treacherous shale crossings, and the awesome views of the canyon below.
We even saw two moose eating just off the trail. They are hard to see in the picture but I assure you, I didn’t really want to get much closer. When they brought up their heads and looked directly at me…I froze…hoping they wouldn’t spook and charge. Thankfully they went right on grazing.
The Down Beat
The hike down was always the worst for me as a youth. And 8 kids later was no exception. One of the ligaments in my hip hurt so bad I could hardly lift my leg. My knees didn’t really appreciate all of the pounding. And Kristie complained of tired feet as we reached the parking lot.
But 5 days later as I right this post I have almost forgotten the pain and really do want to go at it again. Next time (next year) we will make it to the summit of Timp!