Invigorated by our trip to Yosemite earlier in the week, we were chomping at the bit to hit the trail again in Utah. The weather was a bit overcast (in fact, higher elevations saw a little snow accumulation overnight) so we opted to try the Jardine Juniper trail. We had previously attempted this one last summer, but turned back because the hot, summer sun was too much for us, given Sprout was not accustomed yet to riding in her new pack at the time.The first part of the trail follows a creek with small waterfalls and is great for little toddler legs. The creek was quite full of snow melt, compared to the less agitated flow we encountered last summer. After a quarter-mile there is a small bridge crossing over the creek, which Sprout was delighted to stomp across. However, she opted for her pack after the crossing, even though the hike continues to be fairly easy for the next mile. The slight incline through the sagebrush fields with little tree cover may be challenging for tiny hikers. About a 1.25 miles from the parking lot there is another crossing, which is likely much easier in the summer. When the water is higher, you either need to get wet feet or balance across a tree bridge. We manager to remain dry on the trees with Sprout on our back, but may be challenging for young hikers.
Across the creek, the trail rounds a low hill and then becomes shaded by beautiful trees, reminiscent of east coast hiking, as a series of switch backs leads you up the mountain. These trees would be very welcoming in the heat of summer, and they were just starting to bloom in mid-April. The views of snow-capped peaks across the canyon were stunning, although some of our view was marred by low clouds.
The trail becomes less steep after 1000 feet or so of vertical and opens into a meadow before rising again to the famed Juniper. On this chilly late spring day, we found the upper region of the trail to be snowy from the previous night’s storm and very muddy. This area was about 3 miles into the hike. We slid and sunk into the ground, perturbing Sprout slightly. As usual, her response to perturbations such as mud (or waterfalls) is to fall asleep, which she did.
A bench (for sitting) marks the trail as it begins to climb again, distinguishing it from the Little Cottonwood Canyon trail, which has an intersection with Jardine Juniper trail here. As we climbed higher we found the snow to be deeper (more than 2 feet deep, by the looks of it) and the views of Mount Elmer and Beirdneau Peak grew in their grandeur. We followed mostly buried footprints through the snow, it was clear no one had been on the trail since the last major snowfall. The juniper tree can be reached via a “Shady” route and a “Scenic” route (as named on a marker near the summit). We opted for the scenic route, which is a little longer. By the time we reached the spur to the 1500-year-old Jardine Juniper, we were tired of trudging through deep snow, and the weather started looking ominous. Sprout also had rejoined us and was asking for “jelly,” by which she meant PB&J. She is, however, only interested in the “J.”
We sat on some rocks not far from the juniper and had a snack. Aaron was disappointed that the view of the tree overlooks the highway; in theory, you would be able to see the tree with binoculars if you knew just where to look. Then it began sleeting on us as a cold wind took hold. We made our way back up the spur to the main trail. We attempted to take the shorter, “shady” route around the summit, but failed as we were unable to find the trail hidden under the drifted snow. We turned back the way we came, moving as quickly as we could to stay warm. Sprout became very (no longer slightly) perturbed now, unhappy to watch her parents slip and stumble over the snowbanks in the wind. I’m sure if she knew how to scream “We’re all gonna die!” she would have. She’s a tad dramatic. She wanted to be on her Mama’s back, but we did not acquiesce her request as we did not want her on the parent more prone to falling. Poor child.
Once we trekked through the muddy meadow, however, the rest of the walk back was smooth sailing. We walked mostly in silence, with Sprout quietly nursing her traumas, and Jacqui and Aaron nursing our aching muscles. The total length of the out-and-back hike was over 10 miles, the longest we have ever hiked with Sprout. It was, perhaps, too long of a hike for Sprout. We let her walk the last quarter mile herself; she was very appreciative of the freedom.