Grove Creek: A Father-Daughter Backpacking Trip

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WasatchWill

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With school out for the summer, it was time to start up the annual one-on-one trips with my kids whom are old enough to do some backpacking or camping and retain some memories of it. For this month, my days off work were Sunday-Tuesday. In the past, I'd start with my oldest and work my way down each of my kids. This year, things were switched up a bit, starting out with my 2nd oldest, Ellory. For this trip we set off for one my favorite spots in the Wasatch this time of year, Grove Creek and the flats above.

Sunday - June 2, 2019

We arrived at the trailhead in the late afternoon. A benefit to such late starts when not able to start early in the morning is that it allows the peak heat of the day to pass. Day-user crowds are usually thinner by then too, allowing for an easier time getting a good parking spot at the trailhead.

Equipped with a brand new pack, an REI Tarn 40, Ellory was ready to go.


Trailhead Twosome

Having backpacked shorter and much milder trails in the Uintas and down south, this would be a first for her to backpack in the Wasatch, where much of the trails are typically much steeper and more strenuous. That became apparent to here early on, but she toughed it out and kept chugging away. A mile in and a couple switchbacks later, we were significantly higher in elevation with a nice view back down into the valley.


Ellory and the valley out below

The trail up Grove Creek's canyon can get pretty narrow and exposed in spots, edging out along some significant cliffs. There were a couple spots where the trail was so eroded that I would hold my hand out, ready to grab her pack should she somehow slip or stumble. The exposure never phased Ellory though.


An exposed section of trail along a cliff edge


Another somewhat exposed section of trail through some steep scree

A few waterfalls exist in the canyon, including one that feeds off a tributary side drainage that the trail crosses right over. Each one served as a nice breather point to break up the hike.


Waterfall crossing


Lower Falls of Grove Creek

We did not rest for long at any of the break points along the first two miles of trail due to a late day storm brewing on our tails. Many days during this year's Spring season throughout Utah, there'd be weather forecasts in the morning that would show a nice, mostly sunny day only to have it all be for naught in real life. This was one of those days and a pretty good storm cell erupted to the southeast. I got a weather notice on my phone as we were hiking along reporting significant hail that had come down near Nephi to the south that was now moving northward. Fortunately, on this day, the track for the core of the cell stayed mostly northerly and kept to the valley.


Looking back at the storm over the valley


Approaching the upper falls

We took a nice break at the top of the upper falls where a bench sits against the base of a small cliff face overlooking the falls below. There, we dawned on some rain gear knowing we were destined to get a little bit of rain off the edges of the storm passing by out over the valley.


Resting at the brink of the upper falls

Sure enough the rain came, but fortunately it stayed pretty light and didn't muddy up the trails too much for us. After about another mile from the bench, we arrived up in the flats were Grove Creek Spring bubbles up out of the ground. I was surprised to find another group camped out up there, with it being a Sunday night the weekend after a big holiday weekend. That said, it is a very popular spot along with its surrounding area and will often fill up with lots more groups on weekends through the summer.


Arriving in the flats


Ellory and the Grove Creek Spring signage (Indian Campground is not a true campground)


Grove Creek Spring


Looking eastward over Grove Creek Spring

My original plan was to take Ellory up about another mile to another flat known as Chris Flat and set up camp along the far edge of that, but the rain had made things wet and cold for us and the strenuous trail had tired her out already, so we opted to continue on only another quarter mile or so from the spring, dropping down a flat were we eventually settled upon a spot to accommodate a hammock and tent. We packed along a brand new tent I had recently purchased, a Massdrop X-Mid 1P designed by thru-hiker, Dan Durston. Ellory would get to be the the first to sleep in it. I brought along my Warbonnet Blackbird hammock for myself.


Camp in the lower flat


Mount Timpanogos ridge serving as a nice backdrop above the flat

The rain had let up by the time we set up camp, but we were no less cold with all the cloud cover. Still, we were treated to glowing sunset. Despite another couple, again to my surprise, camped out on the other side of the flat, it was incredibly peaceful.


Sunset

A fire ring had been erected not far from our camp so we made good use of it and was able to get a fire going despite so much wood being wet. In fact, one our camping neighbors saw us and was very generous to bring over some of their dry wood they had stowed away at their own campsite to help keep our fire alive. Awesome! It helped warm us a bit, along with some nice warm chili mac for dinner, some hot cider, and of course, s'mores.


We have fire!


S'more bite with valley lights aglow in the background

With our tummies satisfied, we put the fire out and retired to bed, eager for more warmth and rest.


Monday - June 3, 2019

The morning skies were completely different. All clear with no trace of a cloud anywhere to be found. The morning sunshine was simply glorious.


Sun shines on the X-mid


Morning in the meadow


Our camp

Once Ellory was up, we walked out to the creek on the other side of the flat and gathered some water. Back at camp, we made some breakfast and then got everything packed up, whereupon, we returned up to the trail and the upper end of the flat.

When we started the trip, the plan had been to make a full loop by dropping down Battle Creek to the south, had we made it up into Chris Flat for camp. We didn't and to save on time and distance for the day, we chose to go back down Grove Creek as we had come up. But I still wanted to show off Chris Flat to Ellory, having brought her older sister Willow up along the same route a few years before. So we dropped our packs behind some trees and hiked the extra quarter mile or so up into Chris Flat. There's a very steep but short rise to gain before popping out into Chris Flat which made Ellory all the more happier she didn't have to hike with her pack up it.


Entering Chris Flat


Wandering through the middle of Chris Flat, Mount Nebo in the distance

The flat was as green as ever. Big winters and springs with heavy snows and rains can really work some wonders in these mountains. It was marvelous, a big reason why this is one of my favorite places to visit when spring is transitioning to summer.


Timpanogos Ridge


Heading back, North Timp summit above

After hiking across the flat and back, we grabbed our packs and made our way back down, enjoying the sunnier and drier conditions.


Reunited with our packs, Mahogony Mountain in the distance


Grove Creek Spring again


Other side of the spring


The bridge over thundering Grove Creek


A look back at the upper falls


Ellory forges ahead on another exposed section of trail


The valley view opens up


Rounding a switchback into the lower canyon

Of course, to wrap up the trip, we had to get a burger and milkshake. Since we were in Pleasant Grove, Purple Turtle was the place to go.


Purple Turtle goodness


Given the rainy and colder conditions of the evening before and the steeper, strenuous trail, this was by far, Ellory's most challenging trip yet, and she did great. And though she was done for the day, I still had another round to go, being that I would trade Ellory out for Willow that afternoon for another destination.

VIDEO:
 

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Riggs

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Jan 31, 2014
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Those meadows are amazing! I'm a dad who did at least one family backpack a year, who's younger son is about to turn 18 and will leave before long like his brother. You are absolutely doing a great thing getting out with your kids. I can't believe how fast it all goes and miss those trips.
 

Tim Valentine

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May 24, 2015
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Awesome job Will. Looks like a great trip. Those meadows look like the rangers just finished mowing them. ;) I really like the morning shot with the new tent. Makes we want to get out there right now.


Great job on digitizing the trip also. Over time your kids will use the photos and videos and this online report to rekindle all of the great memories. She won't be that size for very long, great that you captured it!

Tim V.
 

WasatchWill

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Jul 23, 2013
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Awesome job Will. Looks like a great trip. Those meadows look like the rangers just finished mowing them. ;) I really like the morning shot with the new tent. Makes we want to get out there right now.


Great job on digitizing the trip also. Over time your kids will use the photos and videos and this online report to rekindle all of the great memories. She won't be that size for very long, great that you captured it!

Tim V.
Thanks Tim!
 

Miya

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Dec 31, 2017
Messages
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Yay! I love all your trip reports, but these one-on-one reports are my favorite! Looks like more great memories!
 

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