5th Water Springs in Winter

This past Friday, a group of old and new friends and I set out on a winter backpacking trip up to 5th Water Springs. For some of us, it was our first ever backpacking experience in the winter. For others, it was the first time camping at all in the winter. Somewhat surprisingly, given the weather forecast, the group had grown to 10 by Friday. All proved to be pleasant company.

Weather forecast for the valley was showers. We wondered what that would mean for the trail and how the increased elevation would effect the weather. The theory was that with all the cloud cover, temperatures would stay milder. The hope was that rain would not become a mainstay for the night. The theory proved correct and our hope would be fulfilled. Despite the increase in elevation, the temperature would bottom out at about 34° and the only precipitation I recall was a brief little flurry along the trail up.

We got started on the hike just after 7 pm. The hike is much farther in the winter season than the rest of the year. A gate closure on the road up Diamond Fork forced us to hike an extra 4 miles up road before hitting the trailhead proper at which point it was appropriate to thrown on our traction spikes for the icy stretches that awaited us on the trail. It was a little over 2 more miles from the trailhead to our campsite for the night. By about 10 pm, we were setting up camp. Soon after, we were on our way up another quarter mile of the trail or so to scout out the many hot spring pools. Only a few others were present in the lower pools and were welcoming, but we pressed on to the upper pools. There was another group of 5 there as well who had been there for a while, and they too were very hospitable.

We settled in there, despite the sardine effect created with the addition of our group. After some introductions and good conversation, the prior group departed and left our group to solely occupy the pool.

After soaking in the sulphur for a good couple of hours, it was time to head back to camp and retire for the night.

Upon waking, I ventured back up the trail to get some photos of the area while the light was still decent. Fortunately, there were no early birds occupying any of the pools either, so it made for a very peaceful walk about and some people-free photos.

The lower pools.

The lower falls.

The upper pools. The one on the left was the larger and warmer of the two, and thus the one we had huddled into.

The upper falls.

Back down at the lower falls.

And the lower pools again.

Working my way back down the creek to our camp.

Back at camp.

After some breakfast, it was time to pack up and head back down trail.

The group.

Who knew there was a red sandstone arch so close to Provo? Not I!

And this is what happens when you stop to get a good angle shot on the arch above. The group moves on...way on.

Most of us capped off the trip with a lunch stop at the Cracker Barrel in Springville.  I think everyone had a terrific time.  Given the milder temperatures, I questioned whether this could still count as a winter camp. Well, the calendar says it counts.  The only thing I would have done differently, would have been to pack one of my lighter weight and more compressible 15° or 20° bags rather than my 15 year old 0° Coleman that took about about 90% of my pack space.

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