Wolf Creek Pass June 24th, 2011 No Observing here for awhile

I am going observing tomorrow night so I'll have an observing report for that, and then I am going out Wednesday again and next Saturday if this lovely weather we are having in Utah holds up. If you want to go along, just add a comment and I'll post here where I am going. We have a good group for Saturday so that should be both fun and the opportunity to get some real good time at the eyepiece. The rest of this post is probably more geared to local folks, but I invite you to view the pictures as some are rather amazing. If you want to see the images larger, please click on them.

Today I spent some time up in Park City and then drove out to Wolf Creek Pass because I wanted to see what the winter had done to the road; there was reported damage to the road and I found it. It's been repaired but only recently, I could still smell the tar on the road. From what I have read the road sunk here a significant amount and had to be built back up. Fits with what I saw there. Here is an image of the repair done to the road.

The first thing we noticed as I had the family with me for an outing was the amount of water that was everywhere. The NWS is stating that the river is at 6.12 feet with the flood stage being 7 feet. There is a prediction by the NWS for the river reaching/approaching flood stage on Saturday afternoon and possibly on Tuesday afternoon. Here are the pictures I took of the river, and I have to say in just watching the flow of the water, I estimated that the water was probably around 30mph or greater. In this link you can see that the forecast is for the river to continue to rise. I will state right now that my 17 and 18 year old did not get out of the car, I was the only one foolish enough to do that to take a picture a good 10 feet from the current bank. For most, we were in the Pathfinder as you should be able to tell.

Here we are heading down Hwy 35 with the river on the right. Is was very close to the edge of the road.

A closer shot of the river near Highway 35

An image showing the Provo River near Highway 35 and how fast it is running. This was taken from about 10 feet from the bank.

Another shot from Highway 35 a little bit farther up.

My take away from seeing this. Don't go anywhere near the water regardless of whether your an adult, teen or child. The water is rushing so fast and is so cold you'd be gone in a millisecond. At places on the drive up we literally saw the river dividing into several new channels because the main channel could not handle the amount of water coming down from the melt.

This is an image of the bridge on Highway 35 and you see how swift and wide the river has become here.

After we got past this point, we began to be able to see how the river had flooded some of the low lying areas, and how it may have been in its main channel, but how the water had overflowed up river. Here the river is not too far from the road (we are farther up the canyon) but all that light green vegetation around the visible flowing water is flooded.

As you come down from Wolf Creek Pass and just a mile or so there is a parking lot to the left (if your heading down) and an overflow on the right. We went into the parking area on the right here for a picnic lunch. The temperature was terrific, probably upper 60's to low 70's, the sun was warm and though protected from the UV, it felt good to be in the mountains again.

Perhaps my favorite shot of the day came near this area as I ventured out to take a look at the wild flowers and scenery. I would call it Aspens in Spring (it probably is more like spring up there) but I'll just call this one Aspen's in June.

After the picnic we loaded up and drove up to the campground. If you looked at the top image I could see snow on the tops of the ridges and I was pretty confident I would find snow at the Wolf Creek campground and mud. However, as I drove up further my fears of even more snow began to arise.

If you've been up to Wolf Creek you should recognize that ridge line as it is just down from the camping area. Hmmm . . . .

Coming up Highway 35 more snow began to show, and more snow, and more snow . . .

Well I finally got to the campground and someone had their trailer and truck pulled over so I pulled in ahead of them and took the following shots:

Here is the sign across from the entrance/exit that says Hanna/Francis and the mileage to each. The snow around the sign has melted down but there is a good three feet of snow around it it and in some areas, slightly more.

Here's the bathrooms at the campground from the road. You can see how much snow and know that most of this is between two to three feet of snow also.

Finally, here is the close-up of the bathrooms at the campground entrance.

Based on what we saw up there, we took bets as a family and I said it would at least be late July before the area could be used. My son took mid July, he was trying to bolster my spirits I think. My daughter said basically said Good luck this year coming up here. She and my wife don't believe I'll be observing at Wolf Creek until August IF I'm lucky. I think I'll see patches of ground in the next two weeks according to how the snow is melting with clear ground in 3 weeks. Then the ground will need a couple of weeks to dry out so I'll go with late July to early August.

So, two items I took away from this little trip. One, the amount of water still in our mountains is incredible and more importantly the amount coming down is even more incredible. Keep yourself and your loved ones away from the water. Next, I think this winter may have a longer impact on observing because I honestly don't know if the Duchense Ridge will be available this year for viewing. With my schedule this summer and what I am doing, it looks to be a West Desert summer at either Pit n Pole, Notch Peak/Great Basin Natl Park or Lakeside. Finally, IF Wolf Creek opens up, bring Thermacell and bug spray. The critters are going to be plentiful with all the water up there. I'd love to hear what others think based on their experience and looking at the images to how long before Wolf Creek could be usable. I guess I need to go find some formulas and calculate the amount of melt based on temperature and time and that would tell me. I am REALLY looking forward to tomorrow night.

Edit: I found some more recent pictures of snow up at Wolf Creek. From June 15th, this rider took an image and it will show the amount of melt that has occurred up top:

Then for those who may have wondered what conditions are like just down the dirt path from where we set up to observe, a back country report on an avalanche that occurred in March can be found here. There is a Google map to confirm the location.

The image: