Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sweeney Creek



In May I said "This one's worth going back many times".  As of July, it's way lower on my list. As of August 16, the Half Moon Ridge portion went way up there again.  It's only a 17 minute drive to the trailhead from Pinedale and NO dirt roads involved.  It has mountain vistas, lush evergreen forests, water features (lakes and creeks), meadows of wildflowers and open sagebrush hills. We shared the trail with a couple of hikers in May, but it is an ATV trail, with probable high use later in the summer. In June, 2017, extensive rock blasting and road grading was going on.  There were numerous sharp rocks, but most were avoidable.  Google Map "Sweeney Creek" for directions. (Update, July 21, 2017:  The Forest Service has been doing major work here, including harvesting and clearing of dead and live trees.  This will be a "hot spot" for gathering lumber. I am told they are planning on a controlled burn to encourage more aspen growth. Some spots in the road have been graded, but there are still lots of sharp rock pieces on the lower doubletrack.)  At .79 miles in on the doubletrack, the trails separate.  Keep to the right for the Grouse Mountain/Half Moon Ridge portion.  Keep to the left for the North Sweeney Cr

(Click on any photo for enlarged image)


Parking area. The first is graveled and graded with a great view of Half Moon Lake.  The 2nd area has been used for parking in the past, but as of August, 2017 has been "rocked" off. The pink line is a rocky trail from the parking lot.  The blue line is a "short cut" along the road. (Much better)

Our track on May 22, 2017.  7.66 miles.  Elevation= 7,979' to 8,468'.  Trail conditions:  90% dirt doubletrack with about 60% of that somewhat rocky.  There are a couple of really rocky spots, including (as of June 20) some really sharp rocks that they have "blasted" out to improve the road. The road was much more suitable to a barefoot horse in May.  A barefoot horse in excellent condition could do it fine.  However, after our ride back on June 20, I would use boots in the future because my horse got sore from the sharp rocks.  This track went up the North trail, then back to the turn off to the Ridge trail.  Downfall blocked any further progress on that trail.


 Parking area with the view of Half Moon.

  Parking area, room for many rigs with plenty of turn around space.  No rest room.





Off the path in the forest.


Place where snow covered the trail May 22, 2017.


Much of the trail looks like this.


And some parts are like this.






Some of the trail is like this, but thankfully not much.







May 27, still snow in many spots.







Off the path, May 22


There was quite a bit of deadfall, but nothing we couldn't navigate as far as we went.  We reached a point on the trail where the snow became too deep and we were concerned about deadfall under the snow. (Note: as of May 27, the deadfall has been removed.)













This is the North "trail" higher up on June 20.  At least the snow was gone.


The beautiful meadow we stopped at.  This area is probably the most gorgeous of the whole ride, June 20.  A big change from the May rides. The flies and mosquitoes were bothersome, but not too bad.


June 20, Sweeney Creek by the meadow in the photo above.


No snow left anywhere on the North Trail, June 20.
The following photos are of the "Half Moon Ridge" portion as described above.


This is track of a ride on the Ridge trail on August 16.  We were on a Backcountry Horseman deadfall clearing project and spent several hours clearing trail.  Mileage here=7.6.  Trail conditions:  75% dirt/grass, 15% moderately rocky, 10% very rocky.  However, a barefoot horse in reasonably good condition can do it.  Our horses were barefoot on this ride.  They got a bit tender on the little rocks near the end.

This shows the "loop" added.  We tracked the entire loop on August 18 at 10.3 miles. Our horses did this entirely barefoot, but next time we will use boots.  There are just too many rocky places.
Getting ready to cross Sweeney Creek on May 22.  This is about 1 mile in... taking the right turn off to the Ridge trail.

Crossing Sweeney Creek, May 22.





Heading up the Ridge trail. May 27.





Half Moon overlook on May 27.
View of Half Moon Lake area, May 27

View of a pond near Half Moon Lake.  May 27.












This is a view of lower Half Moon.


The yellow arrow shows where we parked.

Warning:  There is some riding through sagebrush on a double track.


However, it quickly turns to forest.




View of Half Moon and Little Half Moon.


The views here are stunning.


Friday, May 12, 2017

LIttle Soda Lake



I love the trails in this area.  The trail options are many and are easily done by a barefoot horse in reasonably good condition.  The views are spectacular.  It has everything...forests, sage, water features, meadows, wildflowers, mountain vistas. See the post on Lowline-Glimpse Lake for more trail options from the same trailhead.

(click on any photo for enlarged images)


Little Soda Lake


Directions from Pinedale.  It's about 7 miles on a dirt road.
This is a herd of draft horses by Soda Lake.  You may pass them on your drive in.  They are used in the winter to pull sleds to feed the elk herd that winters here.  This area is owned and managed by Wyoming Fish and Game.



Here are two parking spots. There is room for several rigs there or at the next one. The road has now been graded between the two and the second one gets you closer to the Little Soda doubletrack without having to ride an extra mile on dirt road.  There is also a clearing just before the lower circled spot that provides room for several rigs and is an excellent place when accessing the "upper" trails.

This track was done on May 10, 2017.  About 7.2 miles.  Min. altitude=7,507'; Max. altitude=7,802';  Trail conditions were muddy and some snow, but also much dry ground.  20% rocky, 80% dirt, grass.  



This track was done on July 29, 2017.  About 6.5 miles.  Mostly soft dirt, grass with some deadfall, sage and about 10% slightly rocky. Some doubletrack, some single track and some "basically no trail." It's  do-able late June to September and possibly October depending on snowfall. Barefoot friendly.

This is NOT Little Soda, but a "pond" named "Mud Lake".


Mud Lake...still a nice water feature, May 10

A view of Mud Lake on July 22, 2017


There was some snow on May 10.
Spectacular view of Fremont Lake, May 10


Another view on July 26





One of the water features on May 10 that disappeared later in the season.


View of  "Summit" lake or "Chain" lake depending on which map you look at.


Another water feature that we had to ride right through on May 10.
One of the "mini meadows".  This particular one was knee deep in water in May, but is clear in July.  I named it "Dead Elk Meadow".


Heading back by Mud Lake after seeing Little Soda Lake.


One of the gorgeous forest places accessible in July, but snow covered in May.
July 26
Another view of Fremont Lake from a little lower location.

Little No Name pond on the way to the east side of Little Soda.

View of Little Soda from the east side.



Heading back to trailhead from "upper" trail.  Soda Lake in the background.


A great place to park when accessing the "upper" trails.
This is a "Landmark" of the trail that goes up from the Little Soda Doubletrack.  It is easy to miss, but the key is "Two Parallel Logs".


Two logs are the Landmarks that show where the loop trail meets the "Upper" trail.  Arrow marks the trail.  Easy to miss from this vantage.  Usually we ride it "counter-clock wise" up from the photo above.  A guide would be helpful on the first time to get the full loop ride as the trail disappears in many places.  But, it's all fun!