Saturday, September 23, 2023

Hiking to the Periodic Spring. on Swift Creek Trail

One of our favorite hikes is near Afton, Wyoming. Its name is the Periodic Springs Trail, which is along Swift Creek, (which happens to be the water supply for the town). On or about June 15th, a mud slide started slowly moving down a side canyon but then accelerated when heavy rains caused it to threaten Afton’s water supply, (source Jackson Hole News and Guide). The mudslide also endangered small two hydroelectric plants and the trail. The town of Afton provided heavy equipment and quickly repaired the damage. While an alternate trail was available, we waited until the usual route was reopened and the repairs completed.
Fred and Becky and their dog joined us for the easy hike, and in several places we could see the remnants of the mudslide. It had poured down a steep and narrow canyon and it had taken quite a bit of work to reroute the stream. The road to the trailhead is filled with large potholes but by carefully picking a line, our Subaru did not bottom out, (our friends were driving their four-wheel drive truck).
There were quite a few vehicles at the trailhead, and I armed myself with bear spray, (the chances of encountering a bear were remote but grizzly bears have been photographed in the area). There were also some unleashed large dog’s, and one of which was a pit bull. Heading up the trail, it’s only three quarters of a mile, we reached the slide and shortly the bridge which spans Swift Creek. I was the only one who wanted to climb up the trail to the springs outlet as the others had already been there and did not want to traverse the slippery rocks and sandy mud, (we are all over seventy years young).
At first the trail was easy but in places it was gradient increased and so I was forced to fourth class several spots, (fourth class means you use your hands to provide balance and security. As I neared the springs the flow in the creek dramatically lessened and so I hurried up the final bit as the flow almost completely disappeared.
I took a couple of images of the change in volume, as did Renita who was taking pics from below.
One of the changes I noted was that the board, which prevented people from entering the spring, had been replaced by brass plates, (during a normal water year the spring completely stops for about fifteen minutes, this is not a normal year).
Heading back down the trail was more challenging than the hike up and in one place my foot slipped but I had firm handholds and safely passed the troublesome stretch. The trail was also more challenging as it was wet and I don’t have the balance I used to have. I finally reached our group who were taking pictures of the temporally dry stream bed. From there we watched as a group climbed the trail. They did not seem to have any problems although at one point the mother grabbed her two-year-old toddler, (oh to be young again and ignorant of the dangers involved). In a side canyon two others were climbing the cliff face without ropes and at one point dislodged a rock, unaware of an older person sitting below. No one yelled rock as a climber would do to warn any person at the bottom, and I realized these were either not climbers or people that spent most of their time on manmade climbing walls. We decided to head back down and passed many people starting the hike. It had been a great day, but I decided I would not hike the wet and slippery trail again. That night I discovered that I had pulled a muscle and could not go down any stairs without pain. (luckily I recovered and four days later was able to hike the four mile Taggart Lake Trail in Grand Teton National Park. That’s the next Blog…… Clear skies

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