Mark joined me on Sunday for a hike to the highest point on Candland Mountain in the Wasatch Plateau. I’d previously circumnavigated the entire mountain on foot and motorcycle a few weeks earlier, so when I began looking for a close-to-home hike with some moderate distance and elevation gain, Candland Mountain quickly rose to the forefront. We left town at 7AM and an hour later we were at the new trailhead constructed within the last couple of years by PacifiCorp. The original trail climbed up to the ridge from UT-31 on the west, but the newer trail (presumably created due to private property issues) that we were on ascended from the north. The majority of the trail was churned to powder from heavy equestrian use. There were a lot of horse hoofprints but very few boot tracks on the ground. As the new trail approached the alignment of the old trail near a now-closed road and pipeline, the carvings in the aspen trees transitioned from a couple years old to several decades in age.
For a short while we followed the old road. The soft trail surface made it easy to spot some bear tracks going the same direction Mark and I were heading. Shit! I’d have been more comfortable if the bear tracks were going in the opposite direction. They appeared to be fresh, too, covering all the existing horse tracks. The trail left the road and ascended through more quakies with older carvings before reaching the main ridge of Candland Mountain. The country was more open along the ridge which put me at greater ease. There were more bear tracks on the ridgeline–apparently from a different, smaller bear–but I was less worried about sneaking up on and surprising one of the animals. The trail skirted around some of the humps in the ridge and passed near more stands of aspen with carvings dating back as far as 1915.
There was one last steep climb before reaching the highest point of Candland Mountain at 10,367′ elevation, about 1,600′ higher than the trailhead. At the top was a solar-powered weather station and, I was surprised to see, a summit register in a pile of rocks. We could see several reservoirs nearby and Mount Nebo 35 miles away. While hiking back down the trail we investigated more stands of aspen off the trail and found a few more old carvings. We returned to the trailhead about 4.5 hours after beginning and had covered 6.5 miles in all. I really enjoyed hiking this close to home because after a shower and a short nap, I still had half a day at home to relax and spend time with my family.