Mill Canyon

On the last weekend in July I revisited Mill Canyon, which I had hiked down a month earlier as part of a loop that also included Flood Canyon. After that first visit to the canyon, I wondered where the mill was that gave the canyon its name. A little bit of searching in Google Earth, particularly in the historical imagery, revealed that location less than two miles up from the mouth of the canyon.

2006 satellite image showing large scrap lumber pile
2006 satellite image showing large scrap lumber pile

2015 satellite image with lumber pile almost completely burned by wildfire
2015 satellite image with lumber pile almost completely burned by wildfire

Near the mouth of the canyon I checked out a trail that I’d noticed in Google Earth that climbs the southern ridge. It wasn’t there before the Seeley Fire in 2012, so I’m guessing it was created for firefighting efforts or post-fire mitigation. All along the trail were lots of big, ripe raspberries! I probably spent more time stopped to pick raspberries than actually hiking on this short trail. The trail ended in a clearing on top of the ridge, so I returned to the bottom of Mill Canyon and continued up the main trail.

Mill Canyon Trailhead
Mill Canyon Trailhead

Steep trail up the south ridge
Steep trail up the south ridge

Raspberries
Raspberries

So many raspberries
So many raspberries

Highway 31 in Huntington Canyon
Highway 31 in Huntington Canyon

Clearing on the south ridge
Clearing on the south ridge

I made quick progress up the trail, but since the sawmill location was off the trail, at some point I had to leave the trail and start bushwhacking. For over a third of a mile I hiked directly up the watercourse, which had been scoured out by flash floods after the wildfire, and it was filled with downed trees. It was a lot of work thrashing my way up the canyon and it took me over half an hour to reach the sawmill site.

Jim ’41
Jim '41

New aspen growth and burned pines
New aspen growth and burned pines

Many fallen-tree obstacles
Many fallen-tree obstacles

More fallen trees right before I climbed out
More fallen trees right before I climbed out

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to see there. Before the Seeley Fire there was an enormous pile of scrap lumber (visible in older satellite imagery), but now there’s only a little bit of lumber, a thick layer of sawdust, and a few chunks of metal. While I was checking out the area I noticed a moose and her calf a few hundred feet away. Their full attention was on me, and I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure the mama didn’t see me as a threat and get too close. After searching the area thoroughly, I left somewhat disappointed that there wasn’t more left of the sawmill operation. Instead of the rough hike back down the watercourse, I opted to hike straight up the hillside toward the trail above, which was pretty steep and shwhacky but still much easier than the approach I’d taken. It was nice to scratch that itch and cross one more spot off my list.

Clearing where the sawmill once stood
Clearing where the sawmill once stood

Thick piles of sawdust
Thick piles of sawdust

Sawdust
Sawdust

Sawdust up to four feet thick
Sawdust up to four feet thick

Small ceramic piece
Small ceramic piece

Mama moose and calf
Mama moose and calf

Large u-bolt and plate
Large u-bolt and plate

Sawmill carriage wheel
Sawmill carriage wheel

Large funnel-like pipe
Large funnel-like pipe

Depression dug into the ground
Depression dug into the ground

Large pipe fitting
Large pipe fitting

Horsemen on the trail above me
Horsemen on the trail above me

Bushwhacking back to the trail
Bushwhacking back to the trail

1925/1926 aspen carving
1925/1926 aspen carving


Photo Gallery: Mill Canyon
GPS Track: [KMZ] [GPX]