It’s been a few weeks, but we just released Episode 4, including our travels from Hobble Creek, through Springville, to Slate Canyon. As always, we couldn’t include everything we saw along the way, but highlights include:
An interview with Chris Morrill, who is spearheading the effort to extend the trail through the Hobble Creek Wildlife Management Area.
Installing 5 new signs at some confusing intersections, thanks to our generous donors
An interview with Laurie Weisler, who has graciously allowed the BST to pass through her backyard.
Exploration of the industrial history of South Provo and North Springville, including the limekilns and Columbia Steel
A visit with the folks at Conserve Utah Valley during one of their very successful service projects in Slate Canyon.
May 22: 3.4 miles, 2.6 miles official BST, 0.6 miles unofficial route
Much of episode 5 is crossing very familiar territory to me. I have traversed these Provo segments of the BST many times, and on a map the segments south of the Y Trail and north of it look the same, but they couldn’t be more different. The stretch we hiked with the mayor is mostly level, with one gradual climb out of Slate Canyon. Today’s segment, on the other hand, is more of what we would expect with converted utility/firebreak roads. A straight line on the map means continually going up and down steep hills. Perhaps it’s time to think about Version 2 of this trail.
The Y Trail was just as crowded as you’d expect on a Spring Saturday. This short but steep climb is one of those dozen or so iconic Utah trails, and any self-respecting BYU fan has to climb it at least once; some people hike it every week. In 2014, BYU was able to acquire the property from the US Forest Service (yes, that did take an act of Congress). The University has put in a huge amount of effort since then to improve the area, including parking and trail improvements, permanent LED lighting of the Y for special events, erosion control, fire remediation, and even building a short new section of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail to bypass the busy parking lot.
To the north, the lecture of the day was on landslides. Some of the hills we went over were active landslides, evidenced by the numerous large boulders composed of the same limestone as the cliffs 2,000 feet above us. These are still technically active, and a subdivision platted here has never been built (perhaps a good cause for preserving open space?). During the very wet year of 1983, part of this rubble slid further (called the Oak Hills Slide), permanently engulfing a street and nearly destroying a home. In 2005, a 7-foot diameter rock fell 2,600ft from the high cliffs here and barely missed a nearby house, although it destroyed their guest house, and still sits in their front yard. Throughout this neighborhood, similar boulders have been incorporated into landscapes. Despite the hazards, the alternative trail route we took through this landslide and boulder field area is very pretty and much more interesting than the main trail up over the hill; if only it could be rerouted to go around the hill completely with minimal climbing, and designated as official.
There is a short section of National Forest property here, so we planned to put in a couple new signs. The first went in fine, but the second proved impossible, as the whole area was solid gravel and my 10 attempts to drive it in different locations basically destroyed the post.
Around a bend we entered the magnificent Rock Canyon, another very popular trailhead, overflowing with cars on a sunny Saturday. Besides the BST, this canyon is popular with rock climbers, and people climbing 2,000 vertical feet to the top of Squaw Peak. In case you are wondering, negotiations have been ongoing for years to rename this mountain to something less offensive to the native Ute nation, and apparently an agreement is coming soon. Provo City and the Forest Service have recently worked out a plan to greatly improve this trailhead park, with expanded parking, nature trails, and a project to use excess creek runoff to recharge the aquifer under Provo.
North of Rock Canyon, the official trail ends at the edge of Provo City property, but the mile of utility road beyond, through private property is still very heavily used by a variety of trail users. It is likely eligible to be dedicated by force under Utah state law (§72-5-104), because it has been open for more than 10 years, although it is unincorporated, so the city does not have the jurisdiction to make any demands. Personally, I would rather designate it in cooperation with the land owners, which would hopefully enable building and or designating a better route. Beyond that, there is still a mile gap through property that is clearly fenced and posted. Provo City has made closing the overall 3.5 mile gap in official BST here a top priority, but there are a number of obstacles in the way, so it may be a while.
We may be getting ahead of ourselves a bit; yesterday evening we hiked and filmed the first part of Episode 5, even though we barely finished filming Episode 4, which won’t be done for at least a week. However, we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to walk with Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, and Councilman George Handley, who have both been champions of outdoor recreation and open space conservation in the city. We all had a great talk about how trails and open space are economic assets for our communities, about Provo’s track record in preserving these resources (such as the mouth of Rock Canyon and Slate Canyon), about the challenges that cities have to balance the community good with private property rights, and about their future plans to improve the city’s foothills for a variety of users.
Our hike, between Slate Canyon and the Y Trailhead, is one of the oldest segments of the BST, having been designated about 2000, and is still in very good shape. It is a testament to how this process should work, since the trail passes through city, state, federal, and private property, but is working well. There are a couple spots that could use a sign, I suppose…
May 3, 8.5 miles (6 miles official BST, 1 mile unofficial BST route)*
At long last, we finally reached our first stretch of official, maintained, signed Bonneville Shoreline Trail! We traveled from Spring Canyon in eastern Springville, past the length of that city, to Slate Canyon in southern Provo.
The trail itself is a mix of singletrack and the firebreak/utility access road that is common for the BST. Since this slope at the base of Mt. Buckley is more southern-facing, there was almost no shade for most of the trail. Most of the trail is well-maintained and a sustainable design, except for one very steep hill just west of Spring Canyon where it climbs around some houses perched on the rather narrow Bonneville-level bench.
Here, and at other places along this stretch, the trail officially passes through private property. To talk about how this worked, we visited with Laurie Weisler, one of the landowners who have given up most rights to part of their backyard for the public good. The community is grateful for their sacrifice.
Because this segment is officially designated, we were finally able to start using our generous donations to improve the trail. Provo City have put up several trail markers through here, but there are a couple of confusing turns that were unsigned, so this was a good place to test our new sign design, with permission from Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. These all steel signs aren’t as pretty as wood posts, but I think they are nicer than the fiberglass markers, easier to install, more durable, and significantly cheaper (about $12-15 each). We’ll be putting up a few more in National Forest lands. We were also going to put new stickers on some of the older markers, but it appears that some kind soul has already done that recently.
Putting in these new signs was fun, except for having to carry the 20 pound post driver and the steel plates for 9 miles. At least we were smart and cached the posts at trailheads along the way. Speaking of which, I sure hope Springville is able to finish their trailheads at some point; the road going up to the one north of town is in very bad shape.
Another highlight of this segment was a view of Provo’s industrial history, including the site of the Columbia Steel mill (now home to a brand new car factory), ruins and tailings from limekilns, and an old gravel pit where we hope an official section of BST will be designated soon.
All in all, a great hike on a beautiful day!
*Note: if you’re wondering why the total length of our hikes always seems to be a lot longer than the amount of trail we cover, it’s because we do a fair number of short detours and a lot of back and forth on the trail as part of the filming process.
At long last, we’ve completed Episode 3: Spanish Fork and Mapleton. Spencer had a tough job editing it down to a reasonable length; I was too eager to talk about this stretch closest to our own home. Maybe one day we’ll release the Director’s Cut! 🙂
The highlight for me was a great conversation with Dr. Jack Oviatt, the world’s leading expert on the history of Lake Bonneville. We talk about the origins of the cross that overlooks Spanish Fork, and how Mapleton has acquired so much land along the BST. My 5 minute speech on the legend of Gibby vs. Mapleton got shortened to 25 seconds, but that’s probably for the best.
On to Springville and Provo! Episode 4 will feature interviews with citizens who are working to improve and extend the trail, and landowners who have allowed the trail to pass through their property.