18 November 2012
Loop: Chantry Flat to Sturtevant Trail, Lower Falls Trail to Upper Zion Trail Junction, Winter Creek Trail back to Chantry Flats
3,575 feet above sea level with 1,500 feet of elevation gain
About five hours
Olivia Booth, Anne Ellegood, Nick Herman, Kristin Beinner James, Aandrea Stang, Corrina Peipon, and Siggy
The air at Chantry Flat was damp and cool and fresh as can be after Saturday's rain. Our band set out down the Sturtevant Trail only to be overtaken by another, enormous group. Nick wisely urged us over to the side, and we let the whole lot of them pass. After winding down the paved fire road, we reached the green bridge. Crossing the bridge to the Sturtevant Trail feels like passing into another universe. The verdant forest with its community of tiny cabins is so close to the city but offers a kind of beauty and peace that is found nowhere else in the area. We quickly arrived at the junction of the Sturtevant Trail with the spur trail for Sturtevant Falls and both the Upper and Lower Falls Trails. We took the Lower Falls Trail for a lovely view of Sturtevant Falls from above.
Crossing over the stream, we climbed through the canyon, surrounded by sycamores. The rain left the tree bark and boulders slick and black, and the sycamores' turning leaves glowed yellow and orange in the grey morning light. Mosses shone iridescent in their low relief against the soaked tree bark and damp rock faces. We passed through Spruce Grove Campground and continued our ascent past Sturtevant Camp. A few hundred yards up the Upper Zion Trail, we encountered the huge group we'd seen at our start. They were descending but it was somehow we who ended up stepping aside every few paces on the single-track trail. So much for trail etiquette...
Soon enough we came up to a spur trail and walked to the summit. Mount Zion's apex isn't much of a such, as my mother would say. Manzanitas ring a small clearing; there is nowhere to perch, but a sandy patch of ground offers a little space to sit down. As we emerged from the thick tree cover onto the summit, the sun suddenly broke through the low clouds to the south and east. Patches of electric blue sky roiled with bright white puffs of cloud cover and stringy wisps of fog. To the north and west, Mount Wilson and the sky beyond it were obscured by close, thick cloud cover, densely grey and looming. We lingered there, eating snacks and admiring the sky whirling all around us. On our way back down the hill, we walked through desert terrain. The path was lined with huge yuccas. Arriving at Hoegee's Campground, we were back in the woods again, the paths carpeted with downed orange sycamore leaves. Back at the footbridge, we crossed over into our everyday world. But Aandrea and I sat for a spell at Adams Pack Station. We ate burgers and split a Sierra Nevada, taking just a little more time to appreciate the mountain.