This was a fairly straight forward hike, we’ve done this a lot as an early season, tick reduced hike, and got to where we could first see the downhill ski area infrastructure, but never knew where we were in reference to the old ski runs. We left Peter’s vehicle at the base of the Marshall Mt. Ski area, and all rode in ours to the “Green Gate” at the mouth of Mittower Gulch, about 1/2 mile/0.80k up Marshall Canyon Rd. A sign there says it’s 3.2 miles/5.15k to the ski area trails. Most of the elevation is gained in the hike up the road to a little over 1/2 mile/0.80k to a major road junction. Here the right hand road, the less used one, is the route to the end of Mittower Gulch, and the trail to Woody Mt. The more used left hand road runs along the face of the ridge into Marshall Canyon above the ski area. On the way up we met a few people with dogs and saw, first buttercups, and then a huge patch of yellow bells. This ridge that separates Mittower Gulch and Marshall Canyon (and Johnson Gulch to the east) doesn’t seem to have a formal name, but is a sub-ridge that comes down off of Blue Point, the headwall of the ski area. The road on the M-M Ridge gains a little more elevation. On the section on the south face of the M-M Ridge we stopped to scope out the roads on the opposite side of the canyon -the north end of Mt. Jumbo, and we saw some wild parsley. When it swung around to run on the west face, we could see back into the canyon and the flanks of Blue Point, the snow line was coming down to about the elevation of the road. Here it was wetter, and we saw a few snow patches. The monotony of the road was broken up by “wet inner corners” with trees. We found a dry spot and had lunch. Shortly after that we saw a section marker down of the road a few feet and a GPS check confirmed we were about to go on to a landowner change section. Not much further down the road we saw the first of the ski area infrastructure and shortly were at a short -100 feet or so- connection between the Forest Service road and the ski area roads. There are several combination hiking and biking trails from there, but we opted to stay on the Cat Track Rd. to continue to avoid ticks. Never found any. At the bottom of the hill the melt runoff channels were running and greening up. Back at the parking area my GPS was saying it was four miles/6.44k. Peter took us back to our truck. Around 4:PM, just as we got home, it started to snow in earnest, it had been cloudy all day, but the worse we got was some flakes in the air most of the time, but never enough to put on rain gear. We could see the various cells coming in from the west all day, it never got very warm, but there was little wind. Typical nice early season hike.
Leader: Julie Kahl