Leaving Salina, the trail passes through rolling red hills. These
red rocks are much older than those exposed at the other side of
the valley in the Pahvant Range. At places, such as northeast of
Sigurd, these rocks contain enough gypsum to make wallboard. On
the map this area is marked by the word "Mines" and the crossed-picks
symbol. Several wallboard manufacturing plants are located in Sigurd.
After passing through the hills, the trail breaks out onto the
floor of the Sevier River Valley. Here, irrigated fields of alfalfa
flank the trail on both sides. After making a sharp right turn at
a grove of cottonwood trees, the trail heads west across the valley
and crosses the Sevier River at the trail's lowest point, 5,140
feet. Then, after crossing old Highway 89, the trail enters the
town of Aurora.
West of Aurora the trail climbs the foothills of the Pahvant
Range. It is a good trail, but rocky in places. Vegetation is sagebrush
and grass with scattered clumps of pinyon and juniper There are
good views of the Sevier Valley, Musina Peak, Monroe Mountain, and
the Sevier Plateau from several of the ridgecrests. Northward there
are views of the Gunnison Plateau, while to the south are the Tushars,
often snow-capped. A treeless depression in these foothills is called
Frogs Flat, but without water it is difficult to understand how
it was named.
From Frogs Flat to the mouth of the canyon of Willow Creek the
trail passes through scattered clumps of pinyon and juniper alternating
with openings of sagebrush and grass. The red cliffs southwest of
the trail are composed of material shed from an ancient mountain
range that preceded the present Pahvant Range. The cliffs are part
of the fault scarp that raised the Pahvants above the surrounding
valleys. Recent movement along this fault is shown by bare, white
lines visible at the base of the slope. The lake to the northwest
is Scipio Lake, a reservoir supplying irrigation water to the town
of Scipio. This section of the trail is hot in the summer; but good
for spring and fall riding.
The trail meets the Willow Creek Road, Forest Road 102, near
the Forest boundary. On the flats below the canyon it is a good
road, rising through a mosaic of sagebrush and pinyon-juniper. On
entering the canyon the road becomes a bit rougher but is still
good. Here there are cottonwood, oak, and maple along the stream
with pinyon and juniper on the drier hillsides. Soon spruce and
fir join in. Within the canyon there are several good spots near
the creek for overnight camping. Cool air drainage makes the canyon
cool in the daytime but nippy at night.
Near the top of the switchbacks there is a pull-off on the east
side of the road that provides a sweeping view of the surrounding
country. To the northwest is Jacks Peak. Then there is Round Valley
and, on a clear day, Mount Nebo can be seen over the Valley Mountains.
To the southeast is Beehive Peak and the Sevier River Valley.
A short distance north of the pull-off the trail passes a rain
gage that is a vital link in stream-flow forecasting in this arid
country. The Pahvant Range is tied to the water economy of central
Utah in other ways, as demonstrated by the contour trenches visible
on the west side of the trail. These are remedial measures constructed
to retard runoff, allowing it to seep into the ground. These trenches
are a monument to a vital portion of Fishlake Forest history.
Around the turn of the century there was no management of grazing.
Sheep bands raced to get the most grass before others ate it. Neither
the absentee sheep owners nor the government, which intended to
dispose of the land in homesteads, worried about the future. The
result was severe overgrazing which deprived locals of summer forage
for their domestic stock and led to destructive flooding of the
valley towns. The surrounding communities petitioned the Federal
Government to correct these problems. Eventually this led to the
establishment of the Fishlake and other National Forests in southern
Utah. In addition to reducing grazing by as much as 700 percent
in some places, the Forest Service constructed contour trenches
to retard runoff. These trenches stop soil erosion on steep lands
and allow vegetation to regain a hold on the soil.
Both spring runoff and summer thunderstorms can make the trail
across the entire length of the Pahvant Range extremely slippery.
The clay soils are also highly prone to rutting, which leads to
a rough road when they dry out.
This portion of the trail provides stunning overlooks of steep
timbered canyons to the west and red rock canyons to the east. Even
though both sides of the range have steep, narrow canyons, the Pahvant
Range really does have a split personality.
continued next page
Thursday, December 09, 2010