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Trip Report    

Day Hike - Aurora Peak

Bike + Hike to Top 100 peak via Westside Road and St. Andrews Creek trail

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Both the Westside Road and the trails we hiked were all in good condition.  No issues.

    Aurora Lake is dried up and unusable as a water source.

    The upper portions of the Aurora Peak boot path are very steep and lead between or next to many small trees. Depending on conditions, expect to get wet and/or sappy as you push your way through the branches.

    The "100 Hikes" book says that it can be difficult to locate the boot path that leads to the summit of Aurora Peak, but when we were there it was plainly visible in the exact location described in the book.  (Thank you Eisenberg and Yore!) 

Group of 4 for bike + hike trip to Aurora Peak consisting of 7.6 miles (one way) along the Westside road followed by 2.8 miles (one way)  along the Saint Andrews Creek Trail, Wonderland Trail, and final bootpath to Aurora Peak. Total round trip distance: 20.8 miles.  Total round trip gain: 5145'.

The hike portion of the trip was straightforward and was exactly what one would expect from a steep trail that gains about 1000' per mile.  The final 2/3 of the booth path is very steep but the tread is good and veggie belays are plentiful. During the upper portion of the hike (from Aurora Lake and upwards) we had dense fog, so no views from the summit unfortunately.  The terrain on the summit had a lot of structure to it and was very interesting - it is probably very beautiful to see on a clear day. Perversely the fog and clouds started to break almost immediately after we started our descent, and we had good visibility and partially blue skies all the way out.  

We were surprised to find that Aurora Lake is almost completely dried up, with only a small puddle of shallow green water remaining in its center.  We had planned to pump water here but changed our minds because the shallow green puddle looked like a poor source, and because  reaching it would have required walking across the dried lake bottom whose condition also looked questionable.

The bike portion of the trip went well but was more difficult than anticipated. It took us about 2 hours to do the initial 7.6 mile approach ride (albeit including a stop to view the Marine Memorial).  Nearly all our pedal time was spent in the granny gears.  Though the road is in good condition by car standards it is covered with many plum-sized rocks that make riding more difficult and bumpy than riding on smoother unpaved surfaces.  Some riders (mainly the trip leader, me) found that hiking was poor preparation for cycling, and that riding while wearing a pack is more tiring to the upper body than one might expect. Weight still matters even when that weight is carried on a bike, so in hindsight carrying multiple heavy bike locks, bike repair tools, and a change of boots was not very smart.  Travelling light still matters even when you have gears to help you.  These are probably beginner lessons, but we were beginners so there you are.

Some things I would do differently when leading bike + hikes along the Westside road:

  • We got sweated out during the ascent to the Marine Memorial then chilled in our wet clothes during the long fast descent that followed.  By the time we realized we were cold we were going fast and were a bit spread out, so it was difficult to communicate plus there was social pressure to keep going.  Next time I would make the Marine Memorial a formal stop in the trip plan and recommend that everyone put on a wind layer before the descent.
  • Because we had not anticipated how long the ride would take we had not made plans to snack along the way, and some participants completed the ride feeling bonkish.  Snacking while riding on a poor road surface is difficult to impossible, so snacking requires stopping.  Next time I would schedule 1 or 2 snack stops along the way, probably once at the Marine Memorial and perhaps another before the Memorial at the hairpin turn the road takes at 3500'. There is a large abandoned roundabout there which forms a sort-of park. Ditto for the ride out: layer up at the Memorial in preparation for the long fast descent back to the cars.
  • Our carpool vehicles regrouped in Longmire, which added about 8 miles of driving because we had to double back to get to the Westside road. It would have been better to regroup in Ashford instead.
 

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