Before leaving on our backpacking trip - the one we were planning for John's birthday - we decided to do a trial run on the Fossil Springs Trail, a four-mile trek into the Fossil Springs Wilderness Area. During the week leading up to this trip, we packed our backpacks with all of the stuff we would be bringing with us for our West Clear Creek hike. John would be carrying forty pounds in his new internal frame backpack, and I would have thirty pounds in an external frame pack, which we had borrowed from his father.
To get to the Fossil Springs Trail, we drove north on Highway 87 to Strawberry then turned left on Fossil Creek Road, which turns into Forest Road 708 (this is also the road to Childs). The trailhead is just a few miles west of town.
Upon our arrival, John and I geared up and hit the trail, which begins on an old jeep road that descends all the way to the wilderness area, at which time the trail narrows as it approaches the springs. Though the trail was only four miles long, it was a long, grueling hike for us. It began with a very gradual descent into the canyon that would have been more enjoyable had my pack been more comfortable. We had to stop often to keep adjusting things in the backpack, but nothing seemed to help because the metal frame kept digging into my lower back. Then, a mile before we reached the wilderness area, the trail became very steep. I was forced to take it very slowly because I was afraid that I would fall over under the weight of my pack.
Finally, we reached the boundaries of the Fossil Springs Wilderness Area, and we entered into a beautiful riparian area through which Fossil Creek runs. A half a mile later, we finally reached Fossil Springs, a natural spring from which a million gallons of water a minute shoots out of the earth. Though I was hating life at that moment, I realized that it was worth the work just to see that area. The spring provides water for the Irving Power Plant, which is nearby. It also supplies visitors with beautiful swimming holes. The temperature of the water is seventy degrees year-round, and the springs are crystal clear. At some points, even where the water is over ten feet deep, we could still see all the way to the bottom.
After we ate lunch, John and I left our packs in a shaded area and went swimming. Though the water was a bit cold at first, it felt good to submerge my aching body in the creek. I sat in the water for a long time and relaxed. John, on the other hand, swam to the other side of the pool, where he had found a rope swing. Of course, being the boy at heart that he is, John had to use it to play Tarzan. Standing on the shore, he grabbed onto the rope, took a running leap, and swung himself out to the middle of the pool, where he let go of the rope and dove into the water. I stood on the opposite shore and took several pictures of him in mid-air. That was a photo-op I could not miss!
I would have loved to have stayed longer to explore the area - especially since it was September and there were supposed to be wild raspberries further down the creek - but at one o'clock, when we were done playing, it was time for us to hike back to the car. Now that I knew what to expect from the trail - and now that I was used to my pack - I had very little trouble hiking up the steep slope. It didn't take us nearly as long to complete the trail. However, as soon as I removed the backpack and sat down in the car, pain shot through my lower back. The external frame of the pack had bruised my back. It was too late for me to buy an internal frame pack because we wouldn't have had time to test it before John's birthday trip, so I would have to continue using the external frame.
The Fossil Springs Trail is definitely one that I would love to do again - without a backpack. I think I would have enjoyed it more because it was not a difficult hike at all, and the end result is wonderful! I told John that one day we would have to return just to play in the springs and look for raspberries. He promised me that we would be back.
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