Utah July 2003 Trip Report


One of my highpointing goals for calendar 2003 was to enlarge my "home glob radius" beyond the 401 statute miles which Beaver County, Utah imposed - the nearest county whose highpoint I had not visited.

With New Mexico just completed, the only counties within a five hundred mile circle that I had not done were all in Utah. Indeed, a slightly more ambititious goal was to earn a 542 mile radius - the distance to the southwestern tip of Colorado: it would be neat to have my "home glob" limited by Colorado as the nearest set of unclimbed counties from my home in San Diego County, California.

The required counties were all in southern Utah. An imperfect but acceptable match was found with the Utah-based goals of Scott Casterlin of Tucson, Arizona. Scott required six northern Utah counties for a state completion. We agreed in principle to hook up for a two week highpointing trip in which we both got six Utah counties apiece to meet our individual goals. Unfortunately that meant Scott would repeat counties for my sake.

The plan was for me to drive from San Diego to Las Vegas and pick up Scott who flew from Phoenix. We would secure Scott's state completion and get at least six additional counties for my home glob radius - the six chosen so as to be reasonably convenient based on the road grid to and from northern Utah.

As the trip approached I realized that we had enough time to extend our goals beyond the twelve counties originally planned upon. A maximum of eighteen counties were possible in the alloted timeframe set by Scott's return flight date. I prepared navigational materials as if this ideal scenario were feasible - hard copy of Internet-derived maps, trip reports, and UTM coordinates for key features such as road junctions and summits.

Here is a trip itinerary as prepared for my parents prior to my departure. The itinerary contains material designed to allow my remote base camp manager to have peace of mind as I travel.

Trip Details

Saturday, July 12

I awoke around 3:30 a.m. and was heading for Las Vegas soon after 4 o'clock. After retrieving Scott from the airport, we filled up on gasoline and, as it was my 43rd birthday, I set about enjoying a serious quantity of ice cream as Scott's passenger in my Tacoma pickup. My half gallon of French Silk chocolate ice cream was enhanced with pecan pie, chocolate loaf cake, Passover macaroons, and "Kahlua Especial" - 70 proof, and with a special blend of mountain-grown coffee beans, resulting in a bolder, more pungent product than the standard liqueur.

The ice cream lasted a long time as it sat in a small cooler filled with cubed ice. As we traveled northeast along Interstate 15 we first crossed briefly into Arizona, before entering Utah southwest of Saint George. The ice cream lasted at least into Arizona, and may not have been fully consumed until we were into Utah itself. I call this "hundred mile ice cream", savoring each creamy, lingering biteful to-no-end so as to draw out the experience.

As we passed Kane County, Scott commented that he had only done the named summit in HIU (High In Utah) - the bible for Utah county highpointers. Since the Kane County liner was higher, I insisted that he go do it: else his so-called Utah state completion a week later would be marred by a cloud of uncertainty. I remained in the truck and napped, being too dehydrated (and a bit tipsy) to actually go hiking. Scott found Andy Martin's cairn with a stick coming out the top. After thanking me for "forcing" him to repeat Kane County, we drove onward to the vicinity of Delano Peak for the next day.

We eventually parked at a very convenient spot for Delano the following morning - 10,600 feet at the base of a cross-country route from the northwest.

Sunday, July 13

Delano Peak went quicker than anticipated - about 1 hour 10 minutes up and even less coming down. Our route was clearly faster and with less elevation gain than the route in HIU. It was recommended by Mike Coltrin and was class 1 the entire way with about 1,600 feet of total elevation gain.

My home glob radius went incrementally higher to 408 miles - now limited by Garfield County, Utah.

The approach road for Mine Camp Peak of Miller County was long and tedious, lasting some 17.7 miles from its start on the west end of Richfield. The approach road and hiking route are described by Scott Surgent in his trip report. Scott C. waited at the truck while I trivially hiked to the summit from the southeast, taking fifteen minutes for the ascent and less still for the return. The total gain is about 600 feet with 200 feet of it being on the return.

The three counties of Carbon, Emery and Sanpete can be done in a single day. Feeling that we could squeeze them into our plans, we decided to try for them on our drive northeast. We had enough time for me to get South Tent Mountain of Sanpete County around 7 p.m. - and, as night approached, we found a nice site to park and camp at about 10,000 feet on the Wasatch Plateau.

Monday, July 14

The road grid suggested that my next county should be Emery. I climbed to its highpoint, East Mountain, using the route described by Edward Earl in his trip report. The summit was quite level and was achieved after perhaps one hour with a 1,500 foot gain. A clump of bushes 200 feet south of the summit cairn might be the true highpoint - and I walked about to ensure all possible contenders had been visited.

We drove to Carbon County and essentially "Martinized" Monument Peak by driving to the summit area. In truth I "Helmanized" the highpoint by walking up the last 50 or 100 vertical feet. It was one p.m.

The remainder of our day was spent reaching the carpark at the southern edge of Chepeta Lake - starting point for the next day's ascent of Eccentric Peak. The dirt approach route is very long and has some bad rocky sections.

Mosquitoes were a severe problem that evening. I was bitten multiple times on all exposed flesh. We drove with windows open to an alternative site about one mile south - and still suffered from bugs well after sunset. The truck cab was a particularly inviting place for them since it was warm and windless.

A few days later I purchased insect spray for the remainder of our trip.

Tuesday, July 15

Scott and I climbed to BM Eccentric using the route in Andy Martin's trip report. The summit was most exceedingly broad and flat. I huddled behind a windbreak to enjoy my snack - it was cold and windy. The total elevation gain was 1,750 feet.

We drove to Rock Springs in Wyoming and, while at the public library, researched both the Uinta County, Wyoming and Wasatch County, Utah highpoints using the resources of cohp.org and online map providers. Scott made priceline.com reservations for a motel Sunday evening after his projected Utah state co-completion with Edward Earl set for that date.

Still with much daylight, we drove to Pine Mountain and secured its two possible highpoints. This was Scott's one-hundredth county, Sweetwater in Wyoming, and extended my home glob into yet another state.

That evening we took a motel room back in Rock Springs and slept well.

Wednesday, July 16

Uinta County, Wyoming has access problems from the north. We opted for a southern approach, via National Forest lands in Utah, starting from Elizabeth Pass. After a while it was apparent that our route was also fraught with access issues. Scott was reluctant to proceed since the the required level of stealth was outside his experience. Eventually I cajoled him into a cross-country route that led to the highpoint using map, compass and GPS unit - so avoiding the road grid and potential confrontation.

The state boundary is represented by a barbed wire fence. The GPS unit "nailed" the exact location on the fenceline - to the north of which was the actual highpoint in the next state over. We crossed into Wyoming and located a tree at the obvious highpoint with some rocks placed at the base. We were about 100 feet north of the state border.

After about twenty minutes of snacking we departed, again cross-country, using the reverse heading of 160° true. This brought us unerringly to the jeep road we had originally used while northbound from our parked vehicle. The entire hike lasted some four hours and we were glad it was over.

We drove to Henry's Fork trailhead for climbing Gilbert Peak the following day. This popular trailhead is mainly used to climb Kings Peak - the state highpoint. Some vehicles had broken glass. Vandalism was therefore a sudden concern, and I parked at a campsite near, but separated from, the majority of vehicles.

Thursday, July 17

Edward Earl recommended climbing Gilbert Peak over 1 1/2 days with a backcountry camp at Dollar Lake eight miles from the trailhead. Since both of us had long, single day hikes in our resumes, Scott and I decided to try Gilbert in a single, long day.

We started at 6:30 a.m. and reached Dollar Lake in three hours. After a welcome half-hour break, we headed up the obvious, moderately steep hill to 12,100 feet amid gathering storm clouds. I left my ice axe, by then obviously superfluous, near a prominent rock.

We encountered lightning and thunder in the immediate area by the time we reached 13,000 feet. With no shelter (we were above treeline), we hunkered down in a shallow dip of the talus slope and waited the storm out for about one hour. There was intermittent rain and even hail - in July.

It would be a shame to abandon our efforts and reattempt on another day: we had come so far and the summit was so very close! After several minutes of no lightning we chanced it and climbed, somewhat briskly, to the summit. I merely tagged the summit cairn, plus a windbreak, and headed immediately down to the relative safety of the treeline at around 11,500 feet.

After sardines in olive oil on rye bread with some leftover colby cheddar, we proceeded to a short break at Dollar Lake.

The hike out to Henry's Fork trailhead was uneventful. We returned to the truck by 6:30 p.m. - twelve hours after our start that morning. It would have been eleven hours had the storm not forced us to wait it out high up on the mountain.

Friday, July 18

We enjoyed large breakfasts at a nearby town. I had a cheese omelette with english muffin, some biscuits with gravy, and a slice of pumpkin pie.

We drove to Wasatch County for the liner on the west slope of Murdock Mountain, using map and GPS to guesstimate the true highpoint location.

We drove to the Ogden area and took the Willard Peak road south from Mantua for eleven miles to a campsite at 9,600 feet immediately northwest of Willard for the next day. That road is very bad at times. I was surprised to see some passenger cars negotiate it without incident - I would not drive that road without at least high clearance and, in some spots, in four wheel drive as well.

Saturday, July 19

Overlooking Ogden, Utah is Ben Lomond - a mountain that forms the basis for the Paramount Pictures' mountain logo. As seen from the valley floor, Ben Lomond appears more prominently than its sister peaks along the same ridge - including the slightly higher Willard Peak immediately northwest.

Scott wanted to climb Ben Lomond as a "Utah classic". We did it and then headed back for the summit of Willard Peak. On the summit were several boys with large mirrors and an amateur radio operator. Evidently it is a hobby to exchange mirror signals on distant peaks using radio to organize the affair.

I drove down that bad road to Mantua and eventually found ourselves in Ogden.

Scott had purchased a paper and had learned that a wildfire existed in Farmington Canyon - so closing the approach road for the next day's climb of Thurston Peak. This was very bad news since it was going to be Scott's Utah completion climb. Furthermore, Edward Earl was flying into Salt Lake City to co-complete with Scott. I had pre-arranged to meet Edward at eight a.m. on a bend in the approach road the following morning. With no contact information, Edward would be unable to meet us. I used my cell phone to leave a message on Edward's home tape recorder.

Scott and I researched possible alternatives. Eventually we decided upon the Great Western Trail, starting from the valley floor at about 4,700 feet at a Fernwood picnic area, and reaching nearly the summit ridgeline along its sinuous course after several miles. This was a gamble since there was no telling about the trail condition and of possible unmarked junctions.

We took a motel room that evening because the heat down low would make a good night's sleep while carcamping virtually impossible. Utah was experiencing a heat wave, with Salt Lake City, at roughly the same elevation, witness to 103° F temperatures for several days.

Sunday, July 20

We awoke at four a.m. and were hiking at 5:11 a.m. I carried 204 fluid ounces of water - just over six quarts, in seven containers! The trail climbed efficiently with a few places where it dropped elevation. The summit was gained after a cross-country scramble after some four hours.

A long summit siesta ensued, including naps by both of us and a successful cell phone call to my remote base camp manager - AKA "mother". Edward Earl was nowhere in sight.

The hike down became, as anticipated, progressively warmer. We were back at my truck by about 3 p.m. and had plenty of time for driving to our motel for the night in Salt Lake City. We called Jobe Wymore, a Salt Lake City resident and Utah state completer, inviting him to dinner at 5:30 p.m. at the Red Rock Cafe.

After showers we headed downtown, and, after seating ourselves, were surprised to find Edward Earl approach us alongside Jobe! Evidently Edward had slept at Jobe's apartment the previous night - and so was able to finally learn of our whereabouts - albeit too late for a co-completion.

Edward had asked the posted sentry at the block road whether an alternative route was available. Armed with that information, he too had reached the summit of Thurston Peak, about 1 1/2 hours after we had, and without having to climb the mountain from its base.

I enjoyed fried green tomatoes with cocktail sauce and sour cream as appetizer. My entree was eggplant parmagiana, accompanied by buttered noodles to which I added much chopped garlic and some horseradish mustard. Scott and Jobe drank beer, Edward milk. For desert all but Edward took my queue and enjoyed espresso ice cream.

The conversation was very lively. Jobe gave a graphic account of his recent ascent of Mount Bona in Alaska, a most serious proposition given the weather and altitude.

Edward was to fly home the following morning. Given that we had just learned that the Henry Mountains had a wildfire, we agreed that Deseret Peak of Tooele County was a satisfactory replacement for Mount Ellen of Garfield County. After dinner Jobe inspected my green Toyota Tacoma and we parted ways.

Monday, July 21

This was our day off. We drove to the edge of the Great Salt Lake, where I could walk to water's edge despite being a very dry winter - which made the lake level low indeed. Every time I stepped forward, thousands of flies would form a living cloud as they sought to get out of harm's way. The salt brine was delicious as I sampled it from a tiny pool removed from the shore proper. At the gift shop I purchased a bag of salt as extracted from the Lake - including all the chemical elements, as magnesium, iodine and more, that are not normally found in table salt.

We returned to Salt Lake City and parked downtown. We enjoyed a free noon performance by an organist at the renowned Morman Tabernacle and then had lunch at a sandwich shop. I ordered chilled gazpacho with crackers and bread - sprinkling cheddar cheese on top for variety. It was just the thing on such a hot day. Scott ordered a bacon swiss cheeseburger with fries along with his perpetual coffee. He treated me since I had treated him to dinner at the Red Rock Cafe.

We rushed back to attend the second organ performance at two o'clock. My plan was to cell-phone a friend in San Diego and, without identifying myself, let him enjoy the live performance. Since John H. enjoys music to-no-end, he listened without a peep through the entire piece and, only then did I identify myself and the unusual location.

Scott and I walked to a huge bookstore and spent an hour browsing. Then we walked farther to the new public library where he had arranged to meet some old friends. Later we returned to my truck and we drove to Jobe Wymore's apartment where Scott would stay for the night. I drove west to stay at a campground immediately next to the trailhead for Deseret Peak the following morning.

Tuesday, July 22

Deseret Peak was quite enjoyable - I had the mountain all to myself. The summit views were expansive - having climbed 3,600 feet in some two hours twenty minutes. My descent lasted just under ninety minutes.

I was down by 10:45 a.m. and headed back to Salt Lake City to retrieve Scott.

We drove south all afternoon for our next target while I enjoyed a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream ("lowfat frozen yogurt") that could not have tasted better! The brownie chunks made my additions of leftover granola bar pieces somewhat superfluous.

We camped near Fish Lake and enjoyed the evening before dark.

Wednesday, July 23

We climbed to Fish Lake Hightop, the Sevier County highpoint. The climb was uneventful and enjoyable. By midday we were driving along twenty miles of dirt road onto the Aquarius Plateau. Our goal was Bluebell Knoll, the Wayne County highpoint. A trivial hike from the road, we considered camping nearby since, at eleven thousand feet, the evening would be cool and pleasant.

Instead we decided to drive along route 12 - a good highway in southern Utah that passes by plenty of canyon country and "traditional" Utah-like natural scenery. The route passed through Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, and eventually we drove up a lonely forest service road to camp.

I had no intention of securing additional counties on this trip - eighteen was certainly plenty - and it would inconvenience Scott since any more counties would take us considerably off our driving route back to Las Vegas. Thereby we decided to act as tourists for the remaining few days and enjoy both Bryce and Zion National Parks.

Thursday, July 24

Scott purchased a National Parks pass, valid for one year, upon entry into Bryce, for fifty dollars. It would nearly pay for itself immediately since entry into Bryce and Zions Parks would individually be twenty dollars. After the Visitors Center we got some food near Sunrise Point and then hiked down into the brightly-colored, orange rock formations that have made Bryce Canyon famous.

The oddly-shaped eroded rocks are called hoodoos. Wind and water have done a wonderful job in southern Utah, providing wierd and unusual forms that one would find difficult to conceive of without a working copy. Our one-hour trail saw plenty of tourists from all over the globe. I heard German, French, Japanese and Hebrew while inside the canyon. There were also plenty of Americans, including what seems like an entire school of teenagers that came to Sunset Point to view from the overlook. After returning at Sunset Point to the rim we returned to Sunrise Point via the Rim Trail.

We drove to Rainbow Point - chiefly because, at 9,115 feet, it is the very accessible highpoint of Bryce Canyon National Park. Finding the exact highest natural ground was difficult because the parking lot had obviously leveled much of the terrain. Scott and I feel that the highest natural ground is in a picnic area where people were eating lunch. I certainly looked strange as I trounced the poor foliage, off the pavement, in search of the geometrically highest point.

We drove to Zion National Park and took a site in the large campground immediately next to the Visitors Center. The Park is closed to vehicular traffic from April through October to relieve congestion. One takes a tram up the valley that departs at frequent intervals throughout the day and stops at several locations in both directions clear up to the Temple of Sinawava at valley's head.

We took the tram and then went on a two-mile round trip hike, nearly level, at the Temple. After returning by tram to the campground, we walked into Springdale and watched a parade in celebration of Founding Day - July 24 in Utah. Scott ordered a pizza with canadian bacon and graciously shared it with me. I enjoyed my three slices considerably since I had been craving pizza. I ordered a ceasar salad for take-out and ate it upon return to the car before sundown - saving some of the pizza crust and cheese to accompany the salad.

Friday, July 25

We awoke at 5:25 a.m. to make the 6:30 a.m. tram for climbing Angels Landing - a 1,500 foot gain with severe exposure that affords a unique view from far above the valley floor. The first 1,000 vertical feet are benign enough. It is only the last 500 vertical feet, over one-half mile, that requires some mental fortitude to accept. I have done many hikes and climbs over similar terrain - but none with that kind of persistent dropoff on both sides of the route.

Scott wanted yet more exercise so we went on yet another hike, this time to some "Emerald Pools" that proved to be disappointingly ordinary in appearance. Perhaps the "emerald" is a reference to the algae growing within. I cannot say.

In Springdale we had lunch. Or at least Scott did with his turkey and cheese sandwich on rye, potato chips and coffee to drink. I had a double dip of huckleberry and chocolate cashew caramel ice creams with two cones - followed by buffalo jerky as I drove back to "Sin City". I made a mocha milkshake by mixing the chocolate ice cream with hot coffee - to which I had added a sufficiently large quantity of ice cubes. A bag of M&M's rounded out my perfectly delectable, if not entirely wholesome meal. Scott had a pair of chocolate and nut-encrusted pretzels and, just outside town, we stopped at a store that specializes in fruit where Scott purchased a gift for his mother. I ate an Asian pear-apple on-the-spot.

We gained an hour on driving to Nevada and were at our motel room shortly after 3 p.m. After showering and some television we enjoyed dinner at Marie Callendar's restaurant. My entree was pecan-crusted Alaskan halibut with rice pilaf and asparagus - to which I added much cajun spice and melted butter for a delicious treat. Scott had a huge club sandwich. Since Marie Callendar's specializes in pies, we each had an unusual offering - Scott had key lime pie, his favorite, while I had a frozen slice of sour cream apple pie with a glass of Tuaca liqueur.

After a brief return to the hotel room, Scott directed me to the Las Vegas strip where we walked about for some two hours taking in the ambience and general situation. I had never been there and, quite honestly, did not enjoy the experience. Nevertheless I did like three items that were neither related to gambling or sex -

Saturday, July 26

The following morning I bid farewell to Scott after presenting him with the automobile expenses for the portion of the trip that we traveled together (ten cents the mile). A free shuttle would take him to the airport as I headed for San Diego. The total driving distance was 3,147 miles. My estimated elevation gain, including all hikes in the two National Parks, was some 26,700 vertical feet. I suddenly had twenty of the twenty-nine Utah county highpoints, setting me up for a Utah state completion of my own in 2004.