The temperature gauge in the Jeep reads 60 degrees as I pull out of the driveway this morning. After a couple of rain showers, the 60 degrees is a welcome relief from the typical August desert heat. It will warm up to be sure with an expected high in the ‘90s, but that won’t occur until later this afternoon, meanwhile, I’m hoping to bag a couple of peaks near home.
A hiker/climber like myself has only a couple of choices when the temperatures reach triple digits. First, go high, which typically involves a long drive, but the air and mountains are stunning this time of year at 12,000 feet. Second, go early and close. This is my election today. Early and close, dovetailing off my experience with the Three Peaks of Avon SE - UT, quadrangle last week, I head toward the quadrangle of Antelope Peak.
Following the same dirt road as last week, I continue to a beautiful camp area near the base of peak 6371. There are several camping spots in the area and I can only surmise that they are deer camps as this area boasts large and very difficult to bag mule deer and elk. The campsite hosts cut logs and a couple of fire pits. It is in considerably better condition than the campsites I found in Three Peaks Recreation Area and for this I am thankful.
My approach will be simple, round the small knoll in the back of the camp and work my way up the ravine, making my way up to the ridgeline to the west. This approach works well and there is plenty of rock outcroppings to work around. The ascent to the ridgeline is steeper than I expected but the views are fantastic.
The rock is an interesting mix of composite and lava rock. Wind and rain have taken its toll against the soft composite and I spot a beautiful alcove across the canyon. I make a note and intend to visit on my return for a closer look. My path takes me past a massive outcropping of stone and with a little scrambling no doubt one could stand on the top of this impressive rocky point. I don’t take the time, but the views are probably spectacular.
I pass the false summit of rock and proceed further south along a nice saddle moving toward the southernmost point of the mountain. Several ravines carve the mountain into three ridges leading toward the highpoint. Each ridge has a rock cap and false summit, but GPS puts the highest point at the south tip and I continue to make my way toward the summit. The ridgeline is easy walking and elevation rise is small compared to my earlier hiking, the sun is warm and I make a point to stop in the shade of the many Juniper trees that dot the area. I skirt a final rocky outcropping and emerge onto the summit.
The ridgeline ends abruptly at a rocky face. The views along the southern and western ridges are stunning as the rock cuts a jagged edge along the horizon. I catch movement below me and I watch mesmerized as a bald eagle floats on currents along the base of the ridge, about halfway between myself and the ground floor. I don’t even attempt to capture a picture, instead opting to enjoy this unexpected gift in its entirety. Soon enough the eagle disappears around the face of the peak and I never see him again.
There are three boulder outcroppings on the summit area and I stand on each one to make sure I capture the true summit. I sit on the middle boulder and eat a snack. Drinking a bottle of water I gaze across the valley at Antelope Peak.
Antelope Peak will be my next summit in this area. I have already surveyed the area and picked out the route. I take the time to study at this distance the route I planned. It looks good from an elevation standpoint but will be a long hike. I’ll need to get a little earlier start than today if I want to make it to the top and back before getting into the highs for the day.
I feel rested and decide to head down toward the alcove. I stay a little higher on the ridgeline during my descent than my original route. I don’t normally vary too much from my routes as I have found it’s better to stick with the “devil you know”, and this time proves no different as I have to backtrack around a rock outcropping I didn’t notice on the way up and had a steeper descent than planned.
The alcove resides just below a saddle between the knoll and the eastern ridgeline to peak 6371. As I draw near I am stunned by how large and perfectly formed it is. It is deep and elevated, I work up a small series of cliff bands to arrive inside the pocket.
The alcove is made up of the same composite rock as the surrounding area, chunks of rock stick out of the walls and ceiling. I look closely and soon note that there is no graffiti located inside this alcove. I look again and even closer this time. Nothing, nada. It’s embarrassing to say I am surprised by this. It is a stones throw from the deer camp. Foot prints cover the floor and I’m thankful that those who use the camp have spared this beautiful scene. I feel cynical as I write this, acknowledging how many amazing beautiful arches, alcove, stone walls, slot canyons, and even petroglyphs I’ve had to admire with a blinder on to ignore the graffiti located amongst these treasures. I’m excited by the fact this this alcove remains clean.
I work my way down the small wash and emerge once again at the deer camp. What a fun little hike. According to google maps if I turned right and continued on south toward the front of peak 6371, I would find a couple more of these camping areas. I bet this is a beautiful spot in October when the hunting season is in full swing. Turning left (north) I follow the road, staying left at the fork I take another road (one I haven’t yet traveled) back to the main Antelope road.