There is a single solitary peak unclimbed by me remaining in the Baboon Peak - UT quadrangle, and by all rights I should go there this morning and complete it and a couple more in the Black Mountain area but Mound Mountain is a dry, dead grass covered convergence of ridgelines that I'm hesitant to hike in after being in the area the last two weeks.
Saying goodbye to Linda, I mention that I am headed toward Lund and will text her with the GPS locations as I climb my peaks. She reminds me to be careful and that there is supposed to be a fire burning near Lund. I hadn't heard of anything, but it wouldn't surprise me as dry as it has been. I pack my jeep and head down the Lund highway.
Lund highway isn't much of a road anymore. It appears to have been a paved road at one time, and Lund seems to have been a more organized place during a more prosperous time where a primary focus was on trains and train travel. Now the highway is a maintained dirt road, and Lund is a collection of run-down houses. The trains are still present, and it must be the location where they uncouple the other engines needed to do the long climb out of Los Angeles through Las Vegas, as dozens of train engines sit on a sideline.
I cross the tracks and continue on Pine Valley Road in a generally northern direction. There are lots of stunning peaks in the area, and I have already climbed a few, but today I am looking for Jockey Road, which is a road leading west toward Minersville. There are dozens of ranked peaks along this road, and I have already identified eight that I could potentially climb today, but given the nature of a new location and time between mountains, it is doubtful that I will climb that many. The good news is there is no fire that I can see, some smoke, but it is not in the general area.
From my previous research, I begin making a mental note of turns and roads I pass. Mountain Springs Peak, one of my first ascents in the area, is a beautiful peak, sitting just off the road. Continuing to follow Pine Valley Road, I glance at the many mountains, knowing that most are not ranked, from my research. I'm not sure why this is the case, but for me, it's probably a good thing, or I'd be climbing in this area for the rest of my life.
I finally reach the junction of Jockey Road and turn right. Thankfully it is also a well-maintained road, and I immediately look for a small way on the right which will lead me to Observation Knoll. Observation Knoll is a little unranked peak and is the only peak listed in the Observation Knoll - UT quadrangle. The quadrangle takes up most of the wash, so there are not many high points located here. I can see the knoll as I turn down the road and soon find myself confronted with dozens of cows gathered around a water basin. The path leads around the herd and down a very steep, short hill to the ravine below. I'm still in 2 wheel drive as I slip down the gravel hill and hope the ascent will be better. I follow the road around the knoll until I think I have reached a reasonable location to hike up the remaining hillside to the summit.
The dead grass is thick as I make my way up the natural rise. Like all peak baggers, a tinge of regret crosses my mind as I cross tire tracks at the summit. A jeep trail leads up and over this small rise. Two summit cairns exist, and I circle until I find the listed coordinates and make a note of the actual summit location.
I don't linger on the summit but turn around and head back toward my jeep. The route here took longer than I expected and I am hoping to bag a few more peaks before exploring Jockey Road back to Minersville. I can see Peak 7169 from the summit and note that the road follows around the contour of the small unranked peak. I have no trouble in 4 wheel drive reclimbing the gravel drop, past the cattle herd and back onto Jockey road in a hurry. Unnamed peak 7169 challenging rise of 299 feet, so it only misses being considered a ranked peak by 1 foot. Unnamed peak 7169's contour forces the road north as a wash separates the mountain from Jockey Road. I continue around the hill, and I am happy when the eastern side reveals a small meadow for me to park in and get off the road.
The pitch is steep on this side, and I zig-zag my way to the summit. It's beginning to warm up, but I am rewarded with a stunning view in spite of the Juniper Tree covered hillside.
Again I don't linger and make short work of the hike in 38 minutes car to car. Back on the road again, I note the road leading toward my next objective is not much further down Jockey Road, but it is a long approach road leading to a high saddle between two peaks known as The Tetons.
Following the outline I have marked on my map has been useful, but it becomes apparent that this small grouping of peaks is four peaks in total, with the road leading around the lowest of the four and then up a ravine to the high saddle in the middle. The trail is in reasonable condition, but as is often the case the water drainage off the mountainside has wreaked havoc in one tire tread or the other, and I find myself check the "tilt" meter on occasion to make sure I won't roll over. Soon the groves have one or more tires off the ground, and I finally come to a washed-out area where my tires spin in the soft gravel. I'm at the base and haven't even begun to climb. I turn the jeep around. I could dig or fill in the wash, but I decide to hike.
Moving up the road only a short distance, I consult my map again as a prominent ridgeline forms to my right. If I follow the ridgeline, I will reach the summit versus following the road around the long way. I move off the road and begin the ascent. Reaching approximately the halfway point, I find a rocky outcrop and several large boulders to sit and rest. I sit down, and as I drop my pack, I see a large plastic bag on the ground. I'm not the first to take a break in this spot, I pick up the garbage and put it in my pack. The rocky outcropping allows me to look over the dense Juniper Trees for my first view of the hike so far. Beautiful.
The ridgeline begins to constrict as I move higher and I can now see the blue sky to the west and above me through the trees. I must be getting close to the summit. I move west to the edge of the ridge and marvel at the view. How high I have ascended in the last hour or so. Working my way around the final few trees, I am greeted with a stunning summit of massive rocks, jutting above the Juniper trees. I corkscrew my way around, and between the massive boulders with a small class 3 climb to the largest of the group. What a stunning summit!
Two boulders made up the summit point and wedged between the two are three summit containers. The first two turn out to be personal notes and journal entries from a group home for struggling teenagers, which are common in Southern Utah. I read a few which contain courage and a desire to change their circumstances which I hope they can do. I know those climbing mountains can feel tired but leave the summit with a sense of confidence in its accomplishment. What I enjoy most about the experience is how often I can repeat that feeling. I have found that I have a sense of accomplishment and awe at the summit of any peak, not just the ones that are difficult to attain. That perhaps more than anything else is what keeps me coming back and reaching the summits of even unranked, inconsequential peaks such as Observation Knoll.
I linger a long time on this beautiful summit. Clouds are moving in from the west, and there is a slight 20% chance of rain in the forecast, but what I have seen so far of Jockey Road, even a wet road should still be passable as it contains mostly gravel, roads that have a clay base make passage impossible even in 4 wheel drive when wet.
The third container on the summit included the summit registration minus pencil. The last entry was only a month ago and shows me how skewed my perception of the area as being rarely traveled is. The hike down the ridgeline is uneventful, and I am thrilled with the walk. I toyed briefly with the thought of hiking along the connecting ridgeline, summiting all four peaks in my descent, but decided to check the box and move on. With the approach and hike taking longer than expected, I probably have time for one more summit before heading for home.
Jockey road takes a long circular path around The Tetons and the surrounding foothills, and I am impressed with the massive profile it gives against the darkened cloudy background. A few raindrops have hit the front windshield as I pull off the road for my final ascent of Pink Knolls.
Pink Knolls is a ranked peak that sits in stark contrast to the surrounding drab gray hills. A jeep track leads to a high saddle, and I drive to this point. The upper divide marks the difference between the red and gray dirt, and a small track leads toward the summit. An ATV could probably make the ascent, but again I am happy to hike. The road makes for easy walking, and a constant grade allows me to make good time. As the way begins to level off, I note the summit is directly above me and climb the remaining distance to the long ridgeline. A summit cairn exists, and a stunning view towards the Blue Mountain.
I take mental note of some of the surrounding hills yet to climb. Directly west (picture above) is the impressive summits of unnamed peaks 7794 and 7522. Larger by far than Pink Knolls these peaks will take most the day to climb, and I look forward to being able to reach the summit someday. But for now, I am content with the four peaks I reached today and look forward to seeing where Jockey Road makes its exit.
As I exit the mountain range and move out onto the desert floor near Smithfield pig farms, I am grateful that Jockey Road connects with a paved road this close to the mountains. It will make the long drive across the valley to Minersville that much faster. As I scan the valley, I see a massive column of smoke rising from among the Black Hills. The Black Hills is the very area I was hiking in just a few weeks ago and had decided not to return to today due to the extreme fire danger. I would later learn that lightning-caused "The Neck" fire.