It is what I love about the routine I have developed with peak bagging over the years, working the small knolls, foothills, and eventually working up to the more towering peaks in a quadrangle. By the time I get to the more massive heights, the surrounding area is familiar, and it takes on a feeling of going to a friends house.
The temperature is down again this morning, and a light breeze is blowing, I think back about getting a jacket, but I decide not to as it is going to be another beautiful Friday here in Southern Utah. I make the drive to Minersville, turn left toward Milford and take an immediate left toward the many farms listed on the sign. These are the pig farms I have mentioned in other posts. The road is straight, heading west, and the valley feels like it is a long way across, but the pavement makes the drive bearable, and soon I am turning once again onto Jockey Road.
This time I don’t forget to set up directions to Can Knoll. Only two non-ranked peaks exist in the Burns Knoll - UT, quadrangle. Can Knoll and Burns Knoll. Both are close to Jockey Road, and although they are non-ranked, I like to check off even the small mountains if they are easy to reach. I stop on the side of Jockey Road, looking south at a small bump in the valley. A fence line cuts the outcrop in half, and I note that the high point for the mountain is on the west side of the upcoming fence line. I drive forward and look again. My GPS says it is .69 miles away, flat walk in tall grass. I don’t want to walk over a mile to the bump and back first thing in the morning. I set my sights on Burns Knoll and drive on. Burns Knoll is easy to spot, a more significant bump very near the road and I pull over to hike to the top.
Burns Knoll has tire tracks leading to the top, but I hike up and back in 8 minutes before I’m on my way again. My next objective is unnamed peak 6670, and I have marked a side road that twists and turns around several unlisted foothills leading to a saddle between Peak 6670 and Blue Mountain. The sidetrack follows a dry wash and is sandy with a few obstacles to overcome. I exit my Jeep on two occasions to make sure I have clearance or to determine if my Jeep will fit between rock and tree. Eventually, I reach a dead end with no easy access to Peak 6670. I turn around and decide to move on to my next peak, and I will look at the map again to determine if a better route exists to 6670.
My next approach is not any better, as I pull off Jockey Road and come to a stop in front of a large wash. I exit my vehicle once again to examine the depth of the ravine. I’m sure the channel isn’t steep enough to have my bumper hang the rear tires off the ground, what concerns me is the rise on the opposite side is not uniform, one tire will climb out of the wash a couple of feet before the other, the frame should handle the tire being off the ground, but that in combination with the rear tire descent has me a little worried. I slowly drop into the wash, and I am excited when I climb out the other side without so much as a whimper from my Fj. I love my Jeep.
The track is a slow crawl around lower foothills as I make my way up an old mining trail. But I soon reach a section of road that is thoroughly washed out, looking at the thick Juniper Trees and the steep hillsides on opposite sides of the way, I decided to park and hike from here. I can see the upper part of Mine Benchmark as I consult my map, and I choose to walk the road to an abandoned mine, which is near the southern ridgeline. I’ll make my way to the ridgeline from the shaft and hike that way to the summit.
These hills are rich in minerals, and there are hundreds of old mining sites scattered throughout the area. Extreme caution is required because the mines are often not boarded over, and the entrances to the tunnels are open. One look down the shaft will convince anyone to stay clear.
I continue to follow the road northeast a few hundred feet until I have easy access to the hillside. The cut is steep off the path, but I soon find myself working through the Juniper Trees and around lava boulders to the ridge. A beautiful view opens up to the west as I begin to hike the ridgeline. Unfortunately, the breeze is stiff and still cold at 7000’ feet elevation. I should have brought a jacket.
Hiking the rocky ridgeline, I find another stunning view of Frisco Peak. The wind is blowing on the summit, so I don’t linger. I look for a place to eat a snack and escape the wind. I move several times, and just as I find a beautiful flat, smooth rock to sit upon, I see a Geological Survey arrow, pointing toward a survey marker. I didn’t notice a marker on the summit, so I return to take a picture. I have seen on other peaks in the area; the summit cairn appears destroyed. They are spreading the rock around the summit to appear normal. While I respect the fact that National Parks do not want summit cairns on the frequently visited summit peaks, it bothers me that public land summit cairns are as well. I have no proof that they are, but the surrounding rocks would lead me to believe that a cairn existed on this peak. Plus I can’t find the survey marker. I start to move boulders. I check under the large bush just to the north of the arrow. I move more rocks. It is another sign that the summit cairn is gone, most peak baggers are very considerate of any summit marker, often building a cairn to the side or around the tag to preserve its status. After moving dozens of rocks, I finally find the geological survey. I stack a few stones around the site to allow others to see it more easily.
On my return trip from the Mine Summit, I notice a road near the high saddle, which I had not seen before. Rather than hiking down the same way I approached, I decided to follow the route. A steep road (probably never used except by the bulldozer) leads around the edge of the ridgeline and follows another ridge to the same sandy wash I drove in on. Several more abandoned dig sites are along the road, but no actual mines are there. I follow the ravine and soon arrive at my waiting Jeep: two peaks down, and two to go in my plan for today.
The third and final jeep trail turn is just a few hundred feet down the road, and I am pleased that it is well-traveled. I follow the path between two apparent peaks. Peak 6530 sits to the drivers left, and Peak 6701 is almost directly in front of me as I reach a saddle between the two. Large rocks have been placed in the road to stop traffic from going further although it has not stopped everyone from finding a workaround through the trees. I park at the rocks and load my pack with fresh bottled water.
I hike between the boulders and onto the road. The next small rise is a quarry. The abandoned quarry is along a near ridgeline, so I walk on, picking my line through the Juniper Trees to arrive at the prominent sagebrush ridgeline leading to the mountain top. Unnamed peak, like most peaks in this area, is lava based, and I am hiking between cinder scree and more extensive lava beds. I pick up several thundereggs along the way, as the crystal structure holds a beautiful pink hue to it. The summit of Peak 6701 is another hard cap, so I don’t linger. I can finally see Peak 6670, the peak I turned around on this morning, and it is not going to be an accessible peak to reach. I’ll have to give my jeep trail another try in the future.
The summit view of Mine Benchmark is stunning, and I appreciate the difficulty of the approach road and the hike as seen from this angle. No wonder I am tired. As I hike back toward the Jeep, I decide to call it a day. I have twisted my knee in the cinder rock, it isn’t bad, but it is becoming uncomfortable the more I twist and turn on it down the hillside. Stopping at the abandoned quarry, I see it is Wonder Stone. Several significant ridgelines exist of the Utah rock, and I gather a few larger stones for my wife. Linda is an artist in the real sense of the word when it comes to cutting, shaping, and turning pieces like this into jewelry.