Uncompahgre Plateau… Peak Undisclosed

It was the last week of school and I might have bought a bottle of wine. My roommate might have “stolen” a couple of glasses from me which lead to a second bottle being opened. This might have hatched a plan for evening hiking the next day.

We might have tackled a 10+ mile hike after work. These might be the photos from a site that might be on the Uncompaghre Plateau.

Aw, we’re always hiking alone so Sprocket and I never have great summit photos!

There’s no might about it, that’s my little town in the valley:

 

Spring Break 2017: Moab, Utah

2017 has been more of the crazy busy that 2016 was. I did take off some time recently to hike Mt. Peale and Black Mesa but other than that, I’ve been head down working hard on making a house happen (and on that front, I’m waiting around on an “as built” appraisal right now…).

Last fall, my friend Kelly moved to California and left her van at my place until she could figure out how to get it moved out there with her. I volunteered to drive it out over Spring Break. My roommate, Katherine, was starting her break in Moab so I joined her and her friends for a couple of days.

On my way out to Moab from Ridgway, I discovered, when I was pulled over in Norwood, that the tags on the van were expired. This lead to some handwringing between Kelly and I as we tried to figure out what our best course of action was. Since the courthouse in Ouray was closed on Fridays, we decided I should just go for it and we’d deal with potential tickets when and if they came. Because of this delay, I reached Moab a little bit later than I’d hoped but it was Thursday night and I had more than a week of freedom ahead of me.

We’d hoped to get permits to hike Arches National Park‘s Fiery Furnace on Friday morning but alas, all of the permits were gone until Sunday but I’d need to head west before that. Since Katherine’s friend Brittney had never been to the park we hiked to Delicate Arch and then out to Sand Dune Arch. The weather was windy and cold so it wasn’t until we got out to Sand Dune Arch that I finally started to feel like it was break. Scrambling around sandstone makes me grin like a fool and that really helped kick off some vacation!

 

I mentioned that I really wanted to go to Back of Beyond Books and Katherine wanted to go to Gear Trader. Out of character for all of us, we went shopping. Much to Katherine’s surprise, I spent money: I bought books, a (super sweet) hat, and a new MSR pot since mine seems to have disappeared. The sun came out and the weather warmed up so walking around town felt awesome. Once we were done shopping, we started floating ideas about where to go next. I suggested Cable Arch but that wasn’t getting much response. Katherine suggested visiting Castle Valley so I suggested that we go out there and taste wine at Castle Creek. We caravaned out of town, pausing to get water at Matrimony Spring, and headed for the winery.

Tasting at Castle Creek is only $1 for 4 tastes (thanks Utah law, you can only do 4 tastes but if you plan with your friends you can taste them all). Since we’d stopped at Red Rocks, we visited the Utah Museum of Film and Western Heritage. I’d never stopped before but was pretty fascinated with all of the movies and commercials that had been filmed out there! I knew about a lot of them but there were several that were total surprises!

Back in Moab, we grabbed dinner at The Spoke and then headed to the brewery to pick up some beer and have a pint before heading back to camp. The blustery weather had returned so we were happy to not have to return to camp yet. It seemed to be outdoors social media weekend in Moab so I was able to finally meet Dave W. and catch up with Mike R.

After a couple of beers we headed back to camp, where much wine and beer were drunk and campfire smoke inhaled and we all headed off to sleep. It poured overnight making getting the van out of our sandy camp spot somewhat interesting but it was time for me to be heading off towards California!

MLK Day: Uravan Hiking

I actually had a day off for Martin Luther King Day. I wasn’t needed at the coffee shop and school was out. I’d pretended to create some grand plans for hikes but I just wasn’t motivated. I was a little burnt out after a week of shedlife and some extra work after Christmas and I was just ind of coasting on fumes. So rather than having a grand plan, Sprocket and I took advantage of some warm weather and headed towards Uravan to see where we could hike.

I was sure all of the roads would be muddy and that we’d wind up just hiking a canyon directly from the highway. Instead, right at the site of Uravan, I noticed that the road climbing the cliff to the east looked pretty dry and decided to give it a try.

Our hike was just a few miles of meandering around. I hadn’t loaded Uravan onto any maps on my phone so we were just wandering around. We drove past some old mines on the way up. We scrambled down small muddy washes, we shimmied up little ledges, we found our way back down the cliffs towards the Jeep.

My handsome old dog was all about the sniffing and being outside. I don’t think the hike was long enough for him but that was okay.

There were pretty rocks and lots of just being happy to be outside.

My views out towards the La Sal Mountains wasn’t too shabby either.

I needed that. A lot.

Bluebell Knoll: Wayne County High Point

Once #RuthXJ, Sprocket and I made the descent from Mount Ellen, I realized that there was still a lot of daylight left but I had no idea what to do with it. I contemplated reading but the weather still seemed a bit unsettled and not great for basking in the sun. I thought about heading to Hanksville, finding some internet and working on this little blog and then I decided if I were going to spend money I’d better do it the good old fashioned way: at the gas pump.

I’ve checked into most of the Utah county highpoints over the last few years, aimlessly clicking around Peakbagger, SummitPost, and the like learning which ones are drive ups and which ones require large amounts of hiking. Wayne County’s Bluebell Knoll (also known as Boulder Mountain or Boulder Top) popped up as being not too far from Hanksville (ahem, if 60-ish miles counts as not too far). Fortunately, Utah’s Highway 24 passes through Capitol Reef so the drive was pretty much gorgeous.

When I arrived in Bicknell, there were some clouds sitting ominously over the Aquarius Plateau (again, also known as Boulder Mountain) but there didn’t appear to be rain falling from them. I figured I’d come this far and the only way to know if the forest roads were too muddy was to actually go check them out.

I’m so glad I went! The roads were only barely wet in places and mud wasn’t really an issue at all. I found that the route was in really good shape. It was, true to name, a bit boulder-y on top but nothing that really needed high clearance, just patience to pick a less bouncy line.

Bluebell Knoll

Everything about this drive and short walk (it was less than a quarter mile from the road to the “top”) reminded me a lot of Grand Mesa. I guess that makes sense because both Grand Mesa and the Aquarius Plateau are uplifts on the uplifted Colorado Plateau.

View from Bluebell Knoll

The only bummer of the hike was that I noticed Sprocket had split a nail sometime during our Mt. Ellen adventure. I couldn’t find a nail clipper in the Jeep (gotta fix that!) but Sprocket let me use a pocketknife to clean it up a bit so it wouldn’t split further. This was a huge bummer because it meant that the big black dog was mostly out of commission for the rest of the weekend.

View from Bluebell Knoll

After we were done, we headed back to Hanksville. The weather for sleeping the previous night had been AWESOME so I basically wanted to back and do it again.

Mount Ellen: Henry Mountains High Point

When I realized that I had the whole Labor Day Weekend to go out exploring with Sprocket, I decided it was high time to go check out Utah’s Henry Mountains. I’d been past them before but since it was early spring, the roads up into the mountains themselves were too muddy down low with snow gracing the higher peaks. The Henrys are rarely explored despite the fact that the highpoint, Mount Ellen, stands 11,522′ high giving it more than 5,000′ of prominence. The summit is also the high point of Utah’s Garfield County.

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Camp

As is usual, I had a hard time gauging just how rough the road to Bull Creek Pass actually was going to be. It can be difficult to tell just what people expect road conditions to be. As it turned out, it was rough but nothing that ever required me to use 4-wheel drive. On the way down, I did avail myself of low range since it was pretty steep.

Wikiup Pass

Bull Creek Pass

From the saddle at Bull Creek Pass, we made our way up through the wind pretty quickly. It looked as if a fairly major rainstorm might be approaching from the west but it wasn’t moving very fast and seemed to only be rain (no thunder or lightning).

View to Mount Ellen Peak from Mount Ellen Summit

Our views were way more expansive than my iPhone camera can show you. We could see all of the myriad canyons around us plus the Abajos and the La Sals in the distance. I was a bit disappointed that it was slightly hazy; I would have loved to glimpse my home San Juans from this distance!

Ellen Ridge

The trail petered out when we reached the ridge and made for kind of slow going through the large rocks. Sprocket hates this sort of hiking. We lingered on the peak for just a few minutes before heading back down to the Jeep. The clouds continued to appear to not be moving quickly but the wind was still whipping across the ridge from the west.

Typical Summit shot

Almost back at the Jeep, I was shocked at how powerful the gusts were! There as a bit of rain in the wind and it stung my cheeks and the wind pushed me continually off trail as we jogged back to Ruth as fast as was prudent.

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As I stood on the summit, I felt a weird feeling: I just wanted to go explore the canyons at my feet instead of climbing more peaks in the range. Perhaps it was the vagabond traveler in me but I felt the call of exploring pulling me back out of their remote clutches and back on the move.