I took Friday off work and returned to the Horn Mountain area to do some more exploring. During last week’s ride to North Horn Mountain, I saw many roads that I wanted to turn down, but I was leading a group of other ATVs and I wasn’t able to explore. I staged on the west side of Joe’s Valley Reservoir where UT-29 turns from pavement to gravel, then rode south along North Dragon Creek. I took the 66 trail up onto North Horn Mountain this time, instead of the gravel road I was on last weekend. The Arapeen Trail map showed the road as being “More Difficult” and restricted to 50″ width, and the signs on the ground said “Caution”. Based on all of that, I was expecting it to be a tough trail, but it was a pretty easy 2WD trail. A stock Jeep could have made it without any problems.
After topping out on the 66 trail, I rode around the Cap, which is a steep and heavily-wooded cap of Flagstaff Limestone that forms the highest point of North Horn Mountain. I eventually reached the same gravel road I’d ridden last weekend, but I only followed it for about half a mile before turning north toward Mahogany Point. The road was mostly a two-track through brush and small trees (mostly Mountain Mahogany). There was one part of the road where two big berms were dug across the road, presumably in an attempt to close it. However, the Arapeen Trail map and the Manti-La Sal Motor Vehicle Use map both showed that the road continued another 3/4-mile almost to the forest boundary, so I rode right over the berms. Eventually the road ended in a clearing that I would guess used to be a drill pad, though there weren’t any signs of drilling now. It was a quarter-mile hike to Mahogany Point, and the view was magnificent! I could see up Cottonwood Canyon, down Straight Canyon toward Orangeville and Castle Dale, and well into the San Rafael Swell. I placed a geocache there (of course) after enjoying the view and taking a lot of photos.
From there I rode back south to the main gravel road, then west a bit before heading south again toward South Horn Mountain. I’d scouted this area in Google Earth and noticed a huge crack near the edge of the mountain. Being there in person, it looks as though a huge section of the mountain is about to cleave off and tumble to the valley floor. It’s a little unsettling to hike around there, because in addition to the big crack, there are many smaller cracks and sinkholes. I placed another geocache there, on the opposite side of the crack from where I’d parked the ATV. There was some dirt filling the crack where I was able to simply walk across, and I’m not sure if that was natural or whether somebody had filled it in. After placing the cache, I wandered around a bit and collected some rocks. There was a lot of petrified wood and ironstone concretions, and some of the rocks looked like fossilized dinosaur bones. I was very surprised to find some chert flakes, which indicate that this area was used by Fremont Indians while making arrow heads, and also likely hunting and gathering. I wasn’t aware that they hung out in the mountains at 8,600′, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise considering that the game animals would have done the same thing during the summer months.
After finishing up at South Horn Mountain, I cruised along the main roads back toward the truck. By the time I got back there it was still fairly early, so I headed up the switchbacks on UT-29 and found a few geocaches in the area. I was impressed by the area around Grassy Lake. There were a lot of nice camp spots along the road, and Grassy Lake itself was beautiful. I didn’t spend much time there, however, since I grew tired of looking for geocaches in the thick timber. I returned to the truck and loaded the ATV up, the set out north along Miller Flat Road toward Potter’s Ponds.
I found two geocaches along the way. Since there were a lot of geocachers gathered there last weekend, it’s no surprise that there were a lot of geocaches placed in the area. I found one traditional cache, then began looking for a night cache. Night caches are normally designed to be found at night, with reflectors on trees that guide you through the forest to the final cache. This one, however, was different. I stood at the starting coordinates, in broad daylight, hoping to be able to see some reflectors. I didn’t expect to have any luck in finding any of them, and right about the time I was ready to give up, I noticed a big orange diamond-shaped reflector on a tree that delineates the edge of the road. I’d ignored it up until that point because it was obviously quite old and placed there by the Forest Service, but knowing who placed the night cache, it deserved another look. At the base of the tree below the reflector was a hollow log, and inside the log was the geocache! I was pretty excited to find it. I tried to get one more first-to-find near Potter’s Ponds, but I just couldn’t find the cache, and I just gave up finding any more in that area. On my way back toward UT-31, I tried finding one more geocache that has gone unfound for almost a year. The coordinates placed it about 11.5 miles south of where I was looking, but several other people had already looked there and couldn’t find the cache. I made the assumption that one of the numbers in the coordinates were entered incorrectly, and by changing them one at a time I eventually came up with a location that seemed more likely. Sure enough, after searching for several minutes, I found the cache, and the logbook was empty!
After finding that last geocache, I kept heading toward home. It was getting late and the sun was beginning to set, so instead of turning east on UT-31 toward home, I turned west and drove to Skyline Drive. I knew I would have cell service there, so I called Traci quickly to let her know I was on my way home, then I set off back down the canyon toward Huntington. I’d had a very full day of 4-wheeling, hiking, and geocaching, but it still didn’t seem like enough. I may go back again next weekend since the time left before winter is quickly dwindling, and soon it’ll be time to head back to the desert!
GPS Tracklog and Photo Waypoints (Google Earth .KMZ Format)