To celebrate my 40th birthday I invited some friends on a camping trip at the north end of Thousand Lake Mountain. I arrived on Thursday evening, apprehensive about whether the camp spot I wanted would be occupied. I pulled in to find a trailer already in the site, but it was Terry, who had gotten there shortly before me. My niece, Ashley, had followed me in her car, and while we set up camp Jan and Ken drove in with their motorhome and Jeep. There were some sprinkles in the evening but we enjoyed some time around a camp fire.
I rose with the sun and after a hearty breakfast left for a quick hike up Geyser Peak with the dogs. I began hiking from the Riley Spring trailhead just south of Geyser Peak. From there I followed an old, closed road northwest as it faded into a cow trail and then disappeared entirely. I reached the saddle directly west of the peak and then bushwhacked along the ridge. At the summit was some old survey equipment, likely left there when the survey marker was placed in 1952. A summit register from 2005 held an assortment of names from locals to out-of-staters. Several of the later entries degenerated into arguments regarding cattle grazing and OHVs–not something I expected to find on a rarely-summited mountain! From the summit I could see camp and noticed a couple of new vehicles since I’d left.
I returned to find Ken and Gayle at camp, and several others showed up later in the day. Traci and the kids drove the Jeep there after school got out. There was rain and hail in the afternoon so I set up the brand new, never-been-used awning on the camp trailer, only to have it torn off by a gust of wind half an hour later! There was a tornado about 65 miles away near Panguitch at about the same time. Luckily only a few minor pieces were broken, and I was able to fix it the following week for about $37 and a few hours’ time.
On Saturday a group of us–five vehicles and 14 people–convoyed into Capitol Reef National Park to check out Cathedral Valley. We stopped at the Cathedral Valley and South Desert overlooks, hiked to the Morrell Cabin, then drove through Cathedral Valley and finally checked out the Gypsum Sinkhole. Most of us turned around there and returned to camp, but Ken, Paul, Chris, and Daph continued to the southeast and forded the Fremont River and returned to camp via highways 24 and 72.
At camp on Saturday evening Traci wanted to go for a walk, so we took off through the trees. I couldn’t help but look for aspen carvings and was surprised to find two from the same date in 1891! On June 10, 1891, Lorenzo Taylor and William Maxfield must have camped there and carved their names and the date into a two-pronged aspen. It is by far the oldest tree carving I’ve seen. The tree is dead and some of the bark is peeling off, and I’m sure the carvings won’t be legible for much longer. Later in the evening my wife and sister gave me a birthday present. Traci had supplied the yarn and my sister Samantha knitted an afghan similar to one I remember my grandma having when I was a young kid. We spent the rest of the evening around the fire and a small group of us played some card games at the picnic table.
Everyone departed on Sunday. I’d even planned on going home that day but since I hadn’t yet done my planned hike of Hen’s Hole Peak, I decided to hang out for another day. After having so many friends there all weekend, it was very lonely that evening.
I slept in on Monday morning, having spent some of the previous evening packing up camp. The dogs and I set out to hike Hen’s Hole Peak after breakfast. It’s a steep mountain, and with no easily discernible route to the summit. I’d used Google Earth to plan a route that avoided any major bushwhacking or thickly forested areas, but I had no idea whether what I’d seen in the satellite imagery would match up with the reality on the ground. It turned out to be a great route, mostly through open sagebrush or, even on occasion, along game trails. I passed through one area that had been logged and I had to dodge or hop over downed trees and branches. The lower slopes on the east side of Hen’s Hole Peak, particularly along the old logging roads, were covered in small raspberry bushes. I ate a few handfuls of tiny raspberries, mostly past their prime, and even fed the dogs a few.
Eventually the mountainside steepened and I picked my way through sparse aspen and pine trees. I reached the summit and found a register there, and the views were very similar to those from Geyser Peak. The return hike went quickly. I even took a shortcut down a steep slope that I hadn’t wanted to climb on the way up. The total hiking distance clocked in at exactly three miles. I returned to camp, ate lunch, and finished taking down camp. I was glad for the extra day to myself, but even more grateful to return to my family that afternoon.