Last year I attempted to hike East Mountain in mid-June, but I was stopped by some big snow drifts across the road. This year, more than two weeks earlier in the year, I returned and found conditions much drier than the previous year. I got off work early on Friday and drove onto East Mountain, finding very little snow there. I parked near the head of Mill Fork Canyon, which I’d hiked from the bottom-up last year, but never made it to the very top. This time I hoped to hike from the top down to where I’d left off last year. I hiked down the trail but it veered away from the watercourse of Mill Fork Canyon and followed the ridge to the north instead. I backtracked and found a fork in the trail that looked like it might head in the right direction, but instead it appeared to join up with the new section of trail that I’d attempted to hike up last year. It was unmaintained and had many downed trees in the first few hundred feet, much like the trail I’d encountered a year earlier, so I gave up once again.
I hiked back up to the Jeep and drove to the East Mountain trailhead. From there I hiked a short trail to point 10,600′, which had some nice views to the east and west. Returning once again to the Jeep, I found a level place to park, then ate some dinner and spent the rest of the evening reading an archaeology magazine before turning in at about 10:30PM. It was windy and cold that night, but I slept pretty comfortably inside the Jeep. I avoid sleeping outside in bear country whenever possible.
I was wide awake by 6:30 on Saturday morning, and after a quick breakfast I was hiking away from the trailhead before 7:30. For nearly the first mile I was hiking entirely in the shade and it was chilly. I crossed a normally swampy spot in the trail and the mud was frozen solid. I reached a saddle where the trail crossed over to the east side of a small peak along the ridge, and from there I hiked in sunshine the rest of the way. I found one geocache, nearly full of water, and also took a short side trip to the spot where rescuers attempted to drill down to the trapped miners in the Crandall Canyon Mine in 2007 (eerily, I had been deep inside of that mine in my early teens as part of a Boy Scout tour).
I continued toward the high point of East Mountain, which is also the highest point in Emery County at 10,743′. Along the way, at about 10,500′ elevation, I was both surprised and elated to find a worked projectile point. It was just lying in the dirt a few feet off the trail. I reached the high point and snapped a few photos of distant landmarks, then found a geocache that I’d been first-to-find nearly 14 years earlier. I hiked back to the Jeep and made very good time. I’d been on the trail less than four hours, and had a much easier time of it than the first time I’d hiked to the peak using a different route.
It wasn’t even noon yet and I felt like I’d had a very productive day. There was, however, one more stop I wanted to make before driving home. A friend had told me several weeks earlier about a Fremont pictograph panel in the Wasatch Plateau at a relatively high elevation of nearly 8,000′. I knew next-to-nothing about it. I had only some rough coordinates and a single photo of the panel, but didn’t know anything about its recent history or the best way to approach it. The driving route I chose involved a lot of 4-low in the Jeep. Once I got to the most logical parking spot, I still had quite a hike to get to the pictograph panel. It turned out that there were some cliff bands along the way that weren’t obvious in Google Earth. I negotiated the first cliff band, then searched for a way past the next, and so on until somehow I was able to traverse several levels of cliffs to reach the correct level with the rock art. None of the hiking/scrambling I’d done was particularly dangerous, but there was an enormous level of uncertainty that left me questioning whether I should continue beyond each section of cliffs. There was one final surprise upon arriving at the pictographs. The coordinates I had were a couple hundred feet off, and the rock art was above an inaccessible ledge. A thin rope dangled down from the ledge, just above an old axe-cut log leaning against the cliff, indicating that at least a few people other than my friend knew about the rock art. Being alone, I only briefly contemplated climbing the log and rope before deciding it was beyond my abilities. I settled for photographing the pictographs from below. I was able to reverse my route through the cliffs rather quickly since I’d done all the necessary routefinding during the hike in. The drive back out in 4-low seemed to go more quickly as well. Once I got back to where I could shift into 2WD, it was a quick drive back home. It had felt like a long, fulfilling weekend despite only having been gone from home just over 24 hours.