Skip to main content

Moving on to Duchense Ridge (Mill Benchmark)

The next stop on this Sunday morning trek was a quick drive from Heber Mountain to what the guide referred to as Duchesne Ridge.  The official name appears to be Mill  Benchmark, which is one of 3 Mill Benchmarks in Utah.  This was relatively easy to find, although I did have to walk through the underbrush for maybe 100 yards to find the benchmark and eat the next cheeseburger. 

It turns out that my brief stroll resulted in my becoming covered with thistles.  Picking them off of my socks and tossing them out the window was a good way to entertain myself as I drove along the road in search of the next summit. 

Although it was not on my map, there did appear to be another summit very close, with some sort of communications structure on the top.  Despite my past bad experience with pursuing summits in official locations (see posting for Mount Saint Alban) I climbed up a side road to look for a benchmark.  None could be found but  I ate a cheeseburger just in case, all the while keeping vigilant for any signs that I might be cooking from microwaves.  Later research with Google Maps satellite imagery identified this as labelled Duchense Ridge, but it is not an official summit.    


From here I took off down the road in search of Wolf Creek Peak, armed with multiple maps and aerial photographs.  Wolf Creek Peak is not to be confused with Wolf Creek Summit, which has been previously cheeseburgered, and not to be disrespectful, by someone even lazier than me, as this is basically a sign on Highway 35.  However, not only could I not find the route to Wolf Creek Peak, but as I drove aimlessly on various dirt roads I began to have serious doubts about finding my way back to Highway 35.  Note to the Forest Service -- a few more signs would be helpful here.  Eventually, I did manage to get to Wolf Creek Campground next to the highway, but without successfully making it to the peak.  And, even more frustrating, I did not realize the campground is actually located at Wolf Creek Summit, so I could have eaten my 4rth cheeseburger there instead of taking it home and putting it in the freezer (in case of emergency).  So, Wolf Creek Peak remains for another day.  

Lost on Heber Mountain

Building on my new enthusiasm for the Uintas, I decided to try and bag 3 as yet uncheeseburgered summits in one Sunday morning. So armed with detailed instructions from and 4 cheeseburgers – one extra just in case – I made a complex plan and set off enthusiastically despite threats of afternoon thunderstorms. These summits looked to be easy pickings and my only worry was how I would have the appetite to eat a cheeseburger so early in the morning. Ha ha.  If my life had a soundtrack, this is where you would insert ominous music like they play when a young girl is about to go down into the basement in a horror film. Heber Mountain was the first summit on my list. The guide said that you could probably drive to the summit but might need a high clearance vehicle to get the last couple miles.  So after a bumpy ride along Forest Road #54, and mounting anxiety about how my tires were holding up going over the odd pointy rock, I parked my Honda Accord along the road and set off on foot down the road. My car is getting the opportunity to park in a lot of remote locations lately.

The road soon began a gentle descent. Over the long term, going steadily downhill is not compatible with reaching a summit, so I found myself becoming increasingly nervous.  Eventually I decided to leave the road and set off through the meadows towards what I assumed was the summit. This resulted in my becoming what we experienced hikers refer to as “lost”, due to a condition known as “stupidity”. However, by continually moving uphill I miraculously did find the summit. But not quickly. There are actually 2 summits, neither one of which seems to have a benchmark, so I ate my cheeseburger on the first one so I would have the strength to wander over to the second, a distance of maybe 50 feet.  At this point I thought I caught a glimpse of lightening in the distance, and this did not seem like the best place to be in a thunderstorm, so I took off down what I now realized was the road that I should have come up in the first place.

As I strolled down it became apparent that I could have easily driven to the top, as the road is really in pretty good shape. However, I instead managed to turn this into a 7 or 8 mile random wander. At least there were lots of deer gazing at me from various fields to keep me somewhat entertained.  Or maybe it was just the same 2 deer following me in amusement.  

Next, it was off down the road to Duchense Ridge.

Farquhar Knob. Hovland, MN

It's July 28th, and I've been able to see my breath all day.  There couldn't be a better way to warm up a brisk JULY day of Minnesota hiking than to consume a piping hot summit cheeseburger atop one of Cook County's abundant peaks.  

MountainMaiden and I set out on our backwoods quest, only to start the day 0/2.  Our first two summit attempts were stymied by an absolute maze of forest roads/atv trails coupled with a few 'KEEP OUT' signs laden with bullet holes.  Down but not out, we continued to search for a slump-buster.  

Solace was found on Farquhar Knob, where an old road climbed up and up, past a sign with bullet holes, then an old car with bullet holes, then another sign get it.  The road took us to the site of an old firetower, where our resident party pooper safety officer was quick to say no to the idea of climbing.  The results are the same no less, and another summit has been taken down in true Minnesota fashion. 

Failed to mention the beer growler, which may become more of a staple in my future hikes. 

Go big. 

Sugarloaf - Onalaska, WI

My day started in St. Paul, MN, about 150 miles away from the La Crosse/Onalaska, WI area. I drove 2.5 hours down to do a quick 30 minute project for work, and decided driving back up right away wasn't the most ideal of situations. This area of MN/WI is littered with impressive bluffs and hills, so I figured I'd call fellow summiter AmateurHour to quick look up where I could get an easy Summit in before my drive home. The most "accessible" summit in the area was Sugarloaf, located just off an elementary school playground. So after a quick trip to the local BK Lounge, I made my way to the school, trying to look as far from creepy as possible to the kids on the playground.

Now, since I was down there for work, I obviously didn't come prepared for a little summit adventure, but I did what I could with my inadequite climbing outfit. 

Up the hill I went, and quickly found that the woods were extremely thick and heavy with undergrowth. I got as far up as I could, but since it was so thick, I have no idea how close I was to the actual summit.

Since it was so thick (and buggy), I decided to eat my burger in the clearing outside the thick woods. What a view!

My second first summit

Having recently discovered the Uintas (after 7 years in SLC -- I really need to get out more), I was excited to note that Iron Mine Mountain was as yet uncheeseburgered, so I figured here was my chance to recover from the unfortunate experience I had the time I tried to do a bunch of first summits in our nation's capitol. So, armed with instructions from a posting at, I set off early from Sugarhouse. Things got off to an inauspicious start, as I was a bit befuddled by the network of roads in Soapstone Basin off of the Mirror Lake Scenic byway. The entire basin, which is beautiful, was filled with RV encampments, each of which was surrounded by fleets of ATVs. I was getting an early start, so almost no one was up and about, except for a few gnarly looking souls who glared at me suspiciously as I drove by. It turns out that the sign I was seeking for Lambert Hollow was a bit understated, so I missed on my first pass. It was more easily noted when I back-tracked, and since it was not clear where to park, I took a wild quess and left my car in the middle of a meadow. From here, there is an additional 2.3 miles of road to the trailhead, but this was described as passable only by a high clearance vehicle. A 12 year old Honda Accord does not seem to meet this criteria, so I walked up the road. This seemed like a bit of pointless extra work, but on the other hand, I swim laps in the pool for exercise when a jet ski would be faster, so why not? It was a pretty walk none-the-less. At the trailhead, there were two extremely high clearance pick-up trucks parked, leading me to immediately become concerned that someone else was going to beat me to being the first to cheeseburger this summit. I located a large club-like branch in case this turned out to be a problem. From the trailhead, it is another 2 miles on a less well defined road to the summit. This part is posted as closed to all vehicles. In addition to the gate, trees have been chopped down to fall across the road to further emphasize that it is closed to ATVs. Works for me. The road is a gradual, but relentlessly uphill climb through pine forests, aspen groves and meadows. The panoramic views are sparse, but it is peaceful and pretty. Near the top, it opens up into a large meadow-like area with very nice views, bright wildflowers and fluttering butterflies. I half-expected a unicorn to go prancing by. At this point I encountered the two parties from the pick-up trucks and was able to determine that they had never heard of summitcheeseburger, so I was able to discard my club. It was not hard to locate the benchmark, where I consumed my cheeseburger, ravenously at this point, as I was REALLY hungry. The trip down was speedy, and on my arrival back in Soapstone Basin I noted ATVs now flitting around at high speed, all driven by 10 year old boys. There were also plenty of flies. So, I did not linger.

Second Time's the Charm

Back in High School, 30 years ago, a friend and I talked about Shasta and Whitney.  Although Whitney is taller Shasta is a much better looking mountain and therefore deserves to be taller.  We came up with a scheme to dump 200ft of rocks on Shasta's summit via helocopter so it can be the tallest summit in the contiguous United States.  I suspect I'll never amass the resources to make Shasta taller but I figured some day I'd climb it.

Mt Shasta from the Highway

The summit has mocked me from the highway for years.  Finally I committed to summit Shasta on my 45th birthday.  Unfortunately I didn't make it (see my Misery Hill posting).  On my 46th birthday I left the Mount Shasta trailhead at Bunny Flat with a bigger group then the year before: Chris Wong, Corrina Wong, Kevin Wong, Ryan Wallace an Christina Wallace.

Bunny Flat Parking Lot

Ryan and I continued from Horse Camp where we left the others.

Horse Camp

Ryan and I camped at Lake Helen so we could to start our Summit attempt from 10000 ft the day after my birthday.

Lake Helen

Lake Helen at Sunset

At 04:30 on the day after my birthday we started out for our summit attempt.  Sometime after 10:30 we saw the true summit from the top of Misery Hill.

Summit from the Misery Hil

We had our Cheeseburger lunch on the summit of course.

Cheeseburger Summit

At around 11:30 we left the summit triumphant.

Triumphant Summit

Now that I think of it, it would be easier to knock 200 ft of rock off of Whitney then to add 200 ft to Shasta.

Ripped shirt on Kelly Hill

After the easy jaunt to Windy Hill, some creative hiking and scaling of barb-wire was required for summit 2.  Kelly Hill's fence claimed one of my shirts, but I made it relatively unscathed.  The view from this hill was best to the West, where the great Pacific could be seen through the haze... barely...


Burger 2 was dispatched from atop the round crest of the Summit.  The retreat back to the car led to a shortcut attempt.  Though this route was a fast way to the car, it required a trip to wallgreens on the way back to my temporary home so that I could purchase a pair of tweezers to pull out the many (hundreds perhaps?) of thorns, slivers, and other flora stuck into my hands, legs, and arms.  Despite this annoyance, it felt good to knock off two summits after a long break from successful attempts...

Kirk's Windy Hill

After a productive Sunday, it was time for a break.  On the advice of a friend (and namesake), I dropped into Kirk's Steakburger for two juicy 1/3 pound cheeseburgers.

With burgers in hand, it was a relatively short drive to two nearby summits up some beautiful hills.

Upon reaching the Windy Hills Preserve, it was an incredibly easy jaunt up to the Summit where views of San Francisco and the entire valley could be had to the North, East, and South.

One of the burgers was quickly dispatched, and it was on to summit #2...

Unicorn Peak Snow Lakes Route

Unicorn Peak is the highest point in the Tatoosh Range, across Stevens Canyon from Mt. Rainier with unparalled views at the summit. We hiked into Snow Lake Friday evening and made camp under moonlight with the shadow of Unicorn looming above us.

We set out at first light and made quick progress ascending the two couloirs, donning crampons and kicking careful steps into the icy morning hardpack. At the top of the second couloir we came to a deep moat and had to downclimb and scamble over some exposed wet rock to reach the other side.

On top of the moat the grade dropped from 40 degrees to a gentle slope to the rocky saddle, with excellent views of the other major cascade volcanoes to the south. We left our crampons on over a short section of rock before the steep traverse to the summit block. Here we dropped our packs, put on our harnesses, and built a directional anchor at the bottom of the Open Books Crack route- a nice balance of difficulty and exposure. The most experienced climber in our party led the route, placing a few pieces of protection along the way. Two more followed, with the final member cleaning the route as we belayed him from the summit.

On the Unicorn Peak summit we were surprised to find a unicorn eating a summit cheeburger. Naturally, we joined him. With Rainier looming in front of us, we finished our burgers, snapped a few photos, and set up for an exciting free rappel onto the narrow saddle below, with about 3000 feet of exposure on either side. The descent found much softer snow thanks to intense heat of the overhead sun, and we were able to glissade most of the way back to our camp where we finished off the cheeseburgers before packing out. 

Summit unicorn Unicorn summitcheeseburger!

Mt. Hood West Crater Rim

We met our party in the climber's registration area at the Timberline Lodge.  It was 11:30 pm and the room was a quiet swirl of excitement, nerves, and cold mountain air.  After a word from our fearless leader, we split up pickets and ropes and began our ascent up the the climber's route along the Palmer Glacier.

The moon and the summit remained shrouded in black: our headlamps provided the only light and our feet the only view.  Earlier climbers offered flickering beacons along the high walls of the mountain.  They were inviting us to join them while reminding us of the thousands of vertical feet remaining.  

By the top of the Palmer, two in the party had turned back.  The remaining climbers attached crampons and forged ahead.  We began moving west along a steep snow field as we approached Crater Rock.  We could see our first challenge, the walls of the West Crater Rim.  Our leader continuously evaluated the walls of the crater, displeased with what he was seeing.  "It's all rotten!"  Just what we wanted to hear.

We reached a staging area as the sun peeked over the horizon behind the mountain, turning it into a sun dial and casting its shadow for hundreds of miles.  As the light picked up, so did the wind.  Ice and rocks were chased out of the Devil's Kitchen by sulfar scented gusts.  Time to get going.  Split into three rope teams of three, our party began the steep ascent on the least rotten stretch of ice available.  The climb was slow and demanded faith in our axes, crampons, and pickets.

At the top of the rim, we traversed to the Old Chute for the final push to the summit.  We worked up the steps planted by the parties before us, weaving through the bottleneck of excited climbers.  At the top, the wind was howling, but it couldn't spoil the view- or the delicious cheeseburger we were about to eat.  We were greeted with bluebird skies and a backdrop of St. Helens, Rainier, and Adams to the north; Jefferson and the Sisters to the south, and a juicy Hawthorne Hamburger Project burger to top it all off.

We couldn't stay long, as the rising sun was melting our descent route and powerful gusts threatened to force us off the narrow ledge where we'd paused for pictures and burgers. We headed back along the knife edge of the rim, down the Old Chute, and across the Hogsback.  We were able to glissade from the Steel Cliffs back down to the Palmer, then slog the rest of the way to the parking lot for hard earned snow cones and beer, and eventually, more burgers.