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Tree Benchmark - Cracking number 3 for the first time

Having executed my plans flawlessly so far this particular morning, I headed down Highway 35 to see if I could break the curse that had so far prevented me from success beyond 2 summits in a single trip. Right around the corner from Wolf Creek Campground, I easily located FR 174, heading off into another beautiful Uinta area.  The road was in excellent shape, and it was not far before I could identify Tree and Wolf Benchmarks by the pattern of trees visible on the satellite photos I had meticulously studied earlier.  Both summits are on the same ridge, and it would probably be possible to drive even a standard car up to the top of Wolf Benchmark.  But I started off on Tree Benchmark via footpower.

Alas, this was another summit without a benchmark, at least that I could find, but I ate my 3rd cheeseburger in what seemed to be the right place and set off towards Wolf Summit on a very obvious trail along the ridge.

Camp Benchmark - Lucky guess

After my success with Wolf Creek Peak, I headed back to Wolf Creek Campground to attempt Camp Benchmark, which appeared to be a steep climb without a visible trail right next to Highway 35 near the entrance to the campground.  The photo below shows the summit as it appears from the campground, with my cell phone camera making it look much farther away than it really is.  I assumed that I would have to just trudge up the slopes through the underbrush, a prospect that made me a bit nervous as I would be in full view of everyone in the campground and on the highway if anything embarrassing occured.  Like, for example, I lost my footing and rolled down the hill.

As I drove down FR 091 on my way back to the campground I noticed what seemed like it could be the summit off to the side of the road about a mile or two before the campground.  Could it be that I had actually driven up the backside and the summit was just a quick stroll across this relatively level open area?  

There was actually a dirt road, FR 572, heading in the right direction, but it looked kind of dicey, so I pulled over to the side and set off on foot.  This turned out to be overly conservative, as after the first couple feet, FR 572 is actually in such good shape that you could have driven pretty much any vehicle right up to the edge of the summit.  There are in fact, a bunch of campsites along the ridge. It was a pleasant enough stroll in any event, and not as far as it looks, since again, my cell phone camera does weird things with perspective.  

Upon arriving at the edge, I found that I was clearly in the right place, but even after wandering around for 15 minutes, I never did find the benchmark.  So, I gave myself a pat on the back for finally having a hunch that turned out to be right, ate my 2nd cheeseburger of the morning on the highest point I could find, and returned to the car for my next attempt.  

Wolf Creek Peak - If at first you don't succeed ......

Having failed to locate Wolf Creek Peak last month, I decided to give it another try, as well to attempt 4 other summits in the nearby vicinity. Typically, my plans to be ambitious have ended badly, with a track record of dismal failure whenever I try to do more than 2 in one trip, but hope springs eternal.  So, I carefully studied various maps and satellite images from Google Maps before setting off on this trip, with limited expectations.  

As it turns out, with carefull preparation I was able to easily locate Wolf Creek Peak by following FR 091 starting at Wolf Creek Campground as it climbed up and looped around into the mountains.  I did have to chicken out with my driving as I approached the summit due to the deteriorating quality of the road, and backed into a vacant campsite area to walk the rest of the way.  This turned out to be only about a 1/2 mile, and the summit was obvious.  Upon locating the benchmark (which is rather beaten up, as benchmarks go), I consumed my first cheeseburger of the day, which I had prepared the day before.  Instead of my traditional McDonalds products, I had made some smaller homemade versions in recognition of the perhaps overly optimistic possibilty that I would be consuming 5 cheeseburgers in one morning.

The view was excellent, and it turns out that if I had walked another mile or so down the road, I could have knocked of Pass Benchmark as well.  But instead I headed back to the car to find Camp Benchmark.

Burgi Hill

Following my success with Memorial Hill, it was down the road in search of Burgi Hill.  This, it turns out, is in an under- construction high end housing development. I was able to find a trailhead and place to park just before the sign saying that the road is private and no public parking for the proletariat.  The path up to the top was clear, with an overgrown road, now blocked by a wooden fence. 

The trip up was quick, but arduous, as it was quite steep.  I hustled up, wolfed down my second not so exciting MacDonalds cheeseburger and raced off in seach of what was to be the real hike of the day, which was Phosphate Hill and The Peak, two summits apparently right next to each other off of the road up to Guardsman Pass. 

This turned out to be a dismal failure, as I was never able to find a trailhead.  At one point, I thought I had succeeded, and set off up what looked to be Phosphate Hill, but ended up fighting my way through trees and dense underbrush.  Eventually, despite gaining quite a bit of altitude, I gave up, as my legs were getting rather severely scratched and I had no idea where I was going.  At least I was able to find my car.  So Phosphate Hill and The Peak remain to be conquered.  By way of consolation, the drive home over Guardsman Pass was certainly scenic.

Memorial Hill

I originally planned to try and give another shot to finding Wolf Creek Peak up in the Uintas this day, but there was a threat for thunderstorms so instead I thought I would try some easy summits in Midway, UT.  The first on the list was Memorial Hill.  This couldn't possibly be easier to find, as it just sticks up out of the valley right in the middle of farmland.  This is actually a war memorial, and you can drive to the top, although the entrance was closed when I arrived.

To walk up the road would have taken a bit of time, as it circles around the hill a few times on the way to the top.  Fortunately, I eventually saw a trail that cut straight up, crossing the road multiple times on the way to the "peak".

After reading the various plaques and memorials, I ate my now thawed leftover froozen MacDonalds cheeseburger and headed back down to my car to find Burgi Hill, which was just down the road.

Mansion Hill. Madison, WI

When you work graveyard shifts, you typically don't feel the need to exert a whole lot during the day.  This is exemplified by my latest conquest on Mansion Hill.  Fast food burger, summit right on the street.  *sigh*, how the mighty have fallen..

Smoky Hill. Rozellville, WI

Needing a bit of relaxation from my latest work-induced excursion, I hit the interwebs in search of some new terrain.  A short drive over to Smokey Hill Rd followed by a quick hike up Smoky Hill (note the spelling difference) was to provide just that.  

Ironically, as I made the turn into the trailhead, I received a message from a fellow summit cheeseburger aficionado.  His message contained a picture of Mount Rainier, as he was travelling to Seattle - the picture below clearly shows that he was the one missing out.  

Seriously, What a beaut!

Is this really a summit?

On my way home from conquering Racetrack Benchmark, I decided to try and knock off a couple of summits in Park City, but the first one I tried was inside a gated community not accessible to me in my dusty car. I think you can get there by hiking up from a public park at the base, but that is an actual hike and I was not up to it at this point.  Another time.

However, according to the maps, Parleys Summit was as yet uncheeseburgered, and more or less right off the highway, so I thought I would give that a try, even though I was suspicious that this was really a summit.  As I approached the location indicated on the maps, I became even more suspicious, as you could literally see higher points nearby in all four directions.  But, bogus as it seemed, I decided to give it a shot.  

The summit, at least as it is shown on the map, is actually on someone's private property.

However, if you walk a bit further down the road there is some sort of trailhead, for mountain bikers mostly I think.  I was able to climb up a steep hill and clamber through the brush to get to a clearing with what seemed to be the high point without encountering any No Trespassing Signs or angry landed gentry with shotguns.   This was clearly not the wilderness, what with the sounds of traffic on nearby Highway 80, but I ate my cheeseburger anyway (shown perched on the sign), and I'm calling it a success.

Racetrack Benchmark

This was a great hike I'd recommend to anyone. Not too hard to get to the trailhead and great views all around. According to my guide, it was supposed to be about 6 miles roundtrip, but I finished in 2 hours, including summit wandering and cheeseburger consumption, so it must have been shorter than that. To get to the trailhead, I took a left on Co-op Creek Road (FR 082) about 1.3 miles east of the Strawberry Reservoir entrance and the Forest Service information booth on Highway 40. This is a pretty good gravel road, which I drove for about 7 miles up into the hills. Around a bend, there was a turnoff for FR 245, but it was clear that my Honda would not be suitable for that road.  So I parked on the side of the road and hiked, which is kind of the point anyway. You could take an ATV literally practically all the way to the summit, and there may be some people who do that, but they weren't around this morning.

About a mile up the road, which was steadily uphill through aspens with occasional panoramic views, I spotted 3 dogs in the road ahead of me. It seemed a bit strange to have 3 unattended dogs out like that early in the morning, but the mystery was resolved when I realized that they were actually bears. As soon as they saw me, all 3 instantly climbed trees next to the road. They accomplished this so quickly that I can now definatively confirm that climbing a tree is not a good way get away from a bear.  Two of them were clearly cubs, and the 3rd was a bit bigger, but no so much bigger that I was sure it was the mom. So, this made me more than a little nervous and certainly convinced me that it was not a good idea to get close enough to document this encounter with my crappy cell phone camera. I gave them a wide berth by stumbling through the forest on the other side of the road, keeping my eyes out for a larger version, which did not materialize.

There wasn't really a clear trail to the completely treeless summit from where I was approaching, but I managed to stumble up the steep slopes without losing my footing. The cairn on the top has a register, which was started in 2009. It is not particularly close to the benchmark.

I did enjoy my day old McDonalds cheeseburger, despite the scowl on my face in this picture. The look of frustration comes from having trouble figuring out how to take my own picture, while trying to get the view of Strawberry Reservoir in the frame.  Which I failed to accomplish.

I will say that the summit is very nice, but not to be gross, it does appear to be largely made up of animal droppings. All different sizes, shapes and ages of animal droppings. I could have used one of those field guides to scat. I have no idea where all of this comes from, as I only caught a brief glimpse of a single deer or mountain goat staring at me from a distance at one point. Maybe late at night, the summit is wall to wall with various rodents, deer, mountain goats and bears, all partying and relieving themselves.

The trip back was uneventful. I did keep my eyes peeled for more bears, but none were sighted. On the way back to Heber I stopped at the Forest Service station and picked up a bunch of maps, in the hopes that this would enhance my navigational skills on future jaunts.

Mount Zion. Ironwood, MI

There's nothing quite like a quickie in the Upper Peninsula.  

Two mintues up, 2 mintues down.  Delicious in between.