Mt. Ellen - Day 4After Bluebell Knoll, our next objective was Mt. Ellen, the highpoint of Garfield county. Our destination to finish the day was the McMillan Spring campground (elev. 8400 feet), located on the west side of the Henry mountains, 5 miles from the pass. The campground itself was a bare bones kind of affair provided by the BLM but we were surprised to find it about half full when we arrived. It was the 4th of July week so that shouldn't have surprised us to find a lot of people in there. Most had ATV's and were riding the roads until almost dark. However, one group nearby played their guitars and drums and sang very poorly until about ten p.m. when they mercifully went to bed and spared the rest of us from needing to go punch their lights out. Dennis and I just merely parked our trucks on a level driveway and slept in our vehicles as we had done the night before on Fishlake Hightop. I think I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow, it had been a long day.
Morning found us up at first light, cooking a quickie breakfast on a nearby camp table and soon we were headed up to Bull Creek Pass, situated nicely at 10,500 feet of elevation. As we drove up, we passed through a couple areas where the road seemed to have been cleared recently of avalanche debris. We had been told by some ATV'ers at the campground that snow still blocked the eastern road that accessed Bull Creek Pass and that kinda squashed our hopes for going out that way. However, we'd found out on Bluebell Knoll that road information wasn't always up to date, but alas, in this case it was (as we found our ourselves) but more on that later.
We had a beautiful day in the making although even early on it was a hazy one thanks to some fires down in southern Utah that were currently burning.
Now climbing Mt. Ellen is no climb, it is just a nice hike. We headed up the trail and found our selves nearing the top in just a little over an hour. Talus slowed us down a bit but we found a nice remnant of snow that provided a 'highway' right to the base of the summit. A false summit had a rock shelter built with a geocache in it but we didn't linger there as we had our eyes set on the summit, a short distance away. Andrew, moving nice and fast was soon sitting at the summit of Mt. Ellen checking out the register he found in a mailbox that was in the rock cairn. Dennis and I took in the expansive view, marred a bit by the smoke from fires in southern Utah as we looked west towards Capitol Reef area. Views north gave us a tempting look at the remainder of the Mt Ellen ridge and a view of Mary Ellen Peak, a peak separated from Mt. Ellen by a saddle. Confusing nomenclature when you have a Mt. Ellen and a Mary Ellen Peak too. Someone really loved a gal named Ellen, that is for sure. What a great area though, I loved it and wished I had more time to just tag all of the ridgeline including Mt. Ellen Peak and the ridgline of Mt. Ellen that was south of Bull Creek Pass. That will have to wait until another trip back to the Henry Mountain range (gotta get Mt. Pennell, Mt. Holmes, and the rest).
After about a half hour on top, enjoying the views, checking out the familiar names in the register, taking pictures and snacking a bit, it was time to go down. As it was the 4th of July, we also gave thanks for the having the freedom to do this sort of activity and high fived each other with full appreciation of that special day. As we reversed our route, we saw two deer checking us out, beautiful creatures that bounded away like jackrabbits. We also noted that the road coming up from the east looked like it had snow on a couple sections and may not be passable but when we made it back to the vehicles, Dennis drove down from the pass and was soon stopped by a wall of snow he couldn't get past so he backed up to where we had parked at the pass and we began our journey towards our next objective, Mt. Peale, far away in the La Sal mountain range.
We had to go back down the road we came up, past the McMillan Spring campground to a junction that allowed us to go south towards Pennellen Pass and then east to Utah highway 95 via the Trachyte ranch. The road was definitely highclearance and having 4WD in a few spots was extremely helpful as we had to bypass a couple muddy and bad sections of road. There had been a fire on the flanks of Mt. Pennell a year or two before and that left the road somewhat messed up although doable. We had a couple of river fords to make on the way, nothing that our trucks couldn't handle but high water might make this route a problem. Still, it was a good exit route for us and hitting highway 95 was like hitting an interstate in comparison. We headed for Hite, where we stopped for lunch and Natural Bridges National Monument where we played at being tourists for awhile. All too soon, we were back on the road, heading northerly after Blanding and Monticello as we made our way towards our next camping spot at lonely La Sal Pass. Day 5 would see tackling Mt. Peale, king of the La Sals.
Mt Peale and day 5Mt. Peale will be given its own Trip report and I'll elaborate on the remainder of day four as it pertains to that mountain. However, here is the summary of our Utah trip in a day by day listing.
In the month of July, this is what I was able to do and see:
Day 1 - Naomi Peak of Cache County and the aborted Rich County effort.
Day 2 - Mine Camp Peak & camped out at 11K feet 2 miles from Fishlake Hightop.
Day 3 - Fishlake Hightop and Bluebell Knoll. Drove to within 5 miles of
Mt. Ellen and camped. Went via Boulder & Burr Trail to Capitol
Reef Nat'l Park and then east into the Henry Mtn Range
Day 4 - Mt. Ellen and then drove via Hite, Natural Bridges Nat'l Monument
and up to a spot where we camped close to Mt. Peale
Day 5 - Mt. Peale. Then some time in Moab and drove to a spot where we
were close to Mt. Waas
Day 6 - Mt. Waas. Then spent time in Arches Nat'l Park before we drove to
a spot where we camped close to East Mtn.
Day 7 - East Mtn and a long drive to So. Tent Peak. Then drove to a spot a
few miles from Monument Peak.
Day 8 - Monument Peak and then drove up and did Eccentric Peak in the
eastern Uintas. From there I started my drive home. Left Eccentric TH at 5pm and drove into Kennewick the next morning around noon.
I hope to put up a trip report for each day. In the 8 days, I did 11 peaks, saw two National Parks and a national monument, drove the Burr trail and went over Hell's Backbone into Boulder. Car camped every night and loved every minute of the trip.