Into the desert"You see I've been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain
La, la ..." (America)
This was the song stuck in my mind as I was hiking up the slopes of this peak and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get rid of it. Arrrggghhhh. I hate it when that happens. A few years back I was going up AND down Mt. Hood in Oregon and I had the 4 Seasons
song of "Walk like a man, talk like a man......" stuck on continuous play all
day long. Geez, every mountain has a song that haunts me the whole time I'm
involved with it. Probably the worst was Barry Manilow's "Mandy" or Peter, Paul and Mary's "Lemon Tree" but back to how I got to the situation where I was smitten with the "the horse with no name" desert song.
I had moved to Utah back in early september to take a new job that brought me back out of a short retirement. I had just left a dental practice I had built up to a new dentist right out of dental school and after 32 years of
being in one spot, Kennewick Washington, I was ready for something different. I had just signed the papers for the sale of the practice when my phone rang and an offer came asking me to come to Utah and be involved in a dental hygiene college as a clinical instructor. Hmmmm, now that would be different and I wouldn't have to actually provide active treatment to anyone, just do exams and teach. However, to accept the job offer would mean moving to Utah and I knew my wife would never go for that. When I broached the subject with her, she just looked at me and said "OK, lets do it". What an amazing woman I am married to, she was ready to experience
a new environment and a new change in our life. Of course, the main reason I wanted to take the job was that even at 67 I am too young to be retired and Utah has all these great mountains......
For those of you who don't know anything about Utah, I will tell you that it is a fantastic state, full of varied topography which ranks among the most beautiful in the world. The red rock part of the state which includes Bryce, Zion and Moab will knock your socks off and then the mountains of the Uintas and the Wasatch could keep you busy climbing for the rest of your life. The skiing in Utah is world class as the mountains on the Wasatch front get some of the best powder snow found anywhere. One interesting aspect of the state is that very little is mentioned anywhere about the peaks in the western desert, a relatively unknown area and probably will remain so to most people. My only previous experience in that area was Ibapah peak near Wendover and Signal Mtn near St. George.
Prominence peak chasing had become my biggest love affair and the western desert is chock full of them.
Prominence PeaksI will get to Stookey Peak shortly but bear with me a bit longer. The state of Utah has over 80 peaks that have 2000 feet of prominence. Pretend that a mountain is in the middle of a lake and that this mountain rises 2000 feet or more up out of that lake and you could say that this mountain has 2000 feet of prominence. That is about as simple as I can make it regarding an explanation of prominence and suffice it to say, one third of Utah's prominence peaks are in the western Utah desert. So many unknowns, so many
adventures just waiting for me to experience. For more information on
prominence, check out www.peaklist.org which is totally dedicated to prominence.
Stookey PeakClarification:The surprise was that I found no BM (benchmark)on Stookey
I was still having a hard time letting go of the higher Wasatch peaks so after climbing Provo Peak and Santaquin Peaks, both in the 10,000 and above category, it was time to start looking at some of the prominence peaks in the desert. Several were within 70 miles of where i was now living and i decided to go after these in an organized manner. I would plan on getting at least one a week during my time in Utah, weather permitting. Stookey BM (Peak) was first on my list. I only knew one person that had done this peak and it was John Vitz. So I emailed John and asked what he remembered of Stookey and he was kind enough to respond that he had approached it from the north, pretty much as outlined in my description of how to get there. In my research, I also discovered that the Onaqui mountains, of which Stookey BM was the highest point, also had a lot of wild horses that roamed free in the area. I never actually saw any of these horses during my visit but I sure had to watch where I stepped because evidence of their existence was everywhere.
Stookey is listed as Stookey BM (benchmark) on the information I had (see here) so I was looking forward to adding another benchmark to my photo collection (another little hobby of mine).
So September 25th, a tuesday, was the day i made my visit to the Onaqui mountain range. I drove north from Orem and then headed west through Lehi after leaving I-15. I found good roads all the way, either paved or dirt until just after passing through the gate mentioned in the "getting there" description. I found high clearance and good 6 ply tires to be extremely helpful in dealing with the road (such as it is) until I found a spot where i could pull off of the road and park.
My GPS said it was only a mile to the peak from here which was nice but I had to temper that with the knowledge that I had well over two thousand feet of elevation gain to deal with so I knew that it would be a pretty steep mile or so. Of course, in looking at the topo I had and at the terrain in front of me, I knew it would not be technical, mainly class 2.
I had noticed on the map that there was a creek drainage that might be the ideal path upward and so it was that route that I had chosen for my effort.
I initially stayed on the left side of the creek (dry) but soon found it advantageous to cross over and remain on the right side (north) which included some brush bashing but never anything that was close to the brush bashing you have to do in the washington cascades. Game trails eased the way for the most part and although I had to do a fair amount of zigzagging,
I actually found the hike enjoyable. Every time I turned around, the views just kept getting better.
To the left of me as I made my way up the slopes, I noted a jeep road which was shown on my topo map and perhaps that would cut some of the elevation gain effort down a bit and it seemed to end in a stand of pine trees. I also noted snow in the pine tree area and encountered a bit of snow anytime I found places that didn't get the sun. As the creek bed finally disappeared off to my left, I found that the slope was best followed if I angled up to the right (northwest)
A few hundred feet above where I had taken my lunch break was the summit itself. It was obvious by a large pole that looked like a cross from first glance although as I got closer it wasn't actually a cross, just the way the poles had been placed. A large cairn and a plastic black tube register were noted but no benchmarks of any kind. I checked the area for witness markers and found none and then wondered if the benchmark itself might be hiding underneath the huge pile of rocks that made up the summit cairn.
I attempted to open the register but could not get the end cap to budge. I saw that the register tube was flawed anyway as it had a gash in its side that would have made anything inside the container exposed to the weather and probably damaged. I settled for a picture of the register container itself and another of my GPS resting against it. I kept wondering if perhaps I was on the wrong peak as no benchmark was in evidence but there was no doubt about being on the highest spot in the whole range as there was nothing that even rivaled where i was standing.
I tried my new digital cell phone to call my wife as is my custom but I found that it wouldn't connect from where I was located. My previous phone, which had an analog capability and a great antenna would have worked as it had not failed me on any mountain I had ever attempted a call from and that included some very remote locations.
The views made it worth the hike and I always get a good sense of accomplishment when I top out on a peak, be it large or small, high or not so high. The hike back down to the vehicle went smoothly as I just retraced my steps but again, I was tormented by the lyrics of the "horse with no name" song all the way back down the mountain.
Of course, this desert peak will be one of many that I will visit while i am living in utah and since this visit, I have already had a chance to
visit several more in the western desert and unless it is snowing out there and the roads are impassable, I will visit as many as i can even during the winter.
As I type this on a saturday morning here in Orem on the first day of November, the snow has been falling and the local landscape has turned into a winter wonderland. Where did I put my snowshoes?.