Topaz Mountain, 12-Jul-2005
Steve arrived at Jeff's house at 6:50a, followed shortly thereafter by John and Dave in Dave's newer Explorer. We chatted a few minutes in Jeff's kitchen, issued the obligatory belches and grunts, and set out to find coffee and donuts.
Well, almost: Dave's keys were locked in his car. So we returned to the kitchen and searched for a AAA phone number. John and Steve looked at the phone books, Jeff looked at Google, and Dave called Information, who kindly provided the number. But the AAA operator wanted proof of Dave's shady credentials, which were locked in the car, of course, with his keys. After a brief interrogation the operator finally concluded that Dave was a bonafide member in good standing, and sent a locksmith to hack the car.
The AAA guy arrived about 20 minutes later; the phone search and interrogation had taken longer than that. He tried three different tools, and eventually opened the car. By 8:00a, we were heading to Conoco for donuts and coffee. (Some would say bad coffee, but mine was ok; apparently the flavored coffees are better left in the pot where they belong.)
Sometime later we crossed Kenosha Pass and navigated to the parking area, which was a golf-ball-littered field adjacent to some campers spewing Steely Dan on their obnoxious boom-boxes. The weather was a little chilly and moist, so we donned our moderate weather gear and made haste down the road and around a bend into the blessed silence of nature.
We trudged along the road as it ascended almost imperceptibly toward Monkey Creek, where we stopped for a drink of water and a quick bite. John distributed cookies made with Omega-3 flaxseed; I would characterize the flavor as subtly delicious. From there we continued toward Topaz Mountain, searching for what the guidebook describes as "the end of the road."
We arrived at an intersection where a logging road forked right, toward the ridge, off the main road; the only distinguishing feature was a "446" marker at the fork. This looked good, but we decided to continue searching for the aforementioned mysterious "end of the road." Eventually, the road started descending. This seemed suspicious, so we decided we were off-route and bushwacked right, through a marsh up the side of the hill into an area of burned-out tree stumps.
"When in doubt, go higher."
We ascended to the top of a ridge, passing numerous nodular piles of big-horn sheep dung and a relatively fresh mound of unknown origin -- maybe a bear. We didn't stick around to speculate. We went higher.
Eventually we found a rock outcropping that looked like it might be a high point. Once there, we of course spotted a higher outcropping further north, so what did we do? We went higher, through trees and around big heaps of rock, over one outcropping after another. Jeff finally located the summit registry in the third or fourth such outcropping, and Dave commenced reciting its contents, the doggerel and wisdom of which we dutifully critiqued with appropriate zeal.
Finally we settled down beneath the chill wind and wafting clouds for a summit photo and lunch. Whilst eating we considered a return via North Tarryall Peak, but we decided to head down instead. After lunch we skipped the ridge traverse and descended east, through the over-logged forest to a logging road, which led us back to the main road at the aforementioned Fork 446. From there it was a matter of trudging back down the road a few miles to the car, where John gathered up the golf balls and we cruised down to a Chinese restaurant in Bailey.
A good hike. My hips and hamstrings hurt the next day; nothing a little stretching couldn't fix. We look forward to exploring North Tarryall at some future return date.