Checking in with a friend

Five miles from where I am typing, the Pack Creek Fire occurred.


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The La Sals provide local recreation and add much to our life in our adopted home.

Though the southern part of the La Sal mountains is still mainly closed due to someone’s negligence, our local mountains’ northern part still beckons as a respite from the heat.

I did a quick sub-24hr overnighter this past weekend to enjoy a different part of the mountains, scope out some future camping spots for Joan and me, and assess the road conditions.

Though not far away from where I live, this part of the mountains isn’t known to me from the northern approach as well. But I enjoyed what I spotted. I made good note of future sites, and I can see us making camp in the tunnel of yellow aspens come October.

Though I could theoretically drive the whole road in our Tacoma, I’d rather leisurely hike at 2.5 or 3 MPH along a quiet road with a canopy of trees than drive 5 or 6 MPH very carefully over the rocky, steep, and rutted tread.

I found an accessible parking spot only two miles from the end of the road before it turns into a single-track trail.

This car made it to the end. But not down!

Once in the basin, I quickly made it to the peak and could see both the desert floor in the distance and some of the fire damage not quite as far away.

Along the ridge and way from a trail, I spotted the elusive, rare, and endangered La Sal Daisy unique to the mountains where we spend so much time.

In 2013, the Utah DWR introduced non-native mountain goats, and they trampled the heck out of the tundra. Add in hotter and drier conditions, and this unique flower (known only to grow here) is an endangered species. My route took me off-trail in part, and I think that’s the only reason I found it.

The High Country News has more details about this contentious issue and its impact on a humble but unique flower. And the fascinating politics behind land management issues. I took photos of this flower that I’ve known about for a few years now and yet to find.

I then went cross country to reach a pass at the edge of the closure and rejoined a trail.  Not long after, I made a quiet camp with the sound of the stream lulling me to sleep.

After gaining much of the elevation I lost the following day, I joined a trail to complete my route and preview my descent.

An easy cross-country route brought me to a view of the ridge above framed with more wildflowers.

An uneventful walk back to the truck, though a pleasant one, ended the overnighter.

Even a quick trip to our backyard mountains never fails to please. Though the San Juans are arguably more scenic and certainly more vast, driving an hour or so from home and being up high and away from the desert here adds a lot to the quality of life.

I’m thankful the fire became contained by the hard-working fire crews and have hope for a recovery.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to see more of the nooks and crannies of these mountains that we consider part of our home.

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