Unexpected Mountaintop Experience

We don’t always have a precise plan for our outings. Sometimes I just look at a map and pick out a forest service road we haven’t been down yet and we head out and see what there is to see. Usually we drive down the road until it gets too rough or we find a place we want to get out and start hiking.

On this outing we decided to start hiking down the road when it got too rutted and rocky to comfortably continue by car. When we set out we did not know we would eventually end up standing on top of the mountain seen in the picture below. It started out as an easy uphill walk and when we reached a fork in the road we thought we chose the path that would lead us through a meadow. We were wrong- 1.5 miles and 900 feet of elevation gain later we were standing on top of a mountain.

July 1 NF 440 (66)

As I said before, the first part of the hike was pretty easy, but the second leg of the hike up the mountain became quite strenuous. The picture below doesn’t really show it, but the path became very steep. It was so steep that it was hard to even balance myself while standing still. My feet and calves became fatigued from the sharp incline and the loose gravel made my steps unsteady, but the summit was in our sights, urging us upward.

July 1 NF 440 (18)

We had our sights set on a rocky outcrop that we thought was the top, but when we reached it we realized the mountain kept on going. By this time we were so close so we continued to trudge on, one slow, steep, rocky step at a time. When we finally reached the summit, we were rewarded with a fantastic view of Steptoe Valley and the surrounding mountains.

The reddish area in the middle and the adjacent pond are part of the Robinson Mine. It is a major open- pit copper mine that employs many people in the town that we live.

July 1 NF 440 (26)

On the right side of the picture below you can just barely make out the town of Ely. From this vantage point, it really looked like such an isolated little community, surrounded by endless miles of rugged mountains and desert. It is accurate that our town is remote- our nearest real city is a 4 hour drive away.

July 1 NF 440 (42)

July 1 NF 440 (47)

After we soaked in the views and had a snack, we started the slow descent. Going down was even harder than going up because the steep grade of the trail and the loose gravel made it hard to keep traction underfoot.

July 1 NF 440 (50)

Taking our time going down the mountain gave us an opportunity to savor the views.

July 1 NF 440 (52)

After some time we made it down the steep, open and grassy mountainside and continued on the more leisurely walk through the juniper and pinyon pines.

July 1 NF 440 (8)

In one section of the trail there were clusters of these pretty purple flowers that attracted swarms of butterflies.

July 1 NF 440 (10)

As we headed back to our car we chatted about how we had no plans of hiking up a mountain that day, but we ended up on the top of one that offered us some amazing scenery. Sometimes it is fun to just head out without much of a plan and see where the road takes you.

July 1 NF 440 (4)

“All journeys have a secret in which the traveler is unaware.”

~Martin Buber

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