So much for an early start to the season. As a wise man once said, “we wanted the best, but it turned out as always.”
In any case, I find myself in the Tushar Mountains, a small range in the high country separating I-15 from US-89 (and the Old Spanish Trail). The range is contained in one part of the Fishlake National Forest, a sort of redneck paradise criss-crossed with ATV trails and popular among snowmobilers. In fact, with a suitable vehicle, you can drive to (or nearly to) most summits in the appropriate season. Fortunately, there is too much snow for ATVs and too much dirt for snowmobiles now, so I have the place to myself.
Normally one can take the graded dirt road between I-70 and Marysdale to nearly 10,000 feet to climb Mount Belknap, one of the 12,000′ peaks in the range. I tried approaching from the northern end, but was stopped by intermittent snowdrifts around 8,000′. Starting up the road, I followed some snowmobile tracks through both snow and dirt, which couldn’t have been good for its skis. I followed the tracks up the road, past many aggro “POSTED no trespassing” signs, then took off uphill when the road started going somewhere useless.
Reaching a ridge with somewhat of a view, I realized I was too far north, and after correcting my error, I regained the snowmobile tracks. He seemed to be climbing Signal Peak, the first bump along a long ridge leading to Belknap, and since he probably knew what he was doing, I simply followed. He eventually ran out of snow on the ridge and gave up a few hundred feet below the summit.
Tagging the summit, I put on my puffy and looked at the ridge over Gold Mountain to Belknap, and realized I lacked the energy. Instead, I took a direct line back down to a point lower on the road, passing many more “POSTED” signs nailed to random trees, and carefully giving an apparently-maintained cabin a wide berth. There were both snowmobile and snowboard tracks in the private area — maybe it is some family’s personal snow play area? Time to try another approach.