Monday, June 10, 2013

Warner Peak Road

OK, so I use this blog to tout all my wondrous successes in hiking. To be fair, I suppose my failures should also be equally touted and this hike would be one of those. However, if you are going to do the hiking equivalent of a belly-flop from a high dive, you might as well do it in a beautiful place like the Warner Peak Road on the way to Warner Peak, the highest point in Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge.  

A nice start to the hike
We got off to an early start, grateful the cool morning kept persistent mosquitoes abed while we ate breakfast.  Hopping into the car, we drove the wild and barren Blue Sky Road to the southern end of the refuge.  We were entertained by a badger mom and her pup shuffling across the road, for some reason I was reminded of work.  And of course, we saw plenty of pronghorn antelope as was customary during our stay in the refuge.

I want no guano

The Blue Sky Road terminated at the hilariously named Guano Creek which resembled nothing like the name suggested. It was green, shady, lush, and absolutely devoid of guano. Of course the Guano Creek green belt was more like a Guano Creek green string as the vegetation did not stray very far from the creek, the dry hills remaining the purview of the ubiquitous sagebrush.

Post Creek
Climbing gently through the pines, we actually hiked across an honest-to-goodness creek, complete with a large trout swimming around in panic at our arrival. Post Creek, meet your hikers and hikers, meet your mosquitoes. We learned not to stop in any one place too long as we continued through the sagebrush with a nice overlook of surprisingly green Post Creek Meadows.

A grave occasion
There were a couple of grave markers for two fallen soldiers, presumably they perished fighting Indians. They died so young and so far away from home and  we paused in somber reverence for them and for the natives that also perished when the two cultures collided. I have nothing funny to say unless the soldiers were slain by mosquitoes, in which case the soldier's demise then becomes utterly hilarious.  

Will the uphill ever end?  No!
A log gate signaled the start of the official Warner Peak Road and unofficially the start of some pretty steep uphill walking. It's also where my travails started. I had been feeling not-in-shape for some time due to my injured wrist curtailing a lot of my customary exercise regimen. Plus it was hot and plus we were hiking near 7,000 feet of elevation. So due to one of those factors or maybe due to all, my legs were tired from the get go, my head hurt, and I wasn't sure breakfast was going to stay down or not. 

View out to the great beyond
I plodded upwards as best I could and Merle kept an eye on me, probably out of pity. Or maybe he did not want to carry back to the car what remnants would be left of me after the mosquitoes finished. But the scenery was just too magnificent to cark it (Australian for heart not beating any more) on this day. To the south, clouds formed over a vast expanse with mountains and canyons jumbled in capricious mayhem by the desert gods. Upslope, balsam root colored the mountains yellow against a cobalt sky.

Ridge on top of Hart Mountain

At a saddle looking across a massive and rugged canyon to a ridge with snow patches and a thick forest, I called it quits. Warner Peak was several miles away and about 1,000 higher than the saddle. Merle and John continued on, attaining the summit of Warner Peak and later regaling me with tales of views, mountaintop mosquito swarms, and an eerie flock of seagulls just watching.

Cloud with noise and attitude
Meanwhile, as I was descending back to the car, thunderheads formed over the desert plain and as the clouds swept near, rumbling could be heard. On the drive back across the wild refuge hinterlands, black ribbons of rain trailed from clouds like feathery tentacles dangling from jellyfish. Bolts of lightning zigzagged their way to the ground far away enough for us to enjoy the show without fear of becoming a glowing conduit of electricity.

Canyon lands in the distance
So, while I was not able to get up to the Warner Summit, I remain somewhat philosophical about the aborted hike.  First of all, Warner Peak is unfinished business and I now have a good reason to return to Hart Mountain.  Also, part of hiking safely is knowing when not to hike and in that regard, my failure was an unmitigated success.

Clouds, painting the sky

For more pictures (I was dying but still taking pictures!) visit the Flickr album.   



  1. good for you; Warner Mountain remains for another day!

  2. Nice hike Richard, those clouds are amazing. Cheers Robyn :)

    By the way, when I click on the at the bottom of you emails I get a message to say "the address is not valid"....