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 > The Henry Mountains - Grand Finale (Now with 15% more TR!)

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seldomseensmith

Flagstaff, AZ

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Posted: 08/27/11 07:10pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

After a most fulfilling day scaling the lofty heights of Mt. Ellen and nearly finding myself trampled by heedless mule deer, it was time to move on and complete the near-circumnavigation of the Henry Mountains. If you need to catch up on what went on before, here are the previous posts on this subject:

Exploring the Henry Mountains - Part I

Exploring the Henry Mountains - Part II

The road from here heads down and generally south. There is another trail coming in from the west that connects with the Bullfrog - Notom road, which is a shorter path in and out of the mountains - but I am not in any kind of a hurry.

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Another fork in the road, this one leading to a place I have absolutely no desire to visit. Nasty Flat???? I hope the name refers to an issue with a tire, otherwise who knows what you'd find.

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Winding back and forth across the lower flanks of the mountain you'll find several large meadows. Many of these open areas are the result of a once common and still controversial technique known as "chaining". Basically two bulldozers are connected with a long piece of stout chain, and they run in parallel across the slope, ripping out trees by the roots to create more grazing area for livestock.

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One notable attraction of the Henrys I had hoped to witness was the free roaming buffalo herd. These animals are descended from bison transplanted from Yellowstone in 1941 to help ensure their survival in North America. Supposedly the herd numbers anywhere from 250 to 500 animals depending on the source, but I'll be darned if I saw so much as one. Granted, it was warm, and these guys are very hairy, so if I were a buffalo I'd probably find the shadiest spot to hide from the sun.

The pines and aspens have disappeared, replaced by pinon and juniper. Occasional glimpses of the area to the southwest occur where the trees part.

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Making a turn to the east, the road heads for the low spot between Mt. Ellen and Mt. Pennell, the second highest peak in the range at 11,371 feet. A prominent feature on the north end of the mountain is called the Horn, readily visible here.

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Another junctions appears, offering a bewildering menu of choices. For those with unlimited time, there are many options. Me, I go left here.

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Soon you reach Penellen Pass at the much lower elevation of 7858 feet. There is no "trail" to the top of Mt. Pennell, but intrepid hikers can make the scramble from here.

Incidentally, the name of the pass derives from a combination of the names of the two peaks - Pennell and Ellen. Clever, eh?

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The road passes directly beneath the Horn, rising over 1000 feet above. The granite bones of the mountains are on display here in all their glory. This is also the area where you first begin to see the devastating effects of a 2003 wildfire that consumed over 34,000 acres from the saddle south to the slopes of Mt. Pennell.

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I was surprised at how much scrub oak is growing amongst the charred trees. It's hard to know for sure, but perhaps in 50 years this place will once again have extensive tree cover, albeit of a different species.

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Because most of the vegetation was lost in the fire, severe erosion has stripped much of the soil from the surface. This includes the road, which has gotten progressively rockier. The landscape in the area is not nearly as appealing visually as the northern end of the mountains, and the appearance of aptly named Ragged Mountain reinforces that impression.

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What's that I see? Could it be? Are those buffalo? Nope, unless they're the shorthair variety. If you ask me, black cows look better in the shade.

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A few pine trees survived the conflagration, and their presence marks a long gradual descent to the Coyote Benches, the last stop before reaching the lower desert.

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Dropping into the bed of Trachyte Canyon, a more typical Utah desert scene unfolds ahead.

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The appearance of Trachyte Creek offers a better chance for survival to those who call this arid and rocky region home.

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Once again the remnants of pioneer history are on exhibit in this old building from the now defunct Trachyte Ranch. There are existing cattle operations nearby, notably the Cat Ranch, but these days this particular outfit only wrangles ghosts from the past.

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Here is an example of what visitors to the Colorado Plateau will see a lot more of in the coming years. This is tamarisk, an exotic, non-native tree/shrub commonly found along rivers and tributaries.
Notice the leaves and stems on this plant are turning brown.

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These plants were brought to America in the 30's and 40's to serve as windbreaks and soil stabilizers. What was not known at the time was how entrenched the species would become, moving up river systems throughout the west, thoroughly replacing native vegetation like willows and cottonwoods.

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Over the last 30 years various eradication efforts were undertaken through the region with limited success. The plant had become so pervasive that it seemed nothing would stem the tide. Then biologists studying the plant in its native environment discovered that tamarisk has a natural enemy - the tamarisk beetle.

This led to the introduction in 2001 of the beetle to the western landscape, with stunning results. As I traveled throughout the region I saw mile after mile of dead and dying tamarisk in nearly every drainage I crossed.

While some may doubt the wisdom of introducing a non-native species to control another invasive, there can be no denying that so far the plan is working. Only time will tell. You can read more about this ecological experiment here:

Tamarisk Coalition Beetle Monitoring

After passing the remains of Trachyte Ranch, the road becomes as smooth as butter.

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In the hazy distance of a late afternoon, this jagged butte is a prominent landmark on the horizon.

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Behind me the clouds finally begin to gather over the Henrys, holding the promise of much needed rain.

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The remaining miles pass quickly on the well graded track. Highway 276 to Bullfrog Marina and Lake Powell ends the journey on the Bull Creek Pass Trail. Reaching the highway presents the first of many choices: Which way now?

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Hanksville, of course. I stop at Stan's Burger Shak for a Henry's Burger and fries (with fry sauce), and a gander at this USGS rig. Now I can't help but notice the similarities between this truck and mine. It's Ford supercab and pop-up TC, but I really like the utility box idea. I could carry SO much more stuff! [emoticon]

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***SPECIAL BONUS MATERIAL****

*Included at No Extra Charge

I actually went to quite a few places on this voyage, but I just don't have the energy or time to add much of anything else except this little side trip to Cedar Breaks National Monument.

If you've never been there, you owe it to yourself to take a scenic drive up the Markagunt Plateau someday and enjoy the spectacular scenery. West of Bryce, north of Zion, and higher than nearly any other place in the area at just over 10,000 feet.

As Monuments go, the main attractions here are the sheer, colorful cliffs incised into the plateau. Featuring some of the same geology and formations as Bryce but a whole lot less crowded, this is a place that can be enjoyed in a couple of hours, or you could savor the nuances by staying overnight in the small but attractive campground (which I did).

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A recent thread by a TC forum member was a tribute to the beauty of wildflowers. He posted stunning pictures from his TC travels, and invited other to do so as well. Thank you Bryan. Here is his thread:

America's Wildflowers by bka071

I also have a great deal of appreciation for native flora, and something that makes Cedar Breaks memorable is the abundance of wildflowers found at this location. The Monument hosts a wildflower festival in July, which I missed. Fortunately for me however the area received so much snow last winter (30+ feet) that the natural display was delayed about 3 weeks this year, and I was able to witness to some of the remarkable color.

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I've photographed many of these species before, but I always find each year's presentation catching my eye. Here's a sampling:

Fireweed

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Ryan's Penstemon

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Paintbrush

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Sub-alpine Larkspur

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Colorado Columbine

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Elkweed. This plant is pretty cool. Having a lifespan that can approach 80 years, it exists for most of that time as large leaves growing from a basal rosette. When it's time to flower, it sends up a tall stalk, fruits and then dies.

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Lingusticum - I think I have the spelling right. I talked to a Ranger at the Park who told me that poachers come here to harvest the plant and sell it commercially - a big no-no on Federal lands. Apparently there are some botanical properties that certain people value very highly.

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Some kind of Buckwheat

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I have no idea what the next 4 are. Suggestions/Answers?

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Panguitch Penstemon

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Paintbrush collage

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Another kind of Buckwheat

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The geology and wildflowers were wonderful to see, but the highlight of my recent visit was my encounter with Martin Tyner. Martin is a wildlife rehabilitator, rescuing sick and injured animals and providing sanctuary for otherwise doomed creatures.

He was at Cedar Breaks to raise awareness for his foundation and to promote an upcoming re-release of a Golden Eagle into the wild. Not the bird pictured here, but another who had contracted West Nile virus and had been gravely ill.

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The magnificent bird on Martin's leg is called Scout. He was rescued from Wyoming, where a farmer had threatened to shoot the animal because he feared it would harass and injure his livestock.

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What was amazing to me was how docile Scout was in not only Martin's presence, but also that of others who gathered to observe.

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Martin had absolutely no apprehension about being in close proximity with the massive bird of prey, and he obviously cares very much about his charge. He has been licensed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to train these birds, and he now uses Scout in Falconry.

Given how sharp the talons and beak are on this bird, it takes a unique individual to feel comfortable with 30 lbs. of potentially deadly predator on your lap.

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If you want to know more about Martin and his inspiring work with wildlife, here's a link to his biography from the publisher of his book:

Martin Tyner - Healer of Angels

Hey little guy - you'd better hope Martin keeps his eagle on it's tether!

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This picture is a great illustration of the tenacity of life. This Bristlecone Pine, which is probably well in excess of 1000 years old is clinging stubbornly to an ever eroding base. More than half of its foundation has disappeared, leaving little doubt that eventually it will tumble into the canyon below - probably in another couple of hundred years.

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Speaking of bristlecones, this magnificent tree near the edge has been dated at over 1600 years old. What can you say - if we all had the patience of plants we might have better, longer lives.

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And lest I neglect the wonderful geology that is the primary reason for the creation of Cedar Breaks, here are some pictures from the last rays of the setting sun. With a western exposure, the color here at days end is actually better than Bryce Canyon, which faces in the opposite direction.

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And finally, this sign says it all for me. National Parks and Monuments preserve truly special places that deserve protection, for us to enjoy today and for future generations tomorrow.

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Happy Trails!


The Road Goes Ever On



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TexasShadow

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Posted: 08/27/11 07:44pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

wow! I'm soooooo envious, and now I'm thinking about how we can incorporate a juant into the Henrys next year sometime.
thanks for your time and efforts.


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rwj146

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Posted: 08/27/11 07:53pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Wow... Truly beautiful pictures! Thank you for taking the time and effort to share all those with us.


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Bigfootchevy

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Posted: 08/27/11 08:03pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great pics, thanks for sharing.

Makes a person wish they where there.

Paul

Nemo667

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Posted: 08/27/11 08:22pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Eric, part three was the best one in my opinion. The first two were merely fantastic and this last post is just stunning. Thanks for sharing the Henry Mountains with us. Bravo...[emoticon]

Ben & Tory


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LabMan1945

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Posted: 08/27/11 08:50pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for your time consuming report. As have many others I have read and reread all your reports and can only say WOW! Thanks for taking the time to share them with us. Hopefully I can incorporate some of your special places in my next trip west in 2013.
Grant


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kohldad

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Posted: 08/27/11 08:58pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I am so glad you decided to post this triology trip report. Absolutely fantastic, climbing in exquisitness with seach section and a superb clonclusion.


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Tiger4x4RV

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Posted: 08/27/11 09:15pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Part Three gives me hope that the Tiger and I can explore some of this area - not too many tire-eating rocks.

Re the 4 unknown flowers: maybe #2 is some kind of Astragalus or vetch? #4 might be senecio integerrimus. I'm clueless on the others. Sorry. I'll come back and edit if I find anything.

* This post was edited 08/27/11 09:36pm by Tiger4x4RV *


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RenoAl

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Posted: 08/27/11 09:39pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

A very good trip report with bonus material. We have driven by the Henry mountains a dozen times and it is good to see them close up. Cedar Breaks is, as always, high and fabulous. Scout the eagle stole the show for me.
Thanks


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brirene

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Posted: 08/27/11 10:15pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

As always, an excellent TR! Not only are your pictures beautiful, but your narrative is informative and entertaining. After viewing all three parts, I feel as if I should be able to submit for continuing education credits! Thanks very much.


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