Desert Creek Peak
8969 ft (2734 m); Gain 2740 ft
With the post-holiday, pandemic surge still upon us, Darren and I continue to focus on target High Points in relative close proximity to home. The Desert Creek Mountains are basically a northern extension of the Sweetwater Mountains, but the local ranges and hills take on some isolated character. These relatively low mountain groups are cloaked in pinyon woodland where thick stands and downfall makes cross-country travel difficult. There are rarely trails in these brushy hills — I have been turned back on a few occasions because route-finding can take time. We would not be turned back on Desert Creek Peak, though we had a few moments of straight-on bushwhacking.
The road up Desert Creek is well-traveled and it seems a longer drive than I remember — Desna and I were in here to climb the Wellington Hills in 2004 (Christmas Eve, it was, 17 years ago). Darren and I, here in January 2021, navigate the rig through a couple creek crossings and then are stopped cold, literally, by the ice-choked creek. No need to be overly adventurous, we are here to walk, so we stash the truck and set out.
Beyond the frozen crossing, most of the road was dry and snow was hit and miss on north-facing slopes. Crossing directly below the summit, only a mile away, but almost 3000 feet above us, we chose the southern ridge to begin the steep hike.
The weather was perfect for this outing, sunny and calm. We worked our way through pinyon, taking snow patches and frosty gullies to avoid heavy stands but otherwise following game trails in switchbacks among the pines.
In a steady hour of climbing through the woodland, we eventually made the summit ridge, following a series of rocky steps with scattered young pinyon and bitterbrush. An antennae and the large rock cairn marked the summit just shy of 9000 feet in altitude. An amazing blue and very calm sky met us, and we soaked in the sun.
Steep descents of trail-less slopes pound the quads and, I could be sure, these would echo for a few days afterward. Desert Creek Peak is prominent from southern Smith Valley, and what it lacks in adventure, it makes up for in views of Sierra and the Sweetwaters. Mount Grant and the Pine Grove Hills rest under the sun to the east. It is nice to fill in this gap on the map with #77, every step worthwhile.
It is also nice that we are home in the early afternoon. Bonus points: stopping at Rosie’s in Wellington to bring home dinner!