Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Garden Benchmark. May 24th, 2015.

Partners: Ketchum.

Stats: >14 miles. >5,000 feet elevation gain. Summit elevation 7,005 feet. Time to summit, 5 hours. 7:45 round trip.

Route: Parked at the South fork bridge on the Banks-Lowman highway, hiked the ridge to peak 3668. Continued the ridge to an unnamed road, followed the road to the summit.

Garden Benchmark on Lists of John. Peak 3668 on Lists of John. Splattski's Trip Report.

Gear notes: Standard day hiking kit.

View of the upper ridge to a false summit.

Garden Peak, or Garden Benchmark, as it is listed, is a relatively small peak in terms of its summit elevation of 7,005 feet.  The route that I took does put up big mountain stats and has a big mountain feel while hiking the ridge that sits between the south and middle forks of the Payette river.

I've been wanting to get out to the greater ranges, you know, climb a real mountain, but with the recent wild weather and loads of precipitation in the mountains, I felt it was probably a better idea to keep it low and close to home.  I still wanted the burly workout that comes with climbing big mountains, but I did not want to drive 3 hours to hike in the rain.

Banks is a 30 minute drive from my door step, so I had no reason to not pack my A game and give it a go.  The dog and I were parked at the bridge just a bit past 8am and were soon working up the steep hill side towards peak 3668 with mild temps, a light wind and a 30% chance of thunderstorms later in the day.

Looking over Banks and the south fork bridge parking area.

If you just wanted to get to Garden Benchmark, there are surely shorter ways.  One thing that drew me to this particular route is that it is a long ridge walk and was sure to provide great views the whole way.  It steeply gains elevation and right from the start the views are incredible.

Looking toward Peak 3668.

Peak 3668 is not far from the road, but due to the high mileage day that lay ahead, the standard slow-steady pace was mandatory.

The first views of the upper ridge are sobering.

After cresting the first peak, the upper ridge came into view.  It has a few significant up's and down's, and the end looked to be a long ways away.

Green grass and wild flowers.

Thanks to the recent heavy rain, the slopes were green and the wild flowers were blooming.  Not a bad day to be out!

Looking up the south fork of the Payette River.

The next two significant points along the ridge required some light scrambling, but I bypassed them because my dog likes to follow and sometimes he slips and almost takes me out.  He's a great partner, but kind of a sloppy scrambler.

Looking southwest, toward the start of the ridge.

After about 2 hours of hiking, I stopped for a short break in an area where the ridge is fairly mellow. While walking along the flat section, I heard a noise that I don't think I've actually heard in person before, but I knew exactly what it was.  Mr. Rattlesnake was letting us know that we were in his way, but he waited to do so until I dang near stepped on him.

The first Rattlesnake I've seen.

I was able to wrangle Ketchum and we backed well away.  I reviewed Rattlesnake bite protocol, which is pretty much just don't get bit, and we left Mr. Rattlesnake to do his Rattlesnake stuff.

Sorry to have disturbed you!

Looking at the top of the ridge.

Toward the top of the ridge is the steepest part and obviously reveals the best views.

View looking down the ridge.

Grazing sheep along the route.

There were sheep grazing on the upper slopes and I met a Peruvian Shepherd named Pablo; he's a nice guy.  It was from about here that an unnamed road heads toward the small saddle seen in the photo above.  Form the saddle, I knew that I could follow the road to the summit, or I could bushwhack across Eddy Creek for what seemed to be a shortcut.  I figured that running/hiking along the road would be quicker than the bushwhack, so that's what I did.  I was over 4 miles in at this point.

Garden Peak finally in view.

From that saddle, I also got my first legit view of the peak.  It appears rather unimpressive after such an awesome hike up the ridge.

Sign indicating Garden Saddle.

Keeping to the road was easy going and I was able to make good time.  Naturally, the last of the gain came at the end of the road.

View from Garden Benchmark.

After about 5 hours from leaving the car, we found the summit and the USGS benchmark.

Somehow, I found time to take a summit selfie while shoving food in my mouth. 
USGS marker.

Shaffer Butte.

After a short time exploring the immediate area, snapping some pictures and having lunch, I was ready to toss out my short foam pad and jacket and relax for a few.  Maybe even take a short nap.  No sooner had I finished eating and getting affairs in order for a chillax session, had I looked up to notice the could's now appeared to be rapidly growing and the wind had picked up.


Seriously, I just wanted to chill for a few.  Fair well Garden Peak, for we hardly knew ye... 

Knowing that this was likely the beginning of thunderstorms, I decided to pack up and head out.  If I still had some time before any lighting started, I wanted to be down off of the exposed upper slopes of the ridge.

Ketchum trotting along the road with Squaw Butte in the distance. 

After nearly 5 hours of continuous work, having my summit break cut short was a little disheartening. I was beginning to feel the wear and tear of the hike and there was a brief moment when I thought I might have gone a little too far and should just find a nice sheltered spot and hang for a few.  After I was already up and going, I fell back into my pace and just kept cruising back down the road to the saddle that holds the passage to the ridge.

View of the ridge taken below the corridor.

On the way out, I got about 5 minutes of hail and some intermittent sprinkles, but never did get any lightning or hear thunder.  Looking back down the ridge, I decided to cut off to the south about half way down, near the Rattlesnake sighting and walk the road instead of hauling up and over the high points on the ridge again.

Looking south over the river canyon.

That wasn't a terrible idea but the long down hill section was the hardest part of the day, then uneventful and boring along the road.  I was surprised that such a small peak so close to home could kick out stats that rival the bigger peaks, other than the summit elevation.  It's easy to say that this was one of the greater tests of endurance I've had in a while.  This hike was more about the physical and mental test and less about the peak itself.  I would also have to say that the spiritual and philosophical enlightenment that comes from great amounts of physical exertion is always worth it, no matter what the chosen medium may be.

Now, who wants to go climb some 12ers?

Happy trails!

- Granola, out.

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