Trip report: Backpacking in Utah's Deseret Peak Wilderness
By Devon Hummer | September 22, 2022
Jenna cooking up a Good To-Go granola breakfast beneath North Medina Peak in the morning glow.
Utah's West Desert is often overlooked—and maybe that's all the more reason to venture out into the beautiful solitude the area offers.
This month, GEAR:30's own Devon Hummer summited the 11,000-foot Deseret Peak near Dugway, Utah. Read all about his experience below!
Going in strong
"Strong" can be defined in a number of different ways. How hard do you climb? What’s the most vert you’ve climbed in a day? How much do you squat? These questions are common among us individuals in the outdoor industry (maybe except for the last one). But what’s the difference?
I think those of us who use the outdoors to define ourselves in one capacity or the other can still relate to the guy at the gym lifting a fierce amount of weights. We are all hunting for something—the limit of our endurance or cardiovascular system, or maybe our mental capacity for pain and exposure. One big difference is the guy at the gym can just call it quits, while some of our efforts in the outdoors require getting back to the car before throwing in the towel.
Looking west from the trail down Big Creek Canyon.
While climbing Deseret Peak via the Stansbury Crest Trail #1754, Jenna Damon and I felt strong physically and mentally. I was able to maintain good posture throughout the 8.5 mile hike and actively engage my glutes for long powerful strides (thanks to Tim at Elevated Performace & Rehabilitation in Ogden for a recent set of exercises, which I have incorporated in my training). It wasn’t until we were nearing the summit of 11,031-foot Deseret Peak that I could start to feel the wildfire smoke burning my nostrils, a tightening in my chest, and the air becoming just a tad bit thinner.
Mental strength is a big proponent to staying focused on your goal rather than unraveling due to all the distractions and difficulties the outdoors can present. Proper fueling and hydration helped us overcome the heat, steep bits near the top, and additional miles ahead. While sitting on the summit eating a KIND bar with Nakee Butter, we thought just how much a homemade sandwich and fresh fruit would have been appreciated. Boosting morale with food is great way to enhance our mental state, as is a good laugh. Stay positive and persevere whenever possible.
Almost down, but not done
After spending some time at the top and enjoying spectacular views of the surrounding valleys, canyons, bowls, and cliffs, we started to make our way down. While hiking along the ridge, we got to look down future ski descents and later in the day, up at what might hold some rather interesting mixed climbs.
We descended to the north, then east into a valley where we hung a left at the junction of Loop Campground and South Willow Lake. From there, you start a beautiful cross country section going over ridge lines and across open slopes. We spotted wildlife including the more domesticated kind: cows grazed in a meadow high above the valley floor. Those animals have definitely come to the right place.
Soaking in the surroundings of a spectacular place, South Willow Lake.
While wildlife and cows are both a welcome sight, the idea of drinking water around animals is questionable. During the trip we utilized a Platypus Quickdraw for our water filtration needs. This allowed us to fill two 500ml soft flasks and a 1500ml Hydrapak bottle to the brim in no time, while still retaining the holy water taste that only a fresh mountain stream or creek can provide.
Water is life, literally. Most of us walk around dehydrated without even knowing it, so when you are physically exerting yourself, don’t forget the importance of staying hydrated. If you’re thirsty, its already too late. Carrying a portable water filter reduces the strain on your back by minimizing how much water you need to carry. Instead, top-off a small reservoir or soft flask along the way and maximize your intake at water crossings.
We ended our night in a small camp spot at the edge of South Willow Lake perfectly fit for two. Plenty of dead wood and kindling allowed us the treat of having a fire to keep warm and stay up till the stars revealed themselves. A full moon accompanied the darkness and lit up the surrounding rock walls enough you could almost climb them by moonlight.
South Willow Lake at sunrise.
We woke up at sunrise just after 6:30 a.m. and started brewing up warm water for breakfast and coffee. Connoisseurs of coffee we are, so whenever possible, we pack in the AeroPress Go—a lightweight, compact coffee maker suitable for car camping and backpacking alike.
After our Good To-Go breakfast, we hit the trail and made it back to the car in just under two hours. After a quick stop for fuel and Beto’s for brunch, we we were well on our way to some rest and recovery. It was another weekend in the books and another peak in our effort to climb “A Peak A Week."
All the gear mentioned here in this article is something we sell at GEAR:30, Ogden’s premier mountain shop. Come in, say hello, and let’s chat about how to lighten your load so you can enjoy the trail too. Cheers!