Dogs, beer and mountains – three great things that go great together. That’s why my recent hike to the top of the tallest mountain in the Tushar Range, Delano Peak, along with my dog Lucy and a bottle of Uinta Skipping Stone Summer Lager in my pack made for one hell of a well rounded day.
Delano Peak is not only the highest mountain in the Tushars, but it’s also the highest point in two counties. That’s significant for those of us who are checking off the highest points in every county in the state. So with beer on my back and a dog at my side, I set off with family visiting from California and a plethora of their friends to stand atop Delano at 12,173 feet.
It’s been a tradition to have family reunions every July in the Tushars, where we camp at Big Flat and drink too much beer around the campfire while playing horseshoes or riding mountain bikes on the Skyline Trail. But every year we’ve attempted Delano Peak, we’ve been turned back by one reason or another. Car trouble, broken bike racks, and too much snow keeping the road closed have all conspired against us. But thanks to the miserably bad snow year of 2012, Big John Flat road was wide open and provided access to the trailhead of Delano. Our time to summit was at hand.
We began by driving up past Big John Flat on a well maintained dirt road. A few stream crossings, including Poison Creek, led our caravan to a series of switchbacks where the road got a bit more rough on the mountainside. Luckily we all had higher-clearance vehicles to get us to the trailhead. After a few switchbacks, we could see the radio repeater tower on the ridge that marked where we would begin the hike. An unimproved double-track road closed by a metal gate went to this tower, and the gate was locked. We parked here, unloaded the family and pooches, and the adventure began.
After we all geared up and a few of us grabbed some Coors Light from the cooler (definitely not appropriate for a Summit Brew, but perfectly fine for a pre-hike affair) we all hiked up the weed-filled gravel road to the tower. At this point there was no obvious trail to take, but the route to the summit of Delano Peak seemed straighforward. As a general rule, it seemed staying on the ridgeline would lead us directly to the top. From the radio tower, we turned south, following the occasional game trail as we traversed along the contours of the ridge. A few sections of loose dirt and rocks had to be negotiated at the beginning, but nothing was technical at all. Upon reaching the ridge proper, we were thrilled to see dozens upon dozens of mountain goats, as well as evidence of their passing in fallen wool that littered the ground. They were far away and moved to higher ground as we neared, and I truly wished I had a long lens on my camera to shoot some closeup pictures of these alpine dwellers.
The ridgeline hike went up and down as it rolled over shoulders and through dips, all the while revealing new views as we passed by canyons and cliffs that fell away on either side. The summit of Delano Peak was always in sight as we made our way toward her, and while the distance seemed far at first, the hike was actually surprisingly simple and easy for a mountain that rises to over 12,000 feet. After about two-and-a-half miles of hiking on fields of alpine tundra covered in light green foliage and tiny wildflowers, we arrived at a short section of steep scree that was the final obstacle to the summit. Everyone made short work of it and before long the entire group achieved the day’s goal and stood at the top of Delano Peak.
The summit provided a wonderful 360-degree view of scenery that showed just how rugged and impressive the Tushar Range is, and revealed what everyone misses as they speed by on I-15 enroute to their destinations far below. To the north, other massive peaks rose from treeline, like Mount Belknap, and Mount Baldy. To the east, the greenery of an agricultural valley that surrounds Circleville and Junction shimmered below. And to the south and west, Eagle Point, Big Flat, the pines of Fishlake National Forest, and Brianhead could all be seen.
After a lunch of energy bars and sandwiches, we signed the summit register that lives inside an old mailbox in need of some TLC. After making my mark on a small notebook secreted inside, I chose a seat from the smooth rocks and enjoyed a Summit Brew.
Uinta Skipping Stone Summer Lager
Nothing says summer quite like a cold lager beer. So it makes sense that Uinta Brewing Company would release a summer seasonal like the Skipping Stone Summer Lager. While there were no lakes or ponds on Delano Peak to toss some flat rocks and watch them skitter across the water, drinking a Skipping Stone felt “summery” enough.
As far as lagers go, Skipping Stone is pretty typical. The problem with this style of beer, especially with it being a lighter brew, is that there isn’t much room for experimentation. It is what it is, and what it is, is a lager, pure and simple. While this may sound a bit bland, it’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, quite the contrary. Skipping Stone is the perfect beer to drink on a hot day outdoors. It’s refreshing, watery and doesn’t force you to taste too much flavor. It is meant to be drunk fast and often, which I certainly did as I toasted the summit of Delano Peak.
In the glass, Skipping Stone is a very clear beer with a yellow color and head that dissolves soon after the pour. It is effervescent, with great carbonation. Typical lager flavor predominates with a hint of hop bite, especially in the middle and back of the tongue. A bit of citrus and grassy notes round out the profile. In addition, the beer is not too malty, but malts are there, providing just enough foundation without making the brew less quaffable or heavy.
While lagers aren’t my favorite style, Skipping Stone is a great local take and a worthy addition to Uinta’s new lineup of microbrews. It comes in at 22 IBU and 4% alchohol by volume. Skipping Stone also won the silver medal at the 2007 North American Beer Awards, and Gold in 2003. For more, check Uinta out online at www.uintabrewing.com
Overall, Delano Peak is a relatively easy way to hike one of southern Utah’s highest mountains. While it can be strenuous as it ascends over 1,500 feet in two miles, there is nothing technical, and the sweeping viewpoints are totally worth the effort. Luckily for Lucy, dogs are allowed, and luckily for me, the summit is a comfortable place with a pretty good view to enjoy a Summit Brew. Indeed it was a well-rounded day.