By the time I started hiking, the temperature was already very warm, and thus, I elected to wear shorts instead of long pants. This proved to be a mistake. As I headed cross-country toward the East Drainage, I had to contend with a lot of knee-high vegetation mostly in the form of sagebrush and various grasses. Although walking through this stuff was not particularly difficult, I picked up a lot of prickly burrs and grass seeds in my socks and boots which was very annoying and occasionally painful. Wearing gaiters or long pants would have helped immensely. After climbing over a barbed-wire fence, I stumbled upon the aforementioned dirt road but kept going cross-country until I joined a rough jeep track which branches off from the dirt road and disappears up the drainage. I followed this jeep track briefly before leaving it to ascend a ridge to climber's right of the drainage. There were no surprises as I followed this ridge almost all the way to the summit. The only challenge was the oppressive heat from the sun, and I welcomed the shade of the few trees that are found higher up the ridge.
I stayed at the summit for about half an hour before
retracing my steps back down. Once I got off the ridge, I
stopped for an extended break to clean out my socks and boots before
resuming my hike out. I subsequently stuck to the jeep track and
dirt road for an easier albeit longer walk back to my car. On the
drive out, I slowly rolled through the "main drag" of Atomic City and
wondered about the inhabitants of this somewhat creepy little village.
I did not see a single soul out and about. With nothing compelling
me to stick around, I headed for the town of Arco to gas up and
grab dinner. I would eventually spend the night sleeping in my car
at a nearby rest area. Sonny's chosen route goes up the right skyline ridge.
South of Atomic City, this gravel road
leads to the Big Southern Butte which is visible in the hazy distance
Closer in, Big Southern Butte begins
to look a lot clearer.
Asters such as this one seem to thrive
on the Snake River Plain despite the hot and dry climate.
This outcrop of lava rock appears to
have a hole in it.
Sonny started his hike from the cinder
cone in the distance at centre.
The jeep track eventually peters out
in the drainage. The slope on the right leads to the ridge of
The ridge is generally easy to follow.
The grassy ridge broadens near the
The road to the summit appears to be
in excellent shape.
The road can be seen winding down the
western side of Big Southern Butte.
Sonny stands near the summit of Big
Southern Butte (2306 metres).
This bump to the north appears to be
nearly as high as the main summit.
The visible road heads southeast
toward the village of Springfield.
Middle Butte and East Butte can be
seen to the east over 25 kilometres away.
Here is a look at the summit area. It is worth comparing to a
taken in 2002 by Dan Robbins (idahosummits.com).
This is the road leading to the cinder cone at right where Sonny's car is
This abandoned service station says a lot about
A family of deer wander through the sagebrush near Atomic City.
Distance: 12.5 kilometres
Round-Trip Time: 6 hours 46 minutes
Net Elevation Gain: 730 metres
Sonny's chosen route goes up the right skyline ridge.