Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Backpacking in the Uintas
So, this is David here hijacking the Joyfulliberation blog to post some info about the backpacking trip I recently took with Josh, my Dad, and my nephew Warren. Josh's dog, Juniper came along as well for the adventure. We had been wanting to do a backpacking trip in the Uintas for quite some time, but either illness, schedules, or weather has always gotten in the way. Well, finally all the stars aligned and we were able to go out for a relatively easy trip this past weekend (Sept 23rd-25th).
Before hitting the trail, we stopped at the Uinta Drive-Inn in Kamas, UT. We shared a meal of cheese burgers and fries. VERY tasty! Their buns are almost a butter roll. Juniper waited patiently in the car as we loaded up on protein, carbs, and sugar to fuel us.
Juniper was so excited! The whole way from our house to the trail head she fidgeted, wiggled, and licked non-stop.
We decided to take the Lofty Lake Loop trail to Kamas Lake. To get there drive out to the Mirror Lake Hwy. Once you pass Mirror Lake and then Pass Lake, look for the parking lot for the "Pass trail head" on your left. It's about 1.5 hours from Salt Lake to the trail head. For those of you who are map geeks, I took my iPhone with me that acts as a GPS. I installed the "EveryTrail" app on it before our trip so I could map out our route. It's pretty cool how it follows and allows you to add waypoints, photos, etc to your trip. You can find my uploaded trip by clicking on the link below. I had to manually edit some of it as the battery in my phone died on the last day.
David's Uploaded map on EveryTrail.com
The trail starts at just over 10,000 feet and descends gradually to Reid's Meadow in the shadow of Bald Mountain and Reid's Peak. After walking on the edge of Reid's Meadow for about a half mile, the trail turns abruptly to the north and starts the climb up to Kamas Lake. After the easy leisurely stroll through the meadow this was quite the climb and test of our lungs. Junie kept running ahead and back to check on us and see what was keeping us slow pokes!
Fortunately for us, there was a short flat area before the final ascent to Kamas Lake where we caught our breath.
Once up to Kamas Lake we dropped our packs and took in the view. Josh and Warren scrambled up a small hill to the west of the lake and found the best campsite ever. While Dad and I setup camp, Josh and Warren went back down to the lake to explore.
After getting all situated we took a hike down to a small lake that Kamas drains into to filter some water and fill our bottles and water bags. Juniper was so interested in what we were doing that I had to keep her out of the water so she didn't stir up more sediment than we needed to filter out. I think she was happy to put some cool water on her paws after that 2 mile hike.
With all necessities taken care of, we took a hike around the shore of Kamas Lake to see what there was to be seen. While walking around we were amazed at the amount of fish we saw that were HUGE. I'm talking trout that were all easily over 12-14 inches. They were lazily hitting the surface picking off flies that had fallen into the lake. Of course once they saw us, they would dive for deeper water. Josh has a love/hate relationship with fishing. Every time he brings his pole on a backpacking trip, we see no fish, and what fish we do see, show no interest in what we are offering. Of course on this trip, he brought no pole, or licence.... so no fishing even though the fish were taunting us. No matter what, his pole is in the wrong place whether he has it with him or not!
For those of you who have gone backpacking, you know that the meals can be hit or miss. There are certain tried and true meals that are always good. The Lasagna with meat sauce from Mountain House is always good for example. It's good now and then to try to expand the menu and branch out to new products. This of course carries some risk, as it's often a crap shoot (no pun intended). Josh decided to try out a Breakfast Skillet Scramble. It looked promising on the label as it has scrambled eggs, sausage, red and green peppers, with hash-browns. Well.... After pouring the boiling water into the foil pouch, giving it a stir, and waiting the requisite 8-9 minutes for it to hydrate, Josh opened it and found that it reminded him of a recent event at work. A couple weeks ago, Josh was cleaning a car at the Car Wash when he absent mindedly put his hand on the door handle of a car and felt something wet, soft and chunky clinging to his hands. I think by now you can guess what he had just coated his hand with. He immediately puked his guts out barely missing barfing into the pile of barf that was already in the customer's car..... but I digress.
My Dad gave Josh's scramble a try and immediately described it as "This tastes like the Naugahyde seat from a 57 Chevy that was owned by a chain smoker, who regularly farted. Of course after I heard that review I had to have a sample, and sure enough his description was Spot on. The only flavor I would add to that description would be scorched coffee grounds.
Fortunately for the rest of us, our meal choices were infinitely better. You can see a shot of my Beef Stew, which was loaded with Beef, Carrots, Potatoes, and Peas. Despite the peas, it was quite good.
After a good night's rest (OK, who am I kidding?) we got up, shared a quick breakfast and loaded up our day packs for a hike. We decided to take the trail and head up to Lofty Lake which sits just below 11,000 feet between Scout Peak, and Lofty Peak. The trail quickly heads up out of Kamas Lake via a trail that looked more like a drainage wash. We crossed over the pass and looked north up to Wyoming where you could see the wind turbine farms near Evanston in the distance. Immediately below us was Cutthroat lake. Its named for the only native species of trout in the . yes, all others that are in the Uintas were imported from elsewhere.Uinta mountains. After a short series of switchbacks were found our way across a meadow and at the shore of Lofty Lake.
At this point we decided to scramble up the shoulder of Scout Peak. Now, just about all the mountains in the Uinta mountains are a jumble of boulders. Once upon a time these were solid stone peaks pushed up from cooled volcanic rock. Over time with freezing and thawing they've been rounded down into these boulder peaks. They are lots of fun for climbing but after a time it gets a bit annoying at finding every lose slab of stone that shifts under your feet. Juniper was awesome at navigating this with her little paws. By the end of the day her poor little pads were so sore she was limping even when wagging her tail. We reached summit of Scout Peak (approximately 11,130 feet) marked by a rock cairn that someone constructed and took in the view. We could see immediately down to the west our campsite near Kamas Lake, Mirror Lake to the south, Hayden Peak to the East, and again to the north was Wyoming in the distance.
After a short break we went down the other shoulder of the mountain back down to the north where we started the ascent of Lofty Peak. Lofty peak, like its twin to the south is a boulder mountain, but a littler higher. I believe it's summit was at about 11,160 feet. At the top a lightning rod was placed to help draw the frequent lightning strikes in this area. We stopped here and shared a meal of summer sausage, wheat thins, squeeze cheese.... you know, the regular hiking fare. After about 20 minutes of soaking in the sights, food, and water we made our way cross country back down the mountain though some trees on it's western slope and rejoined the Lofty Lake trail taking us back to our campsite.
After we got back to the campsite, Josh and Warren quickly suited up for a swim in the lake. Now, I have no idea what the temperature of the water was, but I wouldn't put it over 60 degrees. They had been talking all during the hike about how they were going to swim across the lake. I cautioned them to just keep it to within a close distance of the shoreline. I had no desire to jump in and rescue someone drowning in that cold ass water! As soon as they sat down, the screamed like little girls, sending an echo of screams bouncing of the mountain walls. I'm sure anyone in the valley that heard them, thought someone was being flayed alive. By this time the battery in my camera had died, so I'll need to get the photos of this from my Dad's camera.
Dinner on the second night wasn't nearly as entertaining as we had all chosen some known good meals. We finished it off with a backpacker meal of Cheesecake with Blueberries. It was quite good and finished off the night with the right touch. This last night was the worst night sleep. Not sure why, but none of us could stay asleep. At one point around 2:00am we heard what at first we thought was a stampede of sorts, but most likely was a landslide from the mountain wall where we had been playing earlier that day.
We broke camp at about 9:00 AM Sunday morning and headed for the trail head. I think we got back to the car in about an hour and a half. It was perfect timing as it got us back into Kamas by 11:00 for the Uinta drive-inn to serve us some burgers on our way home.
- I am a mom to 5 amazing kids and married to my best friend and love of my life. We co-habitate with 1 cat, Asha, 2 dogs, Maggie May and Juniper Wren, a Chinchilla names Ozwald, and a Hamster named Fat Panda. We have lived in Salt Lake City for 13 years by way of Tennessee and Oregon. I love to be with my kids, knit, run, craft, sew, paint,travel, hike and play :) I love our crazy life!