Monday, August 27, 2012

Bald Mountain Trail, Notch Lake, Uintas, August 2012

When the forecast looks good, you want to get out, clear skies and good weather are the motivation to hit the trail. My friend Dave had never been out to the Uintas, nor had his dog Odon. So I planned a trip that was under 4 miles, had great camp spots, and was a place I had not been yet. Dave got off work really late, so we made a after dark entrance to the Bald Mountain trail. We got to the trail head, threw on the packs, and hit the trail. I have not done a hike at night with a heavy pack on in a couple of years. So I forgot how much fun and work that is. Hard to see your feet at times, but the stars were incredible, and the moon was half full over the basin. We passed Cleg Lake, then some ponds, and finally arrived at what we thought was Dean Lake. It actually ended up being Notch Lake. We got to the west side of the lake, and found a nice spot, set up shop, had a small fire, and I did a few shots at night, unfortunately with out my interval timer, which was being warrantied, I only had my remote and "bulb" to work with.

After some shots, I then turned in for some great sleep. Dawn woke me up, and I unzipped my tent to see the first frost of the year clinging to my rain fly. As soon as the sun hit it, it was gone, so I am guessing there was a short period that it dipped to those temps. I crawled out of my tent, and looked up to the Notch, and there was a whole family group of Mountain Goats grazing on the slope. I made some coffee and then Dave and Odon joined me. After getting breakfast and making a game plan, we set off to fish. We fished Notch, even though it was low, I managed to land some 12" brookies, and some really small ones too. After some fun fishing, I had pulled out my map to get us to Dean Lake, when thunder cracked overhead. There was a ledge right below the cliffs that was dry because the water was so low, so we ducked in there. As soon as we got settled, it started hailing very hard, and did so for about 1/2 an hour. Then it just rained, boom, rain, boom, with no clearing in site. Dave and Odon took a small nap on a flat rock, and I took some pics of the storm as it rolled across the basin. We got a small clearing, and made a break for our camp.

Thunder continued to just pound above us, and it did shake us for a few moments for sure. Back at camp, we ducked under a small stand of trees and just waited it out. After another hour or so, it let up and some great light from the evening sun was painting Reid's Peak and Bald Mountain after loosing them in the mist for hours. I took some shots, then decided we better get a fire going, I knew it was going to be a cold night. After dinner I finished my adult beverages, and with no clouds just had a classic night catching up with my friend while we stayed warm by our fire. Then I turned in. I know I had some really great sleep, I slept for nearly eight hours, far longer than I normally sleep. After getting up, I broke down shop, packed it all, and made coffee. Then we packed it out. I wanted to get back to the pass to my car before the storms boiled up. We took our time, walking through the meadows we could not see on the way in. I got some nice shots, and was just really loving being out there. After a nice hike, we arrived at the car. Just in time, the thunderstorms came back in. It was a nice trip, new area for me, and just fun to be in the woods again. Enjoy the slideshow, more trips to come.

Monday, August 20, 2012

White Pine, Little Cottonwood Canyon- August 2012

White Pine Lake is a place I have visited for a day hike many times, but never have I backpacked it. I originally planned to head out to the Uintas with some friends on Friday, but my knee was not feeling so well, so I was going to stay home this past weekend. Friday evening arrived to me getting some really bad news that a really close friend of mine had been hit by a drunk driver on his bike Thursday night and was in critical condition in the ICU. It tore me up pretty good, for sure shed some tears, and I was pretty upset. I could not just sit around stewing about what had happened. So I pack the bag, and headed off solo to clear my head and to submerse my self in nature. I decided I would backpack White Pine Saturday and Sunday. My knee was feeling much better Saturday morning after the TLC I gave it over the last couple of days, and I headed in. This trail starts at the same place Red Pine does, and meets up at the same junction. But the trail to White Pine is more of an old mining road, with well defined switchbacks and some really wonderful forest and meadows to walk through.

As you climb, White Baldy starts to peek into view and you get a feel for how big this drainage really is. As you continue to climb, and the views keep getting better after every switchback. As the hike continues, you start to get above the tree line, and then you come to a huge boulder field which has what looks like an old service road that brings you up over a ridge to the lake. This is an unforgiving part of the hike as there is no cover, and the heat just roasts you all the way to the top. Arriving at the top, you are 200 ft above White Pine lake with White Baldy towering over you. I took some shots from here, and then pulled out my iPhone to check the stats from my trip up. Most beta out there says White Pine Lake is 4-4.5 miles. But my app from Trimble Outdoors calculated 5.39 miles one way, and 3,513 ft of elevation gain. As I was shooting some shots, Pikas were barking at me left and right. I could not believe how many were up here! Made me very happy as these little guys have been hardest hit from climate change in the North American forests.

I took some photos, and I have to admit, I felt like they were posing for the camera. I love those little guys! After my impromptu photo shot with the Pikas, I descended to the lake and found a great camp spot. Unfortunately, the previous visitors had left orange peels and trash all in the camp. So after pitching shop, I did some housekeeping and got my home for the night in tip top shape. After filtering some water I wanted to get some fishing in before dark. I moved to the lake, which is lower in water than I have ever seen it, and cast one out. After about a half an hour of bites, hits, and nothing landed, I hooked into what felt like a lead weight on my line. What a huge surprise- these Cutthroats are hogs! I fished till I just could not see anymore, landing one right after another. This was by far some of the best fishing I have had in the Wasatch. Night crept in, and I got a small stick fire going and set up the camera for some night shots. Tragedy fell as my interval timer lost its metal housing and would not initiate cable release functions, so I was stuck with operating in bulb to get my shots. Got some good ones, but not was I was hoping for. After doing the best I could without the timer, I crawled into my sleeping bag and crashed hard. I really don't know how long I slept, but I know it was good sleep. I awoke, broke camp, did a little more fishing, made some coffee and packed it out. I ran into quite a few day hikers on the way out that seemed amazed that I would camp up there all by myself, let alone backpack that length of a trail. It was a good trip, meaningful, and I returned to get news of some improvement from my friend who was in the hospital. Enjoy the slide show, more adventures to come soon!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Willow Heights- Big Cottonwood Canyon- August 2012

With a last minute change of plans, I made a quick over nighter up to Willow Heights. This is a very beautiful area, and a really nice place to see moose, deer, and a host of other wildlife in a pristine area in the Wasatch. I made my way up to the trail head Saturday afternoon, and got the pack on and headed in. Everything in this drainage this year is very lush. The trail makes a pretty steep jaunt straight up the hill for the first quarter mile, then winds its way through the trees. eventually it turns to a manageable grade and enters a very open meadow with good views down canyon. A few more paces and you find yourself at the lake. I walked over to the west side, and took a few photos east. After a bit I made my way through the aspens on the east side of the lake and found a very nice spot to set up shop. After getting shop set, I went to the outlet and filtered some water. After that I just pulled up a seat and watched the light play in the bowl surrounding the lake. Evening set in and I made a very good meal. As the sun started to set, I noticed some high clouds and the fire smoke turning that classic shade of pink that makes sunsets so much fun to shoot. On my way back to camp, I noticed a Cow Moose and Calf at the lake getting a drink. I had some worries for shooting later as I did not want to run into them in the dark. I found a spot, and let it rattle off some shots to get a star trail, as I had a beverage and watched a few meteors which I am sure were the beginning of the Persids meteor shower expected Sunday night. After a couple of hours, I rounded up my camera, took a few more shots and then went to bed. I slept so good, one of the best nights sleep because it was so quiet up there. I was awakened around seven AM to the sounds of Coyotes howling up on the ridge above me. I peeked out to see the Cow and Calf at the lake on full alert. They left with haste as the sound of the pack seemed to get closer. I finally pulled myself out of my sleeping bag, and made some coffee. I pulled up a seat as the light from the morning sun slowly painted the basin. All the flowers were glowing, and the air temps were a bit nippy in the shade. After some coffee, I packed up my bag, so I could wander around taking photos on the way out. As I descended, I noticed the ground cover had started to change color, first sign that fall is just around the corner. I also saw a wasp nest that was extremely large right next to the trail that I had not seen on the way in. After a while of wandering I made my way down the trail to my car. It was a great last minute adventure, and nice to be in the mountains once more. More adventures to come, enjoy the slideshow below.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ibantik Lake, Uintas- August 2012

Ibantik Lake has been on my hit list for the last two seasons. It just seemed either something would come up and I would have to cancel that trip, or weather just kept us outta there. Not this time. It was my birthday weekend, and of course I am flying solo. I made a quick drive to the Crystal Lake trail head, then got the gear ready. No bugs at the trail head, and that made me very happy! Got my pack on and started the 4.5 miles to Ibantik to set up shop. The trail begins very easy passing Lilly Lakes on the way in, then it rounds a ridge and climbs up to Wall Lake. Then you cross the bridge and follow the east side of Wall Lake. This is a beautiful part of the trail, lots of little water and meadows everywhere. Then you start to climb some moderate switchbacks, then you flatten out at Hope Lake. This is pretty picturesque, worth a visit on the way in. Then you start what seems like a never ending, winding set of switchbacks, which finally have you standing on Notch Mountain Pass, looking both north and south in the Uintas.

I spent a bit on the pass, then headed north dropping off the pass. I did not realize the elevation loss on the other side you would do to get to Ibantik. Passing Lovenia Lake and a host of other run off ponds, and you start to drop into the tree line just as you arrive at Ibantik. This lake, and its surrounding peaks are just a masterpiece from mother nature. I dropped my pack at my camp spot and just went to check the view for like 10 minutes. I was happy to be there, and got camp set up in a hurry. Evening set in, and I did some fishing below the scree slope and landed quite a few 12" brookies which seemed to be feeding over there. Soon, dusk set in, and I got dinner going. After a good meal, got out the camera and started shooting some night photography. Which was great until the clouds came in. Still rattled out one star trail, I am happy about that. I turned in, some of the best sleep I have had in a few weeks. Morning came, and the group just above me had come over and introduced themselves and asked me if I wanted to go with them to hike down to Meadow Lake. Map was showing 2+ miles to Meadow, my GPS clocked it at 1.73 miles one way, so nearly 3.5 miles round trip. I jumped at it and followed their crew on the hike. And a beautiful hike it was! So lush and green in that area, even saw some aspens which is rare in the upper elevation in the Uintas.

We finally arrived at Meadow Lake, and wow! It is a huge body of water. I am not sure on depths, but It looks massive in area. Spent hours there fishing, and just soaking in the view. Back to camp, I made dinner and tried my hand at some more fishing, which yielded about three landed, and about 12 I missed. The sun eventually set, and I played with my camera a bit, getting some great shots as the night went on. Then I hit the bag and was out for the count. Woke up Sunday Morning and made coffee, sat lakeside then packed it up and headed out. The hike out was fun, a good workout, and was exactly what I wanted for my Birthday! Another great solo trip to a new area, good times! Enjoy the slideshow. More to come soon!