Monday, September 17, 2012

Marsell Canyon, Grand Daddy Basin, High Uintas Wilderness- Ashley National Forest- September 2012

I love September in the Uintas. The crowds are gone, the bugs are done for the season, and the fishing is best when the water starts to cool down from a hot summer like we have had here in Utah. I was planning on getting out this weekend, and my friend Chris suggested we hit a remote area in the Uintas called Marsell Canyon. This is an area accessed via the route into Grand Daddy Basin in the High Uintas Wilderness. The road to Grand View trail head is not a good one for a car, I would have an AWD or 4WD vehicle with some ground clearance if you are going to drive up there. Also, this is a very narrow road, so watch the corners and pull outs. It is not wide enough for two cars in sections. We got an afternoon start at the Grand View trail head, and started the rocky, sandy climb to Hades Pass. It was unusually warm for September, and it for sure made us work up a sweat climbing the 1,000 ft with a heavy pack on. Once we got to the pass, we took a quick break for some photos and to dry out as to not be wet once the sun set for the day.

After our break we moved quickly into the basin, passing Grand Daddy Lake, the biggest lake in the Uintas. Moving on, we made our way further into the basin, passing Lake Betsy, and arriving at the junction to Mohawk Lake. As we arrived at Mohawk Lake, the sun started to dip to the horizon, so we knew that it was in our best interest to move through the meadows north of Mohawk Lake which would deliver us to Marsell Lake which was our destination. There is no trail from Mohawk Lake to Marsell Canyon, you have to route find and bush whack to get into the canyon. We crossed three meadows, then ended up on a minor ridge looking down at Marsell Lake and Marsell Canyon. It took a slight bit of route finding, but we made our way down to the lake and found a really good spot rather quickly. We set up shop, and got a fire going, as dusk was upon us, and the temps were dipping a bit. I shot some star trails and we got our water, then we made dinner as the stars came out to give us quite a show! After some warming from the fire, and a full stomach, along with 5 1/2 miles of travel for the day, we were ready to crash out.

I awoke to the sun shining on the other side of the lake, and the water like still glass. Chris and his two dogs were still in the tent sleeping, so as not to disturb them, I walked down to the shore to give it a shot fishing. I set up my rig, put it out, and no kidding first cast had a huge Cutthroat on the line! I was so excited I ran back up to camp and got Chris up to see this lunker I had landed. He was pleased and got up and made coffee to get ready for an adventure to secure a fish dinner for that night. I made my way getting ready for the day with some coffee and instant grits. the temps rose rapidly that morning, and we headed off to fish Marsell and head over to Sonny Lake to see what we could catch. I only got a couple of more smaller fish on this trip, but Chris managed to nail a very fat, very large Brookie from Sonny, hook jaw and all. We had made plans to head out Farney Lake to try our hand at some graylings, but Chris was concerned at what condition his Brookie would be in by the time we made it back to camp. So we stayed at Sonny, explored the area, and fished for quite some time. Eventually we made our way back to Marsell, and set up the fish down at the shore and proceeded to just relax at the lake, fish some more, and just enjoy how quiet it was out there. We had not seen anyone since the trail head, we had a place in the Uintas all to ourselves! As it always does, the day came to evening and it was time to get our fish ready to eat.

Dinner consisted of Louisiana Rice and Beans with Cutthroat Trout as the main course, and Raspberry Crumble Shortcake for dessert. To top it all off, while I was shooting some time lapse and star trails, we did some hot chocolate with whipped cream that Chris was more than kind enough to pack in. It was the best backcountry feast I have ever had! We were both tired after dinner, and when my shots were done, it was time to turn in. Sunday came with some slight wind and a bit cooler temps than the previous morning. Chris wanted another shot at fishing, and I wanted to eat and just relax with my coffee lake side. After getting my caffeine fix, I had breakfast, broke camp, and got ready for the hike out. Chris after a couple of hours was ready to roll, and we bush whacked our way back to Mohawk, past Betsy, then onto the Grand Daddy and a swift climb to the pass. From Marsell Canyon to Hades Pass is three miles and some change. And we did it on Sunday in one hour and seven minutes. We stopped to look at the Uintas that are off in the distance from the pass, but you can see the heart of the High Line Trail from Hades Pass, so it kind of mesmerizes you looking at Cyclone Pass. That is steep! We made our way to the truck at the trail head, and wrapped up another epic adventure in the Uintas with a couple of cold ones. It was nice to be out there again, maybe another one before I move to winter activities. It is gonna be up to Mother Nature. We will see what she has in store. Enjoy the slide show below, and I will have more photography since we are now in fall and the colors are changing.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Wind River Range, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming- September 2012

The Wind River Range has been on my bucket list for about four years now. I have wanted to go, but just never seemed to be good timing to get a partner to go up there. This year worked out as my friend Jeremy wanted to go there, so we made plans for Labor Day weekend to explore the Temple Mountain area. We left Thursday night, and drove five hours to Big Sandy trail head. We arrived, pitched shop, had a few cold ones, watched the moon and turned in. I actually slept like eight hours, which is unusual for me. We woke up Friday morning, made coffee, and then prepared to head into the wilderness area. This trip is not like those of my Uintas that I take all the time. It required us to secure a Bear Resistant Food Container, Bear Spray, and to be on the lookout at all times. The last thing we wanted was an encounter with a bear that would cut our trip short. We filled our packs, chatted with some locals, and then we moved in on the Big Sandy Trail. The trail starts on a really flat meadow, and then climbs a set of switch backs. Once at the top of the switch backs, it flattens out again and moves through a huge meadow. Some more travel through the trees, and then you come to another beautiful meadow with the Big Sandy River rolling through the middle of it. As you continue to climb higher, you see more and more of the crest of the Winds. Peaks that were just enormous were in view towering over the whole area.

After five miles and some change, we found ourselves standing on the shore of Big Sandy Lake. This is a very picturesque lake, and a large body of water at that. We pulled up to take a break on the shore, when a pretty hard rain storm came in. We took shelter in some trees waiting for it to pass, but it seemed to pick up in steam, so we decided to take shelter for the night at Big Sandy and move on up to a more secluded area on Saturday. We sat in the tent for a couple of hours, then the rain let up, and we made ourselves at home as the sun set. I did some fishing for a minute, but nothing even took a bite at my flies. Skunked in the Winds fishing. I had the fortunate chance of getting some really beautiful shots of the sunset. After dinner and some photography, we decided to crash out for the night. Just after getting settled in, the rain began again, and I remember hearing the pitter patter on the rain fly as I dozed in and out of consciousness. I awoke to it still lightly raining, so I put on the rain jacket and headed out of the tent to see what the weather was doing. Grey and more grey, which meant not too many photos with the light we had at the time up there. I was about to go make breakfast when another wave came through and drenched our site. It puddled up below the tent, and we had to move spots because our gear was getting wet. After getting the tent relocated, the sun peered out and dried our stuff out pretty quick.

Then the crowds of backpackers started showing up, and we decided to move up to Clear Lake as to avoid the noise that these large groups were making that all were setting up camp at Big Sandy. We packed quick and made a very fast exit from Big Sandy Lake. As we rounded the meadow, I could see what looked like a very intense thunderstorm moving in from the Southwest, so we made a quick move to get to the split to Clear Lake our destination. We ended up taking a wrong turn, and made our way up the Black Joe Lake section of the trail. This was pretty steep, and we were lost for a minute. But I decided that I had seen a split, and we took it and it lead us up on a ridge top, and down slope to a very nice camp spot. As soon as we got the tent up, sleeping bags in the tent, the storm got very loud and very electric!!! Lightning was flashing all around us and it was scary to say the least! After sitting in our tent watching hail, and very heavy rain fall for about an hour, the storm settled down and let up slowly. We both were thinking, are we going to be spending our whole time in the tent while we are here? Eventually the storm passed, and we got out the BRFC's and made dinner. After securing camp, I headed down to the shore to shoot some evening shots of the area we had moved up to. Both of us tired from the hike, and a bit rattled from the storm, turned in hoping for better weather.

I awoke Sunday morning to clear skies, and a light breeze which is trade mark for this range. We made breakfast and coffee, and then put together the day packs to head up to Temple Lake. This is an awesome hike, walking on glaciated granite slabs all the way to Deep Lake. As we hiked, we watched some climbers on Haystack Mountain doing a very technical route up one of the cracks on a very huge wall. After a very fun walk, we were standing at the outlet of Deep Lake. What an amazing place! I have to say I parked it up against a boulder, and let my imagination fly. The wind was blowing pretty hard, and Jeremy's map decided to go for a sail in Deep Lake. He jumped in and got it, but the wind was cold, and he had to dry off before we continued on up to Temple Lake. The hike out of Deep Lake was awesome, route finding and some trail to the saddle. Once we got to the top, the wind was even colder, and the view spectacular. We walked down to the back end of Temple Lake, where we parked it for some down time, checking out the big glacier that was sunk into the side of Temple Mountain. What an incredible place this was, and it made me wish we had more time here, as weather seemed to take some of our exploration away because of having to hunker down during the storms. Eventually we decided to head back down to camp, and we made the jaunt over the pass, back to Deep Lake, and down the slabs back to Clear Lake where our home away from home was. I made the suggestion to Jeremy that we hike around Clear Lake so we could see the whole area we were camped in. As we were making the round of the lake, Jeremy jumped a rock and landed funny on his ankle- POP! He was hurt, and looked like he was not doing well. We stopped and let him gain his strength, but he was having a very hard time walking, and getting him back to camp to tape his ankle and to relax was first thing in order. After getting him settled, I decided to try my hand at fishing, alas only a few bites and rises, but I did not land anything.

I pumped our water and we made dinner. Since we had clear skies, I decided to try to do some night photography, but my interval timer was not working again, so I could only do cable release shots. It would not do multiple images. Something was not triggering the shutter from commands from the timer. I got some fun images, but alas not the shots I was hoping for. After a while, it was time to turn in, for we has a long walk out in the morning, and we had to get Jeremy out because of his ankle. Morning came early, we got up, broke camp, pack the bags, and hit the trail. Jeremy was doing much better, and was able to hike the trail from Clear Lake back to Big Sandy Lake. We took a break at the outlet to shed layers we had on because the hike out at seven AM was cold with a breeze that chilled you to the bone. We continued on, rolling through meadow after meadow, and after a few hours, found ourselves back at the trail head, spent, tired, and ready to call it a good trip. This was a first trip to this mountain range, and for all the weather delays and problems we had, we for sure made the best of it. And I cannot really complain, we got to see what we did, and we got to experience the Winds at its finest. We did want to go over Jack Ass Pass to Lonesome lake, but alas Jeremy's ankle was not in good shape, and we made the right decision to head home, so we could get him on the road to healing. All in all, I will return to this mountain range. It had the splendor you want when you are seeking solitude and majesty that a big mountain range has to offer. Remember, this range is fairly remote from the west side, being your closest service is about forty miles from the trail head in Boulder. So make sure you have a full tank and all the supplies you need, you will find none of that once you head in on the road. Enjoy the slide show of the full set of pics below. A few more trips are in the works before the snow flies. So my motto is get out there while you can. More to come soon.........