Monday, September 23, 2013

Duck Lake, Uinta Mountains, Utah- September 2013

The seasons are changing! It was only a few weeks ago that we set the record for hottest summer ever in Salt Lake City. So the cold fronts that we have gotten have gone a long way in making things very nice these days here. I had one last weekend to get out in the Uintas this year, and I was joined by my friend Chris Fryer. We decided to hit Duck Lake, because the forecast was calling for the possibility of snow on Sunday, so we wanted to be set if we had to make a quick exit. We arrived at the Crystal Lake trail head, and could feel the mild fall temps in the air. Gone was the hustle and bustle of this place in summer, replaced with the quite that this mountain range can offer. We got the packs and dogs situated, and we headed in. The hike was nice, very pleasant and lots of beautiful views. We make a quick push for the pass, then headed into the basin. All the ground cover is changing, and there are a few Aspens that have turned red and yellow. We kept the pace moving past Weir Lake, then Pot Lake, and then finally down to Duck Lake. There was no one here- amazing! It is a rarity to get a lake out in this basin all to yourself, let alone Duck Lake.

We got camp pitched, had a snack to refuel, gathered some firewood, then hit the lake for some fishing. Some cotton ball clouds started drifting in from the south, and made it quite a site with the colors and changing light. I nailed a nice Cutthroat not to long after casting my line. Chris is a great fly fisherman, and I took a seat and studied some of his skills. Not long after traversing the south side, we set up on some rocks, and Chris lands a fat brookie! This was a very nice fish! We made our way around the west side of the lake, and in the scree field, we found a bunch of raspberry plants. I ate at least 20, and not sure how many Chris had. They were yummy! We continued on hiking around the lake, checking out the scenery, and enjoying the silence. We eventually made our way back to camp, and got changed up for the colder temps expected. We got a fire going, and then started to work on dinner. As the evening progressed, some thunder bumpers from the south were flashing lightning in the clouds, and some distant thunder that would rumble. We did have one bump that was pretty close, and a brief drizzle, but nothing other than a pretty cool light show while we watched the fire. We eventually finished our beverages, and headed for sleep. I can't remember when the last time I slept that deeply. I think I got over eight hours of sleep, and comfortable quiet sleep too.

I awoke, and got some breakfast going. I noticed the clouds on the horizon were building, and getting darker by the minute. Chris got up, and we assessed the situation. The temps were dropping, and the wind was from the north. We waited out these cells, then it lightened, and the thunder stopped in the distance, so we were wise that we packed it up right then. We said our goodbyes to Duck Lake and hit the trail. We had a pretty dry hike out, until we got above Weir Lake and hit the meadow, then it started to rain, then it turned to wet sleet/snow. I am glad I was in full rain gear, and had the pack cover on. It was coming down, and my rain gear was soaked. We made the pass in just under an hour, and the storm broke for a bit, peeping the light dusting of white on the ground, and the misty looking winter clouds hanging on the peaks. We sat on the pass taking it in for a moment, then I realized I was cold. My base layers under my rain gear were wet from sweating, and my core temp was dropping. I knew I had to get moving. The last bit to the car was just a very nice hike in the woods. Everything was fresh, the air smelled so good. Arriving at the car, the trail head was virtually empty, minus a few other backpackers who came walking out shortly after us. What a great way to end the season in the Uintas! A full on adventure, had a little bit of everything out there. I'll be hunting out some fall colors hiking over the next few weeks, with one more Southern Utah trip planned in October. We are expecting our first measurable snowfall this week in the Wasatch, so it is getting down to it. A few more weeks in the fall colors before this party changes up to snow dances. Enjoy the photos, more to come!
djnebula's Duck Lake Uintas 2013 album on Photobucket

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lake Solitude/Twin Lakes Loop, Big Cottowood Canyon- September 2013

I have done this loop once in the past, back in 2003. It was a great hike, and the climb to complete the loop is a gut buster for sure. I was not sure how the weather was going to hold up, thunderstorms from this late monsoon flow we are getting were in the forecast. I set out from the Silver Lake lot and not far after I walked in I saw a Bull Moose with a full rack. This is the rut, so best to be cautious around them as they can be quite aggressive this time of year. My luck had it that he only took one look at me, and continued to graze on the foliage. I pressed on to the trail split for Twin Lakes and Lake Solitude. It was a very nice walk in the woods, rounding the ridge. Once you pass the Summit lift line you connect with another beautiful walk in the woods that takes you up to Lake Solitude. I made a brief stop at the lake, to take some pics and to check out the area. Saw a mine shaft that I was not aware of up there. I then began the climb that is the steepest part of this hike. I have been climbing mountains all season, and with a day pack, this was a lot easier than a full weekend bag. I did break a pretty good sweat on the way up, so I am sure I got my caloric burn for the day. I finally, after winding my way to the top stepped onto the pass between Solitude and Twin Lakes. I took an animal track down the steepest section and eventually connected with the shore line trail below. Did I mention how low this lake was this year? Since they have dammed the lake, it was always one solid body of water every time I have visited. Not this year, I was able to walk out on the land bridge to do some fly fishing. After a walk around the SW end of the lake, I found myself fishing the land bridge between both lakes. Not long after I threw on a new fly, I watched the most beautiful Cutthroat come out from the deep and nail my fly! This guy was huge! Once I hauled him in, I set him next to my rod, and he passed the 16" mark, so I marked his length on my rod. I stepped over to grab my camera for a picture, when he snapped my tippet and flopped back into the lake. I was so bummed, I for sure wanted to get a pic of that fish! The memory of that will linger for a while for sure. I was so stoked that I had finally, after years of visiting this lake, that I was able to land one of those big ones in there that I have seen so many times, but was never able to get no matter what I threw at them. After some more fishing, I packed it up and headed down to finish the loop. It was a nice hike out, with the meadows still holding some flowers, and other plants switching it into fall gear. The colors up there were amazing, and it will only get better. I finished up the hike to my car, when right as I got the door unlocked, the thunderstorm moved in. Talk about perfect timing! It was a great day up there, full of adventure just like I like it. Fall is upon us. Things will start to change in the coming weeks. This is a great time of year as the season transfer from summer to fall. I think we will have a colorful year! Enjoy the slideshow, more adventures to come.
djnebula's Lake Solitude Twin Lakes Loop 13 album on Photobucket

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Shadow Lake, Uinta Mountains, Utah- September 2013

I have wanted to get my daughter out for her first backpacking trip for some time now. This summer has been tough for us with how busy we have been, but I was not gonna let it end without getting my buddy out in the wilderness with us. We set off from the Crystal Lake trail head on a very cloudy day, and started the walk in. We passed Washington Lake and made our way through a set of nice meadows with great views of the peaks in the area. We then found our way through the woods eventually coming to Tail Lake. We continued on, making our way through a swampy section of the trail that climbed for a bit before drying out and leveling off. After about two miles we found ourselves at camp for the night at Shadow Lake. This is a pretty lake, and had a very wilderness feel to it. We set up shop and gathered firewood, then got things ready for the evening. While my wife and daughter were playing in the woods, I slipped down to the lake for some fly fishing. I threw a renegade at them and after about four casts I had a nice 14" Tiger Trout on the line. Just as I got him out to remove the fly, he wiggled out of my hand and back into the lake.

So much for a picture, but my wife and daughter were impressed. Evening set in and we got a fire going and we made dinner. The light was so cool with all the clouds in the basin. After the main course, my daughter got to enjoy a nice campfire s'more, her very first one in the backcountry! I think she enjoyed it, as she had marshmallow all over her face. I think after the s'more she was beat, so she headed for our tent, and we tucked her in for the night. Me and my wife stayed up for a bit, enjoying some time together which is so rare these days. A light sprinkle began as we were turning in, and we crawled into our bags to get some much needed rest. I awoke to it raining hard outside, and the girls still sleeping. I just layed there, slipping in and out of sleep for a few more hours, as the rain went pitter patter on the fly, making that soothing sound I really love. Knowing that there was a low pressure coming in from the south that day, we got up, had a snack, then packed up camp and made for the car.

It was a bit soggy in sections, but my daughter and wife handled it like champs. We strolled through the forest, enjoying the sun peeping in and out as we walked through the woods. We eventually found ourselves back at the car, wishing we had a few more days out there. This was a great introduction to backpacking for my daughter, and I think this is the start of something great! I saw fall colors on Hwy 150 starting to pop, so only a few more weeks and winter will return to the high terrain. I have a few more adventures on tap before I pull out the winter gear. This party is not over yet, more adventures to come.
djnebula's Shadow Lake 2013 album on Photobucket