Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jewel/Cutthroat Lakes, Uinta Mountains- October 2014

I got one more trip into the high terrain this year. Myself and my friend Chris went in on a brisk Friday, hiking a deserted trail into Ruth Lake. The meadows are in full fall phase, and the wind was chilly. We made a quick hike into Ruth Lake, then moved up the ridge over to Hayden Lake. We then followed the outlet down past a very nice pond, and descended to Jewel Lake. We decided to camp here, as we knew weather was in the forecast for Sunday. We set up shop, and then just decided to take it all in. This is the latest I have ever backpacked in the Uintas. Evening came, and dinner and some extra layers were in order. We got a fire going, and made dinner, and enjoyed the crystal clear skies. I got the camera out and got some really nice shots that night of the peak and the lake. Soon, we felt the cold that the Uintas this time of year are known for. So off to the sleeping bags and warmth we went. Morning came and both of us slept in.

After making breakfast and having some coffee, we packed it up to head out fishing at Jewel and Cutthroat lakes. We fished Jewel for a bit, and I have a few bites. After a while we wanted to hike up to Cutthroat Lake. We made the meadow crossing and climbed up to the lake. It was deserted, something I have rarely witnessed. We fished for quite a while up there, me landing a very nice Tiger. Chris had luck too. Eventually, we decided that getting a warm fire set was important as we were unsure of the weather we would get. Back at camp, with everything in order for the evening, we just set in to watching the sunset out the back of the meadow behind our camp. Evening came, and so did a crazy set of clouds that just seemed to keep building. We headed for bed around midnight, and I fell right to sleep. But not for long, about 3:30 AM, I was awoke by the sound of snow falling on my tent, and thunder and lighting going off all around us. Thundersnow!

It was kind of awesome to experience, and my hiking watch said it was 39 degrees. I figured at that temperature it was not going to accumulate that much, so I rolled over and fell back to sleep. I woke again around 7:30 AM, and it was much colder this time. The temp read 30 degrees. I peeked out of my tent and everything had a new paint job. Eventually we decided that packing it up and making our way out was the best thing to do. I had anticipated that if we did get snow, it would be wet, so I packed layers, including rain pants, and a Goretex jacket. I also packed in a neck gaiter, and some winter gloves. After getting locked and loaded, we made our way out of Jewel Lake. There is a small boulder field that you have to ascend, and it is not something to be taken lightly with wet boots, and a heavy pack on. The dogs led us up the best path out of there, and soon we were on trail again. We were walking in 3-4" of snow all the way up to Hayden Lake. Then over the ridge and down to Ruth Lake. We took some photos at Ruth, and just enjoyed the instant winter wonder land we were walking in.

Some of the flat sections were like breaking trail, so I admit I slashed a few turns in the hiking boots because the snow was powder. We made our way out to Highway 150, and found the road and lot snow packed. This was my last trip into the high terrain of the Uinta Mountains this year. It has been an awesome summer in this wilderness. One I will not soon forget. Some fall hiking and then this party is going to switch to snow dances.