Monday, June 29, 2015

Jewel Lake, Uinta Mountains- June 2015

This trip came together last minute so destination before dark was crucial. I wanted a place that I could shoot a very nice star trail with the moon being almost half full. I decided after a slight delay getting out of Salt Lake that Jewel Lake was going to be the spot. We set in about 6:30 PM and the skeeters were buzzing us at the car. I'll get to that in a minute. I tried the dryer sheet method as I did not want to put on deet. They seemed to be put off by it as we departed in to the Ruth Lake trail. We made a quick push up to Ruth where I took some pics on the way in. We then pushed up to Hayden Lake and followed the trail down to the next pond, and finally down to Jewel Lake.

As we hit the boulder field that gets you to Jewel Lake the mosquitoes were horrible, swarming us like I have not had since Alaska. We made a quick jaunt to camp and pulled out the non-deet bug spray and put on long sleeves. They eventually at dusk thinned out, and we got camp set and a fire going in a jiffy. We enjoyed the evening, and I got some nice shots out on the shore of the lake. After a few hours both me and my buddy Jason were tired and it was time to turn in. We awoke to beautiful weather, and the bugs not being too terribly bad- yet. The clouds billowed up and in came a pretty thick thunderstorm. We seemed to be right on the edge of the storm, never getting the full brunt of it, but still getting a couple of hours of on and off showers. Taking a nap during a thunderstorm is pretty awesome.

Finally it broke and we put together the day packs and headed up to Cutthroat Lake. I finally broke the curse I was having in the Uintas this year and landed a couple of nice Brookies. After some more fishing and talking to the nice folks camped up there, we returned to camp to find the mosquito problem had for sure multiplied. I crawled into my tent and just fired up my Goal Zero speakers and took refuge from the blood sucking flying mob! Eventually at dusk, they once again subsided, and we got a fire going and made dinner. Jason was tired and he turned in and I closed out the campfire party about 1 AM.

Dawn brought beautiful weather, but our skeeter problem had gotten even worse. I tried to make coffee, but there were so many on me and getting in the water I was trying to boil I gave up. We both packed it up in a hurry and got the hell out of there. The hike out was nice as the bugs could never really zero in on you because we were moving. Once we arrived at Ruth Lake the bugs seemed to have thinned out. There were a lot of climbers at Ruth Lake. We talked to a few of them then pushed to the car. A nice outing, three weeks in a row to start off the season. Not bad if I do say so myself. Enjoy the pics and slideshow below. More adventures to come!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Brighton Lakes Trail, Big Cottonwood Canyon- 6.24.2015

Wasatch Wednesday was in full effect yesterday as I hiked up the Brighton Lakes Trail. It seems for the past few weeks I have been out hiking on Wednesday here in our beautiful canyons. This hike I usually reserve for after the 4th of July, but since we are ahead of schedule on everything this year, I figured why not. They have moved the Lake Mary trail right underneath the Crest lift. This section is pretty steep and will get your heart going. I finally junction with the old trail and headed up to Dog Lake. This place is going to be amazing in a few weeks when all the wildflowers go full bloom. It was so green and lush in there. I moved on up to Lake Mary to witness something of a backcountry water park rather than a mountain lake. This is watershed, people are not supposed to swim in the watershed, but they were anyways. I will never be a part of the problem, just part of the solution.

I moved on up to Lake Martha and to the final switchback to Lake Catherine. Only one small pile of snow to navigate, and up the final part of the trail I went. Arriving at Lake Catherine there were definitely piles of snow on the slope below Sunset Peak. The fish were jumping. I pulled out the fly rod to give it a shot. Landed a couple of small ones, (sorry, no pics, I was catch and release fishing, no time to traumatize them for a photo shoot) then just took in the view for a bit before heading down. I decided after about an hour and a half, I was ready to head home for dinner. I made my way down from Catherine to the overlook and as I was descending to Martha, a Mama Moose and here two calves were feeding right on the trail. I backtracked and made a wide loop around them. She showed no signs of aggression, but with two calves in tow, not gonna take my chances. I continued down to Lake Mary and then finished the trail off pretty quick. Here are a few pics from Wednesday. More adventures to come!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Naturalist Basin, High Uintas Wilderness- June 2015

This basin has been on my bucket list for a very long time. I figured with the record low snow year that this area had to be ready. With the forecast showing incredible weather, I figured why not. After getting stuck on the top of Parleys because of a wreck, I made my way to the High Line Trail Head to head in. This is an easy going trail that switches back down .6 miles to a junction to hike to Mirror Lake. As you descend to where the trail heads east you cross into the wilderness boundary. After a mile, you come to the junction for Scudder Lake. Might I add, the trail crews have not been through, so there were many downed trees and log hurdles on the way. After a rocky switchback we were passing the junction to Wyman/Packard lakes. Four miles and change later, we were standing at the fork for Naturalist Basin. We stopped and talked to some backpackers headed for Four Lakes Basin, and eventually moved on saying our goodbyes to the very nice group we took a break with.

As you head into Naturalist Basin, you make a small climb into a forest, very similar terrain to that of Swift Creek. Then you descend to some ponds and a raging creek that is being fed by the upper basin. Eventually our fork came and we headed slightly west to climb the steep and slippery switchbacks that lead to Morat Lakes. After one brutal, but short climb, we were standing at the edge of the lakes with a beautiful view of Rock Creek and the East and West Granddaddy Peaks. We moved on to find a place to set up shop for the weekend. We found a lot of snow that was still unmelted, so our options were limited. We settled on a place at East Morat and set up our camp. Evening set in, and meals and beverages were in order. The sky was so clear and the view was spectacular from our camp. I was pretty tired and the GPS said we did six and one half miles to camp. I rattled off some shots of the Milky Was and then called it a night.

We awoke to clear skies and warming temps. Best part? No mosquitoes! We made breakfast and coffee and put together the fishing rods and made our way over to the East Morat Lake. My partner nailed some Tigers out of there, but the breeze that was blowing made it hard to cast the fly rod, so I climbed up to Blue Lake for some more photos. Arriving at Blue Lake, we found it still frozen and surrounded by a lot of snow. We took some pictures then moved on to LeConte which was as well still frozen over. We decided to head to Jordan Lake for we could see that it was ice free. We had to navigate some steep terrain to get down to Jordan Lake, but we made it. I tried my hand at fishing again, only to receive on bite and nothing landed. I think they are still coming out of dormancy, they were not very active at all. After a while, we realized that we had to hike all the way back up to Morat, so we made the loop complete by returning to the fork and climbing back up the switchbacks. Back at camp we were beat, two days of hiking pretty much wiped us out. We decided to spend the rest of the evening in camp and just relax. My partner turned in early, and I stayed up for an amazing show from the stars. Eventually I crawled in my sleeping bag and it was lights out for this camper.

Sunday brought some high cumulus clouds and very nice temperatures. We took in the morning by relaxing and enjoying it. We broke camp and made the hike out. I thought the switchbacks were hard on the way in, down climbing them proved to be even more difficult. Almost fell on one loose section, but managed to make it out ok. We crossed the meadow and seemed to nail the junction with the High Line Trail reasonably fast. Then from there, the temps were on the rise and we had a very long and hot hike to the car. I ran out of water right as I hit the car. Naturalist Basin was amazing, and I would like to hit this place a little later in the season to see the lakes all melted off. I was a great time to be out in the wilderness, no bugs, no crowds, and just a great time. Full set of pics and slide show are posted below. More adventures to come!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Peak 10,420- Bloods Lake Loop, Big Cottonwood Canyon- June 2015

I have done some hiking in the Scotts area, and of course have been up on the splitboard in this area, but this is a first time making this hike in the summer. I headed up the steep ridge to get to the unnamed summit just across from 10,420. I made it past a big piece of snow and made the summit in pretty quick fashion. There were only very distant clouds out over the Uintas, but the Wasatch was crystal clear. I spent some time up on the peak, just taking pictures and just enjoying the view of the upper Wasatch. I could see almost every peak in both canyons. I eventually decided to try to find the loop trail that connects the ridge line with a trail that takes you down to Bloods Lake.

I started following a pretty well defined path, which after a while just vanished. I was making my way down a really steep slope with lots of trees. I heard water so I just followed it down and it eventually put me on the trail to Bloods Lake. This is a tightly nestled lake that has trees that a really tall. Some of the biggest pines I have seen in the Wasatch. I scouted out the lake and surrounding areas for future visits. After a while I moved on to shoot some flowers while I was on my way out. Trimble Outdoors App says it was 2.69 miles to complete the loop I did, I would bet it is a bit longer had I taken the right trail that goes off the Clayton Peak Trail. I made my way back up to the main trail and the car. It was a great day, and another loop hike is off the bucket list. More adventures to come!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Duck Lake, Uinta Mountains- June 2015

The day finally came to get out for my first backpacking trip of the year. We made our way out on Hwy 150 to the Crystal Lake trail head and threw on the packs and headed in. The trail was wet to begin with, and there are a lot of downed trees that are log hurdles as you make your way to the switchbacks. Once on the switchbacks, there were some piles of snow, but nothing too difficult to manage. We took a short break on the pass and headed in. It got was a bit more wet and squishy as we made our way down to Long Lake. There was one big section of snow at Long Lake that was a bit more than a pile I would say, and it was punchy with the temps being this warm. But it soon turned to dry rock once again and we moved on from Long Lake after a few pictures. As we were descending the trail from Long Lake to Duck Lake, we had to navigate a big pile of trees that had fallen because the ground table is so saturated, we lost the trail.

We knew were we were, and we could see Weir Lake so we made an off trail excursion which ended with us walking right up to the outlet of Pot Lake. At this time our other two companions came walking down the trail and our party was complete for the weekend. We arrived to Duck Lake with no one else there. We had this place to ourselves. I have never been to Duck and have it be empty. We moved to our spot and set up shop. Evening set in and we gathered up our fire wood and settled in for an evening or relaxing and maxing. I shot some night photography, but only could be out there for an hour or so because the dew point was so high that it was putting condensation on my lens. We all turned in and got some sleep.

After a bit nippy night from the dew being so wet, the sun came up and the temps got warm fast. I think all of us were happy to just be outside, crystal clear blue skies, and good company. One of our party was only in for an over nighter, and he departed in the afternoon. We decided to try to find a way to go to Fire Lake by finding a route from Duck. We made a steep hike for nearly half a mile before we finally crested out on top of the dam at Fire Lake. When we arrived, it was pretty much iced over. We fished the edge that was melted off, and the ice seemed to be melting as we were making our way around the lake. When we arrived at the spot I usually camp at, the lake was almost ice free. I nabbed what I think was the shot of the trip, and then we moved on to go see the view from the cliffs above Duck Lake. Amazing view up there, but there is some serious exposure. We eventually found ourselves back at camp making dinner and settling in for another crystal clear night in the Uintas. I took some more pictures and turned in.

Moring greeted us with a tiny shower from a passing weather cell that came over us, then the sun came back out and it was party cloudy and just beautiful. I had to depart earlier than my two companions so I hiked out to the car solo. I took the route out via Weir Lake and there is one serious stream crossing, but I found a way that did not compromise my gaiters and boots. It was a wet one all the way up to the pass. I did not stop at the pass, I pushed right on through to the car. An amazing and relaxing first trip out to the Uintas this year. A much needed reconnect with the wilderness, and very grateful that I was able to return to one of my favorite places on earth. Enjoy the pics. More adventures to come.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Twin Lakes, Big Cottonwood Canyon- 6.9.2015

The forecast was for 90 degree temps in the valley, so I decided a higher altitude was in order to beat the heat. I headed up Big Cottonwood Canyon, driving in some serious rain falling in the lower part of the canyon. By the time I reached the Silver Lake parking lot, only a few drops were falling. Once I had my trail shoes on, the sun was out and everything was beautiful. I started my way in, and headed up the Twin Lakes Trail. Very green, and amazing temperatures. Everything was perfect. I must be getting my hiking body back, for minus a couple of pictures from the Silver Lake Overlook, I went straight up this hike all the way to the lake. I usually meander to where I am going, but today I seemed to have this need to push myself uphill. It felt really nice!

Finally up to the dam and I was standing lake side at a very low Twin Lakes. Lowest water levels I have seen in a couple of years. There is still a lot of snow to melt out of Mt Milicent and the Wolverine Cirque, so I expect they will go up a bit. I made my way along the west side of the lake as far as I could go before post holing was going to be the only way to carry on. I found a nice spot to relax and take in the view, and just enjoyed myself while I was there. On the way out, some dark clouds moved in and a light sprinkle started coming down, and made for a very nice hike out. I caught some great images up there. It was great to be back up at Twin Lakes. Just a week or two more and the high terrain and peaks in the Cottonwoods will be all accessible. I am looking forward to it. More adventures coming soon!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Dog Lake, Mill D North, Big Cottonwood Canyon- 6.2.2105

Continuing to enjoy this early access to the upper Big Cottonwood areas, I took a hike up Mill D North to Dog Lake. The sun was out and it was very warm, but things were so green! The hike up was really nice, and not that busy on the trail at all. I made a quick pace up to the stream crossing, and then pushed to the Desolation junction. From there I made the final climb up to the lake. A couple of hikers when I go there, but they left and I had the place to myself for more than an hour. I finally had to head down and made it a quick exit to the care. Everything is pretty much ready but the upper cirques and peaks above 9500 ft. Pretty soon the last of the white stuff will be gone, and the dirt path will be open everywhere once more. The below image is a pano I shot up there today. More from the dirt path soon!

Willow Heights, Big Cottonwood Canyon- 6.1.2015

Finally, the alpine is beginning to melt off and you can now get to most places up to about 9500 ft. I decided to start off the summer hiking by heading up to Willow Heights. The area is just greening up, with bluebells in bloom, and the rest of the flora is about to pop in a couple of weeks. I made a quick pace up to the lake, then took a snack break on the NE side of the lake. I decided to head up to the top of the ridge behind the lake, and take in the view. It was great up there and the temps were very pleasant. I spent some time up there watching the clouds play with the wind and the light and shadow playing with the basin. Eventually it was time to head down and finish the loop through the woods and out to the car. It is nice to be back on the dirt path. Here are a couple of shots from the day. The summer walkabouts have begun!