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!

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