Tuesday July 22, 2014. Here goes. The adventurous hikers included myself - Desertbound, my husband the Rock, beautiful daughter Q-May(16) and nephew-in-training-even-though-I'm-too-sexy-for-my-pants (don't ask, it's a long story which will be told later)... Mckay(17). Now we must remember that Q-May and Mckay have been backpacking together since they were wee little ones and so we really missed having our BFFs Indy-n-Joe, Mckay's parents with us on this trip and thought of them often. You will find our "before" photo below. It was taken at the West Fork of Black's Fork trailhead leading up into Buck Pasture on the north slope of the Uintah Mountains. Elevation 9500 ft. Advisory warning: the 4WD road into this trailhead can be rough in spots. When we asked our oldest daughter (25 yr old) to drop us off, we had no idea she would have to negotiate a river ford and such a rough road by herself on the way back out. She was a trooper! She made it safely back to Evanston and then home with only minor hysterics/panic attack and projectile crying. This is Shematite The Brave as she waves good-bye to us!
Desertbound, Rock, Mckay and Q-May
The teenagers are sporting their bright, shiny faces and clean clothes and hair...:)
There was a mandatory stream crossing about a mile and a half in and another one further up the trail...hence the bare foot photo. We quickly learned that Buck Pasture would be more aptly named Marsh Meadow. The multiple boggy crossings had Q-May squealing whenever she felt the cold, muddy water seep into her hiking shoes. It also caused a boy scout that hiked ahead of his troop and caught up to us to sink hip deep in black ooze. I think he still had 2 shoes on his feet as he quickly extricated himself. No doubt he was befuddled by the novelty of finding a beauty like Q-May on the trail and miscalculated the length of the steps required to safely negotiate this particular Marsh Meadow crossing. No worries. His troop and leaders were quickly on the scene to both harass and help as needed. The four of us quickly left the 20 or so scouts behind and we neither heard nor saw a sign of that troop again.
After about 13 kilometers (8 miles) and a little bit of a climb at the end, we reached camp at Dead Horse Lake, elevation 10,878 ft. It took us a leisurely 6 hours on the trail. Lesson learned - using trekking poles under a super sunny sky at high altitude means I need to apply sunscreen liberally to my arms, not just once:) Coming from an elevation of just over 2000 feet, Mckay felt a little bit tired the first day but after a good night's rest, he and Q-May put their hustle on and we adults literally could not keep up with them and I run 15 miles a week. I wished several times that I had put more weight in Q-May's pack (she was at about 22 lbs fully loaded at a petite 5'2") to slow her down and Mckay's long legs took him wherever he wanted to go and then some. In the photo of camp below you can see the 2 tents that we brought. The light grey/green one is the one Q-May and I used. She carried the fly and I carried the tent and poles. It's an ultralight Rainshadow2 Tarptent weighing in @ a mere 42 oz and sleeps 3. With just the 2 of us using it, we had plenty of room for everything a girl could need:) Rock and Mckay shared the lightweight yellow Marmot. You will also notice our luxury items, our REI camp chairs. After a long day on the trail, it's nice to sit on something besides a hard rock or log. Rock and I have decided the extra 2 lbs of weight is worth it.
Mckay fishing at Dead Horse Lake.
End of Day 1
Morning on the mountain...Wed. July 23, 2014
Without looking, Mckay poured his leftover scrambled egg water behind him onto what he thought was the ground...:)
Dead Horse Pass is behind me in the photo below. It gave me such anxiety last year, but this time, I knew what to expect...except for having to cross the snow field...yikes!
Red Knob Pass can be seen in this photo. It's in the distance behind and over Q-May's head. Rock and I traveled that trail last year when we hiked the Highline. The view from that pass was our favorite of the whole trip. However, the meadows and wildflowers were stunning on this beautiful morning!
The horse skull strapped to the rock behind Q-May in this photo was a startling reminder of perhaps how Dead Horse Pass got it's name. The warning on the map that this pass is hazardous to horses and pack stock is not to be taken lightly.
Mckay conquered it like a pro...elevation 11,500 ft.
The view from the top of Dead Horse Pass looking east south/east
into the upper end of Rocky Sea Basin.
At the top of DHP looking back down at the lake and the valley we hiked up the day before.
Rocky Sea Basin
We'll call this...Turtle Rock.
We came down into Rocky Sea Basin on the south side of Dead Horse Pass and enjoyed a trail lunch at Ledge Lake (see photo of Q-May) elevation 10,845 ft. We then followed the Ledge Trail (121) to Phinney Lake, elevation 10,625 ft.
We found Phinney Lake (elevation 10,625) after an easy second day hike of under 4 kilometers, set up camp and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of hungry fish. Mckay concentrated on learning how to tie a bubble and a fly on his line...
...while I caught myself some dinner!
Q-May is dressed in full Ninja mosquito fighting gear. She said after the trip that she would have preferred rain to the mosquitos. She has very sweet blood. They didn't bother me that much once I had the 100% Deet sprayed on.
Our view of Phinney Lake from camp after the thunderstorm.
End of Day 2
Day 3 - Thursday July 24, 2014
...which was on our right side (to the west). In the 2 photos below you can see the view out over the basin to Rocky Sea Pass that will take you to Naturalist Basin and eventually Mirror Lake.
We sat and ate some trail lunch as we checked the map. This spot was close to where we started heading up over the ridge to the east into Squaw Basin. Our plan was to camp at one of the lakes there for the night. As we hiked up this much steeper trail we all got pretty warm. Once again the teenagers easily out-paced us and Rock and I caught up to them at the top of the ridge as they say on a log enjoying the view looking down into Squaw Basin.
"Taking off my pants was the best decision I've made all day!"
To which I had to respond,
"There will come a time in the not so distant future when you will say that again, Mckay." ;)
After about a 9 kilometer (5.5 miles) hike, and quite a lengthy search for a good camping spot, we dropped our packs and set up camp. Because you see, the scout troop that we could hear the day before, beat us to the best camp site at Squaw Lake (elevation 10,483). But we found a very nice one for ourselves in the trees. Rock did the neighborly thing and once we set up camp, went over and chatted with them. They were a troop from the Provo, UT area and they in fact were camped at Anderson Lake the night before which was the lake just to the south of where we were. The thunderstorm rattled them, too:)
Day 4, Friday July 25th dawned bright and sunny. Rather than spend 2 nights here (where the fishing wasn't so hot) and have a long hike out on the last day, we decided to pack up and head southwest out of Squaw Basin and follow the east fork of Rock Creek, trail 063, until we found a good campsite.
It always feels good to wash your feet in a nice cold, mountain stream!
just after a trail junction(above photo) on the map.
We came across this nice campsite but decided it wasn't quite far enough down the trail and we could still cover several miles before we set up camp for the night.
I snagged this photo just as we caught up to the teenagers and before we headed down the multiple switchbacks toward the Rock Creek drainage where we hoped to find a campsite for the night. Then we would head on down to Upper Stillwater reservoir where my parents would be picking us up the next day.
My parents, Dreampacker and Trailblazer were set to arrive the next day, Saturday July 26th around 2 pm. This left us with lots of leisure time in the morning at the campground. Here are some things that Mckay learned on this trip.
Across the High Uintah Mountains North-2-South from the
West Fork of Black's Fork to Upper Stillwater Reservoir in 4 days.
And there you have it.