Friday, July 6, 2012

80 Days of Summer - Days 32-35

High Uintas Expedition (sort of)
The Trip From Heck (it was really hell)
Here's the party. I met my brother, Daniel, and his boy, Jadon, in Ephraim, Utah. Jadon and Matthew are the same age and best buds, so they were really excited. We drove up Tuesday through Evanston, Wyoming and then back down into Utah to the north slope of the Uintah Mountains. 30 miles of dirt roads brought us to the Henry's Fork trail head where we ate lunch and hit the trail around 1:30 pm. Daniel and I were loaded down with close to 50 lb packs, which we hate, but offsetting weight so the little people will be comfortable is important. The girls carried about 25 lbs, James had 21 lbs with water, and Matt and Jadon had less than 5lbs. The girls cruised up and down the trails, while Jadon, Matt, and James were happy but very slow. My lofty expectations for reaching King's Peak were over before nightfall, but the trip was still a great adventure (in my opinion); though, it was a mess from start to finish.
Cool guys: James and Matthew. Getting ready to head out. Both of them were pretty positive most of the 7.5 mile hike up Henry's Fork trail that first day to Dollar Lake. They hiked slow, though, and liked to take lots of breaks.
 Cool guy Jadon on his first backpacking trip.
 Daniel signing us in. Loaded.
 Brandi talked me into ordering contacts instead of glasses this summer; hence, the shades. She said she just wants to gaze into my dreamy blue eyes without the glasses getting in the way.
Hiking in. Emmy put a bunch of pretzels in her pocket and munched them the entire hike in. 
 Jadon and Matthew held hands for much of the hike in. When they weren't holding each other's hands, they were holding the dad's hands. They also had to leap onto and off just about every log and big rock in the trail.
 5 miles into the hike, we're at Elkhorn Crossing looking up the high basin valley toward King's Peak. It was very hazy in the afternoon and evening Tuesday as we hiked in from forest fire smoke that blew in that day. It blew out during the first night when the winds shifted and all was clear from then on.
 Elkhorn Crossing footbridge. Kids held onto the rope as they walked across the raging creek.
 The 7.5 mile hike the first day wasn't too bad with us only climbing 1,500 feet in elevation. However, we were climbing from 9,500 feet to 11,000 feet, so the air was thin. And with the little ones being slow, it meant that we had 50 lb packs on for almost 7 hours rather than just 4 hours. Daniel and I were tired by the end of the evening. 
 In the high meadows approaching Dollar Lake. It was approaching 7 pm, and Jadon and Matthew were taking frequent breaks. Daniel photographing Jadon.
 Waiting for Jadon and Daniel to catch up near the end, Matthew said, "I'm so tired, Dad," and he just laid down on the trail and ran his fingers through the dust like it was a blanket. He was pretty beat.
 Matthew lying on the trail. Dollar Lake is in the trees in the distance. King's Peak is the triangle in the middle of the distant range. It's the highest point in Utah at about 13,500 feet.
 Our camp. The long 7-hour hike was the First Fiasco of the trip. Then, somehow, as I turned off the trail around 7:30 pm toward Dollar Lake, Daniel and Jadon missed us exiting the trail creating the Second Fiasco. It was 30 minutes later while setting up camp that Emmy said they weren't anywhere around us. I told the kids to stay in camp, and with the sun setting quickly, headed off in search of them. I finally found them close to 8:30 pm a mile or so up the trail still hiking. They were pretty beat. I put Jadon on my back, and we hiked back to Dollar Lake. Emmy was almost in tears when we arrived back. We had a late night of setting up camp in the dark and eating a late dinner before crashing around 10:00 pm. The Third Fiasco was that we soon discovered that Dollar Lake should be called Mosquito Lake. And Deer and Horse Fly Lake. They swarmed us almost non-stop for the next 40 hours. They finally drove us out of the mountains they were so bad. The Fifth Fiasco was, not anticipating mosquitoes since they weren't there 3 years ago when I did this hike, I brought my Walrus backpacking tarp. It provides awesome coverage for up to 6 people plus gear for under 3 lbs. However, it sits a foot or more off the ground. The mosquitoes ate us all night long. We put the girls in the 2-man tent, so they had peace. 
 A stone chair someone built on the shore of Dollar Lake. The girls built the footstool. The mosquitoes weren't as bad at the lake, but still a nuisance. We had to cover ourselves in bug spray non-stop, all day and all night. We decided to have a rest day and hang out on Wednesay instead of pushing up and over Gunsite Pass. We tentatively planned to have me hike up to the summit of King's Peak with the girls on an 18 mile roundtrip day hike on Thursday while Daniel stayed back at camp with the boys. However, after a full day of fighting mosquitoes, we decided against that plan because they would go insane waiting for us all day. 
 So, we made a day of it on Wednesday, fishing, exploring the lake shore, and building a dam.
 Matthew found this bone in the water and took at least 30 pictures of it with my camera. I kept two. And this one.
 The "beach" they found. Throwing sand balls at a boat they launched.
 Exploring the lake shore. Matthew.
 Dollar Lake with King's Peak - the triangle peak in the middle of the distant range.
 A small creek runs into the lake here. They built a "world" of canals and buildings. They all assumed names of Greek gods at my prodding.
 Daniel, wrapped in clothes as protection from sun and mosquitoes.
 The reservoir after a couple of hours of work. They revisited it throughout the day and the last morning to make sure it was still standing. They used sticks, rocks, sand, and logs to build the dam.
 Another view of camp. There was a ban on all fires in the national forest this year, so we couldn't even take relief from the mosquitoes in camp fire smoke.

 A horse fly or something bit me on the hike in the first day, and it just kept swelling. The lump was eventually about 5 inches long and 3 inches wide.
 The afternoon of Wednesday, we went for a hike up the trail to get away from the mosquitoes. Surprisingly, there were very few at this pond up the trail. We contemplated moving camp up here and extending the trip, but we were worried the mosquitoes would just "show up" in force as soon as we moved camp. Anywhere away from Dollar Lake, the mosquitoes were less, but they would begin to show up the longer we sat still.
 I had so much mosquito repellent on my face and hands, I didn't put my contacts in the second day.
 Matthew and James were pretty excited when I told them they could play in the water in their underwear so their pants wouldn't get wet on one of our hikes.
 My homies. The kids were climbing around these little cliffs. Matthew was jumping off rocks and lips, and I said, "Matthew, stay back from the edge so you don't fall. You're jumping around too much." He goes, "Dad! You don't know my skills!"
 King's Peak, triangle on the left, mocking me. I woke up last night after getting home plotting a return trip with the girls to summit. Drives me nuts when I have a goal, and it waits unmet.
 Cool striped rocks.
 Joe's Peak and King's Peak. Stupid horse flies.
 The kids Ramboed down into the marshes exploring. Matthew soaked his boots and asked to be carried out. Annie is our oldest and going into high school. Matthew is our youngest and going into kindergarten. We have awesome kids. I love being around them. 
 The Walrus Trekker Tarp. Veteran of many Grand Canyon expeditions. His first voyage into the Uintas. It's supported by two hiking poles and then guy lines staked out or tied to rocks. Normally it is perfect because it allows fresh air all night and protection from the rain. Lying on my bed, I could see the mosquitoes would hang like bats along the bottom edges. Then when I fell asleep they'd bite my face. Freaking idiots. Oh, and whenever we went off to use the "restroom," as soon as you pulled down your pants, mosquitoes covered your butt. I went with the boys and would wave off the mosquitoes while they did their business. I have more bites on my butt than anywhere else. I hate mosquitoes!
 Matthew on the last morning "hiding" from the mosquitoes.
 We decided to hike out on Thursday morning on the third day. Just too many mosquitoes for me to handle. We had a touch of rain Wednesday night, and cool cloudy skies on the hike out. We left Dollar Lake at 9:00 am and reached the cars 7.5 miles later at 1:50 pm. We hiked the last 2-3 hours in the rain - which I LOVED. I love hiking and running in the rain in the mountains or desert where the smells of the earth and plants are enhanced. James, I discovered, is the opposite. The rain just pissed him off.
 Matthew photographing our rest break on the hike out.
 Cool James. Before the rain. Still happy.
 James starting to get mad as the rain was drizzling lightly.
 This dude brought some hiking goats with him. The kids loved them. He let the boys pet them. Except, the goats had passed the boys, so they petted their butts. Matthew goes, "Why are we petting their butt cracks?" 
James in full tears out of frustration from hiking in rain for a couple of hours. He was happy again when he changed into dry clothes back at the car, put in Kung Fu Panda, and chowed Oreos as we drove out of the  mountains. All in all, it was not the trip I had envisioned, but I loved the adventure of it. The kids said it was great and they want to do it again -  minus the mosquitoes. I also discovered that Mountain House brand Noodles and Chicken is pretty dang good for a dehydrated backpacking meal. And the same brand of Beef Stew is nasty. Lying in bed Wednesday night, Daniel and I both noted how strange it was to not be at a fireworks-based event on the 4th of July. We both agreed, it was probably the first time in our lives that happened. Instead, we were in the beautiful High Uintas with mosquitoes biting our butts. Good times.

1 comment:

Daniel Heywood said...

It wasn't an especially great hike when considering all the extra order of discomforts, but I'm glad I went. Enough good times, beautiful country, and I can use a good dose of fine and pleasant misery now and then. Quite the backpacking initiation for five year old Jadon. Here's my pics: