September is a great month. Not just because I was born in this month, nor because Earth Wind and Fire know how to sing about it. September is a great month because it initiates Fall – one of my favorite seasons (tied with Spring). The weather is just right, and the fall colors start to change.
Being from Minnesota, I will never adjust to the dry heat of Utah. After months of 90-100 degree weather, I could not wait for the weather to cool so I could go backpacking without melting. The forecast scared me when I checked a couple weeks before, as there was a 20% chance of rain. When there is a chance of rain in Utah, you know it’s going to rain – you just don’t know when or where. I figured I’d do it regardless, and if I did get some rain, it would just get me used to hiking in the rain (as I usually like to avoid). Though, to my pleasure, the weather was beautiful, 0% chance of precipitation, the upper 70s during the day and about 50 during the night/morning (almost too warm to sleep in my 25 degree bag).
It was wonderful weather and a great opportunity to test out my new tent (Contrail) and pack (REI Flash 58). It was also my chance to test my endurance/pace. The High Uinta Wilderness is dog friendly, but unfortunately I set out solo. My pup Dakota, can’t go more than 4-5 miles without dying, and I hoped to do 20+ in less than two days.
Day 1 – Highline Trailhead – Naturalist Basin – Pinto Lake – Duchesne River. Traveled about 16.5 miles.
I left my car at the Highline Trailhead, and started hiking approx. 10:50 am, heading towards Naturalist Basin. To my surprise and angst, the trail was very rocky. Not just bumpy, but sizable rocks that had to be dodged. This made it very hard for me to take gentle steps and maintain a consistent pace. I also stubbed my toes (this cursed in my head) way too many times.
I then headed towards Morat Lakes for lunch. I had the goal to make it to Blue Lake, but after having to climb up to the first set of lakes (an elevation change I nor my bad hip was not expecting), I decided that was plenty when I saw yet another climb to the next lake. If I did this trip again, I would go to Jordan Lake instead.
After lunch I continued to possibly my favorite part of the actual trail (not scenery) for today. The trail got a bit less rocky as I headed down and then continued to gain and lose elevation calmy. I also crossed a few pretty and strongly flowing creeks, and I like the challenge of rock hoping. As to note, since leaving Naturalist Basin, I did not see any more people until I got to Mirror Lake.
Around 3:30, I reached Pinto Lake (11-12 miles). I wandered around a bit, enjoyed the view and refilled m water. I could tell a lot of animals frequented this lake as there was a ton of scat around. At one point, I also believe I heard a moose calling. In planning my trip, I intended on camping around the lake. However, it was only 4 o’ clock and I could not entertain myself for that long, and I figure I could get a lot more miles in – so I did!
I then started to hike back down following another creek. Once I got back down to even
ground, the terrain changed yet again. The path was relatively smooth (thank goodness), but with very thick foliage, at times loosing track of the trail. After being in the forest for quite some time with a face past, all of a sudden the view opened up and it was amazing and I could hear the Duchesne River below moving fast!
The trail got very narrow with pine and aspen trees on either side down. I then finally got to the point where the rivers connected and I crossed over a bridge to the other side. Here is where I would find my camp site for the night, arriving at about 5:45p.
Day 2 – Duchesne River – Mirror Lake – Highline Trailhead. Traveled about 7.5 miles.
I started hiking at about 9:00a, and again with beautiful weather! I steadily climbed up the east side of the river for quite a ways until it veered to the left to meet Mirror Lake. I saw beautiful colors. Unfortunately, the whole way I never saw a bear moose. Ever time I came to a small pond or open field, I scanned the landscape hoping to see something afar. Some of the coolest ponds were after Mirror Lake, and the spots I thought I would be most likely to see a critter. The only indication I had was my own thought of, If I was a bear or moose, this is where I’d want to live…