Tag : backpacking

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Backpacking Back from Island Lake (Day 3)

This post is mostly to provide closure and post more pictures that were taken on the third day of this trip. I got my best pics of Island Lake on Day 3. I mean, fwiw.

And then it was time to bid sad farewell to this magical place where I mostly just felt sick and out-of-breath. One last pano on the way out:

I decided I’d go back to Eklund Lake and see if I wanted to spend the night there or just head on out of the wilderness. Spoiler: I chose the latter. Before that decision was finally made, though, the way back looked much like it had the day before except from the other direction.

Right, then Eklund Lake, decided to finish the whole thing out. This return trip was (IIRC) a little over 11 miles coming back. Net downhill, but with a lot of up and down still, and 11 miles is a long ways for me with a backpack on. Anyway.

On the route back, went via Photographer’s Point, which…

Shrug?

But anyway. And then I drove home.

Some generals:

  • Man, but this area is crowded. They have a short season with the trails snow-covered well into July and then snows starting up again usually mid-September, which probably helps explain it (plus amazing scenery), but still: the Uintas on a weekend were less crowded.
  • It’s not even close to anywhere (well, maybe an hour-and-a-half from Jackson, but that’s not a huge population center is it?).
  • And it’s not really a super-easy hike. Still: crowded!!
  • And most people camp in “illegal” sites that are too close to the lakes, yet the NFS doesn’t do much to prevent it from happening aside from sending some rando rangers out to tell people “don’t camp next to the lake” while they’re hiking along the trail.
  • Yeah, sure, I’ll avoid all the developed campsites next to the lake so that I can… what? Anyway.
  • Was my first trip with all my ultra-light gear. Was geared up for 5 days, 4 nights and kept it down to (IIRC) 23 lbs. total.
  • This is purported to be a great trout fishing area, but no one I talked to who was using flies caught anything on the lakes I visited. I sure didn’t catch anything there. Apparently lures are the way to go, except that I don’t especially get excited about fishing with lures. Flies? Sure, raw passion.

I am done writing about this trip now.

bkd

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Backpacking to Island Lake: Day 2

And then I woke up. Because it was the next day.

Here’s probably my favorite photo of Upper Sweeney Lake. I took it on the way out on Day 2. Better lakes would come, but, hey, meadow, etc.

From there, you’re hiking out of the lake basin. This second day was just a series of hiking out of a basin, then hiking back in to the next one. The net altitude gain from the trailhead to Island Lake is minimal (ca. 1,000′), but the actual vertical feet hiked over that span is maximal (don’t recall except for being ready to just concede and die of exposure by the side of the trail on several occasions on Day 2).

On that happy note, just as you’re exiting the Upper Sweeney basin, you get your next view of the Winds:

Always taunting.

And then, not much further, another meadow with a tarn in it and some people that I didn’t meet ever.

Next lake on the agenda is Eklund, but hopefully I got a better photo of it on the way back, because my in-route photos aren’t very compelling. And then after climbing out of that basin, you climb quickly back into the next one with some lake that’s small and the name of which I’ve forgotten and can’t find anywhere.

This is sort of a high point of the hike. Scenic lake, mountains in the background, enough up-and-down to feel like you’ve done something, not so much that you’re writing the letter in your head informing the forest service that they should probably just go ahead and start using dynamite to form some tunnels. Anyway:

Seems like it might have had a woman’s name. The lake, I mean.

Then it’s on to Hobbs Lake, which is a little more strenuous a trail — but not entirely without upsides.

And then ol’ Hobbs itself:

There weren’t many obvious campsites on Hobbs, but from a distance perspective, this would probably be my lake of recommendation for first-night camping. It’s the last good location before the big slog up to Seneca Lake.

This photo, not much past Hobbs, makes the slog look better than it was:

As does this pretty little unnamed (?) tarn:

But then that last mile hiking up to Seneca was pretty awful. Steep and kind of ugly.

The mud wasn’t actually a big factor, but I didn’t take pictures of the true awfulness. Steep tree prison with nothing to look at. Slog.

But then you get to the top of the slog and get to take in Seneca Lake. You’re pretty much above the timberline and Island Lake is at about the same elevation. You actually have quite a ways to go to get to Island Lake, of course, none of which is anywhere near flat, but whatever: here you are.

Just the walk around the lake has a ton of elevation change (Dear Forest Service: Go ahead and start blasting out some tunnels in the Wind Rivers. Thank you, bkd). There are campsites here, but none of them looked very cozy or inviting. It’s the biggest lake on the hike though. I think.

Then you leave it.

You pass by Little Seneca Lake next, which is just like Seneca Lake only smaller. Then you start getting into the talus slopes.

After the talus, you still have a little ways to go. Here’s yet another tarn.

And then the final descent into Island Lake basin:

Finally, to where I camped, this is close-ish:

Not pictured are the literally dozens of tents scattered across this slope heading down into the lake. So crowded. I was also pretty dehydrated by the time I got here because I am stupid. I set up camp, took a nap (!), ate dinner, read that Chichester book about flying airplanes to New Zealand for not good reason, then, because it was night-time, slept.

bkd

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Backpacking to Island Lake: Three Days in the Wind Rivers (Day 1)

It was supposed to be five days, but then I got bored, lonely, and dehydrated. Plus the fish weren’t biting on flies and it was super-crowded. Nice place, though!

At one point, I had the perfect recommendations in mind for how everyone should do this hike. Now? We’ll see.

Here’s the prime payoff pano of Island Lake. I worked two whole days for this.

I did this hike back in August. Was supposed to be heading into Titcomb Basin, spending a couple nights at Island Lake. Again, didn’t end up in Titcomb Basin, turned around at Island Lake. OTOH, someone wrote once that Island Lake was the most scenic part of all that anyway, inclusive of Titcomb Basin. Just, you know.

First night I hiked to Upper Sweeney Lake, which was about a five-mile walk from the Elkhart Park trailhead.

The first couple miles of the hike are talked about in un-glowing terms (e.g., “tedious”). I can see what they were getting at, it’s sort of a tree-prison, but it’s a gently-sloped tree prison where the trees aren’t entirely right on top of you and that opens up into meadows often enough. In other words, it’s a tree prison you can live with (with which you can live, sorry).

Eventually the trail breaks into a large meadow (possibly “Elkhart Park”), from which you can see the jagged Wind Rivers in the distance. This is the point where the trail branches (it’ll reconvene later): photographer’s point to the north, or the Sweeney lakes to the east. I went east.

The trail then drops into a basin, where I encountered my first lake of the trip: Miller Lake. This hike is eventually all about lakes, and this is arguably the least photogenic. I mean:

Right?

I skirted Miller Lake and kept going till I hit Middle Sweeney Lake.

So: most of the good lakes were on the second day. Just above Middle Sweeney, then, I hit Upper Sweeney, which was my objective for the day. The problem with this trip, to some extent, is that most of the good camping locations between the trailhead and Island Lake are either only 4-6 miles away, or are Seneca Lake, which doesn’t actually have great sites and is 10 eventually pretty steep (a lot of up-and-down) miles from the parking lot.

Campsite, Upper Sweeney Lake

And then I made a campfire (!). I rarely make campfires, but there was a (not-literal) ton of wood around. It had been sprinkling (rain) off and on, so the wood was a little wet, which added to the challenge as well as the sweetness of the victory.

About two hours later I went to sleep.

bkd

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High Uintas Ibantik Lake Hike ft. Notch

If there isn’t already a rapper named Notch, there really should be.

Went on this fun, short-ish overnighter just so I could say I went on an overnighter and had been in the Uintas. The Uintas are pretty cool, or are at least pretty. I guess also cool. Man it’s been hot here in Cache Valley. Uintas were cool, but also pretty.

Found this hike in the Falcon Guide, turns out everyone online also thinks it’s amazing. Would be a pretty easy out-and-back day hike, but I was using it to practice backpacking and do a safe-distance shakedown of my gear that I haven’t used in a year. The hike is supposedly just under four miles from the Crystal Lake trailhead over The Notch (featured) then down to Ibantik. Just: whatever. Photos, then observations maybe, then go on with lives, etc.

~The Trailhead~.

Parking lot was super-crowded with three other groups, a couple of them pretty big, arriving just before me and milling about their respective cars loudly. Despite this, the hike to (and back from) Ibantik wasn’t all that crowded. I met maybe four groups on the way out, then probably a similar number coming back. Apparently the parking lot services enough different trail to keep anything from getting too unwieldy. I’m sure it also helped that I set out on a Wednesday, but still: I”\NiIK L•KF, 4 miles.

This photo wasn’t far from the trailhead, and its purpose in this post is to illustrate that even the scenically un-scenic parts of this trail were not actually all that un-scenic. I mean, there’s not much on that trail that’s uglier than this.

The first real lake you come to is Wall Lake (there was another lake and a couple ponds by the trailhead that don’t count), from which you get your first look at THE NOTCH. Many hikers tremble in its gaze, cowed by the prospect of having to climb its ca., I dunno, 700-800 feet to get up and over it? Anyway. And yes, Wall is a fake lake, it’s just “real” in size. So’s Ibantik. There’s not much I can do about it at this point.

The trail has a lot of views like ^^, with ponds and meadows and peaks. There are also trees and clouds in this photo. Probably bugs also, germs for sure.

This is the view from the top of the Notch, looking north toward Lovenia Lake. Ibantik Lake is almost in the picture — it’s just on the other side of that talus slope on the right.

This is Lovenia Lake. I think. I dunno. Seriously, there are a lot of lakes there and some aren’t named very clearly and sometimes there’s one name on the map, but then you somehow stumble onto three different lakes. Whatever. Good clouds, decent reflection, and pine beetles have had their say in the Uintas.

^^ is about where I ran into members of the Boy Scout troop that would feature so prominently in the outing’s drama. Oh yes, there was drama. Drama! But it involved Boy Scouts, so maybe temper expectations. Temper!

The glory that is Ibantik. There was a sign on the trail that labeled the lake. When I say “on the trail”, I mean it was laying down on the trail. Also, Ibantik is a Ute word the definition of which is unknowable.

So I set up camp (on the shore to the right of that last photo there), ate lunch sort of, fished for about an hour (caught a couple small brookies, but had a bunch of strikes), then decided to go exploring further down the trail. About ten minutes later, I hear someone yelling at me (not by name). I look over and there’s a backpacker who’s gone cross-country a bit. He asks me if I know where the trail is (“yeah, it’s where I am”), then comes over to the trail. He asks whether I’ve seen some scouts at the lake. I tell him I saw some scouts, but it was about three hours ago and they were already heading back to the trailhead. He then explains that he used to be a wilderness adventure guide, so he knows his stuff, but that he got a little too involved trying to help the scouts (?) and that he’s been wandering for 20 miles trying to find them. He says he spent the entire night awake, wandering around looking for them, but the trails have so many loops in them and he never did find them and how far away is it back to the trailhead from here. I told him it was maybe 4.5 miles, tops, which seemed to make him excited. I told him which direction to go, then off he went.

About five minutes later, it occurred to me I should probably go back the way I came and make sure he wasn’t, I dunno, dead or something. Went back, found him right about where I was camped, talked to him a little more, asked him if he needed any food or water or if he maybe didn’t want to just hang out and rest up for a little bit. Nice enough guy. Refused everything, then headed out.

The lake had a bunch of campsites, although this one (that’s my gear) was the first one I came to and the one I ended up using. It was probably my favorite of the ones I took a look at — enough wind breakage from the trees, but no shortage of views of the water, plus you could hear the sound of the creek feeding into the lake a couple hundred yards away. Also had some good branches from which I could hook up my IV drip line.

Went fishing again.

Caught a bunch more eight-inch brookies. I had one stretch where I brought one in on three straight casts. Eventually I started worrying that I was just catching the same fish over and over. This concern started seeming less paranoid and more plausible when I landed my last fish of the evening, a non-fighter that, when it got almost to shore just flipped over onto its back and resigned itself to its fate.

That was also about the time I started hearing a helicopter in the distance. The helicopter got closer and closer until…

…it basically landed at my campsite. It actually did this twice over the span of about an hour. The first time, it didn’t actually land, but some guy from some sort of state rescue service jumped out of it and came over to ask me if I’d seen anyone who looked lost in the woods. Apparently the scout troop had called someone about their missing leader, who by that point probably should have been to the parking lot already. About an hour later, the helicopter came back, landed for real, and the ranger came out and talked to me again, as well as a few other folks with nearby campsites.

I checked online the next day. Didn’t see anything in the news the next day, so >shrug<. I’m sure it worked out. So much drama. It was pretty amazing, though, to see a helicopter land there, reminded me of watching that show about helicopter rescues in the Himalayas, only louder.

^^ The lake at sunset. A lot of mosquitoes and helicopters, but all-in-all it was a good place.

It actually got cold enough to wear this stuff, which was refreshing. So tired of mostly sunny and 97 degrees.

That evening I discovered two problems with my gear: (1) my water filter was clogged up (was fine, I’d brought enough water from below to last for two days, plus I could/did boil more) and (2) I forgot to bring bug spray. The bugs weren’t *that* bad, I just couldn’t stand in one place for more than 15 seconds without getting enclouded. Had Mountain House spaghetti for dinner, the first in-wartime use of my new, non-Jetboil stove. The water boiled and what was once dehydrated became hydrated anew.

After sleeping parts of four hours during the night, I woke up bright and early, ate dry granola that tasted somehow drier than usual, then packed everything up and headed toward home.

The scenery was about the same, but with different lighting.

From The Notch, a view southward. Apparently I can only take photos aiming the direction in which I am traveling. I’m not sure it’s a fatal flaw, but it’s probably a flaw.

And then I saw all the same stuff I’d seen the previous day, only the other side of it, which didn’t look all that different, and even though I took more photos, I mean, they’re kind of just the same as the other photos up above.

Then two days later I got hit by an SUV while crossing the street in Logan, but didn’t die. The end.

bkd

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Hiking the Narrows II: The Wrath of Zion

Overnight version of the Virgin River Narrows, undertaken July 23-24, 2016. The weather was warm. River flow was somewhere in the 40s, whatever that means. Ranger said there were no expected thunderstorms but that that could change at any second, and probably would, especially if I didn’t give him the exact license plate number of my brother’s truck*. Ranger was kind of, I dunno, flighty though, so <shrug>. We verified the weather forecast before setting out. And we’re sure glad we did! Although it didn’t really change anything; it’s good to have a good process.

Anyway, the weather was warm and dry for the two days of the trip. We eventually would stop at Campsite #5, which I had reserved back in May, somehow 30 minutes before the reservation system was supposed to be available. Let that be a lesson to you.

Fine. Photos, then some notes I guess.

Five intrepid, leaning adventures, having accepted the risk of instantaneous death by river. (I was also in the vicinity.)

Five intrepid, leaning adventures, having accepted the high probability of instantaneous death by narrowness. (I was also in the vicinity.)

The first part of the trail isn't actually all that narrow.

The first part of the trail isn’t actually all that narrow.

After an hour or so. Still not that narrow, but narrowing.

After an hour or so. Still not that narrow, but narrowing.

Ever narrowing. Kind of like that ride they used to have at Disneyland (which was apparently called Adventure Thru Inner Space Presented by Monsanto). The one where you got shrunk to atom-size.

Ever narrowing. Kind of like that ride they used to have at Disneyland (which was apparently called Adventure Thru Inner Space Presented by Monsanto). The one where you got shrunk to atom-size.

Father and daughter, contemplating the value of eventual tight spaces.

Father and daughter, contemplating the value of eventual tight spaces.

We took the one more traveled by -- since our only other options were scaling rock walls or going in reverse.

We took the one more traveled by — since our only other options were scaling rock walls or going in reverse.

My brother's wardrobe malfunction.

My brother’s wardrobe malfunction.

Narrower.

Narrower.

Sometimes, the narrowness could only be addressed through close-proximity hiking.

Sometimes, the narrowness could only be addressed through close-proximity hiking.

Narrowness, extended upward. How high you think that is? I dunno, 500 feet? Looks like more. Fine, what number you want, 1,000? 2,000? Anyway.

Narrowness, extended upward. How high you think that is? I dunno, 500 feet? Looks like more. Fine, what number you want, 1,000? 2,000? Anyway.

Even the trees: narrow.

Even the trees: narrow.

We'll just tie up a rope and rappel down the (narrow) waterfall. No, no, that's not a trail over there that goes around it. Don't be foolish, I've been here before, you haven't.

We’ll just tie up a rope and rappel down the (narrow) waterfall. No, no, that’s not a trail over there that goes around it. Don’t be foolish, I’ve been here before, you haven’t.

Helpfully, Craig indicates the direction of the sky.

Helpfully, Craig indicates the direction of the sky.

Narrow, but also kind of wavy in spots.

Narrow, but also kind of wavy in spots.

Dusk falls at Campsite 5.

Dusk falls at Campsite 5.

Next morning, Garry and Craig make a narrow escape. But not *that* narrow.

Next morning, Garry and Craig make a narrow escape. But not *that* narrow.

Knee-deep in narrow. Also, it turns out that backpack waist belts are not slimming.

Knee-deep in narrow.

(Slight) evidence that I also was present.

(Slight) evidence that I also was present.

Further evidence of narrowness.

Further evidence of narrowness.

It gets wider.

More straight than.

But then narrower again.

Less straight, narrower again.

'Nother picture. Same hike. Still fairly narrow (the canyon I mean).

‘Nother picture. Same hike. Still fairly narrow (the canyon I mean).

Narrower still? (Trust me, I'm getting tired of putting photos into this post as well as coming up with not-even-pun captions.)

Narrower still? (Trust me, I’m getting tired of putting photos into this post as well as coming up with not-even-pun captions.)

Point being, I guess, that the second day is, on average, narrower than the first. And the further you go, the more impressive+imposing the whole thing gets.

Point being, I guess, that the second day is, on average, narrower than the first. And the further you go, the more impressive+imposing the whole thing gets.

I dunno, narrow-ish I guess?

And then sometimes the water is a nice color.

And then, the river choked with day-hiking tourist hordes from below, you stop taking pictures -- no matter how narrow the scenery -- race to the bottom, take the bus back to the parking lot, then drive back to the trailhead so your brother can pick up his truck and, while you're waiting for him to use the bathroom, you take a picture of your own car because, I dunno, you can I guess.

And then, the river choked with day-hiking tourist hordes from below, you stop taking pictures — no matter how narrow the scenery — race to the bottom, take the bus back to the parking lot, then drive back to the trailhead so your brother can pick up his truck and, while you’re waiting for him to use the bathroom, you take a picture of your own car because, I dunno, you can I guess, plus you’ve taken over 300 photos in the last 36 hours so that by this point it just seems like it’s what you do.

See, ‘cuz the whole thing is called “The Narrows” and… eh, you wouldn’t get it. Had to be there probably.

Some other thoughts (numbered, because this WordPress theme handles bullets badly):

  1. Stupid captions aside, this is still probably my favorite overnighter on earth.
  2. Wish the other invitees would have made it as well, but ended up with a great company.
  3. Last time we did this (2005), the water level was a little higher. This time seemed a little more easy-going as a result.
  4. Plus, last time none of us had ever done it before, so there was some uncertainty about whether certain death lay around each narrow corner. It didn’t, it doesn’t.
  5. I wouldn’t have minded having an earlier campsite (i.e., number 1–4). #5 was fine, but you’re pretty exposed in some pretty hot weather for the first couple hours of the hike, so a shorter Day 1 wouldn’t be the worst thing. Plus, the mid-way point is probably somewhere around campsite #1, Day 2 seemed a little too easy, and it felt like we ran into the tourist hordes way too soon.
  6. And I don’t understand driving all the way from LA to Zion National Park and walking four miles upstream just so you can throw rocks into a river.
  7. Zion NP is *packed* on a July Sunday. Next time: May or September, midweek, hope for the best.
  8. And maybe try the shuttle.
  9. I’ve gotten better at lightweight backpacking, although I’m questioning whether the TarpTent Notch is really overall preferable to my old Lightyear.
  10. Osprey makes faulty bite valves. Stupid Osprey.
  11. Mounds bars are a lot better solid than semi-melted.

I think that’s most of the important things.

bkd

* I gave him the correct license plate number for the truck, which was still on the road a couple hundred miles away, then decided to give him the wrong one for my Jeep (located 50 feet away), cuz what the heck do you even need license plate numbers for dude? Anyway.

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Last Summer: Driving, Hiking, Fishing the Beartooths

The Beartooth Highway is probably the prettiest drive I’ve ever been on and it’s not for lack of trying. This is the best photo I have, but it’s not that communicative of the vast excellence of the drive.

beartooth highway

So there was that. The Beartooth Mountains are in southwestern Montana, south of Bozeman a ways, a little northeast of Yellowstone. Sort of also in northwestern Wyoming.

I ended up going on a couple of overnighters, one solo and one with my brother. (more…)