Celebrating the Fourth at 13,000 feet (and other adventures)
by Amanda Close -- July 10th, 2015
It’s funny when you hike and spend all your time outside for work, you’d think I’d want some time off just relaxing indoors. Well that lasted exactly three quarters of a day, and then I was restless and ready to hit the trail. So the next day I went on a 16 mile hike. That was just the beginning of my time off adventures…
Originally I had been planning on heading down to Zion National Park on my time off, but the soaring temperatures at Escalante put a damper on that plan. Instead, myself and two other techs decided to go for a three day backpacking trip in the Uinta mountains. Our destination: King’s Peak, the highest mountain in Utah, at 13,528 feet. We backpacked 7 miles in under sunny skies and set up a base camp near a glacial lake with Kings looming in the distance. Weather moved in overnight and when we woke the next morning (the 4th of July) it was to dark and cloudy skies, and temperatures that necessitated wearing almost all of the layers I had brought. Hoping that the weather would improve, we set out on the 7 mile day trip to the summit. Unlike many of the mountain ranges out west, the Uintas are extremely old, which was apparent in their steep and crumbling sides. Also, unlike many western trails, switchbacks were not very common. Instead it was a lot of rock hoping over jumbled scree and boulder fields. It surprisingly felt quite a bit like hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
We made it to the summit before any real weather hit and were able to enjoy the views for almost an hour before cracks of thunder necessitated us to scramble down off the ridge. Viewing the Uintas from the peak made me appreciate how very different they are from most other mountain ranges. They are almost mesa-like, with extremely steep and cliffy sides, but have very narrow tops. in addition, they are one of the few mountain ranges that run east-west. It was a great place to celebrate the 4th of July from, even if it did hail on us as we were hiking back to camp!
The rest of my time off has been spent exploring Antelope Island and hiking to Red Pine Lake. The former is the largest island on the Great Salt Lake while the latter is an alpine lake in the Wasatch Mountains. Antelope Island is home to a herd of bison and native pronghorn antelope and is one of the most important migratory stop overs for thousands of birds each year. While on Antelope I went swimming (more like floating) in the Salt Lake, did a bit of hiking, and relaxed while enjoying one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen in a while.
Tomorrow I leave for my second 14 day hitch, which I am very excited for. This time I will be sampling larger rivers from a raft in Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota!