- I've been there before. Sure, it was 25 years ago, and I admit that I wasn't paying much attention to the details back then (nor would I remember them if I had been) but there's a sense of familiarity that seems nice for my first foray into a big backpacking trip in many years. It gives me a chance to do something big and yet a bit familiar, which is marginally less intimidating than heading out across the country in a place I've never been before.
- Although the High Uintas wilderness area is big and lonely, it somehow seems a bit tamer than some of my other options; like the Yellowstone area, for instance, which is not tame at all, except in the highly popular tourist zones. In spite of this, it is pretty lonely--solitude is there for the having in the High Uintas.
- I like Utah. I have family I can stay with on the ends of the trip, even. Plus, I really would like to climb to the summit of Timpanogos in the nearby Wasatches, and I could do that as a warm-up to acclimate to the altitude and stuff before heading into the Uintas itself. Timp is no slouch in terms of summiting, but the summit elevation is still under 12k feet. Ever since my teenage hike into the Uintas, I've been drawn to the area, though. I don't even know where we went on that hike, which is curious.
- The place is big. I'm going to be struggling to narrow my options down to something doable, and yet I'll still have highly desireable destinations left over--with half a dozen trips into the Uintas, I'd still only scratch the surface.
With up to four additional days, I've got a lot of options for the rest of the trip, and that's where I'm not sure what, yet, I want to do. Peter Potterfield's suggestion, in Classic Hikes of North America, is to come into the range from the Highline Trailhead far to the west. You take the Highline Trail until it turns off to Naturalist Basin, and then explore that for a day or so. Then hop back on the Highline Trail (which becomes a bit of a hikers' version of an expressway, according to his scheme) over Rocky Sea Pass to explore massive Rock Creek Basin. He also suggests spending a few days exploring this basin. The really adventurous could then, of course, continue on over Dead Horse Pass and have a look around West Fork Blacks Fork Basin. If I were able to get a shuttle, I could hike up north out of this basin to the West Fork Blacks Fork trailhead, even. More likely, I'd cut my trip short of the Dead Horse Pass and just turn around and head back to my car. And, of course, I'd love to go even a little further... to Red Knob Pass, and see Mount Lovenia, and others. But again; let's not get too ambitious the first time out. If I go this route, I'll almost certainly confine my trip to the Naturalist and Rocky Creek Basins. I only have, at best, four days to do all this, unless I get rid of my Timp day or cut short my Kings Peak trip, after all. And, as I said, I'm older, fatter, and out of practice.
But wait! There are, of course, lots of other attractive options. Going in via the Christmas Meadows trailhead and exploring the West Basin, Middle Basin and Amythest Basins looks really attractive. It may be possible to crest a pass off-trail from there into Naturalist Basin, but I need to do some research to confirm that first. If not, it's still an attractive option on its own. The East Fork Bear River Trailhead, as well as offering access to the Scout camp in the area, could send me by Lamotte Peak, Yard Peak, Mount Beulah and The Cathedral--all scenic gems of the northwestern Uintas in the Priord and Allsop basins.
Realistically, I could decide almost on the fly at the last minute, but I'd like to not. I'm leaning a little towards the Naturalist/Rocky Creek route, just because it's so well described and I like the notion of not venturing too far off of well-described routes for my first outlay in so long. But the other routes are pretty clearly described and "well trailed" as well, by all accounts.
It's nice to have choices...