Monday, June 22, 2015

Weather update

Well, it certainly looks like I nearly spooked myself over nothing.  I've looked at the weather, and hot and dry for the 10 day forecast in the area looks pretty solid.  In fact, too hot, if it sticks, although to be fair, my weather report was from every town around the perimeter of the Uintas I could find; I'll obviously be up higher than Kamas, or Evanston, or Mountain Home, etc.  But still; word is out that the Uintas are melting out fast, and since I still have a solid week before I'm there, I can hope to see very little snow fields other than in secluded hollows, and with any luck, maybe not even we won't see too much mud or bogs or mosquitoes.  Not that we won't be prepared for that anyway, but one can hope.

But after some last minute anxiety, I've decided to stick with my initial plan after all.  We'll see how it goes.  In the meantime, I've got a fair bit of tasks to complete prior to leaving, including (but not necessarily limited to):

  • spraying our hiking clothes with permethrin and letting them dry.
  • buying most of our hiking food.
  • repackaging our hiking food
  • packing our packs
  • packing what we'll need for the driving days
  • getting a haircut
  • charging up the camera battery
  • reviewing the driving route with my son so he can help as navigator
  • reviewing the hiking route with him too, for the same reason
  • review the Backpacking merit badge requirements so I can kill that bird with the same stone that I'm using to go on a backpacking trip that I want to go on anyway.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

I need a Plan B!

Well, I talked to the Rangers at the Evanston Ranger Station, and word on the street is that it's been pretty wet; the snow up above around 11,000 has not really melted much.  This is... not what I was hoping for.  Although my trip is still 2½ weeks away, if I don't have 2½ weeks of warm weather, I'm not going to be crossing any high passes without an ice ax and crampons (neither of which I have, and neither of which I want.)  So I'm probably going to need a Plan B that I can plug in as an alternate just in case I need to invoke it due to trail and snow and weather conditions.  I'll be crossing too many high passes and see too many frozen lakes otherwise, which isn't really what I had in mind.  Again; I'm pretty ticked off with how my schedule kind of forced this trip to be this early this year.  Oh, well.  It is what it is, and so Plan B--in case I need it--here's a first stab at it.

MONDAY: Still go to Bear River camp.  If Bald Mountain is all snowy, then I'll just hike around the area instead.  Heck, maybe I'll even spend the night inward a bit; go up to Ibantek Lake or something.  Either way, this isn't meant to be a tough day; it's more a show up and start getting acclimated day.  If there remains too much snow on Bald, then I'll have to pass up climbing it, though.  Not happy about that, but it is what it is, right?

TUESDAY: I can take Alex to Naturalist.  I didn't really see as much of it as I'd like, and he's never seen it at all, of course.  If I hike in on Tuesday and set up camp up near Faxon Lake--after coming in from wherever I set up camp on Monday night, that's probably a big enough jaunt for this day.  I don't know how much time I'll have to explore afterwards, but I don't want to overdo it.  I'll probably still be adjusting.

WEDNESDAY: Explore Naturalist Basin, especially up on the bench.  Explore the entire bench, in fact; from the southeastern edge beyond Shaler Lake all the way to the far edge beyond Blue Lake.  Maybe I can find a good way to get up on the ridge that separates Naturalist from Middle, based on snow conditions.  Spend another night in Naturalist.

THURSDAY: Hmm... options here.  The south side of the main ridge will probably have less snow than the north side, but the north side has more stuff that I want to see.  I'll have to have checked in with the rangers before doing this already, and see what kinds of availability there is with regards to passes.  I'd like to get over Rocky Sea pass into the Rock Creek basin and basically do Peter Potterfield's trip (the trip that I had in mind for last year, but which I cut short without doing all of it, sadly.)  But crossing the pass might be difficult.  So, let's make crossing Rocky Sea Pass a Plan C rather than a Plan B.  Rather, Plan B has me hiking back out to the car and driving to Christmas Meadows.  But I'm a little unsure of the timing.  I don't want to have to hike all the way back to the Highline Trailhead, drive to Christmas Meadows and then hike all the way to West Basin, Middle Basin or Amethyst Basin if that means way too much hoofing it in terms of mileage.  I might need to find a place to camp on the way.

FRIDAY: West and Middle Basins.

SATURDAY: More of Middle Basin.  Camp up near Ryder, or one of the smaller BR lakes nearby.

SUNDAY: Hike out and drive to West Fork Blacks Fork TH.  Hike up towards Deadhorse Lake.

MONDAY: Can't take too long, but explore the Dead Horse area and then head back to the car.

As you can see, this is a much less aggressive trip.  In fact, in some ways, I wonder if it's not a better idea for us even if we don't have snow issues specifically because of that.  Hmm..

Monday, June 1, 2015

Another possibility

I've been giving some thought to the idea that maybe I'm biting off more than I can (or want) to chew with my itinerary?  I'm not sure, but I'm not in peak backpacking physical condition myself, and bringing my son along, who's still just shy of 14, may mean that I want to make sure that I'm not overextending via planning too much.  There's also the possibility that the weather and snowpack won't be as melted as I hope it to be and expect it to be, in which case I'll also have to make modifications to the trip.  If I come to believe this, what are some of my options?  My Day 0 at Mirror Lake highway won't change for any of these plans.

  • Break up the Red Castle and the Dead Horse areas into two trips, with stops to the car and movement to another trailhead in between.  The most conservative plan might actually increase my mileage, so I won't spell that out, but this plan would look like:
    • Day 1 is still the same; go to Red Castle Lake.  Day 2 is to explore a bit and then head back to the car.  If I wanted, I could even spend two nights at the same campsite and do plenty of Red Castle exploring before heading back to the car.  Maybe a better plan would be to camp at Lower Red Castle, and then head over Wilson Pass and come back over Squaw Pass and get to the car via Little East Fork Basin.  I haven't ever heard that the Little East Fork Basin itself is anything special, although the south rim of it, where I'd join, is supposed to be nice.  There'd be a long, rather boring forest walk back to the car though.  If I camped the second night in the southern reaches of the Little East Fork, I could make a nice loop, basically this guy's route but I'd be doing what he recommends rather than what he actually did.
    • On the third day, back at the car, I drive to the WFBF trailhead, or as near as i can get to it, depending on whether or not I need to ford the river in my car, and start heading into Buck Pasture.  I don't think I'd even want to consider trying to get to Dead Horse Lake on night 3, so I'd camp somewhere en route and then continue on the next day.  This means that I'd be foregoing the stay in the arms of the Tokewanna/Wasatch cirque, and that I may not the do the Reconnaissance Lake jaunt either, depending on how much walking I will have done by this point.  The plan involves a night 3 somewhere in Buck Pasture, a night 4 and 5 and Dead Horse Lake, and a night 6 at Crater Lake.  I'm concerned about getting back to the car all the way from Crater Lake though, I admit.  Maybe I'd be better off moving the Crater Lake day up, and spending the final night in the wilderness somewhere closer to the Lovenia cluster so I can get back to the car at a decent time on Monday afternoon?  This also depends on how close to the WFBF trailhead I can actually end up parking, to some degree.
  • Although I'm a little loath to do it, I could cancel the Red Castle area.  Again.  And just really explore the Dead Horse Lake area, including Reconnaissance Lake, Crater Lake, and I can surely find a way to work Allsop Lake and maybe even Priord Lake into it if I do this.
  • Of course, I can always lop off the Reconnaissance area loop and just shorten my "big loop" but otherwise keep more or less to it.  Camp at North Star Lake on night 2, for instance, making Day 2 a two-pass rather than 3-pass day, and spend night 3 at Lambert Lake instead of Crater Lake.  This makes Day 4 really short, since I really don't want to miss Crater Lake, but that may be just fine.  Day 5 would still be at Dead Horse (this effectively becomes a 2-pass day as well, since there's no way I'm going to Dead Horse Lake and not summiting the pass to look over into Rock Creek Basin; although being able to do that without a pack would be nice, of course.)  This is the least disruptive of my plans, since it only chops off an optional no-pack leg, while still maintaining the entirety of my backpacking loop.  The advantage to this is that I can keep it flexible and not even have to decide until either late on day 2, or even day 3--in theory, I can make day 3 longer and get back on track even if day 2 ends up getting shortened.