Thursday, January 14, 2016

Ultimate Uintas, another slightly easier option

To start with, let's attach a screenshot I took and then labeled of the entire Uinta Mountain range from Google Maps satellite image.

Uinta Mtn Range, with subdivisions
As you can see, the entire range from above sort of resembles a tadpole with a weird kink in its tail.  Although divides the range up into four subdivisions (usually without clear indications of where those subdivisions are supposed to start and end very well) I think it makes sense to do three.  The divisions are, at least to some degree, based more on federal designations than they are on any intrinsic character of the mountains themselves.  At least, I think that's true for two of the designations, although the more easterly designations I'm keeping and more firmly defining.

The character of each area can readily be seen in the satellite shot too, which is actually rather remarkable.

The main part of the Uintas, A. the name for which I'll borrow from the big wilderness area that makes up a good chunk of its central surface area, is the High Uintas.  This area is primarily alpine in character.  High peaks and ridges rise above the treeline, and are surrounded by vast meadows and alpine tundras, while the fringe of foothills around it (as well as the basin floors which make deep incursions into the body of the mountains themselves) are heavily forested.  The Mirror Lake Highway, SR-150, bisects this section somewhere between a quarter and a third of the way in from the western edge, but it marks a rather arbitrary division, as the character of the range is essentially the same on either side of it.  150 is also where most of the traffic is; to the west, the area seems more used by short-range hikers, day hikers, campers, and fishermen, while the area to the east, which after just a few short miles becomes the eastern fringe of the High Uintas Wilderness Area is more used by horse-packers and backpackers.  Rocky Sea Pass (which also happens to be the dividing line between the Wasatch-Cache National Forest and the Ashley National Forest) seems to be a significant psychological barrier that keeps all but the more serious backpackers in the area to the west, but that is, again, a description of usage patterns more than intrinsic character.

The Highline Trail actually starts to the east of this, but most hikers who hike it pick it up near Leidy Peak, which neatly marks the eastern boundary of this section of the Uintas.  If they hike the entire Highline Trail from terminus to terminus, however, they're missing 25-35% or so of the western portion of this area, for reasons that are honestly pretty arbitrary.  If one were to traverse this section of the Uintas, using the stitched together route I highlighted on caltopo to complete the concept, you'd do pretty well: and your total miles hiked would be about 120.

This would be the red and dark blue sections of my caltopo map.

Going eastward from Leidy, the character of the range is more like that of the fringe around the High Uintas, though—it rarely pokes out well above treeline, doesn't feature the vast swathes of alpine tundra, and the peaks themselves are heavily eroded and rounded.  This section, B. is sometimes called the High Bollies, a name that I like and will continue to use.  US-191 and the Flaming Gorge reservoir bisect this section and sit heavily on its flanks, as can be seen on the map (the highway is the yellow line).  It ends in the east at the "kink in the tadpole's tail" and even at this resolution, you can see the marked separation at that sharp line; the subalpine nature of the High Bollies gives way to the very overtly desert section of the eastern tail of the range.

Given the difficulties in hiking the far eastern desert section (lack of water, heat, and crossing the Green River canyon without a trail or any route that isn't very steep, rugged, filled with riparian brush) not to mention the (presumed, admittedly) poor quality of the route, which sticks to dirt roads and jeep trails (for lack of any other route to take that makes sense), I'm pretty tempted to ditch the far eastern section and start somewhere near the western end of Browns Park; i.e., as near to the eastern edge of the High Bollies section as I can get a car.

No comments:

Post a Comment