A Short Escape to the High Uintas

A lake on the North slope of the High Uintas.
A lake on the North slope of the High Uintas.

Sometimes you just have to get away. Life can get pretty hectic and the mountains are my balm. A couple weeks ago, all my kids were occupied or out of town, so I took off alone on a Thursday morning and headed up the Mirror Lake Highway. I was headed for a trailhead on the North side of the High Uintas mountain range. I began hiking around noon and within a quarter mile I took a wrong turn and headed up a rather steep trail climbing to a saddle. After about a mile I figured I was off track and turned around. The views from this trail were pretty spectacular. I could see into the drainage where I was supposed to be headed. So I went an hour out of my way. But I was in no hurry and being alone, there was no one to complain, wait for, or consult with. Sometimes being alone is so liberating.

The river valley I hiked up on the left.
The river valley where I should have been heading in the center of the photo.

I was alone on the trail; in fact, I didn’t see another person for hours, just as I had hoped. It was a beautiful trail along the East Fork of the Bear River. After a couple miles I passed the remains of an old cabin.

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After four miles the trail entered the Wilderness Area. A mile or two past that the trail splits, the left branch climbing up a few switchbacks before entering a beautiful river valley. The trail continued climbing through alternating woods and open marshy meadows. Everything was deep green and the river was never very far from the trail and I was at peace. I could feel the stress and tension easing off as I hiked. I was not sure how far my destination, the lake, was, but it turned out to be quite a bit farther than I anticipated.

The trail up the valley.
The trail up the valley.

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After about 9 uphill miles I finally arrived at the lake and I was pretty tired. The lake sits at the end of the valley in a high alpine cirque surrounded by forested slopes and high cliffs. If I had more time and energy I would have loved to climb to the ridge and explore, and take a peek into the next drainage.

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Allsop Lake in the High Uintas.

I set up camp, which is a pretty simple affair—set up my Duomid tent (a floorless half pyramid), rolled our my pad and sleeping bag, and unpacked the rest of my few things.

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I then rigged up my fly rod. These days I am using a tenkara style rod that my friend and colleague bought for me in Japan. It is a Nissin Prosquare, 320 length (about 8 1/2 feet), so quite short for this kind of rod. For those who are not familiar with tenkara fishing, it is a simple rod to which you attach a short line and leader, about the same length as the rod. That’s it. No reel or anything else to mess with. It is ideal for small mountain streams. I had heard from another colleague that the fishing was good here. And I was not disappointed. Within two or three casts I had hooked my first cutthroat trout. After an hour and a half I had hooked quite a few brook and cutthroat trout. It was great fun and I was really enjoying the solitude and the spectacular scenery. I used a fly pattern called a Utah Killer Bug which I had tied myself. They proved to be very effective.

One of many trout caught.
One of many trout caught.

As I was heading back to camp I ran into a young guy just arriving at the lake. He was one of five kids that hiked in for a couple days. We chatted for a bit as he waited for his friends. I went back to my camp to cook dinner. I usually eat pretty simply in the mountains, things that usually involve just adding water, like mashed potatoes, couscous, and things like that. I also built a small fire. Being alone can be great therapy. It gives you lots of time to think without any distractions. As much as I love being in the outdoors with my kids, sometimes getting out alone is just what I need to decompress and recharge. If you have the skills and experience in the outdoors I highly recommend an occasional solo trip.

I enjoyed a quite evening by the fire, just thinking, reading a little poetry, and writing a bit in my small travel journal.

The next morning, after a quick breakfast of half a bagel and some dried fruit, I rigged up and headed back to the small outlet stream that I had fished the night before. The fishing was fast and I caught more than I did the night before. I was surprised at the size of some of the fish, up to 16-18″, for such a small stream, only about 3-8′ wide. I thoroughly enjoyed the fishing and wandering around. I had to get back for something that evening, so I couldn’t stay as long as I wanted; I had a good 4 hour hike, then a 2 hour drive home. While hiking out, only about 2 miles from the lake, I couldn’t resist a section of the stream winding through a meadow. So I headed down, and caught another nice fish on the first cast. I limited myself to a half hour, but still caught 7-8 fish.

Stream winding through a high mountain meadow.
Stream winding through a high mountain meadow.

This was a part of the Uintas I had not been to before, and it was really beautiful, as pretty as any scenery I have seen in this mountain range, and prettier than most areas. It is a place I would like to return to, this time with some of my kids.

 

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2 thoughts on “A Short Escape to the High Uintas

  1. Thanks for this post. I’m heading up to the Uintah’s as soon as the snow melts, and I’m debating taking a western-style rod and reel or a tenkara style rod. You just convinced me!

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