It’s been almost 4 years since I did a legitimate backpacking trip into the High Uinta Wilderness here in Utah.  I really haven’t been motivated to get up there the last few years, mainly because I just don’t think the mountains up there are really all that spectacular.  Funny how returning after 4 years can surprise you.  Things finally seem to be returning to normal with my recovery, and it’s time to start ramping up the physical exertion to try and get back into some sort of shape.  A pretty mellow backpacking trip was the obvious choice.

Our original plan was to head up into China Meadows and into Red Castle Lake, since I knew the trail there was mostly clear of snow.  However, I also thought it would be a good idea to drive the North Slope Road all the way from Hwy 150.  Apparently, I also remembered this being an easier drive then it is.  Probably because in an Xterra it’s no big deal.  For the little Honda I was driving this weekend, not so much…  So after getting turned back due to clearance issues, we decided on Plan B, and headed to Christmas Meadows instead, hoping to make it into Amethyst Basin.  Of course, Amethyst is much higher and farther west than lower Red Castle, so I wasn’t sure if we’d get any open water, or how much snow we’d have.

Turns out, we timed it perfectly.  No mosquitoes, beautiful weather, inconsequential snow, ice just breaking up on Amethyst, and some pretty decent fishing.  Sweet!  On day 1 we made it to Amethyst Lake, only to be disappointed by what looked like a completely frozen lake.   After passing lake B-24, the trail went into snow and was pretty tough to follow, so we just took the path of least resistance and ended up on the west shore of Amethyst, where it was completely frozen solid.  We made our way towards the outlet and found about 10 or 15 percent of the lake was open water, just enough to toss out a line and see how the fishing was.  We caught a handful of 8 inch brookies, but nothing significant.  We stuck around for the night to catch the sunset, which ended up being completely boring with almost no clouds.  I can’t remember the last time I spent time in the Uintas, and didn’t at least have a threat of rain.  Bizarre.

Bored of little brookies, we set off for Ostler Lake on day two, and we were not disappointed.  Still plenty of snow, but the ice was completely off the lake, and the fish had apparently had a pretty good winter, as they were much bigger and well fed.  The fishing was fast and I actually caught my first tiger trout, along with plenty of cuts.  We fried up a fish for dinner, and made our way back out the next morning.

The obvious question is how much snow is up there?  We hit snow at around 10,200 in small patches, and big drifts by 10,500.  The trail was muddy and wet, and there were a few swift stream crossings at about mid-calf to knee deep.  My preferred method for these conditions is to just where trail runners, light gaiters, and just charge right through the water.  The trail runners dry out quick enough, and wool socks warm the feet up pretty quick.  Trying to avoid getting wet feet is pretty much impossible right now.  Probably about two weeks of tapering run off left in this drainage.

All in all, a pretty good weekend!