UT – High Uintas Wilderness, Center Park Trailhead (09/22)

After my first trip was tainted by too many miles spent hiking through burned forest, it was hard not to give this area a second chance (blog link). I had time and was near several trailheads which lead to the Highline Trail and more importantly high elevation goodness. A local recommended this option which was outside the big 2020 burn. I soon found out rocks were once again the common theme.

The path through the rocks was less rocky than much of the rest of the trail. At the top I could see my future, but first I had to loose all the elevation I’d just gained. Why oh why? I do love these stunted hardy trees.

There was plant life among all those rocks.

The rocky terrain was tedious and slow severely impacting my ability to make miles. Finding a rock-free campsite was quite a challenge. I was happy to find this spot and even happier with the unexpected nearby water.

Although it was a chilly night.

The next day I was off to explore Garfield Basin.

My goal was to swim in as many lakes as possible. There were some near the trail like this one and others requiring some navigation and off-trail skills.

Five Point Lake is a destination for many but it was deserted on this day just like every other lake I visited.

It wasn’t my kind of ambiance for camping. It didn’t rate high for swimming either.

Superior Lake was superior in every way.

Although finding camping was still not an option as the ground was quite rocky, especially given the rule of camping at least 200 feet from the trail and water.

So many choices, how will I ever swim in them all?

It was amazing to me to still see outflow creeks from lakes in September. They must be spring-fed lakes.

Hiking through the tundra was much preferable to the rocky trail, although my shoes were filled with grass seeds. Look at all those mountains!

Did I save the best for last? The clouds and wind tested my meddle.

The burgundy in these mountains was striking.

The rock colors ranged from mauve to burgundy in addition to the grays, silvers, tans and more.

The moody skies lit up the mountains providing my kind of drama.

Whether ponds, pools, lakes or creeks, there was plenty to go around.

Wandering around I found this historic structure from 1920.

The marker says “Salt House L.E. & J.L. Ollivier 1920.” Nothing turned up with a quick internet search.

This campsite didn’t quite meet the 200′ from trail guidelines but it was all I could find that was flat without rocks and offered some wind protection. And oh my the views I found! Since I only saw a handful of people during my four days and none in the Garfield Lakes basin, I didn’t this this site would impact their wilderness experience.

I watched the nearly full moon rise.

And the mountains and sky turn pink.

My objective for the next day was Porcupine Pass (the the right of the pointed peak).

From Tungsten Pass I had views of Porcupine Pass as well as Tungsten and North Star Lakes.

As I climbed toward the pass I found more lakes with more swimming opportunities during my descent.

From a distance I didn’t think I’d be make the pass as I really dislike loose rock but I was pleased to find a nicely groomed path. I also saw my first Uinta pika!

It’s always exciting nearing the pass.

The view was indeed WOW as I looked down into the Red Castle Lake basin.

The Porcupine Mountain side looked much different.

Looking down from where I’d come. Wilson Peak is visible in the distance.

So many lakes to evaluate for swimming opportunities.

I really wanted to make my way over to that distant lake but my time and energy said no.

Looking back at Porcupine Pass made me happy for my early start.

I found another decent campsite for my last night.

I was near this lake where I could witness the first morning kiss of sun.

The majority of hikers I met this trip were elk hunters so I felt lucky to spy this female exiting a lake.

The deep blues of these lake sure make them inviting, although at this time of year some of much too shallow for a swim.

The only water fowl I saw on this trip.

Once below treeline I was back in rocky, rocky, rocky terrain. I needed to replace my shoes and slipped a few times thankfully with nothing but a major scrape.

It was hot this day and I was thankful for the many water sources where I could drench myself and my sun hoody (Ridge Merino).

There’s no doubt fall has arrived with all the dry grasses.

Looking back from where I’d been as I climbed this rock pile.

Before returning to the small burned area.

I enjoyed the few remaining blooms on my descent.

I considered camping near this pond but decided I’d prefer to push on to the trailhead.

This was a 40-mile, 4,000′ elevation gain/loss out-and-back trek.

There isn’t a consistent wilderness guideline about distance but this is the first wilderness mentioning space between occupied campsites. This is awesome because some people have no concept of privacy.

I found several items left which didn’t belong including this balloon.

This abandoned horse pack was more than I could carry so I took photos and GPS coordinates and reported to USFS.

It’s definitely time to replace some gear.

Great message as I continue to work on being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

This comment cracked me up and made me thing they should try the Rock Creek Trailhead which was by far worse. Both were bad in the rocky trail department but this trail was far superior in the conditions, views and lakes department.

I was somehow still smiling at the end.

Ugh so glad I set these traps but I hate that mice make their way into my car. This was #2 for this year, not too bad, and way better than eating my car’s electrical system.


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