UHT Day 1: Leaving Civilization for Solitude

August 16, 2021

Miles hiked: 9.2

Vertical: +1,769 ft

Campsite: 10,808 ft

PM temp: 45F

I’ve been thinking about this trail for a little while but never in earnest until recently. The Uinta Highline Trail is a 104 mile trail in the Uinta Mountains of Northern Utah. These mountains are unique in that they run East-West and the trail is unique in that it exists above 10,000 ft most of the time. There are eight passes to climb, several of which reach 12,000 ft or higher, and the trail only crosses one road. Additionally, from Anderson Pass, one has the option to scramble up to Kings Peak, the Highest Peak in Utah at 13,528ft.

The logistics can be tricky if attempting this endeavor solo, as am I. The shuttle from TH to TH is around 3+ hours and after doing the drive today myself, I am totally convinced it would have been a bitch of a hitch. There is a shuttle service in the area, which is wonderful, but for me it was cost prohibitive.

(https://mountaintrailstransport.com and https://www.uhtshuttle.com are the two companies I know of).

If you have a group, or the budget, I believe the shuttle service would be worth it. For me, I could not justify the cost alone.

These are the main reasons why I decided to just hike the trail Yo-Yo style, meaning out and back. That will put me at roughly 208+ miles up here in the High Uintas, and actually, extending my time out here is exactly perfect for me.

The end of a long day has arrived. I reflect on the business of my day, from waking up at McKee Draw TH (Eastern Terminus) and driving the northern roads through Wyoming to get around to the TH at Hayden Pass (western Terminus). I stopped for last minute errands and for a meal at a local coffee shop in Evanston where I did all the internet and cell phone related things, knowing I was signing off all connection for the next 8 days.

Eight days, yesssss!! I get to spend 8 days in this beautiful, awe inspiring wild place, amongst vast escarpments, sweeping rocky vistas, glowing conifer trees and hopefully some interesting wildlife. This area is home to moose, elk and bear, and there are sheep and horses being tended to by shepherds and cowboys.

I started my hike this afternoon after taking my time in the parking lot ensuring I had all my ducks in a row. It’s been a while, about 6 months, since I set off an a solo multi-day adventure. My food supply is broken into two 4 day supplies, one on my back and the other at McKee Draw in a bear canister under a tree. My food is heavy! I went through it meticulously last night, and I really don’t feel that I overpacked. We shall see how hungry I become. I am aiming to hike an average of 25 mpd here for 8 days, and all of it is above 10K ft, so naturally I expect to have an appetite.

Organizing my food at McKee Draw the night before
First 4 days of food

It was 3:41pm when I officially set off walking today, and I immediately became aquainted with dust and rocks. There were a few folks walking their horses out, they told me they lost two of their horses, they think someone stole them. I wondered what kind of a wild place I am walking into at that point.

Highline TH at Hayden Pass

I passed a large group of about 7 folks backpacking and planning to fish. They left the parking lot about 30 minutes ahead of me and I was glad to pass them up, I really don’t want company on the trail out here, at least not a lot of it. I endeavor to seek and find solitude.

And so it is. I am finally here. As I walk I can just begin to feel the fretting and buzzing of my brain, which had become so accustomed to civilized life, begin to unravel. My thoughts are not busy, but I do notice my body feels like she is working hard for this. Especially with the pack weight and all the rocks I am walking on. I wonder if the entire trail is going to be this rocky?

Still, the trail is lovely and it is quiet. Undulations take me up and down little climbs and descents, I pass through a burn area for about a mile, and eventually after passing through an alpine meadow I begin the climb up to the first pass, Rocky Sea Pass which takes me up to 11,227 ft. The views in the saddle open up to a vast expanse of mountains that have an escarpment shape to them, sweeping across the land, large, high, powerful. This is my canvas to walk throughfor the next week. Yeehaw!!

Rocky Sea Pass 11,227 ft
Heading down from Rocky Sea Pass

I drop down the rocky trail below Rocky Sea Pass to some lakes where it looks like good, flat camping. I check my GPS and see I’ve made it 9 miles and call it good. I fill up my water bottles and seek a lovely place to camp with views of Rocky Sea Pass.

Gonna camp here!

I am aware I am in bear country, and while bear canisters are not required, it is encouraged that you properly store your food. I am carrying an Ursak, and while normally I sleep with my food tucked under my feet, tonight I decided to actually hang it in a tree. I did not pick a great spot, and my rope is def too short, but I got the heavy load off the ground, hopefully that will not lead any bears to a sniff trail on thte ground and I will wake up to my food undisturbed.

I ran through my night time routine after dinner of teeth brushing, stretching and making tea. The half moon rises above, casting a natrual glow that illuminates the nearby white chalky rocks. It is really silent here. Only the occasional airplane and some rocks tumbling down from the pass make noise. That is all.

It’s time to sleep. I feel ready. I do plan to hoof it tomorrow, as there is rain expected on Wed, and possibly snow showers on Thurs, so tomorrow is not a day to dilly dally, it is a day to hike!

8 thoughts on “UHT Day 1: Leaving Civilization for Solitude

  1. Planning this trail for next summer east to west (just a one-way trip for me!). This is a nice change of pace from all the Youtube hiking videos I find myself obsessing over. Your story seems a lot more personal without spoiling the experience of the trail. Thanks for sharing this, I look forward to reading the rest!

    1. Hey thanks and cool you are planning on doing the UHT, you will love it! If uou need any tips or info on planning thats not already in my blog check out Sectionhiker’s trip report, I found it very helpful!

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