August 27, 2021
Miles hiked: 11
Vertical: +3,400 ft
Morning. It’s cold, abuot 34F, which is the coldest temp I’ve had since the snow storm at the beginning of this adventure 9 days ago. The forest is still, moisture and condensation have found my tent walls, everything is silent. My stove lights up and delivers the promise of warmth in the form of hot coffee, my favorite way to start any day.
As I sit, I ponder all that I’ve seen and experienced on the Uinta Highline Trail. The outcome was so different from the original idea I’d had, thinking I was going to Yo-Yo the entire trail from Hayden Pass to McKee Draw in eight days averaging 25 miles a day. Ha! The trail Gods laugh at me. These mountains wanted me to have a different experience.
I loved every bit of it, and don’t mind that I missed about an eight mile section from Porcupine Pass to Landers Meadow, it’s not a huge stretch but I’d still like to come back and hike that some day. I also wound up foregoing the section between Leidy Peak and McKee Draw, the 25 mile waterless forest section which would have been 50 miles for me doing it as a Yo-Yo. No regrets there.
All in all, I was able to cover ~ 134 miles and I was able to hike all the passes, several of them twice. I definitely had my adventure with the snow and helicopter rescue on day three, and I was blessed with the most perfect weather to summit King’s Peak a few days ago. I learned to enjoy the innate intensity of the thunderstorms which are endemic to this unique mountain range, and I got to connect with some really cool people. It’s been a great hike. I would absolutely recommend it and I will come back.
I’ve got about 11 miles today to get back to Leidy Peak and my car, including hiking back over Gabbro Pass, which my memory of is already faint. As I ponder the trail and ask my self the question of what’s next, I start to feel a familiar ache in my low back. Ugh, I know what that means. It’s time to bleed. Good day to get off trail.
As I am finishing my coffee and breakfast, I think to myself, if only I could see a moose, that is one animal I have rarely seen in the wild, and I know they are out here. That would be so great.
No sooner do I have that thought, I hear a rustling in the trees behind me. At first I think nothing of it, but I do notice the sound is large. Maybe a cow? I decide to poke my head out of my tent to have a look. To my complete amazement, there is a female moose behind my tent, leisurely nibbling on the local foliage. I have to take a moment to decide what to do. The moose is really not startled by me, she is just looking for her next bite.
I am able to retrieve my camera and get out of the tent to snap enough photos to feel satisfied without bothering her. It is such a cool feeling to see these large, rare animals in their native habitat. I feel so very special right now to be experiencing this! Thank you trail gods, you answered my request. Moose Manifested!
At this point, I feel like my journey for the day needs to get underway, so I pack up and get going. It’s not long before I reach that other campsite I had thought about getting to last night, but am glad I camped where I did, because it would have definitely been dark when I arrived, and I saw the moose! Nough said.
I stop there for a pee and boom, yep the menstrual cycle has arrived. I feel it too, my back feels tight and achy, my legs feel weak. I decide to have a snack to give myself more energy, and mix some electroytes. Not long at all after I am walking again I am suddenly smack in front of a couple of hunters. They are less friendly than some other hunters I’ve met, and we simply just nod our heads and pass by each other. Within 100 feet of seeing them I pass their camp and it creeps me out. Something about all this red equipment set up in a cove of dense trees, doesn’t feel right to me. I am really glad I didn’t camp close to them!
Pressing on it’s time to think about climbing Gabbro Pass. I recall on the first day out from Leidy Peak trail head, Gabbro was pretty easy peasy. Today, coming up the other side, feels like gravity is working against me even before I start the climbing in earnest. I decide to suck down an energy gel, it’s a Vanilla Gu and it tastes like pudding and I feel like I could eat like six of them. It helps a little, but the climb seems tiresome today and I know I just have to let that be what it is.
By mid morning, I stop at a small lake to eat more snacks and take my pack off for a few minutes. I feel like I am getting close, but still have about five more miles, so I know it’s too soon to start feeling excited to be done. It’s during this little break that I also realize I could take the trail on the “opposite” side of Leidy Peak and see what it’s like. New scenery should be great, right?
It feels like it takes forever and a day to go that way, because I find myself walking on a tedious tundra made completely of sharp rocks and uneven grassy soil. It is really slow going and there isn’t much of a trail at all, just a few cairns, and they seem to lead me in a completely inefficient manner around the base of the peak.
I study my maps and GPS and they both show a trail but on the actual ground there really isn’t much tread. I reach a trail junction that indicates this is the Leidy Peak Trail, but still there is no actual trail to mindlessly follow, which is what I want. I continue at this point getting really hungry, but I want to make it to the car before eating lunch. I push myself mentally to hang in there.
The cairns lead me downhill when I should not be going down and I feel like I’m getting further awzy from my car instead of closer. I now get frustrated and feel like I could cry. Those darn hormones! I tell ya. I fight it off and manage this with more snacks. I finally have to adjust my expectataion of finding a well trodden trail and let it go.
Not only that, but the wind has grown increasingly fierce, so eventually I simply need to sit down near a stunted pine tree and just lean back on my pack and take five and it actually helps to just have stopped moving and be out of the wind. This tiny little mental and physical break gives me what I need to make that last push to the car. On a side note, I would highly recommend taking the other way around the peak now that I’ve done both sides.
When I finally make it to the trail junction that leads one back to the parking lot, I am so relieved. But even that last stretch seems to take forever. I am simply so ready to be done!
When I make it, its around 2pm and there are two gentlemen sitting on the fence, chatting. They make an effort to strike up a conversation with me and I am totally not into it. I need to pee. I am bleeding. I am hormonal and emotional and I’m tired and damn hungry! Can they not see this?
I try to be as polite as I can but I know I am a little curt as I let them know I’m so happy to get back to my car and maybe I said something about having just hiked 100 miles.
My car is still there, yay! You know, there’s always this little part of me that is so relieved when my car is right where I left it. I walk over to some trees, go pee, and set up a spot to sit in the shade and eat. This all feels so wonderful. I even make myself a cup of tea for the road. It’s amazing how much my morale chages after all of this.
When I turn the key to my engine and start rolling down the dirt road, I feel a sense of closure from having returned to a trail that tried to chew me up and spit me out. I made it, and it was truly a magical experience thru and thru.