Colton Guard Station

Discussion in 'Winter Sports' started by Nick, Apr 9, 2017.

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  1. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

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    I feel like it's been forever since I posted a proper trip report. Most of my outings over the last 6 months have been work-driven mountain biking trips that aren't very interesting. This trip actually happened back in February but I'm just getting to it. Life has been so crazy the last couple of months. In the space of about a month, we lost Nikita, sold our house, bought a house, moved, and then a week later we both got really sick (and we still are). I'm heading into day 9 of the worst cold ever and Audra is on day 13 with no sign of it letting up. So many highs and lows! But at least it's slowed things down a bit and made me realize I need to get caught up on photos.

    The Colton Guard Station is on the east side of the Uintas, north of Vernal. It was built in 1933 as a CCC project and was used a Forest Service Guard Station for decades. Nowadays it can be rented out in the summer and winter. During the summer, you can drive right to the cabin, but during the winter there's 5+ miles of snow to get in. Snowmobiles are allowed on roads in the area, but we only saw them near the main access point on our way out. Our method of travel would be splitboards and skis.

    Starting out near Highway 191. Plenty of snowmobile tracks in this area but we didn't see or hear any on our ski in.
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    My old Arbor A Frame. Before this I had a Voile splitboard that was a bit too big so I sold it and got this board split using a Voile split kit. Around the same time I moved to Salt Lake and kind of gave up on winter sports. After all the money and effort to get it configured this way, I let it sit for something like 8 or 9 years before giving it a try!
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    After a mile or two we leave the snowmobile road for a smaller trail.
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    We end up back on a smaller road here and there. My friend Jason was kind enough to let us borrow these two pulks. He and a friend made them themselves, including sewing the covers. They were priceless for carrying in the luxuries, especially because I never had to pull one!
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    Close to 4 miles in now and we're heading down the ridge that gives us access to Colton Guard Station. A big storm was moving in and it was feeling pretty epic up there. I couldn't help but think about how serious things can get when traveling in the backcountry in the winter compared to the rest of the year.
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    Once we were above the guard station, we broke trail off the main path in hopes of skiing down to the cabin. The going was not easy here. It had been so warm that the snow was extremely soft. I was sinking a lot with my split in ski mode so I stopped a couple hundred yards shy of everyone else to strap in. It wasn't very steep, but I figured I could get going down the hill. So there I am on the top of the ridge. The wind is howling with the big storm rolling in. We can all see each other but I can't hear them and they can't hear me.
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    With the deep, soft, snowcone-like snow it took some work to take off my pack and get converted from ski mode to snowboard mode. Finally, I'm ready to go. Just a half mile down hill to the cabin for beers and a fire! And... I can't move. The snow is just caving in on top of the sage brush below. I heave my body forward trying to get on the surface and get some momentum and nothing. I try and try and nothing. F$&K! I thought about putting it back in ski mode, moving down the hill another 100 yards and trying again, but my energy was already tapped. If it failed again, I'd be in pretty bad shape. And moving in ski mode off of the main, packed trail was super difficult, so I said screw it and hoofed it back up to the packed trail. Following the road down adds something like .75 miles to the route, but compared to sinking in the slush, that sounded okay with me. The only thing that made it suck was that I had been struggling all day to keep blood flowing to my feet with my boots on. I'd try them super loose and they would still go numb after 15 minutes. I figured out later on that it was the bindings that were the problem, but for now I just suffered through it as I kicked my way down the ridge and followed the remnant of the road down to the cabin. It was soft and a bit hard to find in places, but slow and steady got me there.

    I put away my camera due to the storm happening, so no pics of the final stretch. As I came around the bend and saw the cabin, Dan was heading up the hill to see if I was dead in the snow somewhere. He kept going up to do some laps and I b-lined for the cabin. I took off my skis, grabbed a cider and crashed on the couch next to a nice, warm, woodburning stove. The benefits of not getting there first!

    colton-guard-station-1600-10.jpg
    The storm came as expected and dropped 5-6 inches of fresh snow on the area. It was windy so it settled in some places better than others. It felt pretty luxurious waking up here feeling like I had backpacked, but then digging out a pack of bacon and eggs for breakfast.
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    The refrigerator in the cabin gets shut off in the winter, but the weather did a fine job of chilling the drinks.
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    With my feet going numb, I decided to stay around the cabin during our layover day while the rest of the guys went out touring. It was super foggy in the morning. I put on the snowshoes and Sage and I explored the surroundings.
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    Sage being really excited.
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    That concrete bunker is supposed to be full of wood, but it barely had enough to keep us warm for the weekend. I let the USFS know they were out and they were really surprised. Someone must have had a big fire.
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    It's a bit of a hike to the vault toilet. The snowshoes came in handy!
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    The main room in the cabin. There is also a small cooking area and a bathroom but all water is shutoff in the winter.
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    @slc_dan coming in hot!
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    Sage wondering why I keep pointing that big black thing at her.
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    It was cloudy most of the day, but we had a nice sunset.
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    After sunset things cleared up outside and some of the guys were out night skiing under a nearly full moon.
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    The next day it was clear and beautiful. @lostlandscapes and I decided to take the road out while the other guys skied up the shortcut.
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    The wind had blown the snow around and made it very difficult to see the tracked out area we came in on. As we got to the top, we lost the old road completely and I had a really tough stretch where I was post holing with my snowshoes on. There was a 3 inch crisp layer with a couple of feet of completely unstable sugary stuff underneath. Add to that the frequent sage brush and it makes for some bad walking for a big guy.
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    We all met up back on the ridge and I went back to the splitboard to get around the sinking issues. It had been less windy through here and we were breaking fresh trail through the powder. It was beautiful. With about 3 miles to go, I threw my pack and camera on a sled (thanks @Smokey) and got moving faster. It was difficult for me to get the cross country glide going with a big pack on, but once I had it off, I was able to get a pretty good rhythm going. I was definitely not in great condition for this trip, but it was still a fantastic trip. I'll be back.
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    Dr Nebz, Jammer, slc_dan and 14 others like this.
  2. Dave

    Dave Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"

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    Dang, that looks cozy. And the sunset was puuuuurty.
     
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  3. WasatchWill

    WasatchWill Ready For More

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    Wow...I had no idea about that cabin for rent. I wonder what the demand is for that in the winter. Sorry to hear about being sick and all. Last month I had a sore throat for 3 weeks straight before it finally let up. Odd thing was I had no other symptoms until the end when I finally got some mild congestion for a couple of days. After testing negative for Strep, doctors had thought it was allergies or acid reflux. I think it turned out to be some funky viral thing. Hope you and Audra get feeling well again soon.
     
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  4. slc_dan

    slc_dan Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior

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    good times!!
     
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  5. Dr Nebz

    Dr Nebz Dirtbag After Dark

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    Wasatch Range
    Add one to the list! Looks sweet! I gotta check this place out.
     
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