Daddy Daughter: To the Notch & 17 Lakes

WasatchWill

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It was a long time coming. My 6-year-old, Ellory, finally got her turn out with dad. This daddy-daughter trip would take us into the Uintas, where we would backpack what has been dubbed the "Seventeen Lakes Loop" and include a little day hike to the Notch. The main objective, though, was to try and land a first fish for Ellory.

Day 1
Tuesday - June 23, 2015


We arrived at the Crystal Lake Trailhead at about 5:30 pm. This trailhead may very well be the most popular and busiest trailhead in the Uintas. Being a Tuesday, there were still dozens of cars, including a scout troop of 20+ scouts and leaders gearing up for an overnighter themselves. One can only imagine how many more cars are typically there on a weekend. This area receives a lot of use from day-hikers and backpackers alike. All we could do was hope that the scouts would be stopping their journey at Wall Lake, far enough away from where we were hoping to capture a bit of peace and tranquility: Twin Lakes.

The "Seventeen Lakes Loop" begins and ends at Crystal Lake Trailhead. It is a 4.5 mile route that takes you right past 17 different lakes of various sizes, most visible from the trail with a few that you must go up to a quarter mile off trail to see. If you're willing to go even further off trail in a couple spots, you could tally up 20 lakes or more. Most people will take the easier and more gradual way up by taking the Notch Mountain Trail up and around Wall Lake before getting off near Twin Lakes and looping over to Clyde Lake and returning to the trailhead via Cliff Lake. We followed suit.

We were on our way up the trail by 6 pm.



Lakes #1 and #2 are visible immediately upon beginning the hike. The trail goes right between two little lakes called Lily Lakes. I thought I took pics of both, but it looks like I only snapped a shot of the lake on the eastern side of the trail.



It wasn't long before Ellory was ready for a break. Luckily, Wall Lake is only about a mile up. When we saw the bridge and small waterfall dropping out of the small dam, we knew we were about there. It was pretty neat to think that this was essentially the headwaters for the Provo River, a river that runs all the way out to our city for which it is named, Provo, where it comes to an end at Utah Lake.



Wall Lake was lake #3 for us. I had applied some repellant on Ellory, but she was still getting bothered by mosquitos, so we took out her jacket and a bug net to give her some extra protection.





We he had arrived at Wall Lake, I breathed a sigh of relief to find that the big scout troop from back at the trailhead were setting up for the night up above the southern shore. As we rounded the eastern side of the lake there was yet another huge troop of 20 to 30 scouts all camped out and dining on dinner just above the eastern shore. I was happy we were seeking a spot not much farther but still further up, above, out of sight, and hopefully out of shouting range.

Only minutes after leaving the edges of Wall Lake, we got to what I believe counts as lake #4. I was only carrying a National Geographic Trail Illustrated map on me and it seemed to indicate this lake to be Hope Lake. However, USGS shows that Hope Lake is actually the next lake we would pass by. If that was the case, then this would be the one lake with no name.



After rounding lake #4, the trail took us along side of a some stair stepper cliff and started to gain some elevation. Ellory saw the little cliff and sought to climb it rather than take the trail. I judged it to be safe enough and let her go. Up to the top she went.







Just over the cliff sits lake #5, and what is likely to be Hope Lake if going by the USGS map. I didn't take any pictures because I thought it looked more like a shallow marshy pond than it did a lake and didn't think to count it at the time we were passing by. There was another group camped out right by it though. I was starting to get worried now because just about every campsite we had passed by to this point was occupied. Twin Lakes would be next and all we could do was hope that there would be an empty and secluded spot waiting for us there. It would be dark soon and Ellory was eager to try some fishing before it got too late.

At last, we stumbled upon the turn-off for Twin Lakes and made our way over. The area was very peaceful and there was no sign of anyone else around. Awesome! There were a handful of nice sites in the area, and we opted for one by the lower lake but only a stones throw away from the upper lake and got set up as quickly as we could.



I did not know if there would be fish in these lakes, but as it turned out, the upper lake was alive and well with fish jumping all over the place. We used what little daylight we had left to throw out our lines in the upper lake and see if we could catch anything. We tried bottom floating Powerbait for Ellory and I threw out a fly. Nothing. But we were treated to a beautiful sunset.



With the daylight now gone and the fish having settled down, it was time for a fire, late dinner, s'mores, a card game of war, and some sleep.






Day 2
Wednesday - June 24, 2015


Morning came, and as always, I was eager to get out and explore around the campsite and see what wildlife might be active in the area.



Or maybe not...



Ellory was still deep asleep. I quietly left the safe confines of the tent and had a peak out into the lake.



There was this guy out enjoying a morning swim.



Yes, that's a beaver, but there was no sign of where his home might be. Once he got across the lake, he vanished.

I had been tempted to wake up Ellory so she could have a chance to see it too, but how could I?



So I just let her sleep on. She'd just have to see it in pictures and video. While she continued to sleep, I grabbed my pole and sought out a good spot to try and fish the lower lake we were camped near. That way I'd be within sight of our tent the whole time. I took up a spot near the inlet. Fish were hanging out all around there.



Unfortunately, I still couldn't get any good bites. I started out floating some flies across the surface, getting fish to track it all the way to shore every time but none would take it. I then tried a rooster tail and actually got a couple hits, but again, nothing would hold on. I then tried another fly, this time with a little salmon egg on it and just dangled it around the fish. I watched one hit it, but again, it instantly let go before I could react and I came up empty handed. Ellory awoke and came out to join me for a little while. We soon gave up.

After telling Ellory about the beaver, she wanted to explore around the other side of the lake to see if we could find it again. We did that but no beaver or lodging in sight.

We returned to camp, had a very late breakfast, cleaned up and packed our packs. We then left the packs to make a short little hike up to the Notch. The Notch is a pass that actually looks like a notch carved out of a mountain called Notch Mountain. It had been over 15 years since I last hiked the Notch, when I was with a friend back in high school. I remembered that there were some nice views.

Moments later, we were standing up on the Notch and looking down the other side at Lovenia Lake.



It was tempting to continue the hike down and over to Ibantik Lake but time was not on our side and we didn't want to have to hike back up and over to get back to our camp, so we just hung out for a little bit and enjoyed the views back south toward our camp and the network of lakes we'd be hiking back down and around that afternoon.









After a good break, it was time to return to camp. We had another rest with some snacks while playing keep away from the resident chipmunk.



It was now time to say good bye to Twin Lakes, lakes 6 and 7.



On our way out and over to Clyde Lake, we came across this place. We couldn't decide whether to call it "Hall of Cairns" or "Rock Tower Plaza".





A few hundred feet later, we were at the shores of Clyde Lake, lake #8. It was much bigger looking than I expected.





Once we got around to the western side of the lake and half-way down the shoreline, we took our packs off and made our way up into the Three Divide Lakes area.

We first went up and counted what I believe was Booker Lake as #9 for us. Edit: It's actually John Lake.



Then back to the first of the Three Divide Lakes for #10. Edit: This is Booker Lake.



Then #11.



And #12.



There was a nice a little meadow of miniature daisies that Ellory liked. It reminded her of her mom, who also likes daisies.



A variety of flowers were abundant all throughout the area and all along our route.





















We returned to our packs and said farewell to Clyde Lake.



After about a half mile, we were descending a pretty steep stretch of trail with lots of loose rock to get down to Watson Lake, #13. There were then some boulders we had to step across. Ellory handled it all like a champ.



After Watson, we were on the lookout for what was supposed to be #14, Linear Lake. I went across a stream for a moment to scout out an area above a rise and saw another shallow marshy area but didn't think it could count for a lake, so back down to the trail I went. Ellory and I continued down till we reached another lake that we thought was Linear Lake and took a break. But as it turned out, when I got out the map again, the marshy area I had passed must have been Linear Lake because we were now sitting at Petite Lake, #15.



A stone's throw from Petite Lake and you're looking down upon Cliff Lake, #16. We had to hike down another bench to reach it.



There is a prominent cliff rising above its western shoreline that obviously gives the lake its name.



A climber was in process of conquering it.



We took one last look back across Cliff Lake and made our way down some more steep and loose trail to get back down to Lily Lakes. Ellory couldn't wait to be be finished and back at the car. She had been carrying her pack the whole way back from camp and was determined to finish it out, despite being exhausted with sore feet and ankles now. She had enough faith to believe me when I told her we were now only minutes away from arriving back at our car.



And soon enough, we were gazing out at lake #17, Crystal Lake.



I dropped down the trees for a moment to capture a close up of Crystal, while Ellory got one last rest along side the trail.



Finally, we were back at the car, where we eagerly took off our packs for the last time and drank down some ice cold apple juice. On the way down the highway, it didn't take long for her exhaustion to come to a full circle.



We concluded the trip with celebratory milkshakes and dinner at Heber City's popular Dairy Keen.






Route:


Trailhead: Crystal Lake

Trip Stats:

Distance Hiked: 5 miles
Elevation Low: 10,024 feet
Elevation High: 10,610 feet


Final Thought:

Despite being disappointed about not catching any fish, it was a fantastic hike with some beautiful scenery. We felt fortunate to have some solitude where we were camped, given all the scouts and others camped not far away. Nobody came down to our lake while we were there, but a couple groups of day hikers did go around the upper lake earlier in the morning. We also saw an older couple coming down off the Notch as we got to the top of it, and saw a few other groups of hikers and fishers around Clyde Lake. Between Watson Lake and Cliff Lake we encountered a couple parties of backpackers, on on their way up and the other on their way down. We were also very happy to have done the loop in the direction we did. It would have been quite another challenge for Ellory and I alike to have gone the opposite way.

The whole area definitely sees a lot of use between day hikers, backpackers (including scouts), fishermen, horse riders, and so on, especially around the lakes containing fish, which were at last half of the 17. Once again, I found myself surprised to see how many were out and about mid-week. I don't know that we would have had as much success finding the quiet and peaceful campsite we did away from others had it been on a weekend. Still, it's a great area to do some family backpacking with kids and campsites are plenty. Get away from the fishable lakes though, and I'm sure it wouldn't be as hard to find a secluded campsite. Finding parking at the trailhead on a weekend would be a different matter.

Lastly, I really enjoyed the area around Clyde Lake. The lake itself looked inviting for a swim or a float on a sleeping pad. It also appeared to be full of fish. Mt Watson looked like a good peak to bag. I would definitely like to return there for another night or two, hopefully sometime mid-week again, when crowds should be a little less.

Video:

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DrNed

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Is this also referred to as the Clyde Lake Loop? I believe it was on KSL and maybe even Nick had it in a list of 5 favorite hikes?
Anyways, great report and it looks like the Uintas are totally in business!

I've all the places I've been in the Uintas the view from the Notch overlooking Lovenia is one of my favorites.
Wish I'd been as ambitious as you when my kids were younger - good job!
 

Nick

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Great trip report! I've always called it the Clyde Lake Loop. It was amongst my first backpacking trips in the Uintas back in 2005-ish. We did it in late September and no one was there. Base camped at Twin Lakes for a couple nights and explored out to Hidden. Got caught in some crazy storms and ended up sort of hypothermic. Even my dog was shaking uncontrollably. Retreated to tents without eating and woke up at 2am to a solid sheet of ice covering EVERYTHING. Freezing rain, I guess. The full moon had come out and the reflection from the ice off every little twig, rock and tree was like nothing I'd ever seen before. Got up and built a fire and ate. It was mesmerizing. I wish I had pics of that. Thanks for the refresher. I need to go back and do this after the crowds go away this fall.
 

WasatchWill

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Yeah, I think it is called Clyde Loop as well. I think "17 Lakes" makes it more exciting for the kids though. Turns it into a scavenger hunt of sorts. @Nick that sounds like a horrible and awesome trip all at once.
 

WasatchWill

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So now I'm a bit perplexed and hope I haven't mis-identified some of the lakes, particularly what I have as Booker Lake (40.7057, -110.9676) and what I have as #10 (40.7038, -110.9719), the first of the Three Divide Lakes. Google Maps has my #10 marked up as Booker Lake and I've seen another trip report on another blog where they have it identified as Booker Lake as well, probably a result of going off Google. Google has what I have down as Booker Lake named John Lake instead and no name for the little lake to the right (east) of Google's John Lake. On the Trails Illustrated map I have of the High Uintas, which I had been carrying on me and gone off of, it has Booker Lake as being the one at (40.7057, -110.9676), few hundred yards northeast of what I have as #10 and does not even have a "John Lake" label in the area. USGS map has the words "Booker Lake" placed somewhat in between what I have as #10 and what I have down as Booker Lake, but the words are a bit closer to my #10 and then it has "John Lake" off to the other side of the lake I have down as Booker Lake.

Is Google right? And is Booker Lake actually one of the Three Divide Lakes, being the only one of the three with its own unique name? Again, the way the Trails Illustrated Map would have you read it is that the group of three little lakes strung so closely together in a row there would make up what is called Three Divide Lakes, which makes sense, with Booker Lake being the one to the northeast of there. I will note here that the TI map does have Rock Lake and Azure Lake, a little further south down by Haystack Mountain, correctly labeled where USGS and Google have the names of those lakes mismatched. So in that case, TI is the most accurate so I want to lean on it also being more accurate in having Booker Lake being the lake at (40.7057, -110.9676) and separate from the Three Divide Lakes..

If Google is right about Booker Lake though and Booker Lake is not part of the three, then where is the 3rd (or 1st) of the Three Divide Lakes? The one sitting at about (40.7067, -110.9724); which Google has down as James Lake when zoomed in on it? Interesting that it has the little lake (40.7099, -110.9775) over by Hidden Lake as Peter Lake, to make it "Peter, James, & John".

Does anyone know for certain which lakes are which here?
 

Rockroller

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Nice trip report! It's awesome your daughter goes with you. That's some special daddy-daughter time that you will always remember. The lake that you have labeled as Booker is actually John Lake. Yes The first of the Three Divide Lakes is actually Booker. There is actually a sign at Booker lake. I actually took a picture of me by the Booker Lake sign last year when I was there. The lake between John and Twin Lakes is unnamed as far as know. I had never thought about Peter, James & John though. Interesting? Thanks for reminding me of my trips in that area last year. It's a beautiful place.
 
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WasatchWill

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Thanks guys. But dang! Now I have to make edits all over the place. They need to name the other two lakes so it's not so confusing! I'll start. I'm naming the 2nd one up, Little Island Lake.
 

elkaholic

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I am so glad to see that you took your little one up there. I am contemplating a trip up there with my 6, 4, and 1 year old. The only problem is my wife has to carry the 1 year old and I don't know if iI can carry enough gear for 5 people. good thing it is a short hike :)
 

ogdendude

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Awesome. I also got my daughter out for an over-nighter in the Uintas when she was 6. Great way to start.
I have done this loop before as a day hike, and believe it to not actually got lost. My confusion was when to leave the Notch Trail to head towards the Twin Lakes. Some people said there is a sign and then I couldn't find any sign on the trail. Is there a sign for the Twin Lakes now?
 

WasatchWill

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I am so glad to see that you took your little one up there. I am contemplating a trip up there with my 6, 4, and 1 year old. The only problem is my wife has to carry the 1 year old and I don't know if iI can carry enough gear for 5 people. good thing it is a short hike :)

I'd consider something a little shorter, such as Ruth Lake, but do it mid-week if you can. That one is only about a mile and relatively flat. That way it's easy enough to pack up some gear, then return to the car to get the rest of need be. My wife and I took all four of our kids up there last year with our youngest being 2 at the time. He ended up with an ear infection that actually kept him up much of the night and he got pretty miserable. So I ended up packing out half our stuff back to the car, then my wife packed out the rest of it as I had our son on my back.

Another option, if you're specifically looking to do the same trip I did this report on, you could always just pull over at Wall Lake to camp and do some day hike exploring from there. Then you're not far at all from the trailhead, only about a mile, which would make it pretty easy to do two trips with gear if needed. If you do that, all you can do is hope there's not crowds of scouts up there on the same night.

Awesome. I also got my daughter out for an over-nighter in the Uintas when she was 6. Great way to start.
I have done this loop before as a day hike, and believe it to not actually got lost. My confusion was when to leave the Notch Trail to head towards the Twin Lakes. Some people said there is a sign and then I couldn't find any sign on the trail. Is there a sign for the Twin Lakes now?

I don't think there is an actual sign, and if there is one, I didn't see it either. There are some cairns, or some attempts at cairns marking the turn-off. It seemed obvious enough. Just had to keep my eye carefully on the left as we got nearer to the Notch.
 

WasatchWill

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By the way, I just have to post that while Ellory and I were skunked by the fish on this trip. She finally made her first catch yesterday. We were up Provo Canyon.

upload_2015-7-1_6-35-22.png
 
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Awesome, thanks for the report! I'm actually looking at doing some backpacking with my kids. Looking at gearing up, do you mind telling me what tent that is? Looking for a two man tent to use with them.
 

WasatchWill

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It's an REI Half Dome 2. Not the lightest or the cheapest, but very roomy for a 2 man. I was fortunate to win it from an REI photo contest on Facebook before social media went big time with big brands. No way I could compete with their following in a similar contest now. If you're just starting out and don't want to spend that much, I'd go up to Recreation Outlet and take a look at this one: https://recreationoutlet.com/wilderness-technology-north-duo-tent.html or find a Sportsman's Warehouse that may carry this one: http://www.tetonsports.com/Tents/Backpacking/Mountain-Ultra-2-Tent.htm#.Vak94ZPF-kA. Those are both manufactured by local brands and will both be comparable in size, weight, and setup at a lesser cost, but I do love the REI one!
 
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It's an REI Half Dome 2. Not the lightest or the cheapest, but very roomy for a 2 man. I was fortunate to win it from an REI photo contest on Facebook before social media went big time with big brands. No way I could compete with their following in a similar contest now. If you're just starting out and don't want to spend that much, I'd go up to Recreation Outlet and take a look at this one: https://recreationoutlet.com/wilderness-technology-north-duo-tent.html or find a Sportsman's Warehouse that may carry this one: http://www.tetonsports.com/Tents/Backpacking/Mountain-Ultra-2-Tent.htm#.Vak94ZPF-kA. Those are both manufactured by local brands and will both be comparable in size, weight, and setup at a lesser cost, but I do love the REI one!
Thanks for the info! I'll go take a look at Recreation Outlet and see what they have.
 
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