Looping the Highline - Episode One

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Perry

Formerly Cuberant
.
Joined
Aug 8, 2016
Messages
1,712
All spring and summer this year I've been trying to find a way to get back into the heart of the Uinta Mountains. My wife and I came up with the idea of several short multi-day trips in August and September that I hoped would get me there. A through hike of the Highline Trail was out of the question as I could not justify being away from home that long at a time. Also the logistics of entry and exit are a nightmare without multiple vehicles and lots of highway time. Searching for looping opportunities requiring three to four days at a time seemed to be the ticket. This would allow me to see some new country and to revisit places along the Highline Trail. That's what I have planned and have begun executing. This is the first in my series I'm calling Looping the Highline.

Here is my route for Episode One.

81287



Here is a video of my trip. Hope you enjoy it, otherwise read on.



This would be my first multi-day solo backpacking trip. I was anxious as I did not know how I would do by myself. Turns out being alone was the last thing on my mind and I totally loved it.

My trip would begin at Spirit Lake. Spirit Lake sits at 10,200 feet so it seemed like a good place to start, keeping the climb to a minimum. My route would take me along the Browne-Spirit Trail crossing the South Fork Sheep Creek drainage. Many beautiful parks along the way.

81288



Beautiful streams.

81291



Refreshing springs.

81296


After a nice break for brunch along a nice creek I continued on to join up with the Whiterocks Trail up and over the crest of the Uintas. This trail is referred to as the Deadman High Ridge Trail on older maps. Upon reaching the trail sign all blazes and cairns disappear. No foot paths appear until reaching the base of the final climb. Once reaching what looked like what would be the pass I was surprised to discover I would basically be going straight up and over the mountain to the right.


From part way up the mountain a view of Anson Lake.

81289



Looking to the east I could see Flaming Gorge Reservoir and beyond.

81290



The final grind to the top was via a maze of switch backs through rocks. Quite a climb.

On top Whiterocks Reservior came into view.

81292



From here on down to the Highline Trail would be a miserable crossing of many rock fields. There was no trail. Occasional cairns on the upper half but nothing beyond. Once on the Highline I could relax a bit and cruise along a relatively level section to Whiterocks Reservoir and beyond. I had hoped to have made it to Chepeta Lake to make camp for the night but decided to stop somewhere in between. Turned out to be a beautiful location with a nice flat spot on a rise to pitch the tent.

81293



The view from camp was very tranquil.

81294



Even had a visitor.

81295



Day 2

Packed up camp and was on my way to Chepeta Lake by about 8:00am. Once in the area I had to cross the Whiterocks River which was not a rock hopping exercise. I was determined to keep dry feet on this trip so I bare footed it across and soon arrived at the Chepeta Trail Head.

Continuing on I came to the eastern-most of the Reader Lakes.

81297



I recalled coming by here in 2016 with my brother and seeing a cow moose and her two calves here. We actually got really close to her calves on the south end of the lake while mom continued eating at the other end. It was a pretty cool encounter. Wouldn't you know as I shot this picture I noticed a cow on the other side of the lake in almost the same spot! She was alarmed and quickly made her way out of the lake and up into the trees. I managed a quick, grainy shot with the long lens before she got away.

81298


Sure made me wonder if that was the same cow or perhaps one of her offspring. Pretty cool.

Continuing on I arrived at one of my favorite streams. I call it Reader Creek but I don't think that's its official name. I just find it incredibly photogenic.

81299



I took my lunch at Reader Creek then got back on the trail. Now begins the hard part of the day. The long climb up and over North Pole Pass just coming into view.

81300



Climbing up I could see Taylor Lake off to the south.

81301



Looking back from where I stopped at a favorite watering hole.

81302



The flowers were enjoying the spring water as much as I did!

81303



As I crossed the high point of North Pole Pass I entered the High Uinta Wilderness Area. Soon my destination for the day came into view.

Clockwise starting at three o'clock: Fox Lake, Brook Lake and Crescent Lake.

81304



I made camp just north of Fox Lake along a beautiful creek.

81305



Day Three

Today I would leave the Highline Trail and head back over the crest via the Divide Trail.

Passing by Fox Lake before hitting the trail junction. Off in the distance is impressive Mt Emmons, one of the members of the Kings-Emmons ridge line.

81306



Shortly after leaving the Highline I quickly lost the trail. It took me 15-20 minutes to find it again. It's like it was there then it wasn't. Very odd. From here it was a pretty good climb up to the pass. Along the way I stopped to filter some fine water flowing down from Divide Lake.

81307



A stunning view of Divide Lake. More of Mt Emmons, Mt Roberts and Trail Rider Peak.

81308



A beautiful tarn right at the pass. Its amazing the places you can find water in these mountains.

81309



Now begins the descent to Island Lake. The creek along the way slowed me down quite a bit as I had to stop to admire all the beautiful views.

81310


81311



Island Lake comes in to view.

81312



Arriving at Island Lake.

81313


Its interesting to note this is one of multiple lakes in the Uintas with the name Island Lake. In my video I mentioned Island Lake along the Lakes Country Trail along the Mirror Lake Highway. Since then I have run across yet another lake with the same name.

From here things got really interesting. Once across the western shore and back into the trees the trail completely disappeared. It was difficult crossing with much dead fall on a slope for about 1/2 mile. Finally found a major creek feeding the lake on the left hand side and lo and behold a trail appeared. Time for lunch in the cool shade. Beautiful flowers everywhere.

81314


81315


81316


81317



From left to right, Taylor Peak, East Burnt Fork and West Burnt Fork Peaks. North Pole Pass is just behind East Burnt Fork Peak.

81318



Now that I found the trail it was just a mater of miles. I would cross many parks and climb one of the steepest trails I've ever been on in the Uintas. One park, Mc Coy Park, was huge and I felt like I was chasing cairns for miles.

Last point of interest while approaching the terminus was Tamarack Lake.

81319



It was a great trip. 44 GPS miles, crossing three major passes. Looking forward to episode two!
 
Last edited:

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Fatboy

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Joined
Aug 29, 2019
Messages
11
Very nice! I can see why that area in general gets so much use.

Love those long views.
 
Joined
Feb 15, 2018
Messages
12
Very nice! I can see why that area in general gets so much use.

Love those long views.
Does it nowadays? It has been over 20 years since I was last in this area, but at the time it seemed like the least used area of the Uintas to me. We rarely ever saw a single person on the trails during our trips. Seems like backpacking is getting a little too popular these days.
 

Perry

Formerly Cuberant
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Messages
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Does it nowadays? It has been over 20 years since I was last in this area, but at the time it seemed like the least used area of the Uintas to me. We rarely ever saw a single person on the trails during our trips. Seems like backpacking is getting a little too popular these days.
Totally depends on where you go and when. On this trip I only saw one other person. On my more recent trip I ran into 8 backpackers on the Highline. When I got into the Red Castle area it was a bit of a zoo. Memorial Day weekend you know.
 

wsp_scott

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Joined
May 16, 2016
Messages
591
Looks like a great time and great weather.

What camera did you carry?
 

Perry

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Messages
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Looks like a great time and great weather.

What camera did you carry?
The stills were shot with a Sony RX10-IV. Video shot on GoPro Hero 7 Black. On an upcoming episode I shot all the stills with a new Sony RX100-VII.
 

WasatchWill

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Messages
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The stills were shot with a Sony RX10-IV. Video shot on GoPro Hero 7 Black. On an upcoming episode I shot all the stills with a new Sony RX100-VII.
I really wish Sony could have been able to keep the integrated ND filter and the 1.8 lens as they evolved the RX100. Now I'm torn between the III and the VII as an all purpose camera I'd like to upgrade to for my backcountry trips. I really like the III for it's lower light capabilities with the 1.8 wide lense and what it's capable of capturing from the night skies, plus portrait shots, etc. With the VII, they've added a mic port, plus it shoots 4K and all that, so it has massive appeal to me now for video. But it no longer has the ND filters built into it (I know this can be overcome with a Lensmate adapter so not as much of an issue). It's widest aperture is now 2.8 instead of 1.8 though. Boo! I would really like to have all the new features of the VII while still being able to use to capture some milky way shots in the same way the III and the other 1.8 models are able to.
 

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Perry

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Messages
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I really wish Sony could have been able to keep the integrated ND filter and the 1.8 lens as they evolved the RX100. Now I'm torn between the III and the VII as an all purpose camera I'd like to upgrade to for my backcountry trips. I really like the III for it's lower light capabilities with the 1.8 wide lense and what it's capable of capturing from the night skies, plus portrait shots, etc. With the VII, they've added a mic port, plus it shoots 4K and all that, so it has massive appeal to me now for video. But it no longer has the ND filters built into it (I know this can be overcome with a Lensmate adapter so not as much of an issue). It's widest aperture is now 2.8 instead of 1.8 though. Boo! I would really like to have all the new features of the VII while still being able to use to capture some milky way shots in the same way the III and the other 1.8 models are able to.
I hear ya. That was my dilemma as well.

So far I’m pretty impressed with the VII but low light is a weak point. The convenience factor is huge plus for me. I carry my Hero 7 Black in my right pants pocket and the RX100 slips in the left hand side. Loving that!

Still learning with it though. It’s a bit different to work with it than my RX10mIV. I took them both on my last trip but the RX10 stayed in my pack the entire trip. Debating to leaving it home on the next time out.
 

WasatchWill

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I hear ya. That was my dilemma as well.

So far I’m pretty impressed with the VII but low light is a weak point. The convenience factor is huge plus for me. I carry my Hero 7 Black in my right pants pocket and the RX100 slips in the left hand side. Loving that!

Still learning with it though. It’s a bit different to work with it than my RX10mIV. I took them both on my last trip but the RX10 stayed in my pack the entire trip. Debating to leaving it home on the next time out.
I think I'll end up leaning into the III (M3) both for cost (half as much as VII) and its 1.8 aperture for those starry night sky shots along with the integrated ND filters. I'd want it more for the photographic abilities that enable it to sub in for my bulkier, heavier DSLR kit over the video capabilities. To step it up on the video/vlog end of it though, I can actually get around the lack of mic port by just getting something like a Zoom H1 and a Rode Micro, or even a mic that can record audio right onto my phone and just sync it all up when editing the video. There's also some apps from Sony you can buy and load onto the M3 to boost dynamic range, do time lapse and star trail videos and so forth.

Given that my phone and GoPro 6 have 4K capability as well, if and when I really want to start shooting anything in 4K, I can just go with either of those two options for video at that point. Or maybe by that point, the VII will have come down in price and I can pick one of those up later on at that time too.
 

Artemus

I walk
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Joined
Jun 25, 2012
Messages
4,352
All spring and summer this year I've been trying to find a way to get back into the heart of the Uinta Mountains. My wife and I came up with the idea of several short multi-day trips in August and September that I hoped would get me there. A through hike of the Highline Trail was out of the question as I could not justify being away from home that long at a time. Also the logistics of entry and exit are a nightmare without multiple vehicles and lots of highway time. Searching for looping opportunities requiring three to four days at a time seemed to be the ticket. This would allow me to see some new country and to revisit places along the Highline Trail. That's what I have planned and have begun executing. This is the first in my series I'm calling Looping the Highline.

Here is my route for Episode One.

View attachment 81287


Here is a video of my trip. Hope you enjoy it, otherwise read on.



This would be my first multi-day solo backpacking trip. I was anxious as I did not know how I would do by myself. Turns out being alone was the last thing on my mind and I totally loved it.

My trip would begin at Spirit Lake. Spirit Lake sits at 10,200 feet so it seemed like a good place to start, keeping the climb to a minimum. My route would take me along the Browne-Spirit Trail crossing the South Fork Sheep Creek drainage. Many beautiful parks along the way.

View attachment 81288


Beautiful streams.

View attachment 81291


Refreshing springs.

View attachment 81296

After a nice break for brunch along a nice creek I continued on to join up with the Whiterocks Trail up and over the crest of the Uintas. This trail is referred to as the Deadman High Ridge Trail on older maps. Upon reaching the trail sign all blazes and cairns disappear. No foot paths appear until reaching the base of the final climb. Once reaching what looked like what would be the pass I was surprised to discover I would basically be going straight up and over the mountain to the right.


From part way up the mountain a view of Anson Lake.

View attachment 81289


Looking to the east I could see Flaming Gorge Reservoir and beyond.

View attachment 81290


The final grind to the top was via a maze of switch backs through rocks. Quite a climb.

On top Whiterocks Reservior came into view.

View attachment 81292


From here on down to the Highline Trail would be a miserable crossing of many rock fields. There was no trail. Occasional cairns on the upper half but nothing beyond. Once on the Highline I could relax a bit and cruise along a relatively level section to Whiterocks Reservoir and beyond. I had hoped to have made it to Chepeta Lake to make camp for the night but decided to stop somewhere in between. Turned out to be a beautiful location with a nice flat spot on a rise to pitch the tent.

View attachment 81293


The view from camp was very tranquil.

View attachment 81294


Even had a visitor.

View attachment 81295


Day 2

Packed up camp and was on my way to Chepeta Lake by about 8:00am. Once in the area I had to cross the Whiterocks River which was not a rock hopping exercise. I was determined to keep dry feet on this trip so I bare footed it across and soon arrived at the Chepeta Trail Head.

Continuing on I came to the eastern-most of the Reader Lakes.

View attachment 81297


I recalled coming by here in 2016 with my brother and seeing a cow moose and her two calves here. We actually got really close to her calves on the south end of the lake while mom continued eating at the other end. It was a pretty cool encounter. Wouldn't you know as I shot this picture I noticed a cow on the other side of the lake in almost the same spot! She was alarmed and quickly made her way out of the lake and up into the trees. I managed a quick, grainy shot with the long lens before she got away.

View attachment 81298

Sure made me wonder if that was the same cow or perhaps one of her offspring. Pretty cool.

Continuing on I arrived at one of my favorite streams. I call it Reader Creek but I don't think that's its official name. I just find it incredibly photogenic.

View attachment 81299


I took my lunch at Reader Creek then got back on the trail. Now begins the hard part of the day. The long climb up and over North Pole Pass just coming into view.

View attachment 81300


Climbing up I could see Taylor Lake off to the south.

View attachment 81301


Looking back from where I stopped at a favorite watering hole.

View attachment 81302


The flowers were enjoying the spring water as much as I did!

View attachment 81303


As I crossed the high point of North Pole Pass I entered the High Uinta Wilderness Area. Soon my destination for the day came into view.

Clockwise starting at three o'clock: Fox Lake, Brook Lake and Crescent Lake.

View attachment 81304


I made camp just north of Fox Lake along a beautiful creek.

View attachment 81305


Day Three

Today I would leave the Highline Trail and head back over the crest via the Divide Trail.

Passing by Fox Lake before hitting the trail junction. Off in the distance is impressive Mt Emmons, one of the members of the Kings-Emmons ridge line.

View attachment 81306


Shortly after leaving the Highline I quickly lost the trail. It took me 15-20 minutes to find it again. It's like it was there then it wasn't. Very odd. From here it was a pretty good climb up to the pass. Along the way I stopped to filter some fine water flowing down from Divide Lake.

View attachment 81307


A stunning view of Divide Lake. More of Mt Emmons, Mt Roberts and Trail Rider Peak.

View attachment 81308


A beautiful tarn right at the pass. Its amazing the places you can find water in these mountains.

View attachment 81309


Now begins the descent to Island Lake. The creek along the way slowed me down quite a bit as I had to stop to admire all the beautiful views.

View attachment 81310

View attachment 81311


Island Lake comes in to view.

View attachment 81312


Arriving at Island Lake.

View attachment 81313

Its interesting to note this is one of multiple lakes in the Uintas with the name Island Lake. In my video I mentioned Island Lake along the Lakes Country Trail along the Mirror Lake Highway. Since then I have run across yet another lake with the same name.

From here things got really interesting. Once across the western shore and back into the trees the trail completely disappeared. It was difficult crossing with much dead fall on a slope for about 1/2 mile. Finally found a major creek feeding the lake on the left hand side and lo and behold a trail appeared. Time for lunch in the cool shade. Beautiful flowers everywhere.

View attachment 81314

View attachment 81315

View attachment 81316

View attachment 81317


From left to right, Taylor Peak, East Burnt Fork and West Burnt Fork Peaks. North Pole Pass is just behind East Burnt Fork Peak.

View attachment 81318


Now that I found the trail it was just a mater of miles. I would cross many parks and climb one of the steepest trails I've ever been on in the Uintas. One park, Mc Coy Park, was huge and I felt like I was chasing cairns for miles.

Last point of interest while approaching the terminus was Tamarack Lake.

View attachment 81319


It was a great trip. 44 GPS miles, crossing three major passes. Looking forward to episode two!
Very well done, mister! You have really bumped up your game with regard to traveling in and inventing routes in the high and wild. Well photographed as well. Thanks for taking us along.
 

Artemus

I walk
.
Joined
Jun 25, 2012
Messages
4,352
Apparently your feet are doing fine after all your troubles, eh Perry?
 

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