Naturalist Basin - September 2019

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Jackson

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May 31, 2015
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September 14-15, 2019

Seeing everyone's photos and trip reports trickling in from the past summer spurred me to write this one up. I love winter, but I also love summers in the mountains.

This was a somewhat spur-of-the-moment trip. It was after Labor Day, and I was wanting to see somewhere that would have been too busy during peak season, which was now over. Naturalist Basin ended up being my choice.

Got to the trailhead and got started. The weather was perfect all day. Not a cloud in the sky for the most part. Early into the walk, I passed Scudder Lake. The whole area had burned the previous summer. It was interesting to walk through all the snags and see what survived and what didn't.

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Even the walkways had burned and begun to fall apart.

I got closer to the basin and it started to get more meadowy.

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I reached Jordan Lake and ran into the second group of hikers of the day. They were looking around in tall grass for some lost glasses, and they asked me to keep my eyes peeled for them as I headed up the trail.

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It was quite a steep climb from there up to the bench above. The views were good though.
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It also got more alpine tundra-y.
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Nice views of Shaler Lake.
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I found a stupid mylar balloon in the bushes up high. Maybe someone accidentally let it go, but maybe not. That people intentionally let go of balloons so often really gets on my nerves, and this is a prime example of why it sucks so much.
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So I cut it off of the bush and packed it out. It was a really big one. Looked like it had been up there a while since it was so faded.
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I moved on, occasionally having to thrash my way through thickets of willow and pine bushes.

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LeConte Lake was nice.
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The water was nice and clear, and the separation in colors as it got deeper was interesting.
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Blue Lake was also nice. For some reason, I didn't realize it was Blue Lake until I had mostly finished walking by it.
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I got to the steep descent down to Morat Lakes, and I was glad I didn't have to go up what I was coming down.
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I set up camp near the southern shore of the more westerly Morat Lake. I thought I would be alone for the night, but a couple hiked in with their dogs an hour or so later and set up camp on the eastern shore. They were friendly and pretty quiet.

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The hike out in the morning was great. Frost had fallen overnight, and it was dead quiet. I got an early start, before the sun had risen.

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Completely serene.
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I didn't take any more photos after the sun had fully come up. As I trudged through the forest on my hike out, I was accompanied by a solitary bugling elk. He was very close, as I could clearly hear him crashing through the bushes nearby, and his bugling was really loud at certain points. The forest was too thick to see more that 10-20 feet in most directions though. It was an amazing experience. I managed to get one recorded, so I uploaded to Youtube for purposes of this trip report.


I got back to the trailhead nice and quick. Great, short trip. Glad I was finally able to see Naturalist Basin.
 
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wabenho

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Nice! Good timing hitting Naturalist in September. That place can get busy in peak season. Looks like you had nice weather.
Crazy how Scudder looks after the fire. Could you tell how far it burned down towards Wilder, Wyman and Packard?
Thanks for sharing!
 

Jackson

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Nice! Good timing hitting Naturalist in September. That place can get busy in peak season. Looks like you had nice weather.
Crazy how Scudder looks after the fire. Could you tell how far it burned down towards Wilder, Wyman and Packard?
Thanks for sharing!
I don't believe it extended that far in that direction, but my recollection is not perfect on that. If I recall correctly, it headed more south or south-southwest from Scudder. But again, that stretch is kind of a blur in my memory because I was moving quickly to get to the basin on the way in and moving quickly to get to the car on the way out. Haha.
 

Rockroller

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Nice Trip Report! I went here last August with my son for the first time. This brought back my memories of that awesome trip with my son. I've stayed away from Naturalist Basin because it's such a popular area. But decided I finally need to see this basin and cross this off my bucket list. I was lucky and never seen many people when we visited. I will return again sometime soon. Thanks for helping me get through the winter. Come on summer. I need a trip in the Uintas!
 

LarryBoy

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Man that's heartbreaking to see Scuder burned like that. Good thing the rest of the trip looked so lovely!
 

Jackson

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Man that's heartbreaking to see Scuder burned like that. Good thing the rest of the trip looked so lovely!
I've never been through an area burned so recently. It was pretty wild. Barely anything had started to grow out of the ashes. But it's also possible I missed whatever flowers had grown over the summer since this was September.
 

Born to Hike

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I have fond memories of Naturalist Basin that was my 1st trip in the Uintas when I was a teenager, ahem..not tooo long ago - what a beautiful place!
Thanks for cleaning up someone else's garbage too (the mylar balloon) btw!
 

Born to Hike

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I've never been through an area burned so recently. It was pretty wild. Barely anything had started to grow out of the ashes. But it's also possible I missed whatever flowers had grown over the summer since this was September.
The fire through Scudder Lake was HOT - even the soil burned. Crazy!
 

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Dave

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Man that's heartbreaking to see Scuder burned like that. Good thing the rest of the trip looked so lovely!
I hear you, but counterpoint: the Murdock Fire has and will continue to improve overall forest health by clearing out pine beetle kill and deadfall, fertilizing the forest floor, encouraging new growth and diversifying the age of the conifer stands. It also opens up views from around Scudder, which I'd argue is an improvement for recreation. In many ways, the Murdock Fire was the perfect "managed" fire. It did zero damage to structures, took no human life, supported a mosaic burn pattern and was ultimately extinguished by natural forces (weather).

As humans we have an emotional attachment to places we love and seeing them burn hurts, but I'd much rather see a fire like Murdock every few years as opposed to a 100,000 acre mega fire that just rips through entire basins.

Sorry for the rant. Loved the report @Jackson, especially seeing the boardwalk.
 

LarryBoy

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I hear you, but counterpoint: the Murdock Fire has and will continue to improve overall forest health by clearing out pine beetle kill and deadfall, fertilizing the forest floor, encouraging new growth and diversifying the age of the conifer stands. It also opens up views from around Scudder, which I'd argue is an improvement for recreation. In many ways, the Murdock Fire was the perfect "managed" fire. It did zero damage to structures, took no human life, supported a mosaic burn pattern and was ultimately extinguished by natural forces (weather).

As humans we have an emotional attachment to places we love and seeing them burn hurts, but I'd much rather see a fire like Murdock every few years as opposed to a 100,000 acre mega fire that just rips through entire basins.

Sorry for the rant. Loved the report @Jackson, especially seeing the boardwalk.
I'm well acquainted with natural fire cycles and the century of mismanagement that leads to huge, hot mega-burns. And I think it's a fair point to argue that this fire was in fact necessary to cleanse the buildup of fuel after decades of fire suppression. But fire that's a part of a healthy cycle doesnt create a wasteland. That is to say, this fire (judging solely from Jackson's photos, having done no research whatsoever) was hot and nasty and recovery will take time. The hope though is that the next fire to impact this area will be more in line with historical (pre-suppression) norms and not just torch the area completely.
 

Jackson

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Here are some additional burn pictures, for anyone interested. Posted in the order they were taken, and all were before the one looking down at the lake, so to the north of Scudder Lake and on its northeast side..
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WasatchWill

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While it can get crowded up there in peak season for sure, especially on weekends and holidays, the flowers up on the high bench can be something surreal during that time too.
 

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