Sunday, August 4, 2013

On Top of the World

Ten years ago I would have NEVER even considered going on a backpacking trip in the high Uinta Mountains. Ten years ago I was wimpier and whinier! But being brave, I decided to make this a Filthy Fifty item and attempt the adventure.

Backpacking demands that you stuff everything you are going to need for four days in a high-tech lightweight backpack...sleeping bag, tent, clothes, food, toothbrush, water filter, cooking supplies, etc. Oh...and for best friend Mark III; which incidentally added five huge pounds to my total backpack weight of twenty-five pounds.

EVERY ounce of weight matters when you are packing. You have to be prepared for any type of weather, first aid, emergencies, etc. Camping in a remote wilderness area there is NO cell phone coverage and NO fast food drive-thru when you get hungry.

From the trail head to our intended camp site at Beaver Lake is a 7 mile hike with 3000 feet in elevation gain. Really not that steep or long, but it is at high altitude and you are carrying a heavy pack. Around mile 5 we stopped and rested at the Big Meadow for a snack and a drink. I have been working all summer at getting myself in shape. I didn't want to be the one holding up the group. Although I may be a grandmother, I refuse to act like one.

The Big Meadow holds such nostalgia for Dean. He spent his youth running through this meadow and hiking this trail. And I know we both were reliving the time we brought Jocie to the Big Meadow. Her young skinny legs easily making the long hike in and then out all in one day...about a fourteen mile round trip.

But this time we would be staying for 4 days.


we arrive!

The next thing to do...

find a place to set up camp.

And immediately tie up the Diet Cokes so they could be chillin' in the lake. I negotiated with Dean, that he would pack in two Diet Cokes for me if I went on this trip. You can bet I brought 16 ouncers! Cass and Bob also packed in Diet Cokes. Ridiculous...I know!

Oh the photography up there!

It would be impossible to pack in enough water for the entire four days, so we brought along two water filters to purify the stream water and make it suitable for drinking.

This water tastes amazing.

With the exception of the moose who was standing in the middle of the lake eating when we arrived, we had the entire place to ourselves. Tranquil air gently settles on the pastoral scene. Each of us found something to do that first evening...

losing yourself in the moment catching fish...

making a big splash...

or capturing the setting sun melting into the Wilderness.

Chet was nominated to make a fire.

as we watched the full moon and the sun exchange places watching over us.

Plans were made around firelight for tomorrow's adventure and then we crawled into the most comfortable sleeping arrangements and drifted off into la la land...NOT! Sleeping was the most difficult part for me, but I'm not whining!

Coffin lake is located about two miles from Beaver Lake. With no visible trail, first thing in the morning we bushwhacked our way to the lake

and spent the day in a high mountain playground.

This was supposed to be a funny face unknown to me, Cassandra attempts to push me into the lake.'s that pretty! We left Dean on the banks of Coffin Lake to catch us a trout dinner as the rest of us hiked up to the even higher elevation lakes.

Filtering more drinking water in this icy cold lake, it was my idea to wade through instead of navigate more boulder fields surrounding the lake. I had a tiny melt down (OK it might have been bigger than that) in the middle of the lake as my feet turned into frozen paddles and refused to move. Chet came to my rescue and talked me back into reality, urging me to continue making my way across.

This socks and shoes putting on rock spot came in handy.

Bob and Chet decided to navigate up a steep boulder field to attempt reaching the ridge line. You can't even see a third of this steep slope.

Cass and I discovered lake after lake while we waited for the boys to come back down. We played with the camera a bit while we waited. They abandoned the venture after getting low on drinking water.

Nature is spectacular and impressive in this hidden world high in the mountains.

The flowers growing from these lily pads resemble gorgeous perfect yellow roses. I couldn't help notice the clouds as they dance and reflect in the water of the small pond.

Meanwhile...the fisherman has done his thing and shows off a couple of the beauties we would soon be eating for dinner.

The mountain air breathes life into my soul.

Unplugged from real life, we have time and space to dip our toes into gurgling streams and soak up one another.

I love the mountain man face Dean quickly acquires and settles into.

They are completely giddy as Chet reels in his first fish. The boys caught fish as fast as they could cast out the line and reel the fish in...letting many of them go to swim another day.

But this one was delicious!

On the third day, we made plans to hike to the top of Thompson Pass with an elevation of around 12,000 feet.

I'm showing Dean how to smile for the camera. Don't be jealous of my hair. With no grooming equipment but a small comb...I opted for two pony tails most of the time. Which by the way is a Filthy Fifty...wearing my hair in a pony tail for the first time in FOURTY years! I've been growing it out since my birthday, and it's finally long enough to make a pony tail...or two!

Expert backpackers, Bob and Cass...sans Olivia and Henry...were delightful to camp with! Although we all couldn't stop talking about the little ones the entire time...I think Bob missed them the most!

Living on freeze dried food and granola bars for days can start to got old. At this point, anything like fresh fruit is a priceless commodity. Cass pulled an apple from her pack...lightly ate around most of it and then tossed it into the bushes. Incredulous that she would throw so much of it away, Dean scolded his oldest daughter and hunted down the abandoned apple. He munched most of the rest of it except the seeds...Chet and I even begged for a bite.

I have been on many hikes in my life, but I've never seen a landscape like this one.

Cairns of stone mark the way to the top.

The air became increasingly thin as we huffed and puffed our way to the top. Bob and Chet decided to race the rest of the way. Chet won...must be these teenage lacrosse legs of his.

The view is breathtaking! Not much grows here on top of the world...the wind and the cold are not very hospitable to vegetation.

My boy...turning into a man so fast I can't stand it!

Probably my favorite photo of the trip...Cass immediately berated Bob to get down from that rock before he fell off the cliff.

I love this bunch.

I love that my daughter and son-in-law jumped at the invitation to tag along on this little adventure in the mountains.

I also love that for $20 I bought a tiny remote that makes it so much easier to take this group shot.

The view as we make our way back down the high mountain tundra.

Following a long day of hiking we arrive back at camp and soak our tired dirty toes...

and play again.

I don't know why my younger self would never have gone on this hike. I don't know why I let things like toilets and shampoo and a warm cushy bed keep me from Paradise and a moment like this. I wish I had been wiser and more willing to step away from comfortable into the unfamiliar. Maybe it's from the great loss I experienced...but my older self wants to see and learn everything I can from this world.

And it's never too late to start...


  1. Wow, this is a fabulous recap. I love all of your adventures and I think I need to know where to find that $20 Remote. Love you.

  2. Wow, this is a fabulous recap. I love all of your adventures and I think I need to know where to find that $20 Remote. Love you.

  3. Your thoughts are as beautiful as your photos. That last B&W is one of my favs. So happy you were all able to to do this trip!

  4. One of the things I love when I read your blog is how complimentary you are about your family. It's obvious that you love them and enjoy spending time with them - but you share specific things about each person that you admire and appreciate. That is so refreshing! Thanks for the beautiful photos and a reminder to get outside of our comfort zones.

  5. Oh my goodness Mama L...I love this post and your whole fam! This looks like a hike I need to attempt. Love and miss you guys!

  6. I am so happy you took your camera and that remote! What beautiful images and an amazing location! Congrats on crossing another off of your filthy fifty list!

  7. Makes me wish I was better at photography, organizing adventures, and wearing ponytails with is a gorgeous place...our family needs to return soon and do it again. We love hiking in a place where we can only find ourselves!