Hayden Lake: A Reverse Relay Trip

Over the summer, after my wife had successfully enjoyed her first solo overnight trip in the Uintas, we hatched an idea to do a reverse relay trip of sorts whereby I would drive up to a trailhead in the Uintas and hike out to a destination for the night, then continue on to another trailhead where she'd meet me with our kids at another trailhead and then she'd do the same course in reverse, driving my car home.

- Day 1 -
Tuesday - July 31, 2018

Having never been to Ibantik Lake or Bench Lake and that whole section of trail between the Notch and Bald Mountain, we made plans for me to start out at the Bald Mountain trailhead.  I would seek out a camp around Ibantik Lake for the night and then Jess and the kids would meet me at the Crystal Lake Trailhead the following day for the trade-off.  

Driving up to Bald Mountain Pass, however, there was quite a plume of smoke erupting out on the horizon in the direction I'd be hiking.  Needing to keep my attention to the road and not willing to pull-over until at the trailhead, it was difficult to gauge just where the smoke was coming from.  It was late in the afternoon, when I had made the drive up and didn't get the trailhead and on the trail until early evening.  I conversed with a group at the trailhead who had just come down from Bald Mountain itself about the smoke and likely fire out in the distance on the other side of the mountain.  They confirmed the smoke and said someone else up on the mountain had called it in to the Forest Service but didn't know any other details about it.  

I opted to keep going, at least until I could see the smoke again and figure out just where its source was exactly.  At certain spots, I could smell the smoke from within the trees along the trail.

At Clegg Lake I got a real good view out at where the smoke was billowing up and there stopped to survey the situation.  The plume of smoke was much thinner now than it was not more than an hour before when I briefly saw it from the highway.  Now, it was clear that it was coming from right within the basin Ibantik Lake sits.

Oh great, some careless campers let their fire get out of control last night, was the first of the train of thoughts that ran through my head.  Will it get worse and grow overnight? Will it be safe for me to continue on and camp in the area?  What about the next night and day when Jess would have to come through there?  

Then a father with some young children of his own pass by as they were hiking out.  He said they had camped out by Meadow Lake the night before and intended to stay in the area another night, but in watching the fire and smoke from there, they opted to end their trip a day early.  Given all that had been happening with the California fires and how unusual and incredibly dry conditions were there in the Uintas now, I reasoned it wasn't worth taking any chances.  I was going to bail.

I thought through some other contingencies of trips that could be done from other nearby trailheads.  Could the same sort of reverse relay be done elsewhere nearby?

Then it hit me.  Pass Lake and Ruth Lake Trailheads were only minutes away down the highway.  While it'd be a much shorter route, a revere relay could still be done.  I had never been up along the Loft Lake Loop either, so the opportunity was still there to hike through an area I wasn't familiar with.  I got my InReach out and messaged Jess with the change of plans.  I'd drive out to Ruth Lake Trailhead and hike up to Hayden Lake just beyond Ruth Lake to stay the night given how short I'd be on time.  I'd then meet her at Pass Lake Trailhead early in the afternoon the following day.

I hiked back to my car and got things underway with the new plan.  With an hour of good daylight left, I cruised through the mile it took to get from trailhead to Hayden Lake.

Once at Hayden Lake, I used what daylight was left to set up camp and try a bit of fishing.  While some fish had been jumping while I set up camp, by the time I had gotten my rod out and started casting, they had all seemingly gone to bed for the night.  No fish for me.  I would just go to bed to then.


- Day 2 -
Wednesday - August 1, 2018

The next morning I awoke to mostly overcast skies with some occasional breaks in the clouds.

I tried some more fishing, but again, no luck.  Still, I enjoyed the peace and solitude.  Nobody else was around as far as I could tell.

By about mid-morning, I had camp all packed up and was heading back to the trail.

Once Ruth Lake and Hayden Peak had come back into view, everything from there on out would be all new to me.  I proceeded up the trail to the pass that would lead me up above Camp Steiner, the local BSA camp, and then up and over to Lofty Lake.

I pulled over up on the pass to take in the views out across the basins that surround Mirror Lake.  Just a few weeks before, I had enjoyed a remarkable 5 day trip with friends further out on the horizon.  Only now, the views were definitely smokier.

Down below and much closer sat Scout Lake, Camp Steiner, and Picturesque Lake.  It looked like an ant colony at work with all the scouts scurrying around, the faint sounds of their screams, laughter, cheers, and tools at work all intruding the air.

I'd also greet the first of the many Loft Lake Loop day-hikers I expected to encounter on the day.

To the other side, the sky was clearing up a good bit and Lofty Lake quickly came into view after leaving my perch on the pass.

On the far side of the lake from the trail sat another family out enjoying some lunch, others fishing.  Then another group arrived at the lake as I quickly left it behind.

It wasn't until the trail took a nice bend all while presenting a fantastic view out over Cutthroat Lake and beyond.  Nobody else was there, so I perched up for a longer view once more while enjoying a snack.

A chipmunk showed up, clearly expecting me to share.  Nope, not gonna happen.  I was selfish.

On the approach to Kamas Lake, there were a few flowers holding on in the meadows alongside the trail, but as a whole, the flowers had clearly peaked in the weeks before as experienced on the last trip.

Once on the shores of Kamas Lake, I pulled over once more for another snack break and to try some more fishing.  By now though, clouds were starting to build up and gather in again and the lake was a bit choppy.  I tried a number of different lures and none produced any results.

I hung out for close to an hour, until about noon.  Jess was to meet me at about 1 so I made sure to give myself ample time to finish out the hike down to the trailhead.  Along the way back, I had been scouting out and tracking some nice looking secluded campsites to pass off to Jess.

Reid's Meadow was gorgeous!

And finally, I arrived at the trailhead where Jess and the kids had already been hanging out for a few minutes.  We exchanged greetings and I helped her get all loaded up, passing off some of my gear for her own use.

Then we staged this photo taken by my daughter, Willow. 

On the way home, I stopped at Provo River Falls with the kids.

This was our youngest and final child's first visit there.

Jess would go on to camp at a spot I had found for her near Kamas Lake.  A storm moved in after she got her camp set up and dumped a good bit of rain through the rest of the afternoon.  She loves rain though, so it was actually a nice treat for her to kick back in the tent and relax with it.  She then did some fishing herself and landed what she says was her biggest catch ever.  She thought she had set it in a safe place while she went back to get her phone for a picture, but apparently the fish found its way back into the water by the time she was ready to take a picture.  Oops.

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