Through the Notch and Back

One of my first experiences with the Uintas involved hiking up to the well-known Notch over two decades ago when I was a teenager.  I had hiked up it a few times since, but had not yet taken the time to hike down the other side of it and check out the trail all the way down to Ibantik Lake.  Ibantik Lake in particular is a very popular lake I had been wanting to visit myself for a number of years now.  I was finally able to make that happen as a spur hike while yet again, doing an overnight trip along the short but scenic Clyde Lake Loop.

- Day 1 -
Monday - August 12, 2019

I arrived at the Crystal Lake Trailhead pretty late in the day for what would be my first trip in the Uintas for 2019.  I had hoped to start at least an hour earlier.  On the plus side, the later start allowed for more day hiker traffic to clear out enabling me to have ample space for parking when I arrived at the trailhead.  That's something that doesn't often happen during the daytime in mid-summer at what is arguably the busiest trailhead in all of the Uinta Range. 

Having hiked the Clyde Lake loop a number of times now, my personal favorite way to do it is counter-clockwise.  Many others prefer to do it in the clockwise direction.  Either way is great, really.

My way would take me past Crystal Lake, Cliff Lake, Petite Lake, Linear Lake, and Watson Lake, just some of the many lakes to be had along the loop before finally arriving at Clyde Lake where I planned to make my camp for the night.

Crystal Lake through the trees

Boardwalk around Cliff Lake

Cliff Lake looking northwest

Looking south over Cliff Lake

Mount Watson reflecting on Petite Lake

Linear Lake

Mount Watson and Watson Lake

Looking back down trail as it passes around Watson Lake

Wall Lake, Reids Peak and Bald Mountain out in the distance

Alpenglow fading away from Clyde Lake

Once at Clyde Lake, I made my way around to a favorite little campsite of mine.  I was about out of daylight with the sun having just set, so I scrambled to get my camp set up.  Since the fish were looking pretty active out on the lake, I fished until all the twilight left had faded away.

Fish dance across the lake just after sunset

Caught a couple of Brookies

Once back in camp, I made myself a late dinner and watched the moon rise.  Kind of a bummer because it was also the week the Peirseid Meteor Shower was to take place, but then again, it's also awesome to see the moonlight illuminate the surrounding landscape.  I took advantage of how it can really light up night-scape photos and show-off lake-side reflections.  I proceeded to take what photos my little pocket point-and-shoot Sony-HX80 would allow me to before calling it a night.

Moonlit reflection on Clyde Lake

Moonlit camp

Mount Watson stands above camp

- Day 2 -
Tuesday - August 13, 2019

As I awoke, Clyde Lake laid as still as glass.

Morning reflection at Clyde Lake

Clyde Lake

Morning at camp

Once I had retrieved some water down at the lake's outlet to filter, I resumed with some more fishing.  Unlike the prior night, I got skunked pretty bad.  So after a quick breakfast, I bagged up camp and got on my way toward the Notch.

A tarn on the way to the Notch

Small meadow of flowers along the trailside

Corn Lilly in bloom

Prior to the short climb up to the Notch, I'd pass around Twin Lakes.

Flowers past their prime at Upper Twin Lake, Mount Watson beyond

Lower Twin Lake

Approaching the junction with the Notch Trail

Once I arrived at the trail junction with the Notch Trail, I went off trail a ways and stashed my pack full of camp gear behind some trees where I also filled up a packable daypack with some snacks and other essentials for the spur hike to come.  Moments later, I had reached the top of the Notch and enjoyed more familiar views both southward and northward.

Up on the Notch, overlooking Wall Lake, Twin Lakes, and Mount Watson

Panorama view from south side of the Notch

Heading north over the Notch

Once I arrived at the overlook above Lovenia Lake, I had reached the furthest I had ever come on this trail before.  From there on, I'd be seeing new views as I made my way down to Ibantik Lake further on down and out beyond.

Lovenia Lake from a little overlook alongside the trail

A nice snowbank was tucked away off the trail, holding on in its fight against the sun and the summer melt.

Lone snowbank

Flowers were very much abundant all along this section of trail down to Ibantik.

Field of Paintbrush

A bee at work

Paintbrush and Columbine

Trailside flowers

In due time, I arrived at Ibantik Lake where I could finally gaze upon it for the first time.  It sure was beautiful, and I can certainly understand the appeal it has for the many who choose to backpack out to it (it is a very popular destination for local backpackers) but if I'm being honest, I was not as wowed as I was expecting to be.  It was certainly a nice place to have my lunch, but knowing how crowded it can get with fellow backpackers like myself, which was affirmed by the dozens I had greeted on their way back up and out, I found myself feeling quite content with having no desire to ever return to spend the night there.

Then again, Clyde Lake can see its share of crowds too, but it's a little bigger with lots more sites surrounding it, so it's a little easier to spread out away from other campers.

Ibantik Lake inlet stream

Ibantik Lake at the foot of Notch Mountain

Looking at the Notch from across the other side of Ibantik Lake

Outlet creek below Ibantik Lake

Having finished my lunch and wandering around the lake a bit, I turned around and started to make my way back.  I visited one of the few campsites out off the trail and above the lake.  I suppose seeing two recently used fire-rings sitting just 10 to 20 feet apart from each other might serve as evidence for the reputation this lake has in how crowded it really can become.  Or perhaps there's a better and more reasonable explanation for why two fire-rings came to exist so close to each other.  Then again, maybe the reason for this set up leans more towards the absurd.

Duality Camp

Moving on, I found myself once again enchanted by the neighborhood gardens of flowers in full bloom.

Purple Larkspurs and Yellow Arnica?

Purple Blue Bells

Part way back up trail, I opted to scramble cross country a bit to check out Lovenia Lake up close.  In doing so, I encountered two bucks hanging out together, one which appeared to be a 4-point, and the other, a yearling.

Big Buck

Little Buck

Arriving at Lovenia Lake, I was mesmerized by its beautiful bright turquoise water as sunlight sparkled across the rippling waves, stirred up by the mid-day breeze.

Lovenia Lake beneath the Notch

Lovenia Lake from the north shore

Lovenia Lake from west shore

I made my way back on trail and where many more flowers to be enchanted with awaited when the kid inside of me pulled off to other side of the trail for a little glissade down the lone surviving snowbank up against the backside of the Notch.

Trailside Paintbrush

Arrowleaf Ragworts

So many flowers

Eventually I made it back over the Notch, recaptured my pack, and set forward to close out the last half of the loop, which would take me by Hope Lake, an unnamed lake, Wall Lake, and lastly right in between Lilly Lakes at the edge of the trailhead.

Hope Lake Boardwalk

Hope Lake and Mount Watson

Unnamed lake

Wall Lake with the Notch above

Wall Lake panorama

At Wall Lake, typically the busiest lake along this loop with cliff diving being a major summer attraction for folks here, was atypically quiet.  Surprisingly, there were very few people out and about it.  From there, it was a quick mile back to the car to complete my first trip in the Uintas for 2019.

Better late than never!

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