Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mirror Lake Highway & The Uinta Mountains

I don’t know how interested you are in this, but I’m going to tell you about it anyway. This past weekend my girl and I took a day trip into the Uinta Mountains in Northeastern Utah. The Uintas are an offshoot of the Rocky Mountains. They are high—they range between 9,000 and 13,528 feet above sea level at the summit of King’s Peak, the highest peak in Utah. They average somewhere above 10,000 feet and their beauty is magnificent, noble, and very nearly without description.

The Uinta range is rugged, and the vast majority is accessible only by foot. As a boy I spent the best weeks of my summer vacation following my father across the rugged trails that cut through the land. The names and titles of the places still swim fondly in my recollection: The Highline Trail, Naturalist Basin, Four Lake Basin, Dollar Lake, Fox Lake, Henry’s Fork, White Rocks, Queant, and so many more that I could fill a page or better with nothing more than their names.

One summer our dog ran afoul of an unfriendly porcupine in Naturalist Basin; we met an early snowstorm on Labor Day weekend walking to Four Lakes Basin, and when I could no longer carry my pack my father hefted it onto strong shoulders and carried it for me; my great-grandfather walked twenty-some miles when snow came early to Fox Lake; and some seventy years later I followed a similar path, less the snow, and my fondest memory of that trip is my mother, an eagle foiling carelessly across the endless blue sky, and the solitude that snuggled up like an old lover.

The Uinta Mountains are the place I go—in my mind—when I need to escape the everyday stresses and pressures of life. I remember the good times I spent there. The fish I caught. The frolicking play with my brother and cousins. The awe I felt for the skill and knowledge of my father. I thought he knew everything; and most days I still wish he did. I remember the mystery night visitor we had one summer in Four Lakes who would take all our fish, but leave the heads dangling from the aluminum line that was attached to a tall pine. The amazing thing is we never heard a sound.

I don’t get up into the Uinta Mountains as much as I would like, but each summer we try to make at least two visits. And this past weekend the first trip to paradise finally happened. We didn’t do much but take the drive up Utah Highway 150 to Mirror Lake and have a picnic before walking around the lake. It was crowded—every time I go back there seems to be a few more people, a little more trash, and a whole lot more noise, but still it is the best place I have ever been. And I know that it is very probably the best place I will ever be.

The photographs were all taken Saturday July 28 at Mirror Lake. The really good stuff is off the beaten path in the backcountry. There are places where you won't see another person for weeks, and better yet places where it is easy to believe in something beyond oneself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you. I have the same fond memories of my trips to the Mirror Lake Highway when I was a child. We are lucky to have such a great area not too far from where we live and I feel very lucky to get to share this place with my children just like my dad did with me.

Thanks for the photos.