After some time living in Utah, I was itching to do something longer than a day hike. I stopped at the local REI and picked up the last pieces of gear I needed for a backpacking trip. Then, when the 4th of July weekend came around I had an extra day off of work.
I took my chance and drove to the northern side of the Uinta Mountains. My route took me from Salt Lake City, through Wyoming, and then south back into Utah. The road switched from pavement to gravel as the landscape became more and more remote. My car rolled into the Uinta-Wasatch Cache national forest, and I passed many remote campgrounds before finally reaching the China Meadows trailhead.
My hike to Red Castle lake began. I grabbed my trekking poles, strapped on my backpack, and took off on my 10 miles trek.
The hike was easy enough. I passed across flowing streams, through fields, and on plank boardwalks over swampy terrain. There were many others hiking the same path I did, many of them hiking with their dogs. After about mile 4 clouds rolled in and started to sprinkle rain over the trail. I put on my raincoat and draped my pack cover over my backpack. Then, I hit the only part of the trail with a serious elevation gain. The switchbacks really tired me out and had me wishing I was at the lake. As I emerged from a clearing, Red Castle Peak finally came into view.
Seeing my destination and such a beautiful site really motivated me to continue onward. Somehow though I ended up missing the turn to Lower Red Castle Lake. I realized it after a while but decided to continue towards Upper Red Castle Lake since I was part of the way there. It ended up being 2 miles out of the way taking my hike that day from 10 miles to 12.
Needless to say, I was tired when I reached the lake. My hard extra miles were not in vain though. Even though I saw many other people on the trail, I had the lake completely to myself. I set up my hammock, opened my book, and finally relaxed in the peaceful serenity of nature. It was a perfect night, minus the mosquitos. Thankfully, my hammock had a bug cover so I took shelter in there.
The next morning I woke up and repacked my gear into my backpack and took off on the trail again. The hike was just as beautiful as the previous day. As I neared the end my feet were TIRED. I was walking along just thinking about how long it would be until I was done when I loud grunt came from my right. I whipped around and saw two moose in the long grass. I admired them from afar before moving along. Some other hikers caught up to me when I stopped to eat a granola bar. We talked about the moose, and they asked me if I saw the young calf. Well, now the grunt at me made a lot more sense. I am just glad I wasn't close enough to appear a threat to their calf.
Eventually, I made my way back to the parking lot, weary from the hiking, but glad I had taken the chance to partake in this solo adventure.
Until next time! -Hawkin