Utah Mountain Route (pt.2)

Okay so some stuff happened due to the awesome help of the developer of the HikerBot app (an android app that acts as a guide on the major US trails).  I was getting a little frustrated with other mobile apps trying to get my route on there, but more importantly having real-time updates on mileage/how far away some stuff is.  Adding all the mile markers by hand was an option but I asked for help before doing so, and help came.

So yeah, my route is now available for viewing.  That being said I wanted to make a post to outline things.

It Isn’t Complete

I haven’t done it yet, I want that to be abundantly clear.  App guides can make things nice, but don’t let that push you into a false sense of security about it, I don’t know what lies ahead should you decide to do it.  You and you alone are responsible for your own safety.  If you haven’t done a long hike before or have minimal-to-no navigational skills:  DO NOT DO IT.  I can’t say for sure what the water situation is like, whether certain trails or routes I decided to draw a line through are passable, etc.  If you take this on, you’re assuming responsibility for everything that could go wrong.  My route at this point is nothing more than a suggested path through Utah and nothing more.

Beyond the obvious obstacles, I tried my hardest to ensure it doesn’t pass through private property, but it very well may at some points.  Be ready to make impromptu detours.  Make sure you have the means to plan out side-trails on your own should this happen.

It isn’t complete.. again

I’m still working on it deciding where it should go depending on what looks good.  The official end is at the Utah/Colorado border, but I saw a place called the Gates of Lodore a ways in to Colorado and decided to extend the trail a little further to end there because it looked cool, and also served as a good pickup spot for your ride back to civilization or potentially a good place to hitchhike from.  Whatever the case, it looks cool so why not.

I’ve ended the trail in four different places now: Idaho, Wyoming, Central Colorado, and now Northern Colorado.  That could change again, I dunno yet.

Water

Planning around water is hard when you don’t have something nifty like the Water Report for the PCT.  I have absolutely no idea of consistent some of these streams and rivers flow.  Just because they are listed doesn’t mean they are reliable.  They are only listed as potential sources, nothing more.  Prepare and carry more water than you think you need.  The desert portion is relatively short, once you get into mid-Fishlake National Forest things should become a little more wet, but again I can’t say for sure one way or the other.

I’ve been looking at the historic flowrates of rivers within the vicinity of the route, and from that it looks like – for water at least – it would be best to start in late May/early June.  Don’t take my word for it though, you can find the information here:

https://waterdata.usgs.gov/ut/nwis/current/?type=flow

Count on some long water hauls in the beginning.  Mile 8.4 to 39.4 (or even beyond that) could potentially be dry, without more thorough data I can’t say for sure.  These are the things you need to plan ahead for/think about when collecting water, the next source could be dry or unreliable.  Take extra.

Snow/Weather

Even though it would be best to start sometime in May, there’s snow to consider.  Snow isn’t inherently bad, but without experiencing it first-hand I can’t say whether or not it’s appropriate for the average long distance hiker.  The trails I routed through look on paper to be okay to walk on with no technical experience, but I can’t make any promises.  Some of the mountain ranges in the southern portion may still have snow, the central and northern ranges will most likely have a little snow, but the biggest area that I’m focusing on is the High Uinta.  The snow there melts to an acceptable level sometime in mid-late July depending on that year’s snow pack.  So either start according to that and adjust your mileage as you go to accommodate entering there at a good time, or start later.  Just don’t start too late, because the water levels start to taper off pretty dramatically by mid-June.

Beyond snow, weather in the High Uinta can be scary.  Count on there being generally horrifying lightning storms around noon every day.  Do not ever be on a high or exposed area around that timeframe.  I’m speaking from experience, you don’t want to be there ever.  It’s fucking scary.

It can go from this:

P1020100.JPG

To this (and worse, it just so happens I wasn’t in the mood for taking pictures of the worst of it):

P1020128.JPG

With little indication sometimes.  One tiny cloud can just melt into a giant bubble of “Fuck you” within an hour of two.  Try and be up and over the higher/exposed areas as soon as possible in the day, or wait for the storm to pass before pushing on.  The trick with that is sometimes the storms can last all day, so it’s really a mixed bag.

Resupply is a Pain Sometimes

There’s a few portions of the trail where you are very far from resupply considering the traditional “I’ll get to down within a day’s hike” on a typical thru-hike.  Some of these could be 1.5 – 2 days away depending on your pace.  Two of them could be extremely difficult considering you’re going from high mountain ranges down to low elevation desert towns (much like coming from the Sierra into the Owen’s Valley area along the PCT into towns like Lone Pine/Bishop).

Helper, UT: 31.6 miles away from the trail.  Hitching from Scofield along the 96 up to hwy 6, to hwy 191 to Helper is potentially possible, but being that I’ve never hitch hiked in some of the less ‘active’ areas in Utah, I can’t say for sure.  Bonus of walking: There’s an abandoned mining town along the side-trail I routed.  So that could be neat.

Altamont, UT: 34.6 miles away from the trail.  This is one of those difficult ones that go from high elevation to low.  There are campgrounds along the way you could potentially get a ride from.  The hard part would be getting a ride back to the trail/campgrounds.  I can’t say with any amount of certainty of how popular these places are.

Whiterocks, UT: 30 miles away from the trail.  Again, from the High Uinta down to lower elevation.

The reason the Altamont and Whiterocks side-trails exist was to break up a very long stretch through the High Uinta that could potentially slow your daily mileage down/increase food consumption.  The next resupply option from Kamas would be near Flaming Gorge near the UT/CO/WY border.  They’re a safety net, but one you have to plan ahead for.  Altamont only has a convenience store, you could maybe resupply from it but your choices are limited.  Whiterocks has a store but it’s very small and I can’t say what the selection is like.  I hope to drive out there sometime to check it out for future reference, though both towns have a post office you could mail a resupply to.

Otherwise resupplies are typically in line with what other thru-hikes are like.  Though some of them require you to mail your resupply, there’s just no way around it.  Each town that has no real store I’ve marked with a mail icon, towns with stores have a red icon with different items.

Road Blaster

There’s some road walking on this route.  There’s a lot of road walking on this route.  It’s mostly dirt roads, but some stretches require you to walk along highways.  I’ve gone over every inch of them on Google Street view to ensure there’s plenty of space for someone to walk along.  So far it looks good, but that being said that was all done from the comfort of my desk.  Be aware that some stretches may be sketchy, be prepared to hitchhike around them if you have to.  Be safe, it’s not the obvious things that end up killing/injuring hikers, it’s the little things like being struck by a 2,000+ lb chunk of metal traveling 45+ miles an hour, or having a tree fall on you.

If You’re Thinking About It

Please contact me with any questions.  I’ve done my best to ensure the route is safe, but no promises on that front have been/will be made until I go out and hike it for myself.  That could happen either this year or next year depending on what happens in my life, but it’s definitely the priority for me to get it done ASAP so I can completely vouch for it.  That being said if someone with the proper experience decides to tackle it and share their experience on it, I wouldn’t get butthurt about not being the first to do it.  The key is just that they share what they learned with everyone.

 

My Plan

Head out early June or possibly mid-late May and evaluate as I go.  Should I get to Kamas early (basically the Kennedy Meadows of the High Uinta), it’s a great little town to lay over in with an awesome burger place.  I wouldn’t cry about it if I got there too early.  Basically I want to try and leave as early as possible so I can find out if it’s viable to do so, because the later you push it the worse the conditions are in the desert portion which I definitely do not want.

One of the reasons I upgraded to a slightly heavier pack (Granite Gear Lutsen 35) with a better support system is because I intend on carrying ‘too much’ water through the desert.  Hiking the desert on the PCT was a relative cake-walk because I always knew the source ahead of me was flowing, I can’t know that on this hike.  I could potentially if I drive by/hike to each source before I start which seems like a good idea now that I mention it, but yeah, plan for the worst and hope for the best.

I will be taking notes of every little thing along the way which will be easier with the use of Hikerbot since you can enter custom points.  Whether this is on water sources, resupply options, services, or whatever.  It will have a picture with a brief description just like any other guidebook app thing.  I’m also going to be carrying my actual GPS to record the entire thing so the route is more accurate to what things are truly like out there.  I’ve done this in the past for fun and if I’ve noticed one thing it’s that maps and the actual trail never really match up that well.  Hikerbot aside all the information I take down will become available as a guide here for free.

In addition to that I’ll do my usual video thing for good visual representation of trail conditions/what it’s like.

Take A Look

You can find it on Hikerbot.  I’ll also upload the .gpx file so you can check it out on your perferred software or Google Earth.

Download Here

Beating a Dead Horse

This.  Route.  Is.  Not.  Finished.  Anyone who decides to do it should be experienced hikers who are versed in making their own paths through nature.  They should know how to navigate via map/compass, they should know how to find water, they should be able to plan side-routes should the projected route be impassable.  They should be the kinds of people who are used to hiking completely alone with no one around to help them if they get into trouble.  You should not do this as your first long distance hike, or maybe even your second or third if you do not have the appropriate skillset.

In addition, anyone who does this is doing it on their own volition (I hate stating the obvious, but here it is).  You are setting out with the intention of hiking on a route drawn out by someone who is by no means a professional or expert, who has yet to actually go out and hike it as of yet.  It just happened to become public, so here it is.  You’re taking it into your own hands, it’s your responsibility to ensure your own safety.  I’m not here to physically help you hike it, I’m here to let you know a potential path exists.

Again if you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask.  I may not post often but I am available.  You an either reach me via commenting here, or emailing me at: endoventure@gmail.com

 

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