Hum….. Not the best way to start a backpacking trip…..
At the Elk Horn Crossing, about two-thirds the way to base camp, he again confronted me. Tears of frustration welling in his eyes, he repeated “Why did you make me come? I hate this. I HATE THIS. I just want to go home.”
Going home was not an option. Having an adventure was.
And have an adventure we did.
Early Monday morning, under the incredibly organized guidance of Mark Housley (Lance’s brother-in-law) twelve of us set out on backpacking adventure in the high country of the Uintah Mountains. Plans called for some of us to summit King’s Peak, for some of us to fish Henry’s, Blanchard, and Cliff Lake, and for all of us to have fun. Though I had hoped to hike with all of my children, Miles—my hike hater—was the only one there. Reassured that he would NOT have to hike King’s Peak and lured with promises of fabulous fishing, somehow I convinced him not to refuse to come. He never really agreed to come on the trip but he never absolutely refused to either and so there he was. And he was NOT happy.
Two miles later (8 miles into the hike) he was. Happy. Somewhere, somehow things changed. He realized that he could do it and he did. And there was no looking back.
At base camp that evening he asked “Do you think I could make it up King’s Peak?”
Knock me down with a feather! Trying to hide my astonishment that he was even considering the hike, much less thinking about choosing hiking over fishing, I said, “I know you can make it. No question. No question at all. I know you can do it. It will not be easy. In fact it will be quite hard but I know you can do it.”
And he did. So did I. Hamilton, Marissa, Sean, Maddie, Regan, and Cooper were also there. King’s Peak. Highest point in Utah. 13,528 feet. Equivalent to 271 flights of stairs. Tough. Really tough.
King’s Peak is the oddest mountain I have ever seen. It is a huge (13, 528 feet huge) pile of boulders. After Anderson Pass (the saddle that connects King’s Peak to its neighbor) there is no trail. The last 1.5 miles, climbing more than 1000 vertical feet, one has to scramble up and over, up and over, and up and over again boulder after boulder after boulder. Brutal. And beautiful. Really beautiful.
Reaching the top of King’s Peak was an accomplishment. Returning to camp was an adventure.
At Anderson Pass we abandoned the safe trail and headed to the sketchy chute. To get to King’s Peak we’d left Henry’s Fork Basin via Gunsight Pass, dropped into the Upper Painter Basin, and then ascended to Anderson Pass. To go home we simply slid down a snow-covered talus slope into Henry’s Fork Basin. It was not completely straight down but almost. It was not completely smart or safe either but almost. It was completely fun though….when it was not completely scary.
Everyone was completely happy NOT to hike to the top of a mountain the next day. The group, fisher people and non-fisher people alike, hiked to Blanchard Lake instead. Henry’s Fork Basin does not have trails but it does have bushes and bogs, rocks and rivers, snow packs and streams. Traveling cross country we avoided the snow packs, circled the bogs and bushes, and used the rocks to cross the rivers. Fishing was fabulous, especially at Cliff Lake which, because of its remote location—a glacial cirque at the base of a big mountain at the end of a high country valley—rarely receives a fishing rod. Miles, Maddie, and Mark consistently pulled 12-18 inch Tiger Trout from the lake.
Too soon it was over. Fish tails became fish tales and hiking moment are now hiking memories. Here are a few of the trip memories that I treasure.
- Regan, who had decided not to hike to King’s Peak, approaching me timidly the morning of our planned ascent. “Aunt Teresa, may I hike with you today?” OF COURSE!
- Maddie leaping from rock to rock as she found her fishing spot at Cliff Lake where she pulled in two 18’ fish in her first two casts.
- Hamilton and I asking Mark for a “pow wow” and then watching as he picked up his pistol on his way to chat with us.
- Cooper making a spear and stalking marmots with it.
- Watching Sean pick wildflowers and then carry them behind his back to give to Marissa.
- Falling flat on my face, my chin a mere millimeter from a rock, on the trail behind Marissa and feeling her genuine concern as she helped me up.
- Chatting on the trail with Elynn about our children and other women’s daughters. [We both serve in the Young Women’s organization.]
- Savannah responding to Elynn’s question “Are you and your boyfriend serious?” with the answer “We are engaged.”
- Eden trusting me to doctor her feet.
- Watching Hamilton, The Legend and basking in the reflected light of his glory. From the first hour of the first day to the last hour of the last day, Hamilton astounded everyone with his strength, his savy, and his genuine goodness. He was the first to arrive at Elk Horn Crossing and again at base camp, waiting at both places for over an hour for the rest of us to arrive. It was Hamilton who caught Maddie when she flipped from feet first to head first on her slide down the snow field and Hamilton whose tackle prevented Cooper’s uninhibited downhill snow slide from ending painfully (and perhaps tragically) in a pile of boulders. Hamilton guided a group of wet and tired fisher people through the wilderness back to a camp they probably never would have found by themselves. And when Savannah’s knee injury made us question whether or not she could carry her backpack out, it was Hamilton who hiked 10 miles to the trailhead, left his pack there, and then hiked 10 miles back to base camp so that he could hike back out carrying Savannah’s pack if necessary. At 7:15 a.m. Hamilton appeared on the ridge, already back from his 20 mile round trip jaunt. Legend.
My cup runneth over. Seriously. Being in the mountains fills but never satiates me. The breathtaking beauty almost hurts; I seek to soak it in and that soaking causes me to expand, to stretch, and to ache in a pleasingly painful way. Add to that the joy of sharing the experience with loved ones and my cup truly runneth over. I am especially grateful for the metamorphosis of my son. Somewhere between Elk Horn Crossing and Henry’s Fork Basin my Mr. Miles realized that he could hike. On the top of King’s Peak his realization earned confidence. And that confidence will change both of our lives. Forever.
“When can we hike Ben Lomond Peak?” he asked me on our way down from King’s Peak.
Soon, my son. Very soon.