I was able to make another hike with the Wasatch Mountain Club last Thursday. We ventured to Circle All Peak in Big Cottonwood Canyon. The trail is relatively short, about 3 miles round trip, but the elevation gain is roughly 1600′.
There was lots of smoke from the wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington (pretty much the whole state of Jefferson is on fire at the moment). We briefly entered the Mount Olympus Wilderness area on this hike.
It was another great experience with the club. It was also a humbling experience as I realized how much better shape I need to be to take this hobby to the next level. Several of the hikers in this group flew up the mountain with little effort, whereas I was sucking air after about 1000′ in elevation gain. I made it though and the views were still magnificent despite all the smoke.
The goal was to reach the Red Castle on Saturday — a tall mountain-like crimson-hued formation deep in the Uinta Mountains of eastern Utah. We left SLC on Friday and drove through Evanston, WY (and grabbed some beer, natch — Oksar Blues, Teton Brewing Co., and their ilk.)
On the way to China Meadows in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest we had to pass through Mountain View & Lonetree, WY. Mountain View was a pretty little town nestled at the base of the Uinta mountains. On SR 414 into the forest we ran into a cow traffic jam that held us up for a while as several cow-wranglers maneuvered their herd into a new plot of land.
Gilbert Meadows & Creek!
The open road to China Meadows
Our campsite the next several days
The China Meadows Trailhead campground
Many people were on the Red Castle Trail
There are several campgrounds on the way to China Meadows and actually two different ones with that name: the China Meadows campground and China Meadows Trailhead campground, we decided to go to the trailhead-based campsite as the eponymous christened site was relatively un-sheltered by trees and was next to a small lake — we feared the mosquitoes that may dwell there.
Just outside of camp
The next morning we started on the trail to the Red Castle. It is about 12 miles each way to the rock formation. Our plan wasn’t to go the full way which requires backcountry camping. If we made it within view of the rocks I’d call it success.
The hike is beautiful, lot’s of water, open meadows and high mountains at every turn. We spot a male moose but it is moving too fast to snap a photo — which is fine with me.
Entering the High Uinta Wilderness
An old road?
A bridge far
At least we’re going in the right direction
The mighty Uintas
Finally after about 7 miles of hiking, we able to see the Red Castle on the horizon! It doesn’t look very red from our distance, and with another 5 miles to go to reach the lake at its base, we decide to turn around to make it back to camp before night.
On the trek back we ran into several groups of people, some on foot others on horse. I caught a glimpse of the rear end of a black bear running off the trail to avoid a dog that was accompanying a group on horseback. I was very glad to see them and not have to deal in any major way with the bear!