WasatchWill

Jun 21, 2018

Fern Lake: Chasing Friends in Grandaddy Basin

Granddaddy Basin in the Uintas gets a lot of love it seems.  It seems to have quite a reputation of being a great fishery and is a popular go-to destination for those whole like backpacking in the Uintas.  For the number of trips I've done in the Uintas, this is a basin I'd yet to spend any time at.  Then an opportunity to do so suddenly presented itself when a friend and a friend of his reached out and invited me along on a trip.  They were going to spend 2 nights touring the basin, work limited me to just one...

Day 1
Friday - June 15, 2018

Plans were made for me to meet my friend Devin and his friend Jared this night at Fern Lake.  They had gone up the day before to spend 2 nights touring and circling the basin.  Since work kept me from joining up with them for the beginning of their trip, I had driven up to Grandview Trailhead myself following work.  Everything from the turn-off out of Francis on to the trailhead and up the trail would be new to me.  I was excited, not only to do another night of backpacking, but to see what made Grandaddy so popular among many.  

Due to the distance and time it took to arrive at the trailhead, I did not even start up the trail until just after 6pm.  With three hours of good daylight left, no strenuous gains or big passes to climb over, I reasoned I'd have no trouble getting to Fern Lake with just enough light left to find them and set up my tent for the night.  It wasn't until about an hour later I got my first glimpses of Grandaddy Lake, having just come over Hades Pass.



I quickly continued down off the pass and around the lake.  I paused for a quick picture of small unnamed lake to across the trail on the north side to snap a picture of some early season flowers. That was a mistake.  Mosquitos instantly swarmed me.


I got on the move quickly again, pausing only for a second at a time here and there to snap a few more pictures of Granddaddy on my way out to Fern.  Grandaddy was indeed big and pretty, especially with some traces of snow left on the ridge above it and some alpenglow settling in on it all.



Minutes later and after a somewhat steep descent, I was along the shores of Lodgepole Lake and its neighboring lake with no name.  At the tip of Lodgepole, I looked to the northwest and enjoyed a view Bald Mountain along the distant horizon.



On the other side of the trail, as I looked southward, I could see a couple tents (not pictured) pitched quite close to the trail and shore of the little nameless lake.  No sign of anyone out and about though.  I rolled my eyes a bit thinking of the lack of privacy such campers are privy to when they camp so close to a trail like that. Again, more mosquitos. Keep going!


With just over a mile to go, I made haste, stopping only for a couple more pics along the way.



Once I had reached Fern Lake, I was in full-mode of looking along the shores and shouting out for Devin and his friend, Jared.  No responses.  Daylight was now dying fast.  I put my JetScream whistle and gave it a few good blows.  Still nothing.  Hmmm...they nowhere logically.  I concluded they had either not made it yet and would be arriving themselves any moment or they had stood me up.  Either way, I was content to just find the best spot I could in the vicinity and set up camp for myself.  I found a nice spot a couple hundred feet up from the short and set up camp.  Tired and hungry, I didn't think to take any more photos for the night.  All I wanted to do was eat and get in bed.  I figured I'd find them in the morning if they were in the area at all.

As I was getting into bed, a thought hit me.  Those tents I had passed by near Lodgepole Lake...that was them!  I knew I was supposed to be looking for a green Black Diamond tent which Devin would have.  To be sure, I pulled out my camera to view some of the video footage I had captured there. 


Yep.  Them alright! Why didn't I recognize the tent earlier on?  Why were they camped there!?  Why so close to the lake and trail?  Why was it so quiet with nobody out and around when I passed by? 

I was eager to find out the answers to those latter questions, but that would now have to wait until the morning.  For now, it was time to sleep. 



Day 2
Saturday - June 16, 2018

Morning came without incident and I wandered back down to the banks of Fern Lake to find a peaceful morning reflection resting across the still surface of the lake in typical Uinta morning fashion.



Back to camp I broke it down, packed up, and navigated my way back out to the trail.


Less than an hour later and I was staring down that other camp.  Again, nobody was out. Hmmm...what to do?  Be bold and shake Devin's tent in hopes of scaring him awake as a friendly prank for standing me up?  I was sorely tempted.  But then I remember he had a dog, and I wasn't 100% sure it was him and Jared there.  I was only 99% sure.  And yet, there was a flashlight left out, beaming up, as if to signal to somebody overnight, 'Look at me!'.  It had to be them, but was it?


I sat on a nearby log on the other side of some trees for a bit, contemplating my next move.  It was now some time after 8 am.  No more voyeurism.  I had to know.

I stood up. "Devin! Are you in there?" I called out.

A groaning came from within.  "Yeah...what's up?" was the reply.

Success! I had found them.  Minutes later Devin and Jared were up and out.  We had breakfast together and I learned that Devin's dog, Cooper, had torn up his paw pad real bad the previous day and didn't think it smart or good to keep to the original plan of going over to Fern Lake which would have required a good bit of off trail travel. Instead, they had compromised and opted to camp close to the trail in hopes of catching me themselves.  While waiting for me to pass by the evening before, they had retreated into their tents to escape the mosquito swarms.  Apparently I was too stealthy as I passed by.  They then thought I might be passing by later in the evening, hence the flashlight laid out.

Satisfied and thoroughly warmed up now, we got on our way back along the trail once they had broken their camp.


The calm nice morning weather would not last long though.  By the time we reach the lower end of Granddaddy Lake, clouds were building up the lake was already choppy with some gathering winds.  Still, we took a brief break to rest of the hill we had just gained and took a few pictures.



For whatever reason, I didn't really think to take many photos on the way out on this trip.  I think it was from being distracted by all the newfound camaraderie in finally joining up with Devin and Jared.  As usual, I did shoot a decent bit of video though.

A good mile and a half later, well on the other side of Hades Pass, we stopped for another snack break.

"Uh-oh!" I blurted out loud.

"What's wrong?" came a reply.

"I don't have my phone on me," I anxiously responded.

I told them they could carry on without me while I left my pack there to run back up the trail in hopes of finding that it had just dropped out of a pocket somewhere between Grandaddy and where we were.  They offered to stay and babysit my pack.  What good guys!

With that, I took a half full water bottle and started a jog back up the trail, passing by many dayhikers and backpackers alike in the process, asking each party if they'd come over a phone sitting on the trail.  None yielded any hope.

I then realized I had likely left it behind at the last break point, well around the other side of that great big Grandaddy Lake.  Clouds were continuing to gather and darken.  No, no, no, I thought to myself.  Why is that when I'm always with other groups, I end up leaving something behind and having to run back to find it.  I had done it twice on a trip along the Highline Trail a couple years prior when I had to run back a quarter mile for my trekking poles and then a mile back for my prescription Oakley sunglasses a couple days later.

But this incident would take the cake.  I ended up running a mile and half back to find my phone perched on a log I had set it on while breaking at the outlet of Grandaddy Lake.  Fortunately the threatening rains held back and with phone in hand, I ran back around the lake, over the pass again, and down to Devin and Jared.  Somehow, the weather had taken a turn for the better again by this point and the dark clouds began to move away, leaving us with sunnier skies for the fine couple of miles back to the trailhead.


I've never done a thru-hike before, but I've often wonder what my trail name would become if I did one.  I may not have to wonder anymore.  I figured "RunBack" would be very fitting now.

Video


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About Will

Will Will lives at the footsteps of Utah's famed Wasatch Mountains. He enjoys hiking, camping, backpacking, sports, running, vegetable gardening, nature, food, photography, art, and spending time with his wife and kids.

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