We completed our last week in the Uintas. As a major part of our project had to do with showing the difference between a north facing stream system and a south facing system we needed a chain of lakes on the north slope of the Uintas. I desperately wanted to hike up Henry’s fork because that is where the access trail to Kings Peak is, the highest mountain in Utah. But my science got in the way and instead we picked some chains that were closer to the same elevation as the south slope chain. Strangely enough, the best choice turned out to be the Weyman Lakes, the same ones we had fail disastrously to sample the first week.
We packed up and left Monday morning in our freshly cleaned- if somewhat worse for the wear- truck. We arrived at Spirit Lake around 4 pm and said goodbye to our truck, no driving it up back roads this time. We had an 8 mile hike to get to Anson Lake which was where the trail led to and was roughly in the middle of our sampling area. We did it in 4 hours with full packs. It hurt a lot. We passed a couple as we walked onto the trailhead and two bikers about 1 mile in. After that we saw no one until we got back three days later.
Anson was a wonderful campground but the lake had a strange reddish color to it, like it was full of Southern Utah or something. It also tasted funny. There were a few fire rings so while the other two set up their tent I went ahead and gathered wood, insofar as I could limp around the spot. For the first time we were not rained on that day. With dry wood we greatly enjoyed our fire although it did little to warm us.
The next day we sampled 5 streams. We hiked first to Clear Lake, (or Partly Cloudy Lake) leaving all of our camping gear behind in the tents. The sampling went well and we soon found ourselves overlooking our 2nd site, a pair of lakes above Anson. The smaller lake flowed into the twin lake through a 50 meter long channel, perfect for sampling. The strange thing was the larger lake contained the same red color that Anson Lake had but its smaller twin did not. We debated analogies to use with the red and blue lakes but didn’t particularly like the conclusions the analogies led to. We sampled two inflows and the outflow of that reddish lake then went the ½ mile to Anson and camp. Finding ourselves with extra time we decided to strike camp and head to our next sampling area. We climbed over boulders for an hour before finding a spot to set up a tent. Again fire made everything better.
Awaking Wednesday morning we only had two sites left. One of them we discovered that the maps were inaccurate, the stream had dried up and possible even moved. We were then able to sample our last site and head home early. We cut cross country to get back to the trail through the trackless forest. For an endless mile life was nothing but trees and fuzzy green undergrowth. No birds or mammals disturbed us, just the usual flock of Mosquitoes. I caught just the barest hint of what the primordial forest must have been; a place where man is just a visitor and does not remain.
It was a wildly successful trip, the kind of trip we had hoped every week would be like. Now our summer work is over and we will retire to the lab to do the long work of analyzing the bugs and moss we collected in the wild. Our microscopes will become our best friends in the weeks ahead as we seek to understand what the hundreds of invertebrates mean to us and for us.