The perfect day: Unitas Lake Running

“I’m a tourist in my own state!” -MountainGoat

Some days everything just comes together. You wake up in the morning and make a snap decision to head to the mountains to run.  You reach out to friends at the last minute and they are remarkably free.  You get there and the weather and the trail are just perfect.  Today, was one of those days.

I’ve been incredibly lucky while I’ve been out here.  I’ve gotten to meet some really amazing, awesome, badass trail running women. They’ve welcomed me into their fold and have been incredibly warm.  I texted two of them this morning last minute and asked if they were interested in heading to the mountains to escape the heat.  It didn’t take much arm twisting, merely promises of a relatively flat trail and a milkshake, and MountainGoat was game.  After she had agreed she asked if it was ok if she brought a friend with her.  Hey, the more the merrier!

Neither MountainGoat nor Ibex had ever been up to this part of the Uintas so I was playing tour guide, which is funny if you think about it.  MountainGoat grew up here, but has only recently gotten into trail running.  I’ve been spending a lot of time for both work and pleasure up in these mountains and they have become comforting to me.  
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The trail that I had laid out was simple enough an out and back to Lake Seymour (or Meadow Lake depending on what map you were looking at) with only 1700 feet of elevation gain for the whole trip. One tiny caveat we were starting at over 9000′ and at one point in the course we were over 10k’.  We headed down the trail and it was SUPER runnable probably one of the most runnable trails I’ve been on in the Uintas.  MountainGoat and Ibex scampered off in front of me with Charlotte and I representing #teamcaboose for the day.  (Oh and in case you were wondering what that notch is I’ll get to that…)

IMG_3757The miles clicked by and we saw lake after lake after lake. The further away from the trailhead we got the fewer people we saw.  Up through Notch Mountain and over to the other side. The views were just amazing and the lakes just kept coming.

We arrived at Seymour Lake/Meadow Lake where we saw a wok hanging in a tree to which I said, “There is the endangered Wok tree, it’s the last of it’s kind.” Which of course elicited groans all the way around.  Hey I thought it was funny.  The mosquitos were thick so we didn’t stay too long.  I filtered some water out of the lake, filled my bladder, and we were off.

On our way back some of the campers had started a fire and, of course, the smoked followed me.  I wound up having to stop to dig for my inhaler, which turns out was in an accessible pocket all along.  Oops.  MountainGoat and Ibex were super sweet that they would occasionally stop and wait for Charlotte and I to catch up.  Where I would then apologize for being slow.  They were both super sweet about it.  Maybe some day I will be a fast kid….

IMG_3790As we came around the bend for the last lake they were waiting for us and I kidded in the typical whiny kid voice, “Mom….I wanna go swimming….” MountainGoat looked at me and said, “I’m game!”  We peeled off the trail and made a beeline for the shoreline.  Stripping our shoes and socks we waded into the ice cold water and it felt amazing.  (Hence the notch in the elevation profile.) By the time we got out to do the last mile to the trailhead none of us had any feeling in our legs!  Makes for some interesting running.

Today was one of those days that I will always remember.  I like days like today.  I hold on to days like today when I’m in dark places for days like today will always bring a smile to my heart.

Unitas: Would you say that to a man?

I am not a city girl I grew up in Adirondacks.  When we moved from the mountains to another rural part of Upstate New York Dad would take us back there as often as he could.  We were raised with a healthy respect for the wilderness.  Up until a couple of years ago part of his Continuing Medical Education every year would be at the Wilderness Medicine Conference in Big Sky and if we didn’t go with him he would bring home the latest information and shared (whether we liked it or not).

Twice this week by two different men here in Utah I’ve been told not to go into the mountains alone.  I was gobsmacked.  I wanted to ask them if they would say the same thing to a man. However, I didn’t.

Anyone who has ever hiked with me knows that I do not mess around when it comes to time in the backcountry.  I always carry a first aid kid that I could practically do field surgery with.  I always, always, always  carry an emergency blanket (there is always one in my trail running pack too, which is probably why I’m still alive).  Water purifier, map, among other items.  It may not be the lightest day pack in the world, but I know that if something happens I’m prepared.

Dad also raised me to provide a plan.  He always gets an email before I go of what my plan is, where I’m going, how long I expect to be gone and what I’m wearing.  In the past couple of years I’ve also invested in a SPOT device.  Not only will this give me an emergency backup plan, but it lets him live vicariously through me as he tracks my dots.

This leads me to Saturday.  After letting these two men climb into my head almost pulling the plug on my day I finally had a moment of clarity.  I’ve gone hiking and camping all over some of the most remote sections of this country.  I’ve been stalked by a mountain lion in Oregon.  I’ve seen more moose, elk, and deer than I can express some of whom were very angry.  Lucky for me I’ve never seen a bear when it wasn’t running away from me.  Why in the hell was I allowing to strangers to climb into my head.  Fuck.  That.  Shit.

I made a plan of where I was going to go and let Dad know.  Charlotte and I drove out to IMG_3441the trailhead and headed up the trail.  The plan was to do 10 miles round trip or snow which ever came first.  When we got to the 2.5 mile mark we got to the creek.  You could see where the bridge used to be.  With the level snow that they got this year all of the water sources are raging right now.  I looked to the other side of the creek and there was a deer.  He looked up and down the creek for a spot to cross just like I was doing.  We looked at each other and both turned around and went back the way we came.  Neither one of us had a death wish.  That water is running too cold and too fast to even attempt a water crossing.  Well, crap.  As I headed down the trail I came across a group of Boy Scouts and a couple of hikers.  I told them about the bridge.  I think the kids were actually relieved.  When we got back to the car we saw a bunch of horsemen loading up to go check the fields for grazing.  I told them about the bridge (and the water level).  They said thank you and then pointed in the direction they were headed.  We chatted for a couple of minutes about other snow free options and they were off.   I made a sign and hung it on the gate that you were required to go through.

I pulled out my map while I munched on a snack and figured out my next move.  This kids is one of the reasons why you always invest in the $10 Forest Service map.  I decided to go up a nearby dirt road to see how far I could get.  As we hit the 8000′ mark I got a brief moment of cell.  I texted Dad and let him know of the new plan.  I still had the SPOT on so he knew I was in the car anyway.  As we climbed we met a ATV rider on the road.  He told me the road was going to get rough, I smiled and told him that’s why I drove what I drove.  He laughed.  I asked him if there was a spot I could pull over a little further up and he explained where the next good spot was.   When we got to the spot we were sitting at 8800′.  When I opened the door the cold air cut through me.   I broke out my hat, vest, and gloves and off we went following the road.

She was having a grand time rolling in the snow, like a dork.   We managed to get 2.5 miles up the road (after the 5 we had already done) before we were both starting to tucker out.  I knew we had to actually get back to the car so I made to decision to turn around.  It was a tough one, but I knew it was for the best.  We were sitting at nearly 10000′ the snow was around, but spotty.  We still hadn’t hit the full snow line, yet.  We completely passed the trailhead I was looking for (it was numbered not labeled), but that’s ok.  We will go back.  By the time we hit the car she curled up into a ball and promptly fell asleep.   We stopped at the ranger station in town and told them about the bridge and all the blow downs that we came across on the road.  I try to tell the rangers what I can about conditions because they can’t be everywhere.  They were shocked about the bridge and said thanks.

Saturday was a good day.  Yet, I almost let two strangers crawl into my head.  I know my limitations.  I’m not going to go up any mountains right now covered in snow.  I don’t have the gear and haven’t been to a self arresting class in a couple of years.  I suck at the glissade unless it’s on my tush.  I have an exceptionally healthy respect for all of the possible ways that I could die in the backcountry.  To be honest, though, I’m more fearful of the two legged creatures than the four legged ones.  All of that being said, what gives any man the right to tell a woman that she shouldn’t go to the back country?