Great 48: Utah

Our hike into Utah’s Uinta Mountains for King’s Peak began at 10:30 pm. I hiked with Lindsay and Josh while Dave slept (we had long drives the very next day as well). Smoothly uphill alongside the roaring Henry’s Fork River, we maintained a steady 2-3 mile-an-hour pace. A nearly-full and very bright moon almost made our headlamps unnecessary. We crossed the river over logs and stones multiple times, zig-zagging up and into the backcountry at around 10,000 feet elevation. Forest gave way to small glens, which in turn gave way to a massive, mountain-lined meadow dotted with lakes and clusters of massive pines. 

We came within 2 miles of the mountain base by 2:45 am, and having made such good time, we all laid down in the meadow for a brief nap underneath the emerging milky way. 

When we woke, the moon had receded behind the mountains, obscuring our path and outlining the stars above us even more starkly. 

I hiked with them into the 4 o’clock hour, and then turned around to head back to one of the mountain lakes for sunrise. 

I slept for another hour under a pine grove, waking in time to see a dawn glow in the East. 

Slowly, the sun illuminated the mountains, hills, trees, lakes, and wildflower-filled meadow we hiked through by moonlight. 

It was a show put on for no one—I only happened to be there to witness it. I took my time through the morning exploring the area, my mind stilled by the slow revelation of what I woke up to. I encountered two moose and dozens of centuries-old bristlecone stumps that birds and flowers both perched upon. 

We were all back to the car, summit having been successfully reached (again, in record time) by early afternoon. King's peak was on the far east side of Utah, Nevada’s highest peak was on California’s border. We'd have a 10-hour or more drive to our next destination.