Uintas Trip: Getting My Gear and I There (and back)

The Logistics

When I first started looking into putting this trip together, I knew I had two main options: drive or fly. The driving option was pretty straight forward.  The flying option was a little more complicated. Do I take all my gear in checked luggage and hope it doesn’t get lost? Do I ship it ahead of time with FedEx, UPS, or USPS? Do I check/ship some of it and rent some of it when I get there? Were there items that I couldn’t ship or put in checked baggage?

After doing some research with Google and thinking it through, I decided I would fly and ship my gear ahead of time. Mainly to save time and I felt like there was a smaller chance of it getting lost with FedEx/UPS/USPS than with an airline (particularly if I was going to have more than one flight segment). But then there were still a few questions. What items couldn’t I ship? What would I ship it in? Where would I ship it?

After doing some research, I came up with a list of four items that I may have issues shipping: camp stove fuel, bear spray, bug spray, and matches (strike on box specifically). From what I read online, some people didn’t have any issues sending these items, while others did. I went by a local UPS store to ask them about shipping these, and the clerk there gave me a couple numbers I could call. I gave one of the numbers a call, and the answer I got was something along the lines of I had to have an account with them to be able to ship those items. I didn’t want to set up an account, so I moved on to USPS. After doing quite a bit of research online, I came to the conclusion that it would be possible to ship all these, although I figured I may have to convince the clerk at the post office. This document is what I took with me to the post office to use if I had any trouble. (I did have to convince the clerk at the post office here in Del City that I could ship the items, but once she took a look at the documentation, it wasn’t an issue, and she was very thankful for me having done the research beforehand.)

With that sorted out, the next questions was what to ship them in. I wanted something reusable, so I decided to go with a plastic storage tote. Based on a plastic storage tote I had at home, I figured that I would need a tote in the mid 30 gallon range. After looking at several different totes, I decided on the HDX 38 Gal. Tough Storage Tote from Home Depot. This had locations where I could put labels, seemed sturdy enough, and had some locations where I could secure the lid. But after doing some research on the shipping costs, I determined it would be cheaper to send two 27 gallon totes instead of a single 38 gallon tote, so I returned the 38 gallon tote and bought two 27 gallon totes. For the hazardous materials labels and address labels, I created them in Microsoft Word, printed them onto Avery 8 1/2″ x 11″ TrueBlock Shipping Labels, and then cut them out. To seal the lid (keep it from coming off), I was originally going to use zip ties. The only problem with this was that I would have to have something to cut the zip ties once I picked up the packages, and with flying in, I wasn’t going to have any sort of knife on me or anything like that. However, when I was looking at zip ties, I noticed some velcro strips used to tie cords (similar to these). These ended up working perfectly. They are reusable and don’t need any sort of item to cut them. Here are a couple pictures of my packages (after getting them back from Utah).

The final step for the shipping was where to ship the packages to. I don’t have any close friends or family in the area, so that wasn’t an option. I called the post office closest to the SLC airport, and asked them about it. They told me about general delivery. With your package addressed for general delivery, it will be held at the post office, and you just have to show up with your ID to pick it up. However, the post office I called stated that I would have to pick it up at the post office downtown, which wasn’t a huge issue. The USPS website says that general delivery packages will be held for 30 days. However, when I called the downtown SLC post office, they said they would only hold it for 10 days. Just something to be aware of if you go this route. (Also keep in mind that you will need to take return labels with you to put on your packages to ship them back home. I printed some out prior to leaving and took them with me in a book so they didn’t get bent up during the trip.)

So now that the shipping was figured out, I could go ahead and book my flights. Southwest seemed to have the cheapest round trip flights, and they got me to Salt Lake City pretty early in the day, so I went with them. I then had to get a method of transportation. I looked at several car rental places at the airport, and the one with the best reviews was Enterprise. I had used Enterprise once before and had a good experience, so I decided to go with them. I had heard, however, that it may be significantly cheaper to rent a car away from the airport, so I started looking at Enterprise locations away from the airport. It turned out that it was about $200 cheaper to rent a car from a downtown location than at the airport. And as an added bonus, the Enterprise location was just a couple blocks from the downtown post office. Round trip Uber between the Airport and the Enterprise location was about $30, so I would still save about $170.

The Cost

Here is roughly how much it cost me to do the trip this way:

Shipping Packages: $220
Airfare: $340
Car Rental: $200
Rental Car Gas: $20
Uber: $35
Travel Meals: $40
Hotel: $90
Airport Parking in OKC: $60
Total: ~$1,000

Had I done it driving instead of flying, here is what I estimate the cost would have been:

Gas: 2,306 miles/30 mpg = 77 gallons x $3.00/gal = $231
Hotels: $180
Travel Meals: $70
Total: $481

So quite a bit more expensive to go the flying route as opposed to driving (assuming I’m not forgetting anything). But what about the time component?

The Time

Here is how the time works out flying:

Thursday: Fly from OKC to SLC, get some hiking in
Friday: Hiking
Saturday: Hiking
Sunday: Hiking
Monday: Hiking
Tuesday: Hike out to trailhead, stay in hotel in Park City.
Wednesday: Spend a little time in Park City/SLC, then fly from SLC to OKC

Here is how I figure I could do it driving:

Thursday: Drive 10 hours, stay in hotel.
Friday: Drive 7 hours, arrive at trailhead, get a little bit of hiking in.
Saturday: Hiking
Sunday: Hiking
Monday: Hiking
Tuesday: Hiking
Wednesday: Hike out to trailhead, drive 7 hours, stay in hotel.
Thursday: Drive 10 hours, arrive in OKC.

The driving option ends up being roughly twice the actual travel time compared to the flying option. With the driving option, to get roughly the same amount of hiking time, I would have to miss one extra day of work compared to the flying option. The flying route also gave me a little time to spend in Park City, although not a whole lot of time (an afternoon and morning, although some of that time would be spent getting cleaned up and getting stuff packed up and shipped). Keep in mind, though, that this will depend on how far you have to drive and your flight options.

What I’ll Change Next Time

Having gone through all this, there will probably be a couple things I do differently next time:

  1. If I’m making another trip to Utah, I’ll probably drive next time and save myself a few hundred bucks and the hassle of having to ship all my gear. I’m blessed to get generous PTO at my current job, so using my PTO is less of a worry for me than I’m sure it is for others. I also enjoy road trips and am not a huge fan of flying.
  2. Next time I do fly, I will probably try to use a larger carry on bag, and bring along my sleeping bag in it’s stuff sack. The sleeping bag takes up the majority of one of the storage totes, so I’m pretty sure if I take that in my carry on (and maybe a few other smaller items), I may have to only send one package instead of two.

 

Hopefully this has been useful for you. I know when I first started planning this trip, it was a little daunting trying to figure out all the logistics and the best way to go about it. Each trip will be different, but I hope this at least helps you see different options you have, or gives you some ideas you hadn’t thought about, for your next trip.

Trip Report: Uintas Backpacking Trip

On Sept. 20 I started a backpacking trip into the High Uintas Wilderness Area from the Highline trailhead. My brother and I have done several backpacking trips in Wyoming, but this was my first attempt at a solo backpacking trip. A day by day summary of the trip is provided below. If you have any questions about my trip, don’t hesitate to contact me! I have posted a gallery with some more pictures here.

Day 1

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East Fork of the Duchesne River drainage near Packard Lake.

The day began with an early morning flight from OKC to Denver, and then a flight from Denver to Salt Lake City (SLC). The flights went smoothly and were on time, and I landed in SLC around 10 A.M. It was roughly $200 cheaper to get my rental car away from the airport, so I got an Uber ride to the Enterprise location. Once I had my rental, I headed to the post office a couple blocks up the street to pick up my backpacking gear. Once that was in hand I hit the road to the Highline Trailhead. I stopped along the interstate in Park City for a quick lunch, then stopped at the Chevron in Kamas to get my recreation pass. I’m glad I did that since they were aware of a few “fee free” days, so I only had to get a 3 day pass instead of a 7 day. The next stop was the trailhead. Since it was my first solo trip, I was a little worried about fitting everything in my pack, but I didn’t have any issues getting everything packed. I got all my gear packed up and hit the trail around 2:45.  I’ll have a future blog post about my thoughts on the logistics of getting myself and my gear to the trailhead.

I was thinking about trying to make it to Naturalist Basin on this day, but with the later start, I decided to camp at Wilder Lake, and take some time to go check out Wyman and Packard Lakes. The first 1.5 miles or so were all downhill, which was nice, but I knew that meant it would be uphill for the last 1.5 miles back out. Between the trailhead and Wilder Lake I saw several people hiking out. I talked to one couple who seemed to have difficulty getting to Wyman and Packard Lakes, so that got me a little bit worried. But the trail was fine for me, so I’m not sure if they took a wrong turn somewhere or what.

I got my camp set up at Wilder Lake and then headed to Wyman and Packard Lakes. It was a short, easy hike to both lakes, especially with only my daypack on. The view down the drainage for the East Fork of the Duchesne River near Packard Lake was really neat, particularly with some fall color sprinkled in. Down towards the bottom of the drainage I could see some smoke, which I found out after the hike was part of the Murdock Fire. This would come into play later in the trip. I headed back to camp and cooked dinner. Probably around 6:30 or 7:00 a group of three showed up and set up camp down on the other end of the lake. It wasn’t too long after they showed up that I called it a day and hit the sack.

Day 2

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Rock Creek drainage from Rocky Sea Pass.

After not getting much sleep due to being cold, I got up for day 2 to find my Camelbak somewhat frozen. The hose was completely frozen, and some of the water in the main bladder was frozen. I was able to warm up enough of the liquid water that I was able to thaw out my Camelbak hose and make breakfast. After that I got packed up and hit the trail.

The original plan was to hike all the way to Gladys Lake and camp there. However, after the cold night, I figured I would go ahead and camp at Brinkley Lake due to a slightly lower elevation and more shelter from any wind. Plus it meant less distance I had to carry my large pack. On the way to Rocky Sea Pass, I passed one sign for Four Lakes Basin that pointed to the right, and didn’t give it much thought until I came to another sign for Four Lakes Basin that also pointed to the right. The second sign was the correct turn. After taking a look at that first sign on the way out, I believe it was supposed to point straight, but it was just crooked. Something to keep in mind if you plan on hiking there.

The western side of Rocky Sea pass is a relatively gradual grade (compared to the east side). I took a few minute break at the top of the pass to take in the views and try out my map & compass skills. After the break I headed down the east side of the pass. It’s not completely vertical, but it’s not far from it. Thankfully the trail switchbacks, which makes it easier. I still managed to fall on my butt once though. It wasn’t too long of a hike to Brinkley after getting to the bottom of the pass. I got camp set up and relaxed the rest of the day. I only saw one person the entire day (on the west side of the pass).

Day 3

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Gladys Lake

After learning some lessons the first night, I was able to stay warmer the second night, and I didn’t have a frozen Camelbak when I woke up this day. Brinkley Lake was like glass when I got up, and I was able to get some really neat reflection pictures. After that I ate breakfast, got my daypack packed, and hit the trail. Had I camped at Gladys Lake, I may have tried to summit Spread Eagle Peak on this day, but I decided against that pretty early on and just decided to hike the loop up to Rosalie Lake, Gladys Lake, Lightning Lake, and back to Brinkley.

The hike up to Rosalie lake was mostly in forest, but it opened up once up to Rosalie Lake. From there to Lightning Lake the hike was right around tree line with some great views. There were a few places along this stretch where the trail got pretty faint, but it was only for a short distance, so it was pretty easy to find where the trail picked up again. This was a really neat section of trail, and I took my time taking lots of pictures. I was definitely glad that I decided to camp at Brinkley Lake and just take the leisurely stroll on this loop. After Lightning Lake the hike back to Brinkley Lake was once again mainly in forest. Around 2:00 it started to get a little bit smoky, so I was glad I got the trip in early in the day and was able to get pictures that weren’t too hazy.

After I got back to camp I decided to stop using my main water filter (Katadyn Hiker) and go to my backup filter (Sawyer mini water filter). I was having issues with the Katadyn being difficult to pump. Not sure what the issue was, but this was the second trip in the row where this was a problem (and I was using a new filter on this trip). While it was a little bit of an inconvenience, it was kind of nice to get some experience with the Sawyer. I’ll have a post later on about my thoughts on the pros and cons of each.

Day 4

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Jean and Dean Lakes in Four Lakes Basin.

The original plan for this day was to hike back over Rocky Sea pass and stay in Four Lakes Basin that night. However, I decided that morning to skip Four Lakes Basin and head to Naturalist Basin. I could do Four Lakes Basin on a different hike, and this would allow me to explore Naturalist Basin the next morning when the smoke was (hopefully) at a minimum. Neither of those happened. Haha.

On the way up to Rocky Sea Pass I saw a family of Mountain Goats. I had never seen Mountain Goats before, so that was exciting. Remember the Murdock Fire? When I got to the top of Rocky Sea Pass that morning, it looked like Naturalist Basin was already fairly smoky from the fire, and it looked like Four Lakes Basin was pretty clear. So I decided to head to Four Lakes Basin after all and get some pictures there since it was clear. I got down into Four Lakes Basin, and tried to find a camp spot that was out of the wind, but didn’t have much luck. My tent almost took flight while I was setting it up, but thankfully I was able to grab it before it did. While I was snacking on some trail mix in my tent, I decided I didn’t want to spend the afternoon walking around in the strong wind, and I didn’t feel like being bored out of my mind for several hours, so I packed everything back up and headed towards Naturalist Basin. As I got closer and closer to Naturalist Basin, the smoke continued to get worse and worse. It finally got to the point where it was so thick and enough ash falling out of the air that I didn’t feel comfortable continuing on, so I headed back towards Four Lakes Basin.

With the strong winds that day, I assumed that fire had made it close to the Highline Trail, so I started thinking of my options. I took a look at one of my topo maps and saw that I should be able to get out south to the Grandview trailhead. I decided to start heading south towards that trailhead, and possibly hike out that way instead of to the Highline trailhead. When I got to Pinto Lake about a mile south of the Highline trail, I decided to camp there. However, from this vantage point, it looked like the fire may still be south of the Highline trail, so I thought once again about trying to hike out on the Highline trail. After it started to get a little smoky at this lake and I noticed there were some cows at this lake, I decided to hike back to the intersection with the Highline trail and camp there. Assuming the fire wasn’t at the trail, I figured I could get up early the next morning and hike out, hoping the smoke would clear up overnight. By this point I was completely worn out, and my feet were quite sore. I think that was easily the most I had ever hiked during a day with a big pack on. I got camp set up, ate dinner, and called it a day.

Day 5

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Fall colors while driving down the mountain.

I did not sleep well at all leading up to this day due to being worried about having to hike out through the Grandview trailhead. I got up at 5:00 A.M. It rained some overnight, which was desperately needed up there, although it wasn’t near enough to make much of a dent. However, a lot of the rain ended up freezing to my rain cover. So the cold temps along with the wet rain cover made it a little bit of a pain to get things packed up. But I got everything packed up and hit the trail around 5:45 A.M. This was my first experience hiking in the dark (with a headlamp of course), which was different. Thankfully it was an easy trail to follow. I made it out to the trailhead without any issues other than really sore feet. I was pretty bummed that I didn’t get to explore Four Lakes Basin or Naturalist Basin, but I was really glad to make it out to my vehicle and not have to go out through the Grandview Trailhead. On the way down the mountain, I stopped several times to get pictures of the fall colors.

 

In summary, I’m still happy with the trip. I was still able to get some good pictures, and the smoke could have been a much bigger problem than it was. It also provided valuable experience that can be applied to future trips. The trails were all easy to follow and intersections marked well, so no issues there. Outside of seeing several people on that first day hike in, I saw very few people the rest of the hike. While there are definitely some pros to solo backpacking, I think I prefer having someone that I can share the trip with.

Plus, going out a day earlier than planned gave me some extra time to explore Park City, and I was able to take some time to get some fire hydrant pictures in Park City, which I will post to my website in the next couple days. But if you haven’t done so already, go check out the other photos from the backpacking trip. I look forward to exploring the Uintas further in future trips.