It’s Official!

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My business is officially registered in Oklahoma! I have thought about doing this for a long time, and the time has finally come. Really excited, but also kind of daunting thinking of everything I need to do over the next couple months. With all the changes coming I wanted to point out a couple ways you can stay up to date, provide an opportunity to help me out, and have some chances to win a gift card. So continue reading!

Blog

I haven’t posted on the blog in quite a while. I haven’t really had a whole lot going on lately other than doing a bunch of research/learning to get this business going, which is pretty boring. However, with getting the business going, there will likely be more to post going forward, and I plan on posting at least once a month to highlight what has been going on and what’s coming up. So if you want to stay in the loop, I suggest signing up to follow my blog. You can do this using the form that is located at the upper right of my blog. (The form is shown in the picture below for reference.)

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And just for signing up to follow my blog, I’ll enter you to win a $50 gift card of your choice.

Facebook

For more spur of the moment type posts, you can like my Facebook page. This could be pictures of working on my art, eating at a local joint while on a fire hydrant trip, or many other things. Obviously not as in depth posts as on my blog, but you can keep tabs on what I’m up to on a more frequent basis. As with my blog, if you like my Facebook page, I’ll enter you to win a $50 gift card of your choice.

Favorite Photos

Last, but definitely not least, I need your input. I have picked out a set of what I consider to be my best pictures. However, it doesn’t do me much good if I like them and nobody else does. This is where you come in. I have created a survey that you can take to let me know which pictures are your favorites. For the favorite picture questions, you will need to choose your 5 favorites. I’ll use this feedback for determining which pictures I need to focus on first for selling at art shows. Only 100 people can take the survey, and those who complete it will be entered to win a $100 gift card of their choice.


So there you have it. A few more notes regarding these gift card giveaways are listed below. I hope you choose to follow me during this new journey, and I would really appreciate the feedback on the photos. Even though it’s going to be a fast and furious few months, it should be fun and exciting.

  • You can enter into all three gift card giveaways, but you can only win one.
  • I will get in contact with the winners after they are chosen to discuss which gift card they would like.
  • I must be able to purchase the gift cards in Oklahoma City or online.
  • The deadline to enter is 5:00 P.M. CDT March 13.
  • The winners will be chosen using the “randbetween” function in Excel.
  • Multiple entries by the same person in the same drawing (for example, the same person taking the survey 10 times) will disqualify that person. The same person can enter all three different drawings, but not multiple times in the same drawing.

Thoughts on IKEA Cabinets

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In December, I finished up remodeling my kitchen. You can see the before and after pictures in my post I wrote in December. For my cabinets, I used cabinets from IKEA, and since a lot of people seem to be curious about IKEA cabinets, I figured I would write up a post with some of my thoughts on them.

Why I Chose IKEA Cabinets

Price was the biggest driver. I had Lowes and a kitchen design place put together quotes, and if I remember correctly, IKEA was about half the price of either place. If I hadn’t felt comfortable installing the IKEA cabinets, I probably would have gone with one of the other places. But since I felt that my dad and I could get them installed, I decided to save some money and give the IKEA cabinets a shot. Plus, most of the people who wrote reviews online seemed to be really happy with them, and they seemed to look pretty good. However, although we would be saving money, it also meant my dad and I would be putting in a lot more work than we would have by going with one of the other places. But we were ok with that.

Where Is Your Closest IKEA?

This was the biggest con for me when I was debating whether or not to use IKEA cabinets. If we had an IKEA in Oklahoma City, it probably would have been a no brainer. However, the closest IKEA for me is about 3 hours away in Friso, TX. This meant likely making multiple trips to Frisco, and also not being able to make a quick trip to the store to make an exchange if something got damaged in shipping. I ended up making two trips to Frisco: one for a consultation and one for ordering. A couple of my pieces were damaged in shipping (more on this later), so I had to have some replacement pieces shipped. I got them pretty fast, but still had to go through the process of calling the store, getting the pieces figured out, and then waiting on them to arrive. And then once I was finished, I made a trip to the Kansas City IKEA to return a few items (since I was already at my brother’s place over the holidays and only about an hour from the Kansas City IKEA). So just keep in mind: if you don’t have an IKEA close, you may be making several trips back and forth and/or waiting on pieces to arrive.

Putting Together Your Plan

IKEA has an online tool you can use to build your virtual kitchen. It isn’t the easiest tool to figure out, but once I got the hang of it, I really liked it, and it helped a ton in figuring out what I wanted to do. You can go into the store and do this on their computers, but if the associates are busy, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get a lot of help from them. You can set up appointments with associates to help you out, but you have to pay for this. I would highly recommend getting the plan put together yourself if you can. That way you can set up an appointment to essentially have the IKEA associate check your plan and make sure you aren’t missing anything (I was missing cover panels) or let you know if they would recommend something else. This will likely also give them time to get an order list put together. That way, if you are coming back later to place the order, you really just have to give them the order list and they can place the order. If you set up an appointment and have to start from scratch, the associate may not have time to get the order list ready, which isn’t a huge deal, but it would save you a little time when you went in to order.

You could go in and put together your kitchen plan and order at the same time, but in my case, I set up my appointment when IKEA wasn’t doing a kitchen sale, so I waited for them to have a kitchen sale before I placed my order. I have heard that it gets pretty crazy in the cabinet department during the kitchen sales, so I would suggest getting everything lined out before the sale, and then when the sale starts, all you have to do is have an associate place the order.

One suggestion when placing your order: get a template for the handles. You have to install the handles yourself, and the template makes it so much easier to get all the handles right. My IKEA associate suggested this, but if yours doesn’t, make sure you mention it.

Getting Your Cabinets

When I went in for my consultation, the associate told me it would be $59 to ship the cabinets to my place in OKC. That was a no brainer. However, when I went in to place my order, I was told it was going to be $199. I tried to get them to change it to $59, but they wouldn’t. However, $199 still beat having to deal with driving to Frisco, figuring out Uhaul logistics, and then hauling them back. Also during the consultation, the associate told me it generally takes 2-3 weeks to get them when they are shipped. However, when I put my order in, I was able to get them in less than a week, which was a plus. Anyway, you have the option to have them shipped (which was better for me living 3 hours away from the store), or you can pick them up yourself (possibly same day as order), which may be better for you if you live close to the store.

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Cabinet order in my garage after being unloaded. Red arrow points to damaged package.

Once you get them, inventory them to make sure you aren’t missing anything and to make sure nothing is damaged. It’s not particularly fun, but you don’t want to wait several days, and then have IKEA tell you that you’re out of luck since you waited too long to get back with them after receiving the order. In my case, I had a couple boxes that were damaged (see red arrow in picture above), which was a pretty good sign that I needed to check the pieces in the boxes for damage. Each box that had damage had a damaged cabinet panel in it. I also got a hinge pouch that was already open and missing some pieces. If the box didn’t look damaged, I didn’t pull any of the pieces out. I called IKEA the next day and they didn’t have any issues with sending me replacement pieces, which ended up being a whole new cabinet box. Unfortunately, some pieces in the replacement box also got damaged in shipping. This was part of the reason I was a little hesitant to go with IKEA. Luckily, between the contents of the three damaged boxes, we were able to make it work though.

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Cabinets after inventory and organization (cover panels not shown, on opposite wall).

One other suggestion: when you are doing inventory on your order, group items by cabinet. In my order, each cabinet had a number. So when I started doing inventory, I wrote these numbers on small pieces of paper, and then I would group pieces by these numbers. It made it a whole lot easier going forward to keep track of what went with what and where it went in the kitchen. Once again, it takes some extra time, and you have to be careful about not getting pieces mixed up once you start assembling, but I thought it was worth it.

Assembly and Installation

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Assembled cabinet frames.

Assembling the cabinet frames ended up being a lot less time consuming that I thought it would be. Most of them were really quite simple, and once I got the hang of it, it went pretty quick. The only somewhat difficult ones were the corner cabinets. I was able to do all the assembly myself without any big problems. The instructions aren’t the greatest, but I didn’t have much trouble following them. If you will be assembling your cabinets on a hard surface (such as a concrete floor like I did), I would suggest laying something “soft” down on the floor to do the assembly on. I just used the cardboard from the cabinet boxes, and it worked fine.

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Installing the cabinet frames.

After I got the frames assembled, my dad came down and we got them installed. This is where you may have to get a little creative since these really aren’t custom cabinets. Here are a few examples where we had to be creative:

  1. Base cabinets on the right side of the picture above. Since we couldn’t get cabinets with custom depths, we had to bring a couple of the cabinets away from the wall to get them all flush out front. To do this, we cut a 4×4 post to the thickness we needed, mounted the post to the studs, and then mounted the railing to the post. We had to do something similar on the cabinet above the fridge to get it out far enough.
  2. To get the sink centered under the window, we had to put a couple finish panels between the sink cabinet and the corner cabinet.
  3. Our biggest headache: to get some of the upper cabinets level, we had to bring the bottoms out away from the walls, so we had to build some blocks of wood to use as wedges to keep them out from the wall, which wasn’t a big deal. However, this made the finish panels a heck of a lot more difficult and time consuming. The finish panels are made to be used when the cabinets are sitting against the wall as they normally would. We generally just needed to take one measurement (the height), and make one cut. But once we pulled the bottom of the cabinets away from the wall, we couldn’t use the normal finish panels. This meant we had to measure each finish panel, and custom cut it out of one of IKEA’s large (36″x96″) panels, and we ended up having to order an extra one of these panels (once again, we couldn’t just make a quick trip to the store to pick one up). Also, this large panel is thicker than the normal cover panels, so we had to then be careful about where we were sticking the normal cover panels and these custom cover panels to make sure that it didn’t look weird with the different thicknesses. And finally, the large finish panels don’t come with any screws to attach them to the cabinets (whereas the normal finish panels do). So we had to find some cabinet screws that we could use to attach the finish panels. They didn’t match the IKEA screws exactly, but they were close enough that it was fine, although we didn’t like them as much as the IKEA screws that were provided with the normal finish panels.
  4. On the cabinets to the right of the oven (both upper and lower), there is a gap between the cabinet and the wall to the right (can’t see it in the picture above). We had to figure out how to cut and mount a finish panel piece to fill this gap. We didn’t like our first attempt at the bottom piece, and luckily we were able to get it out without tearing anything up. But we eventually figured out a way that looked decent.

If you’re good with DIY, then you should be able to come up with solutions for most of the things like this you come across, but as I said, it may take some thought and creativity.

Finally came the doors, drawers, and hardware. The doors and shelves were all really simple. The drawers were more difficult and time consuming. I was a little careless and actually messed a few of the drawers up, but luckily in a way that I was still able to use them, and it’s actually nearly impossible to tell that I messed them up. And as I mentioned earlier, the template for the door handles was a huge help.

A couple final notes on this:

  1. The dust from cutting the finish panels is horrible. It’s a really fine powder that sticks to everything and gets everywhere. So be prepared for that, and cut these somewhere where you don’t mind getting dusty.
  2. Be careful how you cut the cover panels and take your time. You will likely need to cut them differently depending on the saw. With my table saw, the “finished side” (the side that you would see) needed to be face up. With my circular saw, the “finished side” needed to be face down. Also, take the cuts slow, as this seemed to help make the cut look better. And finally, and probably most important, use a fine tooth blade.

Final Thoughts

If you want a flawless kitchen, I would say IKEA cabinets aren’t for you. They are time consuming, and make a big mess if you have to cut as many finish panels as we did. They aren’t custom, so you may have to be creative to make them work in your kitchen. They also have some metal pieces that you can see on the bottom. The only place these are really visible in my kitchen are above the fridge, but if you bend down and look under the cabinets, you can see them.

However, I’m pretty picky, and I’m really happy with how they turned out. If you don’t mind spending the time on them and are good with DIY, then you should be able to make them work, and I would recommend them. If you aren’t good with DIY, you could probably find someone to install them for you, but at that point, I probably would have gone with Lowes or the kitchen design place.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read the post, and I hope it was helpful for you. If you haven’t read any other reviews/articles/blogs or watched any videos on installing IKEA cabinets, I would suggest you do some more research. You can learn something different from each of the articles/videos. I have placed a few videos below that I found helpful. If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them for you. Just use the contact link at the top of the page, or send an email to brentuphoto@gmail.com.

 

 

(A lot of video to watch, but some good tips in each video.)

The Importance of Maps

Not just a map, but maps. As in more than one.

When my brother and I started doing backpacking trips, I took along a National Geographic topographic map. The National Geographic maps gave us a general idea of where trail intersections should be, which is all we really needed to know. We weren’t doing any off-trail excursions. And luckily we never ran into any instances where we needed any sort of other map.

This past summer I took a navigation course through REI, and learned about the custom USGS quad maps on mytopo.com. With mytopo.com, you can create a map that merges several USGS quad maps into a single map, possibly eliminating the need to carry multiple USGS quad maps. I tried one of these maps out for the first time on our hike this past summer in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. It was so nice to have the detail of the USGS quad map. I rarely looked at the National Geographic map that we had during that trip. I was definitely glad I had learned about these maps, and they were something I was going to use going forward.

Fast forward a couple months to September. I took my first solo backpacking trip out to the Uinta Mountains in Utah. Just like the trip in Wyoming, I had a custom USGS quad map from mytopo.com and a National geographic map. Once again, I loved having the detail of the USGS quad map, and for most of the trip, that was the only map I really needed. But if you read my trip report post, you know that I ran into some issues on the way back to my car. Some strong winds had kicked up a wildfire and was blowing the smoke across the trail. I knew the fire was relatively close to the trail, and the smoke and ash was thick enough that I didn’t feel comfortable hiking out on my first attempt.

This is where having both the USGS quad map and the National Geographic map was important. With the possibility that I may not be able to hike out the way I had come in due to the wildfire, I knew that I needed to look for other potential ways out. However, due to the zoomed in nature of the USGS map (relative to the National Geographic map), it didn’t show any other trailheads. I could find other trails on this map that went other directions, but I would have no idea if they led to other trailheads. This is when the National Geographic map came in handy. It wasn’t as detailed, but since it showed a larger area, I was able to see other trailheads and map out a secondary way out if it was needed. It definitely wasn’t ideal and I wasn’t looking forward to it, but it at least gave me relief that I had another option.

Thankfully I didn’t have to use that secondary option, but it made me realize the importance of having (at least) two maps: one with detail of the area I’m planning on hiking, and another that shows a broader area just in case something goes wrong and I have to find another route.

And while we are on this topic, I would highly recommend taking a navigation course if you are going to be doing any sort of hiking/backpacking. My brother and I took several trips without either one of us having taken a navigation course. You may be able to get by without those skills, but you never know when you’ll run into a situation when you’ll need those skills, and they could save your life.

Before & After: Kitchen Remodel

If you had asked me which room I would like to remodel first when I bought my house a couple years ago, I would have probably told you the kitchen. I enjoy cooking/baking, and the kitchen was quite dated. I replaced the in-wall oven and cooktop with a standalone range shortly after moving in. At this point the kitchen was usable, but it definitely needed some more work. However, I kept doing other projects that were more “important” in my opinion. This past August, 19 months after buying the house, I finally got started on remodeling the kitchen. Ironically it ended up being the last project to get completed from my list of projects when I bought the house.

A very large chunk of my free time the last 4 months has been tied up in working on this kitchen. My dad made a few trips down to my place to help me out, and I have to give him a big shout out. He was a huge help. I would have been dishing out a lot more money if it wasn’t for his help and expertise. We essentially did everything ourselves outside of the countertops, backsplash, and running a couple spare water lines. I decided to go with IKEA cabinets to save some money, and I assembled those and my dad and I hung them. I’m really happy with how they turned out.

It has been a great learning experience, but I’m so glad it’s done, and I’m looking forward to putting to good use. I think I will be taking a break from house projects for a while. If you have any questions about anything I did with the remodel, feel free to shoot me a message. I may put together a future post focused on the the IKEA cabinets, but for now, here are the before and after pictures. While I enjoy the art part of photography, I also enjoy before & after photography as well!

Move In Pics

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After Most Of The Demolition

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Finished Product

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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.