Bobby Danger, Jake and I decided at the last minute to go up to the Uintas today to hike Bald Mountain. (Well, OK...Jake didn't have much say in the matter, actually.) With temperatures hitting 100ºF in the Salt Lake Valley today, plus with the smoke we've been enduring from the wildfires in our state, hiking an 11,943-foot peak in the Uintas sounded like a good idea.
I just mentioned the wildfires. If you somehow haven't heard, the lean winter followed by a nearly precipitation-free spring has meant that the fire season in much of the western U.S. is already off the charts, well ahead of normal. It's going to be a long, hot, smoky summer. The national news has followed the "Dump Fire" in Utah County that has already charred over 6,000 acres, but that's largely because it's been burning on the edge of a population center and forced evacuations of by some accounts nearly 10,000 people on Friday.
The Dump Fire, which started on Thursday and is now 40% contained, filled the Salt Lake Valley with a thick, smoky haze Thursday through Saturday.
Much more impressive, however, is a fire that broke out yesterday afternoon in Sanpete County, south of the Wasatch Front and east of the hamlet of Fountain Green. No measurable precipitation has fallen there in the past two months.
The hope was that we'd avoid the smoke in the Uintas. We were wrong.
The smoke, however, was barely detectable when we started our hike from Bald Mountain Pass late morning. In fact, you could see Mt. Timpanogos and other Wasatch Mountain summits on the southwestern horizon. Temperatures were in the low 70s with a stiff breeze even at the trailhead. In a word, gorgeous. It was also a dry run for Jake to try out his dog pack before I spend a weekend in the Uintas with mrgskier
and his daughter.
The dry run of the dog pack went wonderfully. Jake never complained about it once, and he's carrying his own food, water, dog treats, bowl and ball.
The southerly wind was ferocious, easily blowing a steady 30mph and gusting well over 40mph at the summit. We traversed across the relatively flat summit a ways before we could hunker down in the calm created by a ledge overlooking Mirror Lake to enjoy lunch.
Everyone could enjoy it, that is, except for Jake who walked to the edge of a 1000-foot precipice and freaked out. Up to that point I was the one freaking out, not knowing how he'd react to standing at the edge of a cliff. Would he be careful, or reckless on the loose rock? I quickly learned that I had nothing to worry about.
I shared my homemade peppered teriyaki beef jerky from Samak Smokehouse with Jake to make up for it.
After lunch we returned to the summit from the north and began our descent down the south side.
The smoky haze had been gradually increasing, but as we descended it moved in like a wall of weather from the south. Likely coming from the Sanpete County fire 100 miles away, it quickly enveloped the area, burning our eyes and even featuring some light "ash snow" falling from the skies.
We had some time to kill after arriving back at the car, so we rewarded Jake's performance with some swimming in Moosehorn Lake.
As we drove home the smoke became thicker still, completely obscuring the sun and rendering the landscape in a peculiar yellow glow. It disappeared between Kamas and Park City, and by the time we returned to the Salt Lake Valley there was little hint of the fires to our south.