The weekend of 1 Feb 08, Tracy and I braved the weather in the mountains of eastern Utah and headed up to the Limber Flag Yurt in the Uinta Mountains of the Ashley National Forest. We had tried a few weeks earlier to do the same trip, but a bad winter storm had come through and we weren’t able to make it to the trailhead…despite driving 6 hours to get there. But this time the weather cooperated a little more…not much, but a little more.
We started out by starting from the wrong trailhead. That’s not a big deal when there’s less than 5 feet of snow, but after going half a mile in 5 feet of snow before realizing the mistake, we were already off to a bad start. But we got back to the right trailhead and started out following the tracks of someone who had cross country skied before us. That made the going pretty easy, and we made about 2 miles in just over an hour. And then the cross country ski tracks stopped. This was not good. We were only about a mile from the yurt so we figured it wasn’t a big deal. Three and a half hours later (yes, that’s ONE mile in THREE and a half hours!) we made it to the yurt. The snow was well over 5 feet deep in most places, and it was very powdery. We spent most of the time in snow up to our waists despite the snowshoes. I spent a lot of time yelling at the snow and just being generally angry at how hard it was to pull my showshoes out of 5 feet of snow with my legs attached to them. By the time we made it to the yurt we were completely and positively exhausted.
The yurt was pretty nice…it had two queen-sized bunk beds and a wood stove. But the stove was barely enough to heat the place, so it took us several hours to get warmed up. About 7 pm I turned on my little weather radio to see if the forecast had changed. It had. There was now a winter storm warning with up to 20 inches and 40 mph winds predicted for where we were within the next 12 hours. That sucked.
So we went to bed about 8 pm to try to recover some energy, and we woke up about 1:30 am to the sounds of howling wind. Luckily the sky was still clear, so we packed up and headed out in the dark. As soon as we started out the wind died down, the clouds moved in, and it started snowing. But for the most part we could still see our trail we had cut the day before, and we didn’t have trouble walking with our headlamps. The snow was blowing too much to see far in front of us, but that wasn’t a big problem…until we came to a big, open field where snowmobilers had obliterated our trail doing doughnuts. That was bad. I couldn’t see any trail markers because of the snow, and I couldn’t see our snowhoe trail anymore. Somehow, mostly dumb luck, I assume, I was able to keep up with our trail and pick back up with our tracks in the trees. Tracy said later she figured we were going to get lost there. It would have been horrible to lose the trail because it would have meant breaking trail for a mile back to the truck…and we already knew how much that would suck. But we made it back without incident, and just drove VERY slowly back down the very steep switchbacks of the mountain, and eventually back home.
It was a good trip. I really enjoyed hiking in the middle of the night…I need to do more of that. Tracy doesn’t like it at all, but I’m trying to show her that it’s not as scary as she thinks it is. Anyway, the yurt is a good idea, because it gives you a chance to stay out longer than you normally could by just dayhiking in the winter, and you don’t have to camp on the ground.