Lost in the Woods

lost in the woods

Okay, the title is an exaggeration. My daughter Catherine has always had a flair for the dramatic. We were never really lost. We just didn’t know where we were–for a while. Yeah, there’s a story. Let me tell it. Catherine’s version is too sensationalist.

On the first day backpacking in to the Uintas two years ago, we hiked in through the Grandaddy peaks over the colorfully named Hades pass.

I know I look like Hell even if the Pass doesn’t.

On we went down into the Granddaddy basin.

Granddaddy Lake

Our goal that day was ambitious–at least for us. We were headed toward a little lake called Allen Lake. By all accounts it was a nine and a half mile hike some of which was cross country. Catherine had never been backpacking before and was nervous. I had been a number of times and assured her there was nothing to worry about. (I was practicing the knowledgeable, competent Father routine. I thought it was going swimmingly.) I had my trusty map and compass. The route was simple we head to Rainbow Lake, take a right to Bedground Lake and then follow the bearings I’d taken from my trusty map with my trusty compass cross country to Allen Lake. What could be simpler? (In case you haven’t yet learned this lesson, those are magic words of stupendous power. Uttering them unleashes the unspeakable forces of the entire universe. You stand at the focal point as all creation’s prodigious might unites to thwart your simple goal. Say these words and you will be obstructed at every turn until you collapse to your knees and amid anguished tears admit that you know nothing and are nothing. Take heed. Speak those words at your peril).

Blithely unaware that I had cursed our journey, I kept track of our progress as we passed by several lakes. We reached a lake at two in the afternoon that Catherine called the pretty lake. If I had been paying attention and actually, you know, reading my map, I would have identified it as Rainbow Lake.

Unbeknownst to me, the true state of things.

She suggested we stop. But it was only two and I thought we could still reach our goal. And, as you can see from the above picture, we could have. At my urging, she agreed to press on. A few minutes after we resumed hiking we came to a fork in the path. There was a sign, but I can’t recall what it said now only that I convinced myself we were at the position noted above and therefore we should head off to the right. As you can plainly see, that was heading away from our intended destination. But I was sure we were on the right track.

A mile or so later, we agreed to camp for the night.

Preparing for Dinner–First night’s camp.
Another View

It was not the most picturesque camping spot, but hey, we were tired. Notice we’re on the crown of a little slope. The location turned out to be fortuitous as that evening a wicked thunderstorm rolled through–and believe me unless you’ve lived through the monstrous thunder exploding near you and reverberating amplified from the peaks you haven’t lived. We stayed nice and dry–not something we were able to say for the entire trip–but that’s another story.

Anyway, the next day we arose dried the tents out a bit and were on our way. A few minutes into our renewed journey Catherine questioned the direction we were heading, but confident mountain man that I was pretending to be I assured her we were headed right.

After hiking for an hour or so we arrived at a stream.

Trust me–it looked much more formidable IRL than in this picture.

As you can see from the picture, we saw no way across without simply wading through the water, getting our feet soaked then hiking in two wet boots and socks for the rest of the day (a joy I reserved for this last summer’s hike–but that’s another story). Plus the idea of losing my balance (not as hard as it sounds with a forty pound pack on your back) smashing onto rocks and soaking more than my feet (again a thrill I reserved for this last summer’s hike–but that’s another story) did not make me flush with anticipation. But we had to cross. Catherine was hesitant; I was confident. Since we were having difficulty finding a dry way across, I determined to provide motivation. Okay, take a moment now and imagine how you might provide said motivation–a short convincing speech perhaps or maybe a demonstration of how it might be done?.

Such half measures aren’t good enough for me. I took my map and GPS device (the only things capable of telling us where we were in the wilderness) and, yelling something about Cortez and burning ships, hurled them across the stream into the underbrush on the other side.

To say Catherine was rather more dismayed than motivated would be an understatement of incalculable proportions. I don’t remember hearing any muttered curses about insane old men, but that’s probably only because my hearing isn’t what it used to be.

Anyway, still wearing my pack I tramped off up stream through thick underbrush to find a way across. After about a hundred yards, I discovered to my delight that I wasn’t traversing solid ground but a marshy margin along the creek littered with brush covered (meaning invisible to me) water filled holes. After plunging a foot into one of said holes half way up my shin I tread with greater care. Eventually, unable to find a dry way across, I returned to my starting point where Catherine was drying off her feet.

She had shed her pack, boots and socks and waded the stream in search of the discarded map and GPS. She said she’d been lucky to find them. Once again, she urged me to consider whether we were indeed travelling in the right direction. I grudgingly agreed to her request. Dropping my pack I took the map and GPS from her and with the help of my trusty compass, I set about trying to find out where we were.

The great explorer at work.


After a period of intense study, I decided Catherine was right.

Just a bit chagrined and a whole lot more humble, I threw on my pack and we trekked back up (yes, we had to walk uphill to retrace our steps) to where I’d led us astray. Now you can see why Catherine’s description of our adventure is wrong though–we were never “lost”.

We never did make it to Allen Lake because later that day on our cross country hike, we encountered another high running stream with no visible way over. So, we retreated to Bedground Lake.

That first trip, Catherine said the trip would be a success if she camped by a pristine mountain lake. This qualifies, don’t you think?

There we spent a pleasant evening until it got dark and we heard the sound. But that’s another story.

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