Day Nine July 26: Helen Lake to Western Terminus, Final Leg, 12 miles or so

Today was the final leg of this journey, my last day on this trail. We had a bit of condensation on both tents and sleeping bags, but nothing a little sunshine couldn’t take care of. We packed up and headed out for the day.

It was a stunning morning. There were walls of red and purple rock surrounding us as we climbed up on the plateau that was filled with moss, meadow and flowers. The morning walk was music to my feet, mellow and fairly flat. Salamander was a bit ahead and came to an abrupt stop. I knew something was up. I slowly came up from behind and there she was, a female moose. She was grand, standing within fifty feet of us and just watching us, as we locked eyes on her. We stood still for a few minutes and we’re intrigued by this massive horselike creature. As we turned to move on, the male moose showed his palms. Ought Oh, we had no idea there was a male too! We both looked at each other and slowly pressed on.

We continued on and walked across more meadows, around willows and ponds, while crossing many rocks and creeks. Salamander was within eye sight and like she does, vanished into the scenery. I crossed a fairly large creek and yes, lost the trail. Dang it. It appeared to head into the burn area and so I started my venture up and over burned out trees, logs and what had been so lush and green, turned into death and destruction. It was disheartening as I meandered through the distinct darkness. I was looking for Salamander’s footprints but couldn’t find them and started questioning myself, am I on the right trail? I checked my Gaia App and that silly little arrow that tells me what way to go, was headed right on track. Hmm, I wonder where the elusive Salamander went? After a good hour or so, my legs were painted with black soot. The trees that had been burned more than a year ago, rubbed up against me and made me look like a coal miner. Then to my surprise, I heard from behind, my partner. How did you get behind me? Ends up that Salamander never made it over the creek. She instead followed the water down, looking at fish in the pools and after a mile or two, realized that she had taken a wrong turn. We stopped, had lunch and filled up on water.

After our break, we took off for our last pass, Rock Sea Pass. Of course we must climb a final pass to concrete this trail and put it in the history books. Salamander and I looked at the map and decided to meet on the other side at Milky Spring. I put my head down and started hiking. It was a good four miles up and over the pass with an 1800’ climb, on my last day. I felt like a slug moving up the final switchbacks. As I made it to the summit, there were some day hikers on top. I received applause and Chris, an amateur videographer, was filming me. You’d think I climbed Everest as he wanted to ask all the pertinent questions like how long have you been out here, and where are you going, and when was your last shower? It was a wonderful afternoon, having my moment of fame with these young kids.

I headed off the mountain and made my way down to Milky Spring. It was a gentle descent, unlike others. The rock walls were towering around me and I thought I heard a goat or sheep calling me. I looked around but to no avail, only saw a marmot and pica running from rock to rock. As I came off the mountain, I saw the lush green meadow shimmering below. There Salamander was waiting for me. As I offloaded my pack, she tells me I should go soak my feet in the creek. What a splendid idea. I bit, and walked over. I took off my crocks and went to the Milky Spring, sat down and oh my, the water was freezing. The Milky Spring is a glaciated spring! I have never seen a spring that flowed from glacier water. There were a pile of rocks that this spring sprung from. It’s was brutally cold, to the point that my very tough, calloused feet could not bare more than thirty seconds in this milky murky water. I laughed at the thought of soaking my aching feet and realized I’d have to wait till tonight, when I get off the trail and into our glorious Holiday Day Inn Express Hotel!

Salamander and I ate our final meal on the trail, tuna, peanut butter and waffle crisp, Parmesan Cheese and a few ginger candies. Yummy for my tummy, ugh! All I really wanted was a burger and fries! And maybe a salad. We still had another 6.5 miles to go and it was already 3pm. All either of us could do was knock out this trail and get to the car. There was a bit of downhill with lots of rolling ups and downs. Salamander was like a horse going back to the barn. After she left, I didn’t see her again. I was milling, wanting to take it all in, my final day walking with Jesus. This has been quite a test in trials, endurance, perseverance and overcoming. As I look back on these past days, I understand why I needed this more than ever. This has been a year of heartache, with my Mom passing and just before I came out here, talking with my cousin Shari and hearing of my Mom’s sister passing, Auntie Gerry.

From left to right Auntie Gerry, My Mom & Grandma Mom (all in Jesus’ arms}

God has reminded me how important it is that I know where my family and friends will spend eternity. I surround myself with mostly Christians, yet God has placed some special people in my life that are unsure of their salvation. I was walking through the lush green meadows this morning, and just as quickly, it turned to ash and ruins. I prayed and wondered what was I suppose to make of this? It was so clear in my soul, you can be with me in this lush vast garden or you can choose not to follow me, and your eternity will be dark and empty. I have a handful of fiends and family who do not know Jesus like I do. And I understand what the Lord is telling me; there is a mission field of unbelievers, who will never know me, unless someone shares my love with them. I now know what He wanted of me and I have an obvious path. Not one that is unknown, not something that I need to stumble through but clear and distinct direction that takes my family and friends directly to your loving arms.

I made it to the car at 730pm. It was bittersweet but I was ready to set my next path. This was clear, concise and full of hope. The trail that leads directly to you. My true compass and perfected direction. Thank you Lord for our time to hope, to dream and to know, that you have designed me for Your perfect and wonderful purpose. Until we meet again, I so truly love you and cannot wait to introduce new family and friends into your kingdom.

Lay not up for yourself treasures here on earth, where moths and most cloth corrupts, and where thieves break through and steal; But lay up yourself treasure in heaven, where neither moths or rust clothes corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal; For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be. Matthew 6:19-21

This concludes my trail for 2021. It has been a pleasure hiking along with you and especially my most trusted and faithful friend Jesus! I will continue my hikes for God, accompanied by my dog wonder Zoey, from my backyard near Sacramento, California. Until we meet again, May God keep you protected and may you share the good news of our Lord with everyone you meet. Godspeed ❤️ and remember to always love!

Day Eight July 25: Lake Fork River to Helen Lake, 12 miles again

This day will be etched in my mind forever. I need to explain who Salamander is. Sally Miller has been my hiking partner for over ten years. I met Sally and Roy when they moved to Sacramento in 2005. They are the kind of couple that when you meet them, you know they will be lifelong friends. In 2009 I was asked to join a group called “Cops on Top.” They are law enforcement officers from all over United States and every year, their goal is to have an officer summit the highest peak in each state on June 4th. I accepted the challenge and with another friend Elisa, we climbed Mt Whitney for the cause. The following year, I was asked if I’d be interested in summiting Mount Rainier? This is a completely different climb as it is alpine mountaineering and honestly, my experience is quite limited. I called Sally and Roy and asked if they would be my teammates? Sally is an officer with Nampa PD in Idaho and Roy, a Medic, so a perfect fit for the team. They are one powerful couple, with vast outdoor experience and both efficient climbers! As it worked out, there were ten climbers and we summited Rainier June 2010. So Salamander is “no joke!’ Since then we have backpacked every year, including such trails as Wonderland Trail, Tetons, portions of the Pacific Crest Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail, Colorado Trail, you get the gist. The list goes on…

With all the credentials of Salamander, today was the icing on the cake. Every other year, we trade off choosing adventures and this year, Sally picked the trail. Highline Trail in the Uinta Wilderness. I came along blindly not doing much research and just riding on the shirttails of Salamander. We had two passes to cover today, Red Rocks and Dead Horse Pass. Right there, is a clue! We hit Red Rocks Pass early and made it up and over fairly quickly. Met some more College Students from Indiana with extremely heavy packs and wondered, have they ever heard the concept of ultralight? It breaks my heart because I am sure that there are a handful of them who will never ever backpack again. They have packs loaded with their fears and many useless items.

Salamander and I made it to Dead Horse Lake, an emerald green lake, like known I have ever seen. It wasn’t glaciated but green because of the rocks and minerals in the area. Salamander and I contemplated the fact that the pass we were about to embark on was only one mile up and 800’ of elevation. Honestly, that doesn’t sound too terribly horrifying, but you didn’t climb it!

We headed up and immediately this was like nothing I have ever attempted. Mt Whitney has 99 switchbacks but it has cables where they are needed and the climbing is gradual. Mt Rainier I climbed late in the evening, typical alpine start, so I never looked down until I was on my way down. Salamander reminded me today that she had to literally talk me off that mountain, being I was ready to call it quits, over and finished, yet I was only half way down. In Utah, I guess you just pick your hike and do it! This route should have been a mountaineers route. Meaning, you need to have much experience and nerves of steel. This was the scariest backpacking I have ever done. Salamander and I have jumped across glaciers, we have partially climbed the Middle Tetons. We have hiked the Wonderland Trail where I noticed that we needed to climb the steep cliff using a rope, and gratefully there was a used rope to help us access the trail. But I have never climbed a trail that was so sketchy that you better not take a misstep, because that, could in fact, be your last! Let’s just say I was laser focused.

Salamander was in the lead and I was slowly making my way up this unforeseen cliff that only had two options. One, you survive by the grace of God or two, you are like the dead horse, who didn’t. All I needed to do was rely solely on Jesus. There’s the saying that there are two foot prints in the sand, one of Jesus and the other of you being carried. I was definitely being escorted if not, certainly carried up this pass. I could not look up or down but only at His steps in front of me. I have never faced fear like I did today! This can only be described as a walk in faith knowing that God Almighty is in charge. After the longest hour of my life, I summited this pass but as we all know, that is only half the battle. Unless you make it down, you never truly accomplished anything.

Salamander was at the top waiting for me and surveying our route down. It was just as precarious as the way up! Once we literally found the route down, it was much less eroded with fairly firm footholds. The valley below was intoxicating as it looked like a Jurassic Park museum. Salamander was saying that the dinosaur archeological society have unearthed many bones in the surrounding area. It was a perfect haven for these prehistoric animals to roam. After two hours had passed, we finally arrived back on solid ground. My stomach was nothing short of rumbling and tumbling and I had to stop to compose myself. I literally felt sick and yes, I upchucked my chicken salad lunch. I have never never-ever felt fear like I did today!

The rest of the afternoon does not matter. There was some route finding issues that annoyed me but in the scheme of things, it all worked out. Salamander and I made it to camp, had a lovely dinner of couscous with vegetables and received frequent visits from the resident deer.

There is no way to put today in words. It was beyond anything that I have ever experienced. Without God’s grace and his guiding footsteps, I would not be blogging in my tent tonight. He loves me more than my imagination and He protected me from certain foe. Today will be a day that I will never forget. It will be a day that defines my existence and His value of who I am. Tomorrow I feel Jesus will open a door for me, to share what purpose He has for me. But if tomorrow is not the day, I will be patiently waiting for what He has in store for me. I am so blessed to be alive and to be a vessel for whatever He has planned for my remaining life.

As a prisoner for the Lord, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle, be patient bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:1-3

Day Seven July 24: Tungsten Pass to Lake Fork River, 12 miles

Utah is all about extremes. The wind last night knocked my guideline down not one, two or three times. But four times. It was like the jet stream came down on hovered over my tent! The only other place I’ve ever experienced winds like that was in Patagonia with my daughter years ago. After the third time of reconfiguring my line, I gave up and pushed my back against the tent pole and attempted to sleep. Needless to say, I was up early and on my way over Pobquupine Pass.

Others had the same idea, early summit, except they were hiking Eastbound, so I ran into two big groups. The first crew were leaders who were taking out new college students before they began freshmen year. There were a couple of younger boys and girls who didn’t seem to be thrilled with the idea of hiking over the pass to see the sunrise. It truly is something everyone should do once in their lifetime as God puts on quite a show to the early risers. The other group were 15 men from all over the world, who were embarking on Seminary School and this was there, getting aquatinted, 50 mile journey. They were in great spirits and quite fun to talk with.

Porcupine Pass was a great early morning climb with endless vistas in all directions. The trail on the way up was fairly easy to follow, but heading over the pass, and going down to the meadow below, could use some help. It has eroded from all the recent rains and the ones who know me, know my fear of heights and crossing abyss like caverns. I try to not look down, move as slowly as I can, and make it without slipping and succumbing to certain pain!

The day is always best when I can climb in the early morning. Salamander and I hooked up in the valley below near a creek and had our morning snack, washed our extra pair of undies and socks and carried on to the next creek for lunch. As days go, this was definitely our easiest day of the trip so far. After lunch, we made our way though an unnamed meadow that was filled with sheep. This time, I actually walked right next to them like I was the Shepard or just an annoyance being they fled from left to right and vice versa, not sure where to go. They were all sizes, Youngers and Elders, black sheep and white sheep. I never saw their Shepard and they were doing just what sheep do, graze.

The afternoon was uneventful and we made it to a free flowing creek for the evening. Salamander always finds the best Camp spots away from the trail and fairly level. I taught her the fine art of using a water bottle to find a level spot. You lay the bottle on the ground and use it like a carpenters level and presto, sleeping flat is that simple.

Today I was talking with God and making some sense of the past few days. It seems it takes me a few days to unwind and really get deep with the Lord. As I have been journeying I realized how many things that I say or do that block the power of the Holy Spirit. When I criticize others, gossip, and flat out talk rudely about Gods people, I am placing a wedge between me and Him. The more I love others, edify Gods people, bring joy into their lives, I receive tenfold of what God has desired for me. I wonder how many gifts I have rejected by not being the person God designed me to be? This is a place that I truly need to work on so I can sincerely do what the Lord has planned for me. This is tough stuff, much harder than climbing mountains or crossing flowing streams. This is really desiring to change who I am, so I may better serve my master. This is only the tip of the iceberg of conversations that I have been having, but it starts with one step in front of the other and those small steps can truly change the lives of the people I love.

Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know my rising up and my sitting down. You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down and are acquainted with my every moves. For there is not a word on my tongue, Lord that you know it all together. You have hedged me before and behind me and laid your hand upon me. I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are your works and that my soul knows very well. Psalm 139:1-5

Day Six July 23: Painters Basin to Tungsten Pass, 10 miles

What a thrilling night. There was thunder and lightning above our heads all night long with torrential downpours. Salamander woke up with a puddle under her tent and everything we had was wet! Not a great start to the day but the sun peaked out and thank goodness, it wasn’t raining in the morning. These are big wins!

What was super exciting was a real live Shepard tending his herd of some 500 sheep. He had some helpful sheep dogs that knew exactly how to move those sheep from one side of the meadow to the other. It looked like a flock of geese or some other migrating birds that fly or in this case, run in formation across the grassy field. The Shepherd came over to greet but neither Salamander nor I could speak much Spanish so the conversation was quick ending. But we’re able to gather that he would be here through August and then the lambs would be ready for harvest.

We climbed over the highest pass, Anderson Pass today which is 12800’ and change. The tallest peak in Utah is Kings Peak 13527’ which Salamander ran up like a gazelle. I watched from the safety of the pass and headed over the other side. The Conservation Corp was doing some trail work on the pass, placing huge rocks that act as barriers for erosion. They will be working this area for the summer. Bless their hearts as that is hard and painstaking work.

As I was making my way down the steepest pass of this trek, I heard rumbling and thought, more thunder storms? As I looked over to the ridge just below Kings Peak, the most enormous rockslide had started. It seems that whenever I witness a rockslide, I’m with Salamander so that shall give you an indication as to the places we travel together. I videotaped it as it let off and continued for over a minute, careening all the way down the steep face. It really reminds me how powerful Mother Earth can be. I believe with the intense saturation we had from the night before, it was enough to start this climatic event. It sure reminds me to respect the backcountry and all the wrath it holds!

The descent was much more intense than the climb and I was grateful that we chose to hike east to west. Well at least today. The meadow below is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s so huge. The only comparison would be Yosemite but I believe the glacier that carved this area was twice the size of Yosemite Valley. They call it “Valley of the Kings” as Kings Peak overlooks it like he is seated on a throne. It is spectacular and just boggles my mind how few people ever experience this place. There is no easy way to get here except pure grit and some bit of crazy. I always think I’ve hit my max when I’m out here but this truly has pushed me beyond anything I thought I could do. It is strenuous daily, and never gives you much of a chance to take a breath. God has reminded me time after time to just slow down and walk this with him. I am slowly realizing that I truly need to listen to his sweet and comforting voice so I can freely inhale his majesty and glory.

Today we didn’t get in all the miles we planned. The intention was to climb three passes and finish off with Porcupine Pass. But I’ve learned intentions are fine but God Almighty has it already taken care of. Around 530pm, the weather began to clear. Warm beautiful blue skies and we made our mind up to finish in this basin on the other side of Tungsten Pass. It was lovely. We actually sat and warmed up our body’s and gear under the sun rays, and relaxed for a change. There comes a time when you just need to soak in this beauty and rest. Thank you Jesus for giving me this time to honor you, to seek all that you have blessed me with and know when enough is enough.

I trust in, rely on, and am confident in you. Oh Lord, I say, you are my God. my times are in your hands Psalm 31:14-15

Day Five July 22 : Fox Lake to Painters Basin, 12 miles

Today was the most breathtaking day ever! I have never hiked in Utah. Never been to Bryce Canyon or Zion so these orange and red mountains, these enormous cliff sides are all new to me.

We started late today. I needed a little extra rest from my knees and ankles and Salamander was quite accommodating. No complaints on her end. We started out with a beautiful walk through the trees, on a trail and found this old abandoned cabin. I always love this part of my hikes when you stumble across something so unexpected. The trail was fairly easy to follow, nothing to crazy to navigate and made the early morning hiking much more enjoyable than yesterday.

There were more people on the trail today than we have seen all days prior. We met two gals who were thru-hiking, just as we are. They took over our coveted break spot overlooking the meadow and river below. We had a small break from the weather and attempted to dry our soaked tents from the night before. It seems to rain a lot in Utah, at least this time of year.

As I continued on, I met two fishermen, hiking and fishing for a few days. This was their annual guys trip and were on their way out. After talking awhile, sharing tips on lightening their loads, I asked if there was any chance they may have Motrin? Without hesitation, he pulls out a nicely organized pill box that has five Motrin’s and five Tylenol’s. Just take it all. We are on our way out and I won’t be needing it. I wanted to hug him but I’m sure he would not appreciated me and all my stink! For some unknown reason I had decided that I wouldn’t need anything for this trek. Silly me. My knees are screaming at me, and my shoulders are so sore from carrying this heavy load. I call this simple gesture, Trail Magic. When you least expect it, the trail provides. And to think I have five days left, one for each day. Only God could have orchestrated this chance encounter.

Just like the past few days, we’ve had rain, hail, lightning and thunder and today was no exception. It’s almost a conundrum as to whether I should put on my rain jacket or not when I’m climbing a hill. I’m already working out and my body is warm. I took my jacket off and on several times. Just as I got to camp, Salamander already scoped out the best possible site she could find on a bench with little protection and the least amount of rocks. As soon as I arrived, she’s helping pitch my tent and the skies open up. It hasn’t stopped since. And I imagine I will sleep to rain splattering on my shelter all night. Along with the thunder and lightning overhead. We are perched at 11300’ so we have little relief. But I can tell you if you’re looking for a bombproof watertight tent, Gossamer “The One” is the shelter to have. Both Salamander and I own it, and it has withstood all the precipitation one can endure.

As I was walking the trail today wondering how I was going to make it another step, God showed me His love and kindness. He knew I was hurting and He used these two fishermen by having them stop to talk with me. How sweet was that? And of all people to use on the trail but men that fish. I found it ironic as I was thinking of the twelve disciples just yesterday and how many of them, in fact, were simple fishermen. Once again, I am heard. Jesus is just a thought away. When I am hurting, when I am struggling to place one foot in front of the other, He upheld me. He wants to show me how much He loves me today, tomorrow and always. What a wonderful God I serve.

The Lord makes firm the steps in the one who delights in him, he may stumble but he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. Psalm 37: 23-24

Day Four July 21: Cepeta Lake to Fox Lake, 12 miles

Hello rain. Last night it rained for hours with the loudest thunder I have ever heard. Around 130am, we had a visitor in our campsite. Both Salamander and I heard it clear as day. Large animal that huffed. He hung out for a bit and then came back a half hour later. We both were lifeless, no sound and waited for our intruder to vacate. Honestly this is his home and we are truly the vagrants poaching on his territory. When we woke up in the morning, we both agreed it was a bear. No good respective moose or elk would huff.

We were a bit late getting moving this morning as our tents were wet and we were cold. Finally at 830am, we started the typical hunt for the trail. We were bushwhacking for a good hour or so when Salamander found the Cairns and we were back on track. Eleven miles doesn’t seem like much but when you are NOT on any sort of a trail, the miles are hard and slow!

We had another pass, North Pole Pass to navigate over and all the literature says to watch the weather and don’t go over unless it’s clear. Sure as we started getting up in elevation, the black ugly clouds rolled in and it was obvious that we were gonna need to hunker down. Salamander and I had our tents pitched in two minutes flat and as soon as we were inside, the thunder, lightning and hail came down from heaven with a vengeance!

We took advantage of our down time and had lunch then waited for the skies to clear as best as they could. We had hail on the corners of our tents, and they were soaked. After a thirty second long thunderous crackling, things appeared good enough for our summit attempt. Honestly, I think Jesus was watching over me because I was exhausted from a sleepless night and lacked any energy. I refueled, rested supine for a bit and that made all the difference for my climb.

We meandered up the trail which was covered in hail, and made it to the top without any threat of thunderstorms. But it was close. As Salamander was trekking behind me, the darkest sky was following us. Yet, I had the most incredible sighting of the Lord. As I was walking across the plateau there was the most beautiful midst in the air to the left of me. It was nothing short of the Holy Spirit protecting us as we safely continued our journey. I had tears in my eyes as I told Salamander what I just witnessed. It was nothing short of supernatural!

We made it over North Pole Pass and slowly walked to our camp for the night. The ground was wet and the rocks were slick from all the rain so I had my slow and steady pace, even more so. Salamander kicked it into overdrive and I could only attempt to keep up with her. I hate to admit it but 15 years junior is a big gap that I cannot overcome. I have to agree that she is faster and I am wiser.

The Lord has been humbling me much on this trail. There are things that I need to succumb to. God has a reason for my journey and He knows that it will make me a better person and gain a closer relationship with Him. There was a reason that Jesus had twelve disciples and not 20 or more. He knew that He could only care for so many relationships without neglecting the most important one, His Heavenly Father. I really need to focus on my tribe, my family and my dear friends. And then I will have the closer relationship I desire to have with Jesus. Time out here is so precious and it allows me to see what is truly important.

Show me your ways Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me. For you are my God and Savior, my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:4-5

Continue reading

Day Three July 20: Surprise Creek to Cepeta Lake, 2400’ 15 plus miles (extra credit)

One of the best things about backpacking is when you get a good nights sleep. I was exhausted and went to my tent at 8pm and woke up at 5am. Glorious night of rest and recuperation.

Today was the day I had my closest friends pray for extra safety, stamina and solid footing. It was a 15 mile hike with 2400’ elevation gain and 2400’ descent. Typically you want to climb and stay above tree line but evidently that’s not the case today. I took off early hoping to get much of the climb out of the way. Once I had a couple of miles underfoot, the trees diminished and the mountains were the main attraction. My first spotting was a marmot, obviously trying to ward me away from his family. They are clever little creatures and truly the protectors of their loved ones. As I traveled up the mountain, I saw what appeared to be the biggest deer I’ve ever set eyes on. He was looking at me, not sure if I was friend or foe and then walked off. A few 100’ further, I get another look and to my amazement, these two are no deers at all. They are elks. Once again they are trying to determine what is approaching and just as I snap a picture, they run off and so does the entire herd that was hiding behind the trees! My first up and close encounter of these magnificent mammals on this trail. What a wonderful day this is going to be.

I climbed to the top of a barren plateau and then looked down on the many lakes and meadows below. Salamander catches up and we take a break planning the rest of our day. We have two passes to get over and they are both 11800’ or so. Hiking above tree line is comparable to walking on the Alaskan Tundra. The ground is squishy and soft with no discernible trail. What cracks me up is the sign they post “Stay on Trails.” Seriously, there’s no trail to stay on. The only clue we have are rock Karin’s and our GPS. It’s a treasure hunt up here. The miles are slow going and by lunch, we have only made it to Deadman’s Lake. Odd name, I thought.

We have our lunch and figure out our plan of attack for the next climb. There’s two routes, both just as steep as the other but one is .1 mile shorter. I’m thinking let’s take the shorter route which is undefinable and so I stick with the longer path. Once on top of our final pass, we still have over six miles to camp. I’m already exhausted and get into granny gear and slowly make my way down. Salamander not much faster as she has a stress fracture in her foot which is causing her pain. No doubt! She’s such an incredible athlete and I guess she is used to pain and wasn’t planning to give up on this backpacking trip for some inconvenient stress fracture.

As I make it down the trail, yes, we finally have a trail, I am thinking about all the prayers both answered and unanswered. I starting journaling many years ago but I can’t say I journal daily. But I do look back on occasion and Jesus reminds me of all the answered prayers. I try to focus on His mercies but there are many times I ask why He hasn’t answered my petitions? Then I am reminded of who He is, almighty and omnipresent. God knows and hears all of my prayers and my hope is that when the time is His time, many of my unanswered prayers will come to be. But my prayer tonight was for rest and possible time to soak my feet, and that prayer was perfectly answered. Thank you Lord!

Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy, in your faithfulness and righteousness, come to my relief. Psalm 143:1

Day Two: July 19 Big Brush Creek to Surprise Creek, 12.5 miles

Woke up early to what sounded like a dog barking?!? We are the only people out here and we haven’t seen a soul since we left Sunday morning. So either the dog belongs to a ghostly person or it was a wolf acting like a dog. No elk but both Salamander and I saw deers on our outing today.

The early morning chore was filling up with water from the elusive spring that was hiding in the meadow. We packed up then hiked out, gathered 3 liters each, which adds 6 pounds to our already burdened packs. But from all the intel that was gathered, this was the last water source till the end of the day.

Once loaded up, we started route finding. That seems to be a common theme on our past two days. Both Salamander and I have downloaded maps on our phones. It’s not typically the way I travel but great experience on using GPS. I’m sure God is teaching me something regarding finding my way without a trail.

We climbed 1800’ today, not as much as yesterday but it felt just as tough. I’m quite a bit slower than my partner, this seems to be the story of my life when I travel long distance. There were many times I didn’t see Salamander for a couple of hours but then she’d sit and wait till I caught up. She is very patient and seems to enjoy the extra rest time. But once we’re up and moving, she bolts!

We had a variety of terrain today. Starting back in the trees but quickly made it to a high knoll. There was plenty of shale and low brushy trees. Then we headed back into desert terrain with the red rocks and not much shade. But the highlight was walking through a grassy meadow that went on for at least a mile. We climbed more towards the end of the day. But just short of our destination, there was a surprise creek running across the trail. We both had run short of water so this was a no-brainer. We stopped, looked at the map and decided to hunker down for the evening. We were only .3 miles from our original planned destination. If we kept moving, we would’ve had to huff it another .4 miles to water one way. This is splendid and it’s always an added bonus to have water flowing next to the tent. A little added ambience.

Today was filled with special moments. The Lord pushes me outside my comfort zone just long enough that I truly depend on Him to get me through. This was one of those days. I had many points that I wondered, why am I wandering through this wilderness that no one else seems to know about? Why am I carrying this backpack that is much to heavy for its maximum load capacity? Why can’t I keep up with my hiking partner? Then God shows up and reminds me that if I truly want to see him and hear him, I need to get away from all the distractions that I tend to put in front of Him. This is where He gets my undivided attention. Thank you Jesus for waiting for me, asking me and knowing that I will go so that we can spend these special moments together.

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “who shall I send and who shall go for us” And I said, “here I am and I shall go.” Isaiah 6:8

Day One July 18: McKee Draw to Big Brush Creek 12 Miles

Last night, we pulled into our camp at 930pm. It was a long, long drive from Idaho to Utah covering three states, Wyoming too. I drove Salamander’s car to the western terminus and then we all jumped into the lead truck and drove another three hours to our starting point. All in all, it took us 12 hours to get to the eastern terminus or in our case, the beginning. Once parked, we pitched out tents, drank my last IPA Beer for the next week or so, and quickly went to sleep.

Salamander, aka Sally & I were up early in the morning getting all our gear situated, packs loaded and water filled. Her wonderful husband Roy, made us a send off breakfast that kept us moving on trail all morning. We had breakfast burritos with eggs, bacon, potatoes, peppers, cheese, salsa, sour cream and avocado. it was our final home cooked meal, or in this case tailgate, for the next ten days.

Once our belly’s were fat and full, we headed out onto the 110 mile Uinta Highline Trail. This is an obscure trail that some 100-200 people a year hike. It has no resupply options and is a long way from anywhere. But the mountains are huge, the valleys are deep and the wildlife is prolific, so off we went.

The first day with packs topping off near 40 pounds, we hiked 2400’ in elevation. That’s ridiculous climb for first day on the trail. The one reprieve was the trail was mostly in the shade covering of trees, but the loose rocks and red shale were murderous on the newly planted feet. It was hot! We’ll I guess there are extremes of hot like California heat which is in the 110’s, but this felt like a furnace. I think I was producing as much heat as the ambient temperature. We made it five miles to a small lake and found some water.

After our snack, we headed back into the trees. When I say that, there truly, is not a heavily marked trail out here. Most of my hiking and backpacking have been on trails that are clearly posted, maintained and fairly free if debris. Highline Trail is so infrequently used that the trail or lack of it, is overgrown or just not there. Prior to leaving Idaho, Salamander had me download the GPS coordinates so I could navigate with my phone if I was unable to find a rock Cairn or trail. I’m gonna be using it a lot.

We did lots of climbing today. Saw some cattle in the distance, and heard elk from far away. This is a wild and scenic place and by the end of the day, we had covered some miles, gained quite a bit of elevation and were ready to bed down. Our last venture of the day was crossing an unmarked meadow and finding water.

We dropped our packs. Salamander had talked to a group from Backcountry Horsemen who were adamant that there is a spring flowing in the meadow. We grabbed our empty water bottles, a few items to attempt to clean our filthy bodies and went hunting for this unmarked unnamed spring. We walked for a half mile and sure enough, found a trickle that flowed down meadow and had some decent sized pools. Hallelujah, we were blessed with water, bathing holes and sunshine.

Day one was mentally and physically exhausting. Our packs were heavy, the altitude was already close to 10000’ and I was wondering what I was doing in this extreme wilderness? I do believe that the Lord was laughing a bit with me. Sweetheart, this is just the beginning. We have much to talk about, much to address and this is exactly where I need you. Uinta Wilderness has no cell towers, no real way out but walking, and is about as far away as one can go to get disconnected. This is exactly where I need you to be.

As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. Psalm 42:1

Walk with the Lord

I am furiously looking for Day one of my blog but for whatever reason, it has vanished. Once I retrieve it, or rewrite it, I’ll post it. Salamander and I made it out alive last night at 730pm. I’ll update each day with our journey. It was a walk in love, acceptance and much humility! God was indeed pushing me daily, just as I expected. Much love and appreciation to all that prayed for our safe trek. It was a walk with the Lord that I will never forget.