Friday – Sunday, August 14-16, 2009
After being home for only 4 days (all of which I had to work) from my 9 day Colorado Adventure, I headed to northern Utah to spend the weekend at the NAXJA Intermountain Chapter’s Geostash Challenge. I’ve wanted to attend this event the last two years it was held, and finally decided I would drive up for it this year, even if I could not stay longer than a standard weekend (I didn’t want to take any more time off because of my previous week off). For those that are not familiar with this event, it’s basically like a poker run. In order to get your cards you need to find hidden geocaches that you are given the coordinates for. You need to find at least five of the hidden geocaches to get one poker hand. When you get back to camp for the dinner, the hands are analyzed and the best hands win some prizes. Since it’s put on by a Jeep club, the caches are hidden along 4×4 roads with some short hiking required to reach some.
I left right from work Friday and drove the 7 hours to the basecamp near Evanston, WY. I ended up driving through some very strong winds on I-70 between the Cisco and Moab exits, and then ran through a couple more storms after passing over Soldier Summit. Luckily, when I reached camp around midnight, it was not raining, so I quickly got my tent setup and got to sleep.
Once morning arrived, it was raining pretty good. Everyone slowly got up and ready in hopes that the rain would stop, but there was no such luck….it was still raining when we finally decided to head out to find our caches for the day.
After getting our permits and airing down, our large group headed up the bumpy Gold Hill Road to an overlook where the first cache was hidden. On our way, the rain turned into sleet and then into snow. By the time we reached the overlook, the snow was coming down fast and heavy and there was probably an inch accumulated on the ground. The flakes were huge! It certainly didn’t feel like it was the middle of August. It felt like we should be looking for a Christmas tree to cut down 😉 After we found the cache near the overlook, I snapped a few photos of the new snowfall, since it might be another few months before I see snow like this again. Unfortunately, because of the storm, there was not much to see from the overlook this day. I had arrived in the dark of the night, and the day so far had been very cloudy and snowy. I had just finished my first trail in the Uintas and still had not been able to see the mountains around me!
Airing Down and getting our permits
Our group as it started to snow pretty heavily
Some more photos of the snow…
The view from the overlook
Found the first cache
Fun in the snow
A small pond I found near the overlook
On our way back down to our next cache, the snow finally stopped and the clouds were finally clearing up. Hiking to this cache my boots got soaked from the melting snow on the ground. I certainly did not come prepared to be hiking through snow this weekend.
Snow starting to melt off
Remains of an old cabin we passed
Skies clearing up
On our way to the third cache the sun was finally out and the snow was melting pretty quickly. I was finally able to see the Uinta Mountains around me! This trail was pretty slick and muddy from the melting snow.
Some photos from along the way
After grabbing the third cache, we made plans to find two more quick caches on our way back to the campground, so we could make it back in time for the dinner.
We found the fourth cache near Whitney Lake, that ended up being hidden right near a campsite. I’m sure they were surprised to see a bunch of people heading towards their camp 😉
The final cache was a quick one just off the main road back to the highway. We grabbed it and headed back for camp.
Group shot near the 5th cache we found
After dinner, figuring out the poker hands, and awarding the winners (I ended up winning a $50 gift certificate to DPG Offroad), we had a good campfire for the rest of the evening. The night was very cold, so the heat of the campfire was welcome. It was definitely a cold night for camping.
I woke up early on Sunday hoping to get a trail or two in before heading home, but most everyone else was slow to get up. So I said my goodbyes and started on my way back home. My plan was to head east on I-80 and then south on US 191. Through Flaming Gorge and then to Vernal, where I could check out the trail that goes to Brown’s Hole. But by the time I reached Vernal, I decided not to rush through Brown’s Hole and that I would just go straight home instead.
Along US 40 I passed two very recent wildfires along the highway that were just put out. South of Rangely in Canyon Pintado, I passed two more fires that were still burning. The firefighters had just arrived at the first fire I passed (their trucks passed me a few miles before). When I reached the second fire (between the Waving Hands site and Kokopelli site), it was right along the highway and burning pretty good. The smoke was blowing across the highway and a Rio Blanco sheriff had blocked off the road. I was worried I was going to be stuck here for a while, so I started looking at my maps to see if there were any backroads I could take around the area. Lucky for me, while I was looking through my maps, the sheriff decided to let us go through, as long as we drove with our hazard lights on. After getting past the fire, I quickly made it over Douglass Pass and was back home in time for dinner.
I am going to plan heading back for the Geostash Challenge next year, however, if I do it will have to be for more than just a weekend. It was a pretty long drive for just a weekend, and there are a ton of roads for me to explore up there as well 🙂