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Utah Travel Headlines

Thursday, July 11, 2013

NY Times: Goat Packing Utah's Uinta Mountains

The New York Times has this interesting article about a pack trip into the Uinta Mountains. A trip where the pack animals were goats. A 10 day probe into the wilderness area, along the Highline Trail, involving the 44-year-old writer, his 22-year-old friend and a 4-year-old son.

Sounds like a grand adventure. Below are excerpts:

Traversing the spine of the High Uintas Wilderness, the 100-mile route crosses nine major passes and rarely dips below 10,000 feet. Unable to convince my wife of goats’ genial nature, this escapade would mark the first time I took our eldest son into the wilderness alone. An unmistakable — but not unpleasant — sense of responsibility settled on my shoulders the instant we left home.

Hours later, on the shores of an alpine lake, Bodi leapt from boulder to boulder (eventually getting soaked) while Clay hung his hammock between two immense fir trees. I set up a tent, and the goats — irrepressibly curious — tried to join me inside. Spray from a water bottle (a Clay-approved technique) sent them scattering. We ate together in contented silence. Fresh air, winds, sun and exertion had begun to bond our disparate team.

The trail led over pass after pass (Dead Horse, Red Knob, Tungsten, Anderson) and traversed just beneath Kings Peak — at 13,528 feet, the highest point in Utah. But the inclines proved gentle and the views fantastic. So why was no one else here? The Uintas are often overlooked in favor of more famous neighbors (Tetons, Sawtooths and Wind Rivers), and according to Backpacker magazine, as few as 50 hikers tackle the Highline Trail annually.

I've packed with horses and llamas, but never with goats. Sounds like a good option.

The best time to backpack the Highline Trail is late July and August. This year the high passes opened up early but, many years, there is still snow in early July. Early September can be nice but cold storms can become a problem. (In the Uintas you expect rain every day and it can snow or hail on any day of the year.)

Interestingly, I've got a backpack trip scheduled for the first week of August going into what is regarded as one of the most remote and difficult to reach areas. It it turns out as well as expected, I'll post an report and photos here.

– Dave Webb


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