While most people think of vacations as sitting lazily on a beach in the sun, I dream of trails, sleeping under the stars, and high mountain passes. This past week I had the pleasure of spending five days in a trail running mecca, Salt Lake City, Utah. Every year I like to visit the mountains and having an old roommate from college living in Salt Lake helps me get my high elevation fix. With such a central location around so many national parks and wilderness areas, it’s easy to find an epic mountain trip or trail run!
For me, the standout day of this trip was my "run" up Mount Emmons in the Uinta Mountains. Mount Emmons, at 13,440 feet above sea level, is the fourth highest mountain in Utah. The night before our journey, we set up our campsite at 11,000 ft. next to a high alpine lake called Timothy Lake. We woke up early the next morning and started our trip at 5:45 a.m. The approach was an easy start to the run with a mile of relatively flat terrain to the base of the mountain. The Uinta Mountains are spectacular formations that have remarkable prominence, but due to their age they are very rounded and smooth along the tops. After a rigorous climb to the summit of a lower mountain at about 12,800 ft., my friend and I were finally on an extremely smooth ridge line as the sun was breaking over the mountains. On the ridge we were able to run for about 2.5 miles along the ridge from the lesser summit over the saddle to Mount Emmons. Along the climb up Emmons, we startled four mountain goats that darted off to the safety of a sheer cliff face on the eastern face of the mountain. Their ability to run on terrain that would only be fit for rock climbers really made what I was doing seem trivial. It is something that I will never forget and always aspire to run like in the mountains. At the summit of Emmons, I took in the views for a short while and sucked down some water and gels before we made our way down the mountain. We still had a nine mile hike back out to the car, on top of this seven mile trail, run a head of us that morning.
During my run I was able to put a new piece of gear to the test: a Nathan hydration pack. There was no water up the mountain or on the summit, so I definitely needed a way to carry some with me. The pack worked wonderfully, being a lightweight solution to carrying all my water as well as my camera and lightweight jacket. I loved having the ability to easily access all of my essentials while on the run and being able to keep my hands free and move quickly over precarious terrain. Without the pack, I do not think I would have written so fondly of my experience that day because I would not have stayed properly hydrated and nourished for the hike out. In the end the day turned out to be a 16 mile adventure with about 4000 ft. of elevation gain(talk about sore quads!), and one that I will always cherish.