So rain on the tent the night before during a crashing, booming thunderstorm ended early, and we got a good nights sleep with the winds howling the trees over our tent. Somehow down at ground level, the wind was hardly noticeable, although the sound of it high overhead made it seem like the trees were going to break over.
At daybreak, the wind died and it was pretty warm for 11,000 feet of elevation. We were thinking about getting up and packing up, when we heard thunder crashing in the distance again. Whoops, maybe we'll stay in the tent a bit longer. The storm did hit us again, but this time it was in the form of the white stuff. That's right, it was snow falling on our tent this time, for a good hour as we laid there and wondered what to do. At 8 am, we decided that if we were going to get back to the car today we needed to get moving, snow or not. So we packed up what we could inside the tent, and then quickly busted down the tent while flakes fell.
Our hike, which would turn into marathon distance although we didn't know it yet, started out fluffing through fresh snow. It was magical. If a little hard to follow the trail. Our shoes and socks, soaked in the river last night, were soon soaked again, with snow, river and stream crossings, and more snow. But it seemed warm enough out, the wind wasn't blowing, and the trail marched steadily if gradually down the valley. We knew we had a long ways to go today, so we kept up a speedy pace on trails made softer by the gentle snowfall.
Gradually the white stuff disappeared as we dropped down, although more was falling, less was sticking to the ground. At noon we had a cold lunch to match our cold breakfast, eaten on a short break that was all we were allowing ourselves on the long hike. Actually we didn't want to stop much more than a few minutes anyway....we were wet from hiking and from snow turning to drizzle, and started to get chilled when we weren't moving. On a day like this, you either hike, or your camp...stopping to take breaks is tough. We kept hiking.
The snow finally disappeared and the rain fell intermittently. We had brought light windbreakers rather than full rain jackets,
To add to the tough day, that intersection was about the halfway mark of our way to the car, meaning that we had to keep up the quick pace the rest of the daylight to have a hope of making it out. Of course, we could have easily camped again for the night, but with a wet tent and wet bodies we weren't too keen on staying out another night. We kept deciding to head for the trailhead even though it was still a long ways out. Luckily it never poured, just drizzled, making it uncomfortable but not freezing.
With the horse to the barn mentality, we quickly passed down and across Shale Creek, glad that there was a bridge across the raging water. The trail then hugged the side of the hill for miles, gradually winding down to the valley floor. There we were treated to cliff-side views of the Uinta River, crashing along far below us. Somehow we missed taking any photos of the river cliffs, we have movies instead but those aren't nearly as useful here! It was a beautiful walk in any case, and with the raindrops drying up we almost
It was a long day of hiking, no way around that. Somehow Rob recovered from the climbing of the day before and we both kept going as fast as we could for hours and hours. Finally we could see Sheep's Bridge again across the river, and know that we were only 4 miles from the car. But it was 6:30 pm already and our tired legs had already walked at least 20 miles. The trail, which had been muddy and soaked all day, seemed extra muddy and rocky in that last section. And did I mention that it was our anniversary?!
The last bit of light was gone as we made it to the car...in fact the only way we could see it was by flashing the car lights with the remote.