Five years after my first backpacking trip to Amethyst Basin, a friend and I repeated the trek. It was over 100 degrees in Salt Lake City when I picked Chris up, but at the Christmas Meadows trailhead in the Uinta Mountains it was only 80 degrees. We began hiking at 6:30 in the evening. My pack felt great on my back–I’d gotten the weight down to 33.5 pounds, which is the lightest I’ve ever had for a two-night trip. At around 8PM we reached the junction with the Amethyst Basin trail and camped nearby, having hiked just over two and a half miles. We had dinner around a small camp fire and went to bed relatively early.
After breakfast and packing up camp on Saturday morning we hit the trail, which immediately began climbing. For half a mile it was steep and rocky, paralleling Ostler Fork and its many cascades. The trail leveled out and it was a pleasant walk through the forest after that. We passed a guy going the opposite direction wearing a day pack, with a dog on a leash, and two pack goats following obediently behind him, and I realized that I’VE BEEN BACKPACKING ALL WRONG! We reached the beautiful Amethyst Meadow at noon and had to cross Ostler Fork on a couple of flimsy logs. After a quick visit to Lake BR-24 we found a nice spot away from the trail and any lakes to set up camp.
With our loads lightened, we went on a tour of Amethyst Basin. First we hiked to Amethyst Lake. On the trail we encountered two forest rangers and endured an awkward 10-minute quiz/lecture about Leave No Trace ethics. Like, WTF? Amethyst Lake was just meh. It’s a big lake with choppy water and not terribly scenic, and there were quite a few large groups camped there. However, there was barely some cell service! 😀 Next we hiked to Ostler Lake and bushwhacked around the entire perimeter. There were only a few people around Ostler Lake, including those two rangers we’d seen near Amethyst. They appeared to be moving some rocks around, possibly making a fire pit? Not sure what was going on there.
Chris and I returned to camp and started a camp fire just in time for it to begin to hail. At first it was sparse, but the hail grew in intensity until it was nearly marble-sized and covering the ground. We took shelter under some trees for what seemed like half an hour or so. The hail gave way to rain, and I was beginning to worry that we’d end up sheltering in our tents all evening. I was slightly embarrassed when I realized that the storm had subsided about five minutes earlier and that the water dropping on my head was coming from the trees I was standing beneath. Chris was barely able to get the fire going again after using his last fire starter and then some toilet paper and hand sanitizer to get the wet wood burning. We were able to dry out a little before eating dinner and going for a sunset walk around Lake BR-24. Two guys on horseback had set up camp between us and the trail and we had to walk past their horses along the way, and luckily the horses were pretty calm. We retired to our tents before 11PM and I slept pretty well considering the dampness.
We were awake early on Sunday and were quick to eat breakfast and pack our gear away. By 8:30 we were on the trail descending out of Amethyst Basin, hoping to stay ahead of the crowds still camped in the basin. Three hours later we arrived at the trailhead, having hiked a little over 16 miles total for the weekend. I don’t often like repeating hikes–and I’m sure there are equally beautiful locations in the Uintas that would have been new to me–but sometimes a familiar and comfortable trip hits the spot, especially when one hasn’t been backpacking for two years!