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Why Backpacking in the High Uintas Wilderness Was WAY Better Than Netflix

I could be at home, watching some dumb show on Netflix and just being lazy on that Saturday morning, but that's not really me.

By: Ty Pamiloza + Save to a List

Almost 2 weeks have passed since we did our backpacking trip to Lower Red Castle Lake in the High Uintas Wilderness and the bliss from the trip still lingers in my system. It was definitely a mental tug-of-war hiking at approximately 11,000 ft of elevation for 22 miles, but just like my previous adventures, I'm so glad I did it.  

We left Ogden at the ungodly hours of Saturday morning and arrived at the China Meadows Trailhead just after the sunrise. We met Todd (@seventhdayadventurist) there and left shortly thereafter. With very little sleep from the previous night, we pushed through the first half of the hike with relatively good pace. We took breaks here and there, about 5 minutes every 3 miles of ground covered. Everything felt great until the switchbacks at the 9th mile. It was not fun. I started to hate everything about the hike and I questioned why again was I there. I could be at home, watching some dumb show on Netflix and just being lazy on that Saturday morning but that's not really me. I'd rather trash my body on a weekend and take some photos than relax and chill just like any other sane person out there. 

It had been exactly a year since I first did this backpacking trip and my memory was betraying me in remembering the campsite that we had last year. Good thing Leo has some pretty impressive sense of direction and memory. We were able to find the campsite that we used last year and I was so relieved to see that no one had taken the site yet. 

Smoke and Sunrays. Always a good combination. 

As expected, we were famished when he arrived at the campsite. After some sumptuous freeze-dried camping food (no sarcasm intended, it was really good!), we pitched our tents and had some well-deserved siesta.  

Campsite at Lower Red Castle Lake

An hour before the sunset, we decided to get down to the lake and start photographing the Lower Red Castle Lake. It was kind of disappointing to do landscape photography without any dramatic skies in the background. The sunset was still spectacular though. The way the sunlight hits the rock formation during sunset transformed the whole place into this surreal piece of art. 

Taken with Pentax K1 with HD Pentax-D FA 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR lens and 10-stop ND filter by B&W.

I have to say though that my shots from last year were better as there were more clouds in the sky and I had more variety in terms of composition. I am still quite pleased with how the photographs turned out. 

Taken with Pentax K1 with HD Pentax-D FA 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR lens and 10-stop ND filter by B&W.

After the photo sesh, we went back to our campsite and enjoyed our campfire. It was a very pleasant night of camping. It was not as cold as I anticipated. The bug situation was not bad at all. It didn't rain nor did it became windy at night. So overall, in terms of the camping experience, it was perfect! 

Leo and Todd enjoying the campfire

At 1AM, Leo, Matt and I woke up to photograph the Milky Way. The placement of the Milky Way was very different from what I anticipated. I thought it would be more behind the castle but by the time we woke up it was clear to the right side which makes it difficult to photograph. I just decided to stay close to the campsite and photograph with the the silhouette of the trees on the foreground. I was also able to take multiple photos for image stacking for noise reduction. I was very pleased with how it turned out. 

7 Images stacked taken by Pentax K1 and HD Pentax-D FA 15-30mm F2.8 ED SDM WR. Some CA and untidy stacking. My MacBook Pro crashed on me multiple times when I was editing this photo. I haven't dared to try doing it again to tidy up the image.

So overall, it was a great trip. It was interesting to go to the places I've gone to last year and see how my process in photography has changed. I didn't get any portfolio-worthy shot due to uncooperative weather but I'm still very happy with how everything came about. 



We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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