By Michael Lanza

As we get ready to cook dinner at our campsite on the edge of meadow and open forest a couple minutes’ walk from the shore of the Fourth Chain Lake, at 10,900 feet in Utah’s High Uintas Wilderness, the sound of approaching voices prompts all four of us to look up in surprise. It’s our second evening in the High Uintas and the two hikers coming down the trail toward us are the first people we’ve encountered since we started hiking yesterday afternoon.

Moments later, a man and his college-age son see us and stop, the father remarking, “Well, there are other people out here after all.” He says they’ve come to try to summit Kings Peak, Utah’s highest—and like us, they’re taking the long way to Kings. We joke about our success at social distancing out here—it’s mid-July 2020 and the world remains gripped in the throes of a global pandemic, while we’ve hardly said a word or thought about the topic on the lips of everyone in civilization. Then they continue down the trail toward their camp at a lower lake.

In four decades of hiking and backpacking all over the country, I can probably count on my fingers the number of trips where I’d developed an expectation of not seeing many other people—leading to surprise when it happens. This encounter further reinforces our nascent impression of the Uintas as a wilderness where solitude may be the norm, even in July, first fostered when we arrived yesterday at the Uinta River Trailhead to find just two other vehicles there (and no people). We had passed another Uintas trailhead earlier and seen precisely zero vehicles.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A backpacker hiking Chain Lakes Atwood Trail 43 toward Trail Rider Pass in Utah’s High Uintas Wilderness.
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