Grandaddy Basin

Posted on 07 Jul 2022 by Steve Markham

Nine Markhams (and sixteen thousand mosquitoes) went backpacking in the Grandaddy Basin Tuesday to Thursday. This was the first backpacking trip for everyone except Camille and me. I had a blast, though perhaps not everyone did.

All smiles at the trailhead
All smiles at the trailhead

The fun started on Sunday when Jeff and I went to Paul Hoskisson’s place to borrow some bear cans. He ended up also loaning us a couple of very nice packs, a cot, a stove, and some ponchos. He is very generous–I’m not sure I could stomach lending >$1k of gear to a bunch of first-timers. On Monday we laid out all the gear I had brought, plus several things Dewey had ordered. And then we made a Walmart list and picked up some last-minute stuff.

It always feels like I bring way more stuff than I expect
It always feels like I bring way more stuff than I expect

Tuesday morning Jeff went to BYU Outdoors Unlimited to pick up a couple rented items. We picked up Bradley just past Heber, and arrived at the trailhead around noon. By the time we had eaten our lunch and packed the rented items, it was 1 o’clock. If I remember correctly, the pack weights were 53, 38, 30, 26, 24, 23, 20, 20, 20.

The trail was dusty, wide, well-trodden, and easy to follow. I was pleasantly surprised to cross two streams before we had even got to Hades Pass. I was in the back with a slow-ish hiker, so I never broke a sweat and therefore hardly drank any water. But everyone else was ready for a refill after about two miles.

Refilling water on the way up to Hades Pass
Refilling water on the way up to Hades Pass

Hades Pass was beautiful, and we took a long break there. This was the end of the uphill portion, and about two-thirds of the mileage.

Camille find some pretty flowers to add to her braid
Camille find some pretty flowers to add to her braid

We hadn’t been making great time, but that was to be expected. We had to stop once to re-adjust some weight, once to do a body inventory looking for hot spots on feet or problems in back or shoulders. And of course there was no air so a couple of us were going slowly. I think it was 4:30 or so when we started down from Hades Pass.

On the way down we were passed by a father and two sons headed to a fishing hole on Grandaddy Lake. We had also crossed two older couples on their way out from hiking East Grandaddy Mountain. Otherwise, not many people on the trail. We had planned on camping near a spring on Betsy Lake, but there were two campers already at that established fire ring, so we hunted for a different spot. We found one not too far off, built a fire ring, set up tents, and started dinner.

Dinner was chicken alfredo with mixed veggies
Dinner was chicken alfredo with mixed veggies

Melanie was extremely excited to be backpacking. I had assumed that’s because she had gone before and knew how fun it is. Nope! She has friends who have told her about it, and she was excited to learn and experience it first-hand. So, she would carefully observe everything I did, and was ready to copy/help. That means she made seconds of dinner while I ate my firsts. Kate and Ben had been less enthusiastic then Melanie, but were also very helpful that first night at camp.

Jeff and kids made the fire ring and fire
Jeff and kids made the fire ring and fire

Wednesday we hiked over past Mohawk Lake toward West Grandaddy. The original plan was to go up to the ridge, maybe hit the summit, and then come back down off the ridge past Fish Hatchery Lake. But we opted for a shorter walk and funner activity, so we went half-way up the side of West Grandaddy instead. It was FUN!

Beautiful alpine meadows and lakes
Beautiful alpine meadows and lakes
Daunting but fun rocks to climb on
Daunting but fun rocks to climb on
And SNOW!
And SNOW!

It was lovely sitting in the sun and breeze, throwing snowballs, climbing around, and chatting. I could have stayed all morning, and apparently so could everyone else, because we stayed quite a while.

I took this picture for the sky, though the horizon is also delightful
I took this picture for the sky, though the horizon is also delightful
Camille is a great hiker and had a lot of fun
Camille is a great hiker and had a lot of fun
I told Bradley we needed this picture for his mother; he was happy to oblige
I told Bradley we needed this picture for his mother; he was happy to oblige
Going down was scary for some of us, though everyone did great
Going down was scary for some of us, though everyone did great

Eventually it was time for lunch and swimming, so we headed back to camp.

Camille and I love all the flowers in this spot
Camille and I love all the flowers in this spot

Lunch was mac and cheese. Turns out 5 boxes is too much for my cookpot, so the water was super starchy and the pasta didn’t fully cook but it wasn’t too bad. Then, we got on swim stuff, packed up some water and sunblock, and headed back to the beach.

On our way to swim. Notice how sunny it is.
On our way to swim. Notice how sunny it is.

As soon as my toe touched the water, the sky got dark and the clouds looked rainy. We all at least waded, though two clever members of the group managed to avoid getting their entires bodies soaking wet with frigid water.

The water was cold. Notice how cloudy it is (20 minutes after the earlier, sunny picture)
The water was cold. Notice how cloudy it is (20 minutes after the earlier, sunny picture)
Camille walks on water
Camille walks on water
Papa says this is his favorite picture from the trip

To make a long story short, we had no sun to dry off in, so the swim party didn’t last very long. We got sprinkled on as we walked back, and then had a few minutes of big hail once we were back at camp. I got into my sleeping bag and didn’t get out until I was cozy warm again, which took about an hour.

By then it was sunny again, so we went for a walk around Betsy Lake. I think everyone came but Luke.

This outflow looks cool. You can see Hades Pass across the lake.
This outflow looks cool. You can see Hades Pass across the lake.

Wednesday night we had a poetry contest. Everyone could submit up to three hike-u’s. Most were silly and funny. My entry was a mix:

Granddaddy features: Steep hike, cold swim, mosquitos, Cat holes, and snoring

Beautiful vistas, Tasty backcountry dining, Lots of cousin time

Get your gear ready The party’s at Betsy lake See you on the trail.

Camille’s entries were great. Here are a few, including a couple she didn’t actually enter into the contest:

Climbing up some rocks Don’t fall down and break your head then you would feel sad

Small purple flowers funny skinny Utah trees mountains that are gray

way too much sunscreen bug repellent till it’s gone burnt and bitten anyway

Rip’ling, swirling ponds flowers and moss by the trail it’s so pretty here

This was her contest-winning entry:

ferns and grass and trees butterflies and bumblebees blue skies, gentle breeze

We had Cheddar Broccoli Chicken for dinner and some more s’mores for dessert.

Thursday we hiked out. I’ll add some more detail here later, but suffice it to say Jeff and kids left first, and the non-Dalmarks left together around 8:30. We hiked up the side of East Grandaddy on our way out.

The hike out felt easy. All smiles all the way.
The hike out felt easy. All smiles all the way.
We hiked up the side of East Grandaddy to enjoy the view again
We hiked up the side of East Grandaddy to enjoy the view again
Camille and I both commented on this pretty flower that was way up amongst boulders
Camille and I both commented on this pretty flower that was way up amongst boulders
Camille took this picture while we refilled water
Camille took this picture while we refilled water
The next trip might not be until June 2023, but I have a hunch all four of these people will be on it
The next trip might not be until June 2023, but I have a hunch all four of these people will be on it

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