Hmm, Why Not Fish Lake National Forest? 6/1/2020

When we went to sleep Wednesday night we had readied everything to move our home 255 miles to Ely, NV. By 7 AM the next morning, that idea shifted based on the upcoming wind/weather forecast in Ely, our underlying need for lush mountains and cooler temperatures, and quite frankly, Patsy, a full time KOA resident who grew up in Ely didn’t have many nice things to say about it. Our previous day’s scouting trip to the Fish Lake area gave us the perfect solution and we are so glad we changed. 

While sitting around the camp fire night one at number 11 Frying Pan, Lysette and I got into a discussion of what this trip is about. We both agreed that it isn’t about the lines on the map to specific locations but about living simply, enjoying every moment, the places, the people, the opportunity to live this life-style. The first week has been just that. With no real destination, the only small stresses are where we go, when to leave, and the direction we choose. Other than that, we are content with just being. 

No. 11 Frying Pan, Fish Lake National Forest

STATS & Stuff

  • From: KOA, Richfield, UT
  • To: Fisk Lake National Forest, Frying Pan Camp, No. 11
  • Starting mileage: 145,568 
  • Miles to destination: 47
  • Miles of shame driven: 0 – Thankfully the lodge had ice.
  • Lowest documented MPG: NA
  • Temperature Range: upper 40’s to mid 70’s with several late afternoon showers.
  • Nights off the grid: 0 of 4 nights out no cell coverage, but toilets, a water spout, picnic table, and a fire ring at the end of an asphalt road. Oh and a camp host.
  • Cost of Camping: $15/night
  • A-Liner Systems: Gas, battery with solar, and water all working well. 
  • Connectivity: None at No. 11 Frying Pan. 
  • Lysette’s favorite jacket: Green Houdini to keep mosquitos at bay
  • Reading list:  
    • Lysette – The Ultimate Guide to Raising Farm Animals by 6 authors – There must have been lots of alcohol consumed during the discussions on edits with 6 authors.
    • The Kemp – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho 
  • Interesting notes about the area: The Fish Lake National Forest is scenic with lakes extending throughout the valley. The valley intersects another valley and river referred to as The Old Spanish Trail, Fish Lake Cutoff. The fishing must be great here based on large flocks of pelicans, seagulls, and other birds you’d normally see where there are lots of fish to eat. The other indicator is the many fishermen and oh, the name of the place maybe. There is an old log pole lodge that is full of character with bends, miss matched log ends, and a floor inside that is hilly. Fish Lake has miles of trails to explore, several good road biking and gravel biking options, and water spots requiring wetsuits. The topography is typical to what you see in our camp site photo. Lots of evergreens and big aspen groves. The aspen groves are as healthy as any I have seen.
  • The trails appear to be mostly unused. There is some evidence of use by horses but those are infrequent. In fact, we haven’t crossed paths with human or horse on any trail since being here. We do see lots of horse poop, hoof marks and the equestrian camps. The facilities at the unused equestrian camps are much nicer than those provided for human-only camp grounds. We have seen several signs of wildlife, including hoof prints and various types of poop. Neither of us are experts and only able to identify ingredients like, berries, hay, hair, and shapes. Hair in the poop is always the one ingredient that makes me pause and look around. If it appears warm then we start loud talking for noise.
  • Our activities:
    • We arrived on Thursday and spent the afternoon setting up camp then took Toohey for a swim. 
    • We rode bikes Friday on a mixture of pavement and gravel. The roads were rolling hills along the lake, the gravel section was along Sevenmile (this is the exact spelling on the sign) Creek to the paved section near the top. We sat for a bit to enjoy scenery at the top, then a fun, fast paved road downhill and return to camp. That afternoon we enjoyed a 5 mile hike in search of lake we never found. We awoke Saturday and got an early 7 mile run up to and around Crater Lake (altitude 9500 feet) while Toohey remained behind to protect the assets. Later we took Toohey for another swim and a drive to Hancock Flats which had extraordinary aspens and views. The drive ended at Hancock Springs which is a fresh water spring creating a nice stream through the meadow. 
    • Domestic disputes hopefully aren’t a common thing at Frying Pan but one occurred at No. 10 between a young couple who likely started off the weekend in hopes for romance. It ended in shouting, tears and thankfully nothing more. It provided a short period of unwanted entertainment watching and listening to it unfold.
  • First: Tractor Supply stores. Toohey swimming. Domestic Dispute at a camp ground.
  • Next Up: The path has switched from west to north as we are now thinking we want to follow the Wasatch mountains of Utah into Idaho. Our goal is to keep the travel pace around 100-200 miles a day (3-5 days for packhorses) and to stop for several days when we find a spot that speaks to us. Specifics include leaving here via Gooseberry Road to I-70 then about 30 miles into Salina. From there, we are thinking a route through the towns of Manti, Colton, and then into Duchesne, Utah. Or we could switch that to something a little closer to the Salt Lake City area for better provisions. At some point along the way we will need to stop for laundry, groceries, and, of course, wifi to update the blog. All this is dependent on us getting to some internet access to study options. 

Learning Opportunities

  1. Prepare for long hikes even on short hikes. This is especially true as we search out new trails with limited information in remote places. Preparation is critical, so plan for the worst case and live to enjoy the after-hike beer when it all goes well. We set off to find a lake using a bad map and little knowledge of this lake other than a local’s suggestion. We left underprepared yet kept pushing on to find it over each “next hill”. The solution is to set up a pack with all the basics, first aid, Garmin GPS with SOS, water, and add other essentials as necessary such as bear spray. I need to slow down before leaving to think through all the needs of the day.
  2. The Mystery of the Shoe String Eating Creature – We awoke one morning to find Lysette’s running shoestrings had been chewed through in several places. Future nightly camp shut downs will involve putting away things that might be attractive to such animals. 

Daily Summary

We hitched up the gear for the 47 mile (4-day donkey pack miner hike) trip up to Fish Lake, stopped by the Tractor Supply store to get more propane (of which we needed little after a week), and to fuel the Tacoma. The drive was slow as the little Tacoma used as much gear as it has to get up hills with a 10% grade, but it did. The camp site was empty as was the entire Frying Pan campground.  We stuck the A-Liner in No. 11 which was built for her, level and wide. We did a quick set up and drove to the lodge to get answers to questions about how to pay and to grab ice (Gas-ice, ice-gas, lesson not yet learned). The lodge is about 5 miles from Frying Pan.

Fish Lake Lodge

Following that, we stopped on the edge of the lake so Toohey could swim and stretch. To our astonishment, he actually chased sticks out beyond where he could touch which was unusual for him, yet for some reason here his water confidence was exceedingly high. 

Toohey swimming in Fish Lake

As background, Toohey and swimming usually means he goes into the water no deeper than he can touch, lies down for a second, drinks some water, then runs out like he’s a duck hunting retriever. On this day, I tossed a rock and knucklehead swam out to the splash and back. I followed this with actual live floating sticks and he actually returned to the shore with the stick. Not once, but several times, until he got tired and began watching the sticks float away. This was certainly a highlight of ours as we have been trying to get this water dog to swim since his rescue at 18 months. So, we did in fact, teach an old dog a new trick. 

We returned to the camp site for a relaxing afternoon before heading out one more time to take rent money for 3 nights at No. 11 Frying Pan to the camp host who lived in a different camp ground. Camp hosts live at the campgrounds and provide cleaning of bathrooms, firewood, and oversite of the area. They also collect money from campers, if they aren’t there, then from a metal box at the entrance sign. The Frying Pan was empty of both camp host and envelopes so we drove it to the next one. 

We were greeted by the blue-haired camp host’s daughter who seemingly had little knowledge of her duties. But she got it done just in time for dad, the real camp host, to drive up. He was a slender weathered man with day old bourbon on his breath. He was pleasant in his dealings with us, offering a bit of dry humor before we moved on.  

As a side, I am considering an entire blog at some point of the range of camp hosts we encounter. There seems to be a common thread among them with a huge range of delightful personalities. 

The night turned up some hungry mosquitoes so we opted to cook inside the A-Liner. The dish of the day was Thai influenced ground turkey, sweet potatoes, onion, and broccoli. We capped off the night with a fire side discussion on the meaning of our trip and a hand of gin before a really good night sleep. 

That night was probably the best night sleep I have had with eyes shut all the way through 6:30, missing the midnight run and star gazing. 

The morning was met with the normal routine then out for an early bike ride. We opted to go east to the lake with the flock of pelicans and the scenery was splendid. We stopped several times along the lake to take it all in. We turned back at the summit past the dam and had a great down hill turning right up Sevenmile Rd, the gravel option. This is a few miles of climbing along the Sevenmile Creek eventually intersecting with Goosebury Road near the top. There are large open meadows that looked prime for herds of elk or deer grazing but we only saw one lone fly fisherman. It was beautiful and peaceful, Much like this entire area, there are few people, little to no traffic on the roads, and we have yet to cross paths with a hiker. 

Some photo editing but that is a real pelican
Hike past mystery lake

We returned home hungry, grazed, then opted for a quick read and nap. After all that we decided on a short hike to a lake our current camp host suggested as the most beautiful. He never provided the correct name so the map we followed showed several amoeba shapes suggesting lakes of which we sought. We set off for the short hike with no water or really preparation (See learning opportunities 1). The lake never appeared, despite knowing it was just over “each” next hill. We did see lots of the small marshy ponds, beaver dams, birds and lots of signs of wild life. Signs of wildlife is pretty much hoof prints and various pooh, of which neither of us are experts only able to identify ingredients like, berries, hair, and shapes. 

Saturday morning we rose around 5:30, had a quick cup of Joe and a Lara bar then headed to the trail for a 6 mile loop that gets to Crater Lake at mile 2, then loops around it before heading back. Crater Lake sits at around 9500 feet and is a marshy lake full of geese and mallards. Toohey agreed to watch the assets in the Tacoma with windows down and enough shade to not worry. We set off and enjoyed all aspects of the run. It was quiet, no other humans or horses seen. The lake was awesome with lots of water birds. We didn’t see any wildlife other than birds and one jumbo size rabbit. The rascally rabbit was the size of a large house cat. We did see lots of wildlife signs in tracks and poop. The trails were rugged and not maintained given the amount of tree fallen over the trail which we had to navigate. All in all, a great morning run that was good for the soul. 

Morning Run – Crater Lake
Morning Run – Crater Lake
Crater Lake
Lysette navigating the downed trees

Following the run we hurried back to camp to cook a large egg and veggie brekkie (Australian for breakfast). Afterwards we read, relaxed and kept it simple for a few hours.

Toohey relaxing under A-Liner

Around lunch time we agreed to take Toohey for a swim and grass roll at the lake. While getting ready we heard yelling at the next camp site which was a good 100 yards away. We nosily listened for a bit then decided to walk down the trail to the camp host who was’t home and then around in front of their site. As we approached the screaming got louder and the young girl was obviously upset and crying. We made slight eye contact and kept walking but decided to hang close to the camp site until this settles down. It eventually did but obviously their romantic weekend ended and hopefully the relationship as well. 

We set off to the lake and Toohey enjoyed chasing sticks and quasi swimming as the location wasn’t quite deep enough. He also enjoyed rolling in dried cow paddies and grass.

After his time at the lake, we trucked up and headed west for a FSR (Forest Service Road) the leads to a high elevation place called Hancock Flats. This was a beautiful drive with the most amazing aspen groves. Hancock Flats was about 6 miles in and is a large open high elevation meadow with Hancock Springs, a fresh water spring feeding a stream running through the meadow. The views were of the surrounding snow capped mountains and valley beneath.

Hancock Spring at Hancock Flats – sitting above 10,000 feet

We headed home and snacked for dinner, played some gin, and shared photos. 

Sunday morning and the last day of May. We went for a 2 hour combo gravel/road ride on the Lake Side Trail and the main road. The trail starts as a forest service road passing through a cattle gate. The trail became single track through aspens groves and scrub grass. We were stopped by an elk, or cow carcass (another sign of wild life) that had pretty much done its part for the food chain. The ride topped off at Pelican Overlook where we spotted a bald eagle, or cow, soaring off to the lake to the to fish. The descent was a rocky scrabble single track which reminded my of twerking with my bike as it slid back and forth beneath my seat. Not that is should have reminded me of twerking as I have only seen it on TV. But the word did come to mind.

More signs of wild life

After lunch we lounged for a bit before taking Toohey for his afternoon swim and roll in dried cow patties and grass. The wind had kicked up some white caps in the lake so we found a nice wide river to get him wet, and he/we did enjoy.

Toohey & Kemp in the river
Toohey

The evening ended with a Coors Banquet or 2, a few hands of gin, some good conversation and an early retreat to the A-Liner to avoid the hungry mozzies.

The next morning will start a move day to somewhere to clean up and restock before finding a new place to stick the home.

11 thoughts on “Hmm, Why Not Fish Lake National Forest? 6/1/2020

  1. This is fantastic! I’ve enjoyed reading these updates and imagining the experience. Keep them coming.

  2. We’re enjoying the blog and Toohey’s adventures. Keep up the good writing. I’m curious as to what effect you’re seeing from Covid since you’re in such sparsely populated areas.

    1. Thanks Ed. And to answer your question, not much. Most retail and park employees mask up and cashiers stand behind plastic but you don’t see anything more in the smaller towns. We have seen few wear mask in grocery stores in the smaller communities. You do see more mask in public places in Provo but it is a larger metro area.

  3. As you go to sleep in the lower bits of Nevada, consider that the crust underneath is sometimes only 10 km thick in this stretched region, compared with 30 km east of the Rockies. But is is probably strong enough to support you. Just don’t synchronise your jumping during morning calisthenics.

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