Uinta National Forest, Challenges, and Porcupines, oh my… – 6/3/2020

Bonus Feature of the Blog: Notes on the variety of camps.

  • There are private and public camps such as KOA’s and RV parks that come with full amenities including pools, playgrounds, and dog parks. In fact, one KOA host informed us the specifics of the varying levels of KOA’s with the mack daddy having restaurants. Beyond all those funtivities, these are great for laundry, access to wifi, warm showers, and proximity to provisions. They control night time noise and limit scenery to trees and your closest neighbor’s rig. And leave your issues with misspelled words at home as every word at a KOA beginning with the “K” sound is spelled with a “K”. So is this is your thing, Kamp there.
  • Campgrounds in public lands range from fully staffed with full hookup (water, electric, sewer, and even cable TV) to those, like Fish Lake, that are small, have flat sites for leveling your camper, provide a water source, and a common park bathroom with  minimum of a pit toilet. The scenery in public lands is much nicer and there are usually larger distances between you and your neighbor. Noise, recreational vehicles, and such are managed with park rules. There is usually a camp host who manages the place to include collecting fees, cleaning restrooms, and they will likely sell fire wood. All of this gets more robust with National Park campgrounds to include tighter spaces and park enforcement of items such as coolers being left out in bear country even if they are Yeti bear resistant and locked.
  • Boondocking is camping for free with no amenities, few rules, and in BLM, Wilderness Areas, and National Forest, and typically comes with more space. What you aren’t guaranteed is a place to camp (as these are first come first serve) or peace and quiet, as fewer rules usually means a great place to drive ATVs and to shoot guns. Less supervision can also mean unclean camps as humans can be thoughtless jerks. Keep in mind that we aren’t addressing the type of boondocking that can occur at your local neighborhood Super Walmart or those living the van life who will camp in front of your house. Of which we have yet to do.
  • They all have their merits, but landing the perfect boondocking spot can be euphoric for the penny-wise traveler and and nature-lover alike. The spot we found in Unita NF on Heber Mountain was pretty good, not perfect. We had views, mostly quiet except of the nightly rounds of amo being shot, and good access to gravel biking. The camp site was sort of trashed but after a quick sweep of the area to pick up beer cans, nails, plastic bottles, bullet casing, and things of unknown origin, it was quite nice and one that we’d certainly seek out in the future.

STATS

  • From: No. J-11 Cover Wagon, Lakeside RV Park, Provo UT – Shouldn’t it be “Covered”?
  • To: Just below Heber Mountain, left turn off FR 083, Uinta National Forest 
  • Starting mileage: 145,879
  • Miles to destination: 47
  • Miles of shame driven: 0
  • Lowest documented MPG: 13
  • Temperature Range: upper 40’s – 70’s
  • Elevation of camp: ~9500
  • Nights off the grid: 3
  • Cost of Camping: $0
  • Camp Host: Nope
  • Connectivity: Fair cell service, occasional one bar at times but not enough juice to access internet.
  • Reading list: Not much progress as the days were full of stuff! 
    • Lysette – Tales of Two Hemisphere by Peter Conrad/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: There is nothing remarkable or interesting noted beyond the obvious beauty of high mountains with meadows, flowers, peaks, etc. The place seems to be mostly used for ATV’s, people shooting guns at dusk, and camping. It is remote, yet easily accessed from Heber City by a mostly black topped road which seems to be recent as there is development approaching the National Forest sign. We noticed several other cyclists out, which is always a positive if you own a bike. We even saw one guy riding the gravel on a time trial bike which was pretty awesome.
  • Our activities: Hiked, biked, wandered through the meadows, accompanied Lysette on full moon rising photo hikes at dusk. Toohey found a swimming hole based on a scouting run from our friend from Golden.
  • First: Seeing a porcupine in the wild.
  • Next Up: We don’t know. We mapped out a route that will take us north to Bear Lake then into Idaho. There, we will see Crater of the Moon, SawtoothMountains, the drive along the Salmon River, hopefully a stop over in Boise, then into Lewiston WA. I wouldn’t put your coin on that though, as you have seen us change on a dime with each move. 
  • As for the immediate, we’d stay here a bit longer but for the pending rainy freezing days. We will likely use tomorrow through Tuesday to hook up in a town with provisions, get caught up, and then slowly move north. We will make final decisions once we get more access to the internet with better information.
  • Missed Entry: During our time at Fish Lake, we had a patch of yellow flowers in front of our camp sitting area that were visited daily by a large, fat bumble bee or two.

Learning Opportunities

This post on learning opportunities isn’t based on near tragic outcomes like exploding eggs or dropping trailers but on things we actually did pretty well. 

  1. Getting the rig ready in weather. We had never had to set up and take down in weather but we did it well, keeping the interior mostly dry, and communicating through the process. The only thing we could have done better was listen to our gut the night before bed, taking the time to move the trailer then so we wouldn’t have to wake up to make this change. 
  2. Planning helps. We were feeling a bit overwhelmed with all we wanted to do before crossing into Alaska in early July and thinking we’d be rushed. We still had all of Idaho, people we wanted to visit in Washington, and it was already the first week of June. What would we have to sacrifice to make all work? Sitting down together and putting it on paper helped manage that stress. So the learning bit falls on maintaining good communication and planning. Having some relevant map, even if we change it constantly, helps reduce stress.

Daily Summary

Lysette woke up and went into research mode finding us a gem of a camp in the Uinta National Forest. Strawberry Hill was recommended to us based on our request activities and water sports for Toohey, who loves SUPing, swimming, and chasing splashes of all kinds. But once we watched some videos on the area, we decided to find a place higher up with more trees, cooler temps, and opportunities to bike, run and hike. He had his day, now ours. 

Camp was set up mid-afternoon and we opted for a hike with the dogs. We followed the main gravel road up and up and the views got better and better. The final altitude check had us just above 10,000 feet. The evergreens and aspen are simply gorgeous and the views of surrounding and distant snow capped Rocky Mountains are spectacular. My favorite view was from up high and followed the meadow down the valley with new, lush green grasses, flowers, and tree varieties. The backdrop just before the blue sky and puffy clouds was the line of ragged Rocky Mountains topped with snow. Simply spectacular. Toohey and Rue enjoyed playing in the remaining snow patches.

The night included a nice happy hour during the falling sun, dinner, and a fire side conversation.

The morning of day 2 was beautiful. Lysette, Toohey, and I started it off with a short hike up the road to get better views of the meadows with hopes of catching some early dawn wildlife. We have seen signs but no actual animals. We suspect all the evening gun fire might be keeping them away or maybe it is the huge amount of land they call home.

After breakfast, around 10, we set off on a gravel bike ride following the forest service roads. The place is lush with new ground cover, small flowers, and great aspen groves all with the back drop of distant mountain ranges. The roads were rolling and fun. There were a few mud holes we had to navigate around. All in, it was a super fun short ride and we are looking forward to more. 

The afternoon had some downtime. Lysette and I took some time to try and plan the next few months as the true shortness of time seems stressful when we start listing all the people and places we want to see. So we mapped out a draft on the calendar and we both felt better. 

The big unknown remains Canada and passing through it to Alaska. We checked with a friend in Washington and she said currently you can cross the boarder but have to self quarantine for 2 weeks, then again when crossing back into Alaska. Lysette’s brother, who lives in Alaska, also confirmed this. We will monitor this for the next few weeks to see if anything changes. Rather than quarantine, we might slow down our wandering here in the lower 48, spending more time seeing this amazing place.

Our friend and his dog went for a run and sent a photo of Rue swimming in a small lake down the road. Pow! We loaded Toohey up in the Tacoma and were off to the swimming hole which he enjoyed immensely. We still can’t get over how proud we are of his new swimming talent. And we feel it is way better for his arthritis that a short run or hike.

We got back in time for his feeding and our nightly happy hour. Following that, dinner, and a short fire, we decided to walk up to the ridge, about a mile away to catch the full moon rising in the east and the sunset to the west. It was a fun walk with brilliant sky colors as the sun was setting over the distance mountain range while we caught the full moon rising. It was special.

Sunset
Moon Rising
A-Liner, Full moon, Sunset

One thing I am sure of is the human trait of needing a challenge. Years back my parents had a small patch of land in Western NC called Stillwater Farm. I’d sit with my children in the upper pasture and stare up at Yellow Mountain with its fire watch tower, planning our assault. Once we claimed it, it became an important, chest pumping thing that we still own and in fact, return to from time to time to reclaim. Today, at our current camp, there is a summit calling out a challenge. I’m not alone in this. An expedition team has been assembled that will all work together to make this happen. It will.

We will use our bike ride this morning to explore the eastern route to the summit by following a possible ATV road that we speculate, gets us close. If that eastern assault doesn’t work then I have a secondary plan to go a more direct route, across the valley, and up the side to the ridge, then up the ridge to the summit. Committed. 

The result, we claimed victory over Bald Knoll, 10,094 feet of elevation, around 11:30AM. The plan worked as predicted where we biked up then along a ridge line to a trail that went straight up. We aren’t sure of the pitch of the last 100 yards but it was a slow climb to the summit. It was a good workout and better, a victory.

Summit of Bald Knoll

We staked our claim, found a whopping 3 bars of cell service, took some pictures, then returned home to bask in our glory. Success!

On the way down we struck up a conversation with a couple from Ohio and their chocolate lab who have retired in Heber City. Based on their description of the pending storm and area of storm coverage, we need to get out early tomorrow. So we will heed that advice and get everything ready for a quick departure in the morning.

Porcupine

Following a rainy happy hour and dinner, we decided on a quick hike up the road for a little more exploring. We took a muddy side road and after a few mud puddles we looked across to a small open area to see this fella strolling along. We got close enough with leashed dogs for a couple of photos (this one compliment of Golden acquaintance). That was definitely a first. 

We walked back to the camp and did some more to ready the gear for a quick wet departure in the morning. We retired to bed only for me to get worried about 2AM when it started raining. All I could think of was all the ground squirrel holes, mud, and the direction of the rig, knowing that I would get bogged down trying to turn to get out in the morning. So after discussing it with Lysette, we decided to get up, close down the rig, and move it about 50 yards in a half circle to the road facing out. We did this, put the camper back up and then climbed back in the sack for another 3 hours of sleep. 

We awoke to heavy rain and thunder around 6AM. We tried to wait it out but it never seemed to break. We got the A-Liner down and ready with lightning clapping and rain, but we got it done and survived, tired and wet. As it turned out, our Golden neighbor had taken his roof top tent assembly down around 1AM in preparation and was sitting in his truck waiting on us. 

We rolled down the hill into Heber City stopping at Lee’s Market for coffee and to discuss what was next. Based on the size and scope of this storm over 2-3 days, our buddy decided to head back to Golden. Lysette and I decided for a KOA, which is AOK, in Garden City, UT along Bear Lake. We booked our site and started the move north. As usual, we took a longer scenic route that will not disappoint. Stay tuned for the next blog. 

9 thoughts on “Uinta National Forest, Challenges, and Porcupines, oh my… – 6/3/2020

  1. Another great Travels With Toohey!! Love the beard, Kemp! And great pictures, too. Keep ’em coming!

  2. Such rich stories. There are comments on logistics and lessons learned that Eddie and I can relate to. You gave us some chuckles.

  3. Awesome adventures… dang, I miss the road…
    You are very glad Toohey didn’t go chasing that porcupine. No fun pulling quills out of a dog’s snout, if the dog would even hold still and let you.

  4. James Dickey
    “What a view, i said again. The river was blank and mindless with beauty. It was the most glorious thing I have ever seen. But it was not seeing, really. For once it was not just seeing. It was beholding. I beheld the river in its icy pit of brightness, in its far-below sound and indifference, in its large coil and tiny points and flashes of the moon, in its long sinuous form, in its uncomprehending consequence.”
    ― James Dickey, Deliverance

  5. Recommendations for SE Idaho: Sun Valley/Ketchum (Jim spud @ the pioneer saloon), Trail Creek rd. (Dirt and narrow), Redfish Lake, Driggs if you head to Jackson, hot springs, anything potatoes and huckleberry milkshakes.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *