Boondocking in the Uinta Mountains, Utah

On August 27, 2020, we left for a three-night stay somewhere in Utah’s Uinta Mountains. We had no reservations but were open to staying in a campground, returning to the last location where we camped, or trying something new. As we headed up the mountain, we realized we would arrive just before dark. We determined to try a new boondocking spot we had investigated during our last trip. We ended up staying right on the Hayden Fork of the Bear River at 40.806183, -110.874523. The view from our trailer was phenomenal, as pictured. The site was quite sloped towards the river, but some previous occupant had dug a hole for the left trailer wheels that brought us close to level. A few blocks under the right wheels, and we were all set.

We fished the Hayden Fork for a few hours on Friday and Saturday and caught some small trout. We also took our float tubes and kayaks to Butterfly Lake on Friday. At the lake, my son and I were completely schooled by our mother/wife. The fish were larger and more plentiful than on the little river. On Saturday we fished the Stillwater Fork of the Bear River where we had great luck last year. The three of us only caught one fish this time around. The Stillwater Fork was much lower, being a month later than last year’s visit.

While at this location, we checked out a few of the surrounding sites. Our favorites are at 40.805357, -110.875007, 40.804432, -110.875664, and 40.807726, -110.873388. All three are within walking distance of our campsite. Our favorite is the first of the three, and for a group of two or three trailers, we liked the last of the three.

This was a quick and relaxing trip. We slept in each day, fished, hiked, played board games, watched movies, and ate great food. It was the last of summer in the Uintas. The highs were in the mid 70’s and the lows in the high 30’s. While I don’t think it has yet frozen at this location, there were very few insects, and virtually no mosquitos. It was simply beautiful and relaxing.

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Boondocking in the Uinta Mountains, Utah

On Wednesday, July 22, 2020, we decided to get out of the valley heat and go camping for a few days in Utah’s high mountains. We determined to go to Washington Lake, believing there would be some walk-up sites available if we arrived early. We arrived at noon, and there were plenty of walk-up sites with nothing and no one in them but had reserved signs hung on their posts. Evidently, the camp hosts in this area routinely reserve these sites for people who drive up and pay for their site days in advance. I think this defeats the purpose of walk-up sites, but who can argue with camp hosts that believe they’re kings of their realms. We tried nearby Trial Lake Campground and Lost Creek Campground but found the same behavior – reserved walk-up sites. No worries, we went over the 10,000-foot summit and headed for Sulfur Campground. It had a few sites available, but just north of Sulfur are a few dirt roads that offer boondocking opportunities, so we went there.

This place was quite nice. It had a great view of a vast meadow, distant mountains, a huge forest, and had a few trees of its own that provided shade and a great place to hang the hammock. Obviously, it was much less crowded than the nearby campgrounds, and the price was right!

On this outing, we tried our new pop-up screen room. It literally took a minute to put up, and it was easily moved afterward. It does take a few more minutes to insert some stakes in case of wind, but in less than five minutes, you can have a shelter that protects you from the rain and the mosquitos. However, when the sun strikes the roof of this beast, it radiates inward and cooks you alive. You can choose to be a bit too warm, but protected from the mosquitos, or enjoy the cool mountain air and get eaten alive. Fortunately, on this trip, we enjoyed a nearly constant gentle breeze that kept the bugs away.

Just north of our camping site on Highway 150, there are a couple of more dirt roads that offer excellent camping opportunities. These locations are closer to the river than we were camped, and we’d like to return and give them a try. Near one of the campsites, we discovered this beautiful beaver pond complete with a lodge. We use to enjoy fishing these ponds and would like to come back and give it a try.

We traveled a short distance south to Moosehorn Lake, where my son, wife, and I fished for a couple of hours. We’ve never had much luck fishing this lake, but it looked inviting. The campground associated with Moosehorn is nice but better suited for tent campers or very small RVs. The lake is quite small; I fished its length several times from my float tube.

The last couple of nights of our five-night adventure were shared with our daughter, her husband, and their beautiful children. We had fun playing with their children, playing board games, shooting BB guns, starting fires, etc. One of the best features of boondocking is no campground rules. There are no quiet hours, no occupancy limitations, no vehicle limitations, etc. Obviously, it is essential to be polite to others, but there is generally so much space between campers, nothing you do bothers others, it’s great.

As always, being in the mountains makes me appreciate life more. Being home makes me look forward to the next time I can go camping in the mountains.

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Cherry Campground, Utah

On June 19, 2020, we traveled a very short distance to Cherry Campground near Springville, Utah. We occupied site 5 and enjoyed it for Friday and Saturday night, and most of Sunday. We were accompanied by our daughter, son-in-law, and their three young, and fun, boys. They occupied site 3, a double site, that gave their family plenty of room to play and enjoy the stream. It was a beautiful place to spend Father’s Day.

Hobble Creek, is very small at this point in the canyon. It’s perfect for children to wade, build dams, and even fish. My wife caught a few small fish, but due to the shallow water, the fish were very skittish and require a stealthy approach. Sites 3 and 7 have a nice beach sort of entry into the creek. The other sites along the creek are a bit more abrupt. Surprisingly, there were very few mosquitos or other insects. We set up a netted table covering expecting mass amounts of bugs this time of year and this close to a slow-moving stream, but it was entirely unnecessary.

We spent most of our time in site 3 with our family. Our site, site 5, fit our trailer nicely but was awkwardly close to site 6 with little underbrush or trees between the sites. Each time we walked out of our trailer, it felt like we were stepping into the neighbor’s camp.

If you’re looking to camp with others, the two best neighboring sites are sites 3 and 4. Site 3 has plenty of space for tents, games, or socializing and site 4 is a short distance away. If however, you’re looking for a single site, site 7 is a gem. Site 7 is the last site on the creek and there are no campsites to the west or on the door side of most RVs, just woods and the creek.

This is a very nice campground for being 15 minutes from a city. On the weekends the road is busy, but tolerable. We look forward to returning.

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Wedge Overlook Campground, Utah

On November 2, 2019, we packed quickly and made a mad dash to a nearby BLM campground called Wedge Overlook. We wanted to get away for one night to do some astrophotography under relatively dark skies. The skies at this campground are rated at a Bortle Class 2. We were surprised by the number of other campers this time of year, but we found site #6 available. Unlike most campgrounds, this BLM campground has no amenities other than a plethora of rock fire rings built by previous campers. The best part of these sorts of campgrounds is that the sites are 1/4 of a mile apart. It’s just like camping in complete solitude.

We arrived at the campsite at about 3 pm, set up camp quickly, and got the telescope set up for a night of photography. The sunset was at about 6 pm, and by 7 pm, it was dark enough to begin polar alignment. The moon set about 11 pm, and I used the dark skies to perform some needed telescope maintenance and to get used to my new ASIAir device to control the telescope mount and cameras. At 2 am, I focused my attention on the Horsehead Nebula area in the Orion Constellation. I configured the system to take 200 60 second exposures and went to bed. The image shown here is the result.

At 6 am, I arose to finish up the photography tasks, dismantle the entire system, and pack it carefully away. We joined a congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Huntington, Utah, for their worship services. After church, we raced home for other activities. This trip was a quick 24-hour adventure, but it was surprisingly relaxing and pleasant to be under the bright stars.

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Twin Hollows Campground, Utah

On October 16, 2019, we set out for Twin Hollows Campground in southern Utah. We were searching for warmer weather, a BLM campground that would give us some space at a ridiculously low price (free), and that was near some other locations of interest.

Twin Hollows Campground is immediately west of Highway 89 just south of Mount Carmel Junction, Utah. The “sites” are simply dirt, sand, and maybe a rock fire ring. We were fortunate and acquired a site with a living tree. Some of the sites are too sandy for large RVs but may make excellent sites for those in light vehicles, jeeps, tents, etc. The sites west of the main dirt road are along the East Fork of the Virgin River. Those on the east of the main road are up against a steep hill/cliff that climbs towards the highway. The sites in the southern half of the campground are protected from the sounds and sights of the highway. However, the northern half of the campground was much noisier and exposed to highway traffic. Side-by-sides and other off-road vehicles routinely travel the main dirt road.

On the east side of the campground, there is a very short hike called the Belly of the Dragon. I would guess the length of the hike is about 0.5 miles roundtrip. There is a 5′ to 6′ ledge at the beginning, but the rest is extremely easy to navigate. The Belly of the Dragon is a manmade tunnel that crosses under Highway 89. It is made of soft sandstone and is covered in signatures and art of varying quality.

Twin Hollows Campground is approximately 15 miles from the east entrance to Zion National Park. The east entrance seems less traveled than the main entrance, but it was plenty busy even in October. After entering the park, we traveled through a 1.1 mile-long tunnel that has several windows out of the cliff face it’s carved along. RVs must pay a $15 fee to go through the tunnel. The shape of the tunnel forces tall vehicles to travel down the center of the tunnel, consuming both lanes and necessitating an escort.

I don’t much care for the crowds associated with Zion National Park, but our quick tour revealed a couple of gems worth the visit. The Fall colors in Zion were spectacular. The red rock, green trees, and blue sky are usually beautiful, but add yellow and red foliage, and it made every view amazing. The East Rim Trail was a good bang for the buck. The views were great, and the effort to get there was low, and the crowds weren’t too bad.

From the same parking lot that is used to access the East Rim Trail, you can access a nice slot canyon. It’s a simple climb down, a short hike through the slot canyon, and then back to the parking lot. I don’t believe this one is marked and so the crowds go the other way.

In addition to Zion National Park, we drove south for 30 minutes to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. The campground there looked interesting, and we may plan a trip back to try it out. We also headed south to Red Canyon and hiked in and back about 6 miles through sand. We were so worn out by the time we almost got to Red Canyon, we turned around and headed back. We’ll do this again, but we’ll bring a side-by-side or some other transportation to get us down the very sandy road. Transport in and out would make the slot canyon much more fun.

We returned from our Fall adventure on October 20, 2019, after joining an Orderville congregation of the Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their Sunday service. It was a lovely trip with day time temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s and nighttime temperatures as low as 21, but usually in the mid 30’s. The weather was great, the site was spacious and free, the stars were beautiful, and the company was fantastic!

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Indian Creek Campground, Utah

On August 30th, 2019, we gathered for a large family reunion at the Indian Creek Campground in Utah. This campground consists of seven large group sites. There is water, pit toilets, a tiny stream, quite a bit of shade from Aspen and other trees, a large fire pit, a couple of large tables, and a large dutch oven table. There are a lot of decent tent spots and ample parking for several RVs. The high altitude setting makes this campground reasonably comfortable even in the summer. During our stay, it was warm in the sun, nice in the shade and chilly in the evenings.

It is eleven miles of dirt road to get into this campground from either the north or the south. The road from the north is pretty good but so narrow in a few spots that one of our party had their trailer hit someone else’s trailer going on the road in the opposite direction. It took a lot of effort to get them by one another. Perhaps the road from the south is wider, but we don’t know.

During the weekend family members rode 4-wheelers, side-by-sides, and went fishing at nearby Potters Ponds. In addition, we participated in board games and outside tournaments. I spent a couple of late nights capturing starlight through my telescope that resulted in an image of the Western Veil Nebula.

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Washington Lake Campground, Utah

July 2019 Trailer Trip

On July 31st, 2019, we traveled from Porcupine Campground in Idaho, through Evanston, Wyoming, where we acquired supplies and arrived at Washington Lake Campground in Utah. Our family has been camping, backpacking, fishing, and even snowmobiling in the Uinta Mountains for more than 30 years, making it a fitting place to end our journey. If this wasn’t enough to draw us to this picturesque lake, we had our oldest son and his family joining us in their RV a few days later.

We arrived at Washington Lake at about 6 pm and found site 40 available. It’s right near the entrance to the campground and away from the lake. While we first thought it wasn’t great, we learned to like being away from others and out of the pedestrian traffic to and from the lake.

After being in this site a few days, we decided that while I had to go back to work on August 5th, my wife and young son would remain for the remainder of the week. I would rejoin them on the weekend of August 9th. In my absence, our daughter and her three sons joined my wife and stayed in our trailer. When I returned on the 9th, Washington Lake Campground was host to my wife and me, two of our sons, one daughter, a daughter-in-law, five grandchildren, and a friend of my youngest son. It was a great 11 nights of camping. Washington Lake Campground has a 7-day limit, so we had to leave the camp and return. While gone, we dumped the trailer and acquired freshwater. We, fortunately, retained site 40.

On August 1st, we were outside looking at the stars about 10:30 pm when I noticed an unusually bright and new star in the Big Dipper. Then I realized this star wasn’t a star at all, but a satellite. Looking up likely candidates in an astronomy application on my phone indicated that it was the International Space Station. It was amazingly bright.

The Uinta Mountains contain many lakes and streams, and decent fishing in most of them. On August 2nd, my wife and I and our youngest son fished the stream that flows out of Christmas Meadows on the north side of the Uinta Mountains. It was the first time our 13-year-old put together his nymphing rod, tied the line, and chose a nymph to use. We walked down to the river together, and I asked him to pick a fishy spot. He identified a slow run of water near a fast-moving piece of water and indicated he would fish it. It looked like an excellent seem and a sweet hole. On his first cast, he pulled out a beautiful fish and the largest I had seen in this river. He walked downstream a few dozen feet and after just a few more casts caught a 23-inch brown trout, the catch of the century on this little stream. I think he’s hooked!

While at Washington Lake, we enjoyed walks with our children, grandchildren, and of course, our favorite dog, Leo. Leo loves the water and goes nuts when someone catches a fish. He loves to wade and swim and doesn’t mind looking like a wet rat.

The grandchildren inevitably find a way into the water. Whether it is intentional or unintentional is sometimes hard to tell. On at least one occasion, I witnessed a young grandchild playing blissfully near the water’s edge when an older sibling snuck up behind them and, while parents were distracted, gave them just enough of a push to plunge them into the lake. Grandpa doesn’t tell!

On August 11th, 2019, our 31-night journey through three states came to an end. We hauled the trailer home and began to adjust to home life. It was hot, there were lots of errands to run, and work was relentless. It took us no time at all to wish we were back in the mountains. We’ll have more camping trips in 2019, but the big one is over until next year.

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3 States, 31 Nights, and 2131 Miles

July 2019 Trailer Trip

On July 11th, 2019 our family of three hitched up our trailer and took off on our “July” adventure. We traveled to 3 states, camped for 31 nights, and put 2131 miles of road behind us. My wife, our 13-year-old son, and I thought it was great.

We began our trip with the idea of reaching the Washington coast and traveling down through Washington and Oregon before returning home to Utah. However, while traveling, we changed our plans, traveled less each day, and enjoyed a few things closer to home.

We traveled through Idaho, Montana, and Utah. We learned a few things along the way:

  1. Southwest Idaho is much like Utah in terms of weather. In July it is hot and intolerable without air conditioning. Before heading north to a cooler climate, we broke out both generators to run the AC unit and cool the trailer.
  2. Campgrounds in Idaho and Montana were, in general, far better than those in Utah. In Idaho and Montana, the campgrounds were generally less expensive. In a few cases where they were the same price as those in Utah, the facilities were far superior. Where Utah campgrounds lack water but ask you to put out your fire, Idaho and Montana campgrounds not only had water but provided a bucket at the faucet to borrow.
  3. On this journey we traveled back and forth between Idaho and Montana several times. Each time we entered Idaho we were required to have our kayaks inspected for plants, animals, and water. We were asked where we last put them in the water and where we were headed. This became a sort of a joke. At one stop an older man, certainly not a gentleman, approached me on the passenger side of the vehicle. He barked through the window, “we are in Idaho where men drive.” Really, what year is it in Idaho?
  4. This spring we upgraded our solar capacity from a single 150 Watt panel to three 200 Watt panels and a new solar charge controller. On this trip, we routinely generated a kilowatt of power per day, eliminating the need to use a generator unless we needed the AC.

Our adventure was amazing and most importantly relaxing. We participated in fun activities, beautiful scenery, interesting history, and just plain old fun. The next several posts will describe each of the places we camped at and summarize the things we saw and did. While this adventure had to end, it just means the next one is a few days closer.

Cedar Mountain Recreation Area, Utah

On March 29, 2019, we departed from a winter wonderland for a little camping in the Cedar Mountain Recreation Area in central Utah. We uncovered the trailer and prepared it for another spring, summer, and fall full of camping, relaxation, and fun.

Our initial stop was on BLM land just south and east of Cleveland, Utah. The precise location is at 39.270189, -110.743703. We arrived at this location in the early evening of the 29th and stayed until about noon on the 31st. While in this location we had one vehicle pass by on the nearby road; the solitude was delightful.

The sky was quite dark in this location, but lights from Huntington and Cleveland were visible on the horizon to the west. The location would be good for stargazing, observing, and astrophotography. We experienced some scattered clouds in the evenings we were there, so we didn’t use telescopes or other equipment to enjoy the stars. However, we took a few moments each evening to enjoy the creation.

On Saturday we drove north to and then through the Nine Mile Canyon. It was a couple of hour drive away, but we’ve wanted to see Nine Mile Canyon for some time. It doesn’t seem to be on the way to anywhere, so now was as good as a time as any.

One of the more famous petroglyphs is the hunting scene illustrated here. There were many others worth seeing. Also, there are a few ancient ruins, a balanced rock, some old cabins, and some beautiful scenery. Well worth the drive.

On March 31st we moved to Goose Island Campground near Arches National Park. We met a couple of our sons and their families there and occupied the group site at the north end of the campground. The campground is in between the Colorado River and the highway. Also, there is a well-used bike path that goes right past the group site. Finally, each evening, just before sunset, a tour boat cruises up the Colorado River with a guide pointing out things of interest. After dark, the boat returns down the river with an associated truck on the highway outfitted with a huge spotlight and generator. The spotlight shines through the campground, across the river, and onto the cliffs. The guide in the boat points out things of interest illuminatef by the light, and they slowly move on. The light is amazingly bright and shines through tents, RVs, etc. During our stay, this occurred at about 9 pm, but in the summer months, this might happen as late as 10 pm. Good luck sleeping through this artificial 10-minute long sunrise. These conditions make this campground a bit busy and noisy. However, camping is always restful and relaxing and our six nights were wonderful.

We played games, sat around a campfire, played with grandchildren, read books, and rejuvenated. On one of the days, we drove to Canyonlands National Park. We walked to the top of Whale Rock and had lunch and enjoyed several of the scenic views. It was also fun watching my sons deal with their children in the gift shop. I watched, remembered the good old days, and thought how much better they are at fathering than I was.

We entered Arches National Park twice and enjoyed various hikes and views. I’ve wanted to hike the Fiery Furnace for years, and my son acquired a permit for six of us. It was a fun hike involving some simple climbing, squeezing through short narrow canyons, and experiencing several dead ends. The scenery was spectacular. I would like to return and hike the Fiery Furnace again and take many more of the small side trips.

We also drove to Dead Horse Point State Park. Fortunately, we have an annual state park pass that allowed us to enter for free. We drove to the overlook, took a look, took a picture, and left. We noticed that camping at the state park is $40 per night, but that likely includes hookups for RV’s and is a reasonable alternative for summer camping in the heat.

We thoroughly enjoyed our week of camping. It was relaxing, fun being with family, hiking, and enjoying the breathtaking scenery of southern Utah. In closing, I include the following panoramic view from Canyonlands National Park which captures the essence of our trip.

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Wedge Overlook Campground, Utah

In this post two separate visits to the Wedge Overlook Campground in central Utah are described. Our first visit began on Friday November 2, 2018 and ended on Sunday November 4, 2018. A week later we decided to revisit the same location and take advantage of the dark skies for astrophotography.

While the location is called the Wedge Overlook Campground, there is nothing there but dirt roads and huge cul-de-sacs where RVs and tent campers may stay. There are 10 sites, but there are no restrooms, no water, and no other facilities. The sites are hundreds of feet apart providing ample privacy, each site has one or more rock fire circles, and best of all there is no cost!

The area is part of the San Rafael Swell and has many interesting geological points of interest. The landscape includes red cliffs, yellow formations, interesting hills, bluffs, drainages, and canyons. The most prominent local feature is the Little Grand Canyon of Utah. This deep gorge contains the San Rafael river and an abundance of trees showing their fall colors late into the season.

On our first visit we stayed in site 3 which is on the south side of the main road. The site has a long entrance road and a large area sufficient for several RVs. There are some trees that would provide privacy for tent campers. This site is close to a fork of the main attraction in the area, the Little Grand Canyon of Utah. This fork is fun to explore, and is sufficiently distant to make this site manageable with small children.

On our second excursion to this area, we stayed in site 4 which is across the road from site 3, is smaller, and has a spectacular view to the north. This trip was intended to provide dark skies so I could perform some astrophotography. The skies cooperated and we enjoyed two clear nights that were cold, but most importantly dark with no moon. I have wanted to photograph the Andromeda galaxy (M31) since I was a very young man, I finally got the chance.

The second image captured was from my favorite constellation Orion. The belt of Orion contains the Orion Nebula (M42). It is beautiful, easy to see, and I think the image turned out nicely. Having the chance to capture these two images, spend a couple of days with my dear wife, and enjoy this beautiful part of Utah was amazing. I can’t wait for spring to arrive so we can go camping again.

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