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From St. George to the High Uintas June 7, 2007

Posted by Kim in Camping, Fishing, My Trip Logs, Travel, Utah.
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The High Uintas

Here I am in St. George, Utah getting behind in my Writing… I have been here since the 15th of May and during that time we have made only one trip outside the immediate area worth writing about. Last Monday, my cousin Bing, his wife Betty and I left here and headed north. Our goal was to explore some of northern Utah east of Salt Lake City… in particular, part of the High Uintas. The overall plan was to take several days getting there and to enjoy some sightseeing and fishing on the way. Our first night, we found a small US Forest Campground in Beaver Valley about 150 miles north of St. George. This beautiful little valley follows Beaver Creek within the Fishlake National Forest and is an area we have camped and fished before but wanted to revisit. During our first night out, Bing and I both came down with something… he worse than I. He ended up spending most of the next day in the local emergency room at the hospital in Beaver getting re-hydrated. We have yet to get a final report, but possible cause was E. Coli or some other bacterial infection probably from something we ate. We stopped for dinner shortly before setting up camp and both of us had the fried fish dinner while Betty had something different and didn’t get sick. Anyway, this kind of put a damper on our fishing for that and the next 2 days until recovered enough to continue our adventure. We did check out Little Reservoir Lake late the second evening and noted a very healthy fish feed in progress but were still not feeling well enough to break out the rods. Our next stop was at a small Utah State Campground north of Provo near Heber City. We were still in recovery mode and, instead of fishing the Provo River as we had intended, we just sort of previewed the area. There was no lack of fishermen but no one seemed to be catching. One fisherman we talked to said they had just increased the water flow from the Jordanelle Dam and the change in water flow and temperature had put the fish down. “Come back next week when they reduce the flow back to normal if you want fish…” Near our campsite, there was a small, unpublicized and unimproved hot spring my cousin was familiar with. It was less than 5 minutes from the trailer and was a key reason in our selection of that campsite. It is a crystal clear spring bordering a swampy area with a water temperature bordering on “Too Hot” for me. A local said she thought the water temperature to be about 115 deg. F. Bing thought it great but then again he has spent time in Japan where such things are the norm. We spent 2 nights here before moving on into what would be virgin territory for all three of us… the High Uintas. Leaving Kamas, taking State Highway 150, we traveled “up” some 25 miles to a recommended campground on Washington Lake in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest. This was recommended to us by a Forest Ranger when we stopped to purchase a recreation pass to the area. At over 10,000 feet, this campground is the highest any of us has ever stayed in. It is actually above the Aspen, into the Lodge Pole Pines, and just below the Alpine Fields… absolutely beautiful country. We arrive on a Saturday and are unable to get a site directly on the lake shore, but did get a high site with a view of the lake just next to a small frog pond. All around us there were patches of still unmelted snow and a profusion of small wild flowers of varying colors just bursting forth plus a large population of frogs in the pond that kept us well serenaded during our entire stay. The following view will give you an idea of the camp area.

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&cp=40.679401~-110.959082&style=h&lvl=15&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&encType=1

Washington Lake is at the bottom and, our campground (newly constructed), while not shown, was at the upper end of the lake between Washington Lake and the slightly lower altitude Trial Lake north of it. The small lake just above Washington is Crystal Lake where we spend some time fishing… beautiful but not yielding many fish to us. We probably would have done better if we had revisited it after learning some of the tricks we developed later that same day. That afternoon, we drove up to Mirror Lake, a few miles east, to check out the scenery. Betty elects to stay with the trailer as she was not feeling well. Mirror Lake is just the other side of the highest pass on SR 150 and the vista getting to it was spectacular. After walking along the shoreline a short distance, noting several fish being caught, we decide to break out our rods and give a try in the small stream flowing out of the lake. We could see many nice trout, including several albino trout, in the 12-15 inch class with no other fishermen seeming interested as they were concentrating on fishing the lake itself. It turned out to be a great decision on our part… Almost from the first cast, these fish were fighting to get on our lines. In no time we were catching and releasing trout with almost every cast. Before returning to camp we probably caught forty or so trout… many in the 12-14 inch size range. It was undoubtedly the most trout I have ever caught using a fly rod without moving more than 5 feet from where I started fishing. Outstanding!

We returned to camp well before dark to find Betty feeling worse than when we left. The camp host suggested that her problem was probably related to altitude sickness and offered the use of an oxygen tank to see if that would help. According to the host, this is not uncommon at this altitude. After using the oxygen for a couple of hours, Betty lost her nausea and most of the headache she had and decided she wanted to stay on and not move to a lower camp. It truly was a beautiful site. The next morning she was feeling well enough to ride with us back to Mirror Lake for more fishing action. Another day of extraordinary fishing… I know that between us, we must have caught and released a hundred or more fish. Bing found himself actually changing fly patterns trying to find something they wouldn’t hit so eagerly without much success. Once again, we stop fishing while the fish are still hungry and return to camp. By this time Betty was once again having problems with the altitude. Before dark, Bing decides to try his luck in a small stream where it emptied into Washington Lake just 50 yards or so from the trailer. Luck once again is good and he keeps 4 small fish for breakfast. The next morning, however, we decide to head back south and save the trout for later. Cloudy skies, windy conditions and news from other campers that there was a storm system moving in, with forecasted snow for the high country, help make our decision. We elect to travel directly back to St. George without stopping for another night or two on the way home. As it was, we fought a very strong wind the entire trip home. After a good nights sleep and return to the desert, Betty is feeling much better. I have posted several of the photos we took on the trip on my Picasa Album Site.

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