I’ve held onto this adventure since last fall and rather than posting it on my fly fishing blog, I thought it would be a great first adventure post here!
We got on the road later than I had hoped. My excitement was mixed with a bit of concern as well. It was my first time heading into this particular area of Utah’s Uinta Mountains. It was already nearing dark as we made it halfway up the mountain. Although Zev and Kai were being super patient, I felt bad that it was getting late cause I knew dinner wouldn’t come for some time. I’ll save you on all the details, you just need to know that the drive seemed to take forever. After what seemed like ages, I decided that this was far enough, so under the starlight I searched for a flat spot to call home for the night.
I woke the boys and alerted them of our arrival. It was after 11pm. Good job, Dad. We planned to get a fire going and get some warm food in our tummies. It took a second to prepare some kindling since I’m super smart and still didn’t have a hatchet in my kit and had to resort to dropping/throwing big rocks on the firewood to get the kindling. After a little cavemanning it, I got a fire going. The boys were cheery as they warmed around the glow of the fire despite the cold breeze that blew on our backs in the darkness. As the brats cooked we talked about boy stuff and sat mesmerized by the fire. We even had some late night s’mores. It was perfect. Candice has always hated my disdain for campgrounds but for me, moments like this were perfection. Complete isolation in a wild place with two of my boys. My hope is that by exposing them to wild places from a young age they’ll grow an appreciation for those places that are less traveled and the experiences that come along with them. My boys are adventurous and I was pumped that the trip had only begun and we’d surely have an interesting trip so far off the beaten path. As the boys continued snacking I setup the little two-man tent I’d gotten as a graduation gift over a decade prior. Once snuggled in our sleeping bag, we chatted about the potential animals we might see and the plans for the morning. Among those plans of exploring the unique landscape, we also intended on hiking into a little spot to catch a fish that none of us had ever pursued or caught before – Arctic Grayling.
When we awoke the sun was already shining and we could feel its warm through the walls of the tent. Upon clambering out of the tent we were greeted with a gorgeous morning and views for days! The boys busied themselves checking out the snow piles that were scattered up the hillside as I prepared our oatmeal. We ate, goofed around, and took a few pictures before packing up and heading further up the “road” to see what we could find up the ridge.
By now the road had all but disappeared and was barely discernible amongst the rocks and grass. We rumbled our way up to the top and were treated with more expansive views. The valleys were broad and filled with pines. We scanned around for mountain goats, deer, etc. but didn’t see any so after scrambling around awhile we made our way to the lake we’d be trying. Along the hike, the snow was littered with animal tracks, although I wish I was better at discerning what they were! Fox or something. Regardless, I was filled with anticipation.
I tied on a bug and and made a cast a fair ways out into the small lake. In lakes like this the first few casts are usually pretty telling. Conditions seemed to be teed up for a good day but you never know with these high alpine lakes! Halfway into my retrieve I got a solid bump. I set the hook and and felt the wiggle of our first fish. It’s colorful flash on the surface of the water only confirmed that I had a grayling on the end of my line. My excitement was quickly followed by a sign and a chuckle. He came “unbuttoned” and was gone. Suck! Haha. No matter, it seemed we’d be in for some productive fishing. Another wiggle on the end of my line a few casts later confirmed just that. Zev scooped him up (they love netting them and letting them go as much or more as actually bringing them in) and I laid eyes on a solid specimen that would end up being one of the best fish of the day. My first grayling! I can’t believe I’d never pursued these fish before! It’s giant dorsal fin was adorned with brilliant blue. Freaking amazing. The boys helped me with a quick photo shoot and we sent the beauty on her way.
Now that dad had his fish in the bag it was time for the boys turn! Since they’re not quite at the age where they can cast by themselves too well we did the usual where Dad hooks up and yells, “I need help!” They then trade off reeling and netting while Dad takes photos. It is so fun to see them working as a team without my help. I’m really looking forward to when they can make the casts themselves. Maybe we need to spend some time practicing on the lawn! After awhile, we caught our fill of beautiful fish and it was time to make the hike out. The boys did pretty good but we were definitely all relieved to get back to the car.
It was nice to be able to make the drive out in the light and get a view of the descent off the mountain. It felt so good to be able to spend time away from everything and focus on having a good time with Zev and Kai. We messed around, saw some animals, caught some fish, stayed warm and safe, and didn’t see another soul. As an avid angler it was a cool thing for me to not only check a new species off my list but to get my kiddos a little more of a head start checking new fish off their lists. I’m glad there are still plenty of quiet places to explore and enjoy. Some are closer and less bumpy but no matter how you get there they never seem to disappoint.
Favorite Moments: 1) Eating a mellow breakfast with amazing views and knowing we had a full day to do whatever we wanted. 2) When both Zev and Kai had to go #2 and I had them sit up against a big slab of a rock and they freaked out when I told them I was taking their picture cause it looked so funny.
My Takeaway: It’s was such a more fulfilling experience to enjoy the solitude without the distraction of any other people. We didn’t have to rush anywhere before anyone else, fight for a good camping spot or anything else. It was worth the extra effort to enjoy the solitude and to show my boys more of what Utah has to offer.
Things I’d do Differently: Leave earlier and not underestimate travel time when dealing with the uncertainty of dirt roads.