June 30, 2008

Heaven's Gate

Over the weekend we took a little trip to Paradise… Park, that is. Just before reaching the Paradise Park Reservoir, we turned right on a dirt road (unmarked) that leads to the Dry Fork Creek horse bridge. We were looking for a place to pull over and camp with the pickup and horse trailer.
We found our spot near a marshy area with good grass with an old road leading to a flat meadow where we thought we could set up overnight shop. The old road had a lot of branches and fallen trees in the way, all of small diameter, but making the track impassable without some work. Luckily, Steve had his trusty chain saw that even had some gas in it. He cut a path barely wide enough for the truck and trailer.
Creating the entry made for a lot of work, what with the cutting and hauling aside the branches and trunks. Even then, the passage of our rig was … interesting. Once inside the meadow, we had an ideal, very private location. An old rock campfire ring (and of course some old cans and bottles) indicated the place had been used a few times by hunters or campers.
With the campground established, we headed out about noon on Saturday for our first day’s ride. The plan was to go to Big Park, near Marsh Peak. We’ve been there several times, approaching from the Red Cloud Loop side, from the Marsh Bench road or from Massey Ranch/Horsehoe Park. We’ve seen a huge herd of Elk in Big Park. The area is wide open and beautiful in mid-summer. This time, though, we didn’t quite have our trails straight.
We went down the road from our camp, crossed the Dry Fork Creek bridge, and followed the signs and markers past Burro Park, Hells Kitchen Park, and entering Corral Park. From there, we hoped to find a trail through the woods to Big Park but we weren’t able to locate the trail marked on our Topo! Maps. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a forest service map, or we would have had a better idea where to go. We could have followed Corral Park on around to Big Park, but we ran out of exploration time. As it was, we returned to the trailer about 8PM.
The ride was 12 miles, 1600 feet elevation gain, accomplished in about 6 hours. Our travel was a little slower than usual because the trail was rocky and we had to go around or over a lot of blowdown in the spruce and lodgepole forest. Above 10,000 feet, we ran into a few patches of snow. Dandelions and buttercups were out.
Overall, the route was well-watered, a good place to spend a day that topped 90 degrees in Roosevelt, but was only in the high sixties where we were, above 9500 feet.
The mosquitoes were pretty bad back at the camp, but Wipe-On fly spray worked well on the horses. Daisy found herself a nice cow femur to chew on. We called it her Daisy Binky.
We were glad to have our cozy gooseneck trailer with mattress in the nose to sleep on. One mosquito was buzzing around inside at first, but Steve managed to zap it pretty quickly.
On Sunday, the goal was to reach Twin Lakes. We drove the truck and trailer out of our campsite and continued about 2 miles toward the bridge, where we parked in an open place beside the road. From there, we saddled up and took off. The trail was the same as the previous day until a mile or so past the bridge. From there, we diverged onto the marked Twin Lakes trail.
We stopped to eat lunch at a widened part of Dry Fork. Daisy had a great time diving into the water to fetch sticks. We rode on to Twin Lakes, where we saw a group of campers in a wall tent with their horses. We had seen their horse trailers not far from where we parked and thought we might run into them. Daisy ran over to play with their dogs. We managed to get her to come back without too much trouble. We crossed the lake outlet in water that was horse belly deep with no problem, thinking the trail ran on the other side of the lake.
After much searching around, we never came up on a real trail, but we did manage to follow enough of a game trail to view both lakes. (Later, at home, we consulted the forest service map and found that we should have stayed on the same side of the lake as the campers. Next time, that map comes with us in the saddlebags!)

Just before we turned around, we found a huge snowbank where Daisy had fun glissading down the snow. That was at about 10, 200 feet. Around the lake, marsh marigolds were everywhere in the wet areas.
The entire ride was only about 6.5 miles with 1200 feet elevation gain. We made the ride in about 4.5 hours. Not bad considering the time we spent looking for trails in rough country, and the rocky trails in general.
Conclusions: Never go anywhere in the Uintas without forest service map in addition to Topo! Maps. Bring plenty of bug spray. A return to the area in August would be good. The wildflowers will be numerous and beautiful then.

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