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Torrey Fall Foliage Trip 2015 - Day 2

St. George Jeepers Trail Report - Sept. 29, 2015

Torrey Fall Foliage Trip - Day 2

The Tuesday outing consisted of two separate runs. One was led by Joan and Phil Hayes and the other by Rick Draney. After driving from Torrey to Loa we fueled up at the Loa Sinclair and assembled at Rick’s house. The Sinclair has the lowest fuel prices in the area, but still exceed prices in St. George by $.40 per gallon. 

The below photo shows our leaders, the Trail Boss, Joan, in the orange jacket, her husband, Phil Hayes, in the other orange jacket and Rick Draney in the chair. Also shown are several other event participants. One of the original organizers of the St. George Jeepers Group is Paul Furr, wwearing an orange T shirt. Standing in the green jacket is his brother, Bruce.

Today the ride participants were equal in numbers, ten in each group. New participants in the Hayes’ run were Butch and Judi DeVries and Menlo and Kathryn Smith.

Our route for the day, after leaving Loa, was to take Rt. 24 north and then travel through Fremont on Rt. 72. After Fremont we turned left onto Rt. 25, passed Mill Meadow Reservoir and proceeded along the east side of Mytoge Mountain.

Stopping for an opportunity to view the fall colors

Below, Jim Ward checks out the vibrant golden aspens.

Approaching Johnson Valley Reservoir, with the road to UM Creek and Sheep Valley on the right.

The Old Spanish Trail/Fish Lake Cutoff

Old Spanish Trail/Fish Lake Cut-Off-Johnson Valley (Text and illustrations courtesy of the USFS)

The Fish Lake National Forest has been working to mark the general route of a portion of the Old Spanish Trail known as the Fish Lake Cut-off that crosses public lands administered by the Forest Service. Trails are being marked and efforts are underway to interpret the story of this commercial “highway.” Interpretive displays have been placed at Red Creek near the Ivie Creek Rest Stop on I-70, the nearby mouth of Red Creek, off of SR-25 in the Johnson Valley area, at the Doctor Creek Trailhead, the SR-24 Rest Stop by the Koosharem short cut, and at the Paiute ATV Trailhead in Kingston Canyon.

At the above points visitors will be able to read about John C. Charles Fremont, Capt. John Gunnison, Kit Carson, Lt. George Brewerton and the Ute Chief, Walkara. Silhouette, life-sized pack trains can be found at the Johnson Valley and Doctor Creek interpretive panels. 

Interpretive materials will tell that between 1829 and 1848, traders from New Mexico stitched together a series of trails left by Native Americans and Spanish priests. The route, from Santa Fe to Los Angeles, was later named by John Charles Fremont as the “Great Spanish Trail.” It stretched 1,200 miles through what are now the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California. It entered nearly waterless lands scorched by unceasing heat and then climbed rocky, rugged mountains.

According to Fish Lake National Forest Archeologist Bob Leonard, the Old Spanish Trail has been described as the “longest, crookedest, toughest pack trail in North America.” The mule was the hands-down choice for the beast of burden and as riding animal. Simply put, mules are stronger, tougher and more intelligent than horses. Their hooves are incredibly dense and they never needed to be shod. Kit Carson, famous American scout, soldier and Indian agent, never rode anything but a mule.

So what did the pack mules carry? Typically, they carried woolen goods from New Mexico to California where they were traded for Spanish mules and horses. One to two blankets would get you a horse while three to five blankets were demanded for a good mule. On the return trip, caravans could employ 200 to 300 men who drove thousands of animals back to New Mexico. One caravan or “caballado” had over 4,000 animals when it left California. (End USFS text)

Below is the lineup of vehicles stopped for sightseeing at the Johnson Valley Reservoir.

Johnson Valley Reservoir

White pelicans on Johnson Valley Reservoir

Leaving Johnson Valley Reservoir

Some curious local natives in the two photos below.

Approaching Fish Lake

Below, Fish Lake, lower left and Johnson Valley Reservoir, upper right (from Google Earth)

Fish Lake is a high alpine lake at an elevation of approximately 8,848 ft. and is located in the Fish Lake/ Southern Wasatch Plateau region of south-central Utah, United States. It lies within and is the namesake of the Fish Lake National Forest.

Fish Lake, six miles long and one mile wide, lies in a geologic structure known as a Graben valley. It is bounded by the Mytoge Mountains on the southeast shore which sharply rise about 1,000 feet (300 m) above the lake level. Along the northwest shore, the lake is bounded by Fish Lake Hightop Plateau , summit elevation 11,600 ft. The lake has an average depth of 85 ft. and has a maximum depth of 175 feet.

The lake is best known for its sport fishing, particularly its large lake trout (also known as mackinaw). Mackinaw are caught every summer upwards of 25 lb. Fish Lake also holds Rainbow Trout, Splake and Yellow Perch. Yellow Perch are regarded as an invasive species; there is no bag limit and anglers are encouraged to dispose of any Yellow Perch caught. The lake is stocked by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources fish hatchery in Glenwood. The region sees heavy snowfall in the winter, with snowfall occurring as late as June in any given year. For this reason tourist activity is at its peak in the summer months.

Pando, a clonal quaking aspen stand, that, according to some sources, is the oldest (80,000 years) and largest (106 acres, 13 million pounds) organism on Earth, is located 1 mile southwest of Fish Lake on Utah route 25.

We departed the scenic Fish Lake, continuing on Rt. 25. When we came to Rt. 24 we turned north on 24 toward the town of Burrville. Near Burrville we turned south on Rt. 62 and proceeded to the small town of Koosharem. Koosharem is the location of the historic Grass Valley Mercantile Co. store, which I will describe later in this report. We proceeded on down Rt. 62 to the Pole Valley Canyon Road, USFS 072.

Below, we air down to soften the ride up Pole Valley Canyon and to Monroe Mountain.

I didn’t manage to get a photo of them, but on the way up Pole Valley Canyon we came upon a cowboy driving his cattle up the canyon. It almost seemed that the cattle delighted in impeding traffic as it took us quite some time to work our way through the herd. The cowboy was very good natured and did his best to encourage us through his cattle. Below is a photo of the trail up the canyon.

While passing through Pole Creek Canyon we passed stands of maples in full color. Although nowhere near the vast areas of maples in New England, the color rivaled any of the red maples in the east. We left Pole Creek Canyon and and climbed up to the intersection of USFS 068. The photos below demonstrate some of the fine scenery and color along the Paiute Trail North, 068, and Upper Box Creek Reservoir.

Along the trail heading north we passed Upper Box Creek Reservoir, Below.

Threatening sky, but delighful temperatures and no rain.

After leaving Upper Box Creek Reservoir we took USFS 078 toward Sawmill Flat. USFS 078 is also known as Monroe Canyon Road. Following are photos along the trail on the way to Monroe Mountain.

Below is a satellite view of Monroe Mountain showing the relationship of the two communication towers. The cliffs directly to the west of the north towers is where a hang glide pilot launched and we were fortunate to watch. He looked like, and according to a friend, he was having a ball. Photos of that to follow in this report. We were at the south towers and Rick Draney’s group was at the north towers when we arrived.

Below is a series of panoramas looking west taken from the top of Monroe Mountain, 11,227 feet elevation. 

Hang glider launch

The village in the valley below is Monroe, Utah.

It was surprising to find wildflowers still blooming and insects at the end of September and especially at high altitude.

Pictured below, left to right, Bud Sanders, Dee Wingrove and Leo Wingrove

Joan and Phil Hayes; our trip leaders, extraordinaire

On Monroe Mountain we passed a United States Forest Service research area. The area had been harvested and a prescribed burn applied. It was fenced to keep browsers (deer, elk and cattle) out. In many areas of the range of aspen regeneration of the species has been severely challenged by overbrowsing. The scientists will be able to assess the results of the cut and burn, common regeneration methods for aspen. The fencing will give an indication of the affect of the browsers compared to unprotected areas.

Throughout our travels, our leader, Joan, repeatedly remarked about how striking the aspen leaves that landed on the evergreen trees were and how the trees looked like Christmas trees decorated with golden dollars. When the light hit the trees just right it was quite remarkable.

Proceeding on past the USFS Koosharem Ranger station. Their horses, which they actually use, were corraled by this rail fence.

When you gotta go, you gotta go. Doesn’t matter who is watching.

Below, last pit stop area before leaving the National Forest, the mountains and proceeding on down into Koosharem.

Below is the old Grass Valley Mercantile Company store in Koosharem, Utah. It’s a fascinating place with lots of collectibles lining the walls. I didn’t find the Never Rip Overalls. Worth a trip just to visit the store.

It was also the end of trail on our second wonderful day out. However, after airing up their tires, one Jeep was unable to restart. Our trip master mechanic, Leo Wingrove was able to get it going with the aid of jumper cables. This was our only mechanical problem of the day out of 20 vehicles.

Submitted by Bud Sanders

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