Flaming Gorge

July, 2017 Manila, UT We made our way northeast to a little town on the Wyoming state line to visit Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. Manila was a quiet town, especially midweek. We stayed at the KOA ($43 per night, full hookups) as it was the only option I could find with electricity.

Flaming Gorge was aptly named for these beautiful red cliffs.

When it was named there was no lake but the Green River flowed at the base of the cliffs. When the river was damned up in the 1960’s, the resulting reservoir was named for the gorge it filled up.

The lake is very remote with few accesses so we decided to splurge on a boat rental so we could get a better look at it. Like much of this part of Utah, the views in each direction are vastly different.

You are just as likely to see imposing brown mountains.

Or you might see green hills.

But the red hills steal the show, especially when the sun lights them up.

We enjoyed our morning of boating very much even though it was cloudy most of the time and even rained for a while. We thought the rates at Lucerne Marina just outside of Manila were quite reasonable. We rented a 24 foot pontoon for 5 hours for only $165 plus the cost of gas which was less than $20.

We took a scenic drive another day along a road called the Sheep Creek Geological Loop. It was very aptly named. We spotted some bighorn sheep.

The road followed a creek for much of the way and we were surprised by this beautiful spring and its resulting waterfall. It’s called Big Spring.

The rock formations were the highlight; big, beautiful mountains of rock in every direction.

Near the end of the loop was a spur road that led to a fire tower. I had read that it was closed to tours but I was still hoping we could climb the stairs. We were headed down that spur road and about to turn onto the fire tower road when we saw a big black spot in the road ahead.

We figured it was a cow as we’d seen lots of black cows roaming freely during our backcountry drives. But we decided to proceed past our turn anyway and check it out. As we got nearer we saw our “cow” lift up its head and we both clearly saw a HUGE moose rack!

We were beyond excited and drove slowly forward hoping he wouldn’t disappear before we could get close enough for a picture. Alas, it was not to be. By the time we got to the spot, he had moved into the woods.

We spotted his massive shadow moving through the timber and then nothing. We drove slowly up the road a ways and then back but didn’t see him again. We were still elated to have had the encounter.

We proceeded to the lovely Ute Fire Lookout Tower. It had a small sign across the stairs that said closed. But it was easy to slip under and I decided if they really wanted to keep me from climbing it they would have tried harder.

The views were great.

Two of my favorite things are moose and fire towers, so to say that was a good day would be an understatement.

While we were on the mountain we checked out a few possible boondocking sites. The KOA was booked for the weekend and we weren’t ready to leave the area so early Friday morning we moved about 15 miles south and 1,200 feet higher in elevation. The site was just off Highway 44 on Forest Road 508.

We then enjoyed three more days of exploring on the mountain. We visited the Flaming Gorge Dam and took the free dam tour.

Jim fished in mountain lakes while I walked and photographed.

Here’s his first lake trout. As usual I was walking when he caught it so he got a quick shot with his phone before releasing it. The fish’s coloring is so striking, I asked Jim if he had enhanced the photo. He said that no, in fact he couldn’t even see the screen when he snapped it because it was so sunny out and he just hoped the fish was in the viewfinder. So here it is unbelievably unenhanced.

I made a new buddy, the Yellow Bellied Marmot.

He’s shy but he warms up to you.

We didn’t have cell service at our new campsite or on much of the mountain. We discovered that Dowd Mountain overlook had the best views and closest signal.

We went for a drive early one morning hoping to see more wildlife. We mostly saw more cows and more mule deer until we spotted these 3 guys in a field. They were crazy big and prehistoric looking.

I couldn’t imagine what they were. We finally got a chance to look them up in a book and our best guess is they are sandhill cranes. If anyone has a better answer I’d love to hear it.

Jim fished the Green River a few miles below the dam one morning. I wanted to walk up the river trail but I only got a half mile before the head high weeds were too thick to proceed. I turned back and just before I got to the trailhead I was stopped by this blocking my path.

He was the same kind of snake we saw in Kanab. We did not suspect it was poisonous but we still had not positively identified it either. He did not want to budge off the warm path and back into the chilly weeds. But I finally kicked a little gravel his way and he slithered off.

When we got off the mountain and had cell service again, we finally did look the snake up on the internet. We believe it is a gopher snake. I read on two seemingly reliable websites that there are only 6 poisonous snakes in Utah, 5 rattlers and a sidewinder. I know he wasn’t any of those.

I walked back to where Jim was fishing (OK I might have ran a little ways) and sat with him for a while. He’d gotten a few nibbles but his one solid bite of the morning had gotten off. This guy had dove into the river nearby him and was now perched high in a tree on the other side.

Apparently the bird wasn’t having any luck fishing either so Jim didn’t feel so bad. I got my telephoto lens out and got some good shots of him. We though he was some kind of kite but later realized it was an osprey.

Isn’t it amazing that I can be a football field away from a beautiful predator like this and with a few snaps and the aid of technology we can look him right in the eye and possibly catch a glimpse of his soul?

Our time on the mountain was just about perfect; great weather, campfires, lots of wildlife, and fresh air. We were sorry to leave but we’d already pushed back our next reservation once. So we somewhat reluctantly left our idyllic location.

5 thoughts on “Flaming Gorge

  1. Pingback: Of Moose and Men | djs epic adventure

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