Bruised Butts and Muddy Dogs

Kim and I decided to head to the Uintas for a day hike. Our go-to guide for local day hikes listed Fehr Lake Trail as a short, easy hike, which was perfect for the amount of time and energy we had that day. You can find more about the trail here. This entry is more about the lessons learned from this trip, mostly related to taking my dogs with us.

I don’t often take my dogs hiking with me because I’d really rather be able to just relax and enjoy the experience. Taking one not particularly kid friendly dog and another shy, injury prone dog on a hike doesn’t lend itself to relaxation. But our hike would be short and the elevation gain would be minimal, so I figured I’d treat them to a little bit of the great outdoors.

Jack and Nina hiking
The calm before the mud.

Canine Lessons Learned

  • You probably try to avoid that muddy patch. Your dog doesn’t. In fact, your dog might want to step knee deep into that muddy patch, stick their nose in it, and splash around in it.
  • Bring towels for wiping your dogs down, and bring something to cover your car seats (see above). I had no towels. Luckily, though I didn’t bring a blanket specifically for this purpose, I had one that covered part of the trunk. Pro-tip – if you don’t have an all weather mat for the cargo area of your hatchback, you might be able to just flip the trunk carpet over so that the dogs lay on the plastic / rubber side.
  • Dole out post-hike food slowly, unless you want to see it again shortly. Jack doesn’t normally gobble up his food. He doesn’t normally throw up his food. Luckily, the blanket (see above) caught it…mostly.
  • If you use e-collars to refocus your dogs’ attention, and the rechargeable batteries in the collars need to be replaced, don’t wait for an off leash hike to discover that they are completely dead.
  • Don’t forget training treats for reinforcing good behavior.
  • If there’s water on the trail, dogs will drink it. Depending on the quality of the water, this might need to be avoided. Bring water for them. Collapsable bowls are awesome.
  • Your dog’s on leash and off leash behavior will not magically improve just because you’re on a trail rather than a sidewalk.

Human Lessons Learned

  • Make sure everyone has the right footwear. Flip flops on a trail that has a thin layer of mud over rocks – on a slope – is a recipe for a bruised bottom.
  • Even under the best of conditions, if you’re hiking your dog on leash because there are small children on the trail, the dog may put tension on the leash at the wrong time while hiking over a thin layer of mud over rocks on a slope. This may exacerbate the problem of wearing flip flops in those conditions.
  • Know what you want out of the hike and plan accordingly; however, misadventures can be more fun than adventures.

Now go out there and have some misadventures (but stay safe).

Hiking Unitas – Fehr Lake Trail

The wind wisping through the trees provided a calming soundtrack. Filtered sunlight kept us at that elusive ‘so perfectly balanced that neither hot nor cold are noticeable’ temperature.

Uintas Hike

One of the great aspects of living in Salt Lake City is the huge diversity of landscapes within a short drive. I’m becoming more familiar with the Wasatch Mountains, and I’ve made a few trips to explore the red rocks, hoodoos, and slot canyons of southern Utah. I finally had the opportunity to experience the beauty of the Uinta Mountains this weekend. Being just under an hour’s drive to the entrance of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest and boasting a bewildering number of lakes, it’s easy to see why this area is so popular with locals.

I’m planning on hiking King’s Peak later this summer, but because I’m pretty new to hiking as a serious hobby I wanted to see the area first hand before tackling an overnighter to Kings Peak. This trip didn’t really pan out as a recon exercise because Kings Peak is in a completely different area of the 1,376 square mile park, but I did get a small taste of overall beauty of the park.

Though the trail selection for the Uinta National Forest in this book is limited – probably due to the fact that only a small portion of the park falls within 60 miles of the city – Kim and I consulted our trusty 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Salt Lake City before heading out. We decided on an easy hike, the Fehr Lake Trail, loaded up the SUV with pups and gear, and hit the road.

Fehr Lake Trail

The Fehr Lake Trail is a great family friendly hike. Even with a starting altitude of 10,337′, the trail was populated by many an extended family with young children as well as older folks who didn’t appear to be regular hikers. You’re treated to small boardwalks over soggy, wildflower-dotted meadows, fir and spruce shaded sections, and numerous lakes and ponds that are the jewels of the hike. There are some slightly steeper sections of mud and rock, but no big deal with the right footwear.

We opted to continue on after the half-mile stroll to Fehr Lake past a couple of small, unmarked ponds to Shepard Lake. We didn’t have a detailed map with us, and after reading the tragic story of Carole Wetherton and her daughter Kim Beverly, I didn’t want to venture too far. We did lose the trail momentarily on the hike back, but given the topography of this particular hike, it was pretty easy to re-orient ourselves and find the trail just 15 yards or so away.

It Didn’t Bite

When mentioning the Uintas, you can’t avoid discussing mosquitos. Being a much wetter area than most of the rest of Utah, the little biters are more prevalent here. However, we didn’t find them to be too annoying on this hike. Maybe we were there at the right time of day. Maybe Kim’s little contraption provided enough cover for both of us. I waited to gauge the severity before spraying myself with repellant, but I ended up never needing to. I saw a few but never got bitten. Kim is a mosquito magnet, so she sprayed herself before the hike and wore the Clip-on. She didn’t get bitten either.

Despite arriving back to the car a muddy mess, we found this hike to be a great introduction to the Uintas. We plan on going back soon to camp and explore the area in more detail.

A Simple Plan

It was a simple plan, really.

Kim knew the ring was almost ready, so if I wanted to surprise her, I had to act quickly. All I needed to do was: lie, evade, or redirect any time that Kim asked if the ring was finished. Sneak over to the jeweler and pick the ring up. Buy a backpack-able guitar. Convince Kim to go on a hike to Dog Lake, even though it’s still a little too early in the season. Hope that enough snow had melted so that the hike wouldn’t be miserable. Convince Kim that I would carry my overnight backpack just as a conditioning exercise…when that fell through, convince my friend Zach to hike up to the lake with a table, chair, wine, and the newly purchased guitar. Write a song. Get over the fact that I’m not a great (or even good) singer.

It worked!

Barely.

My window of opportunity is small. Joe the jeweler is chatty. Guitar Center is packed. Kim was finished running errands by the time I got back home. Quick thinking and a poorly delivered half-truth as to my whereabouts almost derailed the entire thing. “I, um, got bored while you were gone, so I went to Guitar Center to play with some of the toys there.” The best lies are based in truth, perfect. The best liars believe the lie…nah, that ain’t me.

The plan almost fell apart as I test fitted the guitar…should have bought the backpacker, not the traveler model. Zach saved the day.

The hike was miserable from the get go. I’ve been on longer, steeper hikes. I’ve hiked snowed over trails without snowshoes before. But step for step, this was one of the sloggiest hikes I’ve done. Where there was no snow, there was mud. Where there was snow, post-holing knee deep was not uncommon. Kim was not feeling it. Her sunglasses broke and she didn’t have her eye glasses with her. My legs were achy from my Saturday run. “We must be getting close,” was either a statement of wish rather than fact, or it was one of those lies that if repeated long enough eventually becomes the truth. I had no way of informing Zach if we had to bail on the hike, so I absolutely had to get to the lake, even if I had to arrive alone.

The last stretch was the worst – the steepest incline, the deepest, slipperiest snow on the trail. Close enough to the landing site and not wishing to prolong the misery, I tell Kim to just hang out for a couple of minutes while I go check out the lake (and come up with a backup plan). I sprint, post-holing every third or fourth footfall, the last couple hundred yards. I grab the guitar, find Zach in his picture-taking foxhole, tell him we couldn’t finish the hike, and head back down the trail. Instead of just waiting for my return, Kim soldiered on. She wasn’t far behind.

“Why do you have a guitar?”

“Um. Some hippy hiked up here for some solitude. He was unprepared for the snow. He traded this for my pack!”

It was an unconvincing lie. I knew it when I said it. Her disbelieving smile was the reply I expected. Instant rejuvenation. We finished the hike to the lake.

Carefully rehearsed and memorized lyrics. A simple chord progression on the guitar. That’s all I had to do at this point. Well, the song I rehearsed didn’t include restarts and giggles. The song I wrote didn’t include such fine lyrics as “oh, wait. I messed that up” or “let me start this verse again” or “gimme a second to remember this part,” but that’s the song I performed.

Thankfully, she didn’t shriek in horror and run for her life upon hearing my tone deaf vocal treatment and amnesiatic lyrical delivery. She said yes!

See? It was a simple plan, executed without a hitch.

Hiking Desolation Trail

Desolation Trail in Salt Lake City, UT is a 19 mile hike that ends at Lake Desolation, people who are intent on seeing the lake don’t usually hike the whole trail. It has connectors that make a much shorter hike to the lake. If you start at the Desolation Lake trailhead in Mill Creek Canyon and hike in about 2.5 miles, you’ll get to the Salt Lake City overlook.

I’ve done this hike twice now in the winter, and I’m starting to love Mill Creek Canyon. It has no ski resorts, so it’s less trafficked than the other canyons. It’s not a watershed, so dogs are allowed. On odd numbered days my four-legged buddy can even go off-leash, a freedom that both he and I enjoy.

The second time I hiked to the overlook, there were quite a few trees blocking the trail – evidence of an avalanche. At least I think so. Despite seeing quite a few people in hiking’s version of clown footwear, neither of my hikes on this trail required snowshoes. This winter has seen less than the usual amount of snow, so I would imagine that normally a hike here at this time of year would require them. Micro-spikes or some other traction enhancement would have reduced the slipping and sliding.

The overlook provided a great view…of the smog that envelops the city when the inversion is bad. That gray mess of soup floating over the city has wreaked havoc on my sinuses all winter long. I used to check the weather forecast hoping for sunny days. Now I check it in the hopes that there will be a big enough storm to blow all of the smog out of the air.

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