Ashley National Forest

As I consider where to adventure these crusted hiking boots off to, I realize how privileged I am to be in small town Vernal, UT. A bit conservative for a city girl, but the outdoors are vast and this isn’t my first rodeo in a small town, so I’m not too worried about it. After researching some of the gems in the area, I’m thrilled to be at a location where nature awaits adventure at a mere 40 minute drive in just about any direction.

I recently celebrated 1 year of knowing my partner in crime from last years’ CLM internship by going on a backpacking trip to Ashley National Forest. This was a great intro to summer trip because we only planned to average about 5 to 6 miles per day AND it made me realize I was unprepared and a little rustically rusty.


Drove for about 2.5 hours from Vernal to Whiterocks trail head and started our hike at around noon “It’s so nice to have the whole trail by ourselves” I said to Cori. 3 hours later, during our snack/kirin building break we encounter the first humans. I’m not sure why, but we both felt as though we were caught doing something wrong when they stopped to say hello. Maybe it was just the shock of seeing a person when you think there’s nobody watching. They were an older pair, assuming they were a couple, she said they came from Colorado where she worked for the Forest Service and we told her about our summer positions and what we do. We shared our plan to do a loop around Fox and Cheppeta lake and they said they were doing something similar. He said nothing the whole time, it was a little strange, but in either case I like how it was her that took initiative to speak and spoke for him instead of the other way around. *Feminist trait pick up*  By 7pm we were tired and a little hangry, but we accomplished our goal of 6 miles to Fox Lake. We saw a pile of what looked like camping equipment and assumed it was the same couple, since we hadn’t seen anyone else on trail. Upon close examination we determined it was some drifter’s pile of things he had abandoned and hoped he wouldn’t come back in the middle of the night and kill us both. Dark, I know, but sometimes these types of things cross my mind as possibilities out in the middle of nowhere, you know?! We set up camp at an adorable inlet facing the lake where we indulged in the view made for all, but selfishly enjoyed the entire landscape. Took a deep breath in and pleasured in a fulfilling stretch and sigh. Home for the night. After eating dinner, I went to pump water and was extremely disappointed when I noticed that my pump wasn’t pumping very fast. Come to find out, it took a fall at some point and the ceramic casing around the filter had a crack. Uh ohh! We were relying on this one pump for the next couple of days and it took me over an hour to pump 2 Liters. Trouble, but nothing we couldn’t handle. We shared the 2L and called it a night.  We’ll deal with the troubles tomorrow.


We pumped water for a couple hours early in the morning and were ready for our hike by about 10 am. I was expecting to be long on our way by then when I didn’t know that my pump was broken. Oh well, forward and onward. Our pace was steady, not too fast not too slow when I suddenly feel a breeze pick up enough to stop by and put our sweaters on. Neither one of us wanted to admit to the fact that a thundercloud was building above us and we were at a very exposed cliff but we both realized the danger before even mentioning it. Our paced picked up simultaneously which confirmed our silent assumptions. Finally we felt it, hail! Not super rough down pour hail, no, it was soft and not threatening but shortly thereafter we heard it, thunder! Loud and clear although not very close. It was lingering one mountain over. We picked up our pace a little more and did a small amount of trail stomping to try and get to our destination a little quicker. When we heard the storm approach even closer we decided to take shelter under some baby Juniper growing along the tree line. Throughout this time we were both calm and collected but obviously a little scared. We shared the same reaction by making jokes and giggling about how an adrenaline rush forced us to forget how tired and sore we actually are. You should have seen us racing down this exposed pass. The human body and mind are so fascinating! After a little while the hail subsided and thunder stopped. We decided to call it a day at around 4 pm close to Taylor Lake and cut our trip down by 1 day due to the set back and lack of functioning water pump. We set up camp and built a fire, where we chilled and shared stories about our winter adventures and dating life (or lack there of due to the traveling seasonal life 😉


Woke up early and followed the routine of pumping water for a couple of hours *eye roll!*. A meditation session helped me get by. The day before we had passed the trail to loop back to the Whiterocks trailhead because we weren’t sure if we were going to follow through with our initially planned loop, but we decided not to loop and instead head back. We back tracked about 1.5 miles to get to that trailhead but we were just grateful it was sunny out and rain was nowhere near our radar. I know what you’re thinking, “Didn’t you check the weather prior to starting your trip?!” Answer is: Yes, totally, but the Whiterocks trialhead was closer than the Chappeta trailhead and my low clearance car couldn’t take the beating so we decided to change the route last minute and risk being at the exposed portion of our trip on the rainy day. We knew the possibilities, careful assessed and risked it anyway. No regrets, just beautiful landscapes and one boot in front of the other. Our packs were much lighter because we feasted last night, this is always the upside of finishing up a backpacking trip. We ended up trailing a small portion of what we had already hiked on day 1, but I took advantage of that by remembering where I had seen some Penstemon that I wanted to pick to key out. It ended up being Penstemon watsonii, not the desired Penstemon on our list for Seeds of Success collection, which is Penstemon pachyphyllus,

Penstemon pachyphyllus in seed.

but I later found out that this could be a potential species to collect seeds from since it has been found roadside and seems to thrive very well. Hopefully we can add this cutie to our list of natives. We made it back to my car at around 4 pm with plenty of daylight and water for our drive back into civilization. I would call this trip a success despite our setbacks, there isn’t much I can’t handle in the great outdoors I call home.



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