We drove from Fuita, Colorado to the Ashley National Forest in northeastern Utah where we will be volunteering at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. The drive through the mountains just north of Fruita was beautiful as was the drive from Moab through Vernal. Much of this route is part of the Dinasaur Diamond National Scenic Byway. We reached a maximum height of 8500 feet. We are planning a third trip to Fruita as there is still much to explore.
In Vernal we headed north on US 191 also known as the Uintas-Flaming Gorge Scenic Byway. If we hadn’t been pulling the trailer we’d have pulled over at the many overlooks and interpretive signs detailing the geology of the area. The area is known for its geology and paleontology. Dinosaur National Monument is only an hour and a half away and Vernal has a museum that’s part of University of Utah’s paleontology collection. As you drive north you pass from the youngest geological layers to the oldest ones at a billion years old. There are 10 switchbacks and several 5-8% grades but we had no trouble even with the new 40’ rig.
We arrived at the Red Canyon Complex where 15 RV volunteers will be housed in RVs and a duplex. We settled in. The volunteers work in different areas of the forest from fee collection/boat ramp management, the historic Swett Ranch and the Red Canyon Visitor Center. The USFS provides us with an RV site and full hookups, uniforms including pants and reimbursement for propane and mileage. We are even being given 350 miles to explore the area so we can talk knowledgeably to visitors.
As if that’s not enough they provide a day on the river at Volunteer Appreciation Day. Our days off will be spent driving scenic back roads, hiking, paddling/rafting and fishing. Besides the reservoir there are some 600 lakes in the Uintas (pronounced U – win – taz) although only a few are accessible by car. There are numerous campgrounds and lots of dispersed camping in these, Utah’s highest and oldest mountains. Last winter was the snowiest one on record in 25 years so the High Uinta Wilderness with peaks to 13,000 feet still have four feet of snow. In anticipation of the melting snow the dam began releasing water from the reservoir to the Green River at 6600-8600 cu. ft./sec. for 24 hours a day for at least two weeks. A float trip on section A of the river that normally takes 2.5 hours now takes just 45 minutes. Quite a show.
So far we have walked a portion of the Canyon Rim Trail, climbed the historic Ute Fire Tower (just reopened after being closed for 8 years), visited Dowd Mountain Overlook, driven Sheep Creek Geological Loop and the Red Cloud Scenic Backway, toured Flaming Gorge Dam, visited the Utah Natural History Field House, observed a cattle branding at Swett Ranch and put the kayaks in the water once. Is it any wonder we’re behind in posting? Weather for our first 2 weeks was cool and rainy. Now temperatures have warmed up with sunny days but pleasantly cool nights. This is going to be a fabulous summer.