We left town at about 5:00 PM, and stopped off in Eagle Mountain to drop off two of our kids at their grandmother’s house. One of them had a telescope class to take from my brother in-law that weekend, and the other had a badly sprained ankle. About 5:45, we finally got on the road for real.
Finding the campground was a major adventure. We had reservations at Lake Hill campground, which is 5 miles up Ephraim Canyon. When we first made it to Ephraim, we could not find the road to get to the canyon. We went back to the single stoplight in town and went east, hoping that might do it. Turns out that it didn’t, but right at the point where that road turned to dirt, there were a bunch of people out on the street, so we stopped and asked for directions.
The directions sounded good, detailed enough for us to find the road easily. The problem was that the restaurant the man mentioned, China Gate, does not exist in Ephraim. On our way, we did see one named Snow Dragon, but we pressed on, looking for China Gate.
We were halfway to Manti before we discovered it didn’t exist. We then found that there wasn’t anywhere to turn a trailer around until we got to Manti, so we called Nick and discussed options with him. Kathy knew about a campground near Manti called Palisades, and had heard that it was posh enough that it was almost not camping at all. So we kept going, hoping to find it. We saw a National Forest sign that said “campground 6 miles”, and followed it.
It was one of the worst dirt roads ever. Six bumpy and slow miles later, we found ourselves at the Manti Community campground. This might have worked out OK, except that it was completely full. Our estimation of the place was colored by this fact, combined with our horrible experience getting there, topped off with the fact that it was now 9:15 PM and completely dark.
With few options at this point, we conferred and decided to head back to Ephraim. We were worried that our reserved spot was going to be taken by someone else since we couldn’t make it on time. When we got there, we decided to try the road where the Snow Dragon lives, since it appeared to be the only chinese restaurant in the town.
This road, 400 south, turned out to be the right road. It even had a nice dark brown Forest Service sign visible from the south. A sign mostly covered up with colorful neon paper signs to the point where you could just barely make out that the sign said “Ephraim Canyon” with a big arrow pointing east. If we hadn’t been slowing down to make the right turn, we would not have seen the sign.
This road was like glass compared to the earlier one. It’s still a steep dirt/gravel road (goes up almost 3000 feet in the span of five miles), but they have been doing road construction on the section that goes to Joe’s Valley Reservoir, a large lake much further up the canyon. It was freshly graded, with reflective marker poles every 50 feet or so. It was so well done that if they don’t actually pave that road this summer, it’ll be a total waste of effort. The posted speed limit was 20, but we were doing 25-30 except on the numerous switchback turns.
At 10:00 PM, we managed to finally reach the campground. After another minor struggle trying to get someone to move their truck so we could exit the wrong loop without resorting to driving backwards with a trailer, we got to our campsite. In the meantime, Nick and Niki got turned around and found their way to the campsite. By the time we got there, they had a roaring fire going. Kathy got the trailer backed into the site and we finally got it set up. Because it was so late, Nick and Niki took our offer of using the queen bed in the trailer, which they repeated the following night.
The trailer is SO nice. Raindrops are very loud on the roof, but it keeps out water beautifully. Having a king-size bed to sleep on is wonderful, even if it’s a few inches shy of being a REAL king.
One of the things we picked up on the way out of town was a fishing license for me. I hadn’t been fishing in over 5 years. I have a small collection of simple gear, which I went through before we left. There were several jars of powerbait and a couple of jars of marshmallows. The marshmallows were hard as a rock, but all the 5 year old powerbait was as good as new.
Lake Hill Reservoir is very small. I’d guess it’s about an acre in total area. It’s heavily stocked with trout … you can see them jumping every few minutes.
Ben was very excited about fishing, and went with me down to the lake. I got him going with his little pole, and on the second cast he had hooked himself a fish – the biggest one we caught that day. We had it landed, unhooked, and on a stringer before I ever got my tackle set up. A little later, the other two kids (my daughter and one of Kathy’s daughters) we brought with us came down with Kathy to watch, and the girls decided they wanted to fish too.
On that first day, we kept four fish – the one that Ben caught, one that Kathy’s daughter caught, and two that I caught. One of them was probably too small to keep, but it was hooked very deeply and wasn’t going to live if we had released it. I did not have a fishing procalamation, so I wasn’t sure how the bag limits worked for unlicensed kids. As it turns out, each kid gets to keep a full bag limit even without a license, but we didn’t know that until we returned home to the Internet.
When we landed the fourth fish we were keeping, we called it a day and came back. The girls were so excited about it that we let them go back to the lake with all the tackle on their lines except hooks, to practice casting. Later that day I cleaned the fish and cooked them on the grill, basically steaming them in margarine inside a tin-foil oven. My daughter and I ate most of it, but we finally convinced Kathy and her daughter to try it, and they loved it. Kathy had tried trout before, but that came from the store, and doesn’t compare in any way to freshly caught fish.
The next day, I took the barbs off the hooks so we wouldn’t be as likely to deeply hook a fish, and we went out again. We got lots of bites, but the missing barbs meant a lot more fish got away. The kids caught quite a few small ones that I released. The two girls ended up catching fish at the same time, and they were both good size, so we kept them. I wasn’t having anything beyond bites, until I remembered the night crawlers I had bought at the same time as my fishing license. I put those on my unbarbed hook and started actually reeling in fish. A number of them got away before they could be landed, but in the end I kept two that were pretty good sized – one was about a foot long. That once again brought us up to my four trout bag limit, so we called it a day and went back to strike camp.
Bringing down camp is easier with the trailer than with tents and cots. I think we only spent about an hour and a half foliding everything up and getting it stowed. That might seem like a lot of time, but it took us a lot longer at Island Park last month. I suspect that when we finally manage to get everything down to a good system, we’ll spend even less time.
The campground was pretty decent. Although we never used it, we did have the possibility of hooking up the trailer to a water faucet. It was actually a shared faucet between campgrounds, but the other people would have still been able to get water when we were hooked up. There was a nice firepit, and a big picnic table that we covered with our 10×10 canopy.
It was not hot enough to fire up the generator and use the A/C, so we ran the fridge on propane and the everything else on the batteries. The heater worked beautifully, but only turned on a few times each night.
We hope to go out for a 3-day trip on Labor Day weekend with Nat and his family. Still working on details to see whether it’ll happen.