Thursday, August 20, 2015

1999 Backpacking Utah's Manti-LaSal National Forest

The 1,327,600 acre Manti-LaSal National Forest (named for the Manti Mountains and LaSal Mountains in Utah) is in southeastern Utah and is the home for the largest elk herd in Utah. Moose were reintroduced in 1972 and 1987.

Several unique areas comprise the forest. The Manti region is part of the Wasatch Plateau and features trails, lakes, streams, and forests. The LaSal Division's Moab region has timbered slopes rising to 12,721 feet and offers a welcome contrast to the desert/red rock landscape of nearby Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

The Dark Canyon Wilderness at 45,000 acres has deep sandstone canyons interspersed with pinyon-juniper trees, arches, springs, and hanging gardens. Elevations range from 5000 to 12,700 feet. Two National Recreation Trails are in the Manti Division (4 mile long Left Fork of Huntington Canyon Trail and Fish Creek Trail at 10 miles in length.)

The Josephite Point Trail is seven miles long and connects two popular fishing lakes and is part of a mountain bike trail. I was part of a two-team American Hiking Society Volunteer Vacation in 1999 which constructed 2 bridges and installed water bars on this trail.  The Josephite Point Trail extends across high mountain meadows (about 9000 feet above sea level) and through dense forested areas between Pete's Hole Reservoir and Mary's Lake, two popular fishing lakes located in a semi-primitive recreation area (no motorized vehicles allowed.) The trail is part of a 28 mile mountain bike loop rated as intermediate difficulty.

Joe's Valley Reservoir, the starting point for the trail, is magnificent.  As mentioned, volunteers from the American Hiking Society in 1998 and 1999 have made improvements: the trail has been raised in wet areas, water bars have been installed, and three bridges have been constructed across troublesome streams. Photos of our bridge building project are available.

We backpacked all our gear and equipment in a couple miles, set up base camp, and hiked to the work sites each day. We also hiked the entire trail several times for enjoyment and to work on any problem areas. Below is the bridge I helped construct.

High meadows, dense stands of trees, and numerous vistas like this characterize this magnificent area. The trail, like most mountain trails, has its share of ups and downs, but is mainly flat for its length. The profusion of wildflowers will amaze hikers and bikers alike. Here are a couple scenery shots exemplifying the views awaiting you...

Numerous small lakes are along the trail. This photo below is of Slide Lake, the one lake not created by beaver activity. We even saw a beaver at one of the other lakes. One unusual structure was encountered on the trail -- a fence of logs which had to be climbed over. We later learned that sheep graze on the western section of the trail and cattle on the eastern section and the fence is to keep them apart. In the woods near our basecamp, which was located by Academy Mill Reservoir, we found the skeleton (still with partial skin covering) of a sheep.

No comments: