Gone Fishin’ at Ruth Lake

By Jane Gendron

When a six-year-old gets a hankering to go fishing, it’s the perfect excuse for a jaunt to the glorious Uinta Mountains.

Donning floppy caps and grabbing an old, potentially non- functioning, fishing pole, we pile into the car—Small Fry (said six-year- old) his brother, Peanut (age 2), Hayden (the dog) and Mama. We drive the 25-minute trip past pastures filled with horses and cows into the stunning Kamas valley.

Our first stop, just before entering the national forest, is the Samak Smokehouse. We chat with Jen, the owner, about places to cast a line and hike. And it’s decided. No side-of-the-road pullouts for us. We’re headed for Ruth Lake. After stocking up on turkey jerky and some Samak Stickies (delightful peanut-honey treats) and securing a map and park pass from Jen, we continue along the Mirror Lake Highway to mile marker 35.

The trailhead is packed, but as we start the one-mile, slightly uphill hike the crowds thin. The rocky path is a joyful climbing adventure for Peanut, who clambers along, covering himself with happy dirt as Small Fry rushes ahead to see if he can glimpse the water. The dog is in heaven.

We pause to take photos of wildflowers and to read interpretive signs along the way—tidbits about the fauna and flora of the area. Climbers veer off from the trail carrying ropes and smiles as they head for the “rock garden”—and for a moment Small Fry is wondering if he picked the right activity as he glances at the ropes then doubtfully back at the fishing pole in my backpack.
We skirt one small body of water and then, with Small Fry and Hayden leading the charge, arrive at Ruth Lake. The sunlight dances off the water and between the conifers, we glimpse the peaks all around us: Murdock, Bald and Hayden (the peak, not the dog) in particular. Small Fry immediately sets about casting his line into the water—hooking the tree behind him, then successfully snagging a rock in the water. Just as quickly, the dog leaps into the fray. Mama Mia!

With a golden retriever splashing and barking and no real bait to speak of, the fishing goes rather poorly. But sandwiches, goldfish and strawberries seem to appease the luckless fisherman. And Peanut couldn’t be more pleased with his style of fishing: throwing sticks and rocks into the water with glee.

At last, we reel in the empty line for a final time, corral the pooch and begin the return hike. Peanut needs a lift—and a promise of ice cream—to entice him back to the car. Dirty, happy, a little sunburnt and tired, we pause at Samak Smokehouse once again for a cool, creamy treat before heading home. With the Uintas in our rearview mirror, talk returns to bait and barking dogs. In the end, we may not have caught a fish, but we certainly snagged an unforgettable adventure.

The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is within a half hour drive of Park City. This massive area of combined forest districts contains more than 2 million acres, giving visitors access to endless trails and camping areas to explore. Admission to the national forest is $6 for a three-day pass, $12 for a week-long pass or $45 for an annual pass. National Parks passes are honored by the forest service as well. Weather is changeable in the national forest, so pack layers, water and snacks— even for a one-mile outing, such as Ruth Lake.

For more information:
Heber-Kamas Ranger District’s Office: 435-783-4338 | fs.usda.gov/uwcnf
Samak Smokehouse: 1937 E. Mirror Lake Hwy., Kamas | 435-783-4880 | samaksmokehouse.com

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