Exploring Utah; Part One: Big Cottonwood Canyon

 With a week to explore Utah, while on a trip to Utah Motorsports Campus to watch our friend Kevin race his vintage BMW motorcycle, my first thought was how can we make a fishing trip out of this as well. And with Utah being the second driest state, right behind Nevada, the first challenge was finding water. We did find some water, and some fish , but we also found a lot more …

After arriving in Salt Lake City International we decided to try to save some money and take advantage of the city’s public transportation system. The plan was to take a rail then bus it to the trail head in cottonwood canyon, but after an hour on the green line rail we began questioning our sanity and decided on a hotel and to start fresh in the morning. With clear minds and a rental car the next morning we headed to Big Cottonwood Canyon. After driving up and down Highway 190 we picked the Mill D North Fork Trail for an evening hike and camp for the the night.

Gear Guy and Gear Lady ready for a night in the mountains

The 2.6 mile hike to Dog Lake had breathtaking scenery and hiking with 1,500 ft elevation gain ending up at 8,743 ft, with plenty of wildlife along the trail.

Taylor: I finally did it. After whining and crying about not being able to start a fire on my own, I have finally done it. What a rewarding feeling. After years of waiting while other people built the fires for me, Saxton decided it was time for me to learn to build a fire on my own. “What if we were on a trip and we got separated and you needed to survive?” he said one day when I was trying to build a fire in the snow and literally whining and crying. I stopped talking, because I knew he was right. He had been trying to teach me for two years and it was time for me to get it together, pay attention, and actually learn how to build a fire. It has been a couple months since then, but I knew I was ready as soon as Saxton asked if I wanted to build the fire while he set up the tent.

I started collecting sticks right away and setting them near the fire pit. I tried to find dead branches with lots of dead appendages for the small and middle sized fuel. I was pretty much on a roll with finding fuel, but I had to get a little creative with the kindling. I know a few good kindling materials, but I wasn’t really finding them very close to our campsite. I started to look around for materials with similar properties and I found some dry grasses with really dry leaves. They were pretty much everywhere on the ground, so that was helpful once I realized it. Then Saxton threw me a piece of cardboard from the tent packaging and I felt like I was extra ready to get this baby flamin’.

With everything collected, I started to organize and build a little tipi shaped frame around the kindling. It didn’t start right away, but unlike days past, I didn’t freak out. I lifted the sticks above the kindling to make sure air could get under there a little more easily. Then I flicked the lighter again, and the flame stayed a little longer, I slowly lowered the little sticks back onto the flame and heard the first crackle.

It was happening. My fire was started! I kept loading my organized piles onto the fire while Saxton got dinner ready. One new thing I learned was to keep the fuel a good distance away from the reach of the embers, especially in dry conditions . I’m feeling accomplished, but not in a finite way. Now I know that if I need to, this is something I will always be able to do.

Taylor FireTaylor with her first fire 

We awoke to the sound of branches breaking outside the tent and I quickly jumped up and unziped the tent to meet our mountain morning wake up call…

bull moose

Taylor was looking up at me, still cozy in the sleeping bag, asking what the noise was all about and when I told her there was a bull moose 10 yards from our tent she thought I was messing with her until she had a look for herself.

Good Moooooooooorning

After some hand warming and coffee, we were ready to fish. Well, Saxton was.

dog lake fly fishing - Edited

I stuck to taking pictures while Saxton fished. We didn’t stay there long, but it was fun to watch the ducklings and Saxton repeatedly getting snagged on the surrounding foliage. snagged - Edited

After this cast, we decided to head out in search of fishier waters. We packed up, and started our descent. The lower we got in elevation, the fewer stops we had to make to breathe. I was amazed at how affected I was by altitude sickness, and how much better I felt at each stop we made. The altitude did not have an effect on the number of stops I needed to take pictures, though.

After the hike down we hid in the shade of Big Cottonwood Creek for some lunch and trout fishing, which yielded two pretty little brown trout.

After catching my two trout, I switched over to playing guide and tried to help Taylor catch her first trout. She soon learned just how frustrating stream fishing can be. After a few snags she started to get the feel for things. She had trout swiping her bait but could not connect. The trout eluded her for the day, and by then it was time to meet up with our friend Kevin which leads us to part two…

Exploring Utah; Part Two: Race Day, Bonneville Vintage GP

Exploring Utah; Part Three: Southern Utah and Zion NP


Co-authored by Taylor

Photography by Saxton and Taylor

All photography in this article is property of Saxtonoutdoors.com

One thought on “Exploring Utah; Part One: Big Cottonwood Canyon

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  1. Saxton, hats off to you, you have accomplished the unachievable. Taylor packing supplies into the forest (although it seems to be riding a little low), and building a fire in the woods (I have a new found fear…..T know how to start a fire :0) How awesome, a bull moose just outside the tent. Now hurry up and get to the Bonneville story.


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