Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Top Ten Reasons to Visit Hoop Lake

The fourth of July has come and gone.  We expected a lot of campers during the week, with the actual holiday falling on Wednesday.  And during this peak week of the camping season, less than one-fourth of our sites were filled.  The good news was that the people who came stayed the full week, and the better news for our campers was that it was a very peaceful camping experience for them.

July 24th was Pioneer Day, a Utah State holiday.  Again we expected a lot of campers planning on a long weekend.  We did get a lot of campers on Friday, July 20 – but most of them left on July 22.  We had only three sites used over the July 24th holiday.  What’s up with this?

Hoop Lake has to be the best kept secret in the Uinta Mountains.  It’s time to change that!  So here, for your amusement and possible enlightenment, are the top ten reasons you should make Hoop Lake your next wilderness camping destination.

#10 – We can accommodate just about any type of camping equipment.  Got a big trailer?  There’s a site for that.  Got a group with several tents?  There’s a site for that.  We have several sites on the lake, several sites back in the trees (lots of shade), and even a couple of remote sites for those of you who want to get away from it all even when you’re away from it all.

#9 – We love horses.  We have seven sites in our “horse camp” area that include corral space.  Some even have hitching posts.

#8 – We love ATVs.  There are several ATV trails accessible from our campground.  Several campgrounds in the Uinta Mountains don’t allow ATVs at all.  They’re welcome here – just remember that the speed limit within the campground is 10 mph.

#7 – The fishing is great.  The lake level may be down but the fish population is alive and well.  Our campers have had success with lures, flies, and good old-fashioned worms.

#6 – The hiking is great.  There are several hiking trails within walking distance of your campsite that take you into the Uinta Mountain Wilderness area.  Remember to sign yourself out and then back in again – so the Forest Service knows if they need to go searching for you.

#5 – The restrooms are clean and odor free.  Yes, they’re pit toilets, but between the design of the toilet and the deodorizers we use, they are not at all unpleasant.

#4 – We have cool wildlife. See Wildlife.  We also have cool wildflowers.  See Wildflowers of Hoop Lake.

#3 – We have cool temperatures.  So far the high temperature has been 85 degrees – at least 10 degrees cooler than the neighboring valleys.  Escape the summer heat with us.

#2 – We are a technology-free zone.  If you’re looking for a real vacation, your cell phone won’t work up here and we have no wi-fi, free or otherwise.  You can really get away – and work won’t follow you.

And the #1 reason to visit Hoop Lake – it is as peaceful as it is beautiful.  Come spend some quality time in nature.  We’ll be ready to welcome you.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wildflowers of Hoop Lake

Wild Rose
A sign along the road to Hoop Lake states “Only certified weed-free hay is allowed in the campground.”  When we arrived in the campground, my first thought was that someone didn’t obey this sign.  Our entire campsite was carpeted in yellow dandelions.  Dandelions?  Of course, the very next day the yellow carpet was replaced by a white layer of snow, but the dandelions didn’t seem to mind.  One of the first questions I asked our Forest Ranger, Nancy, was “are dandelions native to this area?”  She assured me that yes; they are native and are a source of food for some of the wildlife here. 

Colorado Columbine

Indian Paintbrush
Since that time, our campground has been the home to many beautiful wildflowers.  Between the poster I picked up at the Mountain View Ranger Station, the knowledge of my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Kim and Jaren, and the copy of The Peterson Field Guide to Rocky Mountain Wildflowers they loaned me, I’ve been able to identify several species.  These are a few of my favorites.
Wild Iris
I thought last year’s camp hosts had planted a bulb before they left, but again I am wrong – the Wild Iris is in fact native. 
Jaren referred to this yellow flower in this photo as ADYC – another damn yellow composite.  He likened it to the birdwatchers’ LGB – little grey bird.


Kim and Jaren also taught me how to tell the difference between a pine, a fir, and a spruce tree.  Pine needles come off in pairs.  Spruce needles are square-ish, while fir needles are flat.  Great alliteration: Pine – Pairs, Spruce – Square, Fir – Flat.  Who says you can’t teach an old camp host new tricks?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Plug for our Employer

The National Forest Service has, for many years, contracted the day to day management of its campgrounds to the private sector.  Why?  When the Forest Service managed its own campgrounds, the fees collected went directly to the Department of the Treasury.  As one Forest Ranger put it, “it was then like pulling teeth to get Congress to allocate funds to maintain the campgrounds.”  It made sense to issue contracts for bid to the private sector; with a caveat of the contract being that the company awarded the bid would be required to put a certain amount each year into campground upkeep.

We are employed by American Land and Leisure.  AL&L has been in the campground management business for more than 20 years.  Our company manages campgrounds in California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.  I am totally impressed by the professionalism and friendliness of the people we work with at AL&L.
The partnership between American Land and Leisure and the National Forest Service is a beautiful thing.  Our Forest Rangers, Nancy and Lynnette, visit us weekly and keep us posted on the current state of the forest.  The head of the Mountain View Ranger District has attended all our company training sessions and has provided us a wealth of information and contacts.  And when we introduced ourselves at the Mountain View Ranger Station, we were welcomed as friends and as peers.
Interested in being a campground host?  You can reach American Land and Leisure at www.americanLL.com, phone 801-226-3564.  The application process is painless – and almost completely online.  When we put in our application, we were interviewed by telephone, asked to provide the personal information needed for background checks.  Once we passed, we were asked to request our top three choices of campgrounds.  Hoop Lake, our first choice, was available.  And here we are.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Running at 9200 Feet

Why on earth would anyone want to run at 9200 feet?  When that’s the place on earth where you live from Memorial Day to Labor Day – and you’re a runner – what other choice is there? 

I did my homework before I arrived at Hoop Lake, elevation 9216.  Through sources including completerunning.com, running.competitor.com, runnersworld.com, and mamashealth.com, I learned what to expect and what to plan for. 
Here are some tips I captured:

             Be prepared for thinner air.  According to renowned running coach Dr. Jack Daniels, at an elevation of 6,500 feet you lose 10 percent to 12 percent in VO2 max (the maximum capacity of an individual's body to transport and use oxygen during exercise) and at 7,500 feet you lose 12 percent to 15 percent.  If my high school math holds up, at 9200 feet I’ll be losing 18 percent to 21 percent.  Anyway, the good news is that a lower density of air means lower air resistance and better running economy.
             Hydrate.  Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your run. Then drink some more. Dehydration occurs quicker at higher altitudes, so this is good advice even if you won’t be running.

·                Wear sunscreen and plenty of lip balm.  Note that they did not mention insect repellent.  I figured that one out for myself.
             Take it easy. Stick to easy runs until you become acclimated.

I was prepared for the fact that running at 9200 feet would make me feel like a slug, and “a wheezing slow one at that.”  And I followed the tips above.  For my run I planned a very easy loop around the campground – twice.  Apparently that was not easy enough; I ended up stopping to drink water and catch my breath between the two loops.
It’s taken me a month to work up to 5K – and the uphills are still kicking my butt.  The slug part is all true – but I’m getting better.  I plan to increase my distance about ½ mile a week and see how far I can go by the time the summer is over.  In the meantime, the location is beautiful.  I have my “Forrest Gump” moments as I run across the dam and through the trees when I finally make it to the top of the “hill from h_ll.”

More on the science – in high altitudes, the amount of oxygen in the blood is reduced because there's less oxygen in the air. To compensate for reduction of oxygen in the air, the kidneys secrete more of a hormone called erythropoietin, which causes the body to create more red blood cells.
The average life span of a red blood cell is 90 to 120 days. Runners are often able to train harder and perform better for several weeks after they return from about a month-long stay at altitude because their blood still contains the extra blood cells that were produced when they were training at high altitudes. Runners who trained at high altitudes will have more red blood cells than runners who did not train at high altitudes.  I’m hoping this kicks in.  I plan to participate in the “Run for Hope” in October in Cody, Wyoming, which sits at about 5100 feet.  Should be a piece of cake. J

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Hot, Dry Summer

The lake level has been dropping dramatically since June 1, when the reservoir water began to be drained off for irrigation in the McKinnon, Wyoming area.  Because this past winter was so dry, the water has been needed much earlier than in past years.  Many of our campers have commented on how much lower the lake is than at this time last summer.  The dry winter and, so far, very dry summer has also contributed to a significant number of wildfires throughout the west.  This past week we’ve seen (and sometimes breathed) the smoke from some of the wildfires in Utah.  This has provided us some pretty spectacular sunsets, but I’d rather have ordinary sunsets and no wildfires.  MSNBC reported this being the worst wildfire season in recent history.
Effective June 14, the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, where we currently make our home, was put on Stage 1 fire restrictions, which means no campfires except in campground fire pits.  Since this restriction was put into effect, the “unofficial” campsites just outside the campground have remained vacant, where they had been full only the week prior. These unofficial sites had been quite popular – offering lots of space and no fees.  What’s not to like?  No campfires.  Somehow it’s just not camping if you can’t build a fire.
The Forest Service has put us on alert that the fire situation will be re-evaluated shortly after the 4th of July.  If they move to Stage 2, no fires will be allowed – not even in the campground fire pits.  This could be bad for business, but a wildfire would be far worse. 
Today it is raining in the valley.  I hope that the national forest is also receiving this much-needed precipitation.