Flaming Gorge Reservoir.
A couple of weeks ago my roommate Jake asked me if I wanted to go on a fishing trip with him and his best friend JJ.
I was all for it, Jake had a job for work out there and after we would find a place on the Green river to do some fishing and camp.
Filled with excitement, I set about getting ready for the trip, realizing I didn’t have a lot of camping gear, as I had left most of the camping equipment back home in South Carolina, I started making Amazon lists of all the stuff I wanted a needed. Probably spent way more than I should have, but gear is cool and I wanted it so, why not? To be honest I didn't use a lot of the gear on this trip, so maybe plan out what you need and buy it when you need it. I'm still working on this one.
I love cooking so I also decided that I wanted to try my hand at cooking the meals we had on the trip. I made a list of things that I’ll include in this post for people who may want to try the recipes for themselves.
Since my roommate Jake had a job to do in the town of Manila, just west of the reservoir on the Utah side. He needed to drive his own truck to the job site because he needed to pack all his tools plus his camping gear. Our friend JJ got off of work early to drive out with Jake but I had work till a little later in the day, after work I hurried home to throw a few extra things in my truck before heading out.
The directions to get there took me north east through Wyoming, and then would take me down into the Gorge and into Manila to meet up with my companions.
I am not sure about you, but I kind of like driving somewhere by myself. Driving with a good buddy is amazing don’t get me wrong, and if you are jamming to some good music together, or having really good conversation, or both, the miles fly by and a long trip transforms into one you don’t want to end.
There is just something about driving by yourself that adds a different kind of feeling to a trip. Maybe I feel like that because I drove across the country by myself in a really tiny car with just me and my thoughts, or maybe I am just more of a loner than I thought. Either way the trip was beautiful, driving through the beautiful red rock scenery of Utah is a surreal experience, and the scene stoked the fire in me to go on more trips this year.
Then I got to south west Wyoming, with its grey, kind of flat, kind of not flat terrain, and its random empty cow pastures. As a side note I should mention that I love cows. Since I was little, I have thought they were some of the most impressive and cute creatures on this planet, also they taste good, there really isn’t any food that can beat a good burger.
So, when I saw that there were no cows in those Wyoming fields, I was a little annoyed, not going to lie.
Looking at all this grey almost lonely plane of south west Wyoming, it was hard for me to believe that only a few miles north of everything I was seeing is Yellow Stone National park! One of the most beautiful places on earth.
Things change just within a few miles and it’s amazing.
Don’t get me wrong, Wyoming is beautiful, and seeing all the grey hills and rock formations was amazing, it’s like being on another planet, it was totally foreign to me, unlike anything I've seen before. Thought it may seem like I am giving it a bad name, after driving through it and the rocks and hills began to turn those western red and yellow colors again. I realized how beautiful and unique this place is. It was like being in the moon.
After a little bit I was in rolling hills that quickly tuned into huge red cliffs. I met up with my friends and after Jake's job was completed, we had a few sandwiches and took off down the road again.
After a small decent out of Manila, and a large climb up the road taking us into the top of the cliffs, we found ourselves at some amazing outlooks on the southern end of the Gorge looking out into the Reservoir. It is breath taking, mostly because of the views as seen in the picture below, but partly because I am afraid of heights.
After a short stop to relieve our bladders off the side of a cliff, and snap some pics of the view, we took off down the road again.
We finally arrived in a much slower part of the river east of the Flaming Gorge Dam, and we got to see the dam, and dam if it aint a good dam!
After some searching, we found a really flat spot to park the trucks close to a slow part of the river where we would do a lot of our fishing. Because of the snow runoff the river was pretty fast and the water was high. Luckily because of those aspects we were pretty much alone, meaning no other humans. We went down to the slower river and some run off creeks that had a little water and started the fishing. The fishing wasn’t super productive and we didn’t catch anything for a little bit, but learning to fish, and soaking in the area around me was more than worth the effort it took to get there, and the lack of fish biting at my fly.
Standing there in knee deep water huge red rock cliffs around me and a large river all around me, I was in paradise. We walked the slow parts of the river that we could get to, and fished all day until it was so dark, I couldn’t see my fishing fly on the water, and we headed back to camp.
My meal menu I had written up said it was time for hotdogs but when we got to camp, we were feeling the sloppy joe's I had planned for the next night.
What I had imagined was three friends sitting around a campfire laughing at a joke I made all loving the food, "swapping manly stories and in the morning I'n making waffles!" What actually happened was we broke out some of the camp tables I had brought and the camp stove Jake provided and started cooking in silence too tired to talk. Jake started feeling ill and needed to lay down, lips turning white and about to pass out, he downed a whole bottle of power aid and took a break from cooking. JJ and I realized that the pound of ground beef I had packed for the joe's, wasn’t going to be enough for three full (kinda) grown men, so we used the other pound of beef I had planned for another meal. Kind of feeling like I let things down because I also forgot Mac and cheese and we had nothing to go with the sloppy joes, I was annoyed while I cooked After the food was ready, I finally got that sitting around enjoying food feeling but it was a little different than I had imagined. Sitting in our camp chairs around a small table with a lamp, we talked about what we would do the next day and about how Jake was feeling.
Jake started getting color back in his face and we all started to get a little cold as the night set in, so we retired to bed.
I was sleeping in the bed of my truck, kinda the ‘glamping’ way of doing it, but I don’t have a tent and I could be more comfortable back there. Jake was in the bed of his truck close by and JJ brought a tent he had set up not far off. There was a feeling of being alone in the night. Like there was this still unknown feeling arround my truck. I always feel that way at night in the woods.
I got comfortable in my bed and looked up, like when you accidentally skip a stepwalking down some stairs a shock hit me and my heart leaped a little when I saw the stars. There were more stars than I think I have ever seen. Millions and millions of shining lights glittered overhead and I couldn’t break eye contact. Looking up, surrounded by the trees, cliffs, and the distant rush of the river, I felt more at ease, and I fell asleep within a few minutes.
Burnt hair, and woodland naps.
I wake up really early back home, like really early, like 3 A.M. early, so waking up before the sun came up the next morning was pretty normal to me. Still a little tired and kind of sore from all the fishing the day before, I got up before the other two guys, to watch the sun come up and make breakfast. Again, my expectations kind of got the better of me, I had planned a big breakfast of what I called the “Mountain man breakfast casserole.” while it wasn't picturesque, it was still more than I imagined.
I have never cooking in Dutch oven and in all the trips I have ever been on, I have never been the one to actually cook with a Dutch oven, I’ve only been there when someone else was the one in charge and I got to enjoy the product.
It is the same thing with charcoal chimneys. So, I as quietly as I could got out the chimney and filled it half way with charcoal, spraying the whole thing with lighter fluid I clicked my lighter and lit the top coal.
I know what you’re thinking, this is when he burns his hair off, and you would be right this is when I burn my hair off. The top coal had a little light for like 10 seconds, thinking it was going to take more to light the rest of the coals I leaned in to light some others and a gust of wind blew the fumes past the lit flame and caused the fluid to light all at once.
Slightly singed and pretty embarrassed, I looked around to see if anyone saw, then I remembered I was alone and went back to trying to light the coals. They seemed to be lit alright, it wasn't until later that I found out that you light it from the bottom and that you shouldn't use that much lighter fluid, but you live and you learn, and you burn sometimes I guess. I then began to prepare the food.
1-pound mild pork sausage
1- onion, chopped
1- clove garlic, minced
1- red bell pepper, chopped
1 -green bell pepper, chopped
1 -(2 pound) package frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
12 -eggs, beaten
1 -(16 ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese
Cook Sausage and drain excess grease. Chop onion, bell pepper, and green onion (optional.) Then beat eggs and add hash browns, add everything together in the oven.
Oil pan, and add mixture, please up to 10 hot coals on top and up to 15 hot coals on bottom in an even checker pattern, cook until middle of eggs are fluffy in the middle. Lightly coat top with cheese for two more minutes to melt.
Since I was only feeding three people, I wasn’t sure how much I needed to use. the full recipe seemed like a lot so I halved the ingredients here except for the sausage and the eggs. Chopped it all up and threw it in the Dutch oven after lightly greasing the inside of it with butter.
The coals at this point were ready, maybe I don't really know if they were or not and I put the casserole on. Watching the sun come over the cliffs, I feel really peaceful when usually I would have been anxious about my cooking performance. My buddies woke up and joined me, helping me get camp ready. I was still kinda tired and we weren’t going to leave for a little bit because the food was cooking, so I jumped back in bed, and when the food was done JJ got us all a plate. It was really good! I was surprised because I made it in the dark and blew up my face, but everyone liked it so it was a win. A few things I missed was the cheese, and I probably needed to salt and pepper the eggs before cooking it, but it filled us up and before no time we were back on the river. On the was down to the river JJ pointed out that a huge part of my beard was burnt off, and remarked that I must have had fun lighting the fire that morning. My sole slightly dying within me I rubbed my face as little bits of dead, burnt hair fell from it.
After getting a few bites and having some fish on my line that got away it was time for lunch, finding a nice place next to the river we ate the sandwiches we packed with us and I sat under a shade tree and thought about the benefits that nature has on mental health, and how all of this was helping me get into a clear and happy state of mind and body. Then we took off fishing again, and finally after a few failed attempts I landed my first fish a nice (but small) rainbow trout.
A little while later and after having what my friends said were big fish on my line, and losing them every time, I got myself a brown trout that made me feel proud that I actually got anything on my first river fly fishing trip. After that I was ready for a nap a few hours later. At this point it was getting to be the end of the day, and the sun was sinking behind the cliff face. Finding a little meadow, I told my companions I would catch up with them and laid down leaning against a large log that looked inviting. This was the picturesque experience I was looking for. The small meadow was right in front of one of the larger cliffs, and the meadow was right in front of it, so laying down, I had a perfect view of the meadow, some small trees and the large cliff face shooting out of the earth, a large intimidating wall of rock that had stood for who knows how long. There were bees and butterflies happily making their way from flower to flower, there was a dragon fly buzzing around protecting it's territory. I realized I was sitting in the old bed of a deer or a big horn sheep that live around that area, the grass around me all matted down from the large bodies of animals that had slept there, and some little bits of deer hair still caught in the web like bark of the stump behind me. Birds chirping and flying around each other in the early stages of spring love, a huge hawk circling overhead looking for mice and other small animals that hurriedly scurried arround the place. The warm sun setting, warming my face, the rush of the river filling the air, I fell asleep in what seemed like a few seconds.
When I woke up it was one of those panicked, I slept in and now I’m late for work kind of things. A little startled, I got up and looked around me, the sun was now down but not totally; it had just gone behind the cliff but daylight still shone around the canyon. It was however a lot darker, and the birds and bugs had all gone away. Now large bats zoomed over my head, snatching up the bugs that were still brave enough to be out at this time of night. Or they are really stupid, because I mean, it's a bug after all.
I started down the trail where I thought Jake and JJ might have ended up, along the way I thought to myself about the past year I have had, as I walked, I pondered the ways I’ve changed, the blogs I’ve written, and the people that it might effect for the good someday. As clear as the sky and air around me I was able to think, a rare thing for me in the cluttered and busy life that most young adults live, and it was so relieving. Another thing that came to my mind was the health benefits of being outdoors and as the Japanese call it “bathing in nature.”
Here are some health benefits of being in what these scientists call “green space.” A study performed by the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, found: “Living close to nature and spending time outside has significant and wide-ranging health benefits -- according to new research. A new report reveals that exposure to green space reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure.”
The study also goes on to state that the benefits of nature and “green space” effecting mental health are immense. Being in nature decreases depression, anxiety, and stress. This is because being in this environment lowers the stress hormone cortisol, and that in turn raises the hormone serotonin, a hormone that mainly associated with happiness.
I mean look how happy I am that I caught that brown trout!
While I walked down the little path, I felt good, I was tired, and a little hungry, but not a care in my mind that I was lost in the woods, I was also at peace. I felt the best I have felt in a long time.
One of the thoughts that came to me, was how other people could be affected if they took time to go to a park, or just took a short hike every now and then. Of how I want to share these kind of studies with people, and how uplifting messages can effect everyone. I feel like this is really good advice for anyone you know who is going through a hard time. Get out in the woods, take a walk, get into some "green space."
After half a mile or so, I found my friends and a little bit of fishing later when it got pretty dark, we headed back to camp.
This time we arrived with enough daylight to get a big fire going and it was a lot more like I imagined camping with my friends would be.
I started making dinner, we were having what I now call, caveman stew! But I will probably change that name later on. In a Dutch oven I put in some water because I forgot chicken or beef broth, and you’re also supposed to put in red wine. Then I chopped up the following:
Ground beef (we used this for sloppy Joes if you remember, so this one was vegetarian)
And of course, cheese.
It’s like a fancy tinfoil dinner. You throw all that in and check on it a few times until the meat is cooked and the veggies are tinder when you poke it with a fork.
You can add other things you fancy, but these are the ones I had and it really does taste amazing. Just don’t forget to season it and you’re all set.
We were all hungry and this time since we had a fire we decided to jump on the hot dogs and cook them over the fire. After a little ingenuity in cooking them, we downed the dogs quickly while waiting a little bit for the stew to cook. After it was done we started in on that, the stew tasted amazing, and I thought of a few extra things that might make it perfect, but I'll save those for later posts and more culinary experiments. Three friends laughing and talking about the day around a big fire, full of good food, was what I had in my mind since Jake told me about this trip.
The next thing was the peach cobbler. While we were still munching on the stew and hotdogs, I whipped together the cobbler in an extra Dutch oven I brought.
Canned peaches (The more the better we like it to be extra peachy)
One pack of White or yellow cake mix. Don't worry about the water and all that, you actually put it in dry and the juice from the peaches, and the butter do the work.
Powdered cinnamon to taste sprinkled over the top.
Butter about half a stick, you cube it and scatter them evenly over the top of the cake mix.
Cook it like you did the breakfast casserole, ten coals in top and 15 coals on bottom, I found that you can use more coals, but I didn't want it to burn because I was experimenting with this. Once it is golden brown on top it is ready to take off the heat. Don't worry if it is a little mushy on top still, it will harden up and be really chewy and nice once it cools a little bit. You can also add other things to it, like blueberries, or apples. It all depends on what you like with your peaches. Also if you can this is amazing with vanilla bean ice cream! We didn't have any ice cream on this trip because it would have melted, but if you are just out for the 4th of July, this is a must have.
Sitting around enjoying the cobbler we all fell silent. Jake and JJ fell asleep in their chairs and I stared at the fire hypnotized by its glow, listening to the sounds of the night. After a while, we all retired to bed again and before I could see the stars again or count to three, I was asleep and it was morning again.
The next morning, I felt drained and groggy, probably because of all the sugar in the cobbler. I woke up really late (for me that's anytime after the sun) and Jake and JJ were already up and and ready for breakfast, I broke out the biscuits and gravy and we got to work on them.
Get together some buttermilk biscuits in a can. (you know the kind that pop open and scare you half to death?) Pillsbury ones are awesome for this.
Powdered white gravy (sometimes called country gravy for all y'all yankees out there)
and 1 pound of ground sausage.
oh and butter because you don't want the biscuits to stick to the oven.
You just pop the biscuits into the oven and cook the gravy and sausage in a separate pan and mix them together. Then when the biscuits are golden brown just pour it over the top and enjoy. Probably one of the best camp foods I’ve ever had. Some notes on this, make sure that the coals are good and hot because it might take a minute for the biscuits to cook, don't put get it too hot, we did and the bottoms of our biscuits were kinda burnt. Another thing is you want to find the powdered gravy mix that will take water or milk. Cook the sausage well because raw pork can get you really sick, and no one wants food poisoning in the woods, or in general.
As it was our last day, we packed up camp, and headed back to the reservoir to do some lake fishing. Because the wind was so strong, we really didn’t have success and decided to call it a day and head home. Like I said before, driving alone is nice sometimes, and I was able to stop and snap a goodbye picture of one of the more sloping, yet larger cliffs.
Back on the road we stopped for the traditional after camp ice-cream at a fast food place in one of the towns we passed by and drove back a different way that cuts right through Utah instead of going to Wyoming again. While I drove, I thought of how lucky I am to have such good friends and to have the chance for a couple of days to unwind and see the beauty of this world.
Struggling with anxiety and depression is no joke, although the commercials from anti-depressants are pretty funny, in an ironic way, it's always some sad lady that ends of at a jazz concert at the end of it. If you are able to get out even for a few minutes every now and again, or for a day of hiking or camping, do it. That’s the purpose of this blog, to encourage people to learn how to heal, and learn that life is beautiful and full of color and happiness.
Until next my next adventure, live an amazing life!
University of East Anglia. "It's official -- spending time outside is good for you." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 July 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180706102842.htm>.