Jay Meehan: Trailheads, meadows and larks
November 11, 2014
The last time we visited this particular North Slope meadow along the Stillwater Fork of the Bear River, the resident bull-goose moose had gazed up at us from his lower-branch-nibbling as if to say, "my grandfather looked just like Walter Matthau."
That was probably a good dozen years back. My fellow "eco-blisser" and I had been out on a Uinta mosey with no real plan other than breaking in some new hiking boots, checking on some old watering holes, and, just maybe, topping-off our spiritual refueling tanks.
The moose had given great "aloof." So, while he was busy trying to ignore us, we gave him the slip and proceeded on back to some picnic tables that had been set up close by a trailhead in the High Uintas Wilderness. Maps and books soon created a collage of sorts upon the tabletop and we began plotting our weekend.
A beer later, following a short jaunt to the primitive area boundary and after configuring a relatively adventurous off-the-pavement path to our next projected trailhead at West Fork of the Black’s Fork, the moose could be seen foraging from higher branches in our rearview mirror.
The mood of the day couldn’t have been lighter. It was becoming more and more evident that we were on nothing less than a "lark." Even when we had to turn around and retrace our route along what turned out to be a rutted and gutted secondary road and retreat to the highway, the sense of euphoria remained intact.
The carefree mindset of that day became feasible not due to full-frontal denial, as it were, although it was the first Bush administration and wilderness issues had certainly been shoved to the back-burner in favor of smart bombs. It was just that, back then, frolicking and dancing through the woods never had to be justified.
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Figuring that it wouldn’t be all that long before the dancehall in question found itself continually on the auction block due to "national security issues," we thought a few spins around the North Slope would serve to keep us in the moment. "Be here now," wasn’t that what Ronald Reagan said?
This time around, however, in response to the ever-more-spine-chilling future for wilderness portended by the recent congressional election results, we decided a total circumnavigation two-step might be a good default position. Filling our dance cards with as many trailheads as possible around the outside perimeter of the High Uintas Wilderness seemed like a worthy endeavor.
Although it doesn’t quite satisfy the Farmer’s Almanac calendar prerequisites, the prolonged on-and-off-again Indian summer we’ve been experiencing lately enabled us to revisit a few scenes of previous crimes. This would not be a lark, however, but more of a (lower case) vision quest. Our game faces would be firmly in place.
Although we continued those parts of the tradition relating to hiking boots, trailheads, and old watering holes, we were greeted by nary a moose in the meadow when we showed up to kick off the pilgrimage.
We did encounter a golden eagle on approach, though, as it gracefully came in for a landing alongside a stream and that’s what we decided to hang our hat on until a better omen came along. Once it began lumbering about to check out the local menu, however, we quickly determined that grace in itself might very well be overrated.
We both knew we needed fixing. Our long-waning faith in our species to live in harmony with the only biosphere out there needed a good dose of spiritual massage. And putting boots upon sacred ground while practicing various moves of prayer-dance seemed a good way to go.
Re-experiencing the awe and fear that our long ago primitive selves held for the seemingly inexplicable wilderness might be a stretch within such a short timeframe we figured, but, if we attempted to recall that inner memory and followed it up with a good dose of Whitman-esque "Joy," maybe we could reconnect.
Did we bite off more than we could chew? Quite possibly. We did punch our trailhead tickets at Christmas Meadows, West Fork of the Black’s Fork, China Meadows, Henry’s Fork, West Fork of Whiterocks, Rock Creek, and Grandview, however.
Not to mention the more easily accessed routes to the Jim Bridger Club in Fort Bridger, the Cowboy Bar in Mountain View, the Gateway Saloon in Vernal, Barndogs in Roosevelt, and the "Hanna Hilton" in Hanna.
By the way, just for a lark, don’t try wilderness adventures such as this at home without first blocking out at least a weekend, corralling a designated driver, and procuring a vehicle with a decent amount of clearance.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.