Monday, September 17, 2012

Marsell Canyon, Grand Daddy Basin, High Uintas Wilderness- Ashley National Forest- September 2012

I love September in the Uintas. The crowds are gone, the bugs are done for the season, and the fishing is best when the water starts to cool down from a hot summer like we have had here in Utah. I was planning on getting out this weekend, and my friend Chris suggested we hit a remote area in the Uintas called Marsell Canyon. This is an area accessed via the route into Grand Daddy Basin in the High Uintas Wilderness. The road to Grand View trail head is not a good one for a car, I would have an AWD or 4WD vehicle with some ground clearance if you are going to drive up there. Also, this is a very narrow road, so watch the corners and pull outs. It is not wide enough for two cars in sections. We got an afternoon start at the Grand View trail head, and started the rocky, sandy climb to Hades Pass. It was unusually warm for September, and it for sure made us work up a sweat climbing the 1,000 ft with a heavy pack on. Once we got to the pass, we took a quick break for some photos and to dry out as to not be wet once the sun set for the day.

After our break we moved quickly into the basin, passing Grand Daddy Lake, the biggest lake in the Uintas. Moving on, we made our way further into the basin, passing Lake Betsy, and arriving at the junction to Mohawk Lake. As we arrived at Mohawk Lake, the sun started to dip to the horizon, so we knew that it was in our best interest to move through the meadows north of Mohawk Lake which would deliver us to Marsell Lake which was our destination. There is no trail from Mohawk Lake to Marsell Canyon, you have to route find and bush whack to get into the canyon. We crossed three meadows, then ended up on a minor ridge looking down at Marsell Lake and Marsell Canyon. It took a slight bit of route finding, but we made our way down to the lake and found a really good spot rather quickly. We set up shop, and got a fire going, as dusk was upon us, and the temps were dipping a bit. I shot some star trails and we got our water, then we made dinner as the stars came out to give us quite a show! After some warming from the fire, and a full stomach, along with 5 1/2 miles of travel for the day, we were ready to crash out.

I awoke to the sun shining on the other side of the lake, and the water like still glass. Chris and his two dogs were still in the tent sleeping, so as not to disturb them, I walked down to the shore to give it a shot fishing. I set up my rig, put it out, and no kidding first cast had a huge Cutthroat on the line! I was so excited I ran back up to camp and got Chris up to see this lunker I had landed. He was pleased and got up and made coffee to get ready for an adventure to secure a fish dinner for that night. I made my way getting ready for the day with some coffee and instant grits. the temps rose rapidly that morning, and we headed off to fish Marsell and head over to Sonny Lake to see what we could catch. I only got a couple of more smaller fish on this trip, but Chris managed to nail a very fat, very large Brookie from Sonny, hook jaw and all. We had made plans to head out Farney Lake to try our hand at some graylings, but Chris was concerned at what condition his Brookie would be in by the time we made it back to camp. So we stayed at Sonny, explored the area, and fished for quite some time. Eventually we made our way back to Marsell, and set up the fish down at the shore and proceeded to just relax at the lake, fish some more, and just enjoy how quiet it was out there. We had not seen anyone since the trail head, we had a place in the Uintas all to ourselves! As it always does, the day came to evening and it was time to get our fish ready to eat.

Dinner consisted of Louisiana Rice and Beans with Cutthroat Trout as the main course, and Raspberry Crumble Shortcake for dessert. To top it all off, while I was shooting some time lapse and star trails, we did some hot chocolate with whipped cream that Chris was more than kind enough to pack in. It was the best backcountry feast I have ever had! We were both tired after dinner, and when my shots were done, it was time to turn in. Sunday came with some slight wind and a bit cooler temps than the previous morning. Chris wanted another shot at fishing, and I wanted to eat and just relax with my coffee lake side. After getting my caffeine fix, I had breakfast, broke camp, and got ready for the hike out. Chris after a couple of hours was ready to roll, and we bush whacked our way back to Mohawk, past Betsy, then onto the Grand Daddy and a swift climb to the pass. From Marsell Canyon to Hades Pass is three miles and some change. And we did it on Sunday in one hour and seven minutes. We stopped to look at the Uintas that are off in the distance from the pass, but you can see the heart of the High Line Trail from Hades Pass, so it kind of mesmerizes you looking at Cyclone Pass. That is steep! We made our way to the truck at the trail head, and wrapped up another epic adventure in the Uintas with a couple of cold ones. It was nice to be out there again, maybe another one before I move to winter activities. It is gonna be up to Mother Nature. We will see what she has in store. Enjoy the slide show below, and I will have more photography since we are now in fall and the colors are changing.


  1. Christian - I haven't commented much on your blogs, but they are always a great read. You photos are great as well! Thanks for a great report.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Bruce! This is where I share my adventures shooting my photography. Glad you like the page. Thanks so much for the kind words about my images. Hope you had a great summer!