September 2019 – We loved our hike and RZR ride near Red Canyon, Utah, but at 7,500′ elevation it was pretty toasty in the afternoons during summer’s final big heat wave. So we dashed further north and up to an altitude of 9,000′ at Fish Lake, Utah, where the early mornings were downright cold and the night skies were incredibly clear.
The area around Fish Lake is hilly and filled with babbling brooks, ponds and pretty lakes. The Fishlake Scenic Byway is a twisting and winding route that goes between the villages of Fish Lake and Loa, Utah. The scenery is just gorgeous.
Up in the hills above Fish Lake there is a stand of aspen trees called the Pando Aspen that is thought to be the biggest and oldest single living organism on the planet.
Aspen trees are not individual trees. Each one is connected to its neighbors, and the Pando Aspen is over 100 acres in size and is estimated to be about 80,000 years old!
There are lots of hiking trails and dirt roads to explore in the area around Fish Lake. We drove past the Lakeshore Trailhead and could see a cute little wooden bridge going over a stream in the distance. We just had to check out the wooden bridge, so we circled back and let our pup Buddy lead the way.
There were three trails to choose from, and Buddy promptly ran straight uphill into the woods on the trail marked “Crater Lake.”
Of course, this wasn’t THE Crater Lake of Crater Lake National Park fame in Oregon (the upcoming November 2019 edition of our Trailer Life Magazine back page column features one of Mark’s glorious photos of THAT Crater Lake!).
But we were curious what THIS Crater Lake was like. So up we went behind Buddy.
The trail went straight up. Not just a little up, but a whole lotta up and up, and then up some more. We huffed and puffed and kept looking for signs that the summit was just ahead, but the more we hiked into the heavens the less likely it seemed that we would ever get there!
I hate to say it, but we finally had had enough of climbing and decided that since we hadn’t brought any water or prepared for a big hike it was probably best to save the view of this Crater Lake for another time.
Down we came, having seen only woods!!
The streams in the area were delightful, and on most hikes and walks we were able to find a stream where Buddy could get a drink and play for a while before we turned around and headed back.
One day he had so much fun sprinting through a stream that he splattered mud on his face. He looked like he had put on makeup or was dressing up as a tiger!
In one spot wer found horses grazing by a stream. Such bucolic scenery!!
Buddy found a trio of cows and began talking to them in a very loud voice.
There are lots of dirt roads to explore too, and we headed down one that looked especially inviting. Unfortunately, no sooner had we started than we found the way blocked with huge boulders in front of an old wooden bridge. The bridge was pretty rickety, so that’s probably why the road was closed to vehicles.
No matter. We hopped out of the RZR and walked on the wide dirt road which was now wonderfully free of any kind of traffic.
The road followed a stream that was lined with wildflowers, and I soon realized the theme for this little excursion would be “wildflowers.” They were all kinds of shapes and colors and sizes.
While we snapped pics of the flowers, Buddy ran ahead to scout for chipmunks and squirrels. One squirrel watched him warily from a branch high up on a tree.
The flowers continued to enchant us as we strolled slowly along the edge of the river, and we were surprised how many were in full bloom so late in the summer season. Then again, we saw leftover winter snow in the nooks and crannies of the mountains, so these flowers had had a long wait for the warm weather to arrive!
Suddenly, we noticed a bush with the familiar spiky leaves of raspberries. And sure enough, there were hundreds of tiny wild raspberries. These weren’t the big cultivated raspberries we all see in the supermarket. There were just a few bumps on each berry. But they were unmistakeably raspberries — and the birds and possibly the bears had been enjoying them.
Down at the edge of the lake we found lots of marshy plants growing. A few herons and other waterbirds poked around at the water’s edge.
The weather at Fish Lake is unpredictable, and on several afternoons storm clouds gathered overhead and we could see rain falling in the distance.
One afternoon the clouds turned black while the sun shone through beneath them, making for a fantastically dramatic image.
No sooner had I taken that photo than the heavens opened up. Hail the size of peas fell in torrents!
Almost as soon as it had started, the tempest ended and the sun came out. But the evidence of the hail storm was plain to see on our patio mat.
After a few days of afternoon monsoon storms, the skies cleared and we had sunshine all day every day. Late one evening Mark headed out the door and then dashed back in: “You wouldn’t BELIEVE the Milky Way!” he said.
We both grabbed our cameras and ran outside.
The MIlky Way was as bright as could be and was coming right down on top of our rig!
Luck was with us, and for the next few nights there was no moon in the early evening and the sky was completely clear of clouds.
One night we headed down to the edge of the lake with our gear and caught the Milky Way as it fell towards the lake.
Remote parts of Utah are known to have wonderfully dark skies, and the above photo shows just how easy it is for artificial lights to affect the magic. The yellow glow in the lower right part of the image is from just a handful of buildings behind the hill.
Mark took out his 12 mm fisheye lens and got some neat effects.
When we got back to our rig we noticed that the Big Dipper was right above it.
The Big Dipper can be used to locate the North Star which sailors and outdoor adventurers have used to navigate for ages. The North Star is in line with the last two stars in the bowl part of the Big Dipper.
As I lined up the stars to find the North Star, I suddenly realized that this might be a perfect time to do a “star trails” photo.
It’s a little tricky to conceptualize, but as we stand on the earth and it rotates around its north-south axis, the stars in the sky appear to rotate around the North Star.
This reminded me of when I was a little girl and I used to spin around in a small room in our house with my head thrown back as I stared up at a light fixture in the ceiling. I would spin and spin while staring at that light fixture, and then when I stopped the whole world would keep spinning. I’d try to take a step and would promptly fall on the ground, totally dizzy, and crack up laughing. I thought this was hilariously funny and would do it over and over again!
Well, such is the silliness of a six year old girl making herself hopelessly dizzy. But now, many decades later, the star trails effect over our trailer was sensational.
I set the camera up on the tripod and left it to take a photo of the stars on a 14 mm lens for an hour at f/2.8 and ISO 64. When I tiptoed back out in the black of night and felt my way back to the tripod (without bumping into it or knocking it over!), I was thrilled with the image I saw on the back of the camera:
Fish Lake is popular among fishermen and hunters, but it isn’t high on the list for other travelers. However, if you are looking for a quiet spot that is 20 miles away from the nearest real town (of 400 people), a place where there’s precious little internet access but lots of nature everywhere, consider putting Fish Lake, Utah, on your itinerary!
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More info about the area around Fish Lake, Utah:
- Aspen Trees and the Pando Clone
- Locations of Fish Lake, Pando Aspen Clone and the Lakeshore Trailhead
- Some camping options near Fish Lake
Other blog posts from our travels to Fish Lake Utah:
- Fish Lake Scenic Byway
- Fish Lake Utah – Fun Things To Do in the Lakes and Mountains
- Fish Lake Utah – Wildlife and Aspen Groves
Other blog posts with Stars and Milky Way images:
- Black Hills National Forest, SD, RV Boondocking – Camping with Cows!
- Canyonlands National Park UT – Island in the Sky (and Night Skies!)
- Spring in Sarasota FL + Bryce Canyon’s Night Skies – in Trailer Life
- Waterton Lakes Nat’l Park – Starry Skies, the Milky Way & Wildflowers
More from Southwestern Utah:
- “Healer of Angels” – The Eagle Whisperer – Martin Tyner of Southwest Wildlife Foundation
- A Gateway to Utah’s Outback!
- A Utah Backcountry Adventure!
- Best Friends Animal Sanctuary & Southwest Wildlife Foundation in Utah
- Bryce Canyon – Hiking The Rim & Navajo Loop + A Tourist Time-lapse!
- Bryce Canyon – Rainbow Point – Bristlecone Pines and Sweeping Vistas
- Bryce Canyon Gone Wild – Tempests, Rainbows & Wildlife
- Bryce Canyon in Winter – Snow and Lace on the Red Rock Spires!
- Bryce Canyon National Park – “Mossy Cave” – Mystery Waterfall!
- Bryce Canyon National Park – Fairyland Trail – A Beautiful Hike!
- Bryce Canyon National Park – Inspiration Point – OMG!
- Bryce Canyon, UT – Fairyland of Pink Turrets
- Capitol Reef National Park Utah – Awe-inspiring!
- Capitol Reef NP – Cathedral Valley – A Stunning Backcountry Drive in Utah!
- Casto Canyon Trail – A Delightful ATV / UTV Ride!
- Cedar Breaks National Monument – A Hidden Jewel in Utah
- Cedar Breaks National Monument – Glorious Amphitheater of Red Rocks!
- Cedar Breaks National Monument – Wild Skies & Summer Storms
- Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah – Better Than Bryce?
- Cedar Breaks Wildflowers + Stunning Brian Head Overlook
- Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park – Shape Shifting in the Sand!
- Dixie National Forest Utah – Caves and Hikes
- Fish Lake Scenic Byway
- Fish Lake Utah – Fun Things To Do in the Lakes and Mountains
- Fish Lake Utah – Wildlife and Aspen Groves
- Grand Staircase Escalante Nat’l Monument – Lower Calf Creek Falls Hike
- Johnson Canyon Movie Set – A Spooky Ghost Town – Happy Halloween!
- Kanab – Hub for the National Parks + Gorgeous Canyons Nearby!
- Kanab & Alton, UT – Whoa!!!
- Kanab, Utah, 4th of July – Stars & Stripes in the Red Rocks!
- Panguitch, Utah – Little Britches & Big Horses in the City Park
- Parowan UT – Vermillion Castle and County Fair
- Red Canyon – Arches Trail – Windows & Hoodoos in Utah!
- Red Canyon Utah and the Bryce Canyon Bike Trail!
- Red Canyon Utah is an Overlooked Treasure
- Sand Hollow Side-by-Side UTV/ATV Adventure Rally – Test Drives in the Dunes!
- Sand Hollow State Park, Utah – An Oasis in the Desert!
- The Burr Trail – A Fabulous Side Trip on Utah’s Scenic Byway 12
- The Day the Sheep Moved In!
- Utah Scenic Byway 12 RV Trip – Driving An All American Road!
- Zion National Park “West” RV Trip – Gorgeous Kolob Canyons!
- Zion National Park RV Trip – One AWESOME Canyon!
- Zion National Park’s Hidden Jewels – Off the Beaten Path in an RV!
- Zion NP, Kodachrome Basin & Snow Canyon, UT – Great Red Rocks!
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Great post Emily! Fish Lake looks glorious and the Milky Way just heavenly! On the list! Thanks! Nancy
Thank you, Nancy. It’s a beautiful area. Enjoy!
Spectacularly gorgeous photos of the night skies! Ethereal even. I envy the peace and quiet of the campsites you choose. That kind of solitude, while not impossible, is difficult to find in the east. That little Buddy of yours remains adorable with a capital A!
The West still has many wide open spaces that are very lightly traveled, and this is one of those very special places. But the summer season when the few small businesses along the lake are open is very short, lasting only from Memorial Day to Labor Day!
Your photographs and comments are the first time in over 5 years of “RV” travel reading that I’ve seen a wonderful spectrum of landscape photos (small to large, components to spaces) and then read as today’s experience is tied to yesterday’s memories. What astute perception and good writing.
What wonderful compliments, Stuart. Thank you very much for appreciating the subtleties and nuances of our work!
Any mosquitoes at Fish Lake?
Yup! As we often say to each other, “You can definitely have it all, but you can’t necessarily have it all at once!”
Nice wide field views of the sky and Milkyway, as well as daytime scenery!
We’ve been waiting all summer to be in a spot where we could photograph the Milky Way, Terri, and we sure were blessed that it shone brightly over wide open areas for several nights in a row. Thank you for continuing to explore our beautiful country with us!
Great pics of Buddy near the bridge and making friends with the cows. Very impressive night sky shots as well. I’m amazed you were able to capture the lines connecting the stars in the Big Dipper. 😉
Haven’t you ever seen the lines in the sky connecting the Big Dipper? C’mon, Bob, you’ve gotta look a little closer! Buddy was hilarious with the cows and the horses too. At one point I caught him grazing with the horses!
You two (and Buddy, of course) are so gifted. Many thanks for sharing the incredible beauty we sometimes take for granted. Happy trails!!!
Oh my… thank you, Lori!! We are blessed and grateful for all the opportunities we have been givenan, d Buddy is one happy dog!
Pretty sure we saw you there! It really is a gorgeous place to spend some time….great article!!!
It is definitely a very special place. How cool that you were there at the same time. Where did you see us? We always enjoy meeting our followers in our (and their) travels!
You guys are awesome! You find the bestest places to explore. The photos of the dark skies are breathtaking. Buddy did look like a little tiger. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing!
We love it out here, Annie, and we just keep on poking our heads down inviting little roads curious what we’ll find. Buddy is a free spirit too, such an ideal little companion, and it sure was cute to see him let his inner tiger out!
Beautiful pictures as always. What wonderful night sky pictures of the Milky Way. I look forward to my Saturday email from you. Thank you !!
Thank YOU, Rick, for letting us know our online goodies put a smile on your face and that you look forward to our new posts. That makes all the effort so worthwhile!!
Thank you for taking the time and effort to share your beautiful (and educational!) pictures and stories. Our country (and world!) is beautiful 🙂 I always love the stars and milky way and sky 🙂 Keep up the great work!
We are blessed to live in a very beautiful country and world that offers such a wide variety of experiences, sights and people at every turn. Thank you, Deborah, for being a long time reader of our blog!
Such amazing variety in this post…nature at its best ! Spectacular photography….of spectacular scenery.
It’s a great area and the combination of both stormy and clear weather enhanced the beauty immensely!!
Can’t wait till next spring.my husband will be retiring. This im one of the first places I want to go. So beautiful.
You will love it there, Chris. Happy travels and have fun in your and your husband’s retirement!
Beautiful, just beautiful. May be our first stop when we leave NM. We are huge night sky viewers. Your images are stellar.
Thank you, Elaine. You will love the night skies in the more remote parts of Utah. Have fun in your travels!
What’s the name of that yellow star like wildflower you took a photo of?
According to this link which shows that flower in the 1st column of the 6th row, it is called a Yellow Salsify, Yellow Goatsbeard, Western Salsify, or Wild Oysterplant.