Chapeta Lake


Chapeta Lake
Compromise Near Timberline
by Dave Hahn

Two years ago Santa brought framed backpacks to two children (Julie and Daniel) who live in the desert and had been very good. Santa could envision family outings along wilderness trails and desert paths. Santa's Helper (who does most of the work and all of the worry) thought that Santa should bring something they could use every day. Santa was adamant, and the packs have sat in the closet gathering dust for the last 1000 days or so.

As we thought over where we wanted to go this year for a camping trip we thought about the lonely packs and resolved to head to the high country. Two of Daniel's friends would come. They loved to climb least the rocks on the mountains. Anita (Santa's Helper and Best Girl) has developed a mutinous knee that blew itself up as she ran to get a picture of the Olympic Torch passing through a nearby town in 2002. Surgery had pretty much restored things to order, but as we contemplated long trails and heavy packs, the possibility of being the star of the "Rescue Show" didn't appeal to her. I wanted somewhere to float a boat in peace, and Julie (daughter) wanted to hike, read, and "chill out" (but in some comfort).

So we searched every map we could find and finally found a lake at the end of the road, about 40 miles of rough dirt road north of Roosevelt in north eastern Utah. It was within five or six miles of the official Uintah Wilderness area, had trails nearby, and had no boat ramp. Actually, being on the edge of the wilderness, the Forest Service had bulldozed terrain so steep that it could well serve as a tank trap. You have to want to sail this lake.

Chepeta Lake is a small lake, about 135 acres and not especially easy to get to. There are no established campgrounds, no treated water, only a Forest Service outhouse and a lot of country and the end of the road. The lake itself is about 250 yards from the end of the road, on the other side of the tank traps. We brought my Bateau V12, and Cheap Canoe...and wished that I had built the V12 with lighter materials. Carrying a lot of weight over steep uneven ground at high altitude ( ~9500 ft) reminds you that you haven't done much work on the treadmill all year.

Willing hands set up a comfortable camp with five tents. Each of the kids (4) wanted a little privacy, so they brought their own. Anita and I had ours, and we brought the old green wall tent for supplies. Then a very strange thing happened: As this was pretty open range, the Boy Scouts camped up the valley (several hundred yards) had hobbled their horses, but they were free to come to our camp and see if we had treats. The boys (Daniel, Josh, and Aaron all 17 yrs) camped a hundred yards or so away from our main camp, and the horses went to their tents first. So they set up little fences and barriers made from rock and fallen wood. And then they started to get fancy. Pretty soon three 17 year olds were staggering around under the weight of fallen logs and rocks creating walks, patios, and then covering the walks with soft rotted wood. What a funny thing play is. We would have gotten sullen, icy stares if we would have told them that it was time to set up the tents, and then spend the rest of the afternoon decorating their campsites!!

It was a fun four days. We hiked (Julie found wild strawberries and a small tree splitting a rock), talked, sailed (watch out for under water rocks! Yikes! Rang the boat like a bell!), fished (no luck), slept and ate. The boys found a rock big enough to climb and managed to devise a route across it that was almost impossible to traverse. We saw deer every day and fed chipmunks that were ready for the camera and potato chips. We played cards in the supply tent during the day that it rained and experimented with soda can alcohol stoves just in case we ever do decide to hit the trail. Best of all we laid down our cares and got to know each other again. And that is really what getting out of our normal lives and into the woods is about.