Last week we went on a Sunday night drive around Utah Lake with the intention of relaxing and looking at the scenery before we started another busy work week. I wanted to get out and walk around, but it was a little disheartening to open the door and hop out onto the dried up algae infested lake beds, with fish carcasses rotting next to your feet. This lake was shut down earlier this summer due to toxic algae and seeing the lake up close and smelling the air around it was depressing.  In hopes of a better lake experience this week we headed up to Strawberry Reservoir to soak up the sun and get in some fishing. Driving through the canyon and the mountains this time of year is ideal because you can observe the leaves starting to change while appreciating the deep, blue waters of Strawberry. The calming sounds of the small waves rippling into shore leave us completely satisfied. This lake is so enticing at this time of year and when you see it in the early hours of the morning and the shards of first light break over the mountain top it truly feels like you are enjoying nature the way it was intended to be.

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After a few hours at the lake we searched for an open campsite to make some food before we headed back down the canyon. It was a little tough to find an open spot, but luckily we were able to discover one and pulled in to break out the grill. At first glance we were excited about our off the road find tucked away in a group of aspen trees, but at closer look we were disappointed to see the way this place was left. Garbage was everywhere, broken tents and chairs were thrown in the bushes, trees were hacked down all around the camp site, and ash from multiple fires spilled out all over the grass and saplings.  We couldn’t believe that someone could come to such a beautiful place, and leave it the way they did.

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Seeing this made us realize why more and more trails and dispersed camp sites are getting closed down in hopes of preserving the land for future generations.  While there are many good stewards of the land, it’s as if they are overshadowed by what may be the one off, the person who ruins it for everyone else. This is what makes a lasting, negative impact for everyone. There is no sense of preservation anymore, and it seems as if these people who were here before us didn’t even care about leaving no trace behind. I’m sure they were only there for a few nights with no intention of ever returning so they didn’t think it mattered to them, but what about everyone else that wants to come up after they have left? After a summer full of people fishing and camping up there the area just looks worn out and tired.  Strawberry Reservoir is a Blue Ribbon Fishery and one of the most popular fishing sites in Utah, receiving more than 1.5 million hours of fishing every year.

It continues to be one of our favorite spots to go fishing and camping but with statistics like these and this many people funneling through the area every season we need to make sure that we aren’t leaving a wake of destruction in our paths. There are people that come and go and use the public lands and aren’t even thinking about the next time they will return, because they probably never will.  Is there a way to balance out enjoying the public lands without destroying them? Or is this the line we will forever have to tiptoe around?

The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn’t even think to ask.

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