Camping at Twin Lake

We went camping as a family with our dear friends for the first time! The Manti-La Sal National Forest was gorgeous with layers of evergreen and deciduous trees, switchbacks, and several lakes. Our friends used to be Park Rangers, and they come to this area every summer to explore and check the trails. We’re so glad they invited us to camp with them! There were lots of firsts this camping trip.


Jer bought a little fishing pole for our son W, and tried taking him fishing for the first time. This kid loves eating fish and has the patience for these kind of precision activities, although no guarantees that he won’t scare away the fish anyway haha. They headed to the lake we were closest to, but it was mostly filled with snakes and tiny little fish! W is looking forward to next time.


First time riding in a Side-by-Side (SxS), which was so much fun and Jer now wants to get one someday! Our friends took Jer for test runs so he’d know where to go, and let us borrow it to check out the other lakes, and later to look for moose around dusk. It was so powerful that we climbed across muddy gulches, steep inclines, and rocky areas Indiana Jones style! Our favorite moments were getting sprayed with water while splashing over a stream or any kind of big puddle. 

This was our first time camping as a family for more than one night, haha! That’s probably my fault; I like being outside and all, but I also like being clean—kind of the opposite of camping. It was also our first time camping with our dog, who slept in the tent with us just like at home.

Roughing It

Part of the camping experience is “roughing it” and being resourceful with whatever is around. I forgot the metal skewers for s’mores, so the kids went stick hunting and forgot all about germs as they roasted their perfectly toasted marshmallows in the campfire.

This was my first time camping without running water, and it was a lot warmer throughout the day so we went through our entire giant pack of water bottles and nearly ran out. We used powdered electrolytes for the first time to put in our drinks and fight dehydration, so we had no issues with that and the kids loved it! The bathroom was an enclosed area with a hole and a vent, and thankfully it was stocked with toilet paper! It was near enough to walk to but just far enough that often the boys would have to stop on the side because they wouldn’t make it in time.


Jer caught one of the harmless snakes from the lake, and the kids all had the best time petting it, holding it, and getting excited about the novelty of an adult letting them do this haha! They eventually released it into the field.

Even though this is bear country, the area we were in and the time of year made it so we didn’t think about it. We didn’t bring any bear-proofing or bear spray. Later on our hike we saw a giant bear track, and our friends said that it was an indicator of how large the bear was (very!).

We saw a few deer while on our SxS adventures. There were tons of insects, including bees that would leave exoskeletons in our area, so we used considerably more insect repellant than we normally do.

Populus Tremuloids

Nick took us to see the largest living organism on Earth—an Aspen grove in which all the trees are copies sharing a large massive underground root system and are considered one unit. The grove was accessible with the Side-by-Side, passed a beaver dam and several lovely meadows and lakes. These trees were massive and impressive in every way! Can you even see us in the photo below?

Camping Food

Our friends treated us to some amazing food, including the highest quality meats for their fajitas and breakfast burritos. We made foil dinners that their kids tried for the first time haha, and a Mountain Man style breakfast in Jer’s cast iron skillets. We had gone a little fruit-happy at Costco earlier this month, and ended up with very ripe pineapple, mangoes, and kiwi amongst a plethora of others we left in the fridge. We cut them up and decided to snack in the car with them, and grill the pineapple for a camping dessert. That was a hit with everyone!

Other Camping Activities

The kids rode their bikes along a path together. Our friends brought games, and taught Jer and L how to play a really fun Star Wars board game called “Outer Rim”. By the end of the trip, our kids were calling our friends their cousins! It was so nice having kids around the same ages, and exploring these majestic places with them. We were able to sit and talk, enjoy their new baby and the crazy stories they had about being charged by a bear and leading tours for billionaires here. I feel so lucky to be in such beautiful landscapes with my family, and so close to home.

Twin Lake campground is up twelve mile canyon which can be accessed from a little town called Mayfield. Taking the route through Manti and Ephraim was more scenic.

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