Dispersed Camping near Kamas, Utah
In my last travel post I had just left Bryce Canyon and travels to the Salt Lake City area to take some of the scenic drives through the Wasatch and Uinta Mountain Ranges. After a long day I headed over to Kamas, Utah and drove up Highway 150, the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway to find a campsite. I knew from a guidebook that there was a lot of dispersed camping on this road so I took the first Forest Service road that looked like it had a good chance of having one, the Upper Setting Rd, FR 34. It climbed fairly steeply up the side of a mountain and I like camping on mountains so I headed up. There were four nice camping spot at the bottom but they were too close to a busy road for me to let Cody run free so I passed them. I quickly came to a fabulous campsite but someone was already in it, so I kept going up. I passed a few spots but there was something wrong with all of them so I kept going. Pretty high up we finally found the perfect spot so we settled in there for the night.
The problem with doing a lot of mountain driving is it is very hard on your vehicle; the engine works really hard on the way up, and then your bakes are pushed to the limit on the way down. On some of the steep downhills I had been driving on I had noticed a burning smell coming from my brakes, that’s a very bad thing! In 2008 I had spent 6 months in Colorado crawling up and down it’s mountains and twice I had got that burning smell and both times my brakes had failed shortly after that. So I always get my brakes looked at as soon as I smell any burning.
Here’s the key to keeping your brakes happy on step hills: NEVER RIDE YOUR BRAKES! If you get on and stay on your brakes they never get a chance to cool off and they will get so hot they literally start to burn off from the friction, thus the burning smell. The solution is twofold: 1) put your transmission in a lower gear so the engine does some of the braking, and 2) get on the brake hard until you’ve slowed down too much, then get off them and let it accelerate. While you are off them, they will cool down–as soon as you are going a little too fast, get on them hard until you are going too slow again; repeat as needed.
I’d been following those rules so I was very puzzled why I was getting the burning smell. In every other way the brakes were working perfectly and I had replaced them not very long ago. Most odd was that even while they smelled hot, they were still working perfectly.
So the next morning I broke camp and went into Kamas to get them checked out. There was only one tire place in town so that’s where I went. Small, out of the way towns usually aren’t too busy so they got it right in and took a look. Just as I suspected the front brakes were perfect with more than half the pad left. But when the pulled the rear wheel and drum it was full of axle grease which meant the axle seals were leaking and the grease was into the drums. When it got hot, it started to smolder, in fact the mechanic said it could get hot enough to literally catch fire. They gave me a quote to rebuild the back brakes and put in a new seal and I made an appointment for the next day to get it done.
When I got back to my temporary mountain home the perfect campsite I had passed the day before was empty so I grabbed it. It was fairly high up the mountain and looked straight down the valley toward Kamas so I was hopeful it would get a good internet signal–I was right, it got a very good Verizon 4g signal! That was Monday and I liked that camp so much I ended up making it a base camp to explore the area and stayed there five days until Sunday morning when I headed north toward Wyoming.
On Tuesday I got the brakes done. It took longer than they thought it would so I was there quite awhile. Cody sat with me in the waiting area while I worked on the computer. He is very well behaved around people so he was no problem. I worked for awhile and then we got restless so we went for a walk and wandered around town. Kamas is small so there wasn’t a whole lot to see! There was a Forest Service Ranger station in town so I went in and asked some questions, then I tied him up outside the Chevron station while I went in and got us hot dogs and me a coke. We sat on the curb outside and had lunch. By the time we wandered back to the tire shop the van was all done so I paid and we headed back to camp.
The weather continued to be very volatile and I was hoping to get a chance to have good weather for photography but it went from bad to okay and back to bad so I stayed in camp when it rained and went for drives when it was at least decent. Wednesday we drove the Alpine Loop Byway and on Friday we drove the Mirror Lake Byway. More about them in the next post.