Backpacking to Red Castle, Utah

Just finished a really cool three day, two night, backpacking trip to Red Castle, Utah. Thought I would make a gallery and share with you my journey with some rad dudes.

I started taking pictures as soon as we first parked. And while this doesn’t look like much, this was the start of the journey to Red Castle.

You can probably see that the faint red hue of the photo, that isn’t a filter. The thick fires a few states over made everything glow. It is crazy that smoke can travel so far away.
We started looking around after we had parked and everything seemed a little creepy. The area looked abandoned, and all the campgrounds were vacant. Now, none of us had been to Red Castle before and so it was kind of eerie to find the area completely void of people. Each of us thought we would see a lot more people based on what we read about the area.
But what we learned was that we had mistaken the China Meadow campground for the trailhead. Silly mistake that I am sure lots of people make, and our journey was quickly corrected after consulting the map.

Once we did findthe parking area for the China Meadows Trailhead (no picture), we got ourselves situated for a long day of hiking by unloading our packs and strapping on our boots.
And just like that we were parked, packed, and pounding the trail. It was refreshing to get lost in the seemingly endless trail and to focus on not tripping over a rock or getting snagged on some root. For hours we talked of all sorts of stuff, wandered over boardwalks, and serpentined deeper and deeper into the piney forest of the Red Castle Valley.
After hours of winding deep into the forests of the Red Castle Valley, we found a few large clearings. The first of them was densely covered by brush and too thick to pass through. The second clearing that we found was mostly covered in lush mountain grass and looked stunning in the dusking sun.
We peeled off away from the trail, crossed a few streams, and we found a nice flat, dry place to camp on. It was perfect timing too, the sun started going down quickly once we found a good spot to set up.
I really wanted to try out my hammock system on a cold night for our first night in the valley. It definitely was tricky getting it situated for the evening, that’s for sure. But once I got it to work, and I had everything adjusted just right, I doubt there is a bed in the world that is that comfortable.
We were a little bummed out that we couldn’t make a fire on account of the Forest Service’s Fire Prevention Mandate, but the conversations were warm, the food delicious after our first hard day of hiking, and the night lamp we buried into a tree stump brightened up our spirits.
We woke to a windy morning, and we could feel the start of a storm coming in to the area. We broke down camp and filled up our water reserves for a long day of hiking.

You can see the Red Castle way back in the background, but what you don’t see is the phone that I dropped into the river while filtering water.

Thankfully one of the guys found it. Boy, was I embarrassed.
Well after finding my phone (I was feeling really bashful), we took this group photo after our first night in the valley. We knew we had a long day ahead of us, but we were in high spirits and stoked to be in the outdoors ( you can see that Red Castle rock way off in the distance, on the left side of the image).
The trail is mostly flat, except for a few switch backs nearing the lower Red Castle Lake. The Forest Service had made bridges on some parts of the trail so that horses could pass over the rivers. This bridge was about a third of the way into the adventure and was a great opportunity to take a selfie.
It kind of became a game to take pictures of our friend, Taylor, throughout the hike. He isn’t really the selfie type, but man it was fun catching him unknowingly. Seeing as he was the guy who spearheaded the journey, it was fun to pick-on him when we could.
It was incredible being on an adventure where there was so much available water. We didn’t have to carry nearly as much as we used throughout the trip thanks to all the streams. We would just walk down to the water, fill up our water filter bags, and press out crystal clear river water when ever we wanted. It was such a blessing to not have to carry in our bags pounds and pounds of water.
There it is! The Red Castle (and our friend Taylor taking another selfie)! It was such an incredible sight that it looked like a backdrop or a greenscreen. I mean just look, it doesn’t even look real! But truly, that massive red behemoth is real and it stood above the valley with splendor.
We finally got to a place where we could set up camp for the second night and we were visited by a bull moose and their cow. They are amazing creatures, and at one point we got to hear them bolt through the forest. The sound of their cloven hooves on the forest floor is truly like thunder.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take any other pictures of the camp, we were hit by an incredible storm that rolled through and I had to put my phone away. The storm was so serious that some of us crawled into our tents and sleeping bags to stay warm. It seemed like a lifetime of rain and snow and wind crashing down all around the camp. It was well below freezing and still I can’t imagine how early explorers of this country dealt with such inclement weather conditions.
Later on after the weather broke, Some of us went looking for the end of the trail, Red Castle Lake.

Along the way, was amazed by how many small lakes there were at the top of the valley that were feeding the rivers down below.
The Red Castle Lake was incredible! You could almost see how a glacier could have fit in the massive bowl like area. We watched as a storm came over the cliff and rushed across the lake. We barely had time to take a picture of the lake on account of the hail we were being pelted with.
Looking back down into the valley, and at the tremendous Red Castle rock formation, the hike and the valley truly took on their size from this view.
There is this lightning green lichen that grows on the rocks near the lake. It was so stunning I couldn’t help myself and I had to snag a picture to show you all.
We were able to slip out of the cold for a few seconds through this narrow clit we found near the lake. It was really neat to see the differentiation that weather has had on the area.
And the Bull Moose came back to visit a second time! And this time her brought his cow and calf with him!!!

It was inspiring to see the absolute size of these animals and the power that emanates from their bodies. We were on high alert as they were nearly a hundred yards from us for about an hour.
We woke up early on the last day, got packed up and headed back for the trailhead. The journey had been magical, but it was time to go home. And although it had been super cold the previous day, the weather for the last day was idyllic on the way back. I probably said it over a dozen times, “We couldn’t have picked a better day to go hiking.”

And when we had a chance to look back on the journey, and the massive Red Castle, each of us was astounded by what a sight the Red Castle is from almost anywhere in the valley.
The weather on the way back was incredible. I can’t believe that this place even exists! It felt like we were walking through a dreamscape, or a video game.

Can you see that Red Castle rock way off in the distance? It is saying good bye
When we were finished the long journey, we were so tired. I had blisters on my feet, and so did some of the other guys. I was very grateful to be able to rest in the car on the way home instead of having to hike the hundreds of miles back home.
Truly, a beautiful trip with some awesome dudes.

Cutting Out a Character

When you do more cutting then adding, it feels like a bloody mess.

Characters are central to conveying any story. Characters make novels what they are. Is it possible to imagine King Arthur’s Camelot without Lancelot?

Stories undergo the drafting process. Those drafts can be gentle breezes imbuing characters with life, propelling the story to its end. And other drafts can be a gale force wind that rips entire characters from the story.

In our life there are people we give attention to, the very breath of our days, and we find our life has traveled to desired destinations. Even still, there are those whom we give attention to only to find that we have traveled a journey full of diversions.

Can you spot the difference in the characters in your life?

Stretch, or goal setting for short.

So I’ve got some tough news.

I didn’t always used to have friends. When I was young I moved a lot and so I never really made very good friends.

Over the years however, as I’ve become more consistent with how I live my life and where I live my life, I’ve made some pretty incredible friends.

The thing I love about friends is that they’ll ask you for stuff. And I love it. I love being able to show up, do my best, and hopefully knock their socks off.

With that said a friend of mine asked me a question this morning by text:

Possible blog post topic… Just a thought. I would be interested in reading your take on commitment to change. In your goal setting is it a mental thing, do you write them down, do you use imagery? How often do you look at your goals and reevaluate? Maybe you already have written something to this note, and I missed it. Anyhow, have a fantastic day!

Mr. Smith

I mean come on. Such a nice thing to ask, and in such a nice way too!

This is essentially my goal setting method

Goal Setting

When I was younger, when I didn’t really have any friends, all there was to do was read books. So goals weren’t much of a thing.

But just like friends, as I grew older, became more consistent, and needed to create results in my life, goals became a bit more important.

Write it down

The way I see it, as a writer, when I want to do something or see something done or see a change in the world, I first have to write that down. Seems silly, but this is the first step to objectifying abstraction, or making the imaginary a reality.

Now you can’t just write it down and be done with it. You need to look at your goal every single day. You goal, or goals, you need to look at them every day. You need to see that your goals are as persistent as your experience with reality, even if your goals are not consistent with reality.

Ask why

The next part is really fun and super painful, sometimes. The next part is asking why. As in, why do I want this change? Or why is my life such that I need this goal?

A lot of times we pursue goals, we chase after changes, and want to make things happen that we actually don’t really want to have happen. And so you look back and you say to yourself, “Gosh, why did I make that goal?”

I found that if a goal that you are pursuing does not match your values, is not aligned with your priorities, and is not attached to a why, your goal is only a wish. Or worse, it’s a fantasy.

A wish is when we want something that we know we could have if we would just do what we need to make it real.

A fantasy is something we tell ourselves we can’t have and that we shouldn’t do anything to make it real.

Practical Advice

Personally, a really effective way of approaching goals in this way, is to write the goal that you have in mind at the top of the page of a lined piece of paper. Then write why you value the goal, how it’s aligned with your priorities, and the why behind it all.

Then every morning look at that piece of paper, and every morning write down the next thing you have to do to get closer to that goal. And every evening when you look at your goals write down what you did. That way you know what to do, and you can see what you did or didn’t do.

Also, because goal accomplishment happens in time, try setting time aside today for getting closer to your goal: 10 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour. That means that in your calendar there is time set aside for getting closer to reaching your goal.

Now, the amount of time you actually invest in pursuit of accomplishing your goal is not important. If your goal is properly aligned with your values, priorities, and carries a why, it doesn’t matter how much time it takes. Trust me, you will make your ideas a reality.

But, having made a mental commitment, a physical commitment, a time commitment towards your goal is what will differentiate to you those instances where you need to tell people “No, I am pursuing my goal right now.” If a two year old can say no, and get away with it, you can too.

Some extra tips

Whenever you’re working towards your goal, let yourself be very cognizant of the things that you’re saying to yourself, the images in your head, the people you’re relating with, and ultimately how it makes you feel.

As we pursue goals, there are ripple effects, and sometimes there are waves. And no matter how supportive people say they are, few will understand what you are going through. So it helps to log/journal about pursuing your goals and how it is changing the world around you.

Alternatively, you can take pictures of what it looks like while you pursue your goals and share it with others. Doing this makes what you do real to them, and showing progress makes it more of a reality for the community around you.


Pursuing goals rigorously will make you wildly unpopular among those who have a say so in how you use your time.

The more you strengthen your resolve towards accomplishing your goals, the more you will find friends, family, and co-workers upset that you are making waves

Send off

I know that not everyone will agree with how I see goals, or how to accomplish them.

But I do know that if anyone puts even one thing into practice here, and it brings them into alignment with accomplishing their goals, I’m happy.

With that said, how do you goal set? What do you do to make your dreams a reality? How has your goal setting been lacking, or where could you improve? What goals have you accomplished, and where have you failed?

Comment below!