Copyright (c) 1998 by Caryl L. Bergeron - Distribution for personal use permitted. Distribution for other uses with written permission.
Chapter 53 - May 27 to June 13, 1998 Cannonville, Ut to Garden City, UT 19,734 miles (31,829 km) cumulative
Bryce Canyon National Park is one of those places we've been meaning and wanting to visit time and time again, yet never quite making it. We've been to the west to visit Zion, to the south to Grand Canyon, to the east to Arches and Canyonlands, and to the north to ski at Salt Lake. Finally it took a long bike tour through this region of Utah to bring us to Bryce, albeit the hard way as we had to make the 2000 ft climb from Kodachrome Basin State Park first. Bryce Canyon was a bit of a surprise as it really is not just a single canyon. In fact it's more like the ragged cliff edge of one of the staircase steps that characterize this region. I think the only reason it's called a canyon is because back in 1875 a man named Ebenezer Bryce set up a cattle ranch at the base of the cliff. Over the years people began to call the area Bryce's canyon, thus the name it is stuck with today.
Despite not being a single canyon, per say, it is a series of really jagged small canyons formed by these "fins" jutting out of the cliff. A hard white colored cap stone lies over this bright red/orange sandstone that erodes away at a much faster rate. Vertical cracks form long fins jutting out from the wall of the cliff. More vertical cracks break the fins into vertical towers. Eventually the hard cap stone erodes away and the fin tapers into a spire shape which gradually melts away until there's not much more left than a sandy pink mound. The entire cliff face is covered with these fins in different stages of erosion. There are rock walls, towers, columns, mounds, peaks, and spires. Some taking the form of cathedrals, some looking just a little like people. In fact the Paiute legend for the formation of these spires, called hoodoos, is that they were living beings such as birds, deer, bear, etc who all had the shape of humans. For some reason these were bad people. ! So the coyote, a sometimes god sometimes trickster, sometimes fool, turned them all into stone. With a bit of imagination you can picture a person here and there among the towers, but for the most part they look more like those drip sand castles we used to make at the beach when we were children. I happened to notice in the old 1930s lodge at the park that the railroad tourist brochures of those times embellished the humanlike features of the spires - just a bit.
Walks through Bryce Canyon, under the rim, are so much easier than anything comparable at, say the Grand Canyon or even Yosemite. Whereas a hike to the bottom of the Grand or to the top of Yosemite Falls entails a day or two commitment, at Bryce several trails are no more than about 1 to 2 miles and the altitude loss or gain is a mere 300 to 400 ft. You can easily descend to the bottom, winding your way among these strange pink towers, stroll among the pine trees, and then climb back to the top in time for lunch. After lunch, back to the bottom once again. The trail along the rim affords spectacular views across the tops of the hoodoos and the spectacular blue peaks of the distant mountains. The trails under the rim wind their way through a labyrinth of towers, chasms, and canyons. As one early farmer put it, "It's a heck of a place to lose a cow." Finally, the rim drive takes you 18 miles along the top to several overlooks which are amazing in their own right, but some! how not quite as spectacular as the views right out the back door of the lodge. Naturally they'd put the lodge at the best spot.
The absolute best way to see the park is by heading off on some of the less used trails. Even though we arrived at the end of May, before the masses of school kids let out for summer and the throngs of summer vacationers crowd into every national park from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the rim was already absolutely packed with tourists. And almost none of them were English speakers, mostly French, Italian, and hundreds upon hundreds of Germans. We felt much like foreigners in our own country. It can be a bit discomforting, but I am sure there are many places in this world where the number of American tourists absolutely inundates the locals, such as Tikal in Guatemala. We actually found that after just 2 days dealing with the hoards we'd had enough. We determined to get ourselves off the tourist track, back into the quiet National Forests. We're finding more and more that the only places where you can still find solitude and peace, campgrounds with ample space between s! ites or are still almost empty in late May, have trails that are uncrowded, that don't charge exorbitant fees for everything, that don't have a zillion rules "do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign" are the National Forests. There you can still go to an absolutely beautiful overlook and not have a bus load of Japanese, German, American or whatever tourists climbing all over everything, taking pictures of everything, pushing their way in front of everyone. May the forests remain a little secret treasure that our international visitors never discover.
Riding through the state of Utah provides an endless amount of variety. One night you spend at 9,000 ft, the next 5,000, then 8,500, then 6,500, up, down, up, down. It's not so amazing that these changes in altitude can be accomplished, it's that they can be accomplished each day on a bike, the distances between these drastic changes are that short. Day after day the scenery changes from high alpine mountain meadows, pine covered forests, aspen circled lakes to red sandstone crags, gray/green and brown desert scrub. The alpine country was our favorite. We'd try to stay as high as we could as long as we could, descending only to get supplies in the major towns which tend to cluster in the lower desert regions, before climbing back up. One night we camped within an aspen grove beside a clear mountain lake that is famous for its trout fishing. The aspen trees showed just a slight green fuzz of new spring leaves ready to burst open. Water fowl of every imaginable size and ! color soared across the skies coming to a noisy splashing stop on the water where they paddled about looking for that night's dinner. Little black blips in the water surrounding a mound of sticks were the only indications of the local beaver family and the sudden squeak, rustle and flash of brown told us the prairie dogs were not too comfortable with their neighbors for the evening. As the sun settled and the night air chilled I wondered what this incredible lake would look like if the forest service decided to let a logging contract. I doubt they ever will, but they do have the right to do so at any time. It'd be difficult to imagine this beautiful idyllic lake with clear cut lands on the opposite shore, a scene that usually ends up looking much like the aftermath of an all out war.
The very next night found us perched on the side of a mountain at an elevation of 9,000 ft with the most fabulous overview of those red sandstone deserts 3000 ft below. Such a contrast. Once again we were in a green fuzzed aspen grove, a natural carpet of green grass provided our bedding and a leftover snow bank guarded our rear. Yet all across our front porch was a view of red, white, and yellow craggy desert and distant snow capped mountains easily a good 75 to 100 miles away. We stayed up late, watching the shadows of our mountain gradually creep across the desert floorscape way below, overtaking the small mound I nicknamed Space Mountain for it's similarity to Disneyland's exciting ride. We watched the rise of the dark purple horizon just after sunset, which we had just learned is the shadow of the Earth itself against its own atmosphere. We looked for signs of human activity, lights, and found almost none just occasional flashes from cars on a distant roadway. This! is unpopulated and relatively unspoiled land, a paradise for those wishing to get away from it all.
And the next night, back below 6,000 ft on a lush green lawn dotted with large deciduous trees that were fully leafed overlooking the brilliant blue Huntington reservoir. Our green oasis was surrounded by low rolling brown desert hills and jagged brown ridges close by on the west and off in the distance to the east. In the afternoon, howling winds rocked the water back and forth across the lake, smacking waves up onto the lush lawn, picnic tables and grills. The few weekday campers stayed to themselves, strolled around the campgrounds, or tried swimming in the rough waters. A grocery store, laundry, cafe, and convenience store were all within a 2 mile ride. Back in civilization once again. But not for long. We stopped for a rest, cleaning, and resupply and once again were off into the forests and remote regions of this amazing Utah state.
Sitting on the steps of one of those very old 1900s western buildings with the big glass windows symmetrically bordering the centered door and one of those large rectangular false fronts designed to hide the sloping roof and make the building look more cosmopolitan, we sucked on a couple of sodas obtained from the soda machine and looked forlornly at the locked door of the last little grocery store we'd see for about 4 days. Across the street a few people milled about the parking lot of the 1970s era brick veneered church with neatly manicured lawn. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best, suites and ties for the gents dresses and heels for the ladies. I must admit I've always wondered why folks feel the need to get all dressed up to go to church. All you see are your friends and neighbors who've probably seen you dressed in just about everything with the possible exception of your birthday suite and maybe even that. And I'm sure God, Jesus, Buddha, Quetzalcoatl or your! particular deity of choice isn't the least bit impressed by what you wear on the outside. Most of the clothes were drab, dark, kind of dreary. I suppose folks feel they have to get dressed up, but don't go overboard. You don't want the whole town talking about the wild things you wore to church rather than what the church sermon was about. I suppose the tradition comes from the old pioneering days when Sunday, weddings, and funerals were about the only excuse a person had for getting dressed up. Also, these were often the only opportunities you had to see your neighbors, so there was someone to impress. Traditions do die hard.
Eventually the group broke up, most heading to their cars. But, one man headed in our direction, right for us. He was your typical north European Anglo-Saxon turned American person. Quite well fed as attested to by the large belly overhanging the belt that miraculously held his pants up and the puffy cheeks on his face. He was probably in his late 50s, dressed in a dark gray suit, off white shirt, and equally unmemorable dark colored tie, his version of Sunday best. He strode right up to the door and said, "Normally I'm closed on Sunday, but your welcome to come and shop if you're so inclined." Yes! We jumped up and walked right into another era. The year was 1917 and this man's grandfather had just opened the new, big grocery store in town. The wooden floors were freshly oiled as were the wooden counters on both sides and wooden shelves lining the walls and the low wooden shelves out on the floor. Hanging from the ceiling were black iron hooks holding string and on ! the counter were brass fixtures holding huge rolls of clean white paper, paper used to wrap everything from meat and cheese to toys for the kids, "brown paper packages tied up with string." Another odd circular shaped black iron contraption held mops and brooms by the handle from the ceiling. The counter weight of the broom base against the spring at the top held the brooms in place. The center piece of the counter top was the beautiful brass scale made in Dayton Ohio, advertised to be one of the most accurate grocers scales. But, this is 1998 and along with all these wonderful artifacts from days of yore are modern refrigerator units filled with Pepsi and Coke products, ice cream, and other late 20th century goodies, an inflatable plastic cow hanging with the mops, and a modern wireless telephone to name a few things. An odd mix of old and new.
Owning one of these small town grocery stores is evidently not very easy these days, according to the owner. It's not so much a problem of finding customers as it is finding suppliers. He says, "They're all set up for doing things big." The trucks that stop at the much larger stores down the road won't even think of stopping at his store unless he can guarantee buying $1500 or more of their product each month. Imagine you're the owner of a small grocery in a town of maybe 1000 to 2000 people and you're supposed to guarantee to the Van Camps supplier, for instance, that you can sell $1500 of his product at wholesale prices each and every month. No chance. So you wind up heading to the large store, Wal-Mart, K-Mart or whatever in your own truck, loading up on what you can, hopefully getting somewhat better prices than the retail client, and then marking up the product what you can. That's why small stores are so much more expensive and why so many are shutting down for go! od. It'll be a shame to see them disappear, one-by-one. In a society that is so dependent upon the automobile there just isn't much place for the small town retailer anymore.
It was the beginning of June, more or less the start of the summer season, and all the ranchers around the small town of Loa, Ut were escorting their herds up to the high mountain meadows and canyons of Fish Lake National Forest. The first road block we encountered was a group of cattle being gently and slowly prodded across the road, down a ways, and then off onto a field on the left. Five folks, adults and youngsters alike, trailed along on horseback not in any big rush. We sat at the top of a hill for a good 1/2 hour waiting for them to cross before zooming down, taking advantage of the downhill before the next climb. Our next road block, just 1/4 mile further up, was a huge herd of sheep. Carefully zigzagging our way around lambs yelling a high baaaaaaa and their mothers, the ewes, replying with a much lower baaaaaaw we rode past a woman in a white pick-up truck, the support team, two girls helping with the herding, one walking and the other on a 4 wheel drive ATV, up! to a man on a horse, the last of the sheep herders. I couldn't help but think of Dennis Weaver when I looked and listened to this man. As his black and white sheep dog made her best attempt to climb up on our bikes, he told us a little about sheep herding. "This is the last lil ole herd left on these here mountains. Used to be 7 herds, but they all quit. Sometimes I feel like quitting myself. Been herding here for 30 years now." Each year in the spring he runs his sheep up over Hogan Pass to his allotment which is up one of the canyons near I70. In about September he herds them back. He says the cattle stay in the hills into October. We asked about the differences in the sheep, some were all white, some had black noses and feet, and we saw just a couple that were all black. The all white ones are best for their wool, the others their meat. The all black ones would probably fetch more, however they never are truly all black so they bring only half what the white on! es get. He didn't tell us just what that would be, but it must still be enough to make a living. We got some tips on camp sites up ahead and he spurred on his horse to catch up with the head of the herd which by this time was a ways further up the mountain.
Brian tried his hand at cow herding, sort of. While we stopped to eat lunch at a bridge next to which a whole herd of cows and their calves munched on the good green grass, he started yelling "mooooo". All bike tourists are closet cow moo-ers after all. I think we're just curious to see if we can elicit a reaction, any reaction. This time we got a reaction we never expected. The entire herd looked up and immediately moved away further down the river beyond sight behind some bushes. Some walked slowly, but quite a number actually ran. A stampede. OK, we thought, after the last one left, that would be the last we'd see of them. Not so, about 10 minutes later the entire herd once again appeared, this time walking up the bank of the river, onto the road, and up the street. They kept coming and going for a good 15 minutes before the last finally sauntered by. Before long they were well up the street and out of sight once again, probably into another good grass spot. It ! was as if they had gone behind the shrubs to call a secret meeting to decide where to go. I can see it now, like a scene from one of those strange Far Side cow comics. The leader, the big black one, stands before the group and says, "Ok ladies, we have a problem here. Our favorite feeding grounds has been infiltrated by a couple of THEM. Obviously we can't stay. We can either move back to that grassy knoll upstream or look for something downstream. All those in favor of moving upstream raise your right front hoof." .... "Good, now those in favor of moving downstream." ...(from the back one of the young arrogant calves yells, "I say we jump em and run em off.") Giggles all around. From the leader, "Naw, if we did that they'd catch on to us. I count 25 to 13 in favor of moving upstream. Let's go." taking the lead, the rest fall in line and off they go.
Utah is energy country, coal and petroleum. Just outside the towns of Huntington and Helper are two large coal fire power plants made to supply the energy hungry cities of Utah. One thing we never realized about coal power plants is quite literally how hungry they are. As we sat in Huntington State Park overlooking state route 10, the main road between the Huntington power plant and the coal mines up around Price, we watched coal truck after coal truck go back and forth down the roadway. Not just single trucks, but double trailers each and every one. They came by every 1 to 2 minutes, all day, 24 hours a day, truck after truck after truck. What a boring job. Just imagine for your 30 to 40 some odd career years you spend 5 days a week, 8 hours a day riding up and down the same 20 or 30 miles of roadway, pick up a load of coal at one end, drop it off at the other. I had several thoughts about this. First, I'm reminded of that circlevision display at Disneyland and Disne! yworld where the animated characters expound on all the great benefits of electricity and modern technology. Just think how great it'll make our lives with TV, computers, internet, lights, etc. What they don't mention is all the mind numbing, boring jobs this very same hunger for power creates. Can we honestly say that the lives of these truck drivers have been dramatically improved. Yet, if it weren't for these tedious, mechanical jobs what would all these people do for a living. One problem we've created with our continually increasing population and automation of such previously hand labor jobs like farming is a large work force for which we need to find something to do. So we put them in trucks driving up and down the same stretch of highway all day long.
There's also the rather frightening idea that this power plant needs to be fed such a constant stream of coal, twenty four hours a day. It's as if we've created an all consuming monster that has gotten out of hand, our very own Frankenstein. But if you think about it just how much time does the average person in our society spend doing something, anything that does not require the use of fossil fuels. Very little, in fact probably almost none. I watch people in their big RV's driving down the road, ATVs, boats, small cars in tow. Even on vacation virtually every activity seems to be powered by fuels of some sort and all are expensive. So I have to wonder just what a life we have created. In our effort to go faster, further, do more without effort have we lost more than we've gained. I guess each person will have to make that decision on their own.
"How's the road up to Strawberry Reservoir?" we asked the state park ranger. "It's snow covered." was the reply. "Is the road over Wolf Creek Pass open for bicycles?" we asked the Duschne (pronounced du-shane) county sheriff. "It's closed. Can't even take a 4 wheel drive over it." the reply. "Is the road over Bald Mountain Pass open?" we asked the Wasatch Forest Service rangers. "It is, but it's just a plowed channel through about 5 feet of snow." their answer. The further north we got the more we found the weather was effecting our travel, making us change route plans, delaying our riding, or just making for some pretty frigid, wet riding days. Snow fluttered down around us as we struggled up to the thin air altitude of 10,600 ft at Bald Mt. Pass. We were warm as long as we were climbing. But as soon as we hit the top and started down, we froze. My fingers and toes were freezing despite being covered with polerfleece and Gore-Tex. Views of the surrounding mountain! peaks were nonexistent as they were covered in slow flurries. And this was June? I've heard it time and again, in the western mountains it can snow anytime of year. Yet it doesn't quite hit home until we find ourselves caught in an all out snowstorm when the rest of the country is basking in warm summery weather. Although it has been a strange year, due to that much maligned child "el Nin~o". We've heard again and again the snow melt is behind by about a month. One state park ranger exclaimed, "We can't even get over our little 7800 ft mountain over there." I'd been expecting a cool and cold summer and I sure am seeing my prediction come to pass.
We found ourselves rained into the Beaver Creek campground in the Wasatch NF for a day. Dark gloomy clouds passed overhead. An occasional patch of blue passed overhead giving us hope that we could pack up and head on. But, hopes were quickly dashed with the next passing gray cloud which dropped a steady rain. We stayed huddled under our yellow tarp during the showers, daring to venture out into the fields during the infrequent sunny periods. With all the water from the snow runoff and rains, the fields were ablaze with flowers and newly sprouted leaves. Quaking aspen sported new leaves with that spring light green appearance. One field was an absolute carpet of yence. One field was an absolute carpet ofllow daisylike flowers, a veritable springtime picture postcard. Springtime in the mountains can be cold, it can be wet, but it can be absolutely beautiful as well.
As there was not much to do, we found ourselves spending some time with the campground host, the only other person in the campground. At 85 years of age, Earl Sutherland was not what you would call your most active campground host. In fact the general state of the campground looked a bit run down, fire pits looking like they hadn't been cleaned out since last summer, a fair amount of trash and glass scattered about, picnic tables looking like they needed a good coat of paint, and campsites in sore need of raking. Earl seemed to spend much of his time sitting in his tiny trailer or heading into the town of Kamas for swimming or golf. But, he was a nice and interesting person to talk to. Of particular interest, he'd been in the Navy back in 1934 and had been assigned to the San Diego Naval Training facility which is now closed. He told us how one day while out on the training field they looked up to see the huge Macon dirigible just overhead. "It was just beautiful." he'd! sigh as his eyes glazed over as he seemed to leave us for those years long ago. "It was 900 ft long and just floated there, right over us. Then the bottom opened up, ya know, like a clam shell. This arm lowered down and on it was this small plane. It took off, flew down around to the border a while, then came back. It had this long hook that went way up in front, so it'd miss the propeller. You could see the pilot move it up and down a bit. Finally it caught and swung back and forth. The whole thing then was lifted back inside and the doors closed. It was beautiful, just beautiful." His squad was supposed to have been assigned as the ground support for the Macon's visit. Ground support were the men who grabbed the lines and ushered the ariship to its mooring. But on this occasion he got lucky and another squad was selected. As fortune would have it a terrible accident happened. An updraft caught the airship pulling the men hanging onto the lines a good 100 or mo! re feet in the air. Only one survived by somehow wrapping his legs around the line. At 85 Earl still counts his blessings. Our conversation drifted on to other aviation topics, in particular aviation museums. But I'll never forget that look on his face as he described seeing the Macon. Oh how I wish the large dirigibles would make a comeback.
On June 11, 1998 we finally arrived in our adopted home state of Wyoming for our first bike tour. We've actually become quite found of Wyoming during our 3 years being residents from afar. One might think, being the 9th largest state by area and the least populous, that it would be a bit backward, ie redneck. But not so. I am amazed at just how progressive this very, very conservative state really is. For instance, Wyoming is the only state we've encountered so far that has taken the time, effort and money to develop, build, promote, and brag about truly energy efficient restrooms at many of its highway rest stops. They're specifically designed to take advantage of the sun in winter and cooling effects of shade in summer. They're angular in shape and have walls backed by dirt mounds providing insulation both summer and winter. The town of Evanston, the first we rode into, actually has a long, long bike path coming down from the Wasatch National Forest. Not that it need! s one, though, as Wyoming has perhaps some of the best roadway shoulders of any state we've ever encountered. They're almost literally an entire lane in themselves and it seems almost every paved road has them. They also have the best biking map for the entire state we've ever seen. Put out by the department of transportation, it shows such things as elevations, services, traffic density, wind direction, campgrounds, and road type. Best of all they're free, that is if you can find one as they're in great demand. Again and again I am amazed to find just how forward thinking the Wyoming government really is.
And things are so easy in Wyoming. None of that bureaucratic bunk most states make you put up. When we went to register the VW we quite literally took just one hour to complete the transaction. That's one hour from the time we walked in the door to the time we walked out, plates in hand. And our registration actually took longer than normal as we needed to go to the sheriff's office for a vehicle ID number check and then to a bank ATM to get cash to pay for the plates. Without these delays it would have taken perhaps 15 minutes at most. Taxes in Wyoming are low, in fact the state income tax is zero. Prices are also low, making it one very affordable place to live. There aren't tons of rules, regulations, restrictions, laws and any dozen other things all designed to protect you from yourself making life a complicated mess in the meantime. As one Idaho resident put it, "They pretty much let you do what you want until you get too dangerous."
Wyoming also has it's mountains which is one of our main attractions to the area. There's nothing quite like the Tetons and Yellowstone, both of which are primarily within the Wyoming state line. But there are also thousands of other mountainous areas we have as yet to explore. It is also a state with a lot of history, Lewis and Clark came through, the first ever rendezvous between trappers and traders happened just east of Evanston, virtually all of the northern pioneer wagon routes came through, the California, Oregon, Bozeman, Mormon to name a few, women were given the right to vote for the first time here, the transcontinental railroad came through, there are historic forts scattered about. There is a lot about Wyoming history that is synonymous with our western pioneer history. It's the home of the very first J.C. Penny store, still operating in Kemmerer. Oh and it is one of only 3 states with 4 straight borders. I think Colorado and South Dakota are the other 2. ! Yup, we've become quite fond of Wyoming and if we should ever choose to settle down once again I can easily see a small cabin in the mountains in our future.
Our first ride through Wyoming consisted of just touching on the furthest southwest corner through the town Evanston and the Bear River valley. Evanston is a nice town that has been through several different boom and bust times, the first being the early railroad days when the transcontinental railroad was being built and the latest due to oil. Its total population is around 12,000 which rates it large enough to earn a blow up map on the official state tourist map. Downtown has a series of 3 streets with historic buildings dating from the 1800s and what they claim to be the oldest courthouse in the US, built in 1873. I guess the oldest continuously operating courthouse they may mean as I suspect there must be older courthouse buildings out east. They've fixed up a very nice park in front of the beautifully restored stone railroad station that includes a nice stone Carnage library now turned Chamber of Commerce and museum, another old business building moved to the site to! serve as a public hall, and an interesting Chinese Joss house. A Joss house is a house of worship, having statues of gods, spirits, or deities inside that the patrons pay homage to in the form of offerings of money, food, incense, and slips of paper with prayers written on them. The house was managed by the "keeper of the keys", an annual position much sought after by the men. For the most part the Chinese practice their religious beliefs in private. The only major celebrations enmass are the Chinese New Year, the Joss House's main saint's feast day, and funerals. The New Year celebration is accompanied with the parade of the large dragon we associate with Chinese festivals. The Evanston celebration was a real big event back when Chinatown was at its height, even the white kids got out of school for it. But as the Chinese population dwindled, the celebrations stopped. They were revived, however, in 1976 and continue today. The original Joss house, on the other side o! f the tracks, burned in 1929 under suspicious circumstances. Some say the Chinese burned it themselves to prevent the rail road company from moving or destroying it. The replica was just recently built, 1990, and houses an interesting description along with photos of Chinese life and the Joss house in Evanston.
During the days when the transcontinental railroad was being built the rail companies brought in thousands of Chinese laborers to do a lot of the tough manual construction. The Chinese settled into the rail end communities, like Evanston, usually in small separated communities of what appeared to white man as haphazardly placed board and batten shacks on the other side of the tracks. The first Chinese came to Evanston in 1869. After the rail road was completed they either went into their own businesses, laundry, growing vegetables, or supplying goods to the Chinese community, or went to work in the local mines. Problems were encountered as the Chinese were willing to work for less pay and got housing supplied as part of their work contract which the white miners did not get. So there was violence in the mines and some were eventually shut. The Chinese population then went into a decline and by the time the original Joss house burned there were only about a dozen still le! ft. Today there are none. But artifacts dug up from the annual archeological dig in center Chinatown, the Joss house, and the annual Chinese New Years celebration continue to remind the town of its connections with the far east.
Also located near the railroad square park stands a square concrete post about 3 feet tall and 8 inches on each side. Near the top on each side is a large blue block L and a circular gold colored medalion with the likeness of President Lincoln's head etched on it. This is one of the original road markers from what some people consider to be the first interstate highway. Back about 1910, when the automobile was just starting to become a popular mode of transportation, it was recognized that some system of identifying a coast to coast roadway was needed. We have to remember that back at that time there was no AAA where you could stop in and get a full range of road maps, there were no paved highways, no road signs, no such thing as what we now know as an interstate. There were just a series of dirt tracks leading to and fro across the country, between towns. Some were the original coastal trails used by the pioneers. Others were just trails used by the locals for getting ! around. Talk went on for 5 years and finally in 1915 everyone got together to create a single marked route from New York to Oregon, coast to coast across 12 states. They got the Boy Scouts to go out and carve big blue block Ls on trees or to plant these 3 ft concrete posts where there were no trees all along the route. They didn't actually create brand new roads, but this was the first time ever there was one single coast to coast marked route. It's rather ironic that this first interstate highway was created in 1915 just 3 years after the last wagon train was spotted traveling along the Oregon trail. You could say the 20th century was rubbing noses with the 19th.
Leaving Evanston we almost immediately returned to Utah to find ourselves camping next to the very, very blue waters of Bear Lake for not just one but 2 nights as the weather turned mighty messy. A fast moving cold front came through causing a wind gust of 80 mph which, apparently the local TV news picked up on and reported as a tornado touch down. Gee, I didn't know our tent could even handle 80 mph gusts although at times it was shuttering a bit. The lake waters are so blue because of dissolved limestone particles. Throughout the day as the water temperature changes and the sunlight reflects differently you can see a whole range of blue and blue green colors across the lake. With the tall hills on both east and west shores dropping down to the water's edge, it's an absolutely beautiful lake. There's a rather interesting legend about a monster sighting in the lake, sort of like the Loch Ness Monster. It might be a herd of elk swimming, it might be fog, there is even on! e legend that the lake is connected to the Loch Ness in Scotland through an underground river and this is the very same monster swimming between the two lakes. In any case, no local will tell you for certain that there either is or is not a Bear Lake Monster.
This is also raspberry country. You can get raspberry shakes, muffins, pies, cakes, ice cream, just about anything, for a price that is. It's really hard for me to believe just how much thee red, seedy berries can cost. I always recall when growing up we had a whole row of raspberry bushes in our back yard. Every late August we'd have berries, berries, and more berries. So many, in fact, after running out of room for canning, freezing, and baked goods my mother would have us pack them into pints and we'd sell them door to door. Raspberries along with currants, strawberries in the spring, and rhubarb. I always thought, why everyone has these delicious fruits readily available just for the picking. Little did I realize just how lucky we were. Now, it's takes a pocket full of money just to buy these tiny little boxes that we savor with each and every bite. Yes, there's a lot of things we don't appreciate when we're young.
Appendix A - Route
Utah Rt 12 from Kodachrome Basin to Rt 63 to Bryce Canyon Nat'l Park, Rt 22 to Otter Creek Resevoir, Rt 62 to Koosharem, dirt road cut off to Rt 24, Rt 24 to Rt 25 and Fish Lake to Rt 72, cross I70, north on Rt 10 to Price, Rt 191 to Duchesne, Rt 40 to Heber City, Rt 32 to Kamas, Rt 150 to Wyoming
Rt 150 to Evanston, Rt 89 to Utah
Rt 16 to Sage Creek Junction, Rt 30 to Bear Lake
Appendix B - Campsites or hotels
Utah North Camgoround in Bryce Canyon National Park 3 nights ($), Otter Creek State Park ($), Doctor Creek Campground in Fish Lake National Forest ($), Side road off Hogan Pass, Huntington Lake State Park 2 nights ($), Roadside spot on Rt 191, Starvation Lake State Park ($), roadside site along Rt 40 near Strawberry Lake, Danish Viking Lodge in Heber City ($), Beaver Creek Campground in Wasatch National Forest 2 nights ($), Bear River Campground Wasatch NF ($)
Phillips RV Park in Evenston ($)
Bear Lake State Park Marina Campground 2 nights ($)
Copyright © 1995-2011 by Caryl L. Bergeron - Distribution for personal use permitted. Distribution for other uses with written permission.