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Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | Con te n t s Contributors Tom Adams Andrew Dash Gillman Steve Gooch Cody Kirkland Jeremy Pugh Jill Robinson David Vogel Photographers Austin Diamond Sonya Doctorian Jay Drowns Dean Krakel Marc Piscotty David Vogel Editing Andrew Dash Gillman Jay Kinghorn Kristen Pope Janet Reeves Design Shaylee Read Publishing Brent Low V.P. Business Development Jed Call Project Manager Megan Donio Cover Image Dean Krakel Rock Art in the Buckhorn Wash

W I N G I N G IT Welcome to the Gateway to the World’s Greatest Wild Bird Refuge. It’s not an exaggeration. Tens of thousands of migratory birds annually stop by for a stay. (And you should too!) But Northern Utah is not only for birders. Slow down and discover the history, trails, earth art and community of the Brigham City area.

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, photo by Marc Piscotty


This guide is a publication of the Utah Office of Tourism, Film and Global Branding in partnership with Utah Media Group. For more trip-planning information, please call (800) 200-1160 or (801) 538-1900 or go to ©Copyright 2016 Utah Office of Tourism. No portion of this publication’s photos, text or maps may be reproduced in any way without written permission from the Utah Office of Tourism.

PL ACE Southwestern Utah’s Legendary Panoramas


Vernal Equinox: A New Season in Vernal, Utah


Echoes in the Cavern: A Hike to Timpanogos Cave


UTAH MEDIA GROUP: 4770 S. 5600 W. West Valley City UT 84118 801-204-6300 | This guide is published by Utah Media Group and is distributed by subscription through the Deseret News and The Salt Lake Tribune on an annual basis. Copyright © June 2016. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any format without consent of Utah Media Group. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this publication and assume no liability for errors, inaccuracies or omissions.






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Ut ah E x plorer s Guid e | Con te n t s Cave Towers, Cedar Mesa, photo by Sonya Doctorian

The Wedge Overlook, photo by Dean Krakel

R E E F WA LK I N G, PE TRO G LY PHS & BO N E S Central Utah is for lovers of exploration. It’s a place for the curious. If you’ve driven that stretch of road along the Book Cliffs somewhere between Salt Lake City and Moab and wondered, “what’s out there?”, this is what’s out there. But it’s not so much an answer as it is an invitation to hear the stories of this region’s rugged landscapes, mysterious heritage and ancient life.



In Utah’s southeasternmost reaches lies a land of secrets — a vast wilderness where an ancient people once lived and thrived. An expedition onto Cedar Mesa, in San Juan County, brings back childhood thrills of searching, seeking and finding wonder and mystery.

PL ANNING Hiking Southern Utah With Younger Children


CULT UR E The Basketmakers of Twin Rocks Trading Post


Spring City en Plein Air


Eating Up Mt. Timpanogos



Planning Ahead For Your Adventure


Northern Adventure Gateway Towns


The Geocaching Logo is a registered trademark of Groundspeak, Inc. Used with permission.

A DV ENT UR E Moab’s Singletrack Renaissance


Following the Dinosaur Tracks of Red Fleet State Park


Look for the Geocaching logo throughout the guide and see for a full list of nearby cache locations.

Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | In tro


Tom Adams is director of the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. In addition to more than 20 years’ experience in the outdoor industry, he’s been a horseback riding guide and outfitter, a ski instructor, and a climbing guide and instructor. These diverse outdoor experiences have afforded Tom the opportunity to see and enjoy Utah from many different perspectives and recreation styles. For information about the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation:

I had seen images of Maple Canyon before I went there for the first time, but I didn’t really grasp what it was all about. Maple is really a bunch of different canyons cut into the San Pitch Mountains, near Moroni and Spring City. Imagine a hand, and each finger is a tighter canyon, like a slot canyon. There’s one specifically, called Box Canyon, that has towering walls that are maybe 50 to 100 feet wide and probably 200 feet tall at some points. It’s not the place for a truly claustrophobic person. It is an enclosed, private, quiet place. You can find some real solitude there. You get beautiful light reflecting inside the canyon the way it does at Zion National Park, but it’s much different because the walls are all conglomerate. Imagine a cobblestone river bed, except this one is vertical. I have since climbed in Maple Canyon quite extensively as a rock climber. I sharpened my teeth there. But I had never taken the time to go there as an ice climber until about 10 years ago. Winter completely transforms this place. Whether you’re snowshoeing, snowmobiling, or in my case, ice climbing, it is a winter paradise. The geography is still the same, but the elements react differently. The snow sits on top of the big canyon walls and when the sun comes out, the snow drips down and freezes into waterfalls that can be more than 100 feet tall and 40 feet wide and one to five feet thick. Recently, we took the kids down in our camper van. We popped the top so the kids could play in there like a warming hut. Within 100 yards we could hit five or six different ice climbs. Paradise. When you do it right, you can mitigate risk and be safe. You really have to immerse yourself. Your mind cannot drift away from the task at hand. You find yourself solving a problem and thinking on your feet before you physically wear out. That’s a big reason why I enjoy adventures like ice climbing. I don’t always climb to that limit. When I do things like climbing an easier route or riding my bike, I always find myself thinking about big questions or challenges in my life. And I find some real clarity. It’s almost like I have to stop and write it down so I don’t forget it, like waking up from a dream.

Photo by Nathan Smith

I personally found who I am via the outdoors. I found confidence. I found a sense of pride and a lot of things that made me a stronger person. For me, that was mainly through climbing. There’s success in climbing, and in any outdoor adventure. You can push your limits, whatever those limits are, and still be in a safe place. It is a high level of personal success when you know, “I physically did that.” There is inherent risk, as with many outdoor activities, but you learn to lessen those risks with strong problem-solving skills and practice. It translates really well into work life. You learn to work with lots of different personalities and to work as a group to solve problems. Those skills have allowed me to travel and to meet a lot of people. That list includes my wife. We met at a climbing gym. And she’s one of my best climbing partners. It’s easy to forget there are so many wonderful things close to home. Utah has amazing national parks, what we call The Mighty 5, endless forests and mountains, and so many incredible venues for outdoor recreation. But we also have places like Maple Canyon that you might not know about. Right when I think I’ve seen it all — and I’ve been fortunate to travel and explore around the world — I discover more right here. Now, as a father, I get to revisit adventures close to home and see places again through the eyes of my children. As you explore the stories in this guide, I can almost guarantee there are five other places you have to see within an hour of the place you’ve just read about. You’re only getting a small sample of the amazing things that Utah has to offer. That guarantee holds true whether you’re a hiker, biker, angler, climber or other outdoor adventurer. I hope you find inspiration in the pages of the Utah Explorer’s Guide! The goal of the Office of Outdoor Recreation is to make sure Utahns live a happy, healthy lifestyle by exploring Utah. Let us know of your explorations: #LifeElevated



Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | T h e Ba s ke tma ke r s of Tw in Roc ks Tra ding Pos t


All images: Twin Rocks Trading Post, Bluff; Top: Joann Johnson; Bottom Left: Mary Holiday Black & Lorraine Black




Dye-stained and powerful hands keep a consistent pressure on the tight shape of a basket while simultaneously coiling and binding pliable sumac into designs that draw on tradition, birthplace and imagination. They alternate colors and sizes in the weave, gradually building out the design as the basket grows in size from the center outwards. The process continues for hours, days, weeks and sometimes months. These hands belong to the often unseen Navajo basketmakers of Southern Utah. We wanted to get to know the artists behind the Navajo baskets, so we asked the brothers Barry and Steve Simpson of Twin Rocks Trading Post to hire a demonstration of the basketmaking. For a lot of travelers, Twin Rocks is a quick stopover in the tiny town of Bluff, Utah, an adventure outpost on the San Juan River, 45 miles east of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Barry and Steve shuttle between the trading post and Twin Rocks Cafe next door. At any moment, Steve might be wiping down tables at the Cafe while Barry, behind the Trading Post’s counter, explains the craft of the Navajo baskets and other art and fine jewelry. Take time to ask the Simpsons questions. They’re proud advocates of contemporary Native American art, with decades of knowledge. Much of what we learn about the basketmaking process comes from Joann Johnson. Her mother, Betty Rock Johnson, taught Joann to weave when she was 8 years old. They’re called basketmakers, rather than basketweavers, because the complex process is much more than weaving. It encompasses creativity, hard work and the pride of producing it themselves. For many, it is their way of life. Rich in history, the ceremonial baskets are imaginative and tightly woven — and very labor intensive. Before the weaving even begins, artists gather sumac (also called willow or squaw grass) from alongside irrigation ditches or waterways — it’s most pliable in the spring or fall and easier to shape without leaves. The basketmakers typically gather truckloads of sumac at a time, sometimes heading up to the Green River and Moab areas. They cut it to size and split it three ways, this time with the help of their teeth. They remove the center of the ribbons of sumac, then set them aside to dry so they can peel off the skin later. Basketmakers achieve different sizes for their intricate designs by pulling the ribbons through a tin can lid with a variety of holes punched in it. They then dye the dried, split sumac, starting with the primary colors of traditional baskets: red and black. Joann shows us the very beginning of the basket, when she threads the split sumac through a starter coil she’s creating, wrapped around the unsplit rod foundations. Now she can start weaving. “The colors, when I’m working, just naturally come to me: what color’s going to come next, what’s going to look good. It just works, when I’m sitting sketching it with colored pencils. I look at rock formations, I look at shadows, I look at sunsets,” says Joann. The Simpsons also called one of the matriarchs of the trade, Mary Holiday Black. The 81-year-old mother of 11 (nine of whom learned her craft) is a recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Many credit her with safeguarding the tradition and spurring its renaissance. Lorraine Black, an award-winning artist in her own right, accompanies her mother to Twin Rocks. They set up their weaving area against a backdrop of Navajo rugs, a bundle of raw sumac before them. It isn’t until you watch Lorraine and Mary for a few minutes that you begin to comprehend the intricate process. It takes a masterful understanding of the craft to envision and carry out the final designs — from traditional ceremonial styles, butterflies, stylized animals to increasingly complex ideas and depictions. The baskets hanging on the walls come alive as your brain begins to reverse engineer them. Your fingers ache from mimicking the position and the motion. Though the artists often go unseen, occasionally there are opportunities to meet one of these extraordinary women. On the day we visit, one of the top innovators in modern-day Navajo basketmaking, Elsie Stone, happens to stop by on her 80-mile drive to her bank. She drops off a basket she has just finished. Respectfully, Barry Simpson admires the basket, which is a white owl woven into a blue basket. After writing a check to Elsie, he adds it to their wide-ranging collection. Elsie, like many of her peers, draws her sole livelihood from the trade. These high quality baskets are beautiful. But now we understand what they cost their creators in terms of time, effort and perseverance.

IF YOU GO... Twin Rocks specializes in museum-quality ancient art as well as handcrafted turquoise jewelry and natural turquoise gems, Navajo jewelry, Navajo rugs and baskets, Hopi jewelry, Zuni jewelry and carvings, and Southwest jewelry and folk art. Always visit Navajo Tribal Lands with respect. WHAT’S NEARBY - Four Corners Monument - Glen Canyon National Recreation Area - Rainbow Bridge National Monument - Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park - Canyonlands National Park - Natural Bridges National Monument - Hovenweep National Monument - Mesa Verde National Park - Goosenecks State Park - Valley of the Gods - San Juan River LOCATION Twin Rocks Trading Post is located at 913 E. Navajo Twins Drive in Bluff, Utah. It is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you get hungry after looking at all of the unique items at the trading post, head next door to the Twin Rocks Cafe for a quick bite, open until 9 p.m.

Above: Elsie Stone

Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | Hiking Sou th e rn U ta h w i th You ng e r Child re n

TIP S FOR FA MILY- FR IEN DLY A DV ENT U R E Hiking with kids is a great way to combine quality family time with exercise and exploration of the outdoors. Part of preserving nature for future generations is teaching children to appreciate and enjoy nature. But it can also be intimidating for the parent planner. Here are some tips to help increase your chances of a successful hike, as well as make your kids want to do it again next time.







Kids are less likely to “roll with it” when an important element is forgotten, so advance planning is essential. Pack a first-aid kit, complete with adhesive bandages, antiseptic towelettes, antibiotic ointment, sting-relief wipes, moleskin, bandage scissors, tweezers, necessary medications and more. Remember water, snacks, tissues, sunscreen, lip balm, safety whistles, binoculars, magnifying glass, field guides, and even a camera. Tell someone where you’ll be, even if it’s just a short trail. And be sure to check the weather forecast and trail conditions (where applicable) before heading out.

Even if it’s summer, be sure to take ample layers so your child doesn’t become chilled on the trail if the conditions change. Bring rain clothing that can double as wind-breaking layers, and always bring hats and gloves — especially when starting out early. Make sure kids have adequate hiking shoes. Depending on the terrain, this can range from sturdy sandals to hiking boots. Always pack a change of clothes for each child and leave them in the car for your return from the trail. It’s more than likely that kids will finish the hike dirty, muddy, and even wet from splashing around. It’s all part of the experience.

For the first few times, choose a trail that isn’t too strenuous. Even if your child is used to walking to and from school, that’s different from hiking over varied terrain, at altitude, in different weather elements. For kids, the hike is about the journey, not the destination. Pick a trail that has some features, whether it’s a lake, stream, waterfall, or something that will keep the child occupied and focus on a goal. In southwestern Utah, for example, some great trails for young people that fit these requirements are: Red Cliffs Recreation Area, Children’s Forest at the Kiln, Silver Reef Overlook Trail, and Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion.

Kids are natural explorers and want to touch and look at everything, so adults must bring extra patience and not treat a hike as a goal to get to the end of the trail and back. Hiking requires a lot of energy and if children run out early, that lack of energy can make them cranky. Plan for plenty of small breaks for water and food. You can use energy breaks as a way to keep kids moving by telling them at the next tree, footbridge, or rock feature, you can take a snack break.

Kids like to be in charge, so when hiking with more than one child, make sure everyone gets a chance to be the leader and set the pace. Since the key to family-friendly hiking is keeping the kids motivated and having fun, create games that combine the two, like organizing a scavenger hunt to find things that have certain characteristics (color, texture, size, etc.), counting wildflower or wildlife species, looking for signs of wildlife, or creating rhymes about things you see. Be generous with praise, because kids thrive with positive reinforcement. If they hear how good a hiker they are and what an awesome job they’re doing, they’ll focus on doing the right things to continue hearing praise.

The earlier you begin teaching children how to take care of our wild lands, the better stewards of those places they’ll be when they’re older. Bring a small bag to collect your garbage while out on the trail, and even consider picking up extra litter you see even if it’s not “yours.” In most areas, however, the local plants, rocks, and especially artifacts are protected and should be appreciated, but never gathered. Kids watch and emulate behavior, so showing them how to do good things will keep them repeating the good behavior.



Opening spread: Hiking Cave Towers; Above: Jeep expedition to River House Ruin

“Good spot guys,” I mutter to the ghosts as I dump my pack onto the grass at the side of the trail. “Now, how did you get all that up there?”

ruins, which gave me goose bumps during my exploration. It is just one of the thousands of archaeological sites scattered around the Cedar Mesa area in San Juan County.

I’ve discovered yet another riddle of the ancients down here on Cedar Mesa, a plundered cliff dwelling that’s crumbling, but still standing enough to stop me in my tracks and drop my jaw. There are sites like this down virtually every canyon. This one, I’m told later, is called Ballroom and here I am, having just blundered upon it, while I was looking for a completely different site that I’ve no doubt missed along the way.

“You walk up any canyon in Southeastern Utah, chances are you’re going to find some archaeological site. You’re going to find something,” Don says.

At times, it’s like that here. Cedar Mesa is a loosely guarded collection of not-so-secret archaeological mysteries, tucked into cliff walls rising above a labyrinth of slot canyons writhing across the Mesa. Standing below the Ballroom, I regard the few Bureau of Land Management trail indicators that point up the cliffside. I shuffle nervously, considering the ascent up the canyon wall. The well-trod trail lets me know that I’m clearly not the first guy to have come this way but in the silence of this shady slot canyon, I feel like I’m intruding. That crumbling wall up there? It was put up there by somebody with a brain and hands and a plan and oooh-boy it raises the hair on the back of my neck. There are ghosts out here on Cedar Mesa. *** The following morning, it’s BLM Archaeologist Don Simonis who reveals to me the name, “Ballroom.” They call it that “for the deep, wide cave that lies in the cliff wall behind the

Don works out of the BLM Field Office in Monticello, Utah, and has spent the last seven years as the office’s archaeologist, documenting, searching out and fretting over the many places like Ballroom that dot the landscape. San Juan County, Utah, has a population of about 15,000 people and Blanding, Monticello and Bluff are the main outposts of modern humanity down here. The surrounding area is mostly public land called out on billboards as “Utah’s Canyon Country” (not to be confused with Canyonlands National Park, located mostly in San Juan County) and sometimes also for its role occupying one of the four corners of the Four Corners Region — where the square parts of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona all convene. It is home to some of the comeliest landscapes among the highly scenic vistas of Southern Utah. And the area’s main bisecting road, Route 95, is easily among the most scenic byways on Earth as it cuts across a topographical formation known as Cedar Mesa. Seven hundred to 2,500 years ago, give or take a decade or two, Cedar Mesa was home to a thriving civilization of cliff dwelling people known as the Ancestral Puebloans and contemporaneously as Anasazi Indians. The latter name means “ancient enemy” in Navajo and, although it remains commonly used, it is not culturally accurate, Don explains. According to Don, we know a lot about these people. We know, for instance, that these people had a propensity for building homes, ceremonial buildings and storage structures high up on cliff walls and that they thrived between A.D. 800 and 1200 in a relatively organized society, influenced by the same group that lived in Mesa Verde over in Colorado and administered by a theorized headquarters based in Chaco Canyon. Areas emblematic of those halcyon days can be discovered off of Utah Highway 95, with many spots on the well-traveled trails up Mule Canyon. Among the best: House on Fire and Cave Towers. Most of this area is on public lands. The BLM is busy trying to keep track of all the ancient sites scattered across the region and fill in the blanks on what we don’t know. Which talking to Don, is a lot. “Archaeology is a lot of guesswork,” Don says. “And it doesn’t help that

Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | T h e Ghos t s of Grea te r Ce da r M esa

Above: River House Ruin



people are removing artifacts and taking away valuable information.”

San Juan County, in the southeast corner of the state, is five to six hours’ drive from Salt Lake City. Monticello makes a good base of operations and the surrounding area is mostly public lands offering ample opportunities for primitive camping. Hiking and backpacking in the Cedar Mesa area can be challenging. For many hikes, consider obtaining quality printed maps of the area and study before you go.

“These sites contain invaluable knowledge and are sacred to Native American tribes,” Don says. “We ask people to respect that and help us protect them. If they find something, leave it there and call us.” ***

Co lo ra d


Ri ve r

Learn more at

Yes that’s right. Don’s biggest headache is modern people — folks who might pocket an arrowhead or a pot shard and think it’s no big deal and professional thieves who are actively searching out sites for profit. To put it in CSI terms, an ancient dwelling is like a crime scene. Everything from what is found to where it is found offers priceless clues. Investigators like Don can learn a lot from an undisturbed scene.

WHEN TO GO Spring and Fall are the most advantageous times to travel.




BEGINNER’S SITE LIST Not all of San Juan County is rugged and remote. The best and most accessible BLM sites typically feature family-friendly trails starting from paved or well-maintained dirt roads.


In my college days, well before the time where we all walked around with small computers in our pockets, my brother and I would take trips into the Wind River and Uinta mountains. We spent many an evening at the kitchen table, planning and poring over topographical maps. I was reminded of those analog times as I delved into the mysteries of San Juan County and the Greater Cedar Mesa.










- Salvation Knoll Historic Site - Mule Canyon Ruins - Butler Wash Site - Three-Kiva Ruin - Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum in Blanding RESOURCES The BLM has a field office in Monticello on U.S. 191 for directions and backcountry permits (435) 587-1510. The Kane Gulch Ranger Station on S.R. 261 is open from 8 a.m. to noon daily from March 1 through June 15 and September 1 through October 31. RESPECT AND PROTECT Always visit with care. Become stewards of our nation’s priceless cultural and natural heritage by discovering and promoting responsible outdoor ethics in the “Respect and Protect” campaign from the BLM Utah State Office and PRO TIPS Carry cash in small bills for fee areas. Religiously wear sunscreen, wear a large brimmed hat and light long sleeves are better than a tank top. Pack plenty of water and drink it often. Traveling in a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle off the main highway is a good idea.


I found myself often going on (and second-guessing) the advice of other hikers who offered up directions that always end with, “You’ll miss it if you you aren’t careful,” and then gamely heading up a trail into a canyon. Archaeologist Don, for example, sent me into Fish Canyon on a long, hot slog across open desert where I was rewarded with a glimpse into several large Ancestral Puebloan ruins and blessed shade along a creek before my trek back out under the desert sun. But even this venture, blessed by an experienced guide like Don, was tickled with uncertainty, which it turns out is lovely feeling that offers a weightlessness in reducing what we need to know down to the four points of the compass.

Amid this informational and literal desert lies the Kane Gulch Ranger Station, an oasis of advice, guidance and permits. Only open for the morning hours and closed during the height of summer heat and depths of winter, it is important to include a stop here in your plans. The station offers a healthy selection of quality maps, interpretive displays and videos as well as solid advice from staff members who will give directions to well-known sites in areas like Mule Canyon that visitors can easily access. The station sits at one of the main entries to the Grand Gulch Primitive Area and is also a jumping-off point for backcountry explorers. Today, I’m here early enough to see one of the rangers come out and run the flag up the pole before she toggles the closed sign to open and I’m first in line to pore over maps with her. She gives me a short list of sites and some typically analog directions as well as sound advice about sunscreen, sleeves and hats. I take that advice into mind and set off down the highway looking for the dirt road that will lead me to the other dirt road that will lead me to the next trailhead. But then again, what passes for a road through the desert is often full of steep ruts that require good clearance and four-wheel drives, and are never, ever to be attempted during or shortly after a rainstorm. Stuck unprepared in the middle of Cedar Mesa is not a good place to be. I pick my way down one of these “roads” to a trailhead. Once there, I encounter a stern little hike down one canyon wall and up another, marked by cairns and other bootprints. I nevertheless have the place to myself as I scramble from rock pile to rock pile. I once again chuckle and mutter “good spot, guys” looking around at the plentiful shade and water that marked this as a place to call home about 1,000 years ago. I feel myself mentally populating the ruins and having fun with conjecture based on my talk with Don yesterday and my own imagination. I picture a bustling little neighborhood, Richard Scarry-style — a mailman, a baker, the mayor and Lowly the Worm rushing to and fro and chuckle a bit before darker, more sinister thoughts come. Where did they go? What would drive them from this shady place? The silence in these canyons is total — a rustling breeze, occasional chirping bird and trickling remnants of a recent rain are all that intrude. I gather my thoughts and stare hard at this place and drill down into the silence. I feel the hands that put it there with a plan, and I shiver. Yes. There are ghosts out there on Cedar Mesa and the thrill of meeting them is unlike any experience you’ll ever have. Go there with an open mind, a kind heart and they will speak to you, too. But tread lightly and be reverent; they are watching.

Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | T h e Ghos t s of Grea te r Ce da r M esa

Above: Butler Wash Ruin

A N A RCH A EOLOGIS T’S V IE W OF GR E ATER CEDA R ME SA Don Simonis is one of two archaeologists at the Monticello Bureau of Land Management Office. His research indicates that there are well over 100,000 significant archeological sites in Southeastern Utah. In San Juan County alone, archaeologists have cataloged 32,000 sites. A large number of these sites are located on Cedar Mesa and along the San Juan River, and they once belonged to a people called the Ancestral Puebloans, who inhabited the area from around A.D. 800 to A.D. 1200. However, evidence also exists of people living there as far back as 11,000 years ago, to a group known as the Clovis culture, when humans and large wooly mammoth occupied the historical timeline together. “It’s kind of like Egypt,” Don says, explaining why the region is so rich in culturally significant places. “Although we haven’t uncovered any pharaoh’s tombs, we have had amazing discoveries of what we call ‘perishables’. That is, anything organic, like clothing or blankets, plant material. In any other climate they wouldn’t have lasted, but here in this dry climate, kept out of moisture, we find objects that give us great insight into how these people lived.” According to Don, Ancestral Puebloans built elaborate cliff dwellings for defense from each other and the elements, as well as religious and ceremonial reasons. Also, many of the sites were granaries where corn, their primary crop, was stored for times of drought. A long drought occurred around A.D. 1200, which is thought to be a contributing factor for the eventual movement and dispersal of people out of the area. “They didn’t just disappear,” Don says. “They migrated out of the area over a long period of time, 100 years or more, into New Mexico and Arizona. They intermarried with Utes and Navajos. It’s very complex what happened and we are still making discoveries.” Because the sites are so rich with materials, Don and his colleagues fight a constant battle to protect invaluable resources that are under threat. “We want people to visit here with a very light touch,” he says. “Our mission is to stop the vandalism and looting that has been going on in this area for more than 100 years. People have to realize that these sites are incredibly important and if you take even one piece away it’s like taking a page from a book. It’s lost forever.” Learn how to help Respect and Protect Utah’s cultural resources at



Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | Moa b’s Single tra c k Re nais sa nce

Top: Deadman’s Ridge, Bar M Trail, photo by Dean Krakel; Bottom: Navajo Rocks Trail, near Dead Horse Point State Park, photo by Dean Krakel

Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | Moa b’s Single tra c k Re nais sa nce


Pull up to any campground or trailhead in Moab when the weather is warm, and you’ll be greeted by a dozen Subarus and SUVs adorned with mud-caked mountain bikes. Sure, you’ll drool over some high-end bikes, but Moab isn’t just for burly slickrock riders anymore. In the last few years, local groups have established dozens of miles of new mountain bike trails ranging in difficulty from relatively flat and well-graded to super-technical.


Mountain bike season may be in full swing, but don’t worry — in the midst of Moab’s singletrack renaissance — there’s plenty of trail to go around.



The aptly named Magnificent 7 or Mag 7 network encompasses seven trails of medium-to-advanced difficulty: Gemini Bridges Road, Bull Run, Arth’s Corner, Little Canyon, Gold Bar Rim, Golden Spike, Poison Spider and Portal. The trails’ grueling climbs and exposed descents alternate between techy singletrack and steep slickrock (some of it’s mandatory hike-a-bike), but the views are well worth the effort. Plan to leave a car at the Poison Spider Trailhead on Potash Road (Route 279) — you’ll be ready to head straight into town when you finish this beast of a ride — or, if you haven’t quite worked up a Milt’s Stop & Eat appetite, ride back out to your vehicle on Route 313 at Gemini Bridges.

The Klondike Bluff Area has long been known as a solid, worthy intermediate area, and it’s only getting better. With the addition of the Alaska Trail in 2013, it is, hands down, a must-do Moab ride. Get your heart pumping with the well-loved Outside Loop. Climb Mega Steps to the Baby Steps 4x4 road, bomb down Little Salty, and keep an eye out for the UFO — you’ll know it when you see it. Don’t let the subsequent Baby Step Loops get you too big for your britches because EKG will quickly have you on your toes with continuous ledgy, bumpy slickrock. That grimace will turn to a smile at the end of your ride, though — take a quick lap back up Mega Steps so you can descend Alaska. No matter how badly you’ve been wishing for snow on a sweltering desert afternoon, a few miles on these northern-named trails and you won’t want to be anywhere else in the world.


Bar M — also known as the Moab Brands Area — is the ideal place to bring a group with mixed ability levels. Trails vary in difficulty from beginner to lower advanced, and you can expect a healthy mix of singletrack and slickrock — plus a little sand thrown in here and there for good measure. Feeling confident? Challenge your endurance with big drops and steep sandstone ascents (nearly 800 feet, all of it technically advanced) on Deadman’s Ridge. Newer riders will delight in the numerous spur trails off the main Bar M Loop. To maximize saddle time, take a shuttle to the trailhead, then have your crew rendezvous at the parking lot post-ride for a quick (downhill) cruise into town.

I N T R E PI D T R A I L S YS TE M It’s impossible to overemphasize what a gem this loop is. The Intrepid Trail System in Dead Horse Point State Park originally opened in 2009, then got a reboot in 2014 with new singletrack west of Route 313. Newbies can ride the loop counterclockwise, building confidence as the trail becomes increasingly technical. Seasoned MTBers will have no trouble taking their eyes off the easier elements on the east side of the highway for the sake of the postcard-worthy view. Things do heat up though when you cross the highway — don’t worry, Intrepid offers numerous chances to bail. When you’ve finished the 14-mile loop, it’s worth pedaling up to the Dead Horse Point overlook for a look at the majestic canyonlands.

LOW E R M O N I TO R A N D M E R R I M AC This is Moab adventure biking at its finest. You’ll take in views of quintessential Moab landmarks like Courthouse Wash and the Monitor and Merrimac buttes, and it’s worth the brief, bikeless detour up the marked Dinosaur Trail to see fossilized dinosaur tracks. The Lower Monitor and Merrimac Loop is perfect for those looking to up their slickrock game; with mellower climbs, humbler (and less consequential) ledges, and shorter sand traps, you can get a feel for riding slickrock without the pressure of its iconic namesake trail.

K LO N ZO T R A I L S Ready to make the jump from beginner to intermediate? Now that you’ve mastered the basics, head 12 miles north of Moab to the Klonzo Trails where you’ll encounter gentle grades, unbeatable views, and a perfect intro to tight, flowy desert singletrack. Trail sections are short and sweet so you can ride as little, or as much, as you like. Be sure to hit the Secret Passage (counterclockwise is best), where you’ll get to explore a hidden valley on smooth, swoopy singletrack. For a big day — and to earn those post-ride campfire s’mores — explore Klonzo, then take the Zephyr Trail to the Bar M trail system.




Known for its bright colors and extreme contrast of textures, the adventurous panoramas of southwestern Utah draw in those with an artistic eye. Light and color interplay on the gradient of sandstone, shifting sands, deep canyons and cooling waters. Capture swooping arches at first light or pink sands at sunset. Chase shafts of light in narrow slots or shift to monochrome to preserve high-contrast landscapes in full artistic glory. This pocket of natural wonders is any painter, photographer or landscape lover’s dream. Set up a base camp in Kanab and check some of these destinations off your bucket list.

W H I TE P O CK E T Located on the border of Utah and Arizona is White Pocket, another rocky area that features beautiful blends of desert colors — but this spot doesn’t require a permit. Travelers seeking fewer people will drool over the rainbow rock layers and variety of textures in this special place. Lace up your hiking shoes and walk two miles in to view the full span of delicate formations and spiraling rock towers that reach up into wide open skies.

CO R A L PI N K SA N D D U N E S S TATE PA R K You’ve never seen sand dunes like these before. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is filled with contrast, from evergreen pines against pink sand to the soft, sloping dunes sitting in front of rough, rocky cliffs. These ever-shifting sand mountains change shape with the wind, which creates photogenic patterns and can move hills as much as 50 feet per year, meaning the landscape you’re drawing, painting, or photographing is never quite the same. Pro tip: If you’re looking to capture the park’s best colors, be sure to head in at sunrise or stay until sunset when the light plays up the natural pinks and oranges of the sand against the blues and purples of its desert backdrop.

G R A N D S TA I R C A SE – E SC A L A N TE Set on nearly 1.9 million acres of land — nearly the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined — Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument showcases examples of erosion that date back to between 50 million and 275 million years ago. The monument is named for the series of plateaus that drop down from Bryce Canyon, creating an illusion of natural steps. Artists can capture the landscape’s sweeping views of rugged erosion from the paved surfaces of Scenic Byway 12 and Highway 89, or if conditions permit, in the heart of the monument on Hole-in-the-Rock or Cottonwood Canyon roads. To get an even closer look, hire an outfitter and rappel down into the deep canyons scattered at the bottom of the monument. The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument will provide you with a variety of stunning spaces to capture on film, paper or canvas.

Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | Sou thwes te rn U ta h’s L e g e nda r y Pa nora ma s




This breathtaking canyon marks one of the most unique areas in Utah. As the deepest and longest slot canyon in the southern part of the state, Buckskin Gulch draws canyoneering enthusiasts from all over the world. The winding nature and extreme depth of the canyon creates swooping shadows that lend to epic panoramas. For the full experience, you’ll need to set aside a couple days to backpack in, wade through the knee-deep waters, and explore the pink and orange walls that make up Buckskin Gulch. Always check local conditions and weather forecast before entering any slot canyon.

Who said southwestern Utah was all bonedry desert? Lake Powell, a reservoir on the Colorado River, is a paradise for boaters, fishermen and other watersport enthusiasts, not to mention the second largest reservoir in the country. The sparkling body of water sits in a desert landscape with nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline that varies from beaches to canyons, creating one of the most interesting blends of elements in the state. Home to walleye, sunfish, and many types of bass, Lake Powell branches off into countless coves and canyons that make for some of the most interesting photographic opportunities around.

Forget coastal beaches and surfboards. The country’s most unique wave sits in the desert between Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. Composed of layers of different colored rock, the legendary Wave swirls together oranges, reds and pinks to create a dizzying natural pattern. The Wave, located in the Bureau of Land Management’s Coyote Butte, is best photographed, painted or drawn in direct sunshine because shadows can distract from the spellbinding pattern in the rocks. It’s important to note that hikers need to apply for a permit before entering Coyote Buttes North, but the hike in is more than worth it for the views.

If you get tired of paddling or motor boating around the water, check out the natural arches that surround the desert lake. Some, like Rainbow Bridge National Monument, are just a few miles from the water. The unique mix of water and desert elements in this part of southwestern Utah creates an interesting blend for photographers and artists to capture.

Bottom left: Buckskin Gulch; Top: Lake Powell; Bottom right: The Wave



Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | Pla n ning A h ea d For You r Ad ve n tu re

OU T DOOR S TIP S FOR THR EE-SE A SON FU N You don’t have to be an intrepid adventurer to enjoy time in Utah’s great outdoors. Whether you’re planning a one-day hike or longer camping trip, the common rule is that it’s best to be prepared. The more you consider what you’ll need in advance, the less likely you’ll be surprised by the unexpected. Here are a few tips to consider before your trip.

CLOT H I N G One of the most important keys for clothing is layers. Some hikers opt for a long-sleeve, though lightweight, base layer even when the summer sun is shining on the slickrock sandstone of Southern Utah. And in the height of summer when you think the weather won’t vary from “extremely hot,” the temperatures in some regions can plummet in the evenings. Instead of packing cotton items, consider synthetic clothing that wicks easily, meaning that when you sweat, the fabric pulls the moisture away from your skin and lets it evaporate. Sure, bring shorts, but also pack pants, long sleeves, a hat, a heavier sweater or jacket layer, and a pocket-size, fold-up rain poncho (available in all sporting goods stores).

SHOES Flip-flops are fantastic for when you’re relaxing around the campground or after a long hike. But they won’t protect your feet from hazards like rocks, thorns and animals, nor will they provide support or traction when you need it. Southern Utah has some of the most diverse and exciting trails of any region. Wear sturdy, closed-toe hiking boots (bring a supply of socks, too), with soles that can grip rock, sand, gravel and whatever the trail throws at you — even in the national parks. Don’t buy boots at the last minute. Make sure you try them on at home and even wear them around for a short hike or two — just to make sure they work well for you.

H Y D R AT I O N & FO O D It doesn’t matter whether you’re embarking on an extreme adventure or an easy hike — you need water, and lots of it. A quick rule of thumb is that you should expect to consume at least 16 ounces of water or more per hour in hot weather. In addition to drinking frequently during any outdoor activity, you should drink plenty of fluid before you go. Even if you only plan to be on the trail for a couple of hours, bring more water than you think you’ll need, in case something happens and you’re detained. Also, don’t expect to find drinking water on many Southern Utah trails, especially outside of the developed parks. Yes, water is heavy, but think of it this way: Your pack will get lighter as you drink the water you bring. While you’re packing the water, make sure you bring fuel for your body in the form of food, too. Nutrient-dense foods like jerky, trail mix, dried fruit, canned fish or tuna pouches, and nuts or nut butters are also lightweight — don’t worry though, for all but the most serious backpackers, these are just to tide you over. Most Utah destinations are near welcoming cities and towns with several options for a hot meal.

CO M M U N I C AT I O N If you’re headed out alone, into the backcountry with others, or even on a hike that’s beyond an easy distance, be sure to tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return. And then check in with them when you have returned so you can close the loop. If you don’t have a good sense of the trails in the region, check in with the visitor center to ask about the weather forecast, trail conditions, and recommendations from the experienced staff.

ADDITIONAL GEAR Backpacks exist for a reason, and that’s to carry necessary gear with you. Even if the day looks cloudy, bring sunscreen. Weather changes easily, and according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through clouds. Pack a flashlight or headlamp just in case. Bring first-aid materials along for emergencies. The most basic day-packer kits contain adhesive bandages, gauze and medical tape, antiseptic towelettes, antibiotic ointment, sting-relief wipes, antacid tablets, ibuprofen tablets, allergy-relief tablets, moleskin, bandage scissors, tweezers and necessary medications. You can assemble a first-aid kit at home, or buy one from a sporting goods store.

R E SCU E A I DS Sure, bring your cell phone along on your adventure, but be prepared for it to not work in remote areas, or perhaps work only on ridgelines and peaks. Satellite phones or GPS devices can be more reliable, but nothing is foolproof. In a way, it is part of getting outdoors! Don’t kill your battery letting your phone continually look for a signal — use airplane mode until you do need a signal. And bring along an external battery charger (that’s already been charged up), just in case. If you get stuck somewhere and need people to find you, having a signaling device (such as a mirror) and emergency whistle in your pack will help you catch someone’s attention. Add a mylar “space” blanket in case you need to wait for rescue or get caught in weather conditions you didn’t anticipate. Across: A few of the basics for your Utah hike; Photo by Austen Diamond


Look around Spring City, Utah. You will see beauty. It is a peaceful, pastoral place deeply rooted in its nineteenth-century heritage. For photographer Dean Krakel and me, our first glimpse of the area came from on high, after cresting the Wasatch Plateau via the Huntington/Eccles Canyons National Scenic Byway. The byway begins a rapid descent into the Sanpete Valley, which by the late spring splashes wide and vibrant color patches in heavy, Paul Cezannesque brush strokes. We meet landscape painter Douglas Fryer in his home, where he lives with his wife Terresa and some of his younger children. It’s one of the newer houses in the town. That fact is notable because Doug lives a few blocks from Main Street, which comprises the core of the Spring City Historic District, part of the National Register of Historic Places. The historic architecture alone attracts us to Spring City. The Mormon pioneer architectural style drew on the settlers’

“THERE’S A RE AL LOVE OF THE PL ACE BECAUSE THEY LOVE THEIR MEMORY. VISITING SPRING CIT Y IS LIKE VISITING A MEMORY.” existing skillset and the prevailing styles of their Scandinavian homeland. Today, dozens of beautiful stone buildings survive thanks to the skillful hands of Swedish and Danish masons. Each building soaks up the evening sun until saturated with golden hour light. But it’s more than architecture. It’s setting. Says Doug, “I don’t know if it’s nostalgia, but it reminds people of how it was where they grew up — places that have changed now. It hasn’t changed here. There’s a real love of the place because they love their memory. Visiting Spring City is like visiting a memory.” Memory is important to Doug’s work. Though today we’re heading to work en plein air where intuition, speed and environment establish the picture and composition, Doug usually works from a combination of his photography and memory in his studio. There, Doug can contemplate the work over a longer period of time, adding and subtracting as the composition inspires him.

Above: Douglas Fyer sights the landscape for his painting

“You’re traveling down a highway, and all of these things are flashing in your peripheral vision. Fields, barns, houses, mountains, creeks, trees, sage. My paintings are seeing those passing moments in time in a direct way so they become concrete statements. It’s a grouping of past memories. From that collection of moments in time, I can make a statement that will last forever.” In recent years, residents have restored a number of the old homes in Spring City. Doug says that there’s a lot of interest in restoring the architecture and keeping the original look and feel. The art community draws inspiration from the architecture. “There’s sort of an energy that moves from one to the other. It might be a coincidence, but

the people that are restoring the homes seem to have a real interest in the aesthetics of the architecture, especially when combined with the beauty of the environment.” There are visual reminders all around why there’s such a strong artistic vibe in Spring City. The distinctively curved ridgeline of Horseshoe Mountain remained heavily capped in snow during our visit. Steep chutes line up like ribs along its steep face. Wave after wave of cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds crowd the sky of the wide valley. We are only two days after a late-season dusting of snow in the valley — and rain is likely on the way. The dramatic cloudscape splashes amoeba-

Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | S p ring Ci t y e n Plein A ir

shaped patches of light across the plateau and hayfields as it slowly passes overhead. Doug carries an antique French easel he found at a thrift store across the southeast stretch of his property. I follow a few steps behind with a handful of old watercolor tubes and a homemade easel adapted from a design by plein air artist Frank LaLumia: essentially a flat surface with a tripod mount. Doug’s backyard abuts a large agricultural field, which Doug says his neighbor recently planted. Persistent bleating drifts from a nearby cluster of weathered sheds. It’s near the end of lambing season. Doug has his easel prepared in moments, and true to the style, he immediately begins mixing and applying paint in broad, interpretive strokes. He sights the landscape with his brush, and applies a rust-colored wash of oil paint to a section of the canvas. These first gestural strokes are important to Doug. “Some of these marks here that aren’t exactly ‘in’ the painting and aren’t out there, are just beautiful marks by themselves. They carry their own meaning, their own significance.” Those marks are part of the artist’s skillset and toolbox, Doug explains. They are intuitive, deliberate choices, and become combined

with little surprises that occur along the way. “This wouldn’t have happened unless you were very deliberately going about what you do. And then this other element comes in and, ‘wow,’ it made it live.” It occurs to me that there’s a clear parallel in travel. When I go about the process of traveling, I prepare myself with the tools and mentality of a traveler, then deliberately put myself in a place. Once I’m there, comfortable being a little uncomfortable, I open my mind to possibility of surprise — to the serendipity of travel. Travel should lead to discovery, both planned and unplanned. For Doug, art is fully intertwined in his other values, not separate. “I make art because the world is a beautiful, meaningful place. I want to make some significant statements about those feelings, whether they’re based on aesthetics or they’re based on a story.” In my own humble watercolor en plein air, Doug picks out a few gestural strokes of pigment nicely interacting with the water. I don’t paint as often as I’d like, but today was about deliberately getting out there, and letting serendipity lead the way in the pictureperfect landscape.

Left: Douglas Fryer’s French easel and work in progress; Right: Spring City historic home

IF YOU GO... - Spring City Heritage Day Celebration (May) - Scandinavian Festival in Ephraim (May) - Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti (June) - Pioneer Day Celebration in Fairview (June) - Spring City Arts Plein Air Competition (Aug– Sept). SOME LOCAL ART AND ARTISTS TO SEE - Spring City Arts Gallery - Joe Bennion Horseshoe Mountain Pottery - Sophie Soprano/Lynn Farrar - Kathleen Peterson - Michael Workman - Lee Udall Bennion - Randall Lake - Susan Gallacher - M’lissa Paulson - Cassandria Parsons WHAT’S NEARBY - Maple Canyon camping, hiking and climbing - ATV/OHV on the Wasatch Plateau - Skyline Drive Overland Road - Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area BED AND BREAKFAST INNS - Osborne Inn - The Lazy Inn - Spring City Inn - Scott Farm Bed & Breakfast


Top & Bottom: The dinosaurs of Vernal, Utah; Center: Utah Field House of Natural History manager, Steve Sroka, showing off a dinosaur fossil

Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | Ve rnal Eq uinox: A New Sea son in Ve rnal, U ta h




Photo s by DE AN K R AK EL

Just in case there is still confusion, the oil and coal that power our world are probably not the decayed remnants of dead dinosaurs. They’re much older than that. Dinosaurs and fossil fuels, however, are inextricably part of the Uinta Basin of Eastern Utah. Here in Vernal, both visibly shape the town, from the influx of new development on the tide of the oil boom to the iconic Dinah the Pink Dinosaur that welcomes visitors. Though the oil fields are down right now, dinosaurs are always up. Decades ago, University of Utah geology professor William Stokes dubbed Utah “The Bedrock State” for all its raw, unobscured rock. All the best formations for fossil research are on display out here, especially at Dinosaur National Monument, Red Fleet State Park (see page 24) and the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum. At the Field House, the sounds of careful excavation drift in from the neighboring room while I master the the complex geology in the introductory video. Of course, the excavation is just piped-in audio, but it sets a tone of anticipation. I revel in the history of life on earth as I ascend the ramp through geologic time. I carry that sensation with me on other explorations near Vernal, like the McConkie Ranch Petroglyphs, a Utah Historic Site that combines ancient Fremont Culture rock art with a weird and wonderful privately owned “visitor center” up Dry Fork Canyon. The clean, modern building of the Vernal Brewing Company is across the street from the Utah Field House. An indie-hipster blend of music softly fills the dining area. Coconut Records. The Lumineers. The bar dispenses the housemade sodas: root beer, raspberry cream, orange cream. The harder stuff comes from the back of house and carries labels like Allosaurus Amber, .50 Caliber IPA and Little Hole Lager, named for the nearby Flaming Gorge-area national scenic trail on the Green River. Brendyn Houghton is the house manager. He says the brewery, which opened in 2013 and initially benefited from the oil boom, is currently building the distribution side of the business and growing the local and tourist business the best way: “We make our own sodas, jams, dressings, beer and mixers in-house and have our own garden for a farm-to-table component.” They also made the pickled hot mix on my excellent Cubano. One of the other top spots in town, Betty’s Cafe, epitomizes the classic greasy spoon diner. Here, locals fill the cozy restaurant on a Sunday morning. Plate-sized pancakes and thick slabs of ham pass before me, where I sit at the three-chair counter. Regulars banter with the staff about politics — something a presidential candidate stated has struck a nerve — but they are generally optimistic. Things are changing, but things do change. The town hangs tough.





Photo s by DE AN K R AK EL

A sign flashes by: “Mancos Shale: Sea deposits with squid-like creatures.” Okay. Something from the Cretaceous Period, apparently. I continue driving. “Mowry Shale: Fossilized fish scales and sharks teeth.” Evidence of a rising sea appears next. But wait: It seems I’m traveling backwards through geologic time, so the hardened seabed breaks apart and softens into various sediments. The sea actually drains away. The bones of dinosaurs reassemble, rise and become composed with flesh. Here, a stegosaurus wanders freely. There, raptors hunt. I’m in pursuit of dinosaur tracks, so this feels hot on the trail. I’m disappearing into the Triassic. And then the Chinle Formation: “Dinosaurs and mammals first appear.” Mammals? We’re so far back now, we predate the orange Entrada sandstone that forms Delicate Arch in Arches National Park and the white Navajo sandstone domes of Capitol Reef National Park. There are billions of years further down the byway, but I’ve reached my destination: Red Fleet State Park and Reservoir’s Dinosaur Trackway.

Staircase–Escalante National Monument. The slickrock, like Arches and Canyonlands national parks, is set at a steep angle and washed over with dirt and stone of past storms.

The Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum, in nearby Vernal, quotes field geologist David Love: “You can’t do geology in a hurry.” On the Flaming Gorge-Uintas National Scenic Byway, geology sure passes quickly. But the Dinosaur Trackway slows it back down.

The reward at the end of the Dinosaur Trackway trail is not as obvious as a similar hike, such as Delicate Arch. Red Fleet makes you search for your reward: 200-million-year-old dilophosaurus tracks preserved in the slickrock shores of the reservoir.

It’s a cleverly built trail that crosses sandy washes, ribs of exposed stone and familiar slickrock. Though hundreds of miles from its kin in Southern Utah, the Dinosaur Trackway is very much in the same family. The sandy sections feel like the washes of Capitol Reef or Grand

They are set in stone, yet seem astonishingly fragile. And during high water, many of them slip beneath the surface of the waves. It is a testament to the ability of Mother Earth to preserve a fraction of her legacy given all the forces working against it. The tracks are signed by

These are surprisingly fertile grounds, too. Dense stands of fragrant juniper intermingle with piney Mormon tea and ground cover of prickly pear and microbiotic soil. I regularly stir up jackrabbits as I walk and deer scat provides proof of other visitors to this land. It is a wellmarked trail, but one that requires attention. I find my eyes frequently wandering astray of the path. I am obliged to stop and look around. There, the reservoir to the southeast. To the west at a great distance, a particularly deep red formation seems to sink on one end, lying at a 10 degree angle to the plane of the earth. It is reminiscent of Capitol Reef’s Waterpocket Fold; it is a reminder of the forces of uplift and erosion that created this land’s geological diversity. Where am I? I quickly recalibrate my position on the trail, and in time, and continue.

Above: Red Fleet State Park; Right page, top: Shards of shale lining the shores of the reservoir; Right page, bottom: A dinosaur track

I F YOU GO... Access the Dinosaur Trackway trailhead two miles down Donkey Flat Road, which is about a mile north of the entrance to the park. You’ll also cross the path of some scenic singletrack, part of the Red Fleet Non-Motorized Trail Complex.


- Camp in designated areas, reservations accepted during peak season - Pets on-leash at all times; not permitted on developed beaches - Gates open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m in summer - Day-use: $8; Dry Camp: $15/night; Full Hook-ups: $25/night - Rental watercraft available


In 2016, fishing may be better in nearby Steinaker Reservoir, while the Red Fleet fishery recovers from a 2015 treatment.

Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum Dinosaur National Monument Steinaker State Park Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area

the state park just enough to give me a sense of where to look, but not so precisely that they jump out of the rock — not that they would to any but the most trained eye. But I do find them. And they are spectacular. I sit down on the slanted sandstone. The tracks are 10 to 12 inches wide, three-toed, and yes, somewhat faint in the overcast afternoon light. A light wind encourages the waves to lap against the shore behind me. Here I am. Some 200 million years later. The Alan Grant-like anticipation of seeing the tracks gives way on the return hike to deep introspection. Dinosaur tracks and trackways have an energy about them. The soft mud of the desert playa absorbed the impact of living creatures as they went about their lives in a Saharan-like landscape, now hardened over into colorful sandstone. This is called Nugget Sandstone, which comes on the heels of the Chinle, when mammals took an evolutionary step forward. Later, a variety of different dinosaur species took to the streets and became locked up in the Morrison Formation. For that, I’d have to wander over to Dinosaur National Monument, just a few miles as the crow flies to the southeast of the Red Fleet Reservoir. Dinosaur is also a certified International Dark Sky Park. These are sanctuaries of natural darkness designated to promote the importance of combating light pollution and protecting night skies for future generations. I feel I am close enough here at Red Fleet. I expect a storm tonight, so I buckle down the rainfly on my tent in the campground of Red Fleet. As the evening chill sets in, I pull closer to the fire and let its warm smoke wrap around me. When the fire dies, I wait in the darkness for my eyes to adjust. I hope to see some stars. Some of them have been shining since dilophosaurus passed through here.



Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | Re e f Walking, Pe trogly p hs a nd B on es

Much of Central Utah feels completely free-form. It is a place that invites both exploration and interpretation. It is a place where questions are many and answers are elusive. Yet there are exposed secrets everywhere. These secrets seem to unify my exploration from Nine Mile Canyon through the San Rafael Swell. Prehistoric cultures left messages on the walls of geologically fantastic places — places that today remain seldom trafficked by modern cultures. When it comes to interpreting the messages, in many ways, we can only guess. Drop back another 150 million years when inland seas swept across muddy plains, and a floodplain hardened into the most prolific source of dinosaur fossils on the continent: the Morrison Formation. Scientists cannot agree what the climate was like at the time. But paleontologists crack open the rock — scraping away limestone or splitting sheets of shale — and they reveal new passages from the Earth’s history. The rock does tell stories. THE WORLD’S DENSEST CONCENTRATION OF DINOSAUR BONES When I see the sign for Emery County, I pull off to the side of the road and draw in a deep breath. On visits to the area when my mom was young, her dad used to get out at the Emery County line and comment on the clean country air. So, grandpa, this one’s for you. Driving to the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry means following several miles of well-maintained, but unpaved, road due east of Central Utah’s Route 10. The road rises, falls and winds through the San Rafael Swell topography, continually shifting the panorama in the windshield except for the one constant: the endless sky that blankets the landscape, where cloud after cloud fades into the distance. In a storm, the smectitic soil soaks up the rain. That’s expansive clay. It pulls on the wheels of my car. The road, however, is rarely impassable this time of year. The Bureau of Land Management almost never closes the quarry unannounced. At the quarry, ruby red Claretcup cactus bloom in the desert soil alongside the familiar Castilleja, or Indian paintbrush. It is worth a moment to stand and scan the horizon. I do a 360. This is a colorful, wondrous place. Those are quarry steward Jessica Uglesich’s words. But it is also a rugged and less familiar part of the Colorado Plateau compared to its more celebrated peers in Southern Utah. The quarry asks its visitors to help solve the mystery. What brought so many dinosaurs to perish in this place? The landscape was very different back then, but I contemplate the neat parallel to today. Who comes here, and why? When I arrive, Jessica is running through the hypotheses with Richard and Deane Bunce of Berkeley, California. I ask what brought them to Cleveland-Lloyd.

Opening spread: Buckhorn Wash of the San Rafael Swell; Above: “The Big Buffalo” panel in Nine Mile Canyon

Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | Re e f Walking, Pe trogly p hs a nd B on es

“When we go to different areas we try to find out as much as we can about the history, whether it’s a city or out in the wild where we do a lot of backpacking,” says Deane. “Whatever is left that manifests some of the culture that used to be here.” Richard adds, “We’ve traveled around the world for as long as 15 months at a time. Southern Utah is one of the few places in the world that we keep coming back to.” Minutes later, Jim and Marion Cheatle of Nairobi, Kenya, arrive and Jessica engages Marion in the quarry’s scenarios before the couple set out to explore the museum, the Butler Buildings that protect the deposit, and the site’s hiking trails. It appears that ranchers discovered the site, but record keepers from that era’s paleontology didn’t capture the name. Clearly they were too excited to dig into the limestone, which seemed to have a tremendous number of fossils. It would turn out to be the world’s densest concentration of dinosaur bones. More than 12,000, so far. Michael Leschin is a geologist and paleontologist for the BLM Price Field Office. “We’re here to point out how amazing this deposit is. And the way we do that is presenting evidence. Nobody has to believe us, but science is a marvelous way to think. There are so many different avenues in science that all come to the same conclusions,” says Michael. That is not to say that stories don’t evolve. Cleveland-Lloyd’s own story has shifted from possible predator trap to swamp to some kind of toxicity. It’s best to ask the quarry stewards about it. “Paleontology changes by the week,” says Jessica. Her co-steward Nicole Stouffer nods in agreement. Books and academic papers discussing the latest in the field surround them. Says Michael, “Cleveland-Lloyd really reflects the evolution of paleontology as a science, from when simply coming back with good dinosaur bones was good

science to today when we’re photogrammetrically recording the dig and running geochemistry of the site as we do.” In other words, researchers deploy modern technology to get a much more complete picture of the paleoenvironment. It’s no longer just finding and taking objects. It’s deep understanding. The approach to paleontology echoes the Bunces’ — and my own — approach to travel. It gives me so much to think about when I set out hiking. THE SWELL SEASON The Wedge Overlook of the Little Grand Canyon kind of sneaks up on me. We drive east from Huntington until the well-marked turn to The Wedge. From there, it’s a winding six miles to the rim. At times, I get the sensation when looking out across the rolling plain of juniper, pine and desert that there’s something out there. Suddenly, we’re at the rim, with a few big rocks and a view 1,200 feet down to the San Rafael River. We’ve followed Lamar Guymon of San Rafael Country Adventures out to the rim, a place he’s been many, many times and holds sacred. (See “In a Sacred Place on page 32”) There’s no preparing for the view, but its effect is immediate. Lamar sums it up: “There’s nothing more peaceful than when you’re mad at the world, and usually everyone that lives in it, and you come out and sit on one of these points and just look and think and meditate and get all that hate out of your system. That poison. Then you can go back to life again.” There’s a wind off the canyon that carries a perceptible chill. It had been our intention to camp on the rim, but we decide it will be a little warmer down in Buckhorn Draw, more than

Top: Buckhorn Wash Rock Art Panel; Bottom: A dinosaur fossil from the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry



Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | Re e f Walking, Pe trogly p hs a nd B on es

Above: Ben & Myrna Mead at their Nine Mile Ranch

1,000 feet lower in elevation. The next day, we’ll work our way back up through the rock art and other interpretive sites. We opt for a signed, but primitive, site tucked into the rocks off the side of the road. It is nearing sunset so I get my tent set up then go about building a fire. The skies are clearing and there will be stars tonight. I am exhausted from the day exploring but know I’ll wake up in the pure darkness of the draw. Here’s the thing about the San Rafael Swell: Like so many travelers, I had driven down U.S. 6 toward Moab not knowing what was out here. I probably saw the San Rafael Reef, the easternmost edge of the San Rafael Swell, a half-dozen times. It’s not exactly a secret. Goblin Valley State Park is a well-known piece of the Swell’s landscape. The visitor log at the Buckhorn Wash Rock Art Panel contains pages and pages of names just from the first few months of the year. But there is a lot that people don’t see. Even on this trip Lamar sees an arch up on a ridge he’d never seen before because he was taking his time, and stopped in the exact right place. I would call Buckhorn Draw and The Wedge “An Introduction to the San Rafael Swell.” I think about what little I’ve seen as I hike a few miles around the Good Water Rim. The trail is lovingly blazed around the complex canyon. I imagine it from space looking like those classic fractals. I’m not sure I had any hatred in me when I arrived, but I sure am at peace right now. THE 46 MILES OF NINE MILE CANYON The Book Cliffs are a massive formation. The shale and sandstone escarpment stretches 200 miles from Price Canyon into neighboring Colorado. It forms a layer cake backdrop to the corridor from Helper, Price and Wellington and on down to Green River. Nine Mile Canyon is a natural conduit through the cliffs, and is famous for its well-preserved and abundant collection of prehistoric rock art.

It’s a beautiful road. Truly, the asphalt itself is in near-pristine condition, having only been paved in 2014. A convergence of industry and conservation finally brought about the improvement — and it is an improvement. Years of increased use saw dust and dust suppressants kicked up by traffic, blanketing the sensitive rock art. Nine Mile Ranch’s 77-year-old Ben Mead agrees. “Everyone said you get that road paved and the traffic will kill you. But it really hasn’t been much difference. It’s so much quieter now and with none of the dust and rattle you don’t even notice the traffic.” Mead purchased the ranch after working 22 years down in the valley for the Plateau Mining Company. At the time I catch up with him, he’s methodically building a stone chimney addition to their largest guest cabin. The cabin is one of three homesteads relocated from elsewhere in Nine Mile Canyon and carefully restored on-site. He has a kind, weathered face beneath his Stetson. I half-expect him to encourage me to figure out the one thing that brings me meaning in life. To find his wife, Myrna, Ben hops on a mountain bike and rides up the hill to where they’re clearing a field for a parking area in anticipation of their 20th anniversary celebration. We drop off our gear and head down canyon to see a small handful of the more than 1,000 catalogued sites. In the canyon, low-hanging clouds dance across the fir-lined hillside like smoke signals or a campfire. The rain activated the desert sage, filling the site with fresh, sweet aromatherapy. A few paces west, pinyon seeds litter the canyon floor from a stand of pines. When I walk, I stir up cottontail rabbits and grouse. Ravens reflect their squawks high up on the cliffside of the narrowing canyon, which is streaked with mineral deposits and dotted with dark green junipers. When I approach the Big Buffalo Panel about 45 miles up the canyon, grazing cows call loudly to each other as they convene in a nearby

Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | Re e f Walking, Pe trogly p hs a nd B on es


field. Their urgent mooing haunts the canyon as it bounces off the walls and fills the space like an amphitheater.


Reserve RV and campsites at Millsite and Huntington state parks or find lodging accommodations along U.S. 6 and S.R. 10 — but note that Price is the largest town in the area, at under 8,500 residents. I traveled with a cooler to keep provisions for the trip, but was still able to stop for warm meals — and a great cup of coffee — along the way. Learn more at

89 132










THINGS TO SEE San Rafael Swell or Nine Mile Canyon. There are no fees to enter. Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry is $5 for adults, free for children under age 16 and national park pass holders. Summer hours: Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday: 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Fall hours: Thurs.–Sat. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. WHAT’S NEARBY - Energy Loop: Huntington/Eccles Canyons Scenic Byway - Museum of the San Rafael Swell - Western Mining and Railroad Museum - Joe’s Valley - USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum For information about area OHV/ATV and other recreation, visit the Manti-La Sal National Forest Ferron Ranger District 115 West Canyon Road FOOD TO EAT Helper: - Happiness Within Coffee - Balance Rock Eatery




Around the corner, there is an interpretive sign at the Great Hunt Panel suggesting the panel represents an actual event. It raises questions. Was the hunt great? If so, to whom is the artist proclaiming its greatness? How long did it take to record this event? To carefully peck away at the soft, yet durable wall?

There’s a palpable human texture to Nine Mile Canyon. Humans have layered their existence on WEDGE OVERLOOK the rock walls and canyon floors. Waves of the 10 so-called Fremont Culture left their messages in stone and disappeared or were absorbed 70 into other indigenous groups about 1,000 years 70 ago. Maybe a people before them shook their heads at this new form of art. Early homesteaders settled and built lives. Here, the abandoned stone home where Ben Mead’s parents lived, expertly cobbled together. There, the remains of the ghost town Harper mark a once-thriving stagecoach stopover. Further along, only the stone chimney of a now vanished house remains. What family gathered at its hearth? I naively think of these as long-ago broken dreams. Maybe they’re just forgotten dreams, the way the memory slowly slips away, the longer you’ve been awake. Today, energy development and grazing are prominent. So many different lives and worldviews have passed through here. Meanwhile, Nine Mile Creek continues its patient erosion. Manti-La Sal National Forest


Something Lamar Guymon said about the San Rafael Swell is clanking around my mind. “Think about this: Everything in my house will disappear in a few years. A lot of things will crumble and go away. But this will never change. I mean, we’ll mess with it. Make roads and stuff in it. But the scenery will never change. All of what you’re looking at right there will more or less be the same a thousand years from now as it is right now.” He pauses for a moment. “I tell people this is the most beautiful place in the world, but then I go a few other places and see pictures and, well, there are a lot of beautiful places on this earth. This is just one of them.” Put it this way: Some of the most beautiful places in the world are right here in Central Utah. I can state that as fact.

Huntington: - Palenque Gourmet Mexican Grill SEASONALITY Late spring through fall for camping. Winter for snowmobiling and other snow sports. The San Rafael Swell roads are maintained gravel, but heavy rain can make them impassable. Visit during drier months. Winter snows and flash floods can inhibit travel in Nine Mile Canyon. TRAVELING WITH CHILDREN Children will love the dinosaur quarry, splashing in the reservoirs and exploring the wide-open landscapes. There are sheer drops on The Wedge Overlook. Always “Respect and Protect” when visiting sensitive petroglyph panels and historic sites.

Above: A dinosaur track in Buckhorn Draw



Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | Re e f Walking, Pe trogly p hs a nd B on es

Above: An overnight in the San Rafael Swell

L A M A R GU Y M ON A N D THE SA N R A FA EL S W ELL If you have a strong stomach, ask Lamar Guymon about the thick scar on his ankle and lower leg. The scar is a visible reminder from one of two times Lamar shed blood and nearly lost his life or limb thanks to a rugged and wondrous place he holds sacred: the San Rafael Swell. Put Lamar anywhere in the San Rafael Swell — anywhere in Emery County, really — and he’ll have a story to tell. The retired Emery County Sheriff has been visiting the Swell for 40, maybe 50 years, and continues to take every available opportunity to drop in. He now carries a license from the BLM to lead auto and biking tours. “I kind of try to live out here, but my wife makes me come home every night,” Lamar laughs gently. Lamar Guymon is a big fellow. Silky tufts of pure white hair slip from beneath his branded ballcap. He laughs easily. He is passionate about this place and loves to share it. “I don’t have any qualms about showing people what we have. It’s something that we all need to share, no matter what we do for a living. You tell me that this isn’t beautiful; that this isn’t something that you should be proud to show off rather than keep hidden.” Setting aside the gruesome story of the scar, the other time Lamar and the Swell clashed, he was riding on the Good Water Rim mountain bike trail and he made what he called “just a careless mistake.” Lamar’s tire caught a sandy patch of the trail. He pitched forward. As he stepped clear of the bike, he caught the handlebar with his foot, stumbled a few steps, grasped for safety but caught only air, and tumbled over the edge of the cliff. “I fell 40 feet face first, don’t know what happened after I hit the first time, but I woke up on the lip of the canyon.” He points to where the 30-or-so-degree angle of the canyon gives way to a precipitous drop. “I was stuck in a cedar tree. The only one that was there on the rim. God blessed me that day. I never had my butt kicked in my whole life until that day. It humbled me.” Even if you don’t book through his company, San Rafael Country Adventures, there’s a good chance you’ll run into Lamar, driving or biking around, handing out county maps and guides. Looking ahead, Lamar is working closely with the BLM to permit a system of new slickrock trails called Saucer Basin. And he continues to discover new, untapped adventure when out exploring the vast, untold lands of the San Rafael Swell. “To me, this is a sacred place. I get really offended when people mistreat it.”

Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | Nor th e rn Ad ve n tu re Ga teway Tow ns


GATE WAY TOW NS One of the best ways to extend your time in the great outdoors is to temporarily move your home base. Spending the night in a town that’s a gateway for adventure, or even getting closer and camping near the trailhead, ensures that at the end of an activity-rich day, you don’t have to worry about driving home. GARDEN CIT Y LOGAN



Just 34 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, Tooele sits on the western slopes of the Oquirrh Mountains. The city’s views of the mountains and of the Great Salt Lake are only the beginning. It’s a gateway to the “fastest place on earth,” the Bonneville Salt Flats, which is where land speed racing has occurred every year since 1914. If you’re not a racer, turn to the more than 125,000 acres of wilderness for camping, hiking and enjoying nature. The Deseret Peak Wilderness Area, in the Stansbury Mountain Range, includes Deseret Peak. From here, hikers get views of the Great Salt Lake and portions of the northern and southern Wasatch Front. The Cedar Mountain Wilderness Area is in the next mountain range west of the Stansbury Mountains and contains rounded hills and shallow canyons in an arid desert mountain landscape. Snorklers and scuba divers turn to the nearby Bonneville Seabase, a warm spring-fed “inland sea” stocked with tropical marine fish.

LO G A N A little more than 80 miles north of Salt Lake City, Logan is a great launching pad with an historic main drag and a vibrant, college-town feel. Fun mountain trails like the 20mile Old Ephraim lure mountain bikers to test their mettle on the terrain in Logan’s mountains and valleys, some of the very best of which lend their natural beauty to the Logan Canyon National Scenic Byway. Spelunkers flock to the caves in canyon areas near Logan and Bear Lake, like Minnetonka Cave with its nine rooms full of stalactites and stalagmites. Wind caves in Logan Canyon were carved in limestone from years of wind and water erosion, and they can be reached at the end of a 2-mile trail. Also in Logan Canyon is the Jardine Juniper Trail, which rewards hikers who climb through the forest to reach the gnarled 3,000-year-old Jardine Juniper. Those in search of trout find Logan River an ideal spot to fish, either alone, with a buddy, or with kids.

GARDEN CIT Y If you dream of the vivid blues of the Caribbean, Garden City’s location at the end of the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway and on the shores of Bear Lake will make you happy. Some call it the “Caribbean of the Rockies,” and many fans of the region prefer to stay in Garden City to spend more focused time with the beautiful scenery and enjoy a raspberry shake. The lake measures 20 miles long and 7 miles across, and straddles Utah’s northern border with Idaho. Here, with all the space, it can seem as if you have the lake all to yourself, whether you prefer swimming, waterskiing, jet skiing, sailing, speed boating, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), fishing, just dipping your toes in the water, or biking along the lake’s bike trail. Away from the lake, more than 100 miles of trails allow hikers, bikers and ATV fans to adventure to their hearts’ content.

HEBER CIT Y The beautiful Heber Valley is home to Heber City, which is a short drive from the Wasatch Front. Outdoor lovers head out on the trails in Wasatch Mountain State Park and the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway, whether on foot, a mountain bike’s two wheels or OHV. Road bikers shouldn’t despair, because there are plenty of places to go cycling on the area’s roads. In the summer and fall, outdoor recreational activities are abundant, from golfing to off-roading to fishing, hiking, cycling and even water sports. Snorkel, scuba dive, or even take a SUP yoga class in the Homestead Crater, a geothermal spring hidden within a 55-foot-tall, beehive-shaped limestone rock. Strawberry Reservoir is an optimal spot to fish for rainbow and cutthroat trout and kokanee salmon — it’s beloved by many, not just fishermen. The 12-mile Strawberry Narrows Trail is forested and scenic, with views through the trees and out over the reservoir.



Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | Ec hoes in th e C ave rn: A Hike to T im pa nog os C ave

IF YOU GO... DIRECTIONS The Timpanogos Cave National Monument visitor center is located at 2038 Alpine Loop Road. To get there from Salt Lake City, drive south on I-15 (or north on I-15 if you’re coming from Provo). Take exit 284 (Alpine-Highland) and head east for 10 miles on State Highway 92. FEES



Photo s by JAY DROWNS

You must have a ticket to tour the caves, which range from $4 to $8. Buy your tickets at well in advance because the scheduled tours sell out quickly. In addition to cave tours, Timpanogos Cave National Monument offers other activities and programs.

In American Fork Canyon, radio reception gets spotty so you turn it off. You’ve got to love that about the Wasatch Front: A few minutes’ driving and you’re practically in the wilderness. With windows down, the mountain air whips your hair. At the tollbooth, you tell the attendant that you’re visiting the cave, and you don’t have to pay the canyon fee. Up the winding canyon road, you park at the visitor center and refill your water bottle. You pick up your ticket and meet a ranger at the trailhead. She gives you a rundown of rules and safety protocol. There is an emphasis on falling rocks. Five minutes up the trail, large divots in the asphalt trail attest to the seriousness of the ranger’s warning.


The entire hike to the cave is a nonstop series of switchbacks. The paved trail’s lack of rocks, roots, and dirt creates a false sense of tameness — during the mile-and-a-half hike, you gain 1,100 feet of elevation. Even if strollers or bikes were allowed, only a maniac would bring one. It’s dry and hot. A bead of sweat rolls down between your shoulder blades. The promise of being underground, chilled to 45 degrees, lures you upward. Near the entrance to the cave, you run your hand over tiny fossilized shells and coral embedded in the smooth Deseret limestone cliff. It’s hard to imagine that at 6,730 feet above sea level, you’re standing on an ancient shoreline.

- Alpine Loop Scenic Drive - Sundance Mountain Resort - Provo Canyon - Heber Valley

The “LAST CHANCE!” sign on the restroom near the top is no joke. Take it seriously. WHAT’S NEARBY

You pull out your jacket, devour a protein bar, and chug some water — consuming food or drink in the cave is forbidden. Or caves, rather, since the tour navigates three caves in total. Inside the first one, Hansen Cave, the ranger checks for bats, but they’ve left for the season. Down the pathway the cool, damp air permeates your skin. The dank smell of earth is comforting. Light from the ranger’s headlamp cuts through a curtain of mist and lands on an unmoving waterfall of calcium carbonate cascading down the cave walls. Classic “water dripping in cave” sounds echo ahead, each drip and drop a different pitch. In the darkness the walls appear beige, but when the ranger puts her light up close to the wall, it glows bright green — it’s from a combination of nickel and aragonite deposits in the calcite. The footlights guide you onward into Middle Cave. Soon the walls close in and the ceiling vanishes. On each side, the limestone extends upward with only blackness in between. The ranger explains: We are inside a fault right now. You say aloud, “I’m walking inside a fault,” and it sounds crazy. You reach a heavy steel door with a glow-in-thedark doorknob. Through the door, you walk through a narrow, man-made tunnel, descending deeper into the mountain toward Timpanogos Cave. Inside, you discover a small pond enrobed in calcite stalactites and columns, its edge lined with wavy shelves — Hidden Lake. As you are led through the dark, twisting maze, you feel as if you’re in the guts of a great beast. The ranger stops before a large, glowing calcite form: the Heart of Timpanogos. You traverse through various chambers decorated with surreal formations, all of them formed by that same water that drips from the ceiling onto your glasses. The ranger reveals more secret glowing calcite: yellow from nickel, purple from manganese. Inside the next room — the Camel Room or Imagination Room — you feel like Gimli, surrounded by statues of his elders in an underground shrine. Time seems to pass much slower in here. Near the end, you contort your body over the handrail to squeeze past a massive calcite wall shining wet in the lamplight. When you finally exit the cave, the blast of heat and blinding light leaves you confused, blinking like an unearthed mole. You wish you could go back into the cave for just a little longer. Cave life is nice. Cave life is magical. On the way down the trail, the view through the canyon to the valley below makes you stop and stare. You take a quick photo even though you know it won’t look nearly as good as it does right now. You can’t believe that this place is so close to home.



Above: Page Westover’s mother, Paula Fugal, harvests at Snuck Farm

Words & Photo s by DAVID VOGEL

Returning to the surface of the Earth after a visit to Timpanogos Cave, I felt thankful for the plants, like an amazed child learning about the magic trick plants perform, turning sunshine into salad. It turns out that spending a few hours underground, admiring a mountain from the inside out makes you philosophical about the sun. On Mt. Timpanogos’s western bench, a few miles downhill from the cave in the sleepy town of Pleasant Grove, Utah, Snuck Farm is a perfect place to show your gratitude to the plants — by eating them. A modern hydroponic lettuce farm, Snuck is Page Westover’s solution to the problem of how to make the last of her family’s farm productive again. With only a small piece of the original farm left, she and her family embraced hydroponics because it can yield many times more produce than the same amount of space farmed with traditional methods. I secretly hoped that the name Snuck came from the sound of crunchy lettuce being chomped, but the mystery of the name was soon solved. The 3.5 acres where Westover’s greenhouses now stand are what remains of the farm established by her grandfather Boyd “Snuck” Fugal. The gleaming greenhouses pump out around 4,000 heads of lettuce each week, harvested with help from her parents, husband and kids, and they aren’t even close to their full capacity after one year in operation. With Adobe and Mountain Point Medical Center among their customers it seems that their motto “Eat well, Do Good” is starting to pay off — and you can tap into that well-being at the Downtown Salt Lake Farmers Market year-round. As impressive as the facility is, Page is a little sheepish showing it off. Clearly she won’t be satisfied until the community has embraced this place as part of their own legacy. To facilitate that, the family has constructed a beautiful new barn with chickens and goats who dispose of lettuce trimmings, and a teaching kitchen that hosts free cooking classes in partnership with Utah State University. School groups and Scout troops come to munch lettuce and learn the trick of growing greens without soil in the winter. Over the hill, east of Mt. Timpanogos, lies the Heber Valley and the little town of Midway. A wagon road up Provo Canyon made the Heber Valley accessible in 1858 and many of the current residents are descendants of Swiss immigrants who settled here in the 1860s and 70s. Among them is Grant Kohler of Heber Valley Artisan Cheese. His grandfather, Albert, purchased a small farm here with no running water or electricity in 1929, just in time to struggle through the Great Depression. At the time there

Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | Ea ting Up M t. T im pa nog os

IF YOU GO... Snuck Farm Check out their website for upcoming events or find them at the Downtown SLC Farmers Market this summer.

Alpine Loop A beautiful scenic drive connecting Utah Valley at American Fork Canyon to Provo Canyon. Road is typically open from May to October.

Heber Valley Cheese Check their calendar for cheese tastings and farmstand dates and store hours or order cheese online.

Provo Farmers Market A community market in the beautiful downtown Provo Pioneer Park that gathers farmers and artists of all kinds every Saturday, June through October.

Sundance A great place to stay or just visit, with a range of summer events, dining options and live music to round things out.

Swiss Days (2016 dates September 2, 3) Celebrates the Swiss pioneers who settled the Heber Valley, stunned by its similarity to their homeland.

OTHER REASONS TO VISIT: Timpanogos Cave Reach the other-worldly caverns of this national monument via a short, but strenuous 1.5-mile hike. (See page 34.)

Soldier Hollow Classic Sheepdog Championship (September 2–5) Shepherds and their amazing dogs come from around the world to Midway to compete in a display of human and dog cooperation. Homestead Crater Year-round hot water swimming and scuba diving in a geothermal caldera.

OTHER PLACES TO EAT: Pizzeria 712, Orem Maybe the best wood-fired pizza this side of the Mississippi, this restaurant has real commitment to local, organic ingredients. Communal, Provo Classy, not stuffy. Amazing seasonal farm-to-table fare in downtown Provo. Black Sheep Cafe, Provo Casual Navajo-Mexico fusion family restaurant. Timp Freeze, Midway Down home shakes and burgers on your way to wherever. Tarahumara, Midway Authentic Mexican fare on Main St. Midway.

were around 150 other dairy farms in the valley. Grant has evidently inherited Albert’s perseverance because this is the last dairy left. Grant and his son, Russ, are the farmers and cheesemakers here. Both were educated as engineers and it has taken all their ingenuity to keep the farm in the family and in Midway. Modern wisdom in a world of low milk prices dictates that farmers move to more affordable land and enlarge their operations to make the most of slim profit margins. Instead, the Kohlers have chosen to stay relatively small – their herd consists of around 150 Holstein-Friesian cows. Five years ago, they ventured into cheesemaking to add value to the milk rather than selling it off in bulk. By making award-winning cheese and offering raw milk directly to customers, the dairy is now thriving right where it belongs, giving new life to old-school wisdom and ensuring a place for new generations of Kohlers on the family farm. Smack in between Snuck and Heber Valley Cheese on the green flank of the mountain itself you’ll find the Sundance Resort. Drive past Timpanogos Cave and the Alpine Loop Road takes you from subterranean to the top of the world and then to this world-class spot for a taste of local food and a glass of wine. Robert Redford said the goal at Sundance was to “Develop very little and preserve a great deal,” a point of departure that’s something of an innovation in the world of resort development. Sundance on a summer afternoon is peaceful above all else. I felt a calm there that made me want to do nothing more than stare up at the mountain’s 12,000-foot peak and contemplate the ways that Sundance, Snuck Farm and Heber Valley Cheese are all devising new ways to keep old legacies alive.

Above: Grant & Russ of Heber Valley Artisan Cheese




Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | W inging It

I needed to see a pheasant. For a relatively common bird, often found among the golden waves of Utah’s agricultural grasslands, the ring-necked pheasant had so far eluded me at every turn. I’ve birded the places they’re known to inhabit — including the undeveloped areas west of Farmington and the surprisingly birdy Antelope Island State Park — but have come up empty. I didn’t expect to see a small flock of them wandering across the road on my way to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, but that was the first thing I saw and (after checking the pheasant off my life-list) the morning only got better from there. LET YOUR SOUL TAKE FLIGHT Situated at the junction of two of North America’s most-traveled migratory flyways, the Refuge is a magnet for birds — and for birders. Look to your right and watch a yellow-headed blackbird dart from the tip of a cattail into a midge swarm to catch its lunch. Look to the left, and you might see a pair of western grebes dance their mating steps across a pond as smooth as glass. Up ahead is a sea of white: it turns out to be thousands of American pelicans that have flown up and over the Promontory Mountains to find fish in the wetlands before flying back to their island nests on the Great Salt Lake. The best place to start is at the Refuge’s visitor’s center. Here, you can learn more about the Refuge’s unique wetlands ecosystem and borrow a field guide to identify the many species you’ll see out in the wild. You’ll discover that the power of this place lies in its location and fertility. Notice how much activity surrounds you. The Pacific and Central flyways diverge over northeastern Utah on the edge of the Great Basin which, for the next several hundred miles, is largely desert. For many species, the Refuge is a vital stopover before undertaking the next leg of a long journey — a journey that offers few chances for respite. More than 200 species of birds visit the Refuge

Opening spread: Snowy egret; Above: American avocet

Ut ah E x plorer ’s Guid e | W inging It

Clockwise from top left: Ring-necked pheasant; Great blue heron; Yellow-headed blackbird; Main Street, Brigham City; Cinnamon teals; Sandhill crane



annually to benefit from the fertile grounds. As the Bear River flows out of the mountains and toward its terminus at the Great Salt Lake, it brings nutrients and refreshment to the Refuge. It’s a great place to rest and recharge for animals that will fly several thousand miles in just a few months.

Sometimes you just need to slow life down a little. My wife, son and I needed a weekend getaway to relax and reset ourselves. We chose a visit to tranquil Brigham City, to get out of the valley and explore areas of Utah we’d never really been before. If you decide to go, here are some things to try.

The Refuge is a great place for the human species to rest and recharge as well. While the far edge of the publicly accessible area of the wetlands is only a few miles from civilization, it feels like the middle of nowhere in the very best way. This is nature — park the car, get out and experience it. Smell the earthy vegetal scent of a living wetland. Close your eyes and listen to the variety of calls, from geese to wrens to frogs.

Learn more at THINGS TO SEE Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge: 2155 W. Forest Street (5 mins from Brigham City) No fee for entry. Golden Spike National Historic Site: Golden Spike Rd., off Hwy. 83 (40 mins from Brigham City) $7/vehicle. Visitor Center: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.





ATK Rocket Garden: 9160 N. Hwy. 83 (30 mins from Brigham City)

OGDEN Great Salt Lake

Brigham City Museum of Art and History: 24 N. 300 W. Brigham City Tabernacle: 251 S Main St.









Bear Lake


Spiral Jetty: N. Rozel Flats Rd. W (ask for directions at Golden Spike). 30 mins from Golden Spike 70 mins from Brigham City

Feel what it’s like to be in a place that’s pulsating with natural life.





Utah’s Famous Fruitway: Fresh fruit stands along Highway 89 from Brigham City to Willard. (Summer/fall) FOOD TO EAT Maddox Ranch House: 1900 S. Highway 89 Peach Tree Shave Ice: 58 S. Main St. Bert’s Cafe & Grill: 89 S. Main St. Frozen Udder Ice Cream: 646 S. Main St. SEASONALITY Spring and Fall are the best months to see thousands of migrating birds at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Summer and Fall are the best times to peruse Fruitway (Highway 89 between Brigham City and Willard) for fresh local produce. The road to Spiral Jetty is maintained gravel, so it’s best to visit during drier months. TRAVELING WITH CHILDREN Most kids will find interesting things at any stop in the area. Nature lovers will love the Refuge. Science lovers will like ATK’s Rocket Garden. All kids will get a kick out of picking their own fruit along Fruitway.

Most people know Brigham City as the town you stop in for fruit on your way to Logan. But that does this quiet Utah town a serious disservice. Brigham City is rich with history just waiting to be discovered. The city was founded in the early 1850s by Mormon pioneers, and many buildings and artifacts from the time have survived. One of the best-preserved areas of Brigham City is Main Street. The feel of the town mixes the tactile weight of historic buildings with the youthfulness of funky shops and eateries. My wife found something she loved in nearly every boutique and antique shop we browsed, and we very nearly had to rent a U-Haul to bring home a certain turquoise desk she discovered.

Surprises like these abound on Main Street. Many of the downtown shops have little consignment areas, where local vendors can display and sell their wares, be they handmade clothing and soaps, essential oil blends, or knick-knacks and restored furniture pieces. Each little shop has its own feel and purpose. When taking in Main Street, consider making a first stop at Peach Tree Shave Ice for a treat to beat the heat. Tiger blood is their undisputed No. 1 flavor (because tiger blood is the best), with kid-favorite bubble gum coming in at No. 2. But don’t discount some of the more unique options — I tried fireball, which was like eating icy cinnamon fire. Sunday morning, we discovered Bert’s Cafe & Grill, which was one of the few nonchain eateries that was open. We’re sure glad we did. The nostalgia factor is high at Bert’s, which is basically the epitome of a small-town greasy spoon diner. It’s the kind of place where the people are friendly, the country gravy is plentiful and delicious, and you can’t help but clean your plate. GO WEST, YOUNG FAM! To get to Golden Spike National Historic Site, head west: The same direction traveled by the men of the Union Pacific Railroad as they laid track tirelessly toward a rendezvous with the Central Pacific Railroad. After tense negotiations to decide the meeting spot, the two groups finally came together on May 10, 1869 at Promontory, Utah, with the driving of the Golden Spike and the official opening of the First Transcontinental Railroad. The location of the meeting was in the middle of nowhere in 1869, and it remains remote to this day. Golden Spike is about 40 minutes from Brigham City, set amid rolling hills of grassland and sagebrush. The site celebrates the herculean efforts of the teams of men who laid thousands of miles of steel and lumber that finally connected the east and west coasts. In the warmer months, visitors can see a restored train from that expansionary era as it pulls up to the spot where the spike was driven. The video in the visitor’s center offers an excellent overview of the rail line’s construction. It really puts this

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massive undertaking into perspective. Out here, if you’re lucky, you can also find one of the vanishingly rare greater sage-grouse leks. On early spring mornings from February to April, the sage-grouse gather in large numbers as the males perform their intricate mating dance in hopes of impressing the opposite sex. The dance is reputed to be astonishing and one of the more elaborate avian displays in this hemisphere. However, despite numerous stops to scan tantalizing patches of bare earth and sagebrush, the greater sagegrouse remains unchecked on my life list. LAND MEETS ART Spiral Jetty is a public art installation or “Earth Art” that is miles away from any human habitation. The only regular viewers are the flocks of American white pelicans that gaze down on it from above. Every day, these birds fly from their nesting grounds on Gunnison Island in the Great Salt Lake and over the Promontory Mountains on their way to find food at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Humans who want to see the sculpture must go out of their way to do so, but it’s worth the trip. Created in 1970 by artist Robert Smithson and local laborers, Spiral Jetty is an enormous spiral of black basalt rock that extends from the shore and out into the lake. When in drought, the jetty is visible as a black spiral on a brilliant white salt plain; when it’s wet, the jetty is hidden beneath the lake’s saline waves. When we visited in early spring, the jetty coiled out like a rocky tentacle toward the lapping edge of the lake. We traced the spiral from tip to center, hopping from stone to stone, then walked across the dazzling bright salt flat to the water’s edge. After a quarter-mile journey, we finally reached the shore and the pillows of salt-foam that had built up along it after the previous day’s windstorms. I stood and stared out at the horizon, disoriented by the sight of clouds meeting water, unable to tell where one started and the other began. Smithson was reportedly interested in the concept of “entropy” when creating Spiral Jetty and over time, as the elements and returning tide weather away the sculpture, his vision will be realized. FOR THE LIFE LIST Back in Brigham, we grabbed some ice cream at the Frozen Udder and struck up a conversation with a local couple. We chatted for nearly an hour about the area, family activities and, of all things, the joys of raising chickens. (Thanks, new friends, for selling my wife on the idea!) They suggested a day trip to nearby Crystal Hot Springs for a dip in its rejuvenating mineral waters, and a hike past Mantua Reservoir, where the alpine flowers carpet the valleys. Those things will have to wait for our next visit — and there will definitely be a next visit: I saw my pheasant at the Refuge, now I’m looking for a bittern.

Northern harrier



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Above: Yellow-headed blackbird

R EFU GE BIOLO GIS T Steve Gooch: Why visit the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge (BRMBR)? Howard Browers: Visitors can experience the abundance and diversity of bird species that nest in and migrate through our area, as well as the available recreational opportunities such as birding and wildlife watching, wildlife photography, and hunting and fishing. Stop at the Wildlife Education Center to learn about the birds they may see on the 12-mile Auto Tour Loop west of the center. At the center, visitors may borrow binoculars and bird guides to enhance their visit. Special public educational events are held on selected Saturdays throughout the year. SG: When is the best time of year for people to visit the BRMBR? Why? HB: Anytime, as the bird community changes with the seasons. For example, bald eagles and rough-legged hawks do not nest on the refuge, but are common during the winter months. From March through early May is a great time to view thousands of ducks, geese, and swans as well as such species as White-faced ibis; American avocet; Black-necked stilt; Franklin’s gull; and Eared, Western, and Clark’s grebe. During late May through mid-July, spring migration is mostly over and resident birds are nesting. Recently hatched birds of many species are often seen during this time. From about mid-July through September the fall migration is occurring and thousands of shorebirds and waterbirds are again present as they journey south. The summer months can be challenging in some years as water can become scarce, especially during a year of low snowpack. SG: Why is the BRMBR important for Utah’s ecosystem? HB: The Refuge, as part of the Great Salt Lake, is a hemispherically important area for waterfowl, shorebirds and other waterbirds. The ecosystem supports large segments of the overall North American populations of many species during breeding and migration, including American avocet, Eared grebe, Marbled godwit, Snowy plover, White-faced ibis, and Wilson’s phalarope. The area hosts many bird species that stopover in spring to rest and feed during their migration to northerly breeding grounds such as Alaska and Canada. Many species that nest on the refuge or that stopover during their southern migration spend the winter in Mexico, and Central and South America. SG: Why are wetlands in general important? HB: Obviously, wetlands are important for wildlife habitat. Many species of birds, mammals and other wildlife depend on wetlands for all or portions of their life cycle. Wetlands can provide benefits to humans such as attenuation of flood waters, protection from storm surge, especially in coastal areas, filtering sediments and pollutants, providing food and fiber, and providing recreation opportunities such as bird watching, wildlife photography, canoeing, hunting and fishing.

NON-STOP FUN ALL SEASON LONG AT LAGOON! OVER 50 THRILLING RIDES AND ATTRACTIONS* – Lagoon’s newest ride, CANNIBAL is a state-of-the-art roller coaster that is the most exciting thrill ride in Lagoon history. Experience it only at Lagoon, along with all our other great rides and attractions! LAGOON A BEACH WATERPARK – The perfect place to cool off on a hot summer day! PIONEER VILLAGE – Step back in time and enjoy the tranquility of a living Pioneer Museum. MUSICAL ENTERTAINMENT – Lagoon’s talented performers offer family entertainment for you to enjoy all season. FRIGHTMARES – Celebrating 21 years of FRIGHTMARES, September 16 through October 30.

801- 451-8000 • *X-Venture Zone attractions are not included with Single Day Passport. Operating schedule subject to change without notice. Please see our website for times and dates.


Head east on scenic Sunnyside Avenue in Salt Lake City. Eventually you’ll find the State’s best wildlife viewing area. By far. Utah’s Hogle Zoo – complete with lion cubs, the new Creekside Play Area, daily programs, baby giraffe and orangutan, public summer giraffe feedings, Zoofari Express, kids classes and camps, carousel and more! For details, visit



Utah Explorer's Guide  

Utah Explorer's Guide - The Regions Issue 2016

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