It was a tight squeeze to get here…but oh, was it worth it!
Mark fixes a light fixture.
Mama duck & ducklings.
Seagulls fished every afternoon.
A hummingbird guards "his" feeder.
Little white pelican boats float past.
The easy way to walk your dog...
…the dog's gotta run to keep up!
Relaxing in the shade of the trailer...
Cows stop what they're doing to study us as we ride past.
An idyllic setting.
Red rock mountains encircle green farmland.
Happy rural living.
The Grass Valley Mercantile Company.
Inside the Mercantile.
These guys were 93 miles into a 250-mile daytrip.
Fish Lake Scenic Byway.
Fish Lake through the aspens.
A bike trail runs alongside the lake.
The deck of Fish Lake Lodge overlooks the lake.
A creative bannister on the deck stairs.
"Ooh - fish guts - Yuck!!"
The Old Spanish Trail...memorialized.
Fish Lake Scenic Byway.
Butterflies and moths were everywhere.
The Mormon Temple in Manti.
Liquor is sold only in special places.
Free the Five Wives!!
Koosharem and the Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah
Mid-June, 2012 - Searing heat chased us out of the brilliant red rocks of Capitol Reef National
Park, Utah, and we were glad to see the landscape cool to soft green rolling hills as we traveled
north. Searching for a scenic place to put the fifth wheel, we wriggled down a narrow dirt road,
squeezed the big rig between some very thick bushes, and finally emerged onto a perfect
shoreside spot on the edge of the Koosharem Reservoir. What a view!
Of course, taking a 52' long rig down a rutted dirt
road can wreak havoc inside
the trailer, and Mark had to JB
Weld one of the light fixtures
back together again.
What a beautiful contrast the
blues and greens of this place
were to the rugged red rock
cliffs of Capitol Reef just 50
miles south of us. Wildlife was
everywhere. Raucous seagulls
went fishing right outside our door
every morning and evening, and a
mother duck cruised by every sunset with her
brood in tow.
Hummingbirds discovered our feeder minutes
after we put it out, and one took up residence
on the derailleur cable of my bike, jealously
guarding the feeder from a distance.
Life was very relaxed on this little lake.
Cormorants would surface from fishing
underwater every so often, and in the late
afternoons the pelicans would float by like
little white boats.
Just as regularly, a neighboring RVer
would zoom past on his motorbike while
his dog bounded eagerly behind.
One afternoon we found a rabbit lounging in the trailer's shadow looking very much
like he owned the place.
The lake was surrounded by pastures filled
with cattle and sheep. When we rode our
bikes around the lake the cows all stopped
what they were doing and stared at us
intently as if they had never seen a bike
There was a peaceful serenity here.
One morning we headed over the hills to the towns of
Richfield and Koosharem. Red rocks revealed
themselves once again on our drive, and the valley
stretched like a vast green sea of farmland between the
We had been visiting national parks for the last month,
going from one tourist destination to the next. But this
was down home farm country. When we parked at the
supermarket it was quite a change to slide in between
two trailers, one carrying irrigation equipment and the
other one filled with sheep.
the slats of the
sheep trailer I
spotted a face that was fluffy and white with dark eyes but was definitely not a sheep.
"That's a Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog," the farmer said as he walked over to me.
"He lives with the sheep all the time and guards them." Sure enough, he looked very
contented in the trailer with all his sheep buddies surrounding him.
We got another
reminder of the rural
nature of this area
when we scanned
the magazine rack in
the supermarket and
front and center. It featured
an article on how best to
catch and hold a hen. All the
outdoorsy joys of rural living
were highlighted on this
magazine rack: right behind
Chickens were Hunting
Backwoodsman, Rifle's Varmint Magazine, Trophy Hunter, Bow & Arrow, Fly Rod & Reel,
Illustrated Horse Magazine and The New Pioneer.
Over in the tiny town of Koosharem, the Grass Valley Mercantile Company has been the local
variety store for eons. The mural on the outside of the building advertised "Never Rip
Overalls" by Scowcroft, a brand of pants we learned later were made in Utah in the early part
of the last century. They were known for their ruggedness right up until the last pair was
produced in 1937. There was a comforting air of antiquity here.
On our way into town
we had followed several
groups of cyclists,
including a pair on
recumbent bikes. We
caught up with
Katherine of the Salt
Lake Randonneurs at
Between gulps of V8
juice she explained that
she and her companion
were 93 miles into a 250 mile bike
ride that day. The kicker was that the
group of cyclists was doing all those
miles in just one day and night. Yikes!
Another day we drove the Fish Lake
Scenic Byway, one of Utah's many
beautiful highways and byways that are
officially (and rightfully) designated as
"scenic." This road weaves and curves
through pine tree studded hills and into
thick aspen groves.
A bike trail runs alongside the lake and
we found ourselves jumping on and off
our bikes to take in the views and check out the
Fish Lake Lodge is the centerpiece of the
Fish Lake community. It is a wonderful old
building made of logs and filled inside with
trophy heads, a cozy fireplace and a large
dining room that looks out over the lake.
We were there in summertime, but the fireplace looked like it
would be perfect for snowy winter evenings too.
Of course the main activity at
Fish Lake is fishing, and it
seemed everyone we saw was
carrying a fishing pole or a
A large family huddled around
one of the fish cleaning
stations near the Lodge, and
two men busily carved up the
day's catch. The kids watched
in fascination as one of the
men sliced open the belly of a
fish and then explained it was
a female as he pulled out a
fistful of eggs.
The Fish Lake Scenic Drive lived up to its billing and was very pretty. People have
traveled through this area for a long time. It was first inhabited by mammoth hunters
some 9,000 years ago, and part of the Old Spanish Trail, used by Utes and cowboys
alike, wanders along the western side of the lake. Out of the corner of our eyes we
both thought we spotted a train of horseback riders, but on second glance we saw it
was a memorial sculpture in the middle of a field commemorating the Utes and settlers
who traversed the Old Spanish Trail.
Notes from Kit Carson in
1848 described the shallow
streams in the area as
"swarming with fish." Using
just "an old bayonet
fastened to a stick" he
caught five dozen fish at sunrise in the icy water.
We didn't see quite such plentiful fish, but we found
the flower-strewn banks of the lake and streams
teeming with butterflies.
The rolling hills around Fish Lake got us thinking
about the bigger mountains up north, and we soon
packed up the rig and journeyed a little further down
the road. Utah is home to many devout Mormons,
and the temple in the small town of Manti was
quite a sight to see out the truck window.
The flip side of such piousness is that liquor is
rather hard to find. The small towns we
passed through didn't sell beer at the grocery
stores. To satisfy that kind of wayward vice
you had to go down to the gas station or to a
liquor outlet store.
We felt quite sinful when we ducked into one of these small outlets on the edge of
town, and we guiltily glanced over our shoulders to see if anyone was watching us as
we slipped through the door.
Another unusual side to the Mormons' straight-laced style of Christianity is the dubious
history these fine people have with polygamy. The practice was abandoned long ago
by mainstream Mormons, but the idea of it still raises eyebrows among non-Mormons
today. So it was with a slight smirk that we heard the story behind a t-shirt hanging on
the wall which showed five jailed women in vintage garb above the words. "Free the
Apparently a Utah distillery recently created a delicious new vodka which they named
"Five Wives Vodka." Its popularity soared when the distributors over in Idaho refused
to carry it because they found the name insulting to the faithful. This ban resulted in
an outcry among vodka lovers on both sides of the border. T-shirts demanding that
the Five Wives be let out of jail were printed up and they sold like mad. Naturally we
had to pick up a bottle of the stuff, as we have both really enjoyed the Wasatch
Brewing Company's beer called "Polygamy Porter" which, ironically, has always been
sold freely and never been banned anywhere!
Happily toasting Utah's incredible beauty, we left Koosharem in pursuit of the pretty
scenery and great bike rides found along the Scenic Byways of Provo Canyon and its Alpine Loop.