Bear Lake, UT – The Caribbean of the Rockies

Thistle at Sunset

Thistle at Sunset

Utah has happy barns!

Utah has happy barns!

Early July, 2012 – From the alpine forests of Utah’s Mirror Lake Scenic Byway we crossed the bottom corner of Wyoming and then emerged back in Utah at spectacular Bear Lake.

There’s something about Utah that always puts smiles on our faces.  And we aren’t alone.  Even the barns there are smiling.

The Caribbean of the Rockies

The Caribbean of the Rockies

Bear Lake lake is known as The Caribbean of the Rockies, and its vivid turquoise color is why.  As we looked out across the water at the jet skis and colorful catamarans flying past we had to wonder, is this Utah or are we back in Mexico in the Sea of Cortez again?

Sailing on Bear Lake

There is a campground at the south end of the lake with lots of sites that back up to the water.  It was fourth of July weekend and the place was packed.  Everywhere we looked we saw barbecues, boats on trailers, fishing gear, happy dads drinking beer, and kids running around in bathing suits.  From early morning, it seemed, the air was filled with the delicious aroma of grilling steaks.

Bear Lake Sunset

Bear Lake Sunset

One morning we took our bikes along the lake’s shore and discovered the coolest little trailer park.  It had been built long before the other bigger waterfront mansions began to take over along other parts of the shore, but it had been built in the most choice location.  Sitting high on a bluff, these tiny old single-wides had the best views of the lake.

Moonrise over Bear Lake

Moonrise over Bear Lake

Just 600 square feet or so inside, each one had a fantastic, sprawling deck that looked out over the lake, and it was clear from the elaborate patio setups that these folks spent summers outside on the deck!

We were at Bear Lake during the full moon, and it rose over the opposite shore each night, leaving a brilliant trail on the water.

Happy July 4th

We had been here once before, climbing over Logan Pass from the Salt Lake City area to  arrive at the western side of the lake.  This time we hung out at the south end.  It was only as we were leaving that we realized what a big lake this really is – probably 50 miles around the shoreline.

Continuing north along the border of Utah and Wyoming, our next stop was Afton, Wyoming.


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Mirror Lake Scenic Byway Utah – Fishing and Fun!

Early July, 2012 – After exploring the pretty Provo Canyon and Alpine Loop Scenic Byways we set our sights on another one of Utah’s beautiful drives, the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway.

This road climbs into the mountains on the way out of northern Utah, pausing at a spectacular summit
before plunging into southern Wyoming.

As it winds through the peaks it takes several sweeping curves between the many alpine lakes.

We parked the buggy in a nice secluded spot in the woods and soon discovered that the sound of rushing water we heard was a huge waterfall that was just a little ways down a narrow trail from the rig.  What a find!  Wildflowers were growing along the water’s edge, and we spent many happy hours among them, marveling at the endless flow of crashing water.

During our stay we hiked to several of the lakes in the area, finding each a little different and pretty in its own way.  The Byway’s namesake Mirror Lake was a hubbub of activity on the Sunday afternoon we visited.

Fishermen lined the banks and kids played on the shore.  The water was filled with floating craft of all kinds, from kayaks to inflatable boats, and despite the many people on the trails and in the water there was a serenity to this lake that was infinitely appealing.

We enjoyed a few blissful days in these alpine lakes and then made our way off the mountain to Evanston, Wyoming.

Criss-crossing the Utah and Wyoming state borders in this area, we continued north towards Utah’s beautiful Bear Lake.  The nickname for this lake is “The Caribbean of the Rockies” and we soon knew why.




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Provo Canyon & Alpine Loop Scenic Byways in Utah

Cows greet us in the morning in Thistle, Utah.

Cows greet us in the morning in

Thistle, Utah.

The Wood Hollow Fire creats an amazing sunset.

The Wood Hollow Fire

creates an amazing sunset.

Wood Hollow Fire Bridal Veil Falls, Provo Canyon, Utah.

Bridal Veil Falls, Provo

Canyon, Utah.

Bridal Veil Falls, Provo Canyon, Utah.

Bridal Veil Falls.

Bridal Veil Falls, Provo Canyon, Utah. South Fork Park, Provo Canyon, Utah. Provo Canyon is a great spot for cycling.

Provo Canyon is a great spot for cycling.

Heber Valley Railroad at Vivian Park.

Heber Valley Railroad.

Heber Valley Railroad at Vivian Park.

They said they like their jobs!

Provo River Parkway, Provo Canyon, Utah.

Provo River Parkway.

Provo River Parkway, Provo Canyon, Utah.

Provo River Parkway.

Cool bike rack.

Cool bike rack.

Waterlilies, Provo Canyon, Utah.


Water play.

Alpine Loop Scenic Bywa, Utah.

Alpine Loop Scenic Byway.

Chair lifts at Sundance Resort, Utah.

Chair lifts at Sundance.

Downhillers & their bikes get a ride up at Sundance Resort, Utah.

Downhillers & their bikes get a ride up.

Wildflowers, Sundance Resort, Utah. Flowers, Sundance Resort, Utah. Wildflowers on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway (American Fork), Utah. Wildflowers on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway (American Fork), Utah. On break from shoot-em-up birthday entertainment at Sundance Resort, Utah.

On break from shoot-em-up birthday


Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, Utah.

Another wildfire.

Wildflowers on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway (American Fork), Utah. Wildflowers on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway (American Fork), Utah. Cascade Spring on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, Utah.

Cascade Spring on the Alpine Loop

Scenic Byway.


Wildflowers on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway (American Fork), Utah. Wildflowers on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway (American Fork), Utah.

Provo Canyon Scenic Byway & Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, Utah

Late June, 2012 - We continued our travels north from Fish Lake, Utah with "scenic byways"

on our minds.  We had enjoyed many officially designated "scenic roads" in our travels this

season, and were ready for more -- and the Utah map seemed to be filled with them.  Little did

we know that the "Energy Loop" up Eccles Canyon from Fairview starts with an 8% climb for 8

non-stop miles on a skinny winding road with a steep drop off and no guardrail.

Oops!! The truck struggled mightily, Mark's

knuckles turned white, and I nervously

glanced at the map wondering when the

road would flatten out.  It never did.

At the 6 mile mark we finally spotted

a large pullout and we stopped to let

the truck catch its breath.  Another

truck towing a horse trailer stopped

with us for the same reason, and

the driver assured us there was

great boondocking up top, after just

a few more miles of 8% climbing.  It

sounded tempting, but before I

knew it Mark had headed the buggy straight downhill off

that mountain.  So much for that scenic drive!

At tiny Thistle, Utah, we got a visit at our trailer from a herd of

friendly cows the next morning.  By late afternoon a wildfire had

started in the distant mountains.  It made for a spectacular

sunset, but soon became a devastating blaze.  Within the next

few days it consumed nearly 75 square miles, killed a man, and

destroyed 52 homes.  We later learned it was caused by arcing

power lines that had been laid bare by a thief who stole the

protective copper wire from the poles, although officials said the

power surge was likely too great for even those protections, had

they been in place.

Moving north, we thought the Provo Canyon Scenic Byway looked

promising and ventured that way.  The road was under

construction, but the heavy traffic didn't detract one bit from lovely

Bridal Veil Falls.  Kids played in the pools at the bottom of the falls

while lovers embraced and posed for cameras part way up.  It looked

like a great spot to get engaged and start planning

for that wedding dress and bridal veil.

As we drove we noticed a paved bike path was

accompanying us, and the next day we took a

bike ride along the Provo River Parkway.  It starts

at Vivian Park, and just as we got onto the bike

trail the Heber Valley Railroad train showed up (check out the gorgeous photos at http://  It was on its daily excursion from Heber City, bringing tourists past the mountain/

lake views across Duck Creek Reservoir and through glacier carved Provo Canyon to Vivian Park.

The bike path winds

alongside Provo River

between towering

cliffs.  It is beautifully

constructed with three lanes,

allowing for two directions of

bike traffic and one lane of

foot traffic.

Despite being mid-week the

trail was quite busy all the

way to town.  When we got

into Provo we noticed a

clever bike-shaped bike

rack standing outside one

business.  Another

business had beautiful

landscaping with a huge

lilly pond right out front.  It

was filled with blooming

waterlilies of all colors.

Getting further into the city we

found the entire toddler set from

town was cooling off in the

fountains at the mall.  It was perfect

summertime fun.

As I mentioned, this area is ripe with scenic

drives, and our map highlighted the Alpine

Loop Scenic Byway forking off from Provo

Canyon.  This time we went without the trailer

in tow, and that was the right way to go.  The

road climbed and snaked towards snow-

capped peaks, passing by Robert Redford's

famous ski retreat, Sundance Resort.

What a thrill to see snow-capped mountains!

The snow wasn't thick like last year, we

were told, because of light snows over the

winter, but it was very pretty.  Families

packed themselves into the wide chair lifts

to the tops of the mountains, while downhill

bikers sent their bikes up ahead of them

and followed a few chairs behind.  Those

guys have guts -- the mountains were very


Wildflowers and landscaped flowers were

in bloom all over the place, and we

entertained ourselves for quite some time

taking photos of their smiling faces.

We hunted around for

"Bob" but he wasn't at his

resort that day.  However, one lucky fellow was celebrating his 70th

birthday by hosting his entire extended family for a long weekend of

fun and entertainment at Sundance.  We met up with two actors who

were on break between the birthday boy's afternoon and

evening entertainment shows. They were dressed to the

nines for a cowboy shoot-em-up.  Stepping out of character

for a few minutes, they told us they had lived and worked

around the resort for ages and had never gotten a glimpse of

"Bob" either.

Continuing on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, we

wound up and down on curvy roads through heavy

forests and out onto mountain ridges with wonderful

views.  Wildfires were engulfing all of the west, it

seemed, and another one burned in the distance.

A spur road took us to Cascade Springs where

thickets of wildflowers grew in clumps along the

peaceful banks of a brook.

The water was just too cool and clear to resist, and at

the end of our sweaty hike Mark commented that he

was going to get a bath in the stream.  Mid-laugh I

realized he wasn't joking as I watched him throwing cold

water over his head.

We had gotten a delicious taste of Utah's

alpine forests and snow-capped peaks.

Our next scenic drive along the

Mirror Lake Scenic Byway would take us to

Utah's alpine lakes.










































































Logan Pass, Bear Lake, Mt. Nephi, & Cedar City, Utah

Valley of a Thousand Haystacks, Montana.

Valley of a Thousand Haystacks, Montana.

Logan Pass Utah Logan Pass Utah

Rugged cliffs along the Logan Pass

Logan Pass Utah

Jagged peaks define the views of Logan Pass.

Limber Pine Natural Trail

Limber Pine Natural Trail

Limber Pine Natural Trail

2,560 year old Limber Pine

(or is it 560 years old?)

Limber Pine Natural Trail


Bear Lake UT

Sneak peak at Bear Lake

Bear Lake Utah

The view of Bear Lake opens up before us.

Bear Lake Utah

Shore of Bear Lake, Utah

Boating on Bear Lake Utah

Bear Lake Marina

Cache Valley Utah

Fresh raspberries in the Cache Valley.

Nebo Loop Scenic Drive Nephi Utah

Classic Utah rock formations line the road.

Nebo Loop Scenic Drive Nephi Utah

The Nebo Loop Scenic Byway.

Nebo Loop Scenic Drive Nephi Utah Devils Kitchen

Tiny Devil's Kitchen rock formation.

Nebo Loop Scenic Drive Nephi Utah Mt Nebo

A motorcycle rally greets us at Mt. Nebo

Nebo Loop Scenic Drive Nephi Utah Mt Nebo

It's great to be alive!

Nebo Loop Scenic Drive Nephi Utah Mt Nebo

The bikes roar off, and then silence.

Nebo Loop Scenic Drive Nephi Utah Mt Nebo

Nebo Scenic Loop Drive.

Cedar City Utah Balloon Festival

Cedar City Balloon Festival

Cedar City Bike Path

Bike path in Cedar City, UT

Cedar City Utah sunset

Sunset at Cedar City, UT

Logan Pass, Bear Lake, Mt. Nebo, & Cedar City, Utah

Mid-September, 2009 - We left Helmville, Montana and turned south,

with the ultimate destination of Las Vegas in mind.  On our way we

passed many wonderful sights.  First was the surprise of finding

ourselves in the Valley of a Thousand Haystacks.  All across the country

we have seen one farm field after another strewn with hay bales, and at

our friend Carl's ranch in Montana I had sat in a modern hay baler.  This

amazing machine transforms growing grasses into perfectly tied hay

bales, all at the push of a button.  As the driver sits in air conditioned

comfort, the electronic readout keeps him posted on the progress of each

bale as it is tied and wrapped and dropped off in the wake of the vehicle.

So I had forgotten that hay used to be stored in haystacks.  Yet here they

were, for miles, huge haystacks on either side of the road.

North of Salt

Lake City, Utah, we took a detour and packed a picnic for the gorgeous

scenic drive that crosses Logan Pass to Bear Lake.  This winding road

passes between towering, craggy cliffs.

Near the summit we hiked the short Limber Pine Nature Trail.

Following a soft path of pine needles, we came across a very old tree.

The sign at the start of the trail (and in the brochures of the area)

claimed this tree was 2,560 yeras old.  The trunk was thick and gnarled

and inviting, so we climbed up.  But the sign in front of the tree said it

was just 560 years old.  The sign hadn't simply lost a "2."  It was

actually printed that way.

Well, whether it germinated

during the rise of ancient Greece

or some 2,000 years later during the burgeoning the

Renaissance, it was a stately tree.

This hike gave us the first glimpse of Utah's

"Caribbean," the shores of Bear Lake.   Descending

on the road, the view of the lake expanded.

The water was a pretty shade, and there were boats

of all kinds bobbing in the marina.

As we crossed the Cache Valley on our return, we saw many farm

stands selling fresh raspberries.  What fun to stop and sample different

varieties.  One type was softer and sweeter, and another was lighter in color and firmer.

We thought we were being indulgent when we bought a large box, but the lady behind us

bought an entire flat!

Further south, we stopped for a few days in

Nephi, Utah and drove the scenic Mt. Nebo Loop.

This forty mile drive took us on another beautiful

winding road into the mountains.  Back in the land

of red rocks, we walked out into Devil's Kitchen, a

small gathering of bright orange hoodoos that

looks like it was lifted out of Bryce Canyon.

It was a Sunday, and when we pulled into the

large Mt. Nebo lookout area we could barely find

a place to park because it was teeming with

motorcycles.  A local motorcycle club was out on

a Sunday drive and they were taking a breather at this

stunning stop.  We wandered among the bikes and

chatted with the riders.  Riding a bike seemed to be the

best way to do this loop.  We saw a

cyclist too, but getting from 6,000 feet

at one end of this drive to over 9,000

feet in the middle seemed really

challenging, and the descents were

narrow and twisting.

Continuing our trek towards Las

Vegas, we stopped briefly in Cedar

City ("Festival City") as well.  We had

fallen in love with this town the

previous year when we arrived just in

time for the Western Rodeo Days

(see our experiences at What's it

Like?).  We missed that this year but

got to see some of the Balloon

Festival instead.

We took our bikes out on the paved

bike path and descended down into

the expansive farmlands where flat

roads wander between farm fields

seemingly forever.

A pretty sunset over the

strange lighthouse that

marks the southern end of

Cedar City capped off a nice,

though brief, jaunt down I-15

in Utah.  Las Vegas hung

just over the horizon.