Utah – Off the Beaten Path…then FURTHER Off the Beaten Path!

June 2022 – When we pulled into Mantua, Utah, we suddenly realized we’d been here before. We hadn’t recognized the town’s name when we planned our route on the map, but as we looked around at the pretty lake and quaint homes, we instantly remembered the place. This time, however, everything was green and in bloom. Last time, the whole place had been a winter wonderland of snow!

At dawn, the sun was just cresting the mountains on the far side of the lake, spreading its rays across the land. How magnificent!

Mantua Reservoir in Utah at Sunrise

Mantua Reservoir at Sunrise

A four mile trail goes around the lake, and we took our cameras and Buddy for an early morning walk. The light was soft and the water was perfectly still. A few people were fishing at the water’s edge.

Fishing at Mantua Reservoir in Utah

A peaceful time to go fishing!

Mantua Reservoir in Utah at dawn

Morning light

Buddy tip-toed into the water for a drink.

Puppy tests the water at Mantua Reservoir in Utah

Buddy makes waves on the mirror smooth lake.

On the near shore, blooming yellow flowers turned their faces towards the sun. Across, the lake on the far shore, pretty houses beamed in the morning light.

Mantua Utah Reservoir flowers

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Mantua Reservoir Utah

View of the far shore across the lake.

We turned around and walked in the opposite direction and noticed people were out on the water in kayaks.

Kayaks on Mantua Reservoir Utah

Kayaks on the lake

The kayaks were being launched from a small beach where sunbathers lounged on beach towels and in beach chairs. This was classic summertime waterfront fun in a mile high mountain town. The spirit reminded us of McCall, Idaho (which is a much bigger town).

Mantua Reservoir Beach Utah

Mantua is a beach town in the mountains!

Mantua Reservoir Beach Utah

Summertime.

Suddenly a young boy rode up on a dirt bike. I’d noticed on the map that there are some trails that head up into the mountains on the east end of town.

Dirt Bike

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As we walked the trail along the water’s edge, we noticed a group of teenagers hanging out on docks. I was impressed that they were all talking and giggling together, and not one held a phone in their hands.

A little while later, we watched three little girls riding their bikes down the middle of the main drag trying to best each other riding no-handed. These were heartwarming scenes straight out of my own childhood!

Mantua Reservoir Boat Dock Utah

Teenagers being teenagers…without phones!

Something that wasn’t right out of my childhood was the sound of a sheep ba-a-a-a-ing nearby. Huh? I turned and spotted a young girl walking her sheep down the street. What next!

Girl walking her sheep in Utah

Taking the family sheep for a walk.

Over at the town park we found large fields of deep green grass. Buddy was in heaven as he rolled this way and that in the soft grass.

Puppy rubbing his face in the grass

Puppy rolls in the grass

Puppy grassy back scratch

We had rushed through the 75 mile long interstate nightmare of Salt Lake City at full speed, eyes closed (figuratively, of course). So, it felt great to unwind in such a peaceful small town where the population is not even 1,000 people. That same relaxed feeling continued as we carried on northwards on US-89 and Route 23.

The scenery was spectacular.

Back country highway in Utah

As we drove north, the views were fantastic.

Scenic mountains in Utah

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Snow capped mountains in Utah

Snow on the peaks!

We were headed for Idaho Falls, Idaho, but we didn’t want to rush on our way. So, we wandered off onto some smaller roads. We knew we were in a very small town when we saw the City Office was barely bigger than a phone booth.

City Office

Open…occasionally.

We also knew we were in a rural farming area when we saw the craziest high wheel tractor ever coming down the road towards us.

Tractor on the road in Utah

Yikes!

I had a route in mind that would take us to what looked to be very scenic and remote places, and I was juggling my trusty DeLorme Utah Atlas that never steers me wrong but doesn’t zoom in super close and my iPad which is great at zooming in but loses all the small roads completely when you zoom out.

It was hot in the lower elevation areas, though, and as I thought about our route, I didn’t like the idea of spending a day or two in an unreasonably hot place.

I spotted an intriguing looking small town backed by towering mountains out the window and impulsively said, “Let’s go there!” I was envisioning a friendly town with a grassy park to rest in for a moment while we collected our thoughts about where we were going and checked the weather forecast in various places.

Mark made the turn and off we went. I no longer had a real live route to follow in either the atlas book or the iPad, but I had a good solid imaginary route in my mind that would skirt the base of the mountains and be incredibly beautiful.

Heading into town in rural Utah

Maybe we’d find cool shade in town or cool temps in the mountains behind town!

We got to the center of town and I confidently said, “Turn right.”

Mark did as I requested and we passed some very pretty homes. An older gentleman was watering his stunningly colorful flower garden and we waved at him. He smiled and waved back but he had a puzzled look on his face as he watched our massive rig lumber past.

The road narrowed and Mark said, “Are you sure we’re going the right way? It looks like we’re driving into someone’s yard…or farm.”

“Oh yes,” I said with great confidence. “It goes right through!”

Small country lane in northern Utah

Are we going the right way?.

Thirty seconds later the pavement ended and we were staring at a skinny dirt road going between farm fields.

Dirt road in Utah farm fields

Oh no!

Lordy me. Now we faced an unknown amount of driving on a dirt road through farm fields to see if we could find a spot big enough to turn around a 33′ long fifth wheel trailer. Oh, great!

After about ten tense minutes of driving at 6 mph, we found a place just big enough to turn around by doing a twenty-point K turn. Putting the truck in forward and reverse a bunch of times, Mark eventually got the rig turned around and we slowly rolled back onto the paved road.

The man with the beautiful flower garden was no longer in his yard. He was probably watching us through the living room window, though, chuckling to himself about those crazy out-of-towners with the huge toy hauler that had no idea where they were going.

Utah barn and dirt road

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We continued on in an awkward silence. Who exactly had gotten us into that predicament? Didn’t she have both an atlas and an iPad in her lap? But all was forgotten when we looked up the road and spotted a procession coming towards us.

In the lead was a horse and carriage with two men in starched white shirts, black pants and long beards sitting up high in front driving a team of two horses. As they neared us, we saw that their carriage held a casket behind glass. The name “Nelson” was in the window. A line of cars with their headlights on followed behind them.

Funeral procession rural Utah

A horse-drawn hearse leading a funeral procession – WOW!

It’s not every day that you see a funeral procession any more. And I can’t say that we’ve ever seen one led by a horse-drawn hearse.

We pulled over and let the procession pass.

What a special moment this was out here in a very remote part of rural America, a place where narrow paved lanes turn to dirt and lead through farm fields without any advance warning.

We savored the moment and realized that this unique sighting was precisely why I’d suddenly gotten the impulse to abandon my carefully constructed itinerary and blindly head down a narrow road that went to who knows where. If we hadn’t gotten hosed up on the dirt road, we never would have seen the unusual funeral procession.

And so it goes on the roads less traveled, as we bump into beautiful things off the beaten path and then find more exotic things even further off the beaten path!

Scenic back road in Utah

The roads less traveled — preferably two lanes and paved!

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18 thoughts on “Utah – Off the Beaten Path…then FURTHER Off the Beaten Path!

  1. What gorgeous photos! Loved that post! Just wanted to say hi! We are home in Indiana. We spent last winter volunteering at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge near Alamo Texas, on the far southwest border close to Mexico. A wonderful place working with some great volunteers. We’re thinking of volunteering a little closer to home next winter, maybe Georgia or the Carolinas. We’ll stay in touch, Safe travels!

    • It’s so great to hear from you, Phil and Margaret! We’ve often heard that some of the best volunteer positions are at the National Wildlife Refuges, and working with kindred spirits that you like makes it even better. Happy trails to you next winter, whether you head to Georgia or the Carolinas!

  2. Better yet :”At least this will make a fun(ny) blog post!!”
    Loved the photos, especially Buddy rollicking in the grass !!!! He certainly does know how to have fun…

    Love, Mom

    • Buddy comes alive when he’s outside in a new place, and he definitely knows how to have fun. He knows how to get a good rest too, which he’s doing right now after a busy day of hiking and playing (actually, he’s opening one eye occasionally to see what I’m doing on the computer!). It’s a great life! xoxo

  3. Marvelous, absolutely marvelous! It is so good to hear from you guys again! You guys keep safe!
    In admiration,
    Dave & Sherry

  4. Making memories in a beautiful location!! If everything went perfectly, you wouldn’t remember the “turn-around” and that unusual funeral procession, oh and the sheep walk!! Keep exploring!! 🙂

  5. Rural USA has similarities no matter what state you are in and sometimes you will find yourself on that road which is REALLY less traveled. Reminds me of some of the “Shortcuts” I have taken over the years — also some of the dirt roads we traveled when we “just went out for a drive”. You captured the essence of rural life in both photographs and text. Thanks for the ride. Stewart

    • We’re so glad you joined us on this excursion, Stewart! We’ve ended up down “wrong” roads many times, but they usually turn out to be the “right” ones because something unexpected and special happens along the way. We do love returning to the hustle and bustle of busier places, but the serenity we find down the dirt roads and narrow lanes of our beautiful country is really refreshing and fulfilling!

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