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!
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.
Buddy tip-toed into the water for a drink.
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.
We turned around and walked in the opposite direction and noticed people were out on the water in kayaks.
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).
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
Thirty seconds later the pavement ended and we were staring at a skinny dirt road going between farm fields.
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.
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.
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!
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Other back roads RV trips:
- Wisconsin’s Lake Superior Shoreline – Cute Towns & Great Sunsets!
- RVing Central Montana – Great Falls, Cool Coffee & Amish Buggies
- Montana Road Trip – Wildflowers, Bison, a Mission Church + Good Eats!
- RVing Wyoming – Lakes, Mountains and Waterfalls
- Wyoming Back Roads by RV – Rugged, Remote and Wild!
- Utah Back Roads – Lakeside RVing Near Salt Lake City
- A Back Roads RV Trip – AZ to NV to UT – Colorado River & Spanish Trail
- An Idaho Panhandle RV Trip on US-95: Sandpoint, Moscow & McCall
- Whitefish to Libby – Big Surprises on the Back Roads of Montana
- A Backcountry RV Roadtrip in SE Idaho – Quiet Splendor!
- Georgia’s Antebellum Trail – Milledgeville, Eatonton & Madison
- Into the Great Wide Open – Nevada to Oregon
More blog posts from Northern Utah:
- Bear Lake, Utah – A Turquoise Paradise in Snowy Mountains
- Utah Back Roads – Lakeside RVing Near Salt Lake City
- Escapod Teardrop Trailers – Rugged Campers for Off-Road Adventure!
- Strawberry Reservoir, Utah – Springtime Beauty with Ice & Snow!
- Dinosaur National Monument, UT – More than fossilized dinosaur bones!
- Vernal, UT – Colorful Gateway to Dinosaur National Monument
- Flaming Gorge Utah – Fiery canyons, a cool river, and nearly tame bighorn sheep
- Bear Lake, UT – The Caribbean of the Rockies
- Mirror Lake Scenic Byway Utah – Fishing and Fun!
- Provo Canyon & Alpine Loop Scenic Byways in Utah
- Logan Pass, Bear Lake, Mt. Nephi, & Cedar City, Utah
- Flaming Gorge Utah – Vibrant Hues
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