Monday, August 31, 2009

Town #24: MT. CARMEL est. 1864

Just outside the east entrance to Zion National Park along highway 89 lies the small town of Mt. Carmel. Mt. Carmel was first settled in 1864, but it was abandoned during the Black Hawk War for safety reasons. The settlers came back in 1871 and moved in for good. It is named after the mountain near Jerusalem. The artist Maynard Dixon had his summer home in this sleepy little farming community.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Town #23: SPRINGDALE est. 1862

Just before you reach the west entrance of Zion National Park, you drive through the little town of Springdale. It has pretty much given up everything but tourism to survive. The town is full of hotels, restaurants and anything else that caters to the millions of tourists who travel to Zion every year. It isn't like it was in 1920 when Anne Widtsoe described it this way:
"I went for a ride down to Springdale, just at the mouth of the canyon. A quiet secluded spot where the inhabitants are years behind the times. Quaint store and little church with a bell, little gardens, they live and die and know no other life - many never having seen a railroad, etc. That is the life."

This little town does enjoy some the most gorgeous surroundings in the state. It just takes your breathe away.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Town #22: ROCKVILLE est. 1862

As the road follows the Virgin River east from the town of Virgin, you come to the town of Rockville. It was named after it's rocky soil. See here I am holding one of those rocks. It was easy to find. Rockville was almost called Adventure. I don't know why. Rockville managed to survive the problems with the Virgin River in its early settlement and is now, in my opinion, the cutest town on the way to Zion National Park.

Across an old steel bridge over the Virgin River from Rockville and a little further west is the ghost town of Grafton. Grafton was a settlement that did not survive the raging river. The settlers here kept having their farms and homes washed down river to Virgin until they just gave up. This is a picture of the adobe school/church in Grafton. Ten years ago it was in a lot worse shape, but since then, a preservation group has been slowly restoring the church and several homes in the town. They have even installed cameras to keep down the vandalism. They have done a great job. Grafton has been used as a background for several movies including Robert Redford's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. For more information on the restoration project go to Grafton also has a great pioneer cemetery.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Town #21: VIRGIN est. 1857

East of La Verkin is the little town of Virgin. It is named after the nearby Virgin River, but it was almost called Pocketville. We didn't know if this was an official town sign, but it was much more interesting than the little green sign on the outskirts. It was the first of several towns situated right nest to the Virgin River on the way to Zion National Park. All the towns along the river depended on the river in their early development, but the river, like an angry child, would occasionally throw a fit and have flash floods that would destroy half the farms. I think that the people of Virgin should have skipped the farms and just provided sacrificial victims for volcanoes, dragons and big hairy apes. Someone always needs a virgin.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Town #20: La Verkin est. 1898

One gets the feeling that La Verkin residents like their bridge. Their welcome sign is located just a few hundred feet and on the other side of the Hurricane sign. The sign is shaped just like the steel bridge that spans across the Virgin River just before entering the town. I took a picture of the bridge just to prove it. (See below.)

La Verkin is nestled between Hurricane to the south and Toquerville to the north. It's history is similar to Hurricane in that it wasn't settled until the settlers figured out how to bring water up from the Virgin River. There seems to be some question an how the town got it's name. If you are visiting Zion National Park from the west you have to go thru La Verkin, and that was our goal on this trip.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Town #19: HURRICANE est. 1906

Isn't it a little strange to have a town named after a tropical storm out here in the desert? The story goes that, in the 1860s, Erastus Snow was leading a team of surveyors in the area when he had the top of his buggy blown off in a gust wind. His comment, "Well, that was a Hurricane. We'll name this Hurricane Hill.", stuck to the place. For some reason the residents of Hurricane like to pronounce the town name "Her-ah-Kun". That always throws me off. The town wasn't established until 1906 because that is when it was finally figured out how to bring water up from the Virgin River to the plateau that Hurricane sits on. Like so many other towns around Utah, water was a major issue. Once it had water, though, Hurricane's farms were able to produce quite the crops, I guess, because it earned the nickname "The Fruit Basket of Southern Utah".

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Town #18: CEDAR CITY est. 1851

Out of the desert around Lund, we arrived at Cedar City. Cedar City is the largest city in Iron County. It was first established in 1851, when Henry Lunt led a group to the area to start an iron works. The residents worked on the iron works for a short time then turned their hands to agriculture instead. In the twentieth century, Cedar City became the hub of national park tourism.

Here is John talking to a statue of Henry Lunt on Main Street. There are several of these statues along Main Street of Cedar City's founding fathers. What an interesting way to help residents and tourists learn about local history.

I almost always have fun when I come to Cedar City. The Shakespeare Festival that takes place every summer at Southern Utah University is great entertainment. We couldn't go this year to any of the plays, but we did spend an evening watching the Green Show that is held on the lawn every evening for free. Even the kids enjoyed it. Huzzah!

Cedar Breaks National Monument is just up the road from Cedar City. That was a fun place for a quick hike and a picnic even though it turned cold and threatened to rain on us.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Town 17: LUND est. 1901

Lund is a strange place to purposefully take a side trip to, but we did. This is another former Utah town that we are not sure we should include on our list. We think someone must live out there since we heard a dog barking and saw some laundry hanging outside a trailer. I'm not sure about the establishment date, but it got its post office in 1901. The town was named after Robert Lund who was some 'bigwig' in the Union Pacific Railroad. The town wasn't ever much more than a glorified railroad stop. From 1917 to the late 1960s, this is where you would get off the train to see the national parks.

The Utah Parks Company would pick up vacationers here, put them on sightseeing buses and take them on a week long tour of Zion, Grand Canyon, and Bryce Canyon National Parks, along with a couple of smaller monuments. The buses would take them on this long lonely highway to Cedar City from Lund. Lund was also where the rail took a short turn to Cedar City.

We didn't find much left in Lund. The train station was torn down years ago. There are a few abandoned homes and stores left. It is hard to picture anyone wanting to live out here.

This was once a store. The town population was never very large, but it died completely when the railroad stopped using it as a stop.

In 1922, Lund experienced a freak flash flood which flooded the entire town. That is another hard thing to imagine while you are wandering this hot, dusty place.

While we were there, we heard a flap flap flap and saw a car pull up next to us with an extremely flat front passenger tire. The young man inside asked us if we had a cell phone he could use. Unfortunately, he had run into, probably, the last people in Utah to buy a cell phone. We were not any help to him. We couldn't even help him put a spare tire on because he was already using it on the back passenger side for the tire that went flat earlier that day. He was not having a good day.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Town #16: MINERSVILLE est. 1859

After eating lunch in Milford, we traveled southeast to Minersville. This little towns name comes from all the mining activity in the area when it was first settled. A storm was blowing in as we drove into town, and B was complaining about it being cold, which it wasn't really. It did rain on us while we filled up at the gas station. Thank you to those Minersville residents that helped us find a good road to Lund. You directions were much appreciated.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Town #15: MILFORD est. 1880

Keep traveling south from Deseret, and eventually you will run into Milford. Milford is surprisingly bigger than you would expect out here in the middle of nowhere. It is home to more than 1000 people. For awhile, it was the southernmost end of the railroad. The town serviced the mining and livestock in the area. The Union Pacific is still a big employer in town. It is nice to see a old railroad town that is still viable.

In town, the visitor information is housed in this old caboose sitting in the middle of a park. The kids liked going inside.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Towns #12, #13 and #14: ABRAHAM, SUTHERLAND & SUGARVILLE

We hit the jackpot of town signs just northwest of Delta. There is a cluster of small farming communities here making the desert blossom if not as a rose but as alfalfa. They are obviously proud of their ability to grow the stuff. Abraham started as a "church farm" that was land bought by a company of Salt Lake men such as Wilford Woodruff and George Q. Cannon in the late 1870s, but it soon broke up into a group of smaller farms. During World War II, the government bought up most of the farm land for the Japanese internment camp of Topaz. Sutherland was established in 1910. It was named after the U. S. Senator George Sutherland. Sugarville was established in 1911. It was named after the sugar beet factory that was there in its early years. It was also briefly called Alalfa and Omaha. There was also another community between Sutherland and Sugarville once called Woodrow that was named after President Woodrow Wilson.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Town #11: OAK CITY est. 1868

Oak City is a small farming town south of Leamington. It is situated at the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon. If I had to pick a little isolated town to live in this could be it. Oak City has a charm to it that appeals to me with its tree lined streets. The settlers of Deseret would come here in the summers to graze their flocks of sheep before the town was established. When it was settled, you could buy a lot for $2.50. The settlers wanted to call the town Oak Creek, but when they petitioned for a post office, the government called the post office the Oak City office. Eventually, the residents accepted the name change.

The town sign is placed in front of the cemetery. After taking a picture, our girls wanted to go into the cemetery to see one of the headstones. Several of John's ancestors were settlers of Oak City and are buried here. This is the grave of Eliza Partridge Lyman. It is nice to know that some of my cemetery wandering has worn off on them.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Town #10: LEAMINGTON est. 1871

Here we are in Millard County once again. This time we were visiting some of the towns that we missed on our first trip. Leamington is a small quiet community. The quiet was the first thing that I noticed. When I stepped out of our car, all I could here was crickets. It is a farming town, but there has been other industries such as charcoal production, lumber and a limestone quarry. Leamington is east of Lynndyl. It is named after a town on England.

This church in the middle of town was a treasure to find. The oldest part of the church was built in 1903, and it was used as a church until the mid 1980s when the town bought it and turned it into a museum. The museum is only open on Labor Day except by appointment. (Labor Day is the time that the town holds Leamerado Days.) I was disappointed, but what can you do? I would love to see the inside of this beautiful building. The plaque on the bell says that the bell cracked the third time it was rung. It was a gift from Millard County. I would be cautious about accepting gifts from the county after that.

We also found this truck with a rocket made of roofing tin. What is with that?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Town #9: Woodside est. 1881

On our way home from Arches National Park, we stopped at Woodside in Emery County. It is on the highway between Green River and Price. John and I debated whether this small spot should be counted on our list of Utah towns. We decided that if there was a green town sign or other welcome sign and at least one person lives there we could count it. Woodside just barely qualifies.

We think someone lives behind this fenced off gas station. It is the only building in sight. There are no trespassing signs all over. Maybe an ogre lives there. If this counts as a town, it is the least friendly town in Utah.

Somewhere beyond the fence is the old ghost town of Woodside that was settled in 1881. It was a farming community and a livestock loading station along the railroad. Later on it catered to tourists with a cafe, a museum and a geyser that would go off every 20 minutes.The geyser appeared when the railroad was drilling a well in the middle of town. The cafe burned down in 1970, and the geyser was plugged up with rocks and debris which someone had thrown into it.

Town #8: Moab est. 1878

Moab sits about one southeast of Green River along the Colorado River. It is the county seat of Grand County. The Old Spanish Trail crossed the Colorado River at this point. It was settled briefly in the 1850s, but the settlement was abandoned after some problems with the local Native Americans. Farmers came back in 1878 and started a thriving, if small, farming community. The population of Moab grew and fell along with the uranium boom of the Cold War era, and now it caters heavily to the tourists who come to experience the rocky grandeur around it. Arches and Canyonlands National Parks lie just beyond the borders of the town. The town's name hasn't always been popular with its residents, but I think it is a much better name than Uvadalia.

This mural was painted on the wall of a bike shop in Moab. The mountain bikers are common around Moab, but I don't think I have ever seen a gigantic spider in "them thar' hills". This E trying to look scared for the camera, but I think she looks more like she is trying to help the spider scare the bikers instead.

Here is the family by Delicate Arch in Arches National Park which is why we drove out here in the first place. Reproductions of this arch are all over Utah. If you look closely at the welcome to Moab sign, you can see it there. It isn't a very hard 1 1/2 mile hike to the arch, but you need to do it early in the morning because those rocks get hot really fast. We started at 7 in the morning, and the temperature was just about right. By the time we got back to the parking lot, around 10, it was getting really warm. The people just starting out were already sweating after a few hundred feet. It was worth all the driving to see that arch in person. Very impressive. The arch is also a good place to mingle with an international crowd.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Town #7: Green River est. 1876

We arrived late in Green River, but we knew right where we wanted to stay. The Sleepy Hollow Motel was built in the 1950s, but it has been kept in good condition. It is our favorite old motel in Eastern Utah. Green River started out as a ferry station to transport people across the Green River. (Yes, the river does look green.) Green River has been a farming town, a railroad town, a uranium mining town and a missile base town over the years. Now it mainly caters to the tourist industry. If you are heading west along I-70, it is the last stop for food and gas for 105 miles. It is also only an hour away from Arches National Park, and the motels are not nearly as expensive as those in Moab. Green River also produces yummy watermelons that you can buy at farmer's stands.

This is our favorite old building in Green River. It was the Midland Hotel in its heyday. A fellow out of Los Angeles bought it a few years back and is in the process of fixing it up. It looks pretty good. The old transcontential Midland Trail highway passed through Green River a little less than 100 years ago. It may have got its name from that.

Green River also houses the Wesley Powell Museum that celebrates the trip of Wesley Powell down the Green and Colorado Rivers and on thru the Grand Canyon. Did you know that Powell only had one arm? He lost an arm during the Civil War. The museum is great for anyone interested in western river travel history.

The only problem we have with Green River is the absolutely desolate landscape surrounding it. You feel like your traveling in a moonscape.