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Gone, But Not Forgotten

Head west to discover lonely remnants of Utah’s past

By Kathleen Curry and Geoff Griffin

Why do we use the term “ghost town” to refer to what is really a collection of abandoned buildings in the middle of nowhere? Part of the answer lies in imagining the souls who once lived there. We call them ghost towns because, whether or not we believe in ghosts, we can still imagine the residents who lived there and feel a connection to their history.

To get a sense of Utah’s past, consider this itinerary that touches on several ghost towns mainly in Utah’s west desert.

Keep in mind that, for some of these towns, there may still be residents who live there. Use common sense and good manners.

Thursday Morning

SLC to Iosepa to Ophir

Head west out of Salt Lake on Interstate 80. In about 40 miles, take Exit 77, leading to State Route 196. From there, it’s 15 miles south to Iosepa Cemetery in Skull Valley.

Iosepa means “Joseph” in the native Hawaiian language, named in honor of Joseph F. Smith, one of the first Hawaiian missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as for his uncle, church prophet Joseph Smith. When these early converts came to Salt Lake City from Hawaii, however, they were not warmly received but rather discriminated against. So, in 1889, with the help of church leaders, a group of about 50 residents established a Polynesian colony in the west desert. Through farming and other enterprises, the colony gradually grew to more than 200 residents in the early 20th century.

In 1917, however, church leaders announced they would build a temple in Hawaii. Many Iosepa residents chose to return to the islands to support the temple building there, and it’s said the church offered to pay boat fare for those couldn’t afford it.

The town is all but gone, plowed under by subsequent ranchers. What remains is the graveyard pavilion and 88 or so well-tended graves. There’s even a bronze bust of a Polynesian warrior dedicated in 1989 by church President Gordon B. Hinckley during Iosepa’s centennial commemoration.

Each Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of descendants and members of Utah’s Polynesian community gather for a luau at the graveyard pavilion, paying homage to the Mormon pioneers who left the islands of their birth to settle in this inhospitable stretch of Utah desert.

They made the desert bloom by diverting five Stansbury mountain streams to create a pressurized irrigation system that included fire hydrants, remnants of which can still be seen. There is also a fish pond called Kanaka Lake, where it’s believed that carp planted by Hawaiians in the warm, brackish waters can still be seen. In the Stansbury Mountain foothills above the cemetery, explorers have found images scratched into rock of sea turtles, palm trees and island life.

The land is now private, belonging to Ensign Group, so be considerate while sightseeing. But do take time to appreciate the Aloha spirit, which blows on the wind.

After leaving Iosepa, continue south on UT-196 for 16 miles, then turn left onto Lincoln Highway. In about 6 miles, it becomes State Route 199 which you’ll travel for about 19 miles before joining up with State Route 73. Once on UT-73, continue east, where you’ll find no less than five historical mining towns within a few miles of each other. Ophir, Mercur, West Dip, Sunshine and Topliff were all associated with mining or smelting in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Thursday Night

Ophir to Eureka to Delta

After checking out one or more mining towns, head back the way you came on UT-73 to reach State Route 36. Head south for about 40 miles to meet up with U.S. Route 6 and drive toward Eureka.
The next “ghost” you will meet is Porter Rockwell, one of the most colorful characters in Utah history. Nicknamed “The Destroying Angel,” he was a bodyguard to both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Learn more about Rockwell and dig into a 100% range-fed bison burger or bison tenderloin at Porter’s Place (321 W. Main, Eureka, 435-433-2290,, a restaurant that was in Lehi for nearly 50 years before relocating in 2018. You’ll find historical items such as a bar built in 1881 and a 1912 clock designed for Hotel Utah. The menu also features ice cream sundaes and scones with honey butter.

After dinner, get back on U.S. 6 and drive 50 miles southwest to Delta, where you’ll find a number of national hotel chains, or if you’re looking for something local, try the Budget Motel (75 S. 350 East, Delta, 435-864-4533,

A view from West Center Street in Milford



Your first stop for the day is Zapata’s Mexican Restaurant (360 E. Main, Delta, 435-864-4777), where you can enjoy a breakfast burrito or a freshly made fruit smoothie—or why not both?
Delta is home to the Topaz Museum (55 W. Main, Delta 435-864-2514,, which sheds light on a grim settlement. From 1942-1945, the Topaz relocation camp, located about 16 miles northwest of Delta, housed more than 11,000 people of Japanese ancestry (for more on this, see p. 20)

Visit the museum, and consider taking a guided tour to see the Topaz Historic Site where the camp was located.


Delta to Milford

Leaving Delta, head south on to State Route 257 for 70 miles. When you come to the town of Milford, grab dinner at Station Restaurant (425 S. 100 West, Milford, 435-387-2804), also known as Joe Yee’s Station. While noted for their Chinese food, the Station also prepares a number of American dishes. This may be the only restaurant where you can pair chop suey with a chocolate-marshmallow milkshake.

After dinner, check in at Hudson Inn (485 S. 100 West, Milford, 435-387-2481,, a classic mid-20th-century motor inn that’s been updated with all the modern amenities.


Saturday Morning

Milford-Frisco-Gold Hill

In the morning, head west out of Milford on State Route 21. Just outside of town, stop for breakfast at Penny’s Diner (777 W. Utah-21, Milford, 435-387-5266), open 24/7. Order from their full breakfast menu, but since they advertise: “Your favorites served all day,” there’s no law against burgers for breakfast.

After leaving Penny’s, continue west for about 14 miles, and right along the highway, you’ll see the town of Frisco. In the late 19th century, Frisco had a population of more than 6,000, thanks to a nearby mine. While there are many remnants of the town, note that some areas are marked as private property.

In the public area, the sight of five beehive-shaped kilns used for smelting is visually arresting. If you’re hunting for ghosts, legend has it that a “Widow in White” still looks for her husband at night.

After visiting Frisco, continue 60 miles northwest toward Nevada on UT-21. Near Garrison, it intersects State Route 159, where you’ll turn right and head north. In about three hours (and 100 miles), you’ll arrive at the ghost town of Gold Hill in western Tooele County. Gold Hill reached its peak of over 3,000 people in 1917 when World War I created a huge demand for arsenic. When the fighting stopped, the arsenic market crashed. While Gold Hill is considered a ghost town, there are still homes in this unincorporated area that may be occupied at various times during the year.

Saturday Night

Gold Hill to Wendover

After visiting Gold Hill, it’s a one-hour drive across the state line to West Wendover, Nev. Continue northwest on Ibapah Road until it intersects with U.S. 93 Alternate. Head north to West Wendover, where you’ll find numerous casinos and hotels. To stay at a Peppermill property (Montego Bay, Peppermill and Rainbow, visit As for dinner, Pancho and Willie’s (Peppermill, 680 Wendover Blvd., West Wendover, Nev., 800-217-0049) has $3 margaritas at any time to go with grilled seafood served in a variety of traditional Mexican dishes.

Sunday Morning

Wendover to Lucin

For breakfast, it’s hard to beat the huevos rancheros at the Salt Flats Café (85 Skyhawk Dr., Wendover, UT, 435-665-7550) but you can also choose chorizo and eggs or biscuits and gravy. It’s a cash-only eatery, but you won’t need much in your wallet, because the prices are truly affordable.

When you’ve had your fill, travel west on Interstate 80 for 30 miles where it connects with Nevada Highway 233 that travels northeast toward the Utah border. The road turns into Utah State Route 30 at the state line.

Stay on it a few miles before turning right at Grouse Creek Road. Travel south about 6 miles to find the ghost town of Lucin. This former railroad town was abandoned in 1936. Not long after, a group of railroad employees moved back and raised their children before again leaving the town, which then sat vacant until 1997 when Ivo Zdarsky, an inventor originally from the Czech Republic, purchased the entire town and is still its lone resident.

Entering the area on UT-30, you’ll first see a clump of lush green trees, described by some as an “oasis in the desert,” about three miles to the south/southwest. A pipe originating in the Pilot Mountain Range supplies water to the area. Originally the ponds were reservoirs for the steam locomotives. The area is littered with remnants of its previous occupants and industries. Keep an eye out for birds of prey, antelope, migratory songbirds (more than 100 species), mice, rats and bats. Treasure hunters might find variscite, topaz and red beryl.

Environmental artwork by Nancy Holt known as the “Sun Tunnels,” completed in 1976, can be seen not far from Lucin.

Sunday Afternoon

Lucin to Corinne

From Lucin, head back up to UT-30 and follow it northwest as it runs just below the Idaho border. About 80 miles into the drive, you’ll merge onto Interstate 84, which runs southeast, then merges with Interstate 15 near Tremonton. Stay on I-15 until Exit 365 and travel west about 3 miles to the town of Corinne.

Founded in 1869 by non-LDS people who wanted a separate town from the predominant faith, the “Gentile Capital of Utah” eventually grew to more than 1,000 people but began to empty in 1877 after the Latter-day Saints built the narrow gauge Utah Northern Railroad from Ogden to Franklin, Idaho, which led to rail traffic bypassing Corinne.

Afterward, Corinne became a ghost town for decades until church members began moving in to farm the region; there are still 700 residents in the area today. Nevertheless, you can still find remnants from the original town, along with interpretive markers.

The Gentile spirit lives on in Corinne with a bar that’s open on Sundays. Mim’s Bar and Grill (4020 N. State Route 13, Corinne, 435-744-2206) may be the perfect place to grab a burger and beverage of your choice to end the trip.

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Ghost Busters

Spine-tingling ghost tours of supernatural delight

By Kathleen Curry and Geoff Griffin

Every October, it seems, we’re asked, “Do you believe in ghosts?” Even the most rational among us will sense a spike in blood pressure and adrenaline upon visiting a haunted house.

A journey to one of Utah’s many ghost towns (see “Gone But Not Forgotten,” p. 10) helps you connect with Utah’s colorful past. But to actually seek a paranormal experience, your best option is to take one of the many ghost tours available this autumn. Nothing can send a chill up your spine like hearing about a ghost who’s known to haunt the very place you’re standing in. Check out these options available in northern Utah.

Grimm Ghost Tours
(Tours leave from multiple locations, 801-508-4746,
In 2019, Grimm will add to its popular Salt Lake tours, with stops at the old Portland Cement Works, which is now the site of the Fear Factory ( haunted house.
On Monday nights from Oct. 1 to Oct. 29, Grimm will conduct one-hour tours of the haunted site, going back to its days as a manufacturing facility.

Other walking tours offered by Grimm include those of Fort Douglas Cemetery and a Salt Lake City Cemetery tour through the largest municipal cemetery in the United States, visiting the gravesites of legendary figures such as Porter Rockwell and the Sundance Kid. If you’d rather hop on a bus, try the Old Town or Outer Reaches tours, both of which take 90 minutes and visit numerous purportedly haunted spots around the city.

Story Tours in Salt Lake City and Ogden
(Tours leave from multiple locations, 801-888-8551, and
Story Tours has bus and walking tours available in both SLC and the “Hub City” of Ogden that Al Capone once declared was, “too rough of a town for me.” In Salt Lake City, there’s a walking tour that lets you stroll down historic Whiskey Street, or you can take a walk through the city cemetery. There is also a bus tour that explores various haunted grounds. In Ogden, there is a bus tour along with two walking tours of Historic 25th Street. One heads to the “Eerie East,” while the other explores the “Wicked West.”

Pedal Provo Ghost Tours
(Two different meeting locations in Provo, 385-312-0456,
Pedal Provo Ghost Tours claims to be the country’s only cycling ghost tour. Don’t worry if you don’t have a bike or don’t want to haul one to Provo; you can rent one from them for the tour. The nighttime tours and direct you to various haunted sites where guides explain who might be haunting the spot and why. There are two different versions of the tour, and since this is Utah County, you’ll get to hear about an LDS prophet who said that ghosts still haunt us, along with tales of ancient Nephites.

The Original Provo Utah Ghost Tour With Danny B. Stewart
This tour lets you explore Provo on foot with a guide whose LinkedIn profile includes tradition bearer, historian, educator, lecturer, entertainer, and, most importantly for this adventure, storyteller with knowledge of folklore, legends and myths.

Park City Ghost Tours
(415 Main St., Park City, 435-615-7673,
Work your way up and down Main Street in a town known for its skiing and film festival but which was once a Wild West mining town. The guides have collected and researched local ghost stories for more than a decade, sharing the best ones to get your imagination racing on a fall evening.

Logan Historic Downtown Ghost Tour
(64 E. Federal Ave.,
This tour, based in downtown Logan, is offering new locations and stories for the 2019 season. The two-hour, half-mile walking tour runs nightly on Fridays and Saturdays leading up to Halloween. Every guest gets a paranormal light stick. If you want to hunt ghosts past midnight, check out the “Other Realm” paranormal investigation tour that runs from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.

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The end of the line

Forces of nature have reduced Thistle to a memory

By Chris Vanocur

What happens when a ghost town gets ghosted? This question occurs to me while staring at the eerie remains of Thistle, Utah. Looking at a couple of sad and submerged buildings, I wonder how much longer will it be before even the ghosts are gone.

Thistle was once a smallish railroad town in Spanish Fork Canyon at the junction of U.S. highways 89 and 6. But in April 1983, after unusually heavy precipitation, a massive landslide dammed the Spanish Fork River, creating what became known as Thistle Lake, which submerged the town of 50 or so residents. These few remaining residents were forced to flee with haste.

The Utah Geological Survey website describes the slide’s massive disaster thusly:“The Thistle landslide and ‘Thistle Lake’ severed railroad service between Denver and Salt Lake City, flooded two major highways (U.S. 6 and U.S. 89), devastated the town of Thistle and resulted in Utah’s first presidential disaster declaration. Direct damage exceeded $200 million (in 1983 dollars), making Thistle the most expensive landslide to date in U.S. history.”

Now, the mental picture I have of a traditional Western ghost town comes from watching old black-and-white movies. These abandoned towns are supposed to have have a smattering of decaying yet noble buildings, a few tumbleweeds and a romanticized air of what used to be. But Thistle isn’t like that. There simply isn’t much gristle left there for visitors to chew on. While Google maps makes finding the Thistle area easy enough, it’s locating the ghosted buildings that’s tricky. A few waterlogged shacks are still visible, but beyond that, not much can be seen.

Eventually, I flag down a local who confirms “there’s not a lot left” of Thistle. Instead, he suggests I drive over to a nearby outlook which has a great view and a sign which tells the Thistle story. And while the outlook is pretty impressive, I am unable to find any sign or marker. Luckily, though, I have a friend who remembers Thistle quite well.

In 1983, Bob Loy was a standout TV reporter for KUTV News. Although many years have passed, his memories of covering the Thistle slide remain fresh.

In an email, my former colleague Loy recalls reporting from Thistle during the emergency, “Work had begun to compact the material that was blocking the Spanish Fork River—essentially the first steps toward creating what became the new dam. As water backed up, the big fear was that the dam might not hold and the town of Spanish Fork would be in grave danger.”

This was such a scary and monumental event, Loy (who now lives back East) has urged friends and Utah visitors to check out the old Thistle site, “I related the story of the landslide, dam and ultimate inundation of the town of Thistle and suggested they look for remnants of the ghost town when passing by the area.”

Sadly, though, little remain. After finding only a few Thistle throwbacks, I ended up at a nearby scenic but isolated campground. There, enjoying a PB&J picnic, I reflect on this ghosted ghost town and my old friend who covered its demise. In my last question to Loy, I asked how he has come to view Thistle? He replied: It could have been a lot worse.

“My perspective is that it’s too bad a small town was in the way of a geologic incident that destroyed the homes of its residents. I also still am struck by the ingenuity of literally going with the flow and engineering a stable, safe dam that probably saved the town of Spanish Fork. Had the engineering work not been done, I think the natural dam that was being formed by the slide would have eventually breached and caused mayhem downstream.”

To see how little is left of a washed-away Utah town, take Interstate 15 toward Spanish Fork, and from there, take Exit 261 to U.S. Route 6. After 11 miles, to see the landslide, turn right onto Spanish Fork River Park road. If you keep going 12½ miles (from I-15) and turn right into the pullout, you’ll have an excellent overview of the area. About a mile and a half after the pullout, you can turn right on to U.S. Route 89 and drive one and a half miles to what remains of Thistle’s ruins.

The 1983 landslide, after all, was massive—1,000 feet wide, 200 feet thick and over a mile long. Poor Thistle just happened to be in the way. The wrong town in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pitted against the forces of Mother Nature, Thistle really didn’t stand a ghost of chance.

Editor’s note: Since the story was written, Thistle again made the news in late July 2019. Flash flooding forced officials to close a 3-mile section of U.S. 89 between Thistle and Birdseye. The slides broke in the burn scar area of 2018’s Pole Creek Fire.

UDOT said in some areas 6 to 7 feet of water covered the road, leaving 2 feet of rocks and mud. The site that flooded was the same area that created the ghost town of Thistle.

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Strangers in a strange land

Learning the hard lessons of Topaz

by Rebecca Chavez-Houck

Exploring our state gives us the chance to reflect on human experiences that intertwine with history. One such place is the Topaz Museum (55 W. Main St., Delta, 435-864-2514,, as well as the site of the nearby Central Utah Relocation Center (Topaz Internment Camp).

Open daily (except Sundays and holidays) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the museum provides poignant and comprehensive exhibits filled with artifacts, story and art that lend a voice to the people who were brought to Topaz as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. It forced individuals of Japanese descent from their homes against their will, relocating them in internment camps throughout the United States.

The internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry during WWII was one of the worst violations of civil rights against citizens in the history of the United States. The government and the U.S. Army, falsely citing ‘military necessity,’ removed 120,000 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry—about two-thirds were American citizens—from their homes on the West Coast and forced them into 10 remote camps controlled by the War Relocation Administration (WRA).

The not-to-be-missed museum is well worth a trip to Delta. It’s also a great stop if you’re traveling U.S. Route 50 en route to Great Basin National Park.

We were fortunate to be guided by museum director Jane Beckwith, who was a driving force in establishing the museum and preserving the site. Beginning in 1910, Beckwith’s grandfather, Frank A. Beckwith, and then subsequently, her father, Frank S. Beckwith, were publishers of the local newspaper, the Millard County Chronicle, so recounting the time and places of the community is a legacy she takes very seriously. Without photos and other documentation, it would be hard to imagine what 42 blocks of barracks surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers looked like. The museum brings to life internee stories and shows how they persevered, despite what the U.S. government did to them.

Plan to spend a minimum of two hours at the museum and watch the two short films about Topaz before exploring the exhibits. These chronicle what precipitated the executive order and how families coped. A searchable database gives information about all of the internees that’s comprehensive and eye-opening. Your walk through the museum concludes with information about court cases and changes in policy that followed as a result of this dark time in our nation’s history.

Internees were supplied with cots, mattresses and blankets. All furniture pieces, including this Butsudan, were made at Topaz from scrap wood

Sad Reminders

The Topaz camp—located between 10000 to 11000 West and 4500 North in Delta—is a National Historic Landmark. It officially opened on Sept.11, 1942, and closed on Oct. 31, 1945. Some 11,000 Japanese Americans were brought to Topaz, making it Utah’s fifth largest city at the time. It was named after nearby Topaz Mountain.

To see the actual relocation center site, we recommend a visit to the museum first as it provides helpful context plus informational flyers to guide you.

You can arrange for a docent-led drive out to the internment site if you contact the museum in advance. While the site does have signage that you can read for yourself, the docents can point out interesting elements that you’d likely not spot otherwise. Beckwith showed my husband, Martin, and me (and a group of Weber State University students who caravanned with us) where barracks were located that housed not only families but schools, mess halls, latrines, recreation halls and churches. You can see monuments, building foundations, roads and walkways, agricultural buildings, perimeter fencing and landscaping. She pointed out small artifacts that remain at the site: a button, a piece of porcelain, charred coal from the pot-belled stoves that warmed the barracks.

Visiting the relocation center highlights the isolation and challenges that the internees faced: the extreme heat of the summers, the cold of Utah winters, and the dust that pervaded every nook and cranny.

A marker at Topaz Internment Camp

Travel Tips

In order to arrive at the museum when it opened, we spent the preceding night at the Antelope Valley RV Park (776 W. U.S. 6/50, Delta, 435-864-1813, With full hookups, a laundry facility and showers, this RV park is well landscaped and situated by a large alfalfa field (Delta is known for its high-quality alfalfa). We enjoyed a beautiful sunset there before calling it a night.

The most direct route to Delta is to take Interstate 15 from Salt Lake south to Nephi (Exit 225), then travel west on State Route 132 to where it connects with U.S. 50, which takes you into Delta. However, we followed a less-traveled route out of Salt Lake County, traveling State Route 68 (Redwood Road in Salt Lake County) south along the west side of Utah Lake. The lakeside scenery and view of the Wasatch Range along this route are breathtaking. SR-68 ends at U.S. 6, which we traveled southwest as it snaked through Eureka (another great historical stop) and past the turnoff to Little Sahara Recreation Area (approximately 23 miles south of Eureka on U.S. 6, 435-433-5960,, another possible camping option close to Delta. Little Sahara offers primitive campgrounds, but those with RVs should know that navigating the sandy sites can be problematic, so it’s best to thoroughly research the area before attempting to access the campground.

For a more primitive camping experience, consider the Oak Creek Campground (about 18 miles east of Delta, 1-877-444-6777, located within the Fishlake National Forest. To get here, travel east out of Delta on U.S. 50 until it becomes State Route 125. Starting at Oak City, travel east on Center Street 4 ¼ miles to the campground.

Before we set up camp in Delta, we grabbed a burger at the Ashton Burger Barn (304 N. U.S. 6, Delta, 435-864-2288), with numerous burger options and a wide array of meat cuts in their butcher shop (including rattlesnake and rabbit sausage that my husband couldn’t help but bring home. I told him they were all for him!).

For breakfast the next morning, we stopped for biscuits and gravy at the Rancher Motel & Café (171 W. Main, Delta, 435-864-2741)—all reasonably priced diner fare—and then walked one block east to the museum.

The ghosts of Utah’s past are not always departed souls who lived here long ago. Ghosts can also be phantoms of harmful decisions we’ve made as a society. We are haunted by the notion that our leaders can be driven by fear to oppress or hurt others for no other reason than they are a different race, nationality, creed, sexual orientation, etc. A visit to Topaz brings to light how fear can manifest to the detriment of all. It’s something we need to remember to avoid going down this same road now and in the future.

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Meaty Matters

Never take the bounty on your table for granted

By Ari LeVaux

One burger per week. That is all you get, if you want to stay healthy and avert climate catastrophe, according to a recent study in the medical journal The Lancet. That’s roughly a 90 percent reduction from what most Americans eat.

When the study dropped, I was out hunting. I returned home exhausted, with more than a thousand weekly servings of delicious, climate-friendly elk from the high country of Montana and saw The Lancet report on the evils of meat.

Much of what the study had to say about red meat did not apply to my elk, but rather cattle, which burp methane and consume nutrient-rich foods like corn and soy, which have carbon footprints of their own.

Despite wild-game exceptions like mine, the environmental case against red meat is compelling. If everyone on the planet ate as much as they wanted, the carbon emissions would be staggering.
Sure, a certain amount of cattle on the landscape, and in our agriculture system, are welcome. Without animal products like manure, bone meal and blood meal, organic agriculture as we know it could not exist. Grass-fed cattle operations can be climate-friendly, but there isn’t enough acreage to satisfy the planet’s “beef tooth” on grass-fed animals alone.

The climate case against red meat is tough to dispute. But the human health case, on the other hand, looks tailored to support the climate case.

There is no scientific consensus about how much is too much red meat. Processed meats are strongly linked to cardiac disease, type-2 diabetes and some cancers, but those correlations have not been shown for pure, unprocessed meat.

Bundling the health/nutrition argument into the same package as the climate argument makes it appear as though the climate research is steering the nutrition conclusions, at the expense of some much-needed nuance in the meat space.

There are, in fact, important examples of plant-based foods being more disruptive than animal products. Chicken, pork and canned tuna all have lower carbon footprints, per calorie, than tomatoes and broccoli.

A healthy diet doesn’t require it, but if red meat is what your body craves, and you want to eat more than your share, then maybe you should be a hunter. At the very least, you should be OK with spending good money on good meat.

One thing you can’t buy is your innocence in the death of an animal. One way or another, every meat eater is party to a kill. A hunter knows the details, for better or worse.

The elk I’d shot was a mother. After she dropped, the herd ran off, but her calf lingered. As I approached, the calf lumbered off, not looking back, in the opposite direction that the herd had gone.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that calf, hoping it survived the night and found another herd. But as sad as my elk-hunting story is, I wouldn’t trade it for the stories of any meat that’s available in stores.

Whatever the provenance of yours, the more thought you can put into your meat, the better. Whether it’s hunted or purchased, don’t take for granted that an animal gave its life for your meal. Celebrate that meat in every bite.

When I butcher my animals, I use a special technique to inspect for flavor and tenderness. This recipe allows for no distractions. No baked potato, no salad bar. The only permitted vegetables are garlic, hot sauce and wine grapes.

Wine, sipped while chewing, is an essential part of eating red meat, and functions as both condiment and beverage. Wine also lubes the celebration, even if it’s only a party of one. The sweet buzz dulls the heartache of your crime and washes down its delicious justification.

Flesh in the Pan

This recipe is to be used with the highest quality meat you can find. Where I live, there are several purveyors of delicious and tender local grass-fed beef. It should be a tender cut, such as rib eye or tenderloin. And it should be as thick as possible. The ideal cut is as thick as it is wide.

The essential technique is to slowly pan fry the meat, and to monitor its state of doneness by cutting it into progressively smaller pieces, at a pace that will produce perfectly cooked bite-sized chunks. It can also be done under the broiler.

The cutting happens in the pan, assuming you have cast-iron. If not, transfer the meat to a cutting board each time you cut it. A good cast iron pan costs about as much as a pound of good meat. You won’t regret having one.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound of red meat
1 garlic clove, pressed, minced or mashed
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Red wine


Rub the meat in olive oil and then the salt, pepper and garlic powder. Add it to the pan, with a tablespoon of olive oil, and heat on medium. When the meat starts to brown (about 3 minutes), turn it onto a different edge.

When all sides are browned, cut the meat in half, and inspect. The middle should still be raw. Place the cut sides down on the hot pan. Add the garlic. After another two or so minutes, cut the halves in half and inspect again.

Continue cooking, cutting and inspecting until you have bite-sized chunks that are done perfectly to your liking, be that raw and red, medium pink or brown and done.

Wash down the meat with wine and gratitude. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse repeatedly.

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Zipper It

How Hand Out Gloves has answered the call for functional gloves

By Nicole McNulty

It’s a blower powder day and, on the lift, you yank off your mitten and shove it under your leg while you snap a photo to brag about to your friends. You reach back for your mitten just in time to see it slide off the chair and fall into the cliffed-out area below. Most of us have been there. In comes a company with an innovative solution that provides not only utility but freedom from the confines of the mitten: Hand Out Gloves.

The crux of Hand Out is a patented innovative zipper technology that allows all five digits to exit the backside of the mitten or glove with ease. Founded in 2013 by CEO Jake Sullivan and his then-business partner, Don Wildman, founder of what is now Bally’s Fitness, the company began delivering product in 2014. Wildman, who was Sullivan’s mentor and friend, died in September 2018 at the age of 85. But in his later years, he approached Sullivan with a challenge: to successfully rebrand a now-defunct glove company that utilized amazing technology. While working other jobs, they rebranded the product as Hand Out Gloves and in 2014, Sullivan took over full-time. Now headed by Sullivan and CFO Jonny Murdock, the company has come a long ways from slinging product in the Brighton parking lot.

You may recognize the name: The company was featured on the TV show Shark Tank in 2016. On air, they took a deal with one of the sharks, but in the end, it didn’t work out.

Murdock insists the Shark Tank experience was a marketing success. The same year as they appeared on the business-themed reality show, they got their product into REI. Those two events in the same year really launched the brand, Murdock says.

When Sullivan was a junior high student, he recalls mowing lawns and packaging orders for the owner of Celtek Gloves. Sullivan, who attended Skyline High School and then took a few classes at SLCC, subsequently found work in the snow industry, ultimately taking a position at Black Diamond.

Murdock, meanwhile, grew up skiing and snowboarding, attended Brighton High School and received a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Utah. He credits the success of the rebranded company to two things: timing and smartphones. Ten years prior, Murdock says, they were consumers of the initial brand and saw the need for this technology. Murdock, who previously worked in merchandise planning at, along with Sullivan, understood that in the age of smartphones, you need your thumbs free to utilize the one-stop shop of your smartphone. “[Smartphones are] just so functional,” Sullivan says, “there’s no going back.”

Though they entered a heavily saturated snow market, their product is unique in that it provides a simple solution to an almost universal problem, Murdock says. They immediately pursued a patent and were able to “gain market space and no one has been able to catch up,” Murdock says.

Hand Out Gloves make it easy to work outside

Ultimately, what sets Hand Out apart is the combination of quality—which matches or surpasses that of competitors, the digestible price point, the highly functional zipper technology and their responsiveness to the needs of the consumer. For instance, after customer requests, 2020’s Pro Model glove will include a pass pocket so electronic scanning is a breeze.

Sullivan and Murdock, as Utah natives, felt it made sense to base their brand here. From access to the mountains and other recreational spaces to the fact that other successful brands call Salt Lake Valley home, the location is ideal. For the first couple of years, they were based in Sullivan’s home, but for the past five, they have worked out of a Sandy warehouse with no plans to slow down. This year, they’re coming out with low-cuff models in addition to the standard long-cuff and will be adding colors.

But they’re not limiting themselves to snow: last year, they launched their Fish line, a neoprene waterproof glove that not only allows users to manage flies but to handle the fish barehanded so as to not harm them with abrasive material. This fall, they will launch the Hunt line, which features technical hunting gloves with an all-the-way-around zipper that gets the glove out of the way of the weapon along with a thin, sensitive trigger finger. Both lines were designed by two interns from Utah State University’s Outdoor Products Design and Development program.

Moving forward, they’ll continue to contract out design work. With their patent awarded in October 2018, they’re setting their sights on licensing with the goal of making forays into both construction and tactical industries.

As Sullivan now sits on the board of directors for SnowSports Industries America (SIA), a nonprofit trade association representing the snow sports industry, he’s optimistic about the potential for collaboration and licensing. Even still, Sullivan hopes that other outdoor segments can help them grow the brand.

Though snow will always be the core of the brand, developing products for hunting, fishing and other pursuits will help Hand Out Gloves customers live their motto: “Do what you want!”

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Solitude and Stars

Cisco’s casual re-emergence as an artists’ haunt in the desert

By Jared Blackley

Located on the barren, windswept desert plains 45 miles northeast of Moab—just off Interstate 70 between Crescent Junction and Grand Junction, Colo.—the ghost town of Cisco has seen its share of boom and bust since its founding in 1883. But by the time Eileen Muza pulled into town in 2015, it was a graveyard of abandoned cars and RVs. Most of the buildings had collapsed or were in an advanced state of decay, leaning this way or that. Almost all had been tagged with graffiti or vandalized, their windows shot out a long time ago.

Like most visitors who stop in Cisco, Muza was just passing through. An artist, she was on her way to the Great Panel in Horseshoe Canyon. The pictographs there interested her, but there was something else about Cisco that captivated her. Being from the city, it was the first ghost town she had ever experienced.

“I couldn’t believe that all this stuff had been abandoned,” she said. “That can’t be right. Somebody’s gotta be here. I mean that house has a satellite dish on it. I didn’t want to assume it was abandoned, because you never know. You can go to any ‘abandoned’ building in Chicago, and you’ll find squatters. People will live there. I couldn’t understand it.”

While investigating the town, she noticed one dwelling in particular that, though in a state of disrepair, appeared to be structurally sound. It wasn’t for sale, but she was thinking, “Obviously nobody wants it. Or maybe they do care for it, but are too old to keep it up. Who knows what their story is?” Her curiosity led her to find the owner, and she ended up purchasing approximately 2 acres of land, a cabin and several outbuildings, including the original post office, built in 1887, and then moved on joists for over 2 miles when the railroad town was relocated to its current location in 1890, to lie along the standard gauge rail line.

Water was pumped from the Colorado River to Cisco to fill the steam engines, and the town saw its first boom. A motel, a mercantile, a saloon and a school opened. Cattle barons and shepherds in the area used the depot to ship their goods. By 1900, the town had 173 residents. The Goslin brothers of Cisco shipped more than a quarter-million pounds of wool out of the town in 1906. The population peaked at 323 in 1910 before the demand for wool saw a steep decline and the town experienced its first bust. Only 95 citizens remained in 1920.

Over the next several decades, Cisco would experience several other small boom-and-bust cycles. After steam engines became obsolete and trains no longer needed to stop for water, America’s burgeoning fascination with the automobile turned the town into a service center.

An eccentric and unemployed geologist named Charlie Steen lived in Cisco with his family for a couple years in the early 1950s while pursuing an educated hunch that other geologists at the time referred to as “Charlie’s Folly,” about where to find uranium. The tarpaper shack the Steens lived in is still mostly standing and can be seen just off the main road. He was deeply in debt when he lived there and desperate for a grubstake. His kids’ clothes were thread-bare and the family was living primarily on venison when his hunch paid off. He found uranium in July 1952. A year later, he owned the largest house in Moab, which is now the Sunset Grill, and was known for throwing extravagant parties and spending lavishly. Though he eventually died broke, his discovery spurred a rush in mine claims, which continued for nearly two decades.

When I-70 was completed in the 1970s, Cisco was bypassed by five miles, effectively killing it as a service center. It was a foreseeable fate, one that, according to local lore, inspired Johnny Cash’s song “Cisco Clifton’s Fillin’ Station.” The song is said to be about H. Ballard Harris, who still lives in Dewey, 15 miles south of Cisco on State Road 128. This Scenic Byway follows the Colorado River almost the entire way to Moab and is a painfully beautiful drive.

By the mid-90s, the post office shut its doors and, within a few years, the town was effectively vacant. By the time Muza arrived, no one called Cisco home. At the time, she had a seasonal job working for the Park District in Chicago. She spent her winters traveling. Though there was no running water or sewer system, Cisco seemed a good place to spend her winters.

“I was almost 30,” she said. “I was at a point in my life where I was feeling like I needed to do something or make some changes in my life. I thought [moving to Cisco] could definitely change things for me, for better or worse.”

Optimistic about owning land and fairly confident in her ability to use power tools, she worked feverishly to clean the place up and make it comfortable. As often as possible, she would reuse and repurpose items strewn around her property. There’s a fence made out of old box springs. The outhouse uses worn oil barrels to support the posts. The walls are composed of rusty sheet metal.

Her back porch is a leveled amalgamation of several pieces of concrete of varying size and gravel. “It’s a good thing I was super optimistic about this place,” she said. “If I wasn’t, I never would have succeeded. I told myself, ya know, if worse comes to worst, I guess I could just leave it. That’s what everybody else did. But, of course, I had no plans for that. Once I start a project, I gotta keep going until I see it through.”

And she has seen it through. The project has only developed and grown. Muza hasn’t returned to Chicago in a couple years. According to her profile on Airbnb, Muza now lives in a 1950s airstream and is working on a log cabin built in 1932. The original post office and another small cabin can now be rented through Airbnb (no running water but there is electricity, wi-fi and a private outhouse available).

An abandoned bus was given to her by the owner of an adjacent property—he didn’t even know it was there—may also soon be used as rentable space. Large and detailed murals have been painted on either side, and both celebrate the history of the town and its lore. On one side there are two revolvers firing at each other; on the other, a shepherd stands with his coffee and looks into the distance while his sheep wander along the base of the bus and over the wheel wells. An artfully designed wooden camper with Dutch-style gables has been built on the back of an old truck. Muza’s nonprofit organization, Home of the Brave, will host the town’s first semi-annual artist in residence this month. This camper will be the resident’s personal space, and the shell of a refurbished Winnebago with a raised ceiling and added windows for extra lighting sits 15 feet away, to be used as a studio.

“What I really want to do, what I envision,” she said, “is to make this place somewhere artists can come and work year-round. I mean, there would have to be some sort of vetting process, so not just anyone shows up, but I envision there being different places for different types of artists to stay and work. It’s such a great place for creative thinking. You have time to think out here, but you are subject to the weather and a few other hardships. Perhaps that is its own vetting process. Who knows?”

Though this vision has yet to be formally adapted as part of the nonprofit, creative people are already beginning to show up to help with the work and add art of their own. Mike “Marlow” Mewborn, a vagabond friend of Muza’s who camped nearby this summer, said that in his 40-plus years of rambling around the West, he has never been to a place that plays host to so many bohemians and artists. “There are artists showing up all the time,” he said. “They seem to be drawn to this place.”

The fall Artist Residency Program received 61 applications, from artists representing numerous mediums. There is no reason to believe the spring residency will be any less successful, and who’s to say where it will go from there?

“I have a lot of plans still,” Muza said. “I want to build a house on stilts. I’d like to take some of these abandoned cars and use them to build a bridge over that depression across the street. I mean, why not?”

For short-term lodging in Cisco, visit
Information about the application process for the Artist Residency Program and Home of the Brave nonprofit organization can be found at

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Spread the Stoke

Celebrate Utah’s mountain culture at the Vamoose Rendezvous

By Claire McArthur

Catch Offline’s North American movie premiere at Rendezvous

Outdoor enthusiasts rejoice: The semiannual festival known as Rendezvous is hitting Salt Lake City in September—with an epic lineup of gear and apparel brands, retailers, athletes, film premieres, speakers, food trucks and breweries—all to celebrate the best parts of the mountain culture lifestyle.

On Sept. 28, take the whole family to The Gateway (400 W. 100 South, SLC, 801-456-0000, from 2 to 8 p.m. for an afternoon celebrating snowsports and the approach of winter. The free event features a vendor village with top local and national brands showcasing the latest gear and apparel.

“You can get your eyes on the newest gear before they hit the stores and engage with brands, and their riders, from around the world,” says Kyle Kennedy, director of sales and events for Vamoose Utah, the publication behind the event. “For example, Weston Snowboards will be doing splitboard demos, showing participants how the board transfers from ‘ride’ to ‘climb’ mode. Spliting the board to skis and applying skins allows riders to climb terrian without a lift.”

Burton Snowboards, Milosport, Black Diamond, 686, Nitro Snowboards, Salomon Snowboards, Dang Shades and Dragon Alliance are just a handful of the brands with booths at the event.

“We get to show our brand alongside other brands who also have a focus on making our adventures in the great outdoors amazing,” says Anthony Clark, regional sales manager at Dragon Alliance, which makes innovative eyewear and accessories.

Rendezvous attendees check out the latest gear

“We love introducing our brand to new consumers.”

Attendees can enter contests and be eligible for prizes and giveaways, plus they can purchase food and drink from an array of breweries, distilleries and food trucks.

Camper ReParadise shows its wares at spring Rendezvous

Utah Avalanche Center is hosting a “Know Before You Go” snow-safety talk to prepare riders for backcountry adventures, while Salt Lake City photographer Bob Plumb is presenting his photo series from a recent snowboarding trip above Annapurna Base Camp in the Himalayas in north-central Nepal. A locals-only photography exhibit will also be on display.

Dragon Alliance hands out goodies at spring Rendezvous

After the sun sets, check out the North American premiere of Offline, a Nitro Snowboards movie offering an escape from the hectic online world we live in through good old-fashioned snowboarding. You can also catch the world premiere of pro-snowboarder Bode Merrill’s latest film, Contrast.

Protect Our Winters will host a climate-change panel discussion that will be recorded and streamed via pro-snowboarder Griffin Siebert’s podcast, The BootPack Show.

“We have a really amazing panel to answer questions, from professional athletes and Olympians to scientists,” Kennedy says.

Woodward Park City is the presenting sponsor for the fall Rendezvous. As a youth-inspired community, Woodward has created a 66,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor action sports facility for athletes ranging from beginners to professionals.

“At Woodward, we strive to stoke the passions of the most passionate people,” says Tucker Norred, senior marketing manager at Woodward Park City. “Rendezvous is an event to bring out your inner kid while finding your new favorite activities.”

Look for the action at the north end of the Gateway on North Rio Grande Street. Park on the street or in Gateway’s convenient parking garage.

Vamoose Rendezvous
Sept. 28, 2-8 p.m.
The Gateway, 400 W. 100 South, SLC
For festival info, visit:
Or phone: 801-575-7003

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Beautiful Resonance

The TANK may be empty but it’s full of good vibrations

By John Rasmuson

An hour’s drive southwest of Vernal, Utah, brings you to Rangely, Colo., where the chamber of commerce’s welcome sign boasts of a town “way outside of ordinary.”

And so it is. Rangely has no traffic lights. No Walmart. No McDonald’s. It has tumbleweeds on Main Street along with lots of pickup trucks plastered with dried mud. Although the town of 2,400 residents is home to two museums and a college campus, the ambiance is industrial. Rangely has been an oil town since it was incorporated in 1946. Most of its buildings are utilitarian with ribbed metal roofs. Most are single-story, built low to the ground. In fact, the tallest structure in town is a six-story water tank with the Rio Grande Railroad logo painted on the side. The steel tank is outside of ordinary in more ways than one.

Built by the railroad in the 1940s, the silver tank was brought to Rangely in the mid-1960s to anchor a power plant’s fire-suppression system. It was sited on a knoll whose shape, color and texture are elephantine. But the underlying shale could not support the big structure. It was too heavy. Even before water was pumped into the tank, the cylindrical wall sank, bowing the half-inch steel floor upward. Unusable, the tank stood idle and rusting for years. Its only visitors brought cans of spray paint or six-packs of beer.

Then, in 1976, while on a Chautauqua tour overnighting in Rangely, sound artist Bruce Odland was introduced to the tank by two oil-field workers. Its “dizzyingly beautiful reverberation effects” so impressed him that he returned time and again in the ensuing years. The tank’s interior became a secret performance venue for him and a coterie of musicians. Odland’s Leaving Eden CD was recorded there.

Plans to dismantle and scrap the tank in 2013 caused Odland to try to save it. He organized Friends of the TANK, which included local governments and businesses. Its two Kickstarter campaigns raised enough money to buy the structure and 9 acres around it. Donations also paid for electricity, bathrooms, ventilation and other amenities. The small porthole that had limited the instruments that could be brought inside was replaced by a cut-out door large enough to admit a sousaphone.

The TANK Center for Sonic Arts opened for business four years ago. Wrote music critic Alex Ross in The New Yorker, “One road to the musical future now runs through Rangely.” The road is already well traveled. Among the tank performers are the Colorado Children’s Chorus, jazz trumpeter Ron Miles, and the Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble, Roomful of Teeth. And more to come. A headline in the Los Angeles Times announced, “Forget Carnegie Hall. Musicians rush to rural Colorado to play The TANK.” The annual solstice celebration brings out-of-state visitors to mingle with townies in welcoming the onset of summer.

Musicians from near and far flock to make music in the TANK
Surround Sound

I arrived at the tank on an April morning. I had arranged for a tank engineer to meet me at the foot of the gated driveway, let me in and show me around. I was studying the deer and raccoon tracks in the mud when she drove up. A 20-something woman with long black hair and prominent blue eyes got out of the car and introduced herself. Samantha LightShade then led the way up the steep, gravel driveway to the tank. As she unlocked the steel door, she asked me to take off my shoes. The interior was dark except for a string of white Christmas lights tracing the circumference at floor level. I walked across the convex floor—a parabola, she said—to the east quadrant of the tank. The steel was beginning to radiate the heat of the morning sun. She stood in the middle. There, like the owner of a gull-wing Tesla X showing off its marvels, she explained the tank’s acoustics and its renowned, 40-second reverb.

Could she demonstrate? I asked. She allowed that she was a “tank-trained vocalist” who had been singing there since childhood and was willing to lend her voice to a demonstration. Thereupon, she tilted her face toward a midpoint in the tank wall and began to sing. As she did, ethereal notes eddied around us. I watched her mouth moving, but as if she were a ventriloquist projecting her voice, the disembodied sounds cascaded down from above. It gave new meaning to “surround sound.”

She then invited me to sing “Amazing Grace” with her. I quickly agreed. My tank debut began tentatively, following her lead. She slowed the tempo to prevent the words from being lost in a reverberating loop. My baritone served as a counterbalance to LightShade’s soaring soprano, and I experimented with the effects of aiming my voice at different places in the tank where it was amplified and redirected. As the final notes of the duet faded into the darkness, I was smiling involuntarily. I felt like hugging her.

Make Your Own Music

If you want to sing in the tank, or play your sousaphone, it is open to the public every Saturday morning. No reservation is needed, and there is no cost. If you want a private recording session for your band or Osmond-like family, you can book the tank by the hour on its website. For less than $100, tank engineers will record your session in two-track stereo and provide a recording on a USB drive. If you want a “professional session” with multi-track recording, LightShade will make the arrangements.

For practical reasons, the tank season runs from May to October. The unheated interior is too cold most days between October and June. On the other hand, afternoon temperatures on summer days may be oppressive.

But, regardless of the season, any road trip to Vernal’s Dinosaur National Monument or McConkie Ranch petroglyphs should include some tank time. There are plenty of ordinary towns in the West, but The TANK Center for Sonic Arts confers out-of-the-ordinary status to Rangeley all by itself.

The TANK Center for Sonic Arts
233 Colorado Road 46, Rangely, Colo.

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September Salsa

Canning salsa is a labor of zesty love

By Ari LeVaux

Labor Day is unique among holidays in that nobody really “celebrates” it. It lacks the excitement of New Year’s, the virtues of MLK Day, the mystery of Easter, the love of Mother’s Day, the sorrow of Memorial Day, the unity of the 4th, the excesses of Thanksgiving and the baggage of Christmas. It’s easy to find people who celebrate any and all of those holidays. Labor Day, not so much.

A few politicians and advocacy organizations take advantage of the holidays as they extol the importance of labor and fair compensation. Then, we cut to school shopping and the last three-day weekend of summer.
It’s too bad Labor Day doesn’t get more love, because labor is a concept that truly should be celebrated, elevated and appreciated. Good labor makes the world a better place and makes the laborer a better person. In the kitchen, good labor makes good food. What’s not to love about that?

I was at the hardware store last week, and the seasonal aisle was packed with canning jars on both sides. Canning jar sales are booming, because this kind of lovely labor is catching on.

Since the original Mason jar design was created by the Ball brothers in Buffalo, N.Y., 130 years back, the design has hardly changed. One recent innovation by Newell/Rubbermaid, which now owns Ball and Kerr jars, has been to introduce amber colored jars that filter out UV, for longer-lasting food. I have to admit I’m intrigued.

In the meantime, this Labor Day, I’ll be making salsa. It’s a jar of all trades, the joker in the deck, and the most versatile and valuable component of my pantry. If I need to grab something quick for a potluck or a road trip, or if I have company, a sack of chips and a jar of my own salsa fixes the problem, with extra points for your labor.

If you pour canned salsa on eggs, you have huevos rancheros. Blended with cucumbers, it’s gazpacho. With avocado, it’s guacamole. Mixed with gin and clam juice, it’s a drink. By itself, canned salsa is a spicy marinara that goes on eggplant, pasta or pizza.

This recipe assumes some canning knowledge on your part and requires basic canning gear. And it requires a food processor, blender or similar way to liquify tomatoes. This liquefaction unit will also serve as a measuring unit, as the quantities are large.

The best tomatoes for this are high-acid slicing or canning tomatoes. Normal tomatoes, that is. Tomatoes that are red and round. The pepper component is where we really personalize the salsa. Any kind of pepper, in virtually any form, can be used, including both hot and sweet. But it’s the hot ones that determine not only the heat, but much of the flavor. Dried, pickled, smoked, green and red peppers … the more the merrier. Diversity is flavor. Just remember to wash your hands before you use the bathroom, as well as after.

Canned Salsa

10 cups of chopped tomatoes (two blender loads)
10 cups of chopped peppers, seeded as necessary
5 cups chopped onions
2 cups carrots
2 cups cilantro
1 cup chopped garlic
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup cider vinegar (to ensure the whole business is acidic and safe)

Puree all vegetables to the max. Add all of the loads to a large pot, stir it all together, and bring to a boil. As it heats, use corn chips to sample the salsa, adjusting salt, black pepper and chile pepper if necessary. Turn off the heat and immediately transfer the hot salsa into warm sterile jars and screw on sterile lids. They will seal as they cool on the counter.
All year long, you will enjoy the canned fruits of your labors of love. Give the gift of love in a jar, trade the gift of love in a jar. Heck, if it’s legal where you are, go ahead and sell it. After all, Labor Day is about getting paid for your labor.

Ari LeVaux writes Flash in the Pan, a syndicated weekly food column that has appeared in more than 50 newspapers in 21 states. Learn more at

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Nature’s Wind Chimes

Grooving with the aspen groves of the Huntington-Eccles Canyons Scenic Byway

By Rebecca Chavez-Houck

Just as we’re getting used to the rhythm of the summer camping season, a discernable chill settles in. Utah’s bright green deciduous forests ease into a brilliant canopy of gold, orange and red. Aspen groves, in particular, are best at putting on this color show. Not only do they wow us visually, they calm us when the wind wafts through their leaves while we sit around a campfire. I also listen for their tremblings as I fall asleep with our RV’s windows slightly ajar. Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) are truly “nature’s wind chimes.”

To catch their color show, many of us head up nearby canyons in the Wasatch mountains. However, I’ve often heard that the 86-mile Energy Loop, spanning from the town of Fairview to Huntington and Eccles canyons, is a “not to be missed” fall-foliage drive, so I took some time recently to explore the area. Here, you’ll find not only changing leaves, but historical sites, great hikes, good fishing and an array of campgrounds in the area, a few of which my husband, Martin, and I stayed at.

The Energy Loop—officially called the Huntington-Eccles Canyons Scenic Byway—is located within the Manti-La Sal National Forest of central Utah. We started our camping trip outside of Price at Scofield State Park (435-448-9449,, accessing it from State Route 96 off of U.S. 6. Due to heavy spring rains this year, the reservoir was were quite full. We stayed in the park’s Mountain View Campground, close to the reservoir marina, which features 34 total sites, one with electricity and water hookups, as well as nearby showers and flush toilets. Even though it was chilly, we saw a number of folks on kayaks and boats the day we were there.

Martin Houck sinks a line at Boulger Reservoir with
the couple’s “View” RV
parked in the distance

This state park also offers updated campsites at Madsen Bay Campground that have both electricity and water hookups, but with less foliage between the sites than at Mountain View. After spending the night at Scofield, we continued south along UT 96, and then traveled west on UT 264. Along the way, there were 16 informative interpretive pullouts that share the history of the area.

Off of Utah 264 (also known as the Skyline Drive) is Lower Gooseberry Reservoir, where you’ll find two primitive campgrounds, Gooseberry Reservoir Campground and up on the hillside above the reservoir is the Gooseberry Campground (877-444-6777, Both have pit toilets and are “pack it in, pack it out” facilities. Gooseberry Campground, with its nine single sites and one group site for up to 40 people, is probably best for smaller rigs and tent camping. It’s nestled right in the middle of an aspen grove, so it’s probably pretty amazing to be there in the fall. Larger trailers and fifth-wheels will be more suited to the Gooseberry Reservoir Campground.

There’s evidence of the coal industry on this drive. Coal mining sustained many families in this region, notably the Skyline Mine. Below the mine is Electric Lake, which contains the submerged ghost town of Conellsville. There were a lot of anglers testing their luck at the lake, but Martin struck fishing gold when we stopped at nearby Boulger Reservoir (located on a dirt road off of Utah 31 just about a quarter mile west of Electric Lake).

We enjoyed a delicious meal of rainbow trout later that evening when we camped at Old Folks Flat Campground (21 miles north of Huntington on Utah 31, 877-444-6777, We had originally reserved Site 4 but found Site 2 more to our liking (there are only four single sites—three of which are reservable—and five group campsites, all of which are really nice). The campground has flush toilets but no hookups.

Our drive to Old Folks Flat Campground took in the prime area of Huntington Canyon. We also recommend checking out the site near the Huntington Reservoir dam where the Huntington mammoth was discovered on Aug. 8, 1988. You can learn more about it at the mammoth exhibit at the Utah State University Eastern Prehistoric Museum (155 E. Main, Price, 800-817-9949,

Fires help maintain the ecosystem of aspen groves, says Western Aspen Alliance director Paul Rogers

Aspen Groves Reborn Through Fire

Along the way, we noticed the scars from forest fires and pine beetle infestations that have taken their toll on the canyon’s trees. We asked Paul Rogers, the director of the Western Aspen Alliance (WAA), about the impact of forest fires on aspen groves, and he noted that fires help maintain the aspen groves’ ecosystem.

The WAA was first created by Utah State University and Forest Service scientists to disseminate research to managers and solicit feedback from the field. Its members now include researchers, managers, landowners and conservationists from the Western U.S. and Canada. The group focuses on the health of regional aspen groves, many of which are faced with drought and overconsumption of new tree shoots by herbivores (elk, deer, cattle and sheep).

Rogers says that a number of groves in the lower elevations on the Colorado Plateau are either dying or in bad health. Rogers encourages visitors to listen for bird calls and look for other animals that depend on the aspen.

“Healthy aspen are rich in biodiversity,” he says, “so if whole forests are dying or groves are unhealthy, you have an impact on the ecosystem of dependent plants and animals in the area.” The health of the aspen groves also affects water usage.
For more information, visit the WAA website,, which provides a wealth of information, including a field guide on its home page.

Less than a mile southeast of Old Folks Flat Campground (on Utah State Route 31), we stopped at the Stuart Guard Station—which is now a museum and visitor center—a must-see if you are traveling the area. However, it’s only open on summer weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The guard station was constructed as part of a Civilian Conservation Corps project in 1933 and contains a variety of interpretive exhibits, photos and artifacts, as well as Forest Service memorabilia.

Additional primitive Forest Service campgrounds are located along the loop, including Flat Canyon Campground and Forks of the Huntington Campground (

We ended our byways weekend at Huntington State Park (2 miles northeast of Huntington on Utah State Route 10, 435-687-2491, It’s a fully appointed campground with electric and water hookups as well as flush toilets and showers.

As we settled in for the night next to Huntington Lake, we watched the distant alpenglow alight the northern reaches of the San Rafael Swell. It’s something I hope you’ll be able to enjoy sometime this fall.
See you at the campground!

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Déjà Vu

The drive from Panguitch to Torrey is unforgettable. Yet, somehow, I’d forgotten how to find my way back.

Photos and Story By Chris Vanocur

Utah’s Scenic Byway 12 is staggeringly beautiful, one of the most stunning roads in the world. And, at least on one stretch, it can be terrifying to drive. And for me, it provided an unexpected answer to a longtime mystery.

Intrigued? Then, let’s go for a drive.

Scenic Byway 12 is 124 miles long, winding west to east, from Panguitch to Torrey. A sign not far from the west entrance informs travelers that they are on an “All-American Road.” This means the road is so lovely and unique it is a destination unto itself. Only a third of America’s scenic byways receive this distinction

You want proximity to national parks? Byway 12 is that roadway, paving the way to Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef. State parks? Yup, accessing as it does Escalante Petrified Forest and Kodachrome Basin. You can even throw in a national monument: Grand Staircase-Escalante.

This “All-American Road” is so unique, it’s a destination all its own

And along with all the big names are any number of off-the-beaten-path adventures.

But the road’s beauty can be fickle. Driving east as I did, motorists hit early stretches where the scenery is pleasing but not necessarily awe-inspiring. Just when you start thinking this byway is nothing special, however, you round a bend and are instantly filled with wonder. Not only will you see the sandstone “stairs” that make up the Grand Staircase just past Henrieville, but you’ll also find yourself driving through the two red arches in Red Canyon. Mountains, vistas and hoodoos are all part of the natural voodoo this byway does so well. There are stretches that literally offer scenic overlooks every quarter mile.

Be forewarned, though, peril is lurking.

Between Escalante and Boulder, a section of Byway 12 known as the Hogsback awaits. It’s only a short part of the byway, but extremely narrow. Drivers find themselves faced with sudden and dramatically steep dropoffs on both sides of the road. In fact, when I posted on Facebook that I was about to traverse this byway, one friend cautioned me about the Hogsback. He wrote, “Warning, Chris! The road from Escalante to Boulder goes along the top of a cliff with nothing on either side. Like driving down the deck of an aircraft carrier … but not that wide! Two tiny lanes. A steering-wheel gripper!”

Now, for drivers who might be afraid of heights (i.e., me!), here are a couple of pro safety tips. First, just keep your eyes on the road and quietly repeat to yourself, “Don’t look down. Don’t look down.”

A journey through time: Millions of years ago, these cream-and-red sandstone formations were sand dunes

Secondly, to steady your nerves before or after the Hogsback, make a pit-stop at the Kiva Koffeehouse (Highway 12, mile marker 73.86, Escalante, 435-826-4550, Normally, I’m not a fan of commercial establishments in scenic areas. But I love this place. Open seasonally between April and October, this java joint may have the best view of any coffee shop in the country. Also, their baked goods are the bomb. An extremely tasty raspberry vanilla scone goes down easily when overlooking the awesomeness that is Byway 12.

Finally, as hinted at earlier, this scenic road also helped me resolve a decades-long mystery.

When I was a very young TV reporter, I hazily remember being on assignment in Southern Utah. My photographer was driving, and I was writing on deadline, so I didn’t pay attention to where we were. But occasionally, I would look up and be astonished at how lovely the road was. For years, this was a cherished memory. It was also a frustrating one, though, because I couldn’t remember exactly where I had been or how to get back.

Until now.

Driving on Byway 12 in the late spring of 2019, I had an epiphany outside Escalante. Suddenly, it all came rushing back. The beauty, the winding roads, and the unparalleled splendor. This was the mythical road I traveled in my youth. Such an unexpected reunion filled me with both joy and an overwhelming sense of nostalgia.

Traveling the byway a second time, I couldn’t help but compare this long and winding road to my own life’s journey. Moments of unsurpassed beauty and, yes, some white-knuckle terror. But there’s more to it than just that. Forty years ago, I fell in love with the West and decided to put down roots here. This uniquely Western and noble pathway somehow reassures me I made the right choice. Byway 12 reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Jack Kerouac’s epic, Beat Generation novel, On the Road. Kerouac wrote, “I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future.” This passage seems to sum up the way my life has unfolded. It also speaks to the timeless appeal of Utah’s Scenic Byway 12, an all-American road.

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Autumn at Altitude

Peak colors along the Mount Nebo Loop amp up the awe factor

By Kathleen Curry and Geoff Griffin

When the Latter-day Saints arrived in Utah in 1847, they drew upon the Book of Mormon and the Bible for place names. They named the southernmost peak of the Wasatch Range, which happens to be the range’s highest peak, Mount Nebo.

In the Old Testament, when God wanted to show Moses the Promised Land, he sent the prophet to the top of Mount Nebo in Jordan for a good view of the area. Of course, God didn’t allow Moses to actually enter the Promised Land, and some religious traditions believe Mount Nebo is Moses’ final resting place.

Enjoy nature’s paintbrush
along the Mount Nebo Loop

Jordan’s Mount Nebo is only 2,300 feet above sea level and is best described as a ridge. Utah’s Mount Nebo is 12,000 feet above sea level, and at that altitude, it might well have been the best place for Utah pioneers to view what they thought of as their own “promised land.”

Located between Payson and Nephi, Mount Nebo is actually a series of three peaks. It was long thought that the southern-most peak was the tallest, but during surveying in the 1970s, it emerged that the north peak, at 11,929 feet, was actually about 50 feet taller than the south, and about 100 feet higher than the middle peak. Once hikers reach any of those summits, there’s a ridge line that connects the three, but that hike is generally only recommended for well-equipped, experienced climbers.

One way to experience Mount Nebo and the many recreation opportunities around its base is to drive the Mount Nebo Scenic Byway (, which runs between Payson and Nephi. The entire route is 38 miles long and can be driven straight through in about 90 minutes, but, given the many colorful stops along the way, it’s unlikely you’ll drive straight through.

At nearly 12,000 feet, Mount Nebo is the highest peak of Utah’s Wasatch Range

Coming from the north, take Interstate 15 through Utah County to Payson, exiting at 800 South and travel east to 600 East, then turn right to get on Nebo Loop Road, also known as Forest Road 015.

After a drive of about 15 miles, or 30 minutes, there’s a turnoff for Payson Lakes Campground (FS. USDA. Gov; to reserve, phone 1-877-444-6777 or visit With 98 single camp sites, 10 double sites and three sites that can host larger groups, it’s ideal for overnight camping.

Continuing along the loop, the turnoff for Nebo Bench Monument Trailhead is about 25 miles into the drive. This is a hard, strenuous hike that rewards hikers with stunning views. At the trailhead exit, turn right onto Mona Pole Road and continue about a quarter of a mile to the North Peak Trailhead. This is where hikers begin a 9-mile round-trip hike to the northernmost—and tallest—of the three peaks. The hike rises nearly 4,000 feet in altitude, but the first 3.5 miles up are fairly gradual. The difficult part comes during the final portion of the trek, when the trail rises 1,300 feet in less than a mile, and most of that is traveling over loose shale and black limestone. Plan on 6 to 8 hours.

There are also two other trails up to the Nebo peaks that approach from the south and west, but when considering difficulty and accessibility, the North Peak Trailhead is generally the most-used route, particularly for first-timers.

Devil’s Kitchen
is the “mini Bryce Canyon” of the Uinta National Forest

For those looking for great scenery but not a strenuous hike, continue south on Nebo Loop Road for another 5 miles to reach the Devil’s Kitchen. While that name might sound like it would be a daunting outdoor spot, its named for its scenic red-rock pillars and other formations. It features a paved trail, an observation deck and a picnic area. Use the trail to hike half a mile (round trip) to see red-rock hoodoos that have earned this spot the nickname of a mini Bryce Canyon.

After Devil’s Kitchen, Nebo Loop Road continues south for a few more miles before ending at State Route 132. Turning right there leads straight down to the town of Nephi, which is just 6 miles away.

Recreational opportunities abound in the Mount Nebo area, ranging from easier hikes such as the 2.7-mile Jones Ranch Trail to the more difficult 4.7-mile hike on the Bennie Creek Cutoff Trail. And if hikes, camping and views aren’t enough, the fall foliage will stop you in your tracks.

Whatever option you choose, after gazing out upon the vistas along the Mount Nebo Loop, you may agree with others that it is just the place to view the promised land.