Day 1: On the Route of Pioneers
And so it was that on a hot and sunny Saturday morning in June we found ourselves loading gear onto our bikes. “Where’s my stuffed cheetah?!” my 3 year old asked with clear worry in his voice. I found the scraggly stuffed animal and affixed him to my son’s trailer-cycle. Off we went.
The initial stretch of dirt road was quiet and barren. The occasional truck came lumbering past, but for the most part, we were on our own. The scent of sagebrush wafted on the intermittent breeze; a lone deer darted across the road.
A few miles in, we pulled over at Mormon Flats, an oasis of sorts in the dry desert. The grassy meadow tucked at the base of Big Mountain Pass was used as a basecamp first for the Donner Party and then Brigham Young, as the leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints negotiated the rugged canyon en route to their ultimate settlement in the Salt Lake Valley that fateful summer of 1847. Just as I’m sure the pioneer children did, my son took off running for the creek. Wrangling him back onto safer ground, we shared a haphazard lunch of grapes, cheese and trail mix.
Continuing down the road on our family bike tour, we eventually hit pavement. With my 3 year-old pedaling and singing songs, we made good time as we cruised around the shimmering blue shoreline of East Canyon Reservoir. The breeze from our movement helped offset the heat rising from the pavement.
Reaching the Dixie campground at the north end of the reservoir, we were all desperate for a swim. But first, we had to deal with the girl at the entry booth.
“Hello!” I said cheerfully, as we rolled up to the small brown building. “We have a reservation.”
She frowned as she evaluated our arrival method. She scrawled the date on a vehicle hang tag, and handed it toward me. “Wait,” she paused. “Maybe you don’t need the tag? Since you don’t have a vehicle?”
I shrugged. She handed me the tag anyhow, and we proudly attached it to the bike trailer.
Camping site secured, we headed to the water. Although the campground was full, the shoreline was nearly deserted. We spread our beach towels on an empty dock and jumped off the edge. With snowy mountain peaks looming in the distance, my body hit the water and a shock of cold water rushed across my skin. I reached for my 3 year old who was gasping and clinging to his lifejacket. We climbed onto the dock, laughed at the cold, and then jumped again.
Frozen to the bone, we dried off, quickly warmed up, then headed to the small marina store for ice cream. On the lovely wooden deck, we licked our cones and watched fishermen coming in with their dinner. We had nothing quite as fresh or tasty for our own dinner, but did enjoy a hot dehydrated meal while we played a few rounds of Go Fish.
Day 2: Headed Home
Despite the hot daytime temperatures, the night was cool. In fact, it felt downright freezing, a reminder of the extremes of elevation in the high country. We wasted no time getting back on the bike to get the blood flowing. With the sun up and our fingers thawed, we stopped at East Canyon Resort for coffee and mid-morning ice cream. From the comfort of the covered wood porch, we dined on the breakfast of champions.
Initially, the miles passed quickly. As the temperature rose, however, things slowed down. Returning the same way we had come, we noticed things we hadn’t the first time: the beauty of a sprawling horse ranch and a pull-out on the road with a good climbing tree. My son pointed out birds and sang sweet songs to them.
When the exhaustion finally kicked in and he succumbed to sleep, I continued on in silence. The hard effort felt good, and I imagined that I wasn't so different than the pioneer women before me. They would have carried their young children along this dusty path, the load heavy, happy to be headed toward home.
Whether biking with kids or one single child, this route could become one of your favorite family bike tours in Utah!