Tom Kelly’s Sunday Drive: Farewell to summer
Somehow it seems like just yesterday that I was scanning the timeline of the formation of our own mother earth in the interpretive panels at the Fossil Butte National Monument visitor center in Wyoming. That crisp, cool Sunday afternoon last May is still etched in my memory, as are each of our 17 unique Sunday Drive destinations this past summer.
Like a light switch, autumn has been turned on. Colors are starting to change, there’s a definitive coolness in the air and we’re watching the mountains for the first hint of snow. Well, that actually has already come.
This week, I’ll say goodbye to you from Sunday Drive until next summer. I hope I’ve been able to generate some ideas for you to get out of town once in a while to explore.
My allure for exploration came from my parents many years ago at a time when travel was more of a challenge. We adventured around my native Wisconsin and occasionally undertook history-filled trips to the east. Each of those journeys left an indelible mark on me.
It’s hard to pick favorites this summer, but the top-of-the-mountain vistas atop Skyline Drive and Monte Cristo were spellbinding to me, driving one of our Jeeps across high elevation ridgelines with panoramic views in every direction.
Sometimes things didn’t go quite as planned, but usually it all worked out. That was the case the day I drove out I-80 to write about the Bonneville Salt Flats and found them under a full foot of water. No problem. I just cruised over to the Wendover Air Field and spent hours on the flight line and in the museum, thinking back to the B-29s of World War II that made their home here just as a Utah Air National Guard KC-135 refueling tanker flew the centerline.
There were a few trips that just seemed overly simple at first, but turned out to be fascinating looks into mother nature. Our visit to Cascade Springs was captivating enough that I went back three times to document the refreshing mountain streams. Bridal Veil Falls seemed like pretty standard fare until I decided to park myself at the base of the lower falls for an hour capturing video.
The most shocking journey of the summer came on my visit to Antelope Island. While we read about it every day, the drought impact to the Great Salt Lake was on vivid display that day, as were the bison roaming freely on the roadway.
The two most insightful visits were both among the longest drives. The rock art in Nine Mile Canyon between Wellington and Duchesne took me back in time to a panorama of history etched and painted onto the rock. And the wagon tracks and rock inscriptions of 18th century pioneers at City of Rocks was a vivid reminder of what they went through on the trail to California.
My biggest accomplishment of the summer was doing the advance research and using intellect to find the wild mustangs along the Pony Express Trail. After spotting a lone horse on the horizon, we discovered a huge herd and spent hours watching them in their desert home.
But my most enjoyable memories all summer are from the comments I received from readers. I hope that I was able to paint a picture to entice you to gather the family into the car for a daylong trek. Most of all, I hope that everyone added a few memories of travel together that you can carry into the future.
From the seat of my Chevy Equinox, Jeep Rubicon or red plastic kayak, thanks for riding along with me on Sunday Drive.
Getting There: Sometimes a Sunday Drive needs no planning – just get in the car and drive!
Details: While Sunday Drive is parking for the season, there’s still plenty of autumn exploration to do. Think about a drive over the Nephi Loop from Payson to Nephi and back. Or take the kids on a pumpkin exploration to Davis County and on up to the fruit stands near Brigham City.
Fun Stuff: Kids, you really rule Sunday Drives! Whether it’s counting mountain peaks or discovering the Pony Express, Sunday Drives are about learning and having fun.
Next Week: Sunday Drive will take a break, so you’re on your own for the fall! But watch for my Ridgelines column returning this November in The Park Record. If you have suggestions for next summer, search me out with your thoughts.
This is that weekend. At least, I think it might be. The one perfect fall weekend where the aspen trees are orange and yellow against the evergreens and the maples are red, and the slant of the light tells us the days are getting shorter.
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