I didn’t expect to pick apples, eat home-baked peach pie or find local watermelons on a trip to the desert in late September.
So when researching Utah national parks, I was intrigued with Fruita in Capitol Reef on the itinerary. Fruita is a 200-acre historic district described by Pulitzer Prize western author Wallace Stegner as a “sudden, intensely green little valley among the cliffs” that was settled by Mormons around the turn of the century. The settlement structures include a barn, blacksmith shop, school and homestead, which now serves as a pioneer demonstration site. Orchards invite park visitors to pick their own fruit, weigh it and pay on the honor system.
The pies, jams, salsas and other goodies sold there aren’t actually made from the fruit grown in the valley but sold to pay homage to Fruita’s heritage. We snagged a six-inch peach pie before they ran out and devoured it along with trail mix for lunch.
Earlier, our quickest route from Arches National Park to Capitol Reef took us through Green River on Interstate 70. The town had just celebrated Melon Days the weekend before. Since we were just passing through, we didn’t get a chance to taste or even thump the local melons, but the cantaloupe we had the next day was super sweet. Next time, I’ll sample more and see how well it fares with the Hope, Ark. and Saline, La watermelons I’m more familiar with. Post trip reading, I did pick up this tip from the owner of Dunham Farms, one of area’s leading producers, on how to pick a watermelon.
A ripe watermelon, when tapped, is supposed to have the same pitch as a B-flat, said Nancy Dunham.
How does a B-flat sound?
“Pat your stomach and listen carefully to that sound. Then pat the melon and see if the sound of the melon matches the sound of your stomach.”
The Red Canyon Trail paralleling scenic Route 12 on the outskirts of Bryce Canyon National Park in southwestern Utah provided the perfect morning ride. It took us an hour and a half to ride the gentle uphill trail from Thunder Mountain Trailhead (pictured) for about four miles to a point where it looked like we were going to have to walk our bikes uphill. The elevation grade was gradual—a change from the flat trails we are used to in Louisiana but no really steep hills. We were sluggish after five days traveling, but we also made frequent stops for picture taking (there are two stone archways along the highway), water drinking and simply saying “ahhhh” at the sun shining on those red rocks. Our efforts were rewarded with a 10-minute downhill coast.
Our hotel was a Quality Inn along U.S. Hwy 89 (rooms were divided into western groups—we were the stallions). It was outside Panguitch and away from Bryce Canyon entrance but just right for squeezing in this ride before visiting the national park.
(An interesting note. We only passed one other cycler along this late September Friday am ride. Light bicycle traffic also was the case earlier in the week along the Moab Canyon Ride in Utah. I was a bit concerned with safety as there was only one other car at our starting point parking lot, but there is a campground and visitor center for Dixie National Forest and lots of cars along the highway. The trail follows the road for the most part but dips into the forest out of road view. But it doesn’t appear there are a bunch of thugs in Utah looking for trouble.
I also was intrigued with the name Dixie National Forest. We were in Utah — miles from any state in the old Confederacy– to visit the national parks. I was vaguely familiar with them but not Dixie National Forest. My attention was captured when I saw a “DSU” bus in Arches National Park near Moab. In Mississippi, DSU is Delta State University but I noticed the color was red rather than Delta State’s green. I looked closer and saw Dixie State University and then we drove through the beautiful Dixie National Forest. As it turns out Brigham Young brought in settlers from the Deep South in an attempt to grow cotton there, thus the Dixie name. More research and I discovered Dixie State U. was recently refused inclusion in the University of Utah system because of its name and related affiliations – dorms named after plantations, “Confederate” yearbook. Google it.
I’ve peddled away from the bicycle story but I thought that was an interesting aside. It’s also a suggestion that if you see something intriguing along the trip, jot it down and research it at night or when you get back home. It extends the vacation experience!
Bicycle Trips, Road Trips, Farmers Markets and Lagniappe Along the Way