Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Mini Hot Air Balloon Fest in Park City, UT

We have never been to a hot air balloon fest before, so when we saw the local advertisement, we decided to go.  So glad we did!  The hard part was getting up at 5:00 AM!  We wanted to leave by 6:00 AM, drive about 25 miles to Park City, and find a parking spot.  We stopped by McDonald’s and picked up a couple of breakfast sandwiches.  Gosh, I wouldn’t want to have to be at work at 6:00 AM! So we drove to Park City, parked and ate our breakfast in the dark!  Soon other early arrivers started to show up.  We walked down the path to the field where the balloons were to take off.  It was cold! There was mist hovering over the wet grass.  It was about 10 degrees colder in Park City at 43 degrees than in Heber City.  I knew I should have taken my earmuffs!  Others were more prepared than we were with blankets, chairs, heavy coats etc.  And no sign of any balloons.  We needed to be there early because the balloons were only supposed to be in the air from 7:00 AM until 9:00 AM. 

According to the information we had, the balloons were to take off at 7:00 AM.  But someone else standing beside me said the newspaper said it would be closer to 7:30.  Alright, I can shiver for another 30 minutes!  Didn’t happen, the field wasn’t’ opened for setup to the balloonists until 7:30 AM .   So here they came in a line and each picked a marked off spot to set up and prepare to launch.  It was still rather dark because the field is below a small mountain and the sun comes up over the back of it.  So it takes longer for the sun to reach the field.  The white line across the middle of the last 2 pictures was the mist that had still not completely burned off.   

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It was very interesting to see the work involved in putting one of these balloons together.  It requires at least a 4 to 8 person team to accomplish it.  The balloonists invited all of us to come close and watch them work.  They also patiently explained each step to the crowd.  One by one the balloons filled with air from their flat position on the ground.  Then when there was enough propane gas in the balloon, it would slowly rise and set the attached basket upright. Other team members would lean on the basket to keep it from lifting until ready.   One or more team members held on to a very long thick rope that was attached to the very top.  This was to keep the balloon steady in one position, rather than roll around while being filled with air. 

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Then the exciting part was to watch the balloons ascend one by one into the air.  They did not get into the air until 8:00 AM, a cold far cry from the scheduled 7:00AM! The sun still wasn’t completely over the mountain.  It was so pretty to watch a balloon slowly rise and see the sun gradually reflect on it until completely in the sun and showing the vibrant colors. 

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It was fun to see!  There were 14 balloons and about 200-300 people came to watch.  This was the third annual event after the event had been closed for 20 years.  Back then, as many as 20,000 people would come to watch the balloons. I bet watching even many more balloons than what we saw was quite awesome.  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Heber Valley Scenic Railroad

Sept 17.  One of the attractions here in Heber City, is the different Heber Valley Railroad excursions.   The excursion we took was a 3 hour round trip ride along the shore if the Deer Creek Reservoir and along the Provo River.   There was only one passenger car because that was all the seating needed for the number of people on that ride.  There was also a baggage car that had been converted to serve snacks.  The Heber Valley Historic Railroad is a heritage railroad and the line is approximately 16 miles long.  Landmarks along the way include, Mount Timpanogos, Cascade Mtn., deer Creek Dam and Reservoir, Provo River, Tate Barn (from the 1800s), and Soldier Hollow with such wildlife as deer eagles, fox, moose, turkeys, hawks, cougars, and beaver.  We saw sand hill cranes out in farmers’ fields.  We packed our own lunch and were ready for a nice ride.  My whole family has been associated with the railroad, so I love trains.
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The line operated by the HVRR was formerly part of a Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad branch line that connected Heber City to Provo, Utah.  The branch line was completed in 1899 and operated freight (and passenger) service until the line's abandonment in 1967.  The line was saved for tourist use and was reopened in 1970 when No. 618 and other equipment was brought up the line from Provo. The track between Provo and Vivian Park was later removed and converted into a recreational trail. During the 1970s and 1980s the railroad operated as the "Heber Creeper".  In the late 1980s this railroad went out of business.  Citizens in the Heber area successfully petitioned the State of Utah to help save the railroad, leading to creation of the Heber Valley Historic Railroad Authority in the early 1990s. Since this time the railroad has seen considerable growth. The railroad operates as a non-profit organization. During the 2002 Winter Olympics the railroad was part of the Olympic Steam Team, carrying spectators to the Soldier Hollow Olympic events. The railroad's No. 618 and 75 steam-engines, were joined by the Nevada Northern Railway Museum’s No. 93 steam-engine, in pulling eight-car trains full of passengers, to the Soldier Hollow depot where they disembarked and continued to the events entrance on a horse-drawn  sleigh.  The day prior to the Opening Ceremony of the games, all three locomotives were combined into one triple-headed train, and used to transport the Olympic flame from Soldier Hollow to Heber City as part of the torch relay.   We passed by ranches and farmland as we left town.  Then a few miles outside of town, we were robbed!!  The train stopped as we heard the gunshot.  Here he came -  the train robber!   He made all of us put our hands up as he wanted to know who hid the strong box of money.  He was rather gruff and funny as he played his part to the hilt.  But as he passed the kids and questioned them about the money, he reached in his pocket and gave each child a gold paper covered chocolate coin.  A couple of the children were actually frightened and wanted nothing to do with him!!
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All of a sudden, he turned to me and said “Aren’t You Dancing Kate?  I know you!  I saw you dancing on the tables at the saloon down in El Paso!”  That drew lots of laughs!  I told him that was in my other life!  He found the strong box, exited the train to the platform, and shot open the strong box.  He got all riled again because inside was a rubber chicken!   He shot at us as we pulled away.  Just some good fun! We enjoyed the mountain scenery and the reservoir was on the opposite side of where we were sitting.  So since we were heading into the sun, I decided to take those pictures on the way back.
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We then crossed below the dam and followed the Provo River in the canyon to a city park, where we  disembarked for 20 minutes while the engineers reversed the engine for the return trip.  So we ate our little picnic lunch at the park at the covered picnic tables.  The concrete wall in the first picture is the upper west bound lanes of the road through the pass.
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Then we started the return trip and it we got to see the reservoir from the opposite side from where we visited a few days earlier.
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I am always looking for the best place for good pictures.  Since we were still on the opposite side of the seating away from the reservoir, I walked back to the baggage car and rode the rest of the way standing at the old sliding baggage doors area that is now an open waist high locked gate.  Gave me great views!  I know we had visited the reservoir earlier, but it was still a pretty day for a train ride.  This is not the first time I have ridden in a baggage car!  When I was 18, (oh, such a long……time ago), I attended a small junior all girls college in Marion, VA.  The best way home to save trips for my parents back and forth at breaks and holidays, was to take the train.  A fellow student, who lived near by back in Va. Beach, VA, would travel with me.  I loved riding through the back country of VA through mountains, gorges,  and by rivers.  It was Xmas break and we eagerly waited at the train station to be picked up.  Well, as it turned out, the station sold too many tickets!  The train had picked up students from Virginia Tech, Longwood College, & Radcliff.  So by the time it got to us there were literally no more empty seats.  The conductor offered the baggage car until some of the other students got off at the next stops.   Anxious to get home, we all said “Yes!” without a second thought.   So that is what we did!  We rode most of the way home sitting on mail sacks in the baggage car!  We even helped the baggage car conductor open the doors and take on more sacks!  But the hilarious part was when word went through the rest of the train by guys yelling “Hey, there’s a train car load of girls on the back of the train!”  Of course, the guys all come rushing back there to check us out!  Ah, what a ride to remember!  We did get off at Petersburg, VA, and took the spur home to Norfolk, VA.  Sadly, the ride back to school wasn’t anywhere near as exciting!  See, I told you I loved trains! The downside of the experience on our Heber Valley Railroad was too many small children.   A family took all their kids out of school for this special trip with a relative.  The kids were running up and down the aisles and the parents were constantly up and down chasing them and talking with other people.  They, too, showing no interest in the scenery.  Most of the smaller children had no interest in the train except for the snacks Mom had brought.  The whistle would frighten babies and set them wailing.  Why couples bring tiny babies on something like that is beyond us.  It was something we wanted to do but it could have been much more enjoyable.  I think we will pass on any of their other excursions. 

Gorgeous Mirror Lake Scenic Drive

Sept. 16.  What a wonderful drive up through more mountains with great views, beautiful lakes, and fall colors!  The state legislature designated SR-150 as a scenic drive in 1933, running east from SR-32 in Kamas to the Wasatch-Cache National Forest boundary.  In 1953, it was extended east and north via Mirror Lake to the Wyoming state line.  The road is the highest paved road in Utah when it crosses Bald Mountain Pass at an altitude of 10,715 feet.  On the way to Kamas, we stopped at the Jordanelle  Reservoir overlook.  The red foliage on the mountains just gets more colorful!  Love being out here in the mountains in the fall!!  Jordanelle Reservoir is fed by the Provo River.   Another dam?  Of course, Doug has to stop and see it!  You can see the highway between Heber and Park City.
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Off we go up onto a higher bluff at Kamas.  Then we turned onto the nice paved road towards the canyon of homes tucked here and there on the mountain sides as we headed up into the higher wilderness.  Loved driving through the fall leaf change, mountain views, and the serenity of just being out in the woods exploring a new area.  There were right many other folks up there for this time of the year and on a weekday. 
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Well now, just about everyone knows how crazy I am about the west and especially horses, cowboys, ranches, rodeos, etc.  Things of the real old west.  After travelling for 12 years I FINALLY got to see a real cattle drive, cowboys driving 500 head of longhorns, as part of Frontier Days in Cheyenne, WY.   Well, I posted recently about seeing another small cattle drive near Salt Lake City.  Now,  I got to see one more!  All  along the scenic byway are yellow signs to watch for cows, since the  mountains are “open Range”.  There was even a digital sign on the side of the road flashing “slow, cows in the road”.   A bit amusing.  Then several miles further up the road, we see several cows together in the road.  “Wait! There is a cowboy driving them!”   Oh, boy!  Another cattle drive!  Okay, I calmed down and realized there were only about 10 cows and the cowboy was in a ball cap and tee shirt.  I didn’t care, a drive is a drive no matter how many cows are in it!  It was fun to see.  Who would have thought you would have seen a cattle drive way up in the mountains in the middle of nowhere just trotting down the road!   We saw just a few more cattle scattered in the brush along the road when we came back down. 
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We then stopped at the Provo Waterfalls.  The falls are right off the road with steps and paths to different viewing areas.  These were really nice pretty falls. 
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We began to see Bald Mountain as we got closer to Mirror Lake.  But first we stopped at Teapot Lake along the roadside.  Beautiful!  There are many lakes up in these mountains but you have to hike to most of them.  Small Lost Lake was across the road from this lake but not nearly as big or pretty. 
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Then we reached Bald Mountain.  The landscape from the overlook at the summit beneath Bald Mountain was fantastic.  The white dot in the 3rd picture is a lonely little camper out in the meadow. 
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The best was saved for last! Gorgeous Mirror Lake! It is just a few miles beyond Bald Mountain.  It was just so beautiful up there!  There is  small campground, day use area, and picnic area.  Some folks had their horse trailers and horses in the day use area getting ready to ride some of the trails. 
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We walked around part of the lake, and I walked further on the boardwalk over the marsh grass to see the scenery around behind the trees to the right.  The views just kept getting better and better. 
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Even Bald Mountain looked pretty good from the lake.   On the way back we drove through a nice new campground that had plenty of room for big rigs.  There were paved roads and sites right on a lake.  That is one we will certainly keep in mind if we return to this area. 
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It was a terrific  drive and awesome scenery!  Golly, do we have to leave!?