We’ve zipped past this a dozen times on our annual drive down to Moab UT. Each time we both say, “Dang! We missed it again. Next time!” Well… next time finally happened. Ironically, we missed the entrance on our way down but we managed to take the time to stop and check out this semi-hidden jewel on our way back home.
Mill Fork is a ghost town, established in 1837 and abandoned by homesteaders in the 1930s. It’s located in the Spanish Fork Canyon. Based around and named for the sawmills, at its height the town boasted some 250 inhabitants. It was an important part of the railroad development through the canyon and upon completion the town & its resources dried up like the earth surrounding it. All that remains of the town is the cemetery offset from the busy highway camouflaged by the tall grass that is typical of the area. The arched entrance to the small, well-tended to cemetery is a landmark on U.S. Route 6 between Spanish Fork & Price UT.
The ancestors from three families, the Atwoods, Chadwicks & the Elliotts, are responsible for the maintenance of this tiny reminder of a long since forgotten town and its history. Without their tireless efforts, most of the 16 known residents of the cemetery would have been forever lost or unknown along with their tragic stories. Up until 2005, no one had known exactly how many souls where forever marked on the unforgiving terrain, their names a mystery shrouded in the dust and decay.
We pulled off of the highway and drove under the arched sign and parked in the small area levelled out for visitors. We grabbed our cameras and started our way on foot and I was surprised to feel an overwhelming sense of calm wash over me after crossing a run down bridge into the cemetery proper. Devon & I had thought being in such a place would have given us both the worst case of the heebs. The fenced in cemetery with its carefully planted trees had an eerily soothing feeling to it. Being mindful not to step on any of the residents we both walked about reading their headstones in sombre silence while taking pictures. I left a coin on the main marker bearing the cemetery’s name. This slab feels original. Legend has it that leaving coins helped the spirits pay the toll to have the gates of Heaven opened for them. This is especially important to do so in a place where most of the inhabitants are children. Leaving coins also lets others know that people have visited.
Devon wandered off on her own & I found the visitors book in a neat looking box with a pen. I thumbed through the pages and read some comments before flipping to a crisp page to leave a message of my own. I then returned the book to its rightful place and locked the door. We went through each section at a time. The family plots were distinctly marked with separate fencing and gates. I’m no stranger to cemeteries, I actually find them both beautiful & calming. I will say this… the markers for the children were the smallest I have ever seen.
I looked up a few facts about Mill Fork before we arrived and it turns out the cemetery is steeped in tragedy. Two such events stand out for me. The earliest inhabitants were three little girls, sisters, who perished due to scarlet fever in June of 1893. The youngest, Edna Vivian Finch, just 1 year old.
Even more shocking than that is the story of Paris & Voila Chadwick Ballard. The two met, fell in love and married. Years later, in 1919, Paris took a job as a range rider on Antelope Island (another of our favourite spots). The Ballards had to relocate to Salt Lake City for this job. As Paris was away for work, Voila spent more time with her first cousin, H.A. Hill. Paris grew paranoid & jealous of anyone who spent time with his wife. Voila’s cousin ate supper with her & her sister almost every night. When Paris came home, he grew increasingly jealous of Hill because of his constant presence. After one particularly bad argument where Paris had threatened to kill his comely wife, Voila & Hill went to the police station to report it. Voila was then accompanied home by the deputy sheriff, where they discovered that Paris was gone, so the deputy left. Paris had taken his clothes, making it appear that he had returned to Antelope Island… he had not. He purchased a gun & ammunition the next morning and returned to his apartment to confront his wife. After a heated exchange neighbours heard two quick shots followed by her screams. Seconds later, two more shots rang out. Then there was silence. When officers arrived they found two bodies. Paris lay on the bed, barely breathing… he died in hospital eight hours later. Voila lay dead between his feet. There is still speculation today among their ancestors whether his jealousy was merited.
Mill Fork came about in the pioneer days, bringing much needed jobs with the expansion of the railroads and the industrial revolution brought the demise of the town altogether. The beautiful arched entrance, in its simplicity, stands as the constant sole reminder of this long gone town. Without the dedicated work of these three families this cemetery would have been but a faint mark in an obscure history book ignored on a dusty shelf in a tiny library in some forgotten small town. Due to their efforts, the cemetery, like its inhabitants buried within its sheltering fence, has undergone a resurrection.
I’m glad we took a few minutes to finally stop and visit. It was worth the wait.
There’s something to be said about growing up in a small town. What might be better than that? Growing up in a village. During the May long weekend Devon & I were invited to and enjoyed an adventure in such a place. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s a place called Chase.
The scenic village of Chase, BC nestled near the base of the Shuswap is a vibrant community of lush green pastures mixed with unpredictable weather and warm locals who are quick to smile and chat about random topics at the drop of a hat. It’s a place where outdoorsy individuals either visit seasonally, move to upon retirement or for some lucky humans, grow up in.
Our good friends Ben & Rhonda sent an open invitation to come along with them to take advantage of her parents quite vacant and very charming character home. With only minor pondering and thoughtful pro & conning, we welcomed the opportunity to venture into Pleasantville.
I’ll just highlight some items from here on out.
McAllister Manor (as I dubbed Rhonda’s folks’ casa) felt like home the second I crossed the threshold. Equal parts country home to upscale cabin in the woods, I was quite surprised at how quickly we four fell asleep. It could have been our midnight adjacent arrival but I’m more certain that the house’s energy was warm, balanced and welcoming.
We spent the next three days poking our heads into very cool mom ’n’ pop shops with an amazing selection of arts, crafts, organic, homemade products and more locally grown produce that I can shake my fist at. The handcrafted First Nations items were of particular interest.
*editors’ note: The “Safety Mart” store does NOT have anything to do with safety. I had every intention of bubble wrapping Devon and “gently” shoving her down a hill for some redneck zorbing.The Three Sisters waterfalls (formerly called Chase Creek Falls) located in and around the Mt. Scatchard Switchback Trails (rated easy) near the south end of town were refreshingly misty. The Thompson River and its offshoot arms were raging and swollen (If you’re an avid angler, Chase is the place for you.) making the tiny trek up the banks mildly treacherous and at one point, completely impassable. The water’s power managed to drown out the Trans Canada Hwy we ducked under via the underpass.
Rhonda’s parents were amazing hosts. (I could explain further but this statement sums it up.)We also took a scenic drive onto Niskonlith land with the destination of Niskonlith Lake Provincial Park. Along the way you observe wild horses, cows and if you’re really lucky, Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep. With two vehicles, six adults & four dogs in our caravan and minor barking along the drive in, we enjoyed walking along the gravel road, snapping photos and running the dogs. The lake itself is beautiful which is an odd statement as I’ve yet to come across an ugly one. It was here that we observed a falcon eating a fish on a burnt tree leaning over the Niskonlith (sorry, no photo as we were too enthralled with the beauty of it all). It was also here that two of our handy capable dogs somersaulted down the embankment for a quick dip. Two of the most graceful bails I have ever witnessed.
To stave off some downpour boredom Devon thought it funny to use the DR-HO’s Dual Muscle Therapy System as a means of amusement. After placing the pads on her biceps, she literally almost punched herself in the face. Amazing. Ben put both pads on his right foot and with Rhonda at the controls he practically fell over the top of the barcalounger. Also amazing. It’s quite frightening to have your partner in control of essentially, a mini AED. *please use this equipment properly. I nixed Devon’s idea of her putting the pads on her chesticles as it is way to close to the heart. Know your limit and use safe words.* It sure sounds like I’m a bit of a kill joy, but she had me looking like Frankenstein’s monster with the pads placed on my triceps. Youch. Good times.
What I took home from this micro staycation… we live in an amazing province which I haven’t given myself the time to explore. Shame on me. Something else I took home with me? Just how lucky Rhonda is to have such a wonderful hometown.Would I go back again? Definitely. Should you make a run up to Chase? It would be an injustice not to.
“Nothing is more expensive that a missed opportunity.” – H Jackson Browne Jr.
I had left SLC heading south to warmer weather and to a few other places AND surprises. At about 9:30am I hit a gas station for a fill up and was texting a friend about how warm it was outside. She was telling me it was raining back home so of course, being the douche that I am, I FB some photos of the sunny weather I was having and tagged her in them.
Not even one hour later karma was out for me. Driving down the highway from SLC to Vegas I noticed my car shake in a weird fashion then all of a sudden, BOOM, my back passenger tire explodes!! All over the highway is tire “guts” from my car. The car swerves left then right, I’m on the e-brake trying to get it under control. I manage to get the car off the NOT AT ALL busy highway. I flick on my hazards and start looking in my wallet for my AAA card… not there… I’m looking in my glove box when I hear a honk behind me. It’s a flatbed tow truck! YAY! I’ve been saved!
This little old man with an oxygen tank strapped to his back gets out of the truck and wanders over to me. “Seems you need some help, ma’am.” Uh, duh! ☺ I explain I don’t know where I am and DO need the help. It turns out Kevin, old dude’s name, has a shop in the next town over so we get Smelly car up and on the flatbed and off we go. 10 minutes down the road, we hit the town and his gas station/shop.
My car is put up on a lift and his shop hand, a lovely dude named Bruce, gets working. Bruce was an older guy, probably my dad’s age; he had 2 rescue dogs that I played with until the damn POM (with no teeth) bit me. The best part of this story is I had ordered a new credit card before I left for my trip that I had originally planned with a friend and of course it didn’t come in time. I ended up calling my friend Rhonda and she helped me out. I have kickass friends, yo!!! I found out when I got home my new credit card arrived that Wednesday afternoon… go figure!
Bruce and I exchanged road stories while he was fixing my car up. Sometimes you hear of women getting taken advantage of in these situations but Kevin and Bruce were AMAZING! Not only did they fix my car, they fixed a couple other potential issues for free, filled up my gas and when I asked what town I was in, gave me 2 free t-shirts saying where… BEAVER, UTAH!
So if you’re ever in Beaver Utah, stop by the Conoco and say hi to Kevin and Bruce, tell them Devon, the tattooed Canadian, sent you.
And also… NEVER EVER tease your friends about the weather and your travels or you’ll end up with karma hitting you back, sorry Ashley.
I got in around 2pm, got my sandwich(es) and made camp. I set off to explore the island some more and was met by these two very lovely students from BYU. We talked roadtrips. I told them the best places to see the bison on the island and soon we parted ways.
I took off to the other side of the island to catch the sunset. Having been to the island once before, I had a good idea where I was heading. I was told by the park ranger earlier that evening that only four other groups were camping on the island that night… that put the head count at about a dozen people on Antelope Island that night, CRAZY!
I must say watching the sunset from the roof of my car was a highlight of the trip. I pulled over to the side of the road, climbed up onto the roof of my Honda Fit and just laid there taking in everything around me. No phones, no cameras, no distractions.
Watching the sun setting off in the distance and as I lay there taking in the scene, three bison walked over to my car to sniff it. Remember, I am on the roof sans phone or camera, just watching the sunset. I’m laying flat on the roof of the car so as not to startle the bison, when all of a sudden the three of them move towards the trunk of my
car to give it a sniff (I’m sure they are smelling my dog). I flip over to my stomach ever so calmly so now I am laying the entire length of my car (on the roof). I could have reached out and touched the bison but no, instead I just laid there watching in awe as they sniffed around my car, grunted a few times then wandered off. My heart was RACING. A total Jurassic park moment for me… Cue the music 🙂
After the sun set over the hills, I hopped back into my car and took off for camp. When I ran into those same three bison again, I jumped out of the car and grabbed this photo of them, wished them a peaceful night and back to camp I went. I watched a movie in the car and fell asleep being sure to set my alarm for the sunrise that would be anything but lame. 🙂 Utah, you are one of my favourite states!! 🙂
Sometimes the road provides, well actually it always provides! Recently I was given the opportunity to go on a solo trip. I had been wanting to go on one for sometime…
Time was ticking away, where are you going people asked, you should go here or there they’d say. Immediately I took those suggestions and put them on the back burner. I don’t like being told what to do. Everyone around me asked if I was excited yet, nope was my usual reply. I had been too busy planning Jade’s surprise party (princess themed) with friends to even think about my trip.
The day before my trip was Jade’s birthday, we spent the day with friends and family celebrating the big 38. I would leave the next morning still with no clue where to go. We got home late from dinner and I threw a couple clothes in my backpack, grabbed some essential camping gear and went to bed. Packing literally took me all of 10 minutes.
Where was I going to go? Not a clue…
Tried, tested & true, the following life hacks are used by us when we travel.
You’ll find most of these quite common but you’d be surprised to know that most people who travel feel the “vacation” experience is enhanced by “all inclusive”. That somehow their vacation isn’t real unless someone is waiting on them hand and foot. For me, I’m happy being thrifty on the road. Saving a buck wherever I can makes my trip worth while. If I can cut a corner somewhere, save a few dollars in my lodging to be able to spend it on a bigger, fancier meal or something I really want, then that’s what I’ll do, every time.
When we travel, we try to stick to the west coast or the southwest. Rest areas dot the highways along the way. These are the ultimate places for us to stay. Why? They’re free. They have bathrooms. Some even have showers. The key word here is free. I save one hundred percent when we stay at one. They are bright, clean and safe. I’ve never had an issue staying at a rest stop. However, it is illegal to stay overnight, so make sure that you grab four hours of sleep before moving on. After all, the state troopers would rather you stay at one than drive fatigued.
If you insist on staying somewhere, try a motel over a hotel. They’re more cost effective. They have free WiFi, free coffee and in some cases, they have a continental breakfast. I love me a free breakfast. My personal favourite is Motel 6. The WiFi is decent, and they have swimming pools and more importantly hot tubs (spas). These are great for weary travellers with sore bodies. I could sit in one for an unhealthy length of time and shrivel up like a prune. Also, after a certain hour, some are kid free.
Even better than a motel are certain types of camping spots that come with showers and laundry facilities. These are the hidden jewels of the road. Some state parks have coin operated showers, which is a bonus when you’ve been in a car for way too long. Some RV/camping sites not only have free clean showers, but laundry too. That’s the ultimate find when you’re travelling. Of course, the laundry is coin operated, but I’ll spend a few bucks to save my nose from an unhappy confined space situation.
Rest areas are the biggest money saver on the open road. But you can save big money by stopping at small mom ’n’ pop grocery stores and buy fresh fruits and vegetables to keep in a cooler in your car. You don’t need to stop once or twice a day and eat at a restaurant. It’s expensive and usually unhealthy. I like to control the kind of nourishment I consume. By buying fruits and vegetables, you save on money, ensure that you’re eating well and you can buy in small quantities to make sure nothing spoils while you’re travelling. Do we eat out on the road? Of course. We usually stop once a day at an eatery. We’re a little picky about our food, so we take our time finding spots to stop at.
However, after reading this, if you still feel like you’re happier staying in expensive hotels and eating at potentially unhealthy restaurants, have at ‘er. But if you’re looking to save big money, give our technique a try. We not only save money, more often than not, we come home with cash in hand.
With these tips and tricks, we have managed to go on two or three vacations a year without breaking the bank. I love travelling, but I love saving a few bucks even more. It’s awesome when you can do both at the same time.
Give it a shot, what have you got to lose?