One of the best day trips out of Salt Lake City is to head southeast to 9 Mile Canyon outside of Price (actually, outside of Wellington). The canyon name is a misnomer-it is not nine miles long, it’s about 43 miles long from the highway, through the mountains and up to Duchesne before the road back to Park City/Salt Lake. It’s worth a stop after two hours or so in Helper at the Balanced Rock Eatery and Pub on Main Street for pancakes (all day!) bigger than the size of your head, burgers, sannies and dinner entrees. The little town has done a great job of changing from empty boarded up storefronts, saloons, and hotels to a little vibrant art community of @2500 residents.
Once you’re full as a tick it’s not far to the turnoff to the Canyon adventure. You can see thin layers of coal (it is Carbon County!) in the hills, smell fragrant cedar pines and sage brush, discover colors of earth from a light green to a sandstone red on your drive and best of all, the infamous petroglyphs along the roadside. There’s the ‘coyote and the stars’ on a rock high above road (with markers to help see it), large ‘newspaper rocks’ of stories showing humanoids, sheep, deer, snakes, giant owls, and many dots in patterns that look like calendars. Sadly, A-holes of this century have scrawled their own graffiti alongside the precious Native art including adding vaginas and penises to some of the smaller human figures carved into the rock. It’s a felony and a bad Federal rap to damage any of these sites.
Scenic Utah is a 501(c)3 non-profit state-wide organization out to win my heart. They appreciate our history and our vistas around the state. These volunteers are out to educate us, the legislature and larger communities about protecting dark skies, scenic byways and help to ban new electronic billboards to reduce the light pollution that damage dark skies and help to ensure local governments keep rights to regulate and ban billboards of all kinds that are ‘intrusive eyesores that harm the visual environment, reduce property values and detract from community character.’ They appreciate as I do our visual environs. They have found that more than 75% of Utahns believe billboards are intrusive eyesores that harm the visual environments where they are located.
Having served as a volunteer Planning Commissioner for Salt Lake City for 8 years I got a hard and fast education on how powerful the billboard companies are and how difficult it is to get rid of a single one. You can go to scenicutah.org to find out more about their vision and purpose. Best of all, they are having a photo contest (Deadline is SEPT 1) with categories like ‘scenic night skies’, ‘my rural roots’, parks in towns and cities, ‘visual pollution we wish would go away’, ‘off the beaten path’ (remote or hard to reach places in our beautiful state), etc. to celebrate the vistas of this great state.