Winter is coming!!!! Weekend Ride: Mirror Lake

***Editor’s Note: I wrote this just under a month ago, and for some reason didn’t post it.***

10/12/2015
As you may well know, Fall is in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere. Here in Utah, we’re having a pretty standard Fall, you know one week it’s warm, the next it’s cold and a few days later it’s downright hot. Either way the leaves are changing and there’s no denying that in no time it will be time to hide our two-wheeled loves away for the long winter. I’ve been in denial (as many have) relying on the fact that the warm weather is only a few days away, even as the leaves change and fall to the ground, even with the increasingly chilly nights and early mornings. This weekend however, I was forced to face the truth.

This weekend was set to be a warm one, forecasted to be in the low to mid 80’s. I was thrilled since the weekend before had been rainy and overcast. Saturday was perfect if not a little warm. Around 3pm, I took off to explore a dirt road in Jeremy Ranch, (Jeremy Ranch Road), that connects Parley’s Canyon with East Canyon. The ride was fairly uneventful, the road was decently maintained with only a few rough spots. It was warm enough but definitely started to get chilly as the sun went down.

Sunday, I decided to head up Mirror Lake Highway after a failed attempt (due to rain) last weekend. It was a beautiful day in Salt Lake, hot in the sun and cool in the shade, there was a nice chill in the air while riding. I only packed a light jacket, anticipating it to be just a bit cooler in the mountains. Riding up Parley’s Canyon and even into Kamas wasn’t too bad, but I was a little cold and thought about putting on my jacket. I stopped for gas at Kamas Food Town (I LOVE that name), and of course, forgot to put it on. I decided to just power through.

As I headed up the MLH, I began to regret the decision not to stop and put on my jacket and started looking for a safe place to pull off. As with most mountain roads the only pull offs were dirt/gravel with nice drop off from the pavement. I kept going, not willing to risk a questionable maneuver because of a slight discomfort. The MLH runs through the Wasatch National Forest and also an open cattle range. Today there were signs advising that the cattle were on the road so I was riding a bit slower. It was a good thing because a few minutes later I was rounding a corner and saw them. A small herd of 5-6 cattle being herded down the road by some ranchers on horseback. I slowed to a stop just off the road on a paved access point. I decided this was the perfect opportunity to put on my jacket. I turned off my bike as to avoid spooking either the horses or the cattle, and while staying on my bike pulled my jacket off the back seat. Once I had secured my jacket and the livestock were a safe distance away I started my bike and pulled back on to the road.

I really should have learned by now, ALWAYS travel with my leather jacket because whenever I go without it, are the times I need it most. As I continued along the highway, I rose in elevation and it got colder and colder. I began to grow tired (my body tends to go into hibernation mode when I get too cold). I chastised myself for being ill-prepared. I was reminded of the first time I traveled up MLH and it had just rained and I was also incredibly cold. (Seems to be a pattern here…) I was passing all the same landmarks and was getting close to our old campgrounds and the summit. I was getting weary and knew I needed to get off my bike and move around. I almost pulled off at the campgrounds, but made myself travel the last few miles to the summit. I pulled off, grabbed my phone and bag and wandered off to sit on the cliff overlook.

I was freezing and exhausted so I lay down helmet still on (to keep warm), and closed my eyes. I didn’t stay there too long, really just long enough to warm up and relax. It was about 2pm and I had a way to go if I was going to make it to Evanston. I had no idea how far it was, or what the temperature would be. I was jealous of the people passing by in cars, and the convertible that pulled up inevitably blasting the heat. I took solace in the number of bikers that passed by from the other direction, even though many were in chaps, and scarves. I was still incredibly tired, but I knew I had to keep going, daylight would only last so long. I climbed back up the embankment to my bike, did some stretches and jumping jacks to wake up and get the blood going, and climbed back atop my bike.

My favorite part of MLH is just past the Duchesne county line. The surrounding mountains are gorgeous and the forest below looks as though it goes on forever. It’s mesmerizing. You can just imagine the life that exists in that place and I half expect a moose to waltz out of the trees. I didn’t stop this time knowing I’d stay far to long just staring out at the world and dreaming.

I eventually made it to Evanston which was (thankfully) warmer. I cruised Main Street only to discover that just about everything is closed on Sundays. I parked my bike and decided to look around Historic Depot Square. Since everything was closed there wasn’t much to see, but I did find a Chinese Gazebo and Garden. (Upon further research I found out that this is part of the Joss House, a Chinese Sacred Temple, originally erected in 1894, rebuilt after a fire in 1922.) I spent a fair amount of time watching the Koi in the pond, sent some snapchats and posted to Instagram (of course).

Eventually I headed back to my bike realizing that I was pretty hungry. Knowing that the only places open on Main Street were a coffeehouse, Kate’s bar, and Domino’s I decided to head for the highway and try to find a local restaurant. Along the way I passed a house with dinosaurs in front of it. Intrigued, I read the sign in front, and realized it was fossil and gemstone shop. I made two *mostly* legal u-turns, parked, and went in. This shop was awesome. Set in a house, each room (even the screened in porch!) offers something different. Many of the fossils are from the Wyoming Green River formation, though there are some others, and the gemstones are from all over. I LOVE “rocks”–> minerals and gems, and so I spent a fair amount of time admiring things, found a few gift, and FINALLY bought a Wyoming Patch:

The left sleeve of my jacket is reserved for “location” patches.

Finally I purchased my finds, and I was again in search of food. Evanston didn’t have much to offer outside of chain fast food, but there was a Chinese buffet that was open. I stopped and quickly ate, the sun was going down. It was already a little colder than I was comfortable with, and it was only going to get colder. Having never made the trip to Evanston on the highway, I had no idea how long of a ride I could expect. I mapped the route to check for traffic and travel time; it was a little over an hour to home. It was 6:15 I could make it before the sunset.

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