Above Sundance, in the Utah mountains, the Alpine Loop is a scenic byway that is a wonderland of native wildflowers. On a map it's shown as Route 92. It winds around the mountains in the Uinta National Forest, down past Timpanogos National Monument and Caves. The Alpine Loop has switchbacks through 27 miles, with the summit at an elevation of 8,000 feet.
As you are going up Route 189, you can rent inner-tubes, and float down the Provo River. Be prepared to paddle a lot with your arms. It is cold and there are branches and rocks to avoid, so it is not for the faint of heart. But we saw horses, and a wild turkey at the river edge, and ducks, and had a wild time.
The road is open between late May and late October. There are campgrounds available along the Alpine Loop. The Timpooneke Campground lies at 7, 400 feet amid fir, spruce and aspen trees, or 'Quakies' as my father called them. The campground manager told us the other morning as she was walking through the site, she felt hot breath on her back and turned to find a moose behind her. A stream runs through the camp and there is a nearby beaver pond. It is cold at night. Here is a good TRICK: Fill your nalgene bottle with boiling water and put it in the foot of your sleeping bag. It will help keep you warmer until morning.
The Alpine Loop is laced with ferns and wildflowers. Take a little drive and then walk among the wildflowers with us. Are you ready?
The forest is like an immense art museum. The colors used by Alexander Calder in his hanging mobiles, Gerrit Rietveld in his designs, and Piet Mondrian in his paintings set the background to make this giant 'dandelion' look surreal. See the 'do' of the pink thistle below.
I was fascinated by the delicate magenta veins of the tiny sticky Geranium.
As we drove into Utah, we witnessed fireworks shooting up against the black sky all along the foothills of the mountains on the Wasatch Front. There were thousand of explosions. It seemed magical. Then we realized it was the 24th of July, Pioneer Day, the day the pioneers entered the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1847 .
They look cute. They'd make a great pair of ear-rings, but don't eat them, as they are toxic.
Other names for Aconitum include: Queen of all Poisons, and Wolf's Bane. It is thought that the poison derived from this plant was used on the tips of arrows to kill wolves. The Greeks poisoned the tips of their arrows with Aconitum, and arrow tips poisoned with it have been used by different groups of native populations to kill ibex, bear, and whales. The Roman poet Oped in his epic poem, Metamorphoses, tells that Wolf's Bane came from the mouths of Cerberus. Cerberus, as Oped tells it, was the three headed guard dog whose work it was to guard the gates of Hell. The myth tells that some of it's saliva fell on the ground, and from where it fell the poisonous plant Aconitum grew, that grows amid the rocks. Maybe Cerberus was a cousin to Fluffy, the three headed dog in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, except legend tells that one of Cerberus' heads was that of a lion, another a wolf, and the last a dog's head. Well I'm relieved I only took a picture of it, pretty as it is, and didn't touch it.
As you can see, it had started to get dark by now. We had foil dinners. They were delicious and only a tiny bit burnt with corn on the cob steamed in the husks. The girls slept by the creek, except one lucky one who found the car warm. As I lay on the hard packed ground, regretting I hadn't patched my good sleeping pad, I was grateful for the warmth of the boiling water in the nalgene bottle. I kept wishing I had put mending my good Camp 7 down bag on the to-do list, but it with its whirlwind of down were sitting in the garage in a plastic bag. I wished I had a to-do list. But breakfast was coming soon with eggs, pancakes, maple syrup and butter, bacon and a fire. Oh yeah, a big fire.
Well, we had packed our gear and had headed down the mountain. First we headed up until the road turned into a dirt road, and then we headed down to the entrance of the Timpanogus Cave.
After leaving the cave, the road was lined with sunflowers, waist high. Their smiling faces were saying goodbye to us and hello to those they greet as they stand, guardians to the mouth of the canyon.