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Mirror Lake Highway and the Mystery of Monte Cristo

This time of year when the temps in the valley are in the 90s, pushing toward 100, the Mirror Lake Highway is a great escape. Climbing up to Bald Mountain Pass the temperatures really drop—I’ve even been down right cold in the middle of July before.

We left home about 8:00 am heading over Parley’s toward Kamas. Parley’s Canyon is a nice ride when the traffic is light—but there were lots of trucks, campers, and SUVs on the road this morning. Sometimes it feels a little like bumper cars on this road, so it’s important to stay alert and be prepared for slow-moving motorhomes that pull around even slower moving trucks, right in front of you.

My mesh jacket was just the ticket as the temps started to drop and the breeze got cooler. There were a lot of bicycles on the road both climbing Parley’s and on 248 into Kamas. I felt bad for them, as one of the diesel trucks in front of us would give his Power Stroke a little push as he went by. I don’t imagine they enjoyed the mouth full of black diesel exhaust as their lungs were working overtime climbing the hill into Kamas.

I love the ride over Wolf Creek Pass. In fact, it’s one of my favorites, but the Mirror Lake Highway has it beat for beautiful scenery. We could feel the temps drop as we gently twisted up the canyon to the Bald Mountain overlook, where we stopped to take a picture and Chris mugged for the camera. Kelly and I are usually alone for a ride like this, so it’s always fun when Chris, Sue, or my daughter Amanda joins us.

Although the scenery is much different, the ride from Bear River Station to Evanston is even a pretty part of the ride. And, at around 10:00 am, it was still cool enough that we were having just about a perfect morning in the saddle when we pulled into Evanston for a quick breakfast at the Golden Arches before heading up to Woodruff and over Monte Cristo into Huntsville.

Adding this enigma to a ride on the Mirror Lake Highway makes this one of my favorite rides. I say enigma, because nobody really knows how Monte Cristo, or the Mountain of Christ, got its name. The original namesake is a barren, granite island in the Mediterranean Sea, located between the west Italian coast and Corsica. The Monte Cristo isle is only 4 square miles but rises 2,000 feet above sea level. It was anciently known as Oglasa. Monks established a monastery on the island in the 1500s but left when pirates attacked. The Italian government tried to set up a penal colony there in the late 1800s, but that didn't work either.

If you’ve read the book, The Count of Monte Cristo, you’re probably familiar with the treasure found there that allowed Edmond Dantes to exact his revenge. The author, Alexander Dumas was one of my favorites as a young man—you might be familiar with the Three Musketeers?

It’s a mystery how Monte Cristo got it’s name among other famous Utah peaks like Timponogos, Nebo, King’s Peak, and Ensign Peak, but there are a few theories.

  • 1.Gold miners thought it resembled the Monte Cristo Mountains in California.
  • 2.An early road builder in the area read the book to his co-workers and the name stuck.
  • 3.The name was given by early trappers.

I’m not a fan of the California Mountain theory and trappers named a lot of things in this area, so that’s probably what it is, but I like the idea of a road crew sitting around the campfire at night reading Dumas’ tale of Dantes’ escape from prison, finding the treasure, and exacting his revenge. I’m going with that story.

Before dropping down into Huntsville, you can see the road switchback down the mountain amid the beautiful trees. We could feel the temperature rise as we got closer to our fuel stop in Huntsville and I enjoyed sitting in the shade with my ice cream cone before we headed back into town.

Our respite from the heat was over once we were in Weber Canyon headed for home, but the morning made the last hour or two of hot tarmac well worth it.

Where did you ride this weekend?