A couple weeks ago was Mark’s and my third wedding anniversary. It fell on a Wednesday, and he was going on a guys only camping trip on Saturday, so we knew the only day we’d have to celebrate would be a Friday. Mark took the day off work, and we had a big plan of going up into the canyons, renting mountain bikes and spending the day riding down.
But unfortunately mother nature got in the way of our plans by sending a tornado through the area the day before! The weather was pretty dire for a few days – high winds and rain. We hoped for the best, but by the time Friday rolled around, it was clear we wouldn’t be doing any biking.
We didn’t want to waste the day, so we put out a call to facebook and asked for ideas. Most of our friends were adamant that we should stay in our pajamas, eat junk food and binge watch Netflix together. And the idea had a certain appeal. But we really wanted to get out and DO something. It was an early day at school, so the kids would be going to daycare by 10:30, and we had about seven hours to kill. On top of that, the awesome folks at Mitsubishi had given us one of their AMAZING CUVs (a 2016 Outlander Sport, if you want to get technical) for a week, and we wanted to take it out and enjoy it!
Finally, one of my husband’s friends mentioned that she and her husband had recently taken a drive up over the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, and she said it was just beautiful. I immediately googled the crap out of it, found out it was about an hour away and that it was a 20 mile highway through some beautiful scenery. I figured we could drive out, take some photos and then go somewhere nice for lunch. A plan was born!
We hopped in our Outlander and jetted down the highway with cameras in hand and excitement coursing through us.
Mark and I have a weird habit of having what we call “Papparazzi Dates.” This is basically when we go somewhere beautiful and just take hundreds of pictures of ourselves and each other. It’s all in good fun, and it usually gets us a few nice photos that we wouldn’t otherwise have had. We pose for one another and act silly and practice our photography. So we were prepared with a few different cameras for this trip, but as it turned out, our iPhones ended up turning out better photos than the expensive SLRs!
The Alpine Loop runs through the Wasatch Range, up from Utah Hwy. 92 up American Fork Canyon and then continues through Uinta National Forest into Provo Canyon on U.S. 189. It promises stunning views of Mount Timpanogos and other beautiful peaks. It’s free if you’re just driving through, but it’s $6 if you plan on getting out of your car at all. (We paid the $6.)
As soon as we started up the canyon, I knew this was going to be totally worth the long drive. The weather was very cloudy and misty with light drizzling rain off and on. The sun would peak through the clouds for a few moments before disappearing, leaving a hazy sort of golden fog surrounding us. The entire loop is paved, but the roads are rather narrow in places, making passing other cars slightly intimidating. There are many places you can pull off the road, some small parking areas and other little dirt alcoves that allow you to get out of your car and take photos. Right at the beginning, we stopped in a parking area and looked out over one of the most amazing vistas I’ve ever seen. Snow-topped mountains in the distance and the beautiful Uinta National Forest as far as the eye could see.
Our borrowed car drove beautifully through the countryside. Though the mountains often prove difficult for our own car, the Mitsubishi took them with no fuss. It was by far the most comfortable we’ve ever been when driving through canyons. The Sirius radio played quietly in the background, adding a real ambiance inside the car as we drove. The temperature controls were lovely, as we were able to stay not too warm or cold – especially important as we were frequently jumping into and out of the car! And I LOVED the 4wheel drive, as it was able to be turned on or off as you like, or you can lock it in. Since we were not only on dangerous mountain roads, but also WET mountain roads, we kept it on. And we never had a single worry.
We continued on our journey, meeting other people on the way. We often were able to swap photo duties with other families or couples who wanted nice pictures of themselves. “You take our picture, we’ll take yours!”
Every few thousand feet seemed a completely new experience. The trees changed constantly – evergreens everywhere would suddenly change into bright yellow aspens would then change into gorgeous bigtooth maples or mighty oaks! The colors were truly extraordinary. Reds and oranges, yellow leaves with white bark – it took my breath away. As an east coast girl with a love of autumn, I’ve often been rather derisive of my adopted state’s fall season. But I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful sight on this day.
Of course, somewhere along our journey, we managed to take a turn we didn’t mean to, and we ended up at Cascade Springs, a mountain spring criss-crossed by a 1/4-mile boardwalk, leading out over clear natural pools and cascading terraces filled with fish and aquatic plants. We stopped for a look around, but we quickly realized that my heeled boots weren’t necessarily going to allow us to walk very far. We settled for a few photos in the area and then left.
Fun fact. My husband is in my eyes the most gorgeous man in the world. He is so full of personality. But in photos, he becomes very stiff and has a hard time looking anything but serious. Whenever I see him looking particularly handsome, I tell him to hold still so I can take a photo. Inevitably he tenses up, and the moment is lost. But once in a while, if you remind him to just let loose, you’ll find he does just that. In the next few photos, you can see a story develop.
First, he is posing stiffly:
I tell him to loosen up. So he removes his coat and starts swinging it around his head.
He throws his coat into what turns out to be a hidden puddle.
And he’s suddenly loosened up.
I love this man. <3
We got turned around yet again, not sure which way would lead us back, and we found ourselves suddenly on a miles-long gravel road curving through the mountains. A steep decline with no guardrails was a little scary, but the views as we made our way down (verrrrry slowly) were seriously gorgeous. When we finally came off of the road, we realized we were coming out the other side of the Wasatch Mountain State Park in Heber. We found a main road and began driving toward civilization. By this time, many hours had actually passed! We’d planned on getting lunch around noon, and it was now past two! We figured we’d look for some small place along the way and get a bite. But before we could find a restaurant, we found CHEESE!
I am, by my own admission, a cheese addict. So when we came across a field of dairy cows and a small red building called Heber Valley Milk, I called for a pit stop. Inside was a magical land of delicious local cheese (and other dairy products). There were trays of samples, and you’d better believe I indulged. I headed for the long row of fridges in the back and chose several bags of flavored squeaky cheese. They also happened to sell Kinder Hippos, which is a treat I used to LOVE when we lived in the UK. I bought a few to go along with my cheese.
Of course, I could have just eaten cheese, but since it was our anniversary, we decided to persevere in looking for somewhere to eat. But despite driving for ages, we weren’t finding anything except chain restaurants. My low blood sugar began to set in, and I got a bit of a headache and was feeling rather grumpy, when suddenly Mark got a big smile on his face and turned off the highway. As we drove, I started to recognize our surroundings. We were headed into one of my FAVORITE places in the world – Park City!
I’ve gotta say – I LOVE Park City. It is such a beautiful place to visit. I’d live there in a heartbeat if I ever thought I could afford it! It’s got beautiful resorts, amazing restaurants and some beautiful shops. It has all the feel of a small town, but with the amenities of a big city! Every single time I go there, I want to take a million photos, and I’m always disappointed when I come home and find that I’ve taken so few. I’m just so taken in by the glamor that I never remember to actually click my camera!
We quickly parked the car and got out. A quick sidenote – the Outlander is a super awesome piece of tech. First of all, you don’t need a key, as it’s a push-button start. It has a fob, which allows you to lock/unlock the car, but it ALSO has a button on each handle that allows you to unlock it by passing your thumb over it (as long as you have the fob with you, of course – otherwise anyone could get in!). It will also beep at you if you walk away with the fob, reminding you to lock up. I can’t say enough good things about this car!
Ahem. Anyway, we headed down to the main street in Park City, trying to figure out where to eat. There were way too many options, and I get rather overwhelmed at too much choice, so I picked a direction and ran into the first place I found – Bandit’s Grill & Bar. A margarita was a given (it was delicious!) and I knew I couldn’t eat a huge amount, so I went to the Starters and Small Plates section of the menu. I asked for the Old West Nachos with Pulled Pork. Mark got the Pulled Pork Sandwich. You can imagine my face when they brought me the most GIGANTIC plate of nachos I’ve EVER seen. Mark immediately put his sandwich aside and dug into my nachos with me. Between the two of us, we didn’t even eat HALF of them! The rest (as well as Mark’s meal) was taken to go.
After a short walk around Park City, we got too cold to stay outside. The day had gone so fast, and we had a few errands we wanted to run before we got the kids. So we decided to end our date there. I couldn’t have asked for a better anniversary day out.
I’m seriously grateful to the folks at Drive Shop and Mitsubishi who gave us the use of the Outlander for the week. It was an awesome car that drove so beautifully through terrain that our own car would have had trouble with. While it is on the smaller side (it’s a Crossover Utility Vehicle – like an SUV but smaller), it was able to fit our entire family inside, us plus three kids who are all in some form of car seat! I was mightily impressed by it and would not hesitate in recommending it to anyone who likes to go on adventures. The trunk space is more limited than we like, but you can fit quite a lot in it if you are good at Tetris. And the most important thing – our kids LOVED it.