Concerned that thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon, we decided to move our bike ride to earlier in the day than originally planned. We ate a quick breakfast at Joyce’s home in Salt Lake before driving over to Park City, about a 30-minute drive. As we pulled into the parking lot at JANS Mountain Outfitters, they were just opening their store for the day. The staff in the rental department were extremely efficient and had us on our bikes in minutes.
Departing Park City, the Historic Union Pacific Trail was paved for a few miles as it meandered through marshy bogs. Fortunately, thanks to Ron’s advice, we decided to ride the trail downhill from Park City to Echo Reservoir. We took advantage of the downhill slope and sped along at about 12 mph.
Leaving the pavement on the outskirts of town, we crossed a major highway and pedaled beside a narrow creek that flowed past several cattle and horse farms. We had to stop to open and close cattle gates several times along this section of the trail; at one point, I had to holler and clap my hands to get a large steer to saunter off the path.
About 12 miles down the trail, we encountered a construction site with a fence and sign indicating that the trail would be closed until Fall 2015. My heart sank as I thought we might not be able to complete the trail; however, I decided to flag down one of the construction guys working nearby. I told him that we are riding all of the Hall of Fame trails in the country, and that this was the only day we had to ride the Union Pacific. He was extremely accommodating and gave us permission to push our bikes around the barricade through the construction site and back onto the trail about a 100 yards away. While pushing our bikes between the cranes, he explained that they are building a new bridge across the trail to I-80.
The trail ran parallel to I-80 until we reached Echo Reservoir. For me, the interstate traffic ruined this portion of our ride, but I tried to focus on the beautiful mountains ahead and the lush cattle land on our left as we continued to our destination. We passed an interesting fence that someone had made out of old snow skis, and it reminded me of Carhenge in Nebraska. As we rode closer to the reservoir, we passed a sheep and llama farm, which distracted me from the 18-wheelers whizzing by on the highway. During our ride, we spotted lots of birds (the tuxedo-colored Magpie was my favorite), a bunny rabbit and a small red fox which darted across the trail in front of us.
At the north end of the reservoir, the trail turned away from the interstate. We stopped at Subway for a bathroom break and to purchase cookies 🙂 Ed had caught up to us after his brief sightseeing drive around Deer Valley. Knowing that he was driving along Echo Dam Road, which was close to the trail, was reassuring to us on this remote stretch. The contour of the hard-packed trail changed drastically as we approached the reservoir. All of a sudden, for the next 2-3 miles, there were deep ruts which caused our bikes to bounce up and down, making me wish that our bikes did not have shocks. It felt like we were riding a pogo stick around the lake!
As we circled the lake, our path became less distinct where grass and weeds were growing across the trail. We reached a paved, wire-covered bridge crossing the interstate and the trail ended abruptly. It appeared that the old railroad continued across the gorge and into Echo; however, the entry to the railroad bridge was fenced off, and a switchback gravel trail led us down to the highway where Ed was waiting for us.
Ed photographed us in front of the Union Pacific railroad bridge, and we drove back to Park City to return our rental bikes. We were relieved that we finished the 28-mile trek before the rain started.
Ron met us in Park City and joined us for lunch at the Windy Ridge Café. After lunch, Ed and I drove out to Deer Valley and browsed the shops along the historic Main Street in Park City before returning to Salt Lake City. Although we’ve been to Park City many times for skiing and the Sundance Film Festival, everything looks different without SNOW!
We plan to eat dinner and get a good night’s sleep before heading to the airport to fly back to Atlanta in the morning. This has been a wonderful trip, and I’m already anxious to plan our last two bike rides to Wisconsin & Minnesota at the end of June.