By Hartt Wixom
I have this thing for lonely roads. Some lead…to lonely towns. Towns in Utah like Goshen, Eureka, Callao.
Goshen I’ve gotten to know traveling to a son’s home in Saratoga Springs on a back road from Mona. (There are few vehicles in Goshen Canyon. That’s why I like it.) On occasion, mule deer or pheasants grace the route. The way nature (or God) made it in the first place.
Eureka (Greek for “I have found it”) was not always so lonely. During the gold and silver mining days of the 1870s, it could boast of nearly 4,000 citizens. Ore trains headed daily for smelters. Smoke puffed from many stacks. Still, it cannot be included in Utah Ghost Towns because enough people still live there to support Tintic High School, named after a local Paiute sub chief. (Nearby Mammoth and Silver City do qualify as legitimate ghost towns.) The History of Juab County says that by 1976 the three communities were collectively worth an astounding $568 plus million.
Barely within the Juab County border, Eureka is separated from the mining town of Dividend in Utah County. I often wonder how they decide to draw the county lines where they do. The north summit of Mt. Nebo is in Utah County, the other two summits in Juab.
Callao on the border by Nevada (barely within Juab County), under the shadows of the Deep Creek Mountains, reaches classical lonely status in the shadow of 12,000-plus foot high Ibapah Peak. Some 150 miles from the Wasatch Front, I have been there several times to explore and hunt deer. Departing pavement at Vernon, a friend and I once weaved our way over four hours of dirt roads. No place to be in a rain storm.
Names of towns are difficult to figure. Callao itself got that name when a newcomer said it reminded him of his native Callao in Peru. Gold Hill is understandable. As for the name Juab, the area was called that centuries ago after the Uab tribe of Piute Indians. But Trout Creek? Utah Place Names says it is named for a local stream, but I could find no trout there. A pure strain of Bonneville cutthroat trout are known to inhabit some of upper waters of the Deep Creek Range. Of course, all of the streams in this region are quickly tapped by the irrigators.
Utah Place Names has no information on how several communities like Partoun received their intriguing name. Ditto for Fish Springs. I have found no mention of any fish there, nor did I find any when visiting the place. Nor do I know how the name Jericho originated 17 miles south of Eureka.
My wife’s grandmother lived in Callao. When her infant son died and she had to take him by wagon and train to Salt Lake City to a family burial plot, that was enough. She convinced her sheep-herding husband to move. He could find someplace else to run his woolies.
Jericho Junction is simply a junction, nothing more. From there it is another half hour of sage and cedar to Nephi. Driving this road becomes an interesting challenge in the cold of winter. As Patrick McManus, ex-Outdoor Life humor writer, sees it, this is the most adventurous part of being outdoors. What if you run out of gas, or have a flat tire with no spare? Think of all you can learn to avoid such a trying experience again!
There is no particular reason to take the road to Motoqa west of Santa Clara. That is why I take it. The maps show nothing and the map is right, mostly. You might see a mule deer here or there before reaching downtown Motoqua. A few homes with Beaver Dam Wash gurgling through. Or you can explore Arizona south of St. George. Many lonely roads down there.
I also like the road from Rogerson, Idaho to…basically nowhere. Until you reach Jarbidge, Nevada, some 80 miles away. In this seeming nothingness, you will find something: a grade school called Three Creeks Elementary. I envision children walking through snowdrifts to reach a lonely bus stop. Ranchers toiling with their three challenges: water, hay, cows. They might stop long enough to look at the bands of antelope so numerous here.
After Jarbidge you can see none of man’s services or devices (other than the un-named county road) for another 70 miles southward to Elko, Nevada. There are many such lonely and lovely roads and towns throughout the West and especially in the Great Basin.