Thursday, June 14, 2012

Trails, Rails and Rockets

There is a fantastic drive thats cut a loop through northern Utah, and in the process, takes you from the 19th century to the 21st, from high desert to wetlands, and give you a nice resting spot for lunch in between.
Head out in the morning, especially in the summertime for a cooler drive, and go to the Golden Spike National Historic Site (take I-15 to just north of Brigham City and get off on Promontory Road, or Highway 13 and head west).  This landmark is the spot where the transcontintental railroad linked the United States from east to west for the first time.  You can watch a movie about the building of the railroad, walk out to the spot where the Golden Spike was driven, see a replica of the spike in the museum, and watch rebuilt locomotives like the ones that met there run up and down the track.  You can even drive along the original railroad grades, listening to a program about the railroad on your radio.

When you've got your fill of railroads, head back to Highway 83, but instead of turning right and heading back to the interstate, hang a left and head north towards ATK Thiokol.  This is the company that built the booster rockets for the Space Shuttles and is working on rockets for the next generation of spaceflight.  In front of their main offices, right off the highway is the Thiokol Rocket Garden.  This outdoor museum is a collection of rockets used on missiles, right up to the Space Shuttles.  It is a self-guided tour with plaques at each rocket explaining what the rocket is for.  If you want to get a feel for how big the shuttle boosters were, there is a hollow segment of the rocket that makes a great photo op- especially with the kids standing inside.  Warning: bring mosquito repellant.

Next, follow Highway 83 north again, until it meets with Highway 102 (Faust Valley Road).  Highway 102 loops around to the east, heading you back towards I-15.  But, keep an eye out to the north side of the road for Marble Park, just to the east of the Valley View Cemetery.  This privately owned park, open to the public, is a fascinating use of old farm implements.  Swings, teeter-toters and other jungle gym type toys await.  A creek runs through the middle of the park and a bowery, made of old railroad ties from the Great Salk Lake railroad causeway, make a great place to sit down, relax and have lunch.  Be sure to see the timeline of history, from pioneer days to the space age, again made out of farm implements and scrap metal.

When you're ready to jump back in the car, head east again on Highway 102 until you reach I-15.  From here, head south until you get to the Forest Street exit.  Get of the interstate, turning west and drive about a half mile until you read the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.  Here you will find a great education center that teaches you about the birds that pass through the refuge on their migratory flights or those that make the marshes their home.  You can follow a paved trail through the marshes looking for many of the bird species you learn about in the education center.  If you'd like a guided tour, they are given every Friday and Saturday at 9 am and 1 pm.

When you're done spotting birds, head east on Forest Road to go right into Brigham City for a refill on drinks or some food at some great old diners.  If you have time, you might even visit a museum or two in Brigham City, such as the Brigham City Museum or the Brigham City Depot.

All these stops, not including food or gas, will only cost you the entrance fee to the Golden Spike National Historic Site, which at this time (2012) is just $7.00 per vehicle ($5.00 per vehicle in the winter).  It's a day-long trip that will keep the kids occupied and won't break the bank.
View Northern Utah Loop in a larger map