Each time I return from my hot and humid country of the Philippines, I bring souvenirs with me, in the form of coughing, a lost voice and jet lag. Thankfully, Brigham City had just what was needed to mend my ailing body. Wildflowers, birds and a historic site thrown in the mix were just what the doctor ordered for a quick recovery!
I knew exactly what I wanted to do when we arrived here. There was a wild bird refuge nearby, and the Wellsville Mountains had trails waiting to be hiked. Golden Spike National Monument was only a few miles away, and we were hoping to check out Antelope Island. Unfortunately, we were told the mosquitoes were in full force on the island so we canceled that visit.
Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
At the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, I was hoping to see a few Tundra Swans, as they are known to pass through here on their journey north.
This refuge has had a disastrous past. First, it almost died due to irrigation diversion in the 1920’s, then it was hit with an avian botulism outbreak causing the death of 1-2 million birds. Finally, in 1983 it was devastated again due to the Great Salt Lake flood that inundated the wetlands with salt water and decimated the refuge structures. When the lake levels receded six years later the refuge was rebuilt and the vibrant ecosystem eventually came back to life. And as many other cities do, Brigham City claimed it to be the best birding destination anywhere.
In the morning we drove to the refuge and followed the auto tour through the 74,000 acres of pristine wetlands and marshes of the Bear River Delta. The Tundra Swans were long gone, but a few locals were hanging out enjoying their breakfast in the swamp:
Golden Spike National Monument
After gawking at the birds and breathing some fresh air we drove west to Promontory Summit, Utah. This is the site where the last spike was driven to join the transcontinental railroad that connected the western states to the rest of the nation on May 10, 1869.
We made it to Golden Spike National Monument just in time to see a re-enactment of the original ceremony, which completed the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. This historic event linked America’s first transcontinental railroad, and ultimately opened the western frontier to settlement. Steve and I had both learned about this event long ago, but it was very cool to actually be at the site where it happened.
While there, we drove the East Auto Tour route, stopping for lunch at Chinese Arch which was named to honor thousands of Chinese workers brought in to accomplish Central Pacific’s portion of the railroad. Those 10,000 Chinese workers faced tremendous obstacles as they tunneled through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Along with Irish work crews, they were famously known for accomplishing a feat that would never be duplicated, including laying ten miles of track across the Utah desert in a 12-hour period.
Back to hitting the trails!
Brigham City is near the northernmost point of the Wasatch Front, and the steep Wellsville Mountains branch off of it. The tourism office touted these mountains as the steepest range in the world. Why? What makes the Wellsville Range special is that it’s only five miles wide at the base and rises almost straight from the valley floor, which is at about 4,500′ in elevation. When we looked closely we noticed that indeed there were no foothills leading up to these mountains!
We’re not sure if it’s really the steepest range in the world, but it did offer several moderate and strenuous trails, and we followed one of each to get my legs back into hiking mode. And I was smiling ear-to-ear when we arrived at the trailhead for our first hike, which was carpeted with yellow wildflowers!
On another day we followed the Deep Canyon Trail, which eventually leads to Box Elder Summit at 9,372′. I hiked most of it, but my lingering cough caused me to stop when Steve announced he just had to reach a nearby fog-covered summit.
As Steve headed off, I got busy with my camera as colorful spring wildflowers begged for my attention. With the whole mountainside to myself accompanied by chirping birds, I was in solitary bliss.
Steve returned with a smile after about an hour and said, “I’m going to feel this tomorrow!” (and he did).
This was a perfect stop for me to mend from my long trip. What more can I ask for – an unforgettable display of wildflowers, singing birds and hiking are the stuff that gets me going!
Next up: Hello, Idaho!