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On the edge of the Great Basin.

On the Edge of the Great Basin

In the mid-19th century, when Mormon settlers were pouring into the Great Basin (some of them wanted to make it part of an independent country called Deseret), Mt. Timpanogos, Utah, was their easternmost signal post in case of invasion by Union troops. On Timpanogos' summit, the plan went, a mighty bonfire would be lit, and lookouts on selected peaks stretching westward across the Great Basin/ Deseret would in turn light up the sky to forewarn their brethren-or so the legend goes.

Today the Heber Valley below Timpanogos is witness to no such alarums and excursions. The mountain looms in primeval splendor, its tip as yet untouched by fire. Down in the valley, Mormons and non-Mormons have agreed on the wisdom of monogamy, and the only signal fires are advertisements and press clippings beckoning visitors to the valley and its environs, Park County.

The Heber Valley is a green and pleasant antidote to the dust and heat of Salt Lake (as locals refer to Salt Lake City), which lies several thousand feet below and an hour to the west in the Great Basin. A mountain wall separates the valley from bustling I-80; an absence of traffic and the prevailing architecture give the area the feeling of a Swiss hamlet, nestled among the Alps.

And indeed many of this peaceful valley's settlers were Swiss, albeit Mormons, sturdy agriculturalists who set the placid tone that survives even today. The other part of the county, to the northwest and over the mountains, has always been a different, bustling story: silver mines in the late 19th century; the skiing meccas of Deer Valley Resort, Park City Ski Area, and Park-West Ski Area today.

It was a Swiss farmer, Simon Schneitter, who first made touristic use of the "hot pots," hot springs bubbling out of limestone mounds that dot the Heber Valley floor. Simon and his wife, Fanny, began feeding the many visitors who enjoyed swimming in the warm brown spring water; then he began putting them up overnight. Eventually Simon quit the farming business altogether to concentrate on his ever-expanding lodge. Today, under new ownership, the Homestead welcomes both summer and winter visitors to its refurbished Victorian rooms of Williamsburg blue and its lovely bay-windowed dining room, complete with babbling brook outside the bay window. Summer fun consists of hiking, golfing, horseback riding, and just lolling around; plans are afoot to make cross-country skiing a wintertime staple.

On the other side of the mountains lies the world-class skiing destination of Park City, Wintertime activities abound in greater volume than can be detailed here, but life does not come to a halt during Park County's dry, cool summers.

Besides the usual array of sporting activities, the city fathers have made strenuous efforts to provide festivals, concerts, and other events almost weekly all summer: a '50s festival, a cycling festival, music by the likes of the Beach Boys and the Utah Symphony. And of course, the summer rates are much less onerous than in late December, when people from all over the world descend on Park City to descend its mountainsides.

Back in Heber Valley, things are still a little slower. Autos cruise by the Homestead's entrance every minute or two, and visitors can take a half-hour after-dinner walk to downtown Midway and encounter more cattle than fellow tourists. The dinner, by the way, is hearty, wholesome, and good. Just the way Fanny Schneitter would do it. -R.E.
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Title Annotation:conduct of life in two communities
Author:Ehrgott, Roberts, III
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jul 1, 1988
Words:579
Previous Article:The making of Great Basin National Park.
Next Article:All work but all play.
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