My family homesteaded Daniels at the southern edge of Heber Valley in the late 1880’s and while I’ve been going up to visit my Grandmother and Aunt, who still live on the original plot, my whole life I have actually done very little exploring in the hills and canyons south of Daniels. I remember sometime in the early 90’s, shortly after my Dad got his Suzuki Samurai that we went up into the hills behind my Grandmother’s house and ended up in Wallsburg. But in the 17 years that I’ve had a driver’s license, I’ve never managed to go explore the area.
Last July I decided to finally get up and see some of the area. A group of us decided to head up Daniels Canyon to FR143 and poke around for a day.
Initially I was quite pleased with the loneliness of the road. With American Fork Canyon getting more and more crowded, and ultimately Snowbird planning on turning it into another Little Cottonwood Canyon melee, the search is on for another area relatively close that I can get away from the bustle of city life.
Sadly, not long after I took that lovely picture we came upon a clearing packed with RV’rs and the associated cadre of ATV’s, UTV’s, dirt bikes, dogs and screaming children. And then there was another clearing, and another all the same. Clearly the area, due to its proximity to the Wasatch Front, was easily accessible by this sort of rabble. But soon the road got rough. Well, rough enough that there was little chance that an RV, Honda Civic or bro-lifted Chevy Silverado would try to keep going. Once at the top we were greeted with quiet and wonderful views.
From here we meandered, wandering down the main road and spur’s just seeing what was out there. Occasionally getting out to admire the views and see what was around.
Eventually we made our way to the VAT Diversion Tunnel, which is part of the Central Utah Projects system of collecting water for Strawberry Reservoir. The dam and tunnel were constructed between 1975 and 1983 with the initial diversion flowing down the 7.3-mile tunnel in 1986. For most people, including my traveling companions, this kind of stuff is pretty dull. But I have a very odd fascination with water infrastructure projects (I really should work for the Bureau of Reclamation), so for me it was very interesting to actually see.
From the tunnel is just a short jaunt to Highway 32 and then down to Kamas. Being as it was nearly three in the afternoon and none of us had thought to pack a lunch, we decided to call it a day and head into town for a meal and then home. All told though, heading up into the hills south of Heber for the first time in decades only whetted my appetite to go more!