HEBER — At the very heart of Wasatch County there is a town. As towns go, this one is still a little on the sleepy side — quiet, down-home and, as yet, spared the frustrations of rush-hour traffic.

All of which goes with the laid-back, do-things-at-your-leisure atmosphere, which has made Heber the hub for visitors looking for things to do.

What you know:

Heber, with the smaller communities of Charleston and Midway attached, is the starting point for most of the activities that originate in Wasatch County.

Over the years, 58 to be exact, the county has been tied into its Swiss heritage. Visitors see it in the design of some of the homes. Local residents also hold the annual "Swiss Days" celebration in Midway. This is the state's biggest community festival and will be held Friday and Saturday, said County Councilman Mike Kohlern.

The event features some of the Swiss traditions people have come to enjoy, such as dancing, yodeling, bell-ringing, nonstop entertainment, parades and rows of booths featuring everything from arts and crafts to some truly delicious Swiss foods, ranging from scones to sauerkraut.

A little north of town is Jordanelle Reservoir and State Park, one of the newest under state care, and a few miles south is Deer Creek Reservoir and State Park, one of the older sites under state care.

Both offer all the summer fun of a water-based state park, including camping, water skiing, swimming, picnicking and, of course, fishing.

The connecting link between the two is the middle section of the Provo River, which is one of the state's premier fishing streams.

Heading southeast, over the Summit and down into Strawberry Valley is Strawberry Reservoir, which is Utah's No. 1 fishing hole and for good reason. Fishing, especially in the spring and fall, is excellent. It's not uncommon for a good fisherman to leave the lake after having caught and released 20 or 30 fish in an afternoon.

Within the town of Midway is one of the state's Olympic venues — Soldier Hollow. A lot has changed since those snowy days in February of 2002.

The trail system has been expanded, for example, which means more opportunities for both winter and summer users. Now there is a total of 16 miles of trails for hiking, biking and cross-country use.

Connected to the Nordic center is the Soldier Hollow Golf Course, which is a cousin to the Wasatch Mountain Golf Course to the north. Both fall under the control of the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation, as does the Soldier Hollow complex. The Wasatch course remains one of the most popular in the state, and the two 18-hole courses at Soldier Hollow are rapidly gaining the respect of golfers.

There are few opportunities in this day and age to hop a train. One of the few remaining places is the Heber Valley Railroad, which departs from town and heads along the western shore of Deer Creek. The menu of activities ranges from sunset barbecues to fiddlers entertaining passengers to a ride through a haunted canyon in October.

What you don't know:

Even though people are well aware of Soldier Hollow, they may not be as familiar with the number of summer and fall activities available.

One of the newest events on the county docket is the annual Soldier Hollow Classic International Sheepdog Championships, which start Friday and run through Monday. This will be the third year for this event, which brings in dogs and trainers from around the world.

The Fiber & Cultural Celebration will be held in conjunction with the trials.

Border collies, considered the most intelligent of all dogs, utilize their skills to herd sheep in an entertaining and competitive event. Each day the nature of that competition changes as the event progresses.

Along with the fiber event, there will also be a Navajo Rug Show, Scottish Highland games and ethnic foods available.

Another event that is gaining attention is the Cowboy Poetry Gathering & Buckaroo Fair. This will be the 11th year for the event, which will run from Nov. 1-6. Poets and singer/songwriters from around the country will entertain audiences. The six-day event features cowboy grub and dinner shows, horse shows and cowboy gear displays.

As part of its annual Schutzenfest celebration, a special Oktoberfest that originated in the lower Rhine Region of Germany, the Blue Boar Inn & Restaurant, which was named the 2005 Best of State Statue winner for dining, will showcase its popular European fare, with daily German specials.

A number of scenic rides originate from the Heber area. One of the more popular and accessible is Guardsman's Pass, which links with Big Cottonwood Canyon and Park City. The access point is the same as the one to Wasatch golf course, except instead of turning left into the course, proceed straight ahead.

Close to the golf course is Cascade Springs, probably best remembered for the large fire of 2003. The area is recovering and the spring has regained a lot of its natural beauty. Located on the fringe of Wasatch State Park, in the Uinta National Forest, the retreat offers boardwalks and trails throughout the area, along with biological and geological information for self-guided tours.

Just below the Nordic center is Rocky Mountain Outfitters, which offers horseback riding opportunities on trails in the area. As Kohler noted, "More and more horse owners are discovering this area and the riding opportunities that are here."

Not five minutes away is the Homestead, one of Utah's oldest and most established resorts. The hot springs are still there, along with the Homestead's geothermal crater, which is a natural pool offering both swimming and diving opportunities. The Homestead Golf Course is also among the top-rated courses in the state.

Mountain biking is yet another activity that doesn't get its full recognition.

There are, said Kohler, "Lots of opportunities to bike and hike within the county. One of the newer trails leaves from Soldier Hollow and goes along the west side of Deer Creek all the way to the dam. Someday it will connect with the trail system in Provo Canyon."

Daniels Summit Lodge, jumping off point to Strawberry Valley, is the trailhead for a spider web of hiking and biking trails, which in the winter become popular snowmobile trails. Strawberry Valley is, in fact, one of the more popular snowmobile areas because of the good snow, rolling terrain and endless powder fields. Biking, four-wheel and snowmobile rentals are available at the lodge, along with accommodations, a store and restaurant.

On the outskirts of town there is a small airport, where visitors can make reservations for glider flights over the Heber Valley, which include spectacular views of the back side of Mount Timpanogos.

Consensus is, of course, that the best part of all of this activity is convenience. From the heart of the quite town of Heber, a full range of activities is close by.

Wasatch County

Well known: Swiss Days, Strawberry Reservoir, golf

Unknown: Soldier Hollow, hiking, biking, equestrian

Contact: 435-654-3666


Next week: Emery County

E-mail: grass@desnews.com