Last week, in the Uintas, the temperature was 60 degrees. The snow atop U-150 was wet and slick and packed just right. We zipped along on our cross-country skis, enjoying the spring sunshine. This road - which leads from Kamas through the Uinta National Forest, past Mirror Lake, and on to Evanston, Wyoming - lets you go deep into the back country, without any fear of avalanches.
Were it not for the fact that the Utah State Division of Parks and Recreation maintains U-150 (grooming and packing it with a snowcat at least once a week), cross-country skiing would have been all but impossible. We ventured off the road only a few feet all day, to take a picture and eat lunch on a little hill. We sank.Snowmobilers also use the road. On a weekday, you'll run across one or two groups of snowmobilers and about the same number of skiers. Over a recent weekend, however, we shared the road with five times that many sports enthusiasts.
The road rises very gently, making it perfect for beginning cross-country skiers. Yet it stretches for more than 25 miles, offering advanced skiers the challenge of distance if not difficulty.
We entered from Evanston, just because we like the scenery better on the north slope of the Uintahs (more conifers and quaking aspen). We took the second Evanston exit (#5) and went south on Wyoming 150 toward the Utah state line. Just past the Bear River Service store, highway maintenance ends and park service maintenance begins.
Craig Funk, a forest ranger at Rockport, expects skiers will be enjoying the Mirror Lake road for several more months. "The Department of Transportation probably won't plow it until sometime in May. As the snow melts you'll have to drive further up the highway to get to it, but the skiing will still be good," he says.
If you can't go yourself, take heart from this report. Spring is coming. We saw two squirrels on our March outing. The ice is all but melted from the Bear River. The water runs dark against the snow.
There are no leaves yet, though. This might have come as news to a yearling moose we saw huddled under the bare branches of some brush right near the road. He may have thought he was camouflaging himself. His mother seemed to know we were watching him, however. She was several hundred yards away, foundering in the soft snow of the river bank. Was she doing a wounded moose act to divert our attention? Or was she really stuck?
On our way back out of the mountains, we saw them again. The calf had not moved but now his mother was standing next to him, watching us. We thought it best not to pause, so we kept on gliding down U-150, leaving them to their meadow full of melting snow.