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Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Lynn Sessions of Orem loves photography and has a goal to photograph something from every Utah town.

OREM — Unless you are very new to the state, you've probably heard of Brigham City, Heber City, Kaysville, Nephi, and maybe even Marriott-Slaterville— all cities and towns named after people. But how about Abraham? Or Adamsville, Benjamin, Clawson, Elwood or Faust? They are also Utah towns bearing people's names.

You probably know about Springville and Spring City. But how about Spring Glen, Spring Lake or Springdell?

Do you know that Utah has a Center Creek, Blue Creek, Duck Creek Village, Oak Creek, Silver Creek and two Clear Creeks (one in Box Elder County and one in Carbon County)?

There are also two Enterprises (one in Morgan County, one in Washington County) and two Manilas (one in Utah County and one in Daggett County). There's a Mills, a Mills Junction and a Millville. And a Cleveland, Columbia, Hyde Park, Jerusalem, Plymouth, Providence and Wales.

Do you know there are 17 towns that start with A, but none that start with Z. And none with Q or X, either. But M is the most popular letter for starting town names, with 47; followed by S with 45 and C with 40.

Lynn Sessions knows all this and more about Utah towns and cities. And he's not only compiled lists — he's also visited them.

What began a few years ago as both a genealogy search and "an excuse to go out and take pictures" has turned into a quest to visit every city and town in the state for Sessions. He's made good progress. Out of a list of 465 cities, towns and residential areas that he's compiled, he has (as of the end of 2004) visited 460.

"My brother David and I were doing some genealogy that took us to some little towns. Then we'd go back a while later and notice that something had changed. Things had been moved or torn down. So I started taking pictures to record what we saw." And out of that came the desire to visit every town in the state. Eventually, he began putting together a Web site — www.dreambreeze.com — that lists the places he's been alphabetically. You can click on any town and find a picture from there.

One thing he's learned, he said, is that every location has something unique, something that gives it a special character. He's also come to appreciate the diversity of the state. "I don't think there's anyplace in the world with more unique environments and diverse landscapes in such a small area. You can be in the mountains and an hour later be in the desert."

And not just one kind of mountain but everything from Alpine mountains when you can ski to barren red-rock cliffs. And not just one kind of desert but everything from high plateaus to dead salt flats.

"That's what I love about Utah." But he's also come to love more than the landscape, said Sessions, who grew up in Vernal and now lives in Orem. "I've met a lot of people, and I'm amazed how friendly they all are. We've never been shot at," he added with a grin, "even though we've taken the wrong road and ended up in someone's front yard more than once."

One time they were taking pictures near Middleton, "when a guy in a pickup truck pulled up. I asked if we were on his private land, and he said yes, but it was OK. He just wanted us to know that he was going to be locking a gate up the road, and we might want to get out first. If he hadn't tracked us down to tell us that, we could have been stuck for a long time."

That's not the only close call Sessions has had. Once near Gold Hill, "we were going a little fast, and came up over the hill and there was a herd of buffalo in the middle of the road. We barely stopped in time." Another time, an antelope tried to ram their vehicle. "We were also in the middle of a sheep stampede in Spring City."

And then, adds his wife Nancy, there was the time when he was way out in the middle of nowhere out from Moab and his Ford Explorer broke down. He had to walk miles to the main road and then wait for someone with a big enough truck to pull him out to come along. "He sent notes into town with people that came by. The police ended up calling to tell me he had broken down but was OK — he just wouldn't be home that night."

But if Sessions has been the recipient of good Samaritan help, he's also dispensed it. "A lot of times, we've been the ones to come upon people who need some help. One time we met a German couple in the middle of the San Rafael Swell. They hadn't realized they were 100 miles between gas stations and had simply run out of gas. It's always fun when we can help."

In all, he's put more than 240,000 miles on his Explorer. "I finally had to break down and get a new one. But I haven't had the heart to get rid of the old one yet."

Another thing that Sessions has learned during his quest is that the official Utah highway map is not always accurate. "They keep printing the same map, but it lists some cities that aren't there and doesn't list some that are."

The town of Zane, for example, is shown in Escalante Valley, on a dirt road between Beryl and Lund. "But there is no Zane. There's a utility box by the the side of the road. I was sad to discover that, because I wanted to do Utah towns from A to Z, but there is no Z."

The map also does not show a town called Rainbow City, which is on the Navajo Reservation. "It's a hard place to get to because you have to go way down into Arizona on a dirt road and come back into Utah. But once you get there, it's a big town with an elementary school, a high school and everything."

Sessions does not include ghost towns in his list. "There have to be people living there. Sometimes, it's just a couple of ranches left in an area that used to have more." But they don't have to be incorporated towns or even have a post office. "A lot of towns share a post office."

The five places he still has to visit include three sites in the northwest corner of the state, Brian Head ski resort community "and a lost town called Angle that's down by Otter Creek." But, he said, if people know of other places that are not listed on his Web site, he welcomes suggestions and information.

The quest has been about photography as much as about visiting all the dots in the state. In addition to recording landmarks, Sessions looks for artistic shots. He uses Photoshop to enhance colors or play around with textures and finishes. "It's a lot of fun," he said.

"He does beautiful work," said Nancy. A lot of his prints decorate their home. "He notices a lot of details you might not see otherwise. You think southern Utah is just desert, but there's a lot of beauty out there, and he does such a good job of capturing it."

Even if Sessions' town visits come to an end, that search for photographs won't end. "My brother and I are also trying to hike every canyon in southern Utah. We figure we're about a fifth of the way done. If I live to be 150, I just might get them all."

Or, he joked, "I could always move to California and start over. They have a lot more towns."


Utah by the numbers

465: The number of Utah towns and cities and unincorporated residential areas that Lynn Sessions has discovered.

251: The number of cities, towns and areas with at least one ZIP code.

237: The number of incorporated cities and towns.

23: The number of residents in Ophir, Utah's smallest municipality.

4: The number of second-class cities (65,000 to 99,000 population) — Sandy, West Jordan, Orem, Ogden.

3: The number of first-class cities (100,000 or more population) — Salt Lake City, West Valley City, Provo.

2: The number of towns in Daggett County.

Lynn Session's ranking of Utah towns

Most forlorn: Wendover — not quite Utah, but not Nevada, either.

Prettiest: Vernal — especially during the summer when flower pots line Main Street.

Most difficult to get to: Rainbow City — requires a long trip into Arizona before doubling back into Utah.

Hardest to access: Dugway — requires security pass.

Most un-Utah looking: Columbia — houses are mostly "mining company housing"-style buildings.

Biggest tourist traps: Tie between Moab and Park City.

Most picturesque setting: Springdale — close to Zion's National Park.

Utah's best kept secrets: Alton and Clear Creek — one in Kane County, the other in Carbon County

Town I would most like to move to: Spring City — especially in the spring.


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