Trains, Remains & Handcrafted Meals

While Michelle enjoyed her last day with her roommates, Dad and I spent our final day in Provo doing – what else? Driving. I’d read about a beautiful drive named the Provo Canyon Scenic Byway, but figured Dad would not be in the mood to explore it, since we were starting the long drive back to the Seattle the following morning. I was thrilled when Dad suggested it himself!

Driving Along the Provo Canyon Scenic Byway in Utah

My altitude sickness from the previous day had thankfully faded, but my legs were still sore from our hike up Rock Canyon Trail. That didn’t stop us from pulling over along the road and taking a quick hike up to Bridal Veil Falls! lists this as an easy hike, with plenty of reviews gushing about how easy it was even on small children. I was a little surprised to see that the hike was actually a narrow, rocky, and moderately steep series of switchbacks.

Navigating the Rocky Terrain of the Bridal Veil Falls Trail in Provo, UtahBridal Veil Falls Upper Falls in Provo, Utah

Despite my already-sore legs, I enjoyed the short hike up to the falls. Dad and I took a few pictures, wondered if it was possible to hike all the way up to the top of the falls, and explored a bit before strolling right back down to the parking lot. After looking at the trail reviews a bit more closely, it seems that “trail” in this case is just a fancy word for the paved walking and biking trail that passes by the base of the falls. To this day, I’m not sure what trail we hiked, but it was a beautiful start to the day!

Dad Admiring Bridal Veil Falls in Provo, UtahLooking Up at Bridal Veil Falls in Provo, Utah

We continued along the road, stopping just a few minutes later at Vivian Park, the ending point of the Heber Valley Railroad line. This stop was catered to my Dad, who loves trains (when we were in France, we took a longer, more expensive route from Chaumont to Paris, simply so Dad could ride the TGV).

Dad on the Heber Valley Railroad Tracks in Vivian Park, Utah

When I was younger, he was always building model trains and adding scenic details to the miniature railroad in the garage. We were both hoping to take the tourist train that runs between Heber Valley and Vivian Park, but it was closed when we arrived. The railway seems to be a seasonal offering, with trains running from late May through the end of October.

Dad With a Train at the Heber Valley Historic Railroad in Utah

Luckily, the folks further up the road at the railroad’s origin in Heber Valley allowed us to roam through the yard, peering at out-of-service trains and rusty old spare parts. Dad loved it. I think he was happier just poking around the yard than he would have been riding an active train! He was totally in his element, rattling off all kinds of details about the various things we were looking at. He was so happy, he didn’t even complain about my endless photo ops!

Mountain Views From the Heber Valley Historic Railroad Origin Point in Heber Valley, UtahSpare Wheels at Heber Valley Historic Railroad in Heber Valley, UtahDad Checking Out an Old Union Pacific Train at the Heber Valley Historic Railroad in UtahDad at the Heber Valley Historic Railroad Station in UtahRed Saltair Route Train Car at the Heber Valley Railroad in UtahHistoric Trains at the Heber Valley Railroad Site in Heber Valley, Utah

We had lunch at Kneaders, a homey little soup-and-sandwich kind of place. I had my first ever French Dip, which was fantastic, and shared a tasty chocolate mousse cake.

After lunch, we decided to head back along the Provo Canyon Scenic Byway and veer off onto yet another scenic road, maybe visit some mountain springs…but a missed turn took us down an entirely different road for almost 45 minutes. We wound up in Duchesne Country, an hour and a half from Provo, before realizing what had happened.

Enjoying the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Landscape in Duchesne, Utah

This could be bad news in the wrong company, but it turned into a fun little adventure for my Dad and I.

Scenic Overlook at Rainbow Bay, Utah Looks Like Something From Lord of the Rings
Pssst. You should definitely click to expand this tiny photo. Driving through this place made me feel like I’d stepped straight into New Zealand.

We opted to skip the mountain springs, and head right back to Provo, where we spent some time at the BYU Museum of Paleontology. I just wanted to see some cool dino casts, and I was not disappointed! The museum also featured a working student lab, and all kinds of fossilized plant and animal life.

Dino Skeleton on Display at the BYU Museum of Paleontology, UtahVarious Rocks, Minerals, Fossils and Dino Bones on Display at the BYU Museum of Paleontology in UtahDino Bones and More at the BYU Museum of Paleontology in Provo, Utah

It turns out, Utah is part of a much larger hotspot for digging up dino bones! My favorite find? A massive prehistoric sloth.

Giant Prehistoric Sloth Skeleton at the BYU Museum of Paleontology in Provo, Utah
My favorite animal in a larger, much more terrifying form. This guy does not look comfortable.

Short of hiking and visiting more spots around the BYU campus, we weren’t sure what to do next. I wanted to visit the botanical gardens and stop at The Creamery, a popular college hangout, but after that, we were running out of steam. The gardens were beautiful, and the ice cream portions were enormous. I didn’t even finish half of my generous two-scoop sundae.

Botanical Walkway and Waterfall on the BYU Provo Campus in UtahMenu at the BYU Provo Creamery

Dad wanted to stick around campus and help Michelle pack her things into the car for the next day’s drive. We had no idea when she would be free, and didn’t want to interrupt her final day hanging out with new friends, so we killed time loitering around various stores. Thrilling, I know. It’s exactly the kind of thing we might do when I was growing up in Washington. Every time one of my parents announced they were going to the grocery store, the hardware store…any store, I begged to come along. Anything to get out of the house.

We stopped at Deseret Industries, a thrift store maintained by the Mormon church. It functions similarly to Goodwill, providing both goods and jobs to those in need.

We stopped at a couple more thrift stores, a hardware store, Big Lots, and even K-Mart, just whiling away the hours while we waited on Michelle to call. It may not have been the hike-all-day Utah trip I envisioned, but it was memorable nonetheless.

Chalk Logo at Cubby's Chicago Beef in Provo, Utah

We ate an early dinner at Cubby’s Chicago Beef, a fantastic little shop serving up fresh, innovative salads, burgers and more. Cubby’s was high on my to-do list before landing in Utah, and it did not disappoint! Yelpers recommended the Tri Tip Steak Salad, a savory salad topped with dried cherries, bell peppers, feta cheese, and so much more! Add my Dad to the list of Tri Tip lovers! I went for the handcrafted burger of the day, titled the Gypsy Burger. It didn’t photograph very well, but I can assure you it was delicious!

Menu and Tri Tip Steak Salad at Cubby's Chicago Beef in Provo, Utah

Cubby’s is exactly the kind of place I love to frequent. From the semi-industrial look to the delicious, unique food offerings, I was in love. Did I mention they also have a variety of interesting soups, seasoned fries, and a range of dipping sauces. If Tomato Basil Coconut soup and Smokey BBQ Bleu Cheese Fries sound good to you, then add this Utah favorite to your travel bucket list!

Finally it was time to help Michelle get packed up for the long drive home. We loaded up the car (which took some rearranging!), then went our separate ways for the night. I was sore, full, and exhausted, but my mind was buzzing. It had been a wonderful trip, and while I was sad to say goodbye to the gorgeous Provo mountains, I had something even better to look forward to. Tomorrow marked the beginning of our mini road trip back home, full of food, sightseeing, and time spent with two of my favorite people. Better yet, that road was taking me home to my wonderful family and the lush Pacific Northwest landscapes I missed so terribly. It’s a miracle I could sleep at all!

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