Portal Into the Abyss
Undeterred by overnight snowfall, another geological site takes me to the sleepy town of Midway and one of the planet’s most unusual swimming holes, the Homestead Crater. Spectacular vistas of the snow-covered Wasatch Mountains cradle US 6 north. Although the sun warms the asphalt melting away any snow or ice, the air temperatures are just above freezing. Toss in a 75-mph wind-chill factor and a heated electric vest is mandatory. 1st Heat’s vest will keep you warm at temperatures in the 20s and works wonders, plus the prototype Cross Country fabric lowers are incredibly effective. A 55-foot-high “calcite” dome houses an ancient, mineral-rich hot spring. The geo-thermal crater rises on the grounds of the Homestead Resort near Wasatch Mountain State Park. More than 10,000 years old, the native Anasazi Indians were lowered by rope from a hole at the dome’s top into the healing 96-degree water. Today, visitors enter through a 110-foot tunnel bored into the dome’s porous rock wall above the water line. Take a dip in this geo-thermally heated crystal-clear crater and gaze down 65 feet at mineral deposits that grace the chamber’s sides. Hot steam rising in the chilly air and eerie illumination depict a strange portal to a stygian abyss.
The Sidetrack Café in adjacent Heber City is a must-stop for lunch. The food is fantastic, coffee excellent, and baked goods to die for. Try the Dream Bar. Back at the Utah Hotel, I spy a bookshelf and chance upon tattered copy of the book Hunt for the Skinwalker: Science Confronts the Unexplained at a Remote Ranch in Utah. Who would have known that only two hours away lies one of the most enigmatic, scientifically researched paranormal hotspots in America, Skinwalker Ranch. In Uintah basin, near Fort Duchesne, it’s reported at least half of the residents have seen weird things in the sky, flying saucers and zigzagging “ghostlights.” A sacred place, the Ute Indian tribe (where Utah derived its name) dare not set foot. Its oral history is replete with strange creatures and bizarre sightings. Indian lore refers to some of these beings as Skinwalkers and shapeshifters. Destination Unknown keeps getting better and I need to ride there.
Path of the Shapeshifter
Its Friday the 13th, I’m traveling Highway 191 (formerly Highway 666, renamed by the superstitious) to Skinwalker Ranch. This curvaceous, well-maintained asphalt ribbon carves through Indian Canyon for 36 miles. Hunt for the Skinwalker states that the property butts up against Bottle Hollow and it’s my only chance for a view of the ranch. I meet a group of Ute Indian women who tell me everybody sees mysterious things in this area. One woman spoke of her grandfather who worked the adjacent ranch and saw a wolf the size of a small car. Another woman tells of bizarre ancient petroglyphs depicting alien-like creatures and orbs in the sky in nearby Hillcreek, a sacred tribal land where only Ute Indians are allowed. In fact, everyone from the waitress at Kody’s Roundup Café to the gas station attendants just shakes their heads, saying strange phenomena are part of life near Fort Duchesne. I settle in at Bottle Hollow, watch the sun set and wait for a Skinwalker. The National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS) sealed off the ranch for research and has studied the aberrations for six years. It’s here that an entire team of researchers watched in awe as a bright door or portal opened up in the darkness and a large humanoid creature crawled out and it is here that cattle and dogs were mutilated, obliterated, or simply disappeared. Witnesses from highly accomplished scientists to law-enforcement personnel have documented a mind-boggling array of unusual activity. With camera at the ready, every passing satellite or gust of wind becomes the approaching unknown, it’s real easy to scare yourself here. Time to leave.
Goblins, Hoodoos, and Harlots
The ride back home reveals the magnificent diversity of Utah’s terrain. This landscape is constantly changing costume like a harlot seducing a suitor. A shifting spectrum of light turn’s the apricot colored hoodoos of Goblin Valley to rose, then magenta. An ever-changing molten palette of hues evolves before my eyes. Hoodoo: A column of eccentrically shaped rock, produced by differential weathering. Utah is laden with buttes and hoodoos and one can’t escape the gaze of these mammoth sentinels guarding their sacred terrain. Continuing westward on SR 24 to Scenic Byway 12 south is considered one of America’s most scenic roads. In a state known for its scenic drives, this 62-mile stretch may arguably be the most attractive drive in the nation. The list of amazing destinations in Utah is overwhelming: Dinosaur Diamond, Bryce and Zion National Park, the Arches National Park, Balanced Rock, the Wave, Waterpocket Fold to name only a few. More than 70 percent of the land is either Bureau of Land Management (BLM), or national or state parks, and motorcycles gain access at half the price of cagers. Bewitching, surreal, exalting … how many superlatives can one declare of this wondrous place, and how did I miss this before now? And the preferred means of transportation to travel here? The Victory Cross Country, a robust Freedom 106 engine, multi-function instrument cluster, air-adjustable suspension, plush seating, user-friendly cruise control, and seamless audio integration. The Victory Cross Country embraces the thrill of curves and thrust of acceleration yet disappears beneath you, allowing the rider to coalesce with the passing panorama. Victory once again proves you can make the best … better.
This journey began as Destination Unknown; lines on a map, following the wild wind for five days and 1,800 miles. Utah is mysterious, itself a geological shapeshifter, this surreal terrain lures riders through remarkable landscapes. Each new road painting another grand panoramic expanse, solitary yet sultry, she is a lonely lover luring prey to her lair. From the otherworldly portals of Skinwalker Ranch and Homestead Crater to Balance Rock and the Hoodoos of Goblin Valley, we are all traveling to destination unknown on this mysterious blue ball … together.