A remarkable thing happened on the way home from Nephi the other day.
As I wove my motorbike through the twists and turns of Nephi Canyon, then straight across meadows and farmland, and finally into the quaint town of Fountain Green, I made a fateful decision—making a sharp right, I turned off the busy main arterial that is State Highway 132, and onto the far less traveled, and much more scenic, Highway 117.
This route would add both miles and minutes to my return trip to Spring City, but I was in no particular hurry to get home and always enjoy passing through those charming hamlets of Wales and Chester.
Motoring blissfully south along this nearly deserted road, I happened to spy one of those brown, rectangular state highway signs, with white capital letters, that spelled out two words: MAPLE CANYON, with an arrow pointing right.
Having heard the name mentioned many times, I was instantly intrigued, thinking, “Someday.”
But the closer I got to this road sign, the larger that right turn arrow loomed, becoming a veritable clarion call; no longer a mere suggestion, but a commanding imperative!
What else could I do?
I turned right.
Riding past several long, silver turkey coops, then gradually continuing left and westward, I traveled up a road that might as well have been paved in bright yellow bricks, as it ushered me into a place no less magical and enchanted than that mythical land of Oz.
Riding through this spellbinding gorge, I nearly ran off the road, gaping upward, dumbfounded, at the fantastical cliffs and otherworldly formations on every side.
Was this even real? Had I stumbled upon some fanciful theme park, or a Hollywood movie set?
Parking my bike, I ventured a hundred yards up a trailhead, feeling no less amazed at this newly discovered ‘wonderland’ than did a certain Alice after she’d fallen down the rabbit-hole.
I intended to follow this footpath (which turned out to be Middle Fork Trail) for only a half-mile or so, but so mystically sublime was this place, and so beguiling this trail, that it was nearly three hours before I finally emerged, my mind literally boggling, from the Right Fork Trailhead, having circumnavigated a wide loop through the canyon’s breathtaking interior.
This network of trails conducted me through thick groves of maple trees, past massive, conglomerate walls and stupendous rock formations, including a majestic natural arch. It goaded me onward and incessantly upward, until finally, panting and sweating, I was rewarded with a rough-hewn bench, perfectly placed to afford sweeping, panoramic views of the expansive Wasatch Plateau and the entire Sanpete Valley below.
Then back downward it led, down and down, descending steep stairs and switchbacks, past massive overhangs, and the much-storied Pipe-Dream Cave, to the canyon floor, and eventually back out to the road.
Along the way, I’d met a number of rock-climbing enthusiasts, one of whom told me there is only one other place on the planet to compare with Maple Canyon for rock climbing. It’s in Greece.
Walking the quarter-mile back down the road to my motorbike, I noted the license plates on the dozens of parked cars I passed: all but three were out-of-state.
Curious, I called an old friend from Seattle, a serious rock climber, and asked him whether he’d ever heard of Maple Canyon. “We’ve all heard of Maple Canyon!” was his reply. “It’s on literally everyone’s bucket list of dream destinations.”
For myself, I do not expect to be scaling any of those sheer, conglomerate walls anytime soon.
I do expect, however, much like Alice, who was so eager to return to Wonderland, to be following that same, telltale arrow, again, back to my own newly discovered land of wonder and bewildering enchantment!
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