|Utah State Route 14 -- especially Mile Marker 17 -- may be one of the most memorable roads in America primarily because it is destined to slide away any day now.
In our four years that we have been traveling to and from Southern Utah, the favorable experiences have been endless. We have had countless family gatherings while also enjoying the scenery, the people and the gatherings with fellow residents of the area.
The summers have been gorgeous and the winters with the challenges of deep snow have been brilliant. I have traveled by snowmobile from to Brian Head, had a good pizza and returned home with a memory that will be talked about for decades.
However, I’m starting to wonder if the property we purchased should have come with a warning about State Route 14 which connects Cedar City with Highway 89.
You see, if ever there was a roadway with challenges, it is State Route 14. Known as one of Utah’s Scenic Byways, this thing should have been listed among the most dangerous highways in a recent posting on AOL.
One area has house-sized boulders teetering on the edge waiting for an earthquake or summer storm before unleashing a slide that could not only change the landscape but wipe out travelers at the same time.
In fact, we have said that passing the slide area is kind of like walking across a series of bowling alleys during peak business. Oh, you can make it, but the chances of getting your feet knocked out from underneath you grow stronger with each trip.
The whole scenario reminds me of the time when the landslide let go burying the road and sending boulders tumbling for hundreds of feet. Only a few seconds after the slide took place and the dust was still in the air, construction workers headed to Cedar City from Duck Creek arrived on the scene.
Had they arrived a few seconds earlier, their lives might have been snuffed out. Their friends tell me the group stood east of the unbelievable mound of boulders and dirt shaking their heads while thinking of what could have been.
That brings me to Mile Marker 17 headed east on State Route 14. When you drive east-bound on SR14, the key factor in this is that there is no guard rail and the drop is so far that you cannot see the bottom.
Just to make things very interesting, someone be it the Utah Department of Transportation, the county or whoever has been working a lane closest to the drop for years adding repairs after the road suddenly starts to slide down the mountain. Once the drop in the road begins, some trusty workers get out the equipment before adding another layer of gravel or black top.
During tough times, I’m considering the idea of getting a gig with the street repair department. If nothing else, there’s certainly a level of job security at Mile Marker 17.
It seems that the road caves in at least once a month requiring a repair, so the work might be a little more consistent, if nothing else. According to long-time residents of Southern Utah, a spring under the road has created a precarious situation.
And as soon as the new layer is smoothed out, an 18-wheeler flies over the surface driving it down another inch or so. Then, the road crew is called back out again for another temporary fix.
Some friends slid off the road near Navajo a few years ago during a snow storm in early May. Their car circled before going backwards off the cliff only being saved by a huge boulder about 15 feet off the road. We were among the first at the scene to help them and every time I pass the area I think about what could have been.
With the latest adventure at Mile Marker 17, I keep thinking about the fact that Mel and Zoe Aldrich told me they used to fly from Cedar City to Duck Creek in a matter of 20 minutes or so – and it was a lot safer than taking State Route 14 for 29 miles of terror.
Problem is that Mel and Zoe sold their plane so they, too, are now faced with the adventures of State Route 14, its precarious boulders and possible landslides. In fact, like so many others Zoe mandates that her husband take the west-bound lane when the couple is traveling east to Duck Creek.
Mel and Zoe even remember the time 22 years ago when the road let go forcing drivers to go through Brian Head to get to Cedar City. Like so many others, the Aldriches now take the west-bound lane when heading for Duck Creek rather than take their chances with the east-bound lane.
Somewhere in our scrap book of memories, State Route 14 will forever live in our minds if for nothing else because we survived it. I have had my share of challenges but I must say the road to and from Duck Creek ranks up there with parachuting out of an airplane for the first time.
On one hand, we wonder why we’re doing what we’re doing. On the other hand, surviving the journey has undoubtedly made us stronger.
As someone once said, the only thing to fear is fear itself – and I assure you that State Route 14 and the dangers it presents has got to make a person stronger.