Mendon and the Skyline Trail
Located about nine miles west of Logan is a pretty farm town of Mendon with a population of about 400 people. Mendon has a beautiful setting nestled close to the majestic Wasatch Mountains. There are streams that run from the foothills for culinary and irrigation purposes. There are two large reservoirs and plenty of springs for four additional reservoirs. There are hundreds of acre-feet of water running in a canal for use in gardens and field, which comes from the Hyrum Dam. Anyone wishing to paint a gorgeous landscape could well find an inspiring subject at anytime of year, but the fall is especially beautiful in this picturesque setting.
Mendon is laid out in ten-acre blocks with one and one-quarter acres per lot. There is a modern grocery store owned by Lem Earl and family and community activities center around the ten-acre square in the middle of the town. An efficiently operated schoolhouse accommodates children through the sixth grade and is staffed with three fine teachers. The citizens of Mendon are very proud of the new and modern LDS chapel and the U. S. Post Office and Fire Station that also can be found on the square. During the winter one can see the children enjoying ice-skating on the man-made pond that is frozen over and in the summer the ball diamond and playgrounds are active with Mendon’s young and old. The Whitney Rest Home is for the aged where it is quiet and peaceful. One of the happy traditions of Mendon is their annual May Day celebration with the beautifully costumed young girls dancing around the Maypole.
Another tradition enjoyed by young and old is the Skyline Ride— a ride into the mountains on horseback made at least once a year and sometimes more often. Mounting their steeds the Skyline Riders proceed from the Hughes home and pass the old Sweeten farm, up the road to the mouth of Deep Canyon, north of Whitney’s Flat and out of Pole Canyon to Richards Spring, north to Willie’s Canyon through Yonk Knolls, then into Three-Mile Creek. After passing Willow Creek they arrive at Old Indian Lake (named by Chief Washakie) up the ridge south to Chocolate Mountain along the trail made by Indian braves and other hunters while stalking their game. After going south and passing Pole and Deep Canyons, they find themselves at the spot where one of the Jarvis Baker boys froze to death while hunting deer one late fall day. The trail leads to Mendon Peak. In the early days the settlers pastured their wild horses on this range with a few milk cows on the lower range next to town. These hills were full of prairie chickens, grouse, sage hens, deer, bear and bobcats.
Mendon Peak is almost nine thousand feet high. The riders trot south past Scouts Peak. At this point the ridge divides Box Elder and Cache Counties. One can straddle the ridge and have one foot in each country above Mendon and Deweyville. What a gorgeous sight! To the south one can see the Great Salt Lake and on a clear day one can see Malad on the north, also Preston, Idaho, to the north and Avon to the south. One cannot comprehend such a glorious view. Before leaving this spot one can look into one of the most beautiful deer spots on the whole mountain, including Kidman, Baker, Larsen, Stauffer Canyons and Longstroth Flat— all in the Deep Canyon area. These canyons will always remind posterity of the early settlers of Mendon and Cache Valley.
To the east is Thimble Berry, the slide of shale rock, which is one of the oldest landmarks around these parts. Nearby is Straight Hollow and the famous Log Way. The pioneers cut logs there and one day Robert Forster and L. R. Bird (Doctor) were going up the canyon to cut logs for a house downtown. Bob was a very large and calm fellow and Doctor was a little wiry man. All of a sudden a huge bear walked out of the brush. Bob saw the bear first and quietly raised the gun and aimed at the bear. Little Doctor started jigger bugging and shouting, “Don’t shoot, Bob, don’t shoot.” The softhearted man watched as the bear ambled away. It was worth .39 cents in eggs for the Mendon kids to hear “Doctor” tell that story later.
The trail-master leads the group on to Robert H. Stewart’s Pass, named after the leader of men who helped nature rebuild this great watershed. Here is a beautiful grassy spot (once a dust bowl) where the group eats lunch and allows the horses to eat and rest. Usually the group hears a lecture on watersheds, on grass, soil, brush, tress, winds, snow, rain, clouds and game given by Forest Service personnel. One time Kay Sorensen gave a comic reading that even made the horses whinny (or give a horse laugh)! This area is called Shangri-La and one can truly feel God’s handiwork in such marvelous atmosphere. To the east one can see the whole Cache Valley with all of the towns and historic buildings— Mormon Temple, Utah State University and the cheese plant in Amalga.
The Skyline Riders now mount for the return trip. Down they go across canyons, over ridges, through pine trees that have been growing for hundreds of years, those huge stately monarchs of the forests that one can see only on these rides. The canyon to the right is Shumway, and beyond this spot is a huge half circle of knolls and gullies, a stockman’s paradise for summer grazing, especially west and east of Leatham Ridge and Eliza Deacon Canyon. Turning to the left we arrive at Cold Water Lake, which was formed hundreds of years ago when an earth slide came down and left a cup-shaped hole on a table-like bench. It is up on the side hill where nature brought forth a spring from a vein of water that feeds Shangri-La. At one time this lake was very cold and deep and two Gunnell boys drowned while watering their horses.
There is a steep grade down and across to Moonshine Spring, a room-like clearing where moonshine was made in the early days. The riders proceed to the east, past Mt. Hughes and out into the rolling hills of farmland. To the right Wellsville, the first town settled in the valley. Below is Gardner Creek where in pioneer days the Thurston girl was taken away by Indians. It was just east of Evan Darley’s barn, which still stands. Andrew Andersen and other men from Mendon were grinding grain at the gristmill one day and a little girl wandered down the creek. Some Indians were hiding in the willows and fled with her. There are many stories about this incident— some that she died when the braves tried to bring her back— the other theory was that she was taken to California to live. This spot was also the site of another tragedy— a man was killed while cutting willows by a huge mother bear— claimed to be the daughter of Old Ephraim, the famous bear of the Logan and Blacksmith Fork area.
Approaching Mendon form the south end, the riders end the famous Skyline Ride. They pass the once Seventeen-pasture area, which feeds milk cows during the summer months. It was quite a sight to see the cows herded to the pasture each morning and home each night by Mendon children. All the families guarded their flowers and gardens and it wasn’t very unusual to see a cow running after her little calf under a clothesline with no-longer-white clothes on it.
The largest group ever to make the trip on the Skyline Trail was 105 (some say 115) and comprised men, women, and children. Jimmy Lundahl, eight, son of Ezra Lundahl, was the youngest. At the end of the journey, everyone dismounts at Chester Kidman’s home for a treat consisting of dozens of ice-cold watermelons and cantaloupes.
Mendon contains some of the happiest people found anywhere— good friendly neighbors who take an interest in each other. If anyone becomes ill or has bad luck, the people of this community turn out to mend fences, haul hay, cut grain, mow lawns, take care of feeding and caring for families.
Should anyone desire to see a most glorious sight, just journey to Mendon and watch the sun rise or set on the stately, majestic mountains— or join the Skyline Riders the next time they tour this beautiful area.