One of the best things about spending almost 43 years in the newspaper business involves continuing to learn new things about Utah places that should be familiar.
Take Davis County, for example.
When I began writing a column for The Tribune’s Close-Up section about 18 months ago, one of Utah’s eight original counties, a place named after Mormon Battalion captain Daniel C. Davis, was a bit of a mystery.
I was more familiar with Fillmore than Farmington and could tell folks more about Beaver than Bountiful.
I knew about the wonders of Antelope Island, the Nature Conservancy’s Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve and Farmington Bay. We visited the Utah House in Kaysville when remodeling our home years ago. I’d covered high school games at Davis, Bountiful, Viewmont, Layton and Clearfield over the years. Plus, like many Wasatch Front natives, I grew up going to Lagoon. And I had played golf courses in Layton, Farmington, Bountiful and West Bountiful over the years.
It was easy to see how what was once a bedroom community for Salt Lake City was growing when racing past it on Interstate 15. The Layton Hills Mall, surrounded by massive box stores on both sides of the freeway, seemed like a busy place. West Bountiful looks as if it is booming.
But did this place have a soul? Was there more to it than suburban homes, the Great Salt Lake, dwindling farmlands and orchards and franchises?
Much to my surprise, my wanderings through Davis County taught me much. The county is filled with interesting, independent businesses, a few wonderful traditional main streets, some great places to enjoy the outdoors, one of Utah’s best paved trail systems and a thriving arts community.
Bountiful’s traditional Main Street proved to be one of my favorite places to visit. Whether getting a hair cut at Lee’s Barber Shop, grabbing a Philly cheesesteak at Vitos, or doing some Christmas shopping at a number of wonderful little independent boutiques, Bountiful was different from what I expected.
And, though located off the main drag, Greg Skedros’ Mandarin Restaurant became one of my wife and my favorite places to eat in all of Utah.
I knew Farmington was an interesting place, largely because of its historical rock homes. But I loved meeting Tom Owens, who turned what was the popular Heidelberg restaurant into an interesting home in a building housing one of Utah’s oldest mills.
Kaysville’s little business district also proved to be quite wonderful. I’ll never forget seeing a matinee at the family-owned Kaysville Theater and then meeting the Call family who operates it. Whenever I’m in the area, I also stop at the Perfect Popcorn place next door and try a new flavor (hint: cinnamon is pretty darned good!). Seeing a Friday night football game at Davis High with all of its tradition should be on every Utah fans’ bucket list.
I marveled at a community willing to support a wonderful visual art center such as the Bountiful Art Center (now temporarily located in Kaysville while a new building is being constructed) or the Centerpoint Legacy Theater in Centerville. My wife and I enjoyed a wonderful production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in what has to be one of Utah’s best small venues for live theater.
On a recent rainy spring day, I visited Davis County’s eight urban fisheries, little gems that usually include piers, parks and picnic areas situated in towns throughout the area and wondered if residents know just how lucky they are to have such fine facilities.
Outdoor experiences remain my favorite, though. They might include watching bald eagles at Farmington Bay in February, a hike on the boardwalk at the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Reserve or watching bison, birds and coyotes at Antelope Island, where the sunsets are sublime. Now that Farmington Canyon is open, I want to borrow my wife’s Jeep and ride up the canyon and across the top of the mountain south into Bountiful and Mueller Park.
What I have learned is that Davis County is a place filled with wonderful people and great surprises. Discovering this part of Utah has motivated me to give some other places a chance to surprise me.