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Highway 12 guide combines music, photos and stories

Published January 7, 2014 1:01 am

Utah • Guidebook combines music, photos and stories to illuminate the cultural significance of Highway 12.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In some ways, the Glen Canyon Natural History Association guidebook "Scenic Byway 12: Utah's First All-American Road" is typical.

It includes all sorts of important information on the 124-mile road that meanders through Garfield and Wayne Counties, through Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and Boulder Mountain and pass three state parks.

Readers of the $12.95 booklet that recently went on sale at the Zion Natural History Association's bookstore at Council Hall across from the Utah State Capitol building will find bits of history, information on small towns, an event calendar, color photographs and drawings, stories about the area's flora, fauna and geology and even a recipe for Cowboy Tom's Dutch Oven Potatoes.

What makes the book different, though, is a 28-track CD narrated by Hal Cannon that features folk music performed by local artists that is tucked into a slot near the back of the publication.

"We tried to find a way to showcase local artists with visitors," said Carol Edison, the former Utah Folk Arts Council folklorist who helped write the script and find the artists featured on the CD. "This seemed like the perfect way. You can drive through this incredible landscape while listening to the voices of local people. You can learn the local culture from these artists."

Indeed, those who love and cherish this historic road, which was one of the last major highways to be constructed in Utah, might get a tear in their eye when they listen to "Friend, I'm Coming Home to You," written and performed by Camille Hall.

The "friend" in the song is Highway 12.

John Holland of Cannonville, the Scenic Byway 12 coordinator, called the songs and narration a great way to tie visitors into the local culture. He said that, as the owner of a KOA campground along Highway 12, about 40 percent of his visitors are from out of the United States.

"It adds a human element to an individual's discovery of the area, and that is certainly true along Highway 12," said Holland. "We have scenery in spades and we also have characters and talent. To the extent they want to share that with the public, it's perfect."

Gael Duffy Hill of the Utah Office of Tourism credited Edison and Craig Miller, another former Utah Folk Arts folklorist who worked on the project, with their ability to work with local groups to produce the CD that makes the guidebook unique.

"The local people are the ones who made it into such a unique project,:" she said. "Without them, we could not have done it. We wanted it to be authentic and got a whole lot of help from a whole lot of people... Each of the cuts on the CD track are so different. It is good to listen while you are driving the road. Listening to these voices gives you a taste of local voices."

Another thing that adds a certain authenticity to the project is the liberal use of historic quotations from early explorers who visited the area such as John Wesley Powell, George W. Thompson and several native American authors.

Those who think they know Utah Highway 12 might be surprised to discover some new things about towns such as Tropic, Cannonville, Escalante and Boulder and the scenery that surrounds them by reading the book.

wharton@sltrib.com

Twitter @tribtomwharton —

Utah Highway 12 milestones

1933-1935 • Civilian Conservation Corp constructs State Route 12

1985 • Pavement completed over Boulder Mountain

1988 • Designated National Forest Scenic Byway

1990 • Designated Utah State Scenic Byway

2002 • Named All-American Road by National Scenic Byways Program

Source: Scenic Byway 12: Utah's First All-American Road