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(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Taylor Lee starts up his ATV with his dog "Jerzy" on board near his family's camp near State Route 150. The Mirror Lake Highway is now open just in time for the Memorial Day weekend, Sunday, May 26, 2013.
Starting summer on a high (Uintas) note
Holiday weekend » Snow’s still on the ground, but the area is the coolest place to be for early summer fun.
First Published May 26 2013 03:33 pm • Last Updated Dec 07 2013 11:32 pm

Mirror Lake Highway • For Landon Bartlett, the climb got steeper and the chill got deeper with each breath.

While Utah is working on its 2013 green, the High Uintas along Mirror Lake Highway still have snow packed about 3 feet high on each side near Bald Mountain Pass.

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Bartlett, a transfer student at Utah Valley University from his home state of Wisconsin, wheeled his bike up toward the 10,759-foot summit underneath a frosty Bald Mountain shedding layers in the sub-50-degree weather.

"The High Uintas," he said, "are definitely one of a kind."

On a striking Sunday afternoon on Memorial Day weekend, campers, cyclists, motorcyclists and even horseback riders took to the Mirror Lake Highway, which opened for business Friday morning, an early impromptu kickoff to the summer season in the Beehive State.

Bartlett said he long planned to go camping in the Christmas Meadows area and ride his bike along the highway. After his first taste of the mystifying climate, the Midwesterner said he’s planning on going back next weekend — this time with his snowboard.

"What we call a mountain there is about 500 feet," he said.

Amanda Lee and Kevin Dubler, of Sunset, planned to make the trek to central Utah to visit their favorite adventure spot: the Little Sahara sand dunes.

Instead, instinct took over. Dubler had hiked and camped along Mirror Lake Highway as a kid, so they brought the family, the motorbikes, the ATVs, even the dog.

"Just winging it," Lee said.

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They arrived at their spot near Yellow Pine campground Friday and trudged through a rushing Provo River on their ATVs and even saw a moose wandering along the road a few miles away.

"This year we decided to try something different," Dubler said.

Dave Warner, of Fort Collins, Colo., was doing the same.

Warner’s wife works at the Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston, so the pair decided to make a Sunday drive and took in the roaring Provo River Falls churning out loud, brown winter runoff.

"My wife was on call yesterday and she’s working tomorrow," he said, "so this was our day to spend outside."

Pleasant Grove resident Jared Peterson returned to the place he attended Scout camp as a boy on Washington Lake. Decked out in full fly-fishing attire, he didn’t have much success on a thawing Lost Lake amid whipping winds synonymous with the High Uintas.

"Just wanted to come up and get some mountain air," he said.

Like Peterson, Ruthann Haycock, of Salt Lake City, camped and hiked around Mirror Lake Highway when she was young. Now, she looked at Memorial Day weekend as an opportunity to show her sons the breathtaking views and wildlife.

"And," she said, "getting them away from the video games."

ckamrani@sltrib.comTwitter: @chriskamrani

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