In the summer of 1969, my 16-year-old self went to work at Charlie's Trout Creek Boat Camp on the eastern shore of Strawberry Reservoir. Six days a week, I was a waitress, maid, dishwasher and outhouse cleaner.
The pay wasn't much $1.10 an hour but room and board was free, and I saved most of what I earned. I also learned a lot, not only from Charlie Woodbury and my co-workers, but from the people who stayed the summer in a rag-tag collection of trailers, tents and campers.
That's why I'm quite worried about a developer's proposal to build a complex of cabins, RV sites, lodges, conference centers and a cattle ranch on 7,000 acres that will require new roads, bridges and a lot of water.
That's despite the size of Strawberry, which Bureau of Reclamation guys invariably call the crown jewel of the Central Utah Project. It's also home to kokanee salmon, rainbow and cutthroat trout that make it a blue-ribbon fishery to people who come from all over the state and country to drop a line.
In 1969 and for several summers more, those were the people who taught me about hard work, kindness and getting along with devoted fishers, families, oddballs, cranks, construction workers and sheepherders who'd come to the cafÃ© for a dinner away from their flocks.
One white-haired guy was a retired trucker whose hands had frozen as if still holding the wheel. He was always crabby but got a kick out of taking my friend and me fishing.
There was Burt, a tiny man in a worker's uniform who ordered French toast at the counter every morning, and his wife, a big woman with a tiny white dog always in her arms. Occasionally, European bicyclists would stop for pie, coffee and a bit of flirtation.
And sometimes, as we sat on the musty old couch outside the cafe, we'd see a line of elk passing over the mountain to the east.
Then there was Charlie, a funny, tall, white-haired cigar smoker who called us "gorls." Highly educated, he ran the boat dock and boat rentals, the cabins and cafÃ© and kept his workers on an even keel as best he could.
What formed during those summers was a sense of community, if only for a few months. We'd throw around the BS, sing along with the jukebox and get together for after-hours poker in a battered old single-wide redolent with the scent of propane.
Weather-wise, Strawberry had it all. Every afternoon, the winds from the west would roar in and drive boats to the shore. More often than not, sunsets of deep red and purple would cover half the sky.
By night, the Milky Way took on a solidity you can find only in the clearest air.
Today, there are many more cabins around the lake than in those days, but not that many. Viewed from US 40, as I did Monday, the vast, deep blue reservoir and surrounding hills still look almost uninhabited.
I can see why a developer would rest his eyes on Strawberry and dream of a major project, presumably with a major profit margin. But we have to ask: Do we want to allow Strawberry to become Utah's Lake Tahoe, surrounded almost completely by development?
Better to keep it as it is, a haven for fishers, windsurfers, birds and wildlife far from cities and close to the beauty of the mountains that surround it.
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at email@example.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @PegMcEntee.