Wherever I wander I like to indulge in the Wise Man theory of travel. That is when you follow the biblical admonition to the Magi, who had followed a star to Bethlehem and then were told to return home by another route.
The three kings traveled by camel, but I apply this adventuresome notion to trips by car or on foot. The dream is to see twice as much on a journey without retracing a step.
Not long ago I drove from Salt Lake City to Jackson, Wyo., following an autumn trail of leaves. I plotted a course north to Ogden, where I picked up U.S. 89, which a Utah pal had called the fruit loop.
Sure enough, stands of fresh produce began cropping up on both sides of the road in this fertile land at the base of the Wasatch Range. Bushel baskets were spilling over with fat, ripe peaches. The sun glinted on the silky tassels of corn and bouquets of lettuce.
By the time I got to Willard I had the car windows down. The sweet smell of cantaloupe wafted in from these markets in the field. Tables of berries nestled in the shade near mounds of giant gourds and green-striped watermelon.
Some of the mightiest pumpkins I've ever seen were being unloaded from the backs of pickup trucks by youngsters with the healthy, prideful smiles of 4-H champions.
I drove on north and east, through the forested beauty of Logan Canyon where the maples were as red as molten lava and the streams were full and tumbling. At Garden City, on the shore of Bear Lake, I paused to stretch near La Beau's Drive In.
"Raspberry shakes our specialty," said a sign. "Also banana." I joined a line of hungry people.
La Beau's is a family-owned establishment whose milkshake machines are in a constant whir. The result is artful: an ice cream shake that rises above the deep cup like a perfect souffle. Among the flavors that I recall are Oreo, M&M, Reese's Bits, Butterfinger, Apple Cobbler and Blackberry. They also sell homemade sandwiches and pies.
While I finished a grilled cheese and hot coffee, a Cosmos tour bus pulled in. Dozens of travelers, including several from England, came in for a frothy treat.
They were sampling the national parks of the West, they told me, and while savoring the wonders of Grand Teton they were looking forward to the raw beauty of Bryce and Zion. Their remarkable route smacked of Wise Man travel.
Buffalo in a Corral
I waved goodby to that merry band and, shortly, I was in Idaho, passing through both Paris and Geneva before entering Wyoming. A few buffalo roamed in a corral near Afton, where the main street is marked by cowboy bars, a taxidermist and a dense arch of elkhorns.
I flipped on the car radio, and the music underscored my Western sense of place: "High Noon" led the hour, then "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and "Happy Trails to You."
When my stay in Jackson Hole came to an end, I spread out maps to look for a Wise Man way back to Salt Lake. I chose State Highway 89 south through Wyoming, then turned west to see the 100-year-old mining town of Park City, Utah, now better known for fine ski runs and eateries.
Just above Park City are the immaculately groomed slopes of Deer Valley, a place of tall trees and stone mansions.
After a hearty Italian dinner at Cicero's on Park City's steep and historic Main Street, I walked through the lamplight to my car and breathed deeply of the sharp mountain air.
It was as fragrant as frankincense or myrrh. I followed the stars to the airport.