Dog Days of Summer

The makings of the soldier hollow classic

working dog ** Note: Slight blurriness, best at smaller sizes

“Come By.” “Away To Me.” “That’ll Do.”

Sound familiar? These are just a few of the commands sheepdog handlers often use while herding. Throughout history, wherever there have been sheep, mankind has used dogs to help corral them. Quick as a whip, smart enough to follow commands and gentle enough to not harm the sheep, these dogs have performed herding duties for centuries.

As handlers spend countless hours training their dogs to precision, it’s only natural that they’d want show off all of that hard work. As early as the 1800s, sheepherding communities around the world have organized competitions designed to trial dogs and celebrate the culture and lifestyle of herding sheep.

The Heber Valley is a part of that sheepherding tradition. In fact, in the 1920s and ’30s, our valley was one of the most prolific sheep-producing regions in the world. During that time the Heber Valley Railroad moved more sheep than any other railroad in the United States. Even now, almost 100 years later, you can still drive past fields filled with grazing flocks of sheep.

From Scotland To Soldier Hollow

The history of the sheepdog trials in the Heber Valley originates with Mark Petersen. Mark was visiting the United Kingdom in the mid-1990s and happened to attend a sheepdog competition. “I was blown away by it,” he says, and he immediately knew it was the kind of event that belonged in Utah. He returned home and scouted for the perfect location, but nothing felt right.

After the 2002 Winter Olympics, Mark had a meeting at Soldier Hollow. “The snow was melting,” he says. “I got out of the car, and I looked around and saw the hillside. I immediately said, ‘Sheepdog championship.’” Three days later he was pitching the project to the Soldier Hollow venue director, Howard Peterson, and the Soldier Hollow Classic was born.

“That first year, I begged people to come and compete,” Mark remembers. “We were on a shoestring budget and I didn’t know if anyone would come at all.”

It turned out he had no reason to be worried: 10,000 people showed up. “It was immediately the most attended sheepdog event in North America.”

Today, Soldier Hollow is the highest-attended annual sheepdog championship in the world. Yes, you read that right — in the world.

And it’s not just for competitors from the Heber Valley; dogs and handlers who have qualified for an invitation travel from around the globe to compete. This year’s trials will include competitors from as far away as Wales, the Netherlands and South Africa.

“It’s like a pilgrimage to come compete in Soldier Hollow,” Mark explains. “You’ve spent so much time on this sport you love, and to take your dog out in front of that size of a crowd, on that hillside where the Olympics were once held — it’s a moment for some people. To say, ‘I was there.’”

Our Shared Heritage

The Soldier Hollow Classic has grown to be more than just a sporting event — it’s now a four-day-long festival! “But it’s not just another fair,” Mark explains. “All the entertainment is related.” At its center, the trials are all about celebrating dogs, agriculture and the sheep handling culture that has existed in our valley for generations.

As for the trials, “The goal of the sport is animal husbandry: taking good care of the animals,” says Mark. “It’s the drama and beauty of handler and dog working together to take care of the sheep.”

That beauty exemplifies the cultural birthright of the Heber Valley. In that way, the Soldier Hollow Classic is not just a celebration of sheepherding — it’s also a living memorial to our heritage as a valley and as a community.

Splash Dogs: A Fan Favorite

Not a sheepherder but want to experience the classic with your four-legged friend? You can enter Fido into Splash Dogs, an amateur dock-diving competition! Local dogs compete for distance as they jump off a dock into a 40-foot pool. Sign your pooch up today!
soldierhollowclassic.com

Adventure For Everyone

In addition to Splash Dogs, the classic features a variety of dog agility shows and dog trick presentations, as well as an exotic animal show, sheepdog training demonstrations and a Navajo rug–weaving show.

What stands 11,749’ high, has a heart, a saddle, an emerald, a shack, and some goats?

If you’ve been in Heber for even a short time, you’ll know the valley’s pride lies in the great mountain that sprawls to the west where the sun settles each night. Mount Timpanogos creates a portion of the eastern wall of the Wasatch Front. Often folks claim we, here in Heber, reside on the backside of the great Timpanogos. We’d like to beg their pardon. They happen to be discombobulated, not realizing that we have the front seat to Timp’s right side. Of all the peaks in the Wasatch Mountain Range, the majestic summit is second in height only to Mt. Nebo. Each breathtaking foot is covered in alpine flora, fauna, and crag, while crystal clean water from white peaks, burbles over as falls, and meanders to rivers and streams.

Through The Year

Spring is when the falls of Timp and their gushing runoff are at their prime. Mount Timpanogos Trailhead in Aspen Grove, accessed on State Route 92, is the entry point to three sets of breathtaking waterfall hikes. Timpanogos Falls is made up of an upper and lower set of falls. Visiting both is approximately a 2.5-mile round trip hike. Stewart Falls and Scout Falls are also great options for late spring hikes.

Summer is the best time to beat the heat and get to the heart of the mountain. Timpanogos Cave National Monument leads tours deep into the geologic Timpanogos Cave System. In the depths of the cavern is a large stalactite known as the “Great Heart” of Timpanogos. Legends tell of two hearts joined at death to become one that now lies deep in the mountain.

Summer is also a great time for ambitious hikers and trail runners to reach the peak. But don’t forget your jacket — even in the summer months, the windy summit stays nice and cool. The trek begins at either Aspen Grove or Timpooneke trail. It careens through Mount Timpanogos Wilderness Area, where you may choose to take it slower and camp overnight, remembering there are no fires permitted. Another fun choice is to depart early and squeeze the full excursion into one day. These hikes are where you’ll discover the emerald of Timp — Emerald Lake. Just as a horse’s saddle is sweeping in shape, Mount Timp’s saddle is a sweeping field of boulders where the trail to the peak converges with the ridgeline. Keep your eyes open for the mountain goats, moose, and other wildlife among the profusion of wildflower colors. Marking the summit is an old surveyor shack.

Fall brings a chill to the air, and our trees take center stage. As the bright blooms fade, the deep hues of autumn steal the show. Be sure to take a drive. Throw in a picnic and your camera to make a day of the fully-paved, 20 mile Alpine Scenic Loop. Head out before October passes and our snow closes portions of the loop for the winter.

Winter may offer the best views of Mount Timpanogos from a distance. Adventure junkies sometimes choose to summit Timp in the winter with an ice ax and crampons. If you enjoy snowmobiling or snow biking, Wasatch State Park grooms 72 miles of trail throughout the winter months. They are also home to the 2002 Olympic Site contracted by the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation. This venue allows for Nordic skiing, a tubing hill, and snowshoeing at the base of Timp. Those of you who don’t feel like competing with yetis or Sherpas may choose other ways to enjoy winters with Timpanogos. Relax while you wind leisurely around the base aboard a railcar of the Heber Valley Railroad. Are you an artist? Find a perch in town to paint to your heart’s delight. Or, simply take it easy and get cozy with a warm drink while enjoying the view from your favorite place.

Whatever the season Mount Timpanogos with its high summit, heart, saddle, emerald, shack, and goats, is definitely worth visiting — even if it’s only from your front porch as you watch the sun settle behind Timps peaks.

Hikes:

Timpanogos Falls
1.9 miles |  moderate  |  dogs allowed  |  kid approved

Stewart Falls
3.4 miles |  moderate  |  dogs allowed  |  kid approved

Scout Falls
4.2 miles |  moderate  |  leashed dogs allowed

Aspen Grove Timp Summit
15.7 miles  |  difficult  |  dogs and horses allowed

Timpooneke Timp Summit
12.8 miles  |  difficult  |  dogs allowed  |  $6 fee, pay at yourpassnow.com

For kids:

The Junior Ranger Program
Available at Timpanogos Cave National Monument. Kids explore
the culture and natural history. There is an event every Saturday
at 10:00 am throughout the open season, May-early September.
Go to nps.gov/tica/learn/kidsyouth for more information.

Legend Of Timpanogos:

As with any good story, there are many variations to the Legend of Timpanogos. In fact, at least 12 recorded versions exist today. The legend is centered on the outline of a woman that can be seen in the peaks of the mountain, and the large stalactite called the “Great Heart” found inside the caves.

The legend is “Romeo and Juliet”-esque, featuring the Indian warrior Red Eagle and the beautiful Indian princess Utahna. While their exact roles and circumstances vary from version to version, the story goes that Utahna was chosen as a sacrifice to the gods to end the great drought. When she was about to jump off the cliffs, Red Eagle begged her not to end her life. Thinking Red Eagle was the great God of Timpanogos, Utahna went to the caves with him, and they fell in love.

One day, Red Eagle was injured by a wild animal — which proved he was human after all — so Utahna left to finish her sacrifice to the gods. After she jumped, Red Eagle found her and took her back to the caves, where it is believed their two hearts became one, forming the stalactite that is now called the Great Heart of Timpanogos. People say you can still see the outline of Utahna lying on top of the mountain.

(Courtesy of nationalparks.org)

For more information on Mount Timpanogos and Wasatch State Park visit https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/wasatch-mountain