I was attracted to the name Elberta Slant when I first saw it on the map. To begin with, it is a road that takes off at an angle to Highway 68 unlike all the other streets that meet at right angles to the highway. This could be the reason for calling it the “Slant,” but I could not find any of the 256 residents of Elberta to tell me anything different. That being the case, we unloaded on the “Slant” northwest of town and headed west, following Pinion Creek.
The area between Elberta and Eureka, which is west of Santaquin, is laced with old rail beds and mines. With the rails and ties removed, it was fun to use my imagination while riding these old beds. While I didn’t close my eyes during my imaginings for obvious reasons, it was easy for me to hear the persistent beat of my ATV engine subtly change to the chug of a steam locomotive.
I could see what an engineer would have seen from his cab as he pulled his load from the mines. All of this was made even more real as we approached the Elberta Slant Train Tunnel at the south entrance. We chugged right through the 100-foot length of the passage. Because it curves to the right, we didn’t see the other end until we had traveled a little way into the shaft. Stopping, we took a minute to marvel at the engineering that made this cut more than a century ago.
Coming out the other side, we made our way along the east side of Pinyon Peak. I know my spell checker doesn’t like that spelling either, but there is also a Pinyon Queen Mine nearby. I suppose an excited miner with a claim to file would care very little about the correct spelling. It isn’t the first misspelling that stuck in Utah history.
Traveling around the north side of the peak, we avoided Rattlesnake Pass and turned south. Still in the heart of the Tintic Mining District, we rode the Homansville Road to the top of a slight pass, which turned out to be the site of the nonexistent Homansville. As you may have guessed, there was no one there to ask about it.
Riding further south down the other side of the pass, we came to Highway 6 on the east end of Eureka. Crossing the road, we stopped for lunch at the 3 Prospectors Café.
Built in the 1930s, this building does not have a straight ceiling, wall, or floor. The tables slope toward the walls according to slope of the floor. While it is short on sound architecture, it is long on hospitality. They serve great food, and there is always one of the old prospectors who will fill you in on Eureka history.
I learned that Eureka took more gold out of the ground than was produced by the entire California rush of 1849. Eureka boasts the oldest Elks Club in Utah, the oldest bank until it closed last month, and the second J.C. Penney in the nation. Claiming a population of more than 3,900 in 1920, the 2010 census found less than 770 people living in Eureka.
The old prospectors told us that no one would bother us if we rode down Main Street, so we did. It was fascinating to view the old building fronts as we passed. We rode behind Main Street on the south side and saw the old jail. We could see enough through the locked bars to not want to be guests. We stopped at the old Porter Rockwell cabin and took a step back in time, quickly losing any romantic ideas for life in the old west.
Resuming our ride, we hopped back on a rail bed, which took us east past nonexistent Homansville and down into the canyon by the same name. This took us back out to the Elberta Slant and to our trucks, but not before another ride through the tunnel. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down, and blow your whistle as you go through the tunnel.
You may contact Lynn Blamires at firstname.lastname@example.org.