KAMAS — The coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot of traditional plans for Memorial Day weekend, but plenty of Utahns are still headed outdoors for camping. It’s also a chance for others to get back in business.
The Mirror Lake Highway in the Uinta Mountains should be a popular destination for campers looking to shake off the shackles of an uncertain spring. Businesses in Kamas, which serve the visitors, are also eager to get the summer started, even with a few adjustments.
“Just visit, and love each other,” Liz Miller said.
That’s the game plan this weekend for the Miller-McKloskey-Gibson clan camping together in the Uintas. They usually go camping in Idaho this weekend, but the pandemic made them decide to stay in-state.
It won’t exactly feel like the start of summer up in the mountains because it might snow, but for Miller, that’s not critical.
“It just feels great to be in the outdoors, and breathe the air, and not be confined in our houses,” she said.
Four generations of her family are getting together for the first time since early March.
This weekend, for many families, it’s about reconnecting after spending the last 10 weeks distancing themselves from each other.
“You missed that opportunity of being with other people and talking with people,” said Miller. “The only way I’ve talked to my friends is through Facebook or messaging.”
Campgrounds in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest are still closed, and the road is closed eight miles past the gate. But dispersed camping is allowed.
For some, it’s a chance to escape everything that’s been going on.
“Don’t have to worry about social anxiety from people judging whether you have a mask on, or don’t have a mask. Being able to just get away from everybody,” said Kim McKloskey.
Campers and hikers in the mountains help bring business back to Kamas.
“My expectations are sky high. I think it’s going to be good,” said Scott Lindsay, owner of Dick’s Burger Shack, a popular place to grab a burger and milkshake after visiting the mountains.
Dick’s Burger Shack usually opens in April. This year, Lindsay couldn’t open his dining room until Friday when Summit County went form orange phase to yellow.
“I did want to be able to have a dine-in experience,” he said.
But he knows many will enjoy their burgers outside.
“People come up here, they want to hang out here,” he said. “They don’t want to drive through. They like to sit out and enjoy the air, the cool breeze, it’s a lot cooler than the city.”
He’s following all of the social distancing and cleaning requirements to keep it safe.
“Everything is about cleansers now, and disinfectants,” Lindsay said.
With everything that has been going on with the pandemic, he expects the traffic to arrive.
“They’re stuck in the city. They can’t do anything else. I’m optimistic,” he said. “I’m going to say that for me, personally, I’m going to have a good year.”
If you’re looking for National Forest campgrounds that are open, check the website for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, or check gocampingutah.com.