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Visiting Inspiration Point may involve perspiration

Need some inspiration? How about a trip to the aptly named Inspiration Point, elevation 9,422 feet, in the lofty, rugged mountains of southern Box Elder County? You won't be disappointed.

Mammoth rocky spires, craggy peaks, granite fissures, sure-footed mountain goats, pond-roaming moose, abandoned historic mines, the contrasting beauty of Willard Bay vs. the Great Salt Lake, the flood-ravaged history of Willard Basin, the endless bird's-eye panoramas and more. A visit to the Inspiration Point area is a Rocky Mountain adventure at its best. Forget always having to go to the High Uintas, Cottonwood canyons or the Mount Timpanogos area for some mountain solitude and incredible grandeur. This more off-the-beaten-track place — between North Ogden and Mantua — is one of the most fabulous treasures in all of northern Utah.

This area is a natural playground that could rival some national parks for beauty, and it boasts no entrance fees.

From Inspiration Point, there is a nearly unlimited view of Willard Bay and North Ogden.

Inspiration Point, also known as Willard Mountain, marks the end of the Willard Basin road. True to its name, it offers some stunning panoramic views of the Great Salt Lake, Willard and Brigham City by overlooking Holmes Canyon and Pearsons Canyon.

Some vehicles parked at Inspiration Point on a summer afternoon reflect the sun like a mirrored signal and can been seen some afternoons from as far away as western Layton.

There are several old mines in the area, including the Eldorado Mine, below Willard Peak.

Inspiration Point is also a perfect place to jump-start moderately difficult hikes to nearby peaks.

Willard Peak, about a mile to the southeast, is the tallest point in Box Elder County at 9,764 feet. Willard Peak is 52 feet higher than Ben Lomond Peak (9,712 feet), another 1.5 miles away on the Skyline Trail.

Willard Peak has been more often climbed in recent years because it is a county high point and is sought out specifically by "peak baggers."

"What a view!" Clay Poulter of Liberty wrote in June of 2008 on a small notebook inside a summit register canister on the top of Willard Peak.

"Love the mountain goats," Alan Dailey wrote. There are 20 or more mountain goats roaming around Willard Peak these days. Their droppings prove they've been to the summit, too.

There's a good trail from Inspiration Point, going south and east all the way to Ben Lomond Peak, North Ogden Divide or North Fork Park — the latter two both 12 miles distant.

However, if you want to scale Willard Park, you take a good spur trail for a few hundred yards upward. Then, a variety of mountain goat paths lead to the craggy summit, and a little scrambling is required.

The main mountain saddle trail is well marked, but it is not for those afraid of heights. It has been carved into the side of the mountain, and the mammoth mountain fins and spires that can be seen from Willard or nearby I-15 are viewed from a different perspective along this trail — straight down!

Ben Lomond is the most dominant peak from the valley below in Weber County. From the mountain saddle, the peaks of Willard and Ben Lomond summits seem equal. Ben Lomond is most famous for having inspired the creation of the exaggerated (and fictional) mountain peak in the Paramount Pictures logo. That's no legend, it's a fact recorded in the official Paramount history.

"I love it," said Kerrie Tippets of Roy after reaching the summit of Ben Lomond Peak. "It's amazing."

Later, Dave Jensen of Perry and Rachel Boyle of North Ogden arrived at the summit to enjoy the view on an early August day afternoon. They found the cell phone reception there excellent.

However, a lot of smoke and haze made it impossible to see Davis County to the south, or much of Cache Valley to the north. This was a day when the Logan LDS Temple would not be visible to with the naked eye from here.

The scenic "Backway" dirt road from Mantua to Inspiration Point offers a lot of solitude on weekdays, though ATV riders do frequent there regularly on weekends.

Getting to the mountain saddle here is half the adventure, too, with various options to choose from.

The easiest transportation option is the 14-mile, rugged dirt road drive from Mantua to aptly named Inspiration Point. Take the first Mantua exit off Highway 89, about five miles east of Brigham City. Look for an LDS Church to the south and get on the main road that passes it and keep going.

But be warned! This road was passable by car in the 1970s, but it has since eroded and has huge rocks and ruts. A car simply can't drive this road now. A four-wheel drive vehicle is best, or an ATV or motorcycle.

Also, be cautious and slow on the many blind curves — you never know what's coming around the corner from the other direction.

You can go all the way to Inspiration Point by vehicle, then park and hike south to Willard or Ben Lomond peaks. As you round the final curve and reach Inspiration Point, it's like you're parking on a cloud, with so much dizzying open space around.

The basin road starts at an elevation of 5,500 feet in Mantua. It passes by a campground, above Perry Reservoir and a private access road.

The upper road (10 miles out and near the final switchback before it drops down into Willard Basin) is almost always blocked by spring snow into mid-July. It's not rare for the road to still be blocked by snow on July 24, because the road is never cleared by machines. The snow has to melt off. No signs are ever posted indicating snow blockage.

The road passes briefly into Weber County and offers glimpses of Pineview Reservoir (to the southeast), and east of Perry Reservoir are the headwaters of the Ogden River's north fork.

This jeep pathway rarely gets really steep, though, since it goes through switchbacks before dropping into Willard Basin. It's just the bumps and ruts that are unnerving. A sign at the top of the switchbacks (elevation 9,000 feet) explains the history of the basin.

Next, the road descends about 200 feet into Willard Basin, an isolated bowl of forest and meadows (located east of Willard and behind Willard Peak at an elevation of 8,800 feet).

The other alternatives are a nine-mile hike to Ben Lomond Peak from either the North Ogden Divide trailhead or the North Fork Park trailhead in Liberty. You can also take a mountain bike from North Ogden Divide, or even travel by motorcycle.

It would be extremely difficult to ride a to motorcycle all the way to Ben Lomond's summit, but it has been done. Otherwise, park your motorcycle at the cap just below Ben Lomond's summit and hike from there.

Horsemen also use the North Fork Trail to climb toward Ben Lomond and Willard peaks.

Willard Basin and Willard Peak, like the city of the same name, were named after Willard Richards, an early LDS Apostle and settler in Brigham Young's time. (The Willard area was originally named "Fort Willow Creek" in 1852-3.)

Uncontrolled cattle grazing, mining, fires and a sawmill had left little vegetation in Willard Basin by the 1920s. All these factors, as well as extra heavy rainfalls, contributed to two severe floods that originated in the basin in 1923 and 1936. The water flowed through Willard Canyon, the main drain in the basin, 4,000 feet downward to Willard City.

The August 1923 flood (actually a mud-rock flow) was caused by an estimated 6 inches of rainwater hitting the basin in less than an hour. Two women in Willard were killed, and the force of the water carried the bodies one-half mile away.

The rainfall was a lot of water even for the best of watersheds, but the lack of vegetation made it worse. The flow had enough force to move a 500-ton rock, as well as a barn containing 150 tons of hay.

But even the loss of two lives was not enough to convince residents of the need for drastic conservation measures. More cattle grazing and land abuse in the basin continued. In fact, it took a similar flood in 1936 to finally get residents' attention. No lives were lost then, but considerable property damage again occurred.

The Utah State Road Commission, Box Elder County and residents of Willard donated money to buy the privately owned Willard Basin after the 1936 flood. The land was then deeded to the Forest Service for protection.

As a result, 700 miles of terraces, trenches and fences were constructed (over a 1,500-acre space), and trees and grasses were planted from 1936 to 1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

The terraces and trenches in the basin are still readily visible today.

The CCC also constructed the dirt road from Mantua to the basin.

These days, there are primitive campsites in Willard Basin. However, the outhouse of earlier years is totally gone. There are a few sources of running water, plus a small lake at the extreme south end of Willard Basin.

CCC terrace work is also visible below Ben Lomond Peak.

• Lynn Arave and Ravell Call hiked to Willard and Ben Lomond peaks on Aug. 2. They and three other companions also drove the 14 miles to Inspiration Point in a Chevy Suburban.