Idaho’s Bear Lake Valley is a stunning and tranquil place to visit. Looking down from the crest of the mountain, one may see flat rich meadowland spread out for miles and miles between the mountains, exhibiting more shades of green and yellow than one could ever imagine; and among all this are patches of bright red Indian Paintbrush that seems to set the land on fire.
Who would ever have suspected the history of this little valley to be so amazing? Rugged mountains, gorgeous landscapes, harsh winters, grizzly bears, outlaws, and the Bear Lake Monster! My ancestors were one of the first pioneers to settle in Bear Lake Valley. How did it get its name? It was because of the abundant bears that roamed the Wasatch Mountains and after the most beautiful aqua-colored lake, which is seven-and-a-half miles wide and twenty miles long.
After the pioneers settled this area, they called their new home Paris. Not far from the settlement is Paris Canyon. I was told of the beauty of this canyon and was not disappointed as I walked up the trail toward the mountains. I passed one quaking aspen after another. There were pine trees, lavender flowers, Queen Anne’s lace, and bushes with white berries. Shrub after shrub lined my path as I walked. There were scads of yellow daisy-like flowers that were nodding in the breeze on each side of the path, and the white rugged cliffs stood five hundred feet high in front of me, looking magnificent. The swift, white-foamed rapids that rolled over the rocks gradually became louder as I approached the cliff where the water was pouring out of the mountain. As I arrived at my destination, I noticed a large flat boulder in the pathway that led to the springs. My husband climbed upon it and then held his hand out to help me over the boulder. The roaring sound of the water pouring out of the mountain was exhilarating to listen to, not to mention freezing cold. The water was pure, unpolluted, fresh from the mountain. It tasted delicious, better than bottled water.
As I stood in this small cove between the mountains, a new world opened up around us. It was like a fairyland of greenery that one could only imagine in storybooks and tales. The tall magnificent cliff above us was white with brown and green moss covering the jagged surface. In the river were large moss-covered rocks that were protruding above the water, and dark green shrubs surrounded us on every side.
This was the area I chose to write about, the place my ancestors settled. I was about to embark on a task that would end up with five historical romances called “A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho.” Each book would have a specific theme. But first I had to find out a bit of history surrounding this area. Little did I know what I was about to uncover!
Idaho’s Bear Lake Valley, located in the tops of the Rocky Mountains, has winter storms like no other. I learned that blizzards were not uncommon. I read many accounts that helped me to realize how harsh the winters can become in the tops of the Rocky Mountains. If my heroine was to endure many hardships, she would have to learn what a blizzard was like in this valley. That wasn’t all I learned. I didn’t realize the pioneers had problems with outlaws.
Many outlaws, including the “Wild Bunch,” roamed this valley, rustling cattle and robbing banks. In 1896, Butch Cassidy and two of his men robbed the bank in Montpelier, a small town near Paris. Eventually one man was caught, but Cassidy had gotten away with $7,000. In my research, I found out that Montpelier puts on a reenactment of the robbery for the public every year, complete with costumes, horses, and revolvers. It didn’t take long for me to realize that my first novel would begin in 1896 and Butch Cassidy would be in chapter two. I would use every detail recorded by the city.
In my research, I found that many bears roamed the Rocky Mountains. Early settlers knew the temperament of these animals and were cautious. But my heroine was a city woman, not accustomed to the wilds of the west. Startling a bear was one of the worst things a person could do. With a blizzard, wild bears, Butch Cassidy, and stinging nettle, it didn’t take long for me to realize how wild the west really was. So what would I call my first novel? Melinda and the Wild West! Yes, it would be full of adventures, but also a sweet love story.
That wasn’t all I found out. How about Old Ephraim and the Bear Lake Monster? The details of each subject were so great that I soon realized that I had the makings for two other books. Old Ephraim, the ten-foot grizzly bear, roamed the mountains of the Wasatch Front, striking fear into the hearts of men and beasts alike. This grizzly caused unparalleled damage and destruction, killing and plundering everywhere he went. Sheepherders often feared for their lives. He roamed the Wasatch Mountains from southern Idaho to northern Utah, wreaking havoc wherever he went. He was referred to as “Old Three Toes” because one foot was deformed. The grizzly measured at exactly nine feet and eleven inches tall, weighing 1100 pounds. This would be the subplot for “Jenny’s Dream.”
How about the Bear Lake Monster? The mystery of this monster has been an exciting part of Bear Lake history ever since the early pioneers arrived in 1863. Shortly after the settlement of the pioneers, the Indians told the settlers all about the “Great Bear Lake Monster.” They said it had captured and carried away two of their braves who were swimming. They told the pioneers that the monster was a serpent-like creature. Throughout the years, no one has ever disproved the Bear Lake Monster. A group of scientists tried to discredit the monster and said that it was a huge codfish that was shipped in from the East, but the local people refuse to believe it. Many claim to have seen it and have given their own accounts of the Bear Lake Monster. They described it as being 90 feet long. It had flaming red eyes, ears that stuck out from the sides of its skinny head, and a huge mouth that was big enough to eat a man. Some said it resembled a gigantic alligator. They claimed it could swim faster than a galloping horse and roared like an angry bull. This legend still lives on today. The question is: is it fact or fiction? Many people think the Bear Lake Monster is just a myth. But not so! Just ask those who have seen it. This became the subplot to “David and the Bear Lake Monster.”