When traveling, everyone should do something a little out of step from the regular routine. Whether that something is sleeping late—or not sleeping at all—leisurely reading for hours on end, or perhaps indulging in a bit of extravagance. For me, I love pie and coffee whether I am traveling or not; however, it seems when I travel, the desire to find pie is accelerated. I know there are cake people out there who just are not going to get this, but for me on the rolling pin of life—give me PIE.
My first pie find was at Blackbird’s Espresso and Coffee in Spearfish, South Dakota, on a rainy Sunday morning. On this fine day, I chose the blackberry pie over the standard oatmeal at the campsite. Weeks have passed since that Sunday morning pie, yet I can still remember its flakey crust and the enthusiasm of the woman who served it hot from the small toaster oven. (Never, ever microwave pie!!!) While the sweet taste has faded, my desire for more pie has not. But I did not actively seek the slice. Instead, pie sought me.
In Utah, where you cannot go more than a few miles without running into another national park, forest, state park or national monument, I did not realize that this state also has a thing for pie. In the span of five days, I’ve had no less than four slices of pie. Well, one was not exactly a slice. It was a whole pie, albeit a small whole pie.
After hikes through canyons and stone mountains in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Dead Horse State Park, I left the Moab area and headed toward Green River and Capitol Reef National Park. I happened upon Ray’s Tavern. Okay, happened upon sounds more serendipitous than it should be. A person at the Moab campground told me Ray’s was great for burgers (my eyes glazed over) “But their pie is what everyone goes for.” (my eyes opened wide!) So Ray’s it was. There in a cowboy saloon with red vinyl stools and a well marked wooden bar I watched no less than a dozen burgers send up flames from the grill. I slid onto a stool and ordered up apple pie and coffee while looking over the multiple draft taps and a mirrored walled reflecting bottles of libations.
I thought my indulgence for the week would end there, but I did not know this land of the Mormon Trail had more pie to offer.
There was Capitol Reef National Park that offers a stop at the Gifford House where no less than five pie varieties are delivered by eight each morning. With my tent site within an easy walk to the pie house, I felt compelled. I hardly call this stop indulgence as Fruita is the heart of this national park and where you can learn about the early Mormon pioneers who planted fruit trees and grew this area into the fruit basket of Utah. After a good morning hike to Hickmen Bridge and Navajo Knobs, I sat by Fremont River and had my first bite….and my second, and…
I truly thought this would be it—at least for the week. But then the kind neighbors at another campsite, who invited me over for S’mores with their twin sons, told me about Sunglow Motel and Cafe in Bicknell. The home of the famous Pinto Bean Pie and the Pickle Pie. What??? I think you might have to be in the family way to consider Pickle Pie, but Pinto Bean? Shoot, that sounded healthy. Some twenty miles out of Capitol Reef and only nine miles passed my intended turn onto Scenic Highway 12, I made my way to the Sunglow Motel and (PIE) Cafe. Had it not been recommended, the fading art deco sign and low flat roofed motel would have never caught my eye.
Questioning the young lady behind the counter on which pie she recommended, she confessed to only liking the Coconut Cream. That was out. I was taking a slice to go. Cream and desert car heat are not advised.
“What’s the pickle pie taste like?”
“Real sweet, kinda like pecan and there’s some coconut in it.”
“What about pinto bean?”
“That’s real popular. I guess you can’t find it everywhere.” (You don’t say!?!) “It’s got coconut in it.”
I was detecting a coconut theme.
Pinto Bean was the slice of choice and it held its shape and sweetness for two days. An afternoon hike followed by a cup of coffee at the Calf Creek Falls Campsite outside Boulder, UT, made for one happy camper. The crust was thin, the filling solid, and there were plenty of pinto beans surrounding the coconut, nuts, and yes…corn syrup. (ouch, my teeth hurt)
Alas, you think I was done with the pie for this week. But, wait, there’s more. After sunrise in Bryce Canyon, Scenic Highway 12 turned onto 89 toward Zion. At the junction that turns off 89 and onto the park road, there sits Thunderbird Restaurant: Home of the Ho-made Pies. No, that is not a misspelling…they specialize in Ho-Made Pies.
The restaurant started in 1931 by a husband and wife and her speciality was pie. Her kind husband had a sign made to advertise the pies, but the board could not fit the entire word homemade, so he shortened to Ho-Made. There’s apple, strawberry rhubarb, chocolate cream, coconut cream and Thunderberry. When in Thunderbird Restaurant, you choose the thunderberry. I took the slice to go which promised to have all the berries under the Utah sun: blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, and gooseberry. I’d like to believe that the fruit provides all that sweet nectar, but I don’t think I can fool myself.
So that should be my path of pie as I sit at a coffee shop outside Zion, readying to hike the canyon that leads to the famous Narrows. Water is said to reach waist deep or higher and the temperature sinks to a low 53.
I stare out the window and see the sun cresting the top of the Navajo Rocks. The wind is up and a bit fierce, causing sand to swirl. I look out at the quiet road and my eyes catch a sign for the Bumbleberry Cafe: Home of the famous Bumbleberry Pie.
Oh My! I am in pie Utahopia.