The Big Rock Candy Mountain

elizname2small

Oh the buzzin’ of the bees
In the cigarette trees
Near the soda water fountain
At the lemonade springs
Where the bluebird sings
 On the Big Rock Candy mountain

If you’re anywhere near as old as I am, you may recognize this song, attributed to Harry “Haywire Mac” McClintock and made famous in a 1950s recording by Burl Ives.  Not long after the release of the song in 1928, some local wags places a sign at the base if a colorful mountain in Southern Utah, naming it “Big Rock Candy Mountain.”  They also placed a sign next to a nearby spring proclaiming it “Lemonade Springs.”  The names stuck, and the mythical Big Rock Candy Mountain of the song became one of the most recognized spots in the state. 

So why am I telling you all this?  Because the Big Rock Candy Mountain was a bigrockcandy1wonderful part of my childhood.  I grew up an hour north of the mountain, and, as a kid, it was one of my favorite places to go.  Not only was the hiking fun, but they had a campground, and a restaurant connected to a store that sold little bags of honest-to-goodness rock candy—the “rocks” were jelly beans, but they were made to look like real pebbles. 

Outside there were some animal pens with a cougar named Whiffy, a pair of lynxes named Sniffy and Spiffy, and some coyotes that would howl when the lady who ran the place came out and howled with them.  Once when we were there, they had a mother porcupine with babies.  I got to hold one of the babies—their quills don’t harden until they get older.  Looking back I realize it wasn’t a good situation for the animals, but as a little girl  I was fascinated by them. 

On Easter weekend my parents and their friends would reserve a picnic area for all their families.  It was so much fun, chasing around the mountain with a big gang of kids, rolling eggs down the slope and feasting on hotdogs and watermelon while the grownups visited.   The Sevier River ran along the road, and in the winter a wide section called Horseshoe Bend froze over—Great for sledding and ice skating.  I am smiling as I write this. 

Did you have a favorite place to go as a child?  Tell us about it.

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I'm an internationally published romance author, coming up on 40 novels and novellas. Most of my stories have been Westerns for Harlequin Historicals, but I set stories in other times and places as well. I'll also be writing contemporary stories for Harlequin Desire, with the first release in January 2013. You can learn more on my web site.

26 thoughts on “The Big Rock Candy Mountain”

  1. hi Elizabeth! I remember seeing this on a road trip some years ago. Yay. A good memory here too.
    I think my favorite place as a child was Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon National Park in the High Sierras. We’d have these massive camping trips with hordes of relatives. It had everything…roaring falls, a swimming hole, an icy cold river that never seemed to bother us, a suspension bridge over it, a lovely meadow. ‘Smores at night over a campfire. Oooh, and bears. Ah, good to be a kid again for a minute.

    Thanks for the fun post.

  2. Neat that you remember this place, too, Tanya. I’ve never been in the Sierras, although every time I fly over those gorgeous mountains I think how beautiful it must be below. Thanks for sharing your memory.

  3. There is a place called Blue Mountains in Collingwood, Ontario and we would love to go there in the summer. Are cottage was not to far away at Wasaga Beach. This is in the Georgian Triangle of Ontario. You could take a chair lift ride to the top of the mountain and have a picnic or just see the sites. There are also caves that you could go in and explore. It was always a fun way to spend a day.

  4. Elizabeth, one time when we were young my parents took us to a place called Robbers Cave near Lincoln Nebraska.

    AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! I just googled it to find out details and it’s GONE. It was declared ‘dangerous’ and they closed it and sealed the opening and now there’s a BUILDING over top of it.

    Here, I found this:
    Robber’s Cave became a meeting place for gamblers, outlaws and horse thieves. The most famous outlaw alleged to have visited Robber’s Cave was Jesse James, who supposedly hid out here after a robbery in 1876. One room in the cave is associated with the outlaws and you can find it by climbing up about five feet along the cave wall. A narrow passage then leads into a vast hidden chamber. One one side is a fire pit with a natural stone chimney above it and beyond that is a stone wall that has been filled in with bricks. It is said that if you listen carefully, you can hear the sounds of the ghosts of Robber’s Cave behind this wall.

    What many people didn’t realize was that the cave actually continued on for several miles beyond that brick wall. In fact, the tunnel beyond it once met passages that connected the penitentiary and the State Hospital for the Insane. One story claims that this tunnel was used as an escape route for some prisoners before it was finally sealed off.

    OKAY, done quoting, Mary again:
    My family went there one time and met a bunch of our cousins and we played all day inside this cave. It was spooky and so wildly fun.

    I remember we went through really narrow passages and at one point we came to a larger cavern and there was a picnic table in there, a big picnic table which could NOT have been taken in there through those narrow openings.

    At the time it was just thrilling and horrifying to think how it got there.

    I think my parents told me they certainly took the pieces of the picnic table in and constructed it inside, but to me it was magic, spooky, so exciting. I loved that place. And even though I obviously have never been back in oh…forty years, I feel terrible to find out it’s gone.

  5. Blue Mountains sounds like a beautiful place, Kathleen. Love the idea of the lift and the caves.

    And speaking of caves, Mary, how awful closing that wonderful place. And putting a building over it!!! Kind of like erasing history. At least you got to see and experience it.

    Glad somebody else remembers that song, Cheryl. There are a lot more verses, which I decided would make the blog too long. Another time.
    🙂

  6. P.S. As kids, we always thought the song was written about our mountain, not the other way around. I didn’t know how it started until I looked it up to research this blog.
    🙂

  7. Hi Elizabeth,
    Oh, I had so many fun places as a kid. We had this big lot in our neighborhood. It was dry land, shrubs and tall trees. We’d go there and climb the trees, find lizards, walk through the dirt path to the grocery store. “I’ll meet you at the lot” we’d say. But sadly, too many vagrants would sleep there and some of them were scary, so my mother stopped letting me go. Then as time progressed, the land was sold and they built a mini mall. Progress, I guess. But fond memories of my childhood still.

    Great picture of Big Rock Candy Mountain. I can picture you there, eating candy and climbing!

  8. I recall several places that were favorite sites
    for family gatherings. We would picnic and “swim”
    along the San Jacinto River (outside Houston)and go
    fishing on the Galveston jetties or go crabbing in
    Kemah, on the Texas Gulf Coast.

    Pat Cochran

  9. I have fond memories of going to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico when I was a growing up. Since we lived a short distance away we went pretty frequently. The cool temps and dim lights fed my imagination. I had lots of fun in those caverns.

    Interesting blog!

  10. HI Elizabeth!

    I, too, remember that song. Now one interesting detail about Burl Ives is that he is from my hometown in Illinois — a very small town of only about 2-3 thousand people.

    Another interesting thing about the caves, is did you know that those rocks in those caves are considered alive? I love this kind of thing.

    Great post, Elizabeth!

  11. It is interesting… growing up I went to a camp in New York named CANDY MOUNTAIN and I remember singing that song… great post!!! 😀

  12. I have similar memories of lots in our town, Charlene. One had a big tree that had been cut down and left there. It was so much fun climbing and running around on it. And when someone would dig a basement, all the kids would be there playing on the dirt pile. Kids today miss out on a lot. Thanks for the memory.

    Fishing and crabbing sounds like a great prelude to a feast, Pat. Texas must’ve been a great place to grow up.

  13. I have always wanted to see Carlsbad Caverns, Linda. Have been in a few caves but nothing that spectacular. What a fun memory. And the rocks are alive, Karen? Wow!

    I’m a huge Burl Ives fan, Karen. He was an amazing performer and actor. My kids grew up on his recordings because we played them all the time. And you’re from his home town! Neat!

    Glad you remember the song, too, Colleen. So there was at least one other Candy Mountain. Hmmm.
    🙂

  14. I’ve never had a chance to see Carlsbad Caverns, either.

    One of my kid favorites was Big Bear Lake in the mountains. We’d rent a cabin in winter for the whole snow angel/tobogganing experience. For a California girl who never saw snow otherwise, the sight of a fresh, untouched blanket on the ground first thing in the morning was nothing short of magical. (Plus Santa’s Village amusement park used to be up there, too!)

  15. Oh, Mary that Robbers cave sounds terrific!

    And Lisa, I loved Santas Village. It was so cute. Big Bear is beautiful; we’ve been there often. We owned a cabin there for a while and that white blanket of snow was terrific.

  16. Hi Elizabeth! Your post took me down memory lane to a place in southern California called Placerita Canyon. It wasn’t far from home, maybe 5 miles or so. My dad would pack up a campstove and ice chest and we’d go early and cook Sunday breakfast.

    The best thing about Placerita Canyon was the stream. It was maybe a foot deep and it ran fast. Once a year there was some sort of festival where someone threw tons of colorful pebbles into the stream. Hunting for them was like looking for real treasure.

  17. Hi Elizabeth! We didn’t go much when I was growing up but I loved the area that I lived in. I lived in a small community in the country and I still love this place today. We would spend hours out in wooded areas swinging on the grape vines, and no we where not aloud to go there but we did anyways. It was also near the KY river so we spent a lot of time swimming and fishing there. I still go back and visit this place today, because my sister lives on the old home place which was my mother’s home!

  18. Never been to Big Bear, Lisa and Vicki, but I’ve heard of it, and it sounds wonderful. And hunting for pretty rocks in a stream can be so much fun for kids. Just wondering if you still have your rocks, Vicki.

    Glad somebody else remembers the song and the candy, Estella. Those little jellybean rocks were pretty good.

    Thanks for your memories, too, Quilt Lady. Not being allowed to go into places just added to the allure and adventure, didnt’ it? You were lucky to have had such a wonderful childhood.

  19. Hi Elizabeth, Loved that song when I was younger and had not heard it for years but I think if I look I have an album around here somewhere with it on.
    I grew up next to a cemetary and often played among the tomestones. it was quiet and I made up stories about the people buried there. I also liked to imagaine what the children who were there would be like if they had lived. I had a wild imagination and some of my stories were way out there.

  20. Connie, I love your memory of the graveyard. There’s a great story idea in there. I’ve never asked if you were a writer, but if not, maybe you should be. Wow!

  21. Visited Rock Candy Mountain on one of our trips when we lived in Colorado Springs in the mid 80″s. Don’t remember there being any animals in pens.
    We never traveled when I was a kid. I ran around the fields where we lived and explored. When we got a small camp on a small lake, I used to hike through the woods and climb the mountain. There were no trails, it was a case of navigating by instinct through the woods. Always ended up where I wanted to but hardly ever by the same route. Used that area of the Adirondacks to do geological and white tail deer research for college papers. It is still a lovely area. We really miss it.

  22. You sound like an adventurous lady Pat. And I’m not sorry to hear the animals were gone from Rock Candy Mountain. It was (uh)a number of decades earlier when they were there. Thanks for joining us.

  23. I’m smiling too!! Great post, Elizabeth 😀 Loved the Big Rock Candy Mt. history. When I was a kid my parents belonged to a Dune Buggy Club and we spent several weeks a year camping in Pismo and ripping through the dunes. We had this tiny truck camper and me and my brothers loved it because we could climb up in that bed above the cab while we were driving down the road. They had midnight runs and my mom would tuck blankets around us in that back bucket seat, all hooded and goggled, the rumble of the motor and we’d be off! She had us sooo convinced that you could really find rock candy out on those dunes because she’d plant rock candy across the sand for us to find. For years I thought rock candy could be found in those sandy dunes *lol* Fun times 🙂

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