I don't remember when I first heard this story; I must have been a young teen and read it somewhere. I wrote this from my own memory and added some personal embellishments. If you know the original story, please let me know.
When I was a young boy of about 11 years, I spent a summer with my great-aunt and uncle in Weber Canyon near Hidden Lake. I fished the lake and hiked around the hills, as well as helped out with chores and repairs around the house. Fall came early that year; by the second week of August all of the aspens on our side of the canyon had turned bright yellow, the maples deep red. By the next week, my last week at Hidden Lake, most of the leaves had fallen, leaving the trees tall and barren.
Across the canyon, I noticed, most of the maples still had their red leaves. I wanted to get to know this area before I left, so I asked my great Uncle Reed, "Can I go across the canyon today, Uncle Reed?" Uncle Reed looked up from his work, looked at me, then across the canyon, then back at me.
"You want to go across the canyon, do ya? I suppose ye might go over there and look around the gravel pits a bit. No harm in that. But mind you, stay out of the west fork of Frazier Hollow. Aye, that's a place to stay away from."
"Why?" I asked.
"Just mind me, will ya? You're better off sticking to the road and going north, or better yet, staying down low to the gravel pits. You got that?" I'd learned that the answer to that question was always "Yes". Great Uncle Reed had been working in this area for nearly 60 years, and knew as much as anyone for interesting places to go, as well as places to stay away from, and he always had his reasons.
Aunt Ruth made me a lunch and told me to be back before dusk. I set off down the road, crossing the Weber and made my way to the highway. The walk down the highway was quiet; no cars rumbling along today to disturb the stillness. Even the river seemed subdued.
I made my way to the turn off to Frazier Hollow, and saw the gravel pits on my right. I spent the entire morning running around the pits, setting up targets and throwing rocks, digging, exploring small caves in the limestone above the quarry, and eating my lunch, but every now and then I'd look up the hollow into the maple groves and wonder what was up there.
As the afternoon wore on, I went down to the creek. A small trickle of water found its way down Frazier Hollow, but it pooled up in places deep enough to wade in up to my knees. I splashed around a bit in the icy water and decided it was time to walk up the dirt road to see what was up there. I was a bit chilled now because of the water and the dropping sun, so I set off at a brisk pace up the hill.
The road seemed to stretch on for miles, with deep red maple leaves along both sides of the road, as well as an occasional pine or small aspen stand. I reached a fork in the road; the fork going west looked rather neglected and overgrown with thistle and brush. I stayed on the main road going north, remembering the warning my Uncle gave me.
This north fork eventually connected with the Perdue Creek trail to the north and east, which I'd already explored earlier that summer. I recognized the trail and decided to go back, as the sun was just dropping behind the Mahogany Hills in the west. I was getting rather hungry now, probably missing dinner, I thought. As I descended once more into Frazier Hollow, I felt a chill once more as I came under the shadow of the hill.
Eventually, I reached the fork in the road again and, strangely, thought I smelled bread baking. I thought to myself that no harm could come if I walked a little way up this west fork of Frazier Hollow. Soon the scent of bread was gone, but I was still following the road, among the deep red maples and tall aspens.
In a moment, I thought I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look, but there was nothing. If you've ever been in the woods alone with an active imagination, you might begin to understand some of the feelings I began to have at that time. I know that my heart was racing, but the darkening woods were still and benign.
I turned off the trail to see if I could get more of a glimpse of whatever it might have been out there in the woods; my curiosity was just a bit stronger than my good judgement. I found a small footpath just off the road and began to walk it. In not more than 5 minutes, I began to smell baking bread again. Peering through the thick aspens, I saw a very small house. As I approached, I saw that it was a white house, simply built, with a short stone foundation, a bit of smoke coming from the chimney. As I approached, I could see that it seemed well-kept and the porch steps were solid as I climbed them.
"It must have been a dog or cat or something I saw returning home," I thought to myself. I didn't mean to pry, I was just curious what this small cottage was doing up here in the west fork of Frazier Hollow. I turned to leave the porch when I thought I heard a voice. The voice was indistinct—I couldn't actually hear any words, but it was unmistakably a voice, and it seemed like it was asking a question. So I turned once more to look into the front door.
To my astonishment, the door was slightly ajar. I pushed it open, just an inch to look in. I could see nothing. The slant light coming from the sky cast only the faintest light. I opened the door fully and called out, but there was no answer. I entered the house, but there was no furnishings to speak of but a rug covering a worn floor and a small wooden chair against the bare, grey wall.
There was no fire or even ashes in the fireplace, though I know I saw and smelled smoke coming out of the chimney a few minutes earlier. I took a few steps more and found myself in a short hallway, one end at the kitchen, the other too dark to see. The kitchen looked as if someone had hastily left, a short table skewed away from the wall, and the matching chair to the one in the living room tipped over.
There was no smell of anything but dust and the small white antique oven was cold. I turned down the dark hallway which ended in a small bedroom with a single bed, and baby crib, and a short night stand—nothing more. I went back down the hallway once more, toward the living room, but as I passed the kitchen, I noticed that both chairs were now at the table, which was now tidy, and the living room was completely bare.
At this moment, my good sense took its rightful place above my curiosity and I got myself out of there as fast as I could run. I stumbled along the darkening trail until I found the road. There was just enough light for me to sprint down the dirt road, past the gravel pits and up to the highway once more. From here, there were enough lights along the road for me to find my way back to my Great Aunt and Uncle's house.
I stammered some kind of apology and excuses for being late, which my Aunt seemed to accept completely. I could tell that Uncle Reed knew instantly where I'd been, but he didn't say anything about it over supper. We ate quietly, and I wanted nothing more than to be warm up in my bed.
Uncle Reed came up as I was about to go to sleep.
"Uncle Reed," I asked, "what is that place?"
"The little white house in the west fork of Frazier Hollow," I replied. Uncle Reed looked thoughtful for a few minutes, then opened and closed his mouth a few times.
Finally he said, "Over a hundred years ago, a small family moved into the canyon. A husband, wife, and infant daughter. They cleared some land near a spring in Frazier Hollow and built a small house there and lived happily for several years. The husband was an excellent cook and made the best bread in the county, it was said. Soon, however, the husband was called to work in the mining camps in Park City at the end of summer for a period of time. While he was away, his wife and young child whom he loved dearly caught pneumonia and died. The husband was so grief stricken on his return that he burned his house to the ground and was never seen again. But some say that each year as the leaves begin to turn color, he comes home at dusk to bake a loaf bread for his family."