Let’s see, I believe I left you all stranded in Torrey, Utah, as I went in for heart surgery to repair my leaky mitral valve. Four weeks later, as I write this, I’m still in recovery but finally feeling well enough to hit the keyboard and get back to my blog posts.
Without further delay, enjoy a few other sites we took in while in Torrey, Utah, during August 2018.
Drive to Hanksville
After spending a morning hiking in the heat, we cooled off in the air-conditioned cab of the truck driving to Hanksville, Utah. The 40-minute drive crossed through land that looked like something from another planet, like perhaps Mars.
That’s probably why the Mars Society Desert Research Station located their facility in Hanksville. Owned and operated by the Mars Society, the facility is used for research during an eight-month field season where professional scientists, engineers, and college students train for human operations specifically on Mars.
I wished we had had more time to explore this place. I find it interesting that volunteers sign up each year to simulate life on Mars. We also ran across this abandoned building next to the road. Was this someone’s home, or a store of some kind? Wouldn’t it be great if it was restored and its story lived on?
We hadn’t packed a lunch and I didn’t hold out much promise for decent food in the little town of Hanksville. How wrong I was when we pulled up outside of Dukes Slickrock Grill.
What was not to like with its rustic decor, great food, the cleanest and largest bathroom I’ve ever encountered, and free WiFi. It was a good thing that we split our pulled pork sandwich and fries and a bowl of hearty beef vegetable soup, otherwise, we would have had to roll out of the restaurant.
Highway 12 to Anasazi State Park
The drive from Torrey, Utah, to the Anasazi State Park in Boulder, was advertised as scenic. Scenic was an understatement and unfortunately, the photo fails to capture the beauty of the east side of Boulder Mountain and the Dixie Forest.
Thick stands of ponderosa and aspen groves lined the road. This route is also an open range requiring drivers to be alert for cattle that might pop up on the road. We checked out a few campgrounds on the drive that would be perfect for tents or small trailers, but none that could accommodate our rig. With all of the aspen, this drive is one I’d like to take during the fall.
Anasazi State Park
The Anasazi State Park and Museum include plenty of parking and large shade trees with picnic tables. It was a good thing we had packed a lunch because the food bus was not serving the day we visited.
Inside the museum, visitors can watch a movie, view artifacts uncovered during the excavation of the site, and imagine what it would have been like to live life at this ancient site.
A life-sized replica of a six-room ancient dwelling starts off the tour outside. Jon would have had trouble living in these quarters. The dwelling definitely was not made for a human who stands 6′ 2″ tall.
A short trail leads visitors to a portion of the original ancient site. It is believed that the Anasazi, who occupied this site from A.D 1050 to 1200, was one of the largest communities west of the Colorado River.
Back on the road, we went a little way into Escalante National Monument where miles and miles of ancient sand dunes roll across the horizon. One day we’ll have to come back and explore this area more.
Up next we enter Colorado and hang out in Fruita, Colorado, near Grand Junction for a few days.
On Monday, August 6, 2018, we had one more stop in Utah before crossing into the State of Colorado. We couldn’t have been happier when we pulled into our space at Wonderland RV Park in Torrey, Utah. Under large shade trees and backed up against a fence, our view each morning out of our rear window featured cows and horses grazing. The apple and peach trees strategically placed around the park showed signs that harvest was soon near. The only drawback was smoke in the sky. Again.
We ventured out to the information center across the street and then drove into Capitol Reef National Park for maps and pamphlets to help plan our stay.
Capitol Reef National Park
The known history of Capitol Reef and surrounding area dates back to the Fremont Culture. Settling in the area around 500 CE, the Fremont grew corn, beans, and squash. Petroglyphs and pictographs on nearby rock walls tell the story of these ancient people. If only there was a translation of each panel, we could read and understand the meaning of the stories. Instead, we must use our imaginations to figure out what the art depicts. Is the picture below a family portrait, or does it represent an encounter with alien beings?
Mormon pioneers arrived in the 1800s settling in the Fruita Rural Historic District of the national park. They planted apple, pear, and peach orchards, fruit trees that still produce fruit, which is available to pick free when in season.
Ephraim Portman Pectol, a Mormon Bishop in Torrey, Utah, and his brother-in-law, Joseph S. Hickman campaigned to have the geologically sensitive area protected from development. President Roosevelt set aside 37,711 acres of the Capitol Reef as a national monument in 1937 and in December 1972, the monument became a national park.
The main attraction at Capitol Reef is the varied layered cliffs that rise from the valley floor and the different rock formations. Geological events occurring between 50 and 70 million years ago created the warp in the Earth’s crust. The warp, referred to as the Waterpocket Fold, or monocline, runs approximately 100 miles from Boulder Mountain to Lake Powell.
Slickrock Divide is a hill that separates Grand Wash to the north and Capitol Gorge to the south. Streambeds channel rain runoff and debris to the respective drainages.
The Waterpocket Fold is the result of the rock layers on the west side of the fold lifting more than 7,000 feet higher than the layers on the east side. Within the last 15 to 20 million years, erosion has exposed the fold at the surface.
Erosion gets the credit for creating the colorful cliffs, massive domes, soaring spires, stark monoliths, twisting canyons, and graceful arches that are present today. These formations reveal the geological history from 65 to 290 million years ago. [source: nps.gov/care/learn/nature/geology.htm]
Only the 7-mile drive requires a fee in Capitol Reef National Park: $15.00 per vehicle, $10.00 for motorcycles, and $7.00 for bicyclists and pedestrians, with the typical passes accepted. Fees for commercial tours depend on seating capacity.
Developed campsites run $20.00 per night or $10 for senior and access pass holders. During the summer the majority of the 71 sites are offered through reservations, however, a few are offered on a first come, first served, basis. A few primitive campsites, which are first come, first served, no fee sites, are also available.
Having seen the sign for pies at the Gifford Homestead while driving the 7-mile road, we started the next day with a small pie each and a cup of coffee. Then we drove out to the petroglyph panel. Some of the petroglyphs were so faint we would have missed them if it hadn’t been for a woman who pointed them out to us.
Next up was a hike to the Hickman Bridge. Rated moderate, .9 mile one way, and an elevation gain of 400 ft. A piece of cake, we naively thought. The heat, thin layer of smoke, and a 6,000-foot elevation conspired to hold us back as we trudged up the hill. Good thing we had the handy trail guide with us. It gave us an excuse to stop, catch our breath, and learn about what we saw on the trail.
Capitol Dome is made of Navajo sandstone, which consists of ancient sand dunes. The boulders in the foreground of the photo below are composed of andesite lava. Debris flows from melting glaciers deposited the boulders here from the west side of the park.
I’m always on the lookout for General Land Office spikes. Jon pointed out this one from 1947. Check out the hefty penalty of $250. That would be $2,867 in 2018.
Shown in the photo below the small bumps on this hard surface are erosion resistant accumulations of iron.
The rock wall in the photo below is composed of sandstone grains cemented by calcite. Acidic groundwater dissolved the calcite and created the holes called solution cavities.
Our respite was spoiled, when twenty to thirty college students descended on the slick rock near the bridge, chasing other hikers away, and taking up all the space. While they waited for the rest of their group to arrive, they took turns climbing on a boulder and having their photos taken. We worked our way through the crowd and continued on our walk.
Finally, the parking lot, fresh water, and air conditioning. Outa my way, coming through.
I was so glad we pushed ourselves to the end. The shade was refreshing, the views wonderful, and the bridge unique in that the trail looped around underneath the arch and behind the cliff. It would have been a shame if we had missed it.
Other stops in the park
Panorama Point, Sunset Point trail, and Goosenecks Overlook are other sites in the park. The Sunset Point Trail was .4 mile one way. Although it was 2:30 p.m. and hot on the day we were there, the short hike wasn’t too bad, mostly flat.
There are plenty of interesting formations outside of the fee area for visitors to see. The Castle is one of these.
JT waited in the truck while I investigated Goosenecks Overlook. The views of the canyon were spectacular, but I feared the little kids running around would somehow slip through the railing and drop to their death. Parents, please hold on to your precious children when near canyon cliffs and don’t let them run around playing tag.
Panorama Point was truly a 360-degree panoramic view of the park. If a person could only see one thing in the park, I would suggest they check out Panorama Point to get a great overview of the canyons, the colors, and the cliffs.
Whoa, we saw a lot in Capitol Reef National Park and still didn’t see it all. A visit to the park in cooler weather someday may be in order. Next up are a few other places we visited while staying in Torrey, Utah, before making it into Colorado.
Unfortunately, I have to take a break from the blog posts for a few weeks. When this post publishes at 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 11, I’ll be in heart surgery for a mitral valve repair. When I’m feeling up to it, I’ll continue with our Summer 2018 Tour.
It was a good day to leave Ely, Nevada, on Saturday, August 4, 2018. After three days of clear skies, we woke up to hazy smoke that blocked the view of the hills only a quarter mile away. We continued on our easterly route stopping in Fillmore, Utah, for two nights, giving us one full day for exploring.
Territorial Statehouse State Park Museum
Brigham Young designated Fillmore as the first Utah Capitol on September 8, 1851. Construction of the south wing of the building started in 1852. Grand plans called for a much larger facility than the one that still stands today. The fifth territorial legislature used the building on October 10, 1855, then in 1856 Salt Lake City became the home of the state government, eliminating the need for the larger building in Fillmore.
The building served as a courthouse and county headquarters and housed a Presbyterian Mission School for several years after the Civil War. The primary goal of the school was eliminating polygamy and educating children. The education part worked out fine, eliminating polygamy, not so much. Although the discontinuance of the plural marriages practice was approved by the church’s general conference in 1890, existing marriages continued until the 1940s and 1950s.
Restored in 1928, The Territorial Statehouse was dedicated as a state museum on July 24, 1930, for visitors to enjoy, except on Sundays and major holidays when it is closed.
The park setting also includes a rock schoolhouse and a few cabins. Informational signs outside of the buildings explain their origin and use.
The first public school in Fillmore, the Old Rock schoolhouse built in 1870, was used by the school district until 1971 when it became part of the state park in 1972.
If our timing had been different, we could have seen inside the museum where artifacts include military weapons, pioneer-era tools, a jail cell, musical instruments, and antique china, pottery, and textile displays. Instead, I had to be content to take photos through the windows of the inside of the schoolhouse, which worked out better than I thought when I clicked the shutter button.
Our next stop was Cove Fort, an interesting historical site run by the LDS church. Elder Ray Turley was our guide and a wealth of historical information and stories. Elder Turley gave us a personal tour of the fort, walking us in and out of each of the rooms, leading us to the garden and the barn, all the while explaining how the fort was built, and telling stories about the family who occupied the property.
The fort, constructed with four-feet thick walls made of volcanic rock found nearby, housed the Hinckley family who moved to the area to develop a waypoint between Salt Lake City and St. George, Utah. It provided a place for travelers to rest and have a hot meal.
He also told stories that brought the site to life, even a personal anecdote about bringing his wife to the fort before its restoration for a romantic camping adventure. He thought himself clever when he set up their newly purchased tent under a tree at the corner of the fort walls, shielded from the wind. When they returned home, his wife showed him what she thought of the trip by burning the tent. They travel in an air-conditioned RV these days.
Elder Turley hinted that the sister wives were not always happy with the plural marriage arrangement when he told about Ira Hinckley, the patriarch. Ira was married to four women, but no more than three at any one time. He took over the church-owned ranch and built the fort with the help of his brother and other men in 7 months during 1867.
Living quarters included a room for the traveling men, a room for the Hinckley boys, and another for the girls.
Ira’s wife Adelaide, their five children, and Ira’s oldest daughter from a previous marriage moved in during 1868, followed by Ira’s wife Angeline (also Adelaide’s sister) and her four children the following month. I sure wouldn’t be happy about sharing a husband with my sister so I could imagine the cold stares and arguments that might have ensued while everyone was busy with their household chores.
Although the fort was built to protect against attacks from American Indians, interaction with the neighboring Ute tribe produced only peaceful meetings. The Indians sometimes came to the fort to trade with Ira and were treated as guests often enjoying a good meal during their visit.
By 1872 stagecoaches stopped at the fort twice a day requiring the preparation of food as well as taking care of the horses. The railroads arrived by 1881, reducing the need for the fort and by 1890 the Hinckley family left the area. The church leased the property to other ranchers and eventually sold out to free up funds for other projects. Unfortunately, the fort was left in ruins by the time descendants of the Hinckley family formed the Cove Fort Acquisition and Restoration Foundation and deeded the property back to the church. After restoring the fort to its earlier glory, including furnishing the rooms in the period similar to when the Hinckley’s lived there, the church reopened Cove Fort as a historic site in 1994.
The original barn had long since deteriorated by the time the renovations began, however, plans were located. Those in charge of the renovations were interested in having the barn built using the same tongue and groove construction from the 1800s so they contracted with an Amish group to build the barn using wooden dowel rods rather than metal plates and nails. Once built, the barn was disassembled and trucked across the country to its new home at Cove Fort.
I commented to Elder Turley that I had seen the handcarts at the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City the year before and was amazed that families would carry all of their possessions in a handcart as they traveled across the plains on their way to Utah. He replied that the handcarts were actually the fastest mode of transportation at that time traveling up to 3 miles per hour, compared to horses at 2 miles per hour and oxen at 1-1/2 miles per hour. Hearing that, I think I would have chosen the handcarts too had it been me. Thankfully, these days we travel up to 70 miles per hour and pull our bathroom, kitchen, living area, and bedroom behind us. I’m not sure I would have traveled at all if I’d have to do it with a handcart.
We enjoyed learning about the history of Fillmore, Utah, and Cove Fort during our short stay, although we missed out on the museum. It was time, however, to continue our drive east. Next stop is Torrey, Utah, and Capital Reef National Park.
With no reservations or idea where we would stop, we left Zion on October 9, 2017, taking Highway 89 south from Mt. Carmel Junction. Kanab looked like a nice little city as we drove into town, and it would be a good jumping off point for North Rim Grand Canyon. All we had to do was find a place to set up the fifth wheel.
The first park we tried was booked solid for the month. Back toward town, we passed Hitch-N-Post. Although a sign on the street said they had no RV sites, we stopped and asked anyway. Good luck was shining on us that day. A cancellation had come through a few minutes before.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes
After situating the rig beside one of the cabins, a short drive to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park was in order. The Dunes became a state park in 1963 providing off-road enthusiasts a place to play. On the look out for the dunes, we drove through areas where juniper, pinyon pine, and Gambel oak were rooted in a soil of beige to pink sand. At an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet, even ponderosa pines are found within the park boundaries.
The dunes, formed by wind carrying away eroded Navajo sandstone, are believed to be 10,000 to 15,000 years old. The grains of sand have to be the right size to travel the distance from the mountains or plateaus, not too large and not too small.
We walked out onto the observation boardwalk near the visitor center and watched hikers trekking across the ridge and ATVs roaming around with their whip flags flying. It looked like fun, if not a bit dangerous. I would sure hate to see an ATV crest a dune ridge and encounter one of the hikers.
The park includes a campground with 22 spaces, each with a loop drive to provide plenty of parking for RVs and trailers loaded with off-highway vehicles (OHVs). With the convenience of trails leading from the campsites to the dunes and restrooms and showers for the campers to rinse sand off after a day of riding, this campground has it all for avid off-road adventurers.
North Rim – Grand Canyon
The next day we drove 80 miles south of Kanab to North Rim Grand Canyon National Park. We were lucky to have arrived when we did because the lodge and campground were set to close for the winter in four days.
We drove through beautiful forests and meadows noting the aspen had already lost their leaves.
Although North Rim is advertised as the quieter side of the canyon, a campground-full sign sat outside the check-in kiosk and the visitor center and the lodge was teeming with tourists.
We walked around the visitor center and lodge gawking at the view through the panes of glass. On the patio, visitors gathered around a ranger who gave a talk about the Grand Canyon geology.
Then we ventured out along Bright Angel Point Trail for some spectacular views.
I squinted to see if I could make out any of the facilities along the south rim. Even with my 300 mm zoom lens, I could not see anything. I guess the 11.5-mile distance from rim to rim was too far to see such details.
The skies were clear enough, however, to see the San Francisco Peaks popping their heads up across the canyon 64 miles away.
Sitting on the ledge with feet dangling seemed to be a favorite pastime for some visitors. I guess they wanted some alone time.
It seemed as though I could see the depth of the canyon better from the north vantage point. The views from the South Rim are also spectacular, but I think I like the views from the North rim better. They seemed more dramatic somehow. Perhaps the angle of the light created a sense of depth that I never experienced from the perspective of the South Rim.
The North Rim is a place I would like to return to someday to spend more time, assuming we could manage to obtain a reservation. I’d like to hike down into the canyon on the North Kaibab Trail.
On our way back to Kanab, the Vermillion Cliffs came into view. Another place we will need to return to. There are several photos on the internet of swirling rock formations at the monument I’d love to see in person.
Join us next week as we hang out in Flagstaff, Arizona, for a few days.
Day 13 of our fall tour, October 6, 2017, time to pack up, hook up, and move on down the road. Around lunchtime, we pulled into Hi-Road Campground, formerly Zion RV Campground,in Mt. Carmel, Utah, for a three-night stay. Trees dressed in yellow, gold, and orange, signaled fall’s arrival on the east side of Zion National Park, Utah’s First National Park.
Although Zion’s visitors’ center was only twenty miles from our site, it took at least an hour to make it to the canyon bottom by way of a twisty-turny road with slow speed limits, hairpin curves, and a delay to enter one of the tunnels.
The scenery along the way was the silver lining, however, consisting of sandstone slickrock, Checkerboard Mesa, and cliffs that towered 2,000 feet from the valley floor.
We stopped in at the visitors’ center, picked up pamphlets and information, and then drove out of the west entrance and into the town of Springdale, which looked nothing like we remembered from twenty years ago when we last visited.Construction of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and one-mile tunnel, which took two years and ten months to complete, was dedicated and opened on July 3, 1930. The highway was the last link in the Grand Circle Tour of Zion, Bryce, and Grand Canyon National Parks.
The construction crew blasted gallery windows into the cliff face above Pine Creek Canyon to gain access to the interior of the mountain so the crew could carve out space to create the tunnel. The windows were also used to remove the rock debris and supplied ventilation and lighting. In 1937, the entire tunnel was lined with concrete.
One-way traffic control is required for large vehicles traveling through the tunnel. The park charges $15.00 for a permit in addition to the park entrance fee for vehicles 7 feet 10 inches in width and/or 11 feet 4 inches in height, or larger.
We remembered driving our truck to all the sights along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in the 1990s. Now a shuttle is the only way to get around unless you’re staying at Zion Lodge. During peak hours the shuttles fill up with standing room only, so it is wise to arrive at the visitors’ center before 9:00 am, even in the offseason. There is also parking in Springdale, but when we drove through, everything looked pretty parked up.
The next day, we rode the shuttle to Zion Lodge in search of a cup of coffee only to find a long line. “How about the dining room?” We arrived about a half hour before the buffet ended and noted only a few people seated at tables. “This shouldn’t take too long.” We decided to go ahead and order breakfast with our coffee since we planned on taking a hike. We waited for our food as we sipped our steaming cups of coffee. Then we waited, and waited, and waited some more. Oh well, we had a nice view of a park-like grassy area with large trees. When our eggs benedict arrived my eggs were overcooked and Jon’s were undercooked. The long wait and the mix of cook on our eggs must have been a sign that the concessionaire reduced the employee headcount after the peak season.
With our bellies full, we walked across the road to the trailheads for the Lower and Upper Emerald Pools. Most of the trails were easy going except for the large boulders we had to navigate and the slippery rocks near the Upper Pools.
We connected with the Kayenta Trail, which took us along the river toward the Grotto where picnic tables huddled under large trees and restrooms were a welcome sight.
Then we continued on to the lodge where we picked up the shuttle for the ride to the Zion Human History Museum. We sat on the back patio eating our lunch of tuna sandwiches and apples and enjoyed the views while we waited to listen to the geological ranger talk.
Zion is part of the Colorado Plateau and the second step of the Grand Staircase with geological layers at the top of Zion consisting of the layers we saw at the bottom of Bryce: Carmel Formation, Navajo Sandstone, Kayenta Formation, and Kaibab Formations. It was interesting to learn that rain flows through the porous Navajo sandstone until it reaches the Kaibab Formation of limestone and siltstone, which is not porous and blocks the water so that it seeps through the sides of the cliffs. This sounded similar to how water seeps through the basalt in Idaho to find its way to the Snake River.
On Sunday, we woke up early again and rode the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava to take the Riverside Walk. It didn’t look anything like what I remembered from when we were there before. Perhaps this was because of flash floods that had occurred during that time.
Ferns and other plant life clung to the red cliffs and trees grew near the river. We watched people prepare for the walk across the icy water. Some of them wore rented water tennis shoes and long pants that swished with each step. Other people only wore shorts, t-shirts, and normal walking shoes. I remembered years ago when we crossed the river in water socks on a sunny day with our children in tow. Bundled up in jackets, Jon and I weren’t about to venture into the rush of water this time.
Our next stop was Weeping Rock. This was a short steep hike with lots of trees, shrubs, ferns and a few remaining wildflowers. Water oozed from the overhang and gently dripped like rain on us.
These climbers came into view while we waited for the shuttle at Weeping Rock.
We thought we had been transported to Disneyland when we returned to the visitors’ center. Crammed under a shade structure, the line for the shuttle snaked back and forth through ropes and continued around the buildings toward the parking lot.
We were glad we were on our way out of the park rather than arriving.
If we make it back to Zion, we will plan ahead and find a spot for our trailer on the west side of the park to avoid driving the hour on the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway each day. The prospect of catching the shuttle in Springdale would also be a benefit.
The next day we headed south with no reservations, taking our chances that somewhere an RV site with our name on it would appear. Stay tuned to see where we hung our hats.
The promise of dinosaur tracks, petroglyphs, lower elevation and, best of all, warmer weather within an hour from Panguitch was a welcome surprise after the freezing temperatures of Cedar Breaks.
We headed east from Interstate 15 on Gap Road through ranches and farms, and then passed Little Salt Lake until we came to Highway 130 where we turned right. A few miles later, the road veered left toward the Red Hills and we came to a parking lot with interpretive panels and interesting rock formations. Metal markers like the one in the photo below marked the spots where the footprints could be found.
Hadrosaurs, or duck-billed dinosaurs, left the tracks some 65 to 75 million years ago when they stepped in mud. Pebbles and sand filled the footprints left by the dinos and later turned into rock. Erosion over millions of years revealed the tracks for us to see today.
This area is strewn with a number of different types of rocks such as river rock, volcanic ash, and large boulders, which looked like someone had rolled a bunch of smaller rocks and cement together like a giant snowball.
Parowan Gap offers climbers up to 26 different climbing routes to follow. Looking around at all the fallen rock, I sure wouldn’t want to hang from a rope and trust that the cliff would not give way. But rock climbing is something I’ve never done, so who am I to say what’s safe or not?
Continuing on Highway 130 a short distance we found a nicer parking area with pavement, shade structures, picnic tables, and pit toilets. The cliffs at Parowan Gap display a great number of petroglyphs that tell stories of the early people who inhabited or traveled through the area. If we only had a translator app on our phones to decipher the figures.
Included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, it is a wonder that the figures created a thousand years ago or more have survived destruction by people of more recent generations. I could have stood for hours gazing up at the etchings on the cliff walls trying to decipher their meaning.
Did the Fremont and Southern Paiute cultures leave them as works of art, religious significance, or tales of bravery and danger?
Some people may even suggest the figures depict alien beings that visited earth before modern times.
Do they represent family history, hunting and gathering trips, sources of water, travel routes?
People in the 1800s and 1900s also recorded their passage through the gap. I wonder who H.S.H. or Hyatt and Leo Rosko were, where they came from, and where they were going in 1882 and 1947. Did D. C. fancy himself a pirate or maybe the design refers to an early motorcycle gang?
Red Canyon Visitor Center USDA Forest Service
Our last day in the area was a short jaunt to the red cliffs and hoodoos at the Red Canyon Visitor Center off Highway 12, the route to Bryce Canyon National Park.
With picnic tables, plenty of parking, and several miles of hikes, the visitor center was a great place to spend an afternoon getting up close and personal with the hoodoos and totems as well as the Ponderosa, bristlecone, and limber pines.
We managed to get a good work out in and gaze out at some awesome views by connecting the Pink Ledges (an interpretive trail), Hoodoo, and Birdseye trails with a portion of the 8.6-mile non-motorized Red Canyon Bicycle path, which parallels Route 12 through the canyon.
At about our halfway mark, we took advantage of a bench to take in the spectacular views of the valley below.
Just as the traffic below had receded into white noise, this drone succeeded in drowning out the chattering birds, scurrying squirrels, and windblown leaves and pine needles. It flew around for about ten minutes and left, a little too long for my comfort level. Too bad the pilot could not have taken the time to enjoy the wonders of Red Canyon in person. To experience a place in person is so much better than watching it fly by on an LCD screen.
The Red Canyon hills were just as magnificent from across the road as they were when we walked along the trail.
Although we could have stayed for another week, our time in Bryce Canyon and Panguitch had come to a close and Zion or bust became our mantra on October 6, 2017. Stay tuned for more adventure.
We enjoyed a short thirty-minute drive to our new base camp at Hitch-N-Post in Panguitch, Utah, on October 2, 2017.
Panguitch is a western town settled by Mormons in the 1860s and 1870s where several historic buildings line the main street. Unfortunately, many of the shops had already closed for the season when we visited. Too bad, I really wanted to go into the fabric store.
Panguitch holds annual events that include the Quilt Walk Festival and Panguitch Valley Balloon Rally, which are both held in June. What’s a Quilt Walk? The festival commemorates the action of seven men who saved the first settlement from starvation. The story details the new settlers challenge during their first winter when snow blocked supply routes, crops froze, and the people grew hungry. Seven men volunteered to journey over the mountain to secure flour. They used quilts to cover the surface of deep snow since wagons could not navigate the trail. By placing the quilts on the snow they could safely walk across. When they reached the end of one quilt they placed another one down before retrieving the first. Something to think about if I’m ever stuck in the snow somewhere.
Panguitch served as a good home base for visiting Panguitch Lake, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Red Canyon State Park, and the Parowan Gap Rock Art and Dinosaur Tracks.
Cedar Breaks National Monument
We started our day with a hearty breakfast of plate-sized buttermilk pancakes so fluffy they measured almost a half inch thick. The Hitch-N-Post owner had raved about the wonderful buttermilk pancakes served at Kenny Rays. The two pancakes I ordered was way too much to eat. Had I known, I would have only ordered one.
With all that sunshine, why did my face feel like it was on fire? It must have been the icy wind at 10,000 feet. It was a good thing we put our heavy coats in the truck when we left in the morning, but goosebumps still peppered my legs. They warmed up some when I stood next to the huge fireplace blazing away in the visitor center, at least for the few minutes we were indoors.
The geological story of Cedar Breaks is similar to Bryce. Cedar Breaks sits between the Colorado Plateau and the Basin and Range province of western Utah. Earthquakes along the Hurricane Fault lowered the west side where Cedar City is located at 5,800 feet and raised Cedar Breaks on the east side to an elevation of 10,350. The amphitheater spans three miles and is 2,000 feet deep.
Freeze-thaw action sculpts the formations by splitting and breaking away the rock.
Then erosion from wind, snowmelt, and rain (mixed with a bit of acid) work their magic on the rock to continue shaping it into the magnificent creations we see today.
Knowing these forces that began millions of years ago are still at work make me realize that what I see today may look a little different in one, five, or ten years from now.
Navajo Lake, Lava Flows, and Brian Head
Along the drive we ran across Navajo Lake. The lake, formed by a prehistoric lava flow dam, offers camping, fishing, boating, and swimming. I thought it interesting that water travels from the bottom of the lake through a network of lava tubes until the water reappears as creeks and streams. This is very similar to the relationship of Craters of the Moon and the Snake River in Idaho.
Aspen groves populate around the lava fields east of Cedar Breaks.
I don’t think I had ever come across black aspen leaves before. It’s not like the leaves are spotted by a fungus, it looks like the whole leaf has turned black. Is this a natural occurrence or is this a severe infestation of the tree?
We also took a drive up to Brian Head. On the other side of the mountain are several ski resorts, a sign that this is a winter playground as well as a place to visit during the rest of the year. I hope they receive plenty of snow this coming winter.
Looking up at Brian Head, I was reminded that I always wanted to try cross-country skiing. I’m just not sure about the cold weather or how I might handle such a physically demanding sport at an elevation of 9,800 feet.
Join us next week when we take a hike through Red Canyon State Park and gaze at the Parowan Gap Rock Art and Dinosaur Tracks.