October 2020 COVID Adventure Part Four

Hitch-N-Post Campground was our base camp in Panguitch, Utah. We checked in on October 9, 2020, for a nine-night stay. Since our last visit in 2018, the owner had doubled the size by adding an entire section with plenty of room to accommodate big rigs and space for off-road enthusiasts to park their ATV toys. Our site was snug between the office and the neighboring rig, which I wasn’t too keen on in the beginning. When the wind came up, I was glad for the close quarters.

Wood 2-story building and fifth wheel trailer
Home base at Hitch-N-Post

The gang that likes to fish, which does not include me, took off two days during our stay to fish the Sevier River. The campground owner mapped out his secret fishing spot a few miles from Panguitch.

Angler in chair on the banks of a river
Fishing Sevier River (Photo by Bailey Bishop)

The few fish the gang caught weren’t big enough for us to have a full dinner, so Bailey cooked up some dynamite fish cakes to serve as tasty appetizers.

Man with beard holding two fish on a stringer
Catch of the day (Photo by Bailey Bishop)

While the gang went fishing, I worked on mundane household chores, cleaning the trailer’s sandy floor after our escapade at Wright Family Ranch and washing the laundry. Every day can’t be a holiday for a clean freak like me.

View of hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park
View from Sunset Point Overlook

We drove into Bryce Canyon National Park on one of our first days and found a parking spot at Sunset Point. Our goal was a hike on the Navajo Trail through Wall Street, connecting with the Queen’s Garden Trail, and climbing out of the valley at Sunrise Point.

Hikers on Navajo Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park
Where’s the trail?
Man and woman posing in front of an arch at Bryce Canyon National Park
Oh, I see. Through the arch.

The whole route was about three miles. This is a popular hike where we encountered several people along the way. Fortunately, the trail was wide enough in most spots to avoid people without their masks.

Hiker standing in front of a tall narrow slot between rock cliffs
Steep switchbacks lead to Wall Street
View looking up at trail switchbacks and rock outcroppings
Looking up from the mid-point of the switchbacks

So how were these hoodoos formed? According to the Bryce Canyon website, the canyon and rock formations were formed through a three-step process that began around 50 million years ago. The three steps are: 1. Deposition of Rocks, 2. Uplift of the Land, and 3. Weathering and Erosion.

View of rock formations above pine forest
Looking up at hoodoos from valley floor.
Pine trees, rock formations, and blue skies
Scene along the trail

In the first step, Bryce Canyon started out in a low-lying area near sea level and surrounded by higher ground on the west side. Rain washed through the higher ground, developing into streams that picked up tiny particles of limestones, dolostones, mudstones, siltstones and sandstones and deposited them in the valley below. Limestone, mainly composed of calcium carbonate, bonded the particles together, and created the canyon’s rock.

Rock formations and blue skies
Queen Victoria (sitting profile) and Magic Lamp in Queen’s Garden
Rock formations, blue sky, and pine trees
Backside of Queen’s Garden

The second step occurred when the Farallon Plate descended underneath the North American plate, creating heat to rise and elevate the “Four Corners” area of the Colorado Plateau. As such, the Bryce rocks ended up at the perfect elevation for creating the hoodoos. Can you imagine the power, energy, and force it took to raise 240,000 square miles from sea level to 9,000 feet? It’s mind-boggling. Of course, the event did not happen overnight. It took millions of years.

Hikers on trail below tall rock formations
Walking around the castle-like formations.
Olympic flame rock formations against blue sky
Olympic Flames

Weather and erosion sculpt the hoodoos in the third phase. The varying degree and types of deposition and calcium carbonate that occurred in the first step determine how quickly the rock layers erode. Slightly acidic rain dissolves the calcium carbonate faster than other types of rock.

View of Bryce Canyon rock formations
View from Navajo Trail
One lone hoodoo on top of rolling hills
This hoodoo, composed of less calcium carbonate, still stands as the neighboring rock has already eroded.

That’s why the hoodoos have different shapes or a lone hoodoo might stand off all by itself. That lone hoodoo contains less calcium carbonate than the rock that surrounded it. The hoodoos we see today may look a little different the next time we see them, if enough time has passed.

Rock formation with small window against blue sky
Window in the wall
Kissing rock formations against blue sky
Kissing rock formations

Bryce Canyon sits at an elevation of 9,000 feet. At this elevation, the park counts over 200 nights out of the year when both above-freezing and below-freezing temperatures occur during the same night.

View of Shipwreck Rock formation, pine trees and cliffs in the background
Shipwreck Rock is my favorite formation
Long view of the valley beyond Bryce Canyon
Long view from trail

In the third step, rain or melting snow seeps into cracks in the rock and freezes into ice. The ice expands up to 9%, causing pressure on the surrounding rock and breaking it apart. Over millions of years, plateaus become fins and walls. Then windows develop. And eventually, the sculpted hoodoos take shape.

Arch in a rock wall formation named Natural Bridge.
Named “Natural Bridge” this is actually an arch.
Various rock formations in Fairyland in Bryce Canyon National Park
A peek at Fairyland

This post shows only a small portion of what is available to explore in Bryce Canyon. With 15 hikes ranging from one hour to five hours, hikers have plenty to choose from whether their visit is for one day or more.

Next up we continue our exploration of Bryce National Park and the surrounding area.

Personal Note: Because of the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations the past few weeks, our county reverts to shelter-in-place beginning Monday, December 7, 2020, through January 4. We’re all holding our breaths, saying prayers, crossing our fingers, and staying safe until the vaccine is available. Hope you all stay safe too.

Panguitch, Utah, and Cedar Breaks National Monument

We enjoyed a short thirty-minute drive to our new base camp at Hitch-N-Post in Panguitch, Utah, on October 2, 2017.

Panguitch, Utah

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.

 

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Hitch-N-Post Campground

 

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.

 

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Farm Nestled at the Foot of Red Rock Cliffs South of Town

 

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.

The drive to Cedar Breaks National Monument took us to Panguitch Lake where we stopped for a little leaf peeping.

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Panguitch Lake Known for Great Trout Fishing

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Resort at Panguitch Lake

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Golden Aspen Among the Pines

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.

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Yikes! That Wind is Cold.

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.

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Cedar Breaks Amphitheater and Valley Below

Freeze-thaw action sculpts the formations by splitting and breaking away the rock.

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Closer View of the Amphitheater

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.

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Can’t Get Enough of the Red Rock Fins

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.

 

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Navajo Lake

Aspen groves populate around the lava fields east of Cedar Breaks.

 

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Aspen Among Lava Rock Field

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?

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Black Aspen Leaves

 

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View of the Plateaus

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.

 

 

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Brian Head

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.

 

Safe Travels