Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bryce, Red Canyon, Cedar Breaks, Zion

Tuesday, June 23
Lay Day – Washing clothes and marketing in beautiful downtown Panguitch, Utah

At 8PM we drove to the Bryce VC for an astronomy program. We were surprised that the auditorium was almost full. [There is also a parallel program at the lodge] Before the ranger began his talk people were sitting in the floor. After the informative talk, we went into the parking lot where they had five telescopes set up for viewing. We saw Saturn, the Ring Nebula and the Whirlpool Galaxy.

This area is one of the few in the lower 48 where light pollution is low and viewing is superb.

When we left at midnight, there still people coming into the park.

We slept in and did a few chores in the morning. Then it was back for a driving/viewing tour of Bryce. We didn’t do much walking, as I was saving my foot for a special hike (Sunset Canyon to Sunrise Canyon). The views are breath taking.

We hiked in Red Canyon on the Arches Trail. We were supposed to see 15 arches. It was a short one-mile hike and was described as easy. We have a different opinion of easy. If the trail is on steep red gravel that slides, then it is not easy. We did see 6 arches at one time. And it was good exercise.

We set the alarm clock for 5:30 am, so we could be on the Sunset/Sunrise Trail by 7:30. The trail is down and up, but the path is very good, so I would rate it as an easy trail. I did huff and puff coming out of the canyon. I wish I could find a word that would describe how spectacular the Queens Garden is. I really become overwhelmed with the views. Doug, I think Utah is become our favorite state once again.

In mid-afternoon, we drove KoKo into town to spend the night so we would be on-site at 6:30 Saturday morning for the mass ascension.

Hot Air Balloon Day – We counted 32 that lifted off. The air was calm, so they were able to float around the huge field for an hour or so and land close to where they took off. It was neat to be able to wander around and see how they assemble the craft. No one was asking anyone to stand back.

We went back to Red Canyon for the afternoon and visited with some folks from Lake Havasu until time to return to town for Balloon Glow. About a dozen rigs were set up on Main Street and when they turned on their burners, the balloons glowed in the dark.

I am sure it’s all bigger in ALQ, but I liked the small town atmosphere. The people in Panquitch could not be more gracious and sociable.

Sunday, June 28
We moved west 24 miles to Panquitch Lake. We are in meadow and forest land. Every so often we see some red cliffs, but this is different country than we have been in the last few weeks. West of Bryce is also ATV country. Everyone is towing ATV’s. We saw an ATV dealer this afternoon that had them stacked up, dozens and dozens of them.

The odometer reads 27,144. KoKo has traveled 419 miles in the last 30 days.

Our new home has a canyon in the backyard with a babbling creek. We are at 8,400 feet here, thousand feet higher than Red Canyon. The nights should be a little cooler.

After we settled in, had lunch and a nap, we decided to get in the Jeep and explore a little. We had not driven far (30 minutes) when we saw signage that we were in Cedar Breaks NM. So we stopped and looked. We had read descriptions of it as a mini Bryce. I can see the comparison, but it pales next to Bryce.

We noted that Cedar City was only another 30 minutes west and since we really wanted a Wal*Mart we headed downhill, from over 10,000 to 6,000 feet. From 61 degrees to 88 degrees.

This was our first Wal*Mart since we left home May 10th. It is one of their largest stores. Food everywhere. Cantaloupes for $1.25, strawberries for $1. etc.

Since we were not going to get back to the campsite until 8, we splurged and dined at an upscale Mexican place. The flavor of the green chile sauce was divine.

We slept until 7:45. We managed to get dressed by 10:45. We spent the rest of the reading and napping.

After over six weeks, we put the yaks in water today and paddled around Panquitch Lake. We spent the rest of the day reading, napping and doing a few chores. We are just enjoying our new cabin in the mountains.

We want to explore the Kolab Terraces, but have not figured out how we can do it and avoid the heat in the low lands. Maybe that will be on another trip when we can be on the Utah/Arizona border in climate weather. It’s either another trip or staying in Utah until mid October.

After the fourth, we may turn north to the Fishlake NF. Right now we are holding position until the holiday passes. Weekends and Holidays are the bane of the retired.

We drove Pelli over 150 miles today. It’s a long way to anywhere from here. We scouted out CG’s at Duck Creek and Navajo Lake to see if we wanted to go there next week. They are OK, but we like where we are just as well. So we will visit there on our next trip through the area.

The first few miles of the road to Kolab Terrance looks fine. But I want some local info before we take KoKo down to Lava Point.

We stopped and shopped in Cedar City for a few items and then drove out to see the “world class” Parowan petroglyphs. A bit disappointing. It did give us a sample of the desert that starts just west of Cedar City. It was 93 and felt like Nevada, which is only a short distance away. We were glad to escape back to the mountains.

We did, finally, find some really choice dispersed CG’s on FS 068 just west of Panguitch Lake.

Lay Day, we washed clothes and did a few chores. It rained most of the afternoon. This was the first prolonged rain in a month. Most rain showers are measured in thousands of drops and are highly localized.

We knew we were biting off a large chunk, before we started out today. But, we have not been able to figure out how to get closer to Zion without being in the valley, which is almost 5,000 feet lower and the temps are in the high 90’s there.

So we started out on what would be a 240-mile loop that took us ten hours and the engine was running most of the time. Sometimes, we were only going two miles an hour over boulders.

First we headed down the mountain almost to Cedar City and turned south on the Kolab Road, which took us back up to over 9,000. The road winds on a plateau through picturesque alpine meadows with aspens, blue sky, sheep and expansive vista’s. This is a must do drive.

I was seeking Lava Point for the view and to see if we wanted to bring KoKo there for a few nights. I was relying on signage, there was none and so I missed the turn. By the time, I figured it out I did not want to head back up the mountain. My next wife will be able to navigate while I drive.

We continued down and passed through some of the stunning rock formations that Zion is known for. The road ends at Virgin which is at 3,500 feet. We had come down 6,000 feet from the plateau in 40 miles. The air temp went from the pleasant low 70’s to 99!

We drove east a few miles to Rockville and took the road to the ghost town of Grafton. While we were looking the buildings over, we chatted with another couple. It turns out her mother was one of the last residents of Grafton in 1945. One of the houses was used in the scene where Butch Cassidy rides his bicycle. The couple took a picture of us illegally standing on the porch. [If the porch does not match your memory of the scene, it’s because the house has three porches and we used the one that was most accessible]

Next we took one of the worst back roads of the trip. It had two miles of the worst ruts and boulders we have seen. But the views from the road of the opening of Zion Canyon were extraordinary. My feeling is that when you are in Zion, you are so close the massive rock formations, you can not fully appreciate them.

It was after 3pm when we got back to the paved road and we needed to head back to the CG. We made a short stop at the Kolab Canyons part of Zion which is just off I15. We wanted to hike Taylor’s Creek, but it was too late in the day, besides we had just driven through a rain storm and the clouds were still dark. Hence, no pictures.

Yes, we drove 25 miles on an interstate, the first concrete we have seen since ALQ.

We stopped in Cedar City and ate at the same Mexican place we had been to earlier the week. I had the same dinner and Dorothy had fish tacos.

On the way back we encountered two police roadblocks. They waved us through the first one, but checked our papers at the second one. They did not notice our expired tag, Funny thing, you seldom see a police presence, but each road block had over a dozen officers. The road blocks were not on main roads.

We were asleep by 9.

[Note to file: FS 68 just west of Panquitch Lake has several dispersed camping areas in large meadows. There are two near the north end of the road and two more about 15 miles south. We scouted for good dispersed camping before settling in at Panquitch Lake, but we missed these. Also Hwy 14 from where FS 68 intersects it is very scenic west of there. Duck Lake is OK, private sites. We liked Navaho Lake better]

We slept in and were not ready to go anywhere until 10:30. So we elected to be lazy. By noontime, there were dark clouds in half of the sky. We got bb size hail about 2. Since it’s the Fourth of July, I decided to have a real Fourth feast. Made baked beans, cooked corn on the cob and even fried chicken. I love fried chicken, rarely eat it and it’s even more rare for me to cook it. We enjoyed it. Hope every one celebrated how great we have it in this wonderful country.

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