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2004 Travelogue #36 "Hoodoos" Country Aire RV Park Cedar City, Utah
Places of Interest:
Utah: Cedar City, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Bryce National Park,
9/24 What a beautiful morning to be up and driving north! We were on I-15 by 11am, leaving St. George for Cedar City, Utah. The drive was a 55-mile steady climb from 3500 feet to around 6000 feet. Cedar City is a bustling college town, best known in these parts for its Shakespearean Festival. The Festival won the 2000 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theater but the theater was not in the cards for us this trip.
Pulling into the Country Aire RV Park, I gave them my reservation's confirmation number and they informed me that they don't have confirmation numbers. Hum? Guess I made the reservation at the wrong place. Luckily, space was available; I checked-in and then cancelled our reservation at the other nearby park.
Leveling this motorhome is not always an easy process, even with computerized jacks. We tried three times but the computer registered too much slope, meaning we had to move. Assigned to a better pad, I hooked up the hoses, while Peggy headed to a farmer's produce stand on the highway. She returned with three large bags of locally grown cantaloupes, tomatoes, and sweet corn and our lunch consisted of cantaloupes and tomatoes.
Finishing lunch, we drove into town, picked up SH-14 and wound around, up and over the mountains to the Cedar Breaks National Monument, at an elevation of 10,300-feet. The name Cedar Breaks comes from the juniper trees and the canyon breaks, or the badlands. We walked to the overlook and had a view across the mountain valley and surrounding hills. The aspens have started turning color, sprinkling the mountainsides with spots of gold.
There were many "Kodak moments" while walking the short trails around the canyon's rim. One spectacular observation point was at the vista of The Amphitheater. This great natural rock amphitheater, shaped like a huge coliseum, is more than 2000-feet deep and three-miles in diameter. Millions of years of erosion and uplifts carved this huge bowl out of the west side of the Markagunt Plateau. The many stand-alone stone spires, columns, arches and canyons are time worn sculptures. Various combinations of color from the iron and manganese give the rocks different shades of red, yellow, and purple.
Following the road through the Park's camping area, we checked-out possible future sites but all were a bit too primitive for us. Also, this was the last weekend the campgrounds were open. Next week the staff will winterize the camp and it will close on October 11th for the winter.
We made a big loop down the mountain, past Brian's Head Sky Lodge and onto I-15. It was a beautiful drive, watching the ever-changing colors of the canyons in the setting sun. Once back in town, we stopped at Smith's Grocery, picking up a couple of T-bones. I fired-up the propane grill, threw on a few mesquite chips; the steaks and our fresh sweet corn made a good dinner.
9/25 Today we went to Bryce National Park. It was a long drive, about 85-miles to the Park entrance, so we were on the road by 9 am.
Overnight the aspen seemed to turn yellow and in some places, they were already a burnt red color. Fall is percolating down the mountainsides, as the trees get ready for winter and the first snowfall. Driving along the upper highway through the mountains, we noticed many narrow, orange pole-markers used to show snowplows and snowmobiles the edge of the road.
The landscapes of Zion and Bryce are each unique. Zion is green with tropical vegetation while Bryce is the face of a slowly eroding plateau, leaving behind amphitheaters with thousands of delicate spires and minarets; a canyon like nothing we have ever seen.
Ebenezer and Mary Bryce and their 12 children were sent to the Paria Valley in 1875, by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to homestead this area. Ebenezer was selected because he was a carpenter with useful skills. Bryce built a road from the valley floor to the top of the plateau, for hauling firewood and timber. Local people called the canyon with the strange rock formations near Ebenezer's home, "Bryce Canyon". Even after Ebenezer and Mary moved to Arizona, folks still referred to the canyon as "Bryce Canyon".
In 1923, Bryce Canyon was established as a National Monument and in 1928, it became a National Park, to protect and preserve the scenic beauty. The Park has implemented a Park and Shuttle Service but it is not mandatory like it is in Zion Park. We found the Shuttle at the entrance and elected to do our touring via the shuttle.
As we boarded the bus and started our way up the road into the Park, we saw pinon pines and junipers at the lower elevation but as we climbed the plateau, ponderosa pines became the dominant trees. On the higher elevations were spruce, fir, aspen, and when we reached the canyon rim, we found the very rare species, 1600-year-old Bristlecone pines.
Before our ride to the rim, we stopped at the Visitors Centers to watch a 20-minute movie about the Park. We then hopped a Shuttle to the end of the line, to Bryce Point. There we walked to Inspiration Point and were truly inspired What a glorious, unique view of this canyon! The colors and the different "hoodoo" formations, individual sandstone pinnacles in different shapes and sizes, stand like stately statues.
From Inspiration Point we hiked one-and-a half miles, skirting the rim of the canyon. As we walked, we watched the sun cast its shadows, instantly changing the color hues of the red and orange rock formations. Since the canyon faces east, the sunrises must be outstanding. There are two lookout points along the rim, Sunrise Point and Sunset Point. There were far more benches at Sunrise Point than at Sunset. Guess that told the time of day for the best scenic view.
Bryce Canyon has been carved from the Colorado Plateau over the millenniums by temperature, wind, and water. The creation of this unique landscape began when this area was an ancient lakebed and sediment was deposited in this particular section of Utah. Colorful minerals, such as iron (yellow and red) and manganese (pink and violet) mixed with dissolved calcium carbonate to create this unusually colorful limestone.
Nature's elements and conditions make Bryce unique among canyons as small water rivulets run down the sloping escarpment of the plateau forming gullies. These gullies cut deeper, narrow walls of rock known as "fins", and then the "fins" develop holes known as windows. The windows grow larger with erosion, until their roofs collapse creating hoodoos. Eventually the hoodoos collapse like pillars of salt, as new ones are being formed. These are fragile and climbing is definitely not allowed.
Rainwater, which is naturally acidic, continues to slowly dissolve the limestone, rounding off the edges of the fractured rocks and then washing away the debris. The plateau is eroding westward in a process called headward erosion, recreating itself.
We did several hiking trails along the rim then one down into the canyon. In the canyon we had a bottom-up, different and unique perspective; spectacular against the brilliant blue sky. At one particular overlook, we saw a red-tailed hawk soaring above.
It was now 4 pm, with a 2-hour-drive home; my feet were tired, as well as the rest of my body. Our drive back, through the mountains was ever changing with the aspen turning a beautiful gold, shimmering in the light of the setting sun.
Bob & Peggy Woodall