I need to end the day at Cedar City, very close to Cedar Breaks and a good starting point for tomorrow. If I took the logical route, Iíd end the day in St. George, but that would mean riding on the interstate and would add 50 more miles to my already big day tomorrow. And Iíd like to backtrack as little as possible. I hate riding the same road Iíve already been on. Iíve plotted the route about 5 different ways on the computer, but only one stands out. Iíll make a figure eight around my destinations, cutting off the top loop and only repeat about 20 miles of road.
Starting early is vital for a day like today. A late start would mean rushing through everything to get to that last visitor center before they close. So at sunrise, Iím at Sunrise Point in Bryce Canyon. Morning is the best time to visit this park anyway, as almost all of the formations face east. By late afternoon this place will be completely covered in shadows.
Bryce is one of those places you look at and just canít believe your eyes. Erosion has been working overtime here, and the results are a job very well done. Thousands of fantastically shaped spires, call Hoodoos, fill horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. A maze of stone and sand, whimsically arranged on the slopes of the cliffs, reflect the morningís sun in a panorama of tinted pink and orange. All of the overlooks are on the eastern side of the park drive and I stop next at Bryce Point for an awe-inspiring view over the entire range. A great way to visit this place is a horse or mule ride, beginning at the Bryce Canyon Lodge and descending into the surreal landscape of bristlecone pine and red rock.
Less than an hour southwest is Zion National Park, a spectacular landscape of cliffs and canyons. The name alone summons up a kind of mystery, a wilderness full of the unexpected. I enter the byway from the west where ancient sand dunes roll upward to sheer cliff faces. Checkerboard Mesa, a mountain of sandstone, has been eroded and etched into a uniform pattern of cracks and groves.
I pass through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, a monumental engineering feat when completed in the 1930s. When the light breaks through the other side, Iím in a magical world of rock temples and celestial canyon borders. The scenic drive along the valley floor follows the curves of the Virgin River, cut between sheer, vividly colored walls, over 3,000 feet high.
A gallery of sculpted rock, Zion is a quiet, peaceful place, despite all the visitors who come to see these wonders. I ride to the end of the canyon and then hike the mile long riverside trail up to the Narrows. Here the path ends in the river and you may continue 16 miles more through the water where the walls close in about you. Imagine a crevice over a thousand feet high, spaced apart by only 50 feet. These are the types of wonders that only Zion can reveal.
I leave the place with a serene calmness about me as I ride west and then east again towards Pipe Spring. Here, a natural water source allows plant and animal life to thrive in the desert. 1,000 years ago, native people raised crops in the area, and later Mormon pioneers built a fort and cattle ranch. When I leave, the stamp in hand, I pass within 80 miles of the north rim of The Grand Canyon. I almost consider going for it, but Iíll be there, on the southern side, in about a month. For now, I need to stay focused, stay on track.
By the late afternoon Iím at Cedar Breaks National Monument. An amphitheater like Bryce Canyon, the 3-mile diameter coliseum faces west. The late day sun fills the 2,000-foot deep bowl, as light breaks through the cloud cover. With no one around, I sit on the ridge overlook for about an hour, just trying to soak up the wind and the view and the feeling of seeing the world laid out before me. Itís been a good day.
ON THE ROAD:
The tomes are filled with wisdom and folklore, and have sold many, many copies. Here are some examples (with the spelling corrected):
"Life is just too
darn short to set around being bored."
The books are 4.95 each. If youíre interested in more call 801-679-8999 or write to Grandmas Little Books, PO Box 276, Henrieville, UT 84736.
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