Ride West: Day 12 to Zion National Park/Springdale, UT
Ho hum. Today’s ride was boring, boring, boring. Same thing mile after mile: Gorgeous view, gorgeous view, gorgeous view, gorgeous view. Broken occasionally by a spectacular view. And of course there were several “Holy crap did you see that!” views. Air so clear mountains 75 miles away provided the final backdrop for a grand vista. Colors so vivid several probably don’t have names. Deer and big horn sheep grazing by the side of the road, indifferent to our trespass on their turf. Rock formations that have been a work in progress for hundreds of millions of years.
Maybe tomorrow will be better. But I doubt it.
Almost from the minute we started south on Utah highway 12 out of Torrey headed for the Dixie National Forest, incredible scenery unfolded in front of us as if each turn was a new act in a reality play of a thousand parts. We climbed steadily to 9600 feet, taking frequent advantage of the well-spaced view points that offered an horizon of nearly 100 miles across a landscape broken by mountains, mesas, ridges and hills, each a different color of yellow, gray, red, orange and green. Normally I’m a rider who generally exceeds mandated limits, but today I slowed the pace to below (hard to believe) the speed limit just so I could extend the experience.
About 40 miles into the ride we stopped for a break at the Anasazi State Park in Boulder, UT, where a well-done display showed off a 1950s archaeological dig that uncovered a community of approximately 200 Anasazi People who lived there for 50-75 years almost a thousand years ago. The interior interpretive center and the exterior dig site gave a nearly complete picture of what life was like in the Utah mountains for these early people. Once again, I was reminded that my place is small and my time is brief.
We continued on Highway 12 through the Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument, captivated by the ever-changing views that had a commonality of exceptional beauty.
Rounding one turn we saw a structure sitting atop a hill next to the road that looked not at all out of place and a sign that read “Kiva Koffeehouse.” We stopped. It turned out to be a restaurant/coffeehouse built by an artist/engineer who wanted to build something that blended into the rugged rocky environment using all native products and that provided a unique resting place for travelers. The coffee was good as was the not-to-be-resisted fresh-baked good that called to me from the display case like a Siren enticing a Greek sailor.
Back on the road and with several more stops where we properly stood in awe before the awesome, we finally made it to Bryce Canyon National Park. I took advantage of my elderly status and Senior National Parks Pass to freely enter the park while Jon, a youngster at only 60, had to shell out $12 to drive out and back on the 15 mile park road.
We had both been to Bryce Canyon National Park before and knew what to expect, but even experienced Bryce visitors are amazed each time they happen on the misshapen hoodoos rising prodigiously from the canyon floor. After being properly amazed, we returned to the park’s entrance, noting the gray clouds and lighting flashes to the west, our direction of travel. We pointed our ponies west but rode for only five miles before stopping to put on rain gear. As luck would have it, the fortuitous choice of a parking lot for suiting up was at an eatery whose aged window sign advertised fresh baked pies. We decided it was fitting to support the local culinary economy and ducked inside. Jon chose for his contribution a slice of warm apple pie, while I, the more daring of the duo, opted for boysenberry. Sipping our coffee slowly, we gazed out the window as the wind driven rain pelted our parked ponies and, after 30 minutes, finally petered out. And down the road we went.
After various road side attractions, pastry pauses, and slow riding, at 4 p.m. we entered Zion National Park (where Jon again dispensed his $12 fee as I waved happily to the toll collector in the Smokey Bear hat).
The ride into Zion NP from the east is highlighted by huge, multi-hued rock formations and the one-mile Mt. Carmel Tunnel that ends at an incredible set of switchbacks that descend the mountain to the floor of Zion Valley. Again, both of us had seen the main tourist attractions at Zion National Park, which can now be reached only by riding a bus because of the overwhelming cage traffic that clogs the road and befouls the air, so we called it a day and headed for our hotel.
Tomorrow: Into Arizona, the desert and the Grand Canyon.