From low to high

Elevation, that is.

From this,

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to this,

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to this.

Last night, Monday, I spent in Hurricane, Utah. This gave me a chance to also do some laundry, and, as you can imagine I had some dirty duds to clean after the excitement in the mud earlier in the day.

Having stayed in Hurricane once before, I like it's location, it's a smaller city and close to many of the National Parks and National Monuments. Looking over maps and brochures, I was still undecided as to my next unscheduled adventure/exploration. Even this morning I had little idea of where the wind would take me. At breakfast I looked over my Utah map again and opted to skip Zion National Park, and Bryce Canyon N.P, both the larger National Parks in this area. But North of Hurricane is Kolob Canyons and Cedar Breaks National Monument. They are adjacent to Zion and, and as I found out, are part of Zion, but with totally different geological formations. After those places I would be much closer to Ponderosa Park Ranch, northeast of Zion N.P.

This part of the world is stunningly beautiful. And the differences are geologically remarkable from within a relatively small area. 

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After breakfast, the car packed, with clean clothes and a fresh new day ahead of me, I headed up I-15 to my first destination, Kolob Canyons National Monument. Driving out of town seeing higher mountains along the way and all the red rocks was inspiring. People who live here have such grand beauty within sight all the time, it should inspire them and bring peace to their hearts and souls. It certainly was calming and awe inspiring for me! 

Arriving at Kolob Ranger Station, I got a map and asked about hikes. The Taylor Creek hike was suggested, which I could do in total or half. The trail end was at a place named Double Arch Alcove. Now, who wouldn't be intrigued by that name alone? I most certainly was. It was to be 5 miles total over about 4 hours. That would still give me plenty of time to decide my next destination for the day and maybe do other exploring. There is a drive up to an end point with several overlooks, but the Taylor Creek Trail that I wanted was the first stop as I drove up the canyons road. Sure enough it does follow a creek (more of a babbling brook today). The sound of the water as I walked along was soothing and music to my soul. The trail goes deep into what is called a finger canyon, through a mixed forest of hardwoods, pines, junipers and various other vegetation. There were multiple crossings of the creek, but with rocks for stepping stones and shallow water, only the soles of my shoes got wet (which, by the way, helped clean off the mud from the day before). Having left on the hike at 9:30, I arrived at the Double Arch Alcove around 11. I took my time and took a lot of photos along the way also, including two cabins that are currently undergoing restorations. (The cabins date back from the very early 1930's. A man, name of Fife, went to college nearby in 1930, built his cabin and raised goats there). The Double Arch Alcove is HUGE and a spring towards it top seeps water down and into the creek. The "double" part of the arch is a dry alcove far above the lower one up on the side of the mountain. I spent some time there and others came also while I admired the place. The place can be very calming for a person and allow him to marvel at the wonder of it all. Mother Nature has provided us with many, many spectacular places of natural beauty. I am thankful that I'm able to go far down the paths to discover them myself.

As I left the area, I rounded a bend and there was a deer that came out of the woods, looked at me, I stood still, she, turned to run, but then came back, looked at me again and began nibbling on leaves. Another, perhaps it's mother, with antlers, approached from in the trees but, seeing me, kept in the brush. The first one continued to eat as I stood and watched (and photographed, of course). After several minutes they both ran off, but I did get a photo of the antlered one a little way up the trail. I continued along, saw the crew working on one of the cabins and arrived at the parking lot by 1:45 p.m. After snacking and re-hydrating, I started the drive up the canyons road. 

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WOW! It just got better and better. Views that are stunning. And an approaching storm only added to the backdrop of those red mountains before me. The canyons here are called finger canyons, since they are not yet as deep cut further in as they are at Zion National Parks. Look at your hand and that is how this geology appears - they are still forming and in time will also be cut into a much longer and deeper canyon(s). The little canyons at Toroweap are much the same. As water flows over the edges, it etches out and erodes, further and further back. 

Upon leaving Kolob Canyons, I was feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world. It did not escape me that, one day prior, I had been in and faced a challenge that I overcame. It seemed that that setback and not seeing or doing what I had planned at Bar 10 Ranch, really opened up other, maybe better, possibilities for me today. I think my guardian angels had other plans for me all along.

Back on I-15 and next stop would be Cedar Breaks. I knew very little about the place, but it sounded like a place I should visit. And, how right I was!

There is the town of Cedar City, where I exited the Interstate, but  Cedar Breaks is still 20 or 30 miles away. Following the road signs, I went through the town and headed toward some mountains, pretty HIGH mountains. Then I saw warning signs of increasing grades and that semi trucks were not permitted on the road. There was even a turn around lot for the large trucks. Not knowing anything about Cedar Breaks I got the inkling that I was headed for higher elevations. Oh brother, was I ever! As my Santa Fe kept revving up that highway, I saw semi trucks that haul dirt. Well, I thought, why are these guys allowed if they were warned NOT to be on the road. Then I saw the first of about 3 or 4 signs for road construction. The reconstruction was for landslide repairs. And it was a very large undertaking given the amount of equipment they had up there. It was also one of those one lane restrictions and I had to wait, for a short time, until the down traffic was permitted to pass. By this time I had already climbed a couple thousand feet, I believe. There was some light rain as I ascended and it was definitely turning cooler. After each of those construction zones, it never stopped climbing and my car kept shifting to meet the challenging climb. This was going on forever it seemed, climbing, climbing, climbing, the temperature dropping with each mile, degree, by degree, by degree. I closed the windows.

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Finally I saw a road sign pointing to "Cedar Breaks National Monument. Then it started to rain steadily. I climbed still further up the mountains and arrived at the park entrance. As I parked my car it started to hail. I sat for a moment but decided the pea size ice would not dent me too much, and so jumped out and ran to the rangers booth. With a cut off t-shirt and shorts, I immediately felt the COLD. Brrrrrrrr. What a change from a few hours ago! I was in a mostly pine tree altitude, with alpine meadows, some aspens and many fir trees. Ahhhh, breathing in that cool, clean, fresh pine scent was heaven on earth. In the rain I walked to another cabin that houses the gift shop and viewing windows out upon what is known as the Amphitheater. Outside a ranger was giving a talk on the covered porch about the deer in the park and their habits and lives. I listened for quite awhile as it was very interesting information, but then more hail began to fall and while those listening to the talk were all dressed in hoodies, rain gear or jackets, I decided it was time to go inside the building for some warmth. Seeing the large picture windows in the back I then saw my first view of Cedar Breaks. OH MY! The view was breathtaking! 

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It reminded me somewhat of Bryce Canyon, but this would be a younger version of that park. Since it was raining, I was inside comfortably taking in the incredible sight below me. The ranger had ended his talk and I began chatting with him and the other rangers. One told me the flash floods in the canyon had been raging a short time before when it had also rained. Though one pointed out the river below and said it was a torrent, I could not differentiate any amount of water moving from high above where I was.

 They brought out a high power telescope, aimed it at the river and had me take a look. Holy cow, it was then very obvious the water was flowing fast and furious. All those slopes above, while looking like sand are rock and all the rain, sheets down them into the gullies and grooves and rivlets and then just shoots down into the bottom. Seeing this force of nature, in person, it becomes pretty clear just how these valleys are formed and are still forming. Each rainfall sends an enormous amount of force of erosion over the surfaces, carrying with it rocks, trees and particles of sand and earth. Reading about and understanding the physics is one thing, to see it in person is the real thing. Even at a thousand feet (or more) above the roaring river, it was an impressive sight. The ranger showed me a couple of other points of interest through the telescope, that I could not have seen with my own eyes, an arch and a cave. With the enhanced view, it was right in my face. Since there were several more viewpoints along the way, I bid them goodbye and stopped at the other points, all with impressive vistas into the canyon. Along the way, it still ascended and passed through some wide alpine meadows. Very few people were traveling there today, so it was also a quiet, and relaxing drive. 

When I was stuck in the mud near Bar 10 Ranch, I was at 2000 to 3000 feet elevation, Hurricane is about 3300 feet. Kolob Canyons is at about 4500 feet. At Cedar Breaks I was at 10,500 feet. And the temperature up there was in the 40's when I arrived. Their low for tonight is 21. 

Today brought me from low to high, metaphorically and literally.

More photos from today:

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My car got lots of mud washed off at Cedar Breaks. oh yeah!

The river below was a torrent, with all the water streaming down the sides and into the bottom.

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Hail on the road.

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Sheep in the hundreds were grazing in the meadows - and taking their time crossing the road.

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Deer in the path at Kolob Canyons.

Another view along Taylor Creek Trail, Kolob Canyons.

A view at Cedar Breaks.

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Alpine meadows.

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An old lava flow on the way down from Cedar Breaks.

Tonight I'm staying in Mt. Carmel Jct., UT. Tomorrow more exploring the area, then to Zion Ponderosa Ranch for 3 days.



kdonald940@cox.net © Donald E. Kline 2012                                         Disqus Comments