I will not come close to describing the beauty that is southern Utah. We are in the heart of it. I will describe where we went but the pictures below are only a small taste of what can be seen here. Even these pictures can’t capture this – you have to get here and see it for yourself.
We slept in this morning and it was nearly 9:00 when we went downstairs for an uneventful breakfast at the Grand Lodge. After my bad experience yesterday driving the road to get here, I wasn’t anxious to tackle that road again. It turned out that I was worried about nothing. Yesterday we went north on I15 and came into Brian Head going south. The road out of Brian Head going south is much more user friendly. The village of Brian Head didn’t appear to have much in the way of restaurants or shopping. It did offer a couple of ski shops but not much else.
Leaving Brian Head the road climbs to almost 11,000 feet. This was a pretty good challenge for the Queen Mary Express (Dodge minivan) that we are piloting. It was pretty embarrassing to get passed by a cow! If you don’t believe that – see the picture below.
We hit a total of 4 national parks today (ok – technically 2 of them are “national monuments” but I’m not sure of the difference). The first one was Cedar Breaks where we got a nice presentation from Ranger Kate on how the structures were formed. There is some long drawn out scientific explanation but I prefer the one offered by the Piute Indians who said a good guy invited the bad buys (Legend People) to dinner then turned them to stone and here they stand to this day. You can make your own choice on how you think this place was formed.
We left Cedar Breaks and hit US89. This road goes all the way to the Grand Canyon and it has to be one of the most incredible drives in the nation. We drove through Red Canyon (park #2) but didn’t stop. We’ll hit it on the way back. We headed for Grand Staircase – Escalante. Along the way we stopped for lunch at a place called the Clarke Family Restaurant. The table we sat at had the usual collection of trivia books that occupy your time while waiting for your food. In addition this one had a German version of the Book of Mormon. I understand that we are not far from Orem/Provo, Utah – the home of the Mormon Church but I didn’t quite understand why there was a copy in German. If the food takes so long that the customer has time to learn a new language (German) then we’ve certainly picked the wrong place.
On to Grand Staircase which is really a series of beautiful scenic pull-outs along Utah-12. It was getting late so we didn’t go as far as we wanted to but turned around and headed back. I looked at the map and it looked like Bryce Canyon was on our path. It was getting late enough in the day I thought we would chance going in. I hate getting old but it does entitle me to a senior lifetime pass to the national parks of the US. The entry fee to Bryce is $30 per car. We showed the pass and in we went just for being old.
The stone structures at all the parks are known as hoodoo’s. There are a lot of them. Bryce is a magnificent park and if you are young and in shape you can hike down and walk in the valley. That would certainly give you access to some other-worldly scenes. It was too late (both in the day and in my physical conditioning) to try to hike down the canyon so we settled for pictures.
We left Bryce and headed back to Red Canyon (park #4). We were now really running out of time and snapped a few pictures, purchased our 4th hat pin of the day and headed out. We hadn’t eaten anything since lunch and stopped at Panguitch, UT for dinner at The Original Kenny Ray’s. I’m not sure how many places that Kenny Ray has but we can say we were at the original. We were only 45 miles from Brian Head at this point.
We started seeing a lot of deer along the road as the sun was setting. We took it nice and slow but it’s still a little nerve wracking knowing that deer and really fast cows are frequently on these roads. We made it back without any direct 4-legged encounters. We sat on the patio, near the fire and talked about the day. It was fun. We didn’t do any of the parks to the level they deserve but we were satisfied for now that we had some understanding of each park. We decided that tomorrow is kind of a national holiday – first real day of NFL football so we’re taking the day off. There may or may not be a blog tomorrow. We’ll listen to the Colts (if we can’t watch them) and enjoy being in an incredible part of the country.