In Cedar City the landscape changes dramatically. Scenic highway 14 is all Red Rocks, Hoodoos, Cedars, great washes and cowboys.
Day 17: Cedar City to Panguitch
58 miles, 4000 ft
Yee-haa! Now we are getting to some beautiful country! It is starting to feel like a vacation and not just survival. About 29 miles and a 4000 foot climb outside of Cedar City is the Cedar Breaks national monument which is really spectacular. It is a huge amphitheatre of red rock near the summit of the mountains just east of Cedar City. The mountains themselves are covered in Cedar, Aspen and pines (Fir?) and offer us the first alpine scenery since California. Gabi was feeling sick and didn’t sleep well the night before so the climb was a real challenge. She hung in there and toughed it out and by noon we were at the summit looking out over the breaks.
So, who do we see? It’s Dusty. He left Cedar City 90 minutes after us and caught us at the summit! We ended up riding with him the rest of the day. Well, our day, he continued on after we stopped in Panguitch.
Dusty is cycling across the USA as a fundraiser for a Camp in Iowa called Camp Courageous for developmentally disabled people. He is 18 and just graduated high school a few weeks ago. He is on a pretty aggressive schedule and is crossing the country in 45 days.
Cedar Breaks to Panguitch is a fantastic descent so we just took the road and chatted most of the 30 miles between them. We talked about Iowa, California, if he should go to school in Switzerland for a year, the big ride across Iowa, the layout of Mormon towns (they all have a Main and Center and numbered streets with the four directions emanating from there. I never knew that!) and all kinds of stuff. He is a really good kid and a great cycling companion.
When we got to Panguitch, we had ice cream together, chatted a little longer then parted ways. Dusty rode on to points East and we settled in for the day.
Day 18: Panguitch to Tropic
Just outside Panguitch, starts scenic highway 14. It is an amazing road passing through Red Rock canyon, Bryce National Park, Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument, Capitol Reek National Park and some equally beautiful National Forest land.
Red Rock state park is the first one you hit heading east. It is small in scale but beautiful. The red rocks are up close to the road and they are so red and balanced in such peculiar ways that it doesn’t look like it could possibly be real. There is a bicycle trail that runs parallel to the highway for a few miles through the park that we took here.
At the end of the bike path you find yourself on the lush green plateau above Bryce looking out over the high mountains and Escalante in the distance. You need to go into the Park to see Bryce from the top so we took a side trip into the Park here. We had lunch and walked a little along the rim trail to take in the view. Since the next day was a rest day and we planned to hike in the park, we didn’t stay long. After a great lunch at the lodge we were soon back on our bike and tearing down the hill towards Tropic, our home for the next two days.
Day 19: Bryce Canyon (Tropic)
Tropic is a little town at the bottom of Bryce Canyon which is not the main entrance but more like the back door to the park. As such, it isn’t too touristy like Ruby’s Inn at the main entrance to the park. A lot of the locals who work in the park or in the nightly rodeo outside the park seem to live in Tropic. So it definitely has a cowboy feel to it. We met a lot of friendly people in Tropic.
On our rest day, we decided to hike up to the Bryce Canyon rim from a trail starting in Tropic. The trail starts about three miles up a dirt road from town so we jumped on the bike to get to the trailhead. The hike to the top is amazing. You start in a pinion covered canyon with limited views into the canyon. As you ascend, all of the hoodoos, cliffs, spire and ridges of the canyon open up in front of your eyes. There is no way to describe the beauty. Fortunately we took lots of photos. (Insert link here).
It turned out that we were staying right next to the post office. We couldn’t let an opportunity like that slip by so we sent another four pounds of gear back to Redwood City. Little by little we keep lightening our load!