The only problem we had was figuring out which hikes to do! Continue reading
May, 2014 – Sedona, Arizona, is a mountain biking mecca, and our friend Marcel, whom we met during our winter stay in Phoenix, and who inspired us to take up this sport, was eager to get us out on the trails.
The mountain biking in Sedona is scenic, dramatic and thrilling — but we soon found out that it is far from easy!
Red Canyon Tunnel
Bike path through Red Canyon
The bike path is almost 9 miles long.
Early morning visitor.
View from the Red Canyon visitors center.
A peephole on Pink Ledges Trail.
Burnt orange and forest green
backed by blue sky are the
colors of Red Canyon
Pink Ledges Trail.
Storms roll in every afternoon.
Utah's red rock answer to
Ken and Marcia Powers,
exceptional long distance hikers.
The road through Red Canyon.
Bird's Eye View Trail.
Mormon hand-cart in Panguitch.
Mark helps commemorate the Quilt Walk.
Historic brick pioneer
Perhaps the site of the
Home of Ebenezer Bryce, of "Bryce's Canyon."
Storms approach Arches Trail.
Our one and only arch sighting.
Red Canyon, Utah
Late August, 2011 - We were on a roll uncovering the many gems that make up
America's finest crown jewels in Southern Utah. Leaving Cedar Breaks, we pointed
the truck down the hill towards Red Canyon. Most people on this road are headed to
the more famous Bryce Canyon National Park which lies just a little further on, and few
are aware that their path will cut right through the fabulous rock formations of Red
Canyon on their way there. It's amusing to watch the steady stream of international
tourists flying through this five mile stretch of road, because as soon as they get into
Red Canyon the car windows fly open and heads pop out as the driver swerves into
the nearest pullout. It is that beautiful.
We did that too, years ago. And just like
everyone else, each time we have been back to
Bryce we've breezed through Red Canyon
without sticking around long enough to see it up
close. All we had ever seen was the fantastic
paved bike path that weaves through the canyon
walls for almost 9 miles of spectacular riding.
Years ago we had ridden this
path when the bright blue
lupines were in bloom, but
this year we came later in the
season and the color
trimming the red rock views
was bright yellow.
There is a delightful little
campground in Red
Canyon where we had
camped in a tent long
ago. It was there, in the
rain (which comes every
afternoon in July and
August), that we decided to get a trailer. While we were shivering and running around
looking for indoor activities during the rain, we saw people kicking back in their RVs as
snug as little bugs in rugs. Within two weeks of returning to Phoenix we had purchased
our first pop-up tent trailer and pickup truck.
This time we found a spot to
camp nearby and watched
the afternoon monsoon
clouds build and swirl The
sky would go from bright blue
in the morning to almost
black in the afternoon, and then
huge raindrops would fall.
Sometimes we were blessed with
One morning we woke to the
sound of cows mooing, and a small herd walked into a
corral nearby and hung out for a while, as if they were
waiting for the rancher and his truck to show up and take
them to market.
Red Canyon boasts many hiking trails, but some of
the best are short ones right outside the visitor
Pink Ledges Trail took us on a winding, narrow path
partway up the canyon walls. It led us back into a
vivid red backdrop of craggy rocks decorated with
rich green trees and then wound back out again
towards some hoodoos.
As usual, a storm was gathering in the
distance, and the sky got darker and
darker. The hoodoos -- humanlike,
almost sculpted rock formations --
resembled the giant heads of Easter
Island. But these were not crafted by
human hands and they glowed a rich
We had found it extremely challenging to keep up any
kind of fitness regimen on the boat last winter, and as
soon as we got back to Phoenix, Mark had started
running everyday. I was a little slower to get going,
but by the time we got to Red Canyon I had put my
running shoes on a few times.
Mark found out there was a 5 mile race at Bryce
Canyon, and before I had a chance to say, "How far?,"
there I was at the start line. Luckily, the beginning of
the course wound along the edge of Bryce Canyon,
keeping my mind happily occupied with the views. But when the route turned
away from the rim into the woods and continued uphill for over a mile all I could
think was, "Why did we start this exercise program at an altitude of 8,400 feet?"
Thrilled to have survived the race, we were
inspired to keep training. One day I ran past
a couple walking down the road with walking
sticks and serious looking backpacks. There
was nothing up the road for at least 30 miles,
so I had to stop running and find out where they had come from. It
turns out they had walked 60 miles in the past three days to launch a
two month walking adventure. They planned to hike through Bryce
Canyon into Utah's canyon country towards Page, Arizona where they
would arrive around Halloween. Taking a breather at our trailer, they
told us their names were Ken and Marcia Powers and we discovered
they are celebrated hikers who have hiked not only the entire
Appalachian Trail and Pacific
Crest Trail but were the first
people to hike the entire cross-
country American Discovery Trail in one continuous hike
(it took 8 months). They have done all this since they
retired 11 years ago. "We didn't want to just sit at home,"
Marcia said. They have logged thousands of miles of
other long distance hikes, and they chronicle their
adventures at http://www.GottaWalk.com.
We continued ticking off the short hikes around Red
Canyon, very self-conscious now that they were all just a
measly mile or so. But they were spectacular. The Bird's
Eye View hike goes up around the backside of the canyon
and the Tunnel Trail Hike follows a series of switchbacks
up a steep hill until it deposits you at a fantastic viewpoint
overlooking one of the tunnels spanning the main road.
Taking a break from the red rocks, we
ventured into the nearby town of
Panguitch. A small city park
celebrates the town's mormon pioneer
history, and a hand-cart in the park
reminded us that whole groups of
people of all ages, some pulling hand-
carts, walked across this country
years ago to settle Utah.
Those pioneers were tough folk. In 1864 the new mormon settlers in Panguitch
were starving, and seven men set out to cross the snow-covered mountains to
get supplies from Parowan some 40 miles away over a steep pass. Unable to
make progress in the deep snow, they threw out a quilt and gathered on it to
pray. Noticing the quilt supported their weight in the soft snow, they began
laying quilts out ahead and walking across them. Amazingly, they walked all the
way to Parowan and back this way, lugging heavy loads of flour with them on
the return trip. Mark decided to help out the commemorative Quit Walk statue
with his quilt.
area of Panguitch
is listed on the National
Register of Historic Places, and
I had a walking tour map that
pointed out certain historic
homes and buildings. The jail
intrigued me, but the location
on the map didn't correlate with
I began asking around, and
ended up on a wild goose chase as one shopkeeper sent me
to the next and I finally ended up with a group of little old white
haired ladies "who know all the history of this town." My jail
query started quite a discussion among them, but not one was
sure where this jail was or might have been. "It's down by your
house," one woman said. "A jail by my house? No, it was at
the other end of town…" We were all laughing by the time I
left, but apparently this historic jail in this historic town had
slipped from historic memory. Making one last stop at
Cowboy's Steakhouse Cafe on my way
out of town, the bartender said
thoughtfully, "Well, this building used to
be a jail. I think what you're looking for
is right here."
An easier landmark to find was in the
town of Tropic in the opposite direction
past Bryce Canyon. Back in the
mid-1870's, Ebenezer Bryce built a road through the woods leading to
a pink cliff canyon to make timber more accessible for the settlers of
the area. The amphitheater of red rock at the end of his road became
known as "Bryce's Canyon," even though he moved to Arizona just a
few years later. His wee home is on display in Tropic. Poking our
heads inside the tiny door, I couldn't imagine what winters were like for
a real family of full-sized people living in such a dollhouse.
Ready for one last blast of red rocks, we checked out Arches Trail at
the edge of Red Canyon. This trail boasts 15 arches, although a
couple completing the hike as we arrived said they had found only
five. We charged up the path, quickly deciding that this was by far the
best hike of them all. The path twists and turns as it climbs, and each
view is more enchanting than the last. We spotted an arch and
rushed up to it just as a huge thunder-boomer rumbled and lightning
flashed in the distance.
In no time at all the sky went black. We saw a cave in the distance
and hatched a plan to go hide in the cave until the rain ended.
What a terrific adventure that would be! But we couldn't find a
path to the cave, so we ran back to the truck instead.
Unfortunately, the rain wasn't the kind that would blow over any
time soon, and we were leaving Red Canyon next day, so when
we drove away from Arches Trail we realized we were leaving
most of it for a future visit to Red Canyon. But at least we now
know it is a hike that is well worth doing!
We hustled south along I-15 making stops for the Iron County Fair in Parowan, Utah and the Interbike bicycle trade show in Las
Vegas, Nevada, and we finally landed in Williams, Arizona on famous Route 66.
Sweeping views at Cedar Breaks.
Fluffy clouds drifted above us.
Red rock hoodoos with arches.
The trail winds through lush
A chipmunk nibbles bluebells.
"Place where the rocks are sliding
down all the time."
1,600 year old bristlecone pine tree.
Gnarled old fellas.
A young fawn looks up as we pass.
North View Lookout.
Cedar Breaks is known for
Redrocks through the trees.
Millions of years old, the canyon weathers all.
Thick green carpet on the Alpine Pond
The Upper Loop wanders through a meadow.
Last glimpse of the red rocks.
Reflections on the Alpine Pond Trail.
Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
Mid-August, 2011 - Visiting Cedar Breaks National
Monument was the main reason we came to Dixie National
Forest but, sidetracked by caves and canyons, it took us a
while to get there. Vastly overshadowed by nearby Zion,
Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon National Parks, a lot of
folks are like us and only hear about it from a ranger or
other traveler once they get to this area. Years ago we had
stopped by for an hour on a quickie drive-by. This time we
wanted to hike the two hikes and see the canyon up close.
Perched nearly in the clouds at 10,350' elevation, the wildflower-lined
winding road seemed to climb forever before we got to the park.
Intrigued by the sign for the Spectra Point overlook in the parking lot,
we went straight up that path when we arrived, not knowing we were
venturing out on a 2-mile round-trip hike.
WIthin minutes we were staring at a wonderland of red rock spires
and hoodoos. The puffy clouds floated by above us, casting
shadows across the red rock "amphitheater." Red, pink, white and
orange rocks in crazy shapes filled the view in all directions, and
bristly pine trees speckled the distant cliffs
The trail wanders along the rim of
the canyon, weaving in and out of
lush greenery. There are no railings
or gates to obstruct the view, and
we felt as though we were
suspended above an orange
Wildflowers bloomed alongside the
trail: white columbines and red
indian paintbrush flowers begged to
A little chipmunk
sat contentedly in
a thicket of
bluebells and ate
them for lunch.
We made very little forward progress as we kept stopping to take in the views,
admire the colorful wildflowers and chat with other people on the trail.
Many people were at the canyon that day somewhat by
accident, as it hadn't been on their original itinerary. One
fellow had had car trouble while visiting Zion and Bryce and
had asked the mechanic how to keep his family entertained
while waiting for the several-day repairs to be completed.
"Go to Cedar Breaks!" He was so happy to have discovered
this park; his kids were running ahead of him down the path,
excited to get to the overlook.
A 1,600 year old
tree stands near the
end of Spectra
Point, thriving in a barren, windwhipped and
hopelessly exposed spot. The wood is striated
beautiful shades of orange and brown, and a few
scraggly branches prove to the world that the
seemingly lifeless giant is truly alive and well.
The sun felt warm on our skin as we walked,
but the brisk wind that swept across the
canyon was a sharp reminder of just how
cold this area can be. A ranger told us that
the park usually gets 15' of snow each winter,
but last winter was buried 30 feet deep.
On our way back we noticed a doe eating the flowers, and then
behind her we saw her fawn.
As we drove out of the park we stopped at Chessmen overlook
and the North View Lookout. Stunning. Amazing. It's impossible to find words to
describe the vastness, the vivid color, the exotic contours and shapes of this beautiful
Earlier residents of this area were the Paiute Indians, and they named the canyon, "Place
where the rocks are sliding down all the time." After that the Spanish explorers
misidentified the juniper trees as cedars (much as they did on Isla Cedros off of Mexico's
Baja Pacific coast). The word "breaks" refers to the steep, eroded landscape.
Cedar Breaks is known as much for its glorious wildflower
displays as it is for its majestic red rock amphitheater.
We returned on another day to hike
the Alpine Pond Loop Trail, and
found ourselves snapping shots of
the many brilliant wildflowers before
we even got to the trailhead.
Lupines and daisies and a myriad of
other flowers lay thickly on the green
brush surrounding the trail. The hum
of bees and mosquitos was very loud
too, and the lush land seemed to be
teeming with life.
Oddly, the forest of tall pine trees shading the
wildflowers is largely dead. In past years the
energetic National Forest Service extinguished all
wildfires within hours of them starting. The result was
an unhealthy forest dominated by one species of tree.
Those trees provided the most awesome feast for the
bark beetles that like to eat them, and in the past
decade the beetles have munched their way through
the woods, transforming the living pine
canopy into a pin-cushion of dead trunks and
Between the dead branches you can glimpse
the red rock canyon, however. The spires,
nooks and crannies of that spectacular
landscape are utterly impervious to the
comings and goings of trees upon the
Eventually we arrived at the alpine
pond. It wasn't the crystal clear kind
of lake we have seen at Yosemite
and other places, but it had its
Some of the dead tree
trunks had been carved
by Nature's graffiti
artists -- little worms
made all kinds of
patterns in the wood.
We had started on
the Lower Trail
which is lush and
green and closed-
in feeling. We
returned on the
Upper Trail which
takes the hiker out
across a wide
meadow filled with
flowers. The peak of the wildflower
season in Cedar Breaks is the final weeks
of July and perhaps the first week of
August. We were a little behind the peak,
so the blanket wasn't quite as thick with
color. But it was plenty
beautiful enough for me.
Mark has a green thumb
and cultivated strawberries
at one time, so he instantly
recognized the shape of
wild strawberry leaves
among the other greens.
"Strawberries!" He cried,
and then he spotted a beautiful tiny red ripe one, about a half inch
across. We left it for whatever bird or bunny might come that way.
The trail gave us one final glimpse of the red
rocks of Cedar Breaks and then we were
back at the truck.
Mark's parting shot was the reflection he saw
in my sunglasses. He came up to me really
close and said, "Oh, that looks really cool!" I
thought he was sweeping in for a kiss, but
suddenly he stopped, put his camera up and
snapped a picture. I made a face at him,
and then, being a romantic, he swooped in
for a real kiss.
Looking for more red rock adventure and a slightly lower altitude, we wandered 30 miles or so north along the incomparably
scenic Route 89 to the Red Canyon area.