Natural Bridges National Monument & Utah’s Bicentennial Highway

Early June, 2012 - We left Mesa Verde and drove the dramatic Bicentennial Highway to Utah's unique Natural Bridges National Monument.

At the top of Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

A wwoden ladder on the Sipapu Bridge trail.

Some folks were put off by the

trail's wooden ladders.

Looking down a wooden ladder on the Sipapu Bridge trail of Natural Bridges National Monument.

Looking down is a bit unnerving!

climbing a wooden ladder at Natural Bridges. On the trail at Natural Bridges NM.

The trail hugs a sheer canyon wall.

Hiking behind a barefoot person at Natural Bridges National Monument.

Barefoot tracks...

Exotic rock formations along the trail. Dramatic cliffs line the walls along the Sipapu Bridge Hike in Natural Bridges National Monument.

Dramatic cliffs and rock

formations everywhere

Down by Sipapu Bridge. Natural Bridge Nat'l Monument Natural Bridges National Monment

Full sized trees at the base of the cliffs.

Stiped cayon wall at Natural Bridges NM.

Massive leaning walls are painted in vivid stripes.

Sipapu Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument

Sipapu Bridge

Ladders are central to the hike to Sipapu Brige.

Ladders...

The NPS has carved stairs in the sandstone on the trail at Natural Bridges National Monument.

…and carved stairs.

Cactus flower, Natural Bridges National Monument Striped cliff walls, Natural Bridges National Monument.

Striped cliff walls.

Kachina Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument.

Kachina Bridge

Kachina Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument.

Mark is dwarfed by Kachina Bridge.

More ladders and steep hiking at Natural Bridges National Monument. Owachomo Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument.

Owachomo Bridge - delicate and soaring.

Owachomo Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument.

Owachomo Bridge.

Owachomo Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument.

The base of Owachomo Bridge.

"Bears Ears"

The Cheesebox, Bicentennial Highway, Utah.

The Cheesebox.

Jacob's Chair, Bicentennial Highway, Utah.

Jacob's Chair.

Scenic Bicentennial Highway.

Scenic Bicentennial Highway

Driving through Glen Canyon on the Bicentennial Highway, Route 95 Utah. Bridge over the Colorado River, Bicentennial Highway, Route 95 Utah.

Bridge over the Colorado.

Colorado River, Bicentennial Highway, Route 95 Utah.

Colorado River.

Bicentennial Highway, Route 95 Utah. Scenic overlook along the Bicentennial Highway, Route 95 Utah.

Scenic Overlook on the

Bicentennial Highway.

Ghost town Hite City was buried by Lake Powell.

Ghost town Hite City lies underwater here.

SR-95 Bicentennial Highway. Rock formations along State Route 95, the Bicentennial Highway, Utah.

The gods were messing with finger paints.

Scenic Route 24, Utah.

Fruita in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

Driving along Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

Natural Bridges and Utah's Bicentennial Highway

Early June, 2012 - After leaving Mesa Verde National Park we were

totally enthralled by the scenery that surrounded us on Utah's

Bicentennial Highway.  This area is rich with exotic rock formations, and

three special ones are clustered at Natural Bridges National Monument.

While getting our hitch extension fabricated in Blanding we had learned

that our welder, Jack, had grown up playing among the bridge

formations before the modern park rules became so strict.  "It was in

our backyard and we could camp anywhere in those days.  I grew up

climbing all over those bridges."

Now it is a formal tourist attraction,

set aside and protected by the

government, with signs telling you all

the things you shouldn't do.

However, rather than having to scramble down scary drop-offs and wondering how the heck all

these formations got here, the National Park Service has built beautiful trails to the bridges and

offers all kinds of literature and books that explain everything about the geology, the wildlife, and

nature in general at their terrific visitors center.

Just like Canyon de Chelly where the canyons

are equally as stunning as the cliff dwellings, we

found the setting, the vistas and the hikes as

thrilling here as the bridges themselves.  There

are only three natural rock bridges, but there is

an infinite number of spectacular views.

All together it's just four miles of hiking, but you

can skip doing your stair stepping workout on

the day you go.  Each bridge hike is a nearly

vertical descent to the base of the bridge, and

then, after admiring it, you've gotta climb out.  We quizzed

everyone we passed whether each hike was worth the

effort.  Most said "Yes!"  But one couple was put off by the

rickety looking wooden ladders.  We found the ladders were

actually really fun!  They're rock solid and shiny smooth

from thousands of hands and feet using them.

The trail to Sipapu bridge is

sandy and hugs a sheer canyon

wall.  There are all kinds of

footprints from previous hikers,

but the ones that caught my eye

were the barefoot ones.  I felt like

I was following an Indian.  But it

was just someone wearing those

newfangled Vibram FiveFingers

shoes!

We scampered all over the place, soaking

up the towering cliffs and basking in the

silence.  It is hard to imagine that the

immense natural force of flowing water

created these formations.

Many of the rocks are beautifully striped,

carefully painted in vibrant hues by

mother nature.

The size and scale was hard to

capture with the cameras,

especially trying to draw into the

lens that sensation of being

embraced by soaring cliffs and very

hot sun.

Mark got to the

Sipapu bridge

first, and when

he called back

to me his voice

echoed

wonderfully

between the

rocks.  He let

out a few extra hoots

and whistles, enjoying

the effect.  I hooted

and whistled back and

marveled at hearing

the sound perfectly

duplicated.

Climbing back out we noticed

how the Park Service has not

only installed fantastic Navajo

looking wooden ladders, but

has carefully sculpted out lots

of stairs in the rocks as well.

And we learned these bridges

were first found by Cass Hite in

1884 when he was searching for gold.

Kachina Bridge was up next, and

again we descended on a nearly

vertical path into a vibrant green

wash filled with trees and refreshingly

cool shade.  The rocks here had

been painted in stripes too, and bird

songs echoed off the canyon walls as

they flitted from tree to tree.

We staggered around in the sandy wash at the base of the bridge, craning

our necks as we tried to take it all in.  This bridge is thick and squat, and the

underside is decorated with scraggly petroglyphs.  People have lived here

off-and-on for 9,000 years, including a few Mesa Verde cliff dwellers who

moved over here for a few generations around 1200 AD.  This must have

been a great spot to while away the hottest summer hours back in the days

when air conditioning was unavailable and people entertained themselves

by pecking out images on rock walls.

The steep climbs and descents began to blend together in a

haze of sweaty huffing and puffing as we put one foot in front of

the other and hiked up and down the canyons.

The last bridge in the trio is

Owachomo Bridge.  Where

Kachina Bridge had been thick

and massive, Owachomo was

thin and delicate.

Still mighty at its base, from a

distance the narrow stone

seemed almost wispy as it

soared across the expanse.

As we left Natural Bridges National

Monument we caught a glimpse of the

twin peaks the Indians called "Bears

Ears."   What a perfect name!

Many rock formations, cliffs and mesas

around here often beg to be named

because their shapes are just so

familiar.  The Bicentennial Highway

took us past the Cheesebox and

Jacob's Chair.

Back on the scenic Bicentennial Highway the views really got us excited as we

approached Glen Canyon and the Colorado River.  I was practically jumping up

and down in my seat with excitement as the truck swept around one gorgeous

curve after another.

Mark just puttered along, patiently driving, while I whirled around from side to

side snapping hundreds of photos out the windows.  I even climbed up to sit in

the truck window a few times to get pics over the roof.  It is just that gorgeous!

This section of the road must have

been a huge challenge to construct,

and I kept thinking of Ferd Johnson

from the visitors center back in

Blanding who described living out in

these canyons for over two years

while building the highway and the

bridges across the river.

What a place to work!

We stopped at a scenic overlook after

crossing the river and learned that

when the river was dammed back in the

1960's, the new Lake Powell flooded

not only countless ancient Indian

settlements complete with artifacts,

petroglyphs and other priceless

treasures of humankind, but it flooded

an old mining ghost town as well.  Hite

City had boomed when local miners got

"uranium on the cranium" and started

searching the area for "hot rocks."  Now

the entire town lies underwater.

Back in Blanding, both our welder, Jack, and highway builder Ferd

told us they remembered this canyon vividly from the days before it

was filled with water.  What an event it must have been when the

dam was completed to see the water rise against the cliffs and

transform the landscape.

Eventually the scenery along the Bicentennial Highway simmered

down to downright boring, and I settled down in my seat.  From

Route 95 we turned west onto Route 24, and then the views began

to build yet again.

Swirling patterns filled

the rock landscape.  It

seemed the gods had

gotten their hands

colorfully dirty, messing

around with finger

paints, and then had

smeared their prints

across the rocks.

We approached some

towering pale cliffs and

then found ourselves

deep in the heart of red

rock country.

We had arrived at Capitol Reef National Park.  What a

spot!  The bright green trees, burnt orange rocks and crisp

blue sky made a vivid feast for the eyes.  We happily

agreed to settle in here and explore the area for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

Other fabulous scenic drives in Utah:

Other wonderful hikes:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

Red Canyon Utah is an Overlooked Treasure

RV blog post - Red Canyon, Utah, is easy to miss, but  the hiking trails, bike path, hoodoos and spectacular views worthy of an extended stay.

Red Canyon Tunnel

Red Canyon, Utah, bike path.

Bike path through Red Canyon

Red Canyon, Utah, bike path.

The bike path is almost 9 miles long.

Red Canyon, Utah, bike path. Camped outside Red Canyon, Utah. Afternoon rainbow outside Bryce Canyon, Utah

Afternoon rainbow.

Morning visitors outside Bryce Canyon, Utah

Early morning visitor.

Red Canyon visitors center, Utah.

View from the Red Canyon visitors center.

Red Canyon hoodoos.

Hoodoos.

Red Canyon peekaboo arch.

A peephole on Pink Ledges Trail.

Views on Pink Ledges Trail, Red Canyon, Utah.

Burnt orange and forest green

backed by blue sky are the

colors of Red Canyon

Views on Pink Ledges Trail, Red Canyon, Utah.

Pink Ledges Trail.

Hoodoos on Pink Ledges Trail, Red Canyon, Utah. A storm approaches on Pink Ledges Trail, Red Canyon, Utah.

Storms roll in every afternoon.

Hoodoos on Pink Ledges Trail, Red Canyon, Utah remind us of Easter Island heads.

Utah's red rock answer to

Easter Island.

Bryce Canyon Rim Run - 5 miles of racing fun.

Bryce Canyon

Rim Run.

Wildflower at Red Canyon, Utah. Hikers headed to Bryce Canyon.

Ken and Marcia Powers,

exceptional long distance hikers.

The scenic road through Red Canyon, Utah.

The road through Red Canyon.

Bird's Eye View Trail in Red Canyon, Utah. Bird's Eye View Trail in Red Canyon, Utah.

Bird's Eye View Trail.

Hoodoos on Bird's Eye View Trail in Red Canyon, Utah. Tunnel Trail in Red Canyon, Utah.

Tunnel Trail.

Horses on the Red Canyon bike path, Utah. Mormon hand-cart in Panguitch, Utah.

Mormon hand-cart in Panguitch.

Quilt Walk Statue in Panguitch, Utah.

Mark helps commemorate the Quilt Walk.

Downtown Panguitch, Utah.

Downtown Panguitch.

Historic brick pioneer homestead, Panguitch, UT

Historic brick pioneer

homestead.

Cowboy Cafe Steakhouse -- a historic jail ? -- in Panguitch, UT

Perhaps the site of the

infamous jail.

Ebenezer Bryce's cabin in Tropic, Utah.

Home of Ebenezer Bryce, of "Bryce's Canyon."

Storms approach Arches Trail in Red Canyon, Utah.

Storms approach Arches Trail.

The first big arch along Arches Trail in Red Canyon, UT

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

a rainbow.

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

center.

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

burnt orange.

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.

The downtown

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

any buildings.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah – Better Than Bryce?

RV blog post - at Cedar Breaks National Monument  we found the sweeping views, soaring red rock pinnacles and spectacular wildflowers truly awe-inspiring.

Sweeping views at Cedar Breaks.

Stunning views at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Fluffy clouds at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Fluffy clouds drifted above us.

Beautiful vistas at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Happy campers.

Red rock views at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Red rock hoodoos and arches at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Red rock hoodoos with arches.

Spectra Point Trail, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

The trail winds through lush

greenery.

Columbine at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Columbines.

Red indian paintbrush wildflowers at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Indian paintbrush.

Chipmunk eating bluebells at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

A chipmunk nibbles bluebells.

Indian paintbrush wildflowers wave at the view at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah,

"Place where the rocks are sliding

down all the time."

Wildflowers and red rock views, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Spectra Point, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Spectra Point.

1,600 year old bristlecone pine tree, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

1,600 year old bristlecone pine tree.

gnarled old bristlecone pine tree, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Gnarled old fellas.

Young fawn at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

A young fawn looks up as we pass.

Chessmen overlook, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Chessmen Overlook.

North View Overlook, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

North View Lookout.

Wildflowers, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Cedar Breaks is known for

wildflowers.

Wild lavender daisies at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Bluebells, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Lupine, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Columbine, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Lupines, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Red Indian Paintbrush at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Purple daisies and pine cones at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Wildflowers, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Redrock views through dead trees at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Redrocks through the trees.

Red rock vistas, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Millions of years old, the canyon weathers all.

Stunning views at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah Alpine Pond Loop Trail goes through thick lush green vegetation in Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Thick green carpet on the Alpine Pond

Loop Trail.

Alpine Pond, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Alpine Pond.

Nature's graffiti - worm-eaten wood - Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Nature's graffiti.

The Upper Loop of the Alpine Pond Trail, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

The Upper Loop wanders through a meadow.

Colorful wildflowers, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Colorful wildflowers.

Wild strawberry at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Wild strawberry.

Chessmen at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Last glimpse of the red rocks.

Reflections on the Alpine Pond Loop Trail at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

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

fairytale town.

Wildflowers bloomed alongside the

trail:  white columbines and red

indian paintbrush flowers begged to

be photographed.

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

bristlecone pine

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

land.

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

branches.

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

surface.

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

charm.

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.