Fall Southwestern Utah National Parks Tour (Continued)Bob Smith
Our third riding day started with a fabulous 7AM breakfast at the Smith Hotel. We fueled up on fresh whole wheat waffles, natural oatmeal, fresh fruit and hot coffee. We were off at 8AM for Bryce National Park. The weather forecast called for cooler temperatures and a high probability for afternoon showers. The morning was cooler with overcast skies for the ride up US 89 to the turn off on Hwy 12. We encountered construction with alternating one-way traffic for the first 2 miles on Hwy 12 to the right turn onto a paved bikeway. The bikeway parallels the south side of Hwy 12 until just beyond Bryce Pines Lodge and Restaurant. Bicycles are not permitted on this section of Hwy 12. The bikeway is in very good condition and gets you out of traffic. We had some off and on rain through this section but nothing significant. We arrived in Bryce Town around noon and had lunch at the Bryce Café and checked into our hotel. After showering, we took the shuttle out to Bryce Point and worked our way back along the rim taking photos. There wasn’t time to walk the rim trail between several of the viewpoints so we used the park shuttle instead.
The following day was a short ride to Panguitch (pronounced Pang Witch). We got started at 6:40AM and we rode about 5 miles into the park to Sunrise Point to view the sunrise over the mystical Hoodoos in the canyon. After taking numerous pictures we rode to Bryce Lodge for breakfast and then out towards Rainbow Point. After riding out about more 5 miles we decided that it would take us too long to ride the additional 10 miles uphill to Rainbow Point. We finished the day with 41 miles. Panguitch is a cute small town with a neat park called Quilt Walker Park. Back in the 1860s shortly after the town was settled there wasn’t enough food to get through the winter. Seven of the townsmen volunteered to walk to Parowan for supplies. The snow was deep and they used their bedding quilts to prevent breaking through the deep snow as they walked. They made it Parowan and back and saved the settlement. The park is a tribute to these seven men. There is park bench dedicated to each quilt walker. In the center front of the park is a bronze sculpture of a frontiersman walking on a quilt and holding another to throw out in front him as though he was walking forward.
On Friday we departed Panguitch at 7AM about 20 minutes before sunrise in order to get an early start on the 35 mile climb to the Visitor Center at Cedar Breaks. About thirty minutes into the climb, the sun began to rise eventually warming our backs as the moon set up ahead of us. The climb was relentless and seemed to go on forever. In the first hour we managed a mere six miles. In the second hour conditions improved and we were at 16 miles. By the end of the third hour we had covered 24 miles. We thought if we could maintain this pace we would reach the visitor’s center around 11:30. Our average pace dropped back to 7.5 MPH for the entire climb. Our support had picked up Subway sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies and bananas for everyone and handed them out at Panguitch Lake which was about midpoint of the climb. We stowed our lunches and outer layers and took in the beauty of the lake and the changing Aspens in distance. Just passed the junction of Hwy 143 and 148 we came upon Gracia and Don admiring the first views of Cedar Breaks. We decided this was a good spot for lunch. The next few miles seemed endless. Several of our group had already reached the visitor’s center. We walked out to the overlook took our photos and we were soon heading downhill towards Cedar City. We started the day at near freezing at 6640 feet and reached the summit at 10,580 feet and ended the day at nearly 80 degrees and 5,870 feet. After climbing 4,780 feet we finished with a net loss in elevation of 800 feet. An excellent group dinner was provided at The Garden House Restaurant on this our final night of the tour.
On the final day of the tour we returned to St. George. During this leg we would lose 3010 feet in elevation. The route took us on roads closely paralleling Interstate 15 where possible. We did have a 15 mile section where we had to ride on the shoulder of I15. This section was all downhill and went very quickly on the tandem. We passed by the Kolob Canyon entrance to Zion National Park. We could have taken have the Kolob Option adding 11 miles to our day. Instead we decided to drive the 5.5 mile climb to the Kolob View Point on our return from St. George.
Our BAC tour directors Wilson and Sue Cooper of Palo Alto, CA did an excellent job executing this trip, which was original designed and lead by Lucy Ormond of St. George, UT. Thank you so much for making it possible for us the ride this gorgeous ride and visit these fabulous parks. We’d also thank the other 12 participants including the other tandem team. You were a great group of folks to ride and socialize with on this trip.