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With our son Daniel freshly home from college and hoping for optimal weather conditions, we packed our hiking gear and headed off to South Central Utah for a week of adventure. We’d been in the area before, but much of our itinerary was compromised by rain which limited access to some of the more remote areas we had hoped to explore. But now a trip in mid-May offered mild temperatures and low average precipitation. We’ve been to all the National Parks in the region and they are indeed sights to behold. But we prefer getting into less populated locations which offer up a quieter and richer experience.
If you’ve never been to South Central Utah before, I highly recommend it. It’s certainly not for everybody. But if you’re willing to give up many of the creature comforts and have an appreciation for remote areas and fantastic landscapes, it’s a wonder to behold. To enjoy it with maximum safety, you must have a healthy respect for your own limitations and the foresight to be prepared for the conditions of this arid environment and the indifference of nature. Even though I have considerable experience in the outdoors, at one point in our hiking, I made a bone-headed decision that caused much unneeded stress and consternation. What made it worse was I knew better. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. More on that later.
I’ll present this trip report in multiple installments, to make it easier to digest (and to write). So we begin with…
We got an early start flying out of Atlanta to St. George, Utah, via Salt Lake City. St. George has a new airport, located seven miles southeast of town. It’s nice enough, but there are only vending machines for food and drink. It’s main benefits are 1) a longer runway and 2) no longer having to land on the gust-prone cliff overlooking the city. Since you can’t take fuel with you on airplanes, our first stop was to Sportsman’s Warehouse to buy a Jetboil canister, a Bic lighter, trail mix and some freeze-dried food for our backpacking trip later in the week. Most of this stuff you can get in any old town. It’s the Jetboil canisters that are specific to their product that required this detour while in the metropolis that is St. George. Fully supplied, we headed up Route 15 towards Cedar City.
Our destination was the town of Tropic, situated in the valley just below Bryce Canyon. I had hoped to drive over the mountain at Cedar City via Route 14. Unfortunately, the road was closed due to a landslide. Too bad, because it’s a nice, scenic drive. Anyway, we doubled-back out of Cedar City and continued north on Route 15 to cross the mountain up at Route 20. There was still plenty of snow to be seen on the higher elevations, particularly on the North side.
As we headed towards Tropic, we stopped at Red Canyon to stretch our legs and take some pictures. While there, we checked out the Visitor’s Center and walked the Pink Ledges Trail, which loops around the back of the Visitor’s Center and offers up red, pink and white sandstone and limestone formations along with expansive views to the west.
From there, we continued on to Tropic and checked in to our cabin at the Bryce Canyon Inn. After dumping our gear in the room, we drove back up the hill to Bryce. At Bryce, we grabbed a quick dinner at the lodge and then drove over to Sunset Point to take in the view and snap more pictures. Satisfied that we had captured the Canyon from every conceivable angle, we headed back down to Tropic and crashed in our room, tired from a full day of travel.
I hear the stars are quite stellar around Bryce. Unfortunately, we never see them because we’re always fast asleep by the time they make their appearance.
Here’s a big panoroma of Bryce, taken by Eileen. Click on the image to see the full size picture.