Friday, August 07, 2015

Day 5: Torrey to Mt. Carmel Junction via Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks, and cows, lots and lots of cows.

Leave the cabin parking area at about 6 a.m. and turn left on Highway 12.  That’s how the day began.  We wanted to be hiking Bryce Canyon by a little after 8 in the morning because a small heat wave was hitting the area and Bryce can get a little stale in the middle of Summer.  But first was the climb over Boulder Mountain on Highway 12.
Being from California means that unless you are actually on a ranch, livestock being in the road is a rarity.  Here in Utah you need to actually plan extra time or be really, really careful if you plan on driving at night.  Since it was early in the morning the cows were all over the place; on the road, on the side of the road, wandering the roads.  The adult cows were less than interested about your presence and moved off the road when they were damn good and ready.  The younger cows were more skitterish and made this driver a tad concerned that one was going to take a leap on my hood.  The funny ones often sat there and stared down the car, almost daring it to go around them with a bored glare of finality. 
Bryce Canyon is almost a second home for us and it continues to impress.  This time we skipped the Fairyland Loop and did something called the Figure 8; starting at Sunset Point and hiking over to Sunrise Point, dropping down into the canyon on the Queensland Trail, meeting up with the Navajo Loop, and then cutting across to the Peek-A-Boo Loop.  After doing the loop you return to the Navajo Loop for the final straight up ascent out of the canyon to Sunset Point.  The Peek-A-Boo was a lot of up and down but had few people.  The Navajo Loop is packed with people because it’s small and the end is a slot canyon before the massive uphill switchbacks.  It’s impressive but the tourists are annoying. 
We were done with Bryce by a little after Noon.  Eventually the crowds defeat part of the purpose of the parks for us.  Hey, crowds are love/hate kind of thing; I love that people are enjoying the parks and witnessing something that needs to be protected.  However I hate that they do it in large numbers when I’m around. 
We headed to another stomping ground that had much less crowds, Cedar Breaks National Monument.  We were hoping for wildflowers but found ourselves too early (there was still snow on the ground) and had to settle for Bluebells and Indian Paintbrush (my favorite flora), and a walk around Alpine Pond.  Much fewer people at this National Monument than an hour down the road at Bryce, and tranquil mountain meadows and cool ten thousand feet temperatures make this place hard to resist for my wife and I.
We are staying the night at a fantastic Best Western room in Mt. Carmel, Utah, about 12 miles from the east gate of Zion National Park. 
Hikes:  Navajo/Peek-a-boo “Figure 8”, Alpine Lake
Miles hiked:  7.4
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