Bryce Canyon National Park
Had a beautiful climb into Bryce Canyon National Park. It was cold at 8,000 feet in elevation, even in the sunshine, and the wind was up again.
After we left the visitors center at Bryce, we saw Renee and Elliot’s camper van approaching us. We had said our good-byes after dinner in Zion and didn’t expect to see them again. We compared notes; they had been snowed on at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park while we were getting it in Dixie National Forest.
We said good-bye again, and not ten minutes later, Claire heard someone call her name. She turned and saw a woman running after us. It was Kacy, of Kevin and Kacy Painter. We had a wonderful stay with them at the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming last summer. Another amazing meeting. Kacy was traveling with her mother between her winter and summer seasonal jobs at the refuge. Kevin, who is full-time, will get three weeks vacation in May and they will go to Ireland to bike tour.
We ate our lunch overlooking the fantastic formations of Bryce. Besides their form, they seem to glow from within, impossible for sandstone perhaps, but that is how they appear. We have to come back here to linger, sometime when it is warmer. We are rushing a little now. We have a 9,400 foot elevation pass to get over before a series of storms come through, so we have to keep moving now.
Sixty-six miles today and lots of climbing. Toward the end we had a 12 percent grade for a mile, which was equal to the worst we had in West Virginia and Kentucky. We’re freelance camping again tonight in Dixie National Forest. Quesadillas with turkey slices, a can of baked beans and oranges. Yum. Oh my, how we feast.
The next day into Boulder was only 43 miles, but somewhat brutal — four miles of 14 percent grades. We received several thumbs up and admiring looks from motorists who were experiencing the limits of their own horsepower.
These grades were steeper than any experienced in Appalachia. I would not have believed it possible. Utah continues to amaze.
The hills in question climb out of the spectacular and sublime Calf Creek Canyon, another must-return for us. We ran into, guess who, Renee and Elliot Leiter yet again today in their van. They camped in Calf Creek Canyon and hiked a trail to a beautiful waterfall.
We seem to be keeping the same speed as they across the state, but because they can do our daily ride in an hour, they have more time to explore and hike than we do. Bicycle touring is a great way to meet people and experience the country, but not necessarily the national parks and wild places. The limits of how much food and water we can carry are a problem, and we have been driven the past several days by the necessity to beat an even more severe weather system than the one that snowed on us a few days ago.
We met a Brit on a Harley Davidson. He has traveled over 10,000 miles in a little over a month. He is a CAD (computer aided design) specialist and worked for Volvo in North Carolina for a year and is seeing America before going home. Like so many foreigners we meet, he thought Las Vegas to be one of the best places in America. What must they think of us?
We did see our first golden eagle of the trip yesterday. We had expected to see some in the Rockies last summer, but were disappointed. Perhaps they are not doing so well as our coastal Bald Eagles.
Some recent “snapshots”:
*Cowboy in full chaps, striding toward a gate, a saddled pinto watching him expectantly.
*Ancient-ones ruin of beautiful stonework, under an arched overhang high in the side of a red rock cliff. A granary. What must it have been like to live here over a thousand years ago, subsisting on corn, beans and squash, and an occasional mountain sheep.
*Pickup truck with open door, beside a saddled horse tied to a corral, a spotted dog at his feet. Both watch us warily.
*A small clump of coral colored flowers growing out of a cliff face at eye level as we gasp up a 14 percent grade. Mocking us?
*Henrieville (not Hanksville). A log house recently liberated of modern siding, owner in yard watching us. We compliment him and he smiles and waves. “Thank you.”
*A man in a wheelchair asks about our trip. 11,500 miles we tell him. “Have you seen a psychiatrist about this?” he asks.
*Ice along stream edges, around irrigation sprinklers, and in our water bottles. Sunshine is slow to melt it.
*People scrambling to the front of a tour bus to look over the shoulder of the driver at the apparition that we present.
*Scent of morning: sun-warmed pinon needles, sagebrush, gray deadwood and a small white flower.
*Red and white hoodoos against a blue sky, and clouds of soft green sagebrush in the draw below.
*Boy in a small town playing with a lariat. He takes aim at Claire, but thinks better of it, and misses a dog.
*As we pass, a sarcastic comment from teen boy, “Oh how cute!” Then quieter, “Get off the road.”
From Boulder town, we climb Boulder mountain, at 9,400 feet, the highest we’ve been since last summer. Grades are a sustained eight percent, and we are glad when we top out in aspen and wind, gladder still to drop through aspen and spruce, ponderosa and pinion, pinion and juniper and down to sagebrush flats again at Torrey at 6,700 feet, almost the same as Boulder.
The descent offers fabulous views of the Waterpocket Fold (Capitol Reef) and even a flock of wild turkeys at the 8,500 foot level. It is also steeper than we thought. Our maximum speed reached 51 mph, and we were braking quite a bit. A long climb deserves some excitement at payback time, and Zippy is steady at those speeds, holding a straight line and carving curves smoothly. Good boy.