You will notice all my photos are together in a Gallery and my blog follows. This was an experiment clicking buttons. I personally like having the photos intermixed with the narrative. What do you think? For now, while we are traveling, using the Gallery is much easier. Enjoy this post on our travel to Kodachrome Basin State Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Tropic, Cannonville, Panguitch and Red Canyon, Utah.
In Steve Jobs biography, the author quotes employees of Jobs saying more than once Jobs made them believe they could do the impossible and somehow they did it because they didn’t know how impossible it was. Here in Utah, it appears the impossible was done by those intrepid Mormon pioneers. In story after story, I read how these Mormon pioneers accomplished deeds an ordinary man would almost be incapable of because of their faith, their perseverance and ingenuity. Now I contemplate what that faith enabled these men and women to accomplish. Perhaps it gave them a tenacity to keep going where most men would give up because the Mormons believed God was leading them. Maybe these pioneers received powers of the Spirit that enabled them to do heroic deeds. Did these pioneers receive miracles exactly at the moment they needed one? I only know that through their determined tenacity and grueling, backbreaking work, Utah is what it is today.
I tried practicing a little of the Mormon pioneer spirit today biking Red Canyon. If you believe the Dixie NF Visitor Guide, you would know this 9-mile bicycle trail is an easy ride on a paved trail along Highway 12. If you believe this pioneer wanna-be, you would know the trail is a grueling uphill grade from its beginning at the Thunder Mountain Trailhead to its end at the Coyote Hollow turnoff. It might help to understand that my biking skills are modest, pleasure riding skills best practiced on flat ground. I felt when I began that if I managed a couple miles, I would be doing fine. The wind was at our back on this bright, sunny fall day. As I hit about mile 5 of the uphill grade, these were some of the messages cursing through my brain: you can do this; if someone were by your side encouraging you, you would keep going; God has given you physical health and ability so use it; you cannot quit because the future depends on you; well, you get the gist. Basically I was pretending to be a Mormon pioneer and understand what kept driving them to do things almost humanly impossible [it truly felt like I couldn’t possibly do one more hill; my legs were like rubber]. I am thrilled to say we did make it to the Coyote Hollow where the trail flattened out to a plateau. On the ride back, with the wind at our face, the bikes flew down the grade with almost no effort. I screeched to a halt often because of the incredible views of the red canyons, spires, tunnels, arches, and vistas. The landscape is so rich and vast and gives you a feeling of expansiveness and grandeur and awe.
Mossy Cave trail is an easy .8 mile walk on the perimeter of Bryce National Park. Yet on this trail, you also can see the waterfall and what is known as the “Tropic Ditch.” Early Mormon pioneers excavated a 10-mile ditch using hand tools to channel water from the Sevier River to the Paria River. This allowed settlers to successfully farm, grow orchards and raise livestock in an area known as the town of Tropic. A young man that became a Mormon at age 18, Ebenezer Bryce, was called to help establish a settlement in the area. Ebenezer and his wife had 12 children that were all raised to adulthood, an almost impossible task in 1875. In Tropic, you can find the homestead cabin built by Ebenezer, a rather crude, one-room log shelter. I poked my head inside the dark, dusty cabin and had nothing but praise for any woman that could call this log shelter home, and if she raised a family in this shelter, well, she was nigh near a saint in my eyes. My experience with wind and sand at our campsite nearby led me to think pioneer women must have had a continual fight to keep their homes clean battling the elements. Which is nothing to speak of compared to having to haul water in a barrel for the needs of a family. You can imagine why there was such celebration when the Tropic Ditch delivered the first stream of precious water to the pioneers that had settled in Tropic. When we returned to our camp after the days outing, I tried to imagine being one of those Mormon women as I viewed our tarps tossed and blown by the wind, sand everywhere, grit on the table, bed, floor, everything I touched seemed to have a layer of grit and sand. Our comfortable trailer with glass windows and tightly sealed seams could hardly compare to log cabins and abodes where cracks and crevices must have been commonplace.
At Kodachrome Basin State Park, we are surrounded by towering sandstone chimnies and spires in this redrock semi-desert Park. My brother tipped us off about Kodachrome, where we booked five nights. We are in a basin surrounded by the Colorado Plateau with distinctive features called Sedimentary Pipes, columns of rock that rise from the basin floor. Here we have full hookups for our trailer. In this part of Utah, this is an unexpected benefit but so very useful as temperatures dip in the 30s at night and a flip of a switch turns the heater on to keep us warm and cozy. Meals are fast and easy with a microwave and pre-prepared food. Electricity enables us to have music and light to read by. Yet we are in an unexploited basin where night skies are brilliant with stars and quiet echoes off the Plateau and giant rock sentinels.
From Kodachrome, we take side trips. Bryce Canyon National Park is a 20-minute drive. From the Lodge at Bryce Canyon, we hike to Sunset Point and Sunrise Point, then follow the Rim Trail to Bryce Lookout. From the rim trail, we see endless vistas of hoodoos, fins, mazes, and spires etched into the pink limestone of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. At Bryce lookout, we catch the shuttle back to the Lodge for lunch and Wifi.
Panguitch is another side trip, a small town that is an historic Mormon pioneer settlement. We stopped at an art gallery whose owner, Veda Hale, painted all the art in the gallery and authored a book titled “Swell Suffering,” a biography of Maurine Whipple. We learned from Veda that Maurine Whipple was the author of a book titled “Giant Joshua” that Veda explained drew parallels with Gone With the Wind, from a Mormon perspective. Veda was so interesting to talk with. Two of Veda’s paintings were dear to me, not only as art but also as a reflection of a belief system, a world view I found very endearing. From Panguitch we drove back to Red Canyon on Highway 12. Red Canyon is a series of spires and hoodoos eroded out of red limestone and sandstone. A paved bike trail runs parallel to Highway 12 for nine miles. Here we stopped for a bicycle ride, the five-mile one-way ride mentioned earlier.
Biking around Kodachrome Basin proved adventurous. Right outside the Kodachrome entrance is a dirt road to Cottonwood Canyon and Grosvenor Arch. There was a sign “Road Closed” which we ignored. We rode for miles seeing nobody but vast stretches of desert-type sand landscape with sparse vegetation. We eventually realized we were riding through someones ranch as cows eyed us from either side of the dirt road, and a cow with horns sauntered across the road in front of us. Eventually we came to a crossing guard and could see far in the distance farm buildings against the base of the plateau. We wondered if a Mormon family lived way out here in isolation, but decided to turn around and bike back to camp. The road was marked with small signs with numbers like “400” which meant nothing to us. We spoke with an old timer at the camp store who said he had to pull cars our of the mud where they sink after rainstorms; the old timer said the mud is like quicksand and the cars become caught like animas in a trap. The road was closed because of recent rainstorms.
Kodachrome has no Wifi or cell phone coverage. One evening we drove to Bryce Canyon NP to attend an astronomy program on Virgo, followed by stargazing through the National Park telescopes. We saw the Andromeda Galaxy, the Virgo Constellation among others. Bryce is rated as a phenomenal place for stargazing; we swear stargazing from the Hot Tub at Bella Luna in Sea Ranch is certainly every bit as phenomenal. In fact, we often see the Milky Way at Sea Ranch every bit as powerful as we did at Bryce.
In Tropic, we stopped at the Bryce Canyon Coffee and Tea Shop with WiFi. After the breakfast crowds left, we had the shop to ourselves for hours. Across the street is the Tropic Heritage Center and library. They have a shelf of books on Mormon history in the Bryce Valley area of Utah which I found fascinating. We got kicked out when a man came to close up after 5 p.m. At Bryce Canyon Lodge, there are numerous electrical outlets to plug in if you are addicted to your technology and need powerful WiFi. The Lodge has a rustic restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Clarks Restaurant in Tropic serves good, homespun meals. Rubys Inn in the town of Bryce Canyon is the most extensive gift shop, restaurant, grocery store, gas station, Internet Service and if it can be sold, you can find it at Rubys, all-encompassing shopping we’ve found in Utah.
The Panorama Trail in Kodachrome SP takes you to several caves, up close to the spires and rocks and to a canyon and eventually up a hill to Panorama Point. You can hike for 3 miles or take all the side trails for a 6-mile hike. We ran into a couple from Boston that were quite the adventurers. He was a math teacher, she a nurse. They were tent camping. When asked if we saw the Star Show, we were perplexed, asking if the Park put on a show. No, they said, we laid on the rocks for hours and observed the stars–beyond beautiful. With the recent winds and drop in temperatures, I admired their grit. Even with the heater running in the trailer, the cold chilled me to the bone. I had a handkerchief wrapped around my head that day to contain the dust and keep a sinus headache at bay, to no avail. Kodachrome Basin State Park is a gem tucked back in the hills and has lots of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors hiking, biking, ATVing, and exploring. I was sorry to leave but we packed up the next morning, heading to Escalante and all the new adventures waiting for us.