Friday, 23 October 2009

Day 882 - Kanab

First stop before leaving Cedar City was the supermarket. The one I went into had everything I wanted but for just a few cents more you could get at least twice the quantity, so with the thought of saving a little money I spent a few cents more. It was only when I carried the stuff out to the bike that I suddenly thought it might not have been such a good idea after all. Also with a some truly fantastic scenery ahead of me I bought a bagful of “Oooohs!”, a bagful of “Aaaahs!”, half a bag of “Wows!” and one “Fuck me….that is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!” just in case of an emergency. I also bought another bagful of bagels, you can never have enough bagels. So with a fully loaded bike that I could hardly move I set off up road 14, the one that goes up Cedar Canyon. Whilst I had stayed with the Dalton family, Lynn had recommended a flatter route that would have been a little longer but much easier alongside the freeway, but I had looked at a couple of maps, one showed the pass above Cedar Canyon at 9,900ft and another showed a mountain summit beside it at 9;500ft. I chose to believe the later assuming the pass would be at about 8,000ft and as I was setting off from 6,000ft that would be easy. The scenery was well worth it and another big change from heading into Cedar City, now there were canyons, trees, greenery, rivers….RIVERS! Hang on a minute, I know what makes rivers and I also know I don’t like it. I soon passed a sign say 8% for the next 15 miles, and by heck it was too. Progress was painfully slow, I was already replanning things as I had wanted to visit Bryce Canyon the following day and at this rate I wasn’t going to reach it until next week. After what seemed like hours I did get to the top, it was at 9,910ft, I should have listened to Lynn, but despite it already being late in the day the Canyon had been lovely to cycle through. I never got the great descent I was expecting either, more of a plateau with odd bits on downhill and a few annoying bits of uphill. I had unusually got through all the water I was carrying so stopped to refill, but then couldn’t resist and enormous coffee at Duck Creek Village where one thing lead to another and a large piece of fudge brownie found its way into my stomach, closing followed be another large piece. I knew it would be good fudge brownie, the guy serving it had the most enormous stomach, high recommendation indeed. I reached the junction with route 89, turned north and just rocketed along with a tail wind, I might just salvage some of the day. 30km whizzed by, I was loving every second of this effortless cycling along on the flat and the only reason I stopped was because I found a nice little track into the hills and a perfect place to camp.

I was within reach of Bryce Canyon, though turning off onto route 12 brought me to the start of another long climb. This one took me through the lovely Red Canyon, not spectacular, but the colours were beautifully rich. Up on the next plateau made a nice easy fast route to Bryce, then south into that wind that had pushed me so nicely along the day before. Route 63 was a 21km dead end road with lots of view points across the canyons. I missed the first view deciding to get the climb and the wind out of the way and enjoy the return, but after a while the thought of a rest and enjoyable view took over. The view points were all of wonderfully eroded stones in the foreground and views down the canyon, really spectacular. The further and higher along the road the stronger the wind became until right at the top it was blowing me well across the road in exposed areas. But I still hadn’t seen the most spectacular views that I had wanted to see, I had cocked it up really, time was getting on and I had to rush to return to the viewing areas I had missed right at the start of the Park. Once away from the gusty summit I made pretty good time and reached Bryce Point as the sun was already going down. Being a dead end road the only vehicles were tourists and I could see from the number plates that they were from every corner of the US, a truly National Park. Some people talked to me saying they had passed me a number of times, but I still had other view points to try and see before it was too late, so I was soon off to Inspiration Point and Sunset Point where at the latter I decided I would rush no more and just stop and enjoy the scenery (photo) if the fantastic amphitheatre that Bryce Canyon is. Disaster struck, one of my bags split open, the evening air was full of “Ooohs” as they just couldn’t wait to get out. It was about 17:45 before I decided to leave, I still had a few miles to go as I shunned the opportunity to pay to use a busy Park campsite instead choosing to leave the Park and retrace my route back to Red Canyon. The southbound bit was huge fun, east along route 12 was a slog into the wind, but I made it to the campsite with just a little light remaining. This place was ideal, I had spotted it on the way up, it was closed, my favourite type of campsite as it is both empty and free and you don’t even have to hunt around for a flat bit of ground.

I had been told it would rain the following day and soon after my alarm went off it started spotting, but I am no fair weather cyclist, it wouldn’t stop me so I packed everything whilst staying in the tent. It got worse, it started thundering, it didn’t look nice outside, so I unpacked again and put the kettle on. The 5 degree temperature and rain seemed much more bearable with a mug of coffee in hand. Ok, so I am a fair weather cyclist and I didn’t pack away again until it stopped. I was in for a tough day heading back south along route 89, but when I got there I could hardly believe that the wind had completely turned, I now had a gentle tailwind, though I soon stop to replace me sanals with shoes and socks, it was cold. Black clouds covered the mountain tops in the direction of Bryce Canyon, my timing had been to perfection. I reached Long Valley where I had joined the 89 a couple of days ago and continued straight on south towards Zion National Park, the road was dropping, the wind behind me and I just flew for the next 18 miles to Orderville, life was SO good. I had passed through Glendale, a lovely sounding place name, but most of it seemed to be a car junkyard, so in comparison Orderville fitted its name. Another climb and attractive run on route 9 brought me to the east entrance of Zion National Park, so not being able to camp anywhere in national park except in the campsites I did a U-turn and checked the campsite I had just passed. They want $15 and as I didn’t want to give them $15 I found a lovely little spot in the bushes a little down the road. It was a quiet night as the road is for light traffic only and there is a $25 charge, so nothing really used it overnight. It was quiet until about midnight at least when I heard a group of deer crashing through the undergrowth very close to me. I leapt out of bed yelling, I had visions of them plough into the tent. I kept hearing them during the night, but I just had to shout out to hear them go running off.

It was a cold descent to the park entrance in the morning. Once through the entrance the landscape yet again took a dramatic turn, everything around me was just amazing. I had arrived with a view of leaving the park by the afternoon, but I already knew it clearly wasn’t going to happen. I could have stopped at every corner and taken photographs, the rock formations were fascinating (photo), some looked at though they must have been man made, nature surely couldn’t have produced what I was looking at. I was heading down to Zion Canyon and arrived at the long tunnel. The literature I was given at the entrance stated I couldn’t cycle through, “but Park Rangers are there to assist you between 8am and 6pm”. Assistance came in the form of “I haven’t got time, you will have to ask for a lift off a pick-up”. It was easy enough, the first person I asked, James from Kanab said “No problem, I was wondering how you were going to get through the tunnel”. The other side of the tunnel was a series of switchbacks with huge mountain walls either side, dramatic stuff indeed. At the bottom I turned up Zion Canyon where cars are not permitted, only Propane powered buses. I passed a sign saying “For your own safety buses will not pass you until you pull over and stop” and it was true to its word. I stopped at the Grotto, time to leave the bike behind and head up on foot to Angel’s Landing, a walk suggested by Lynn. There I met Steve, Helen, Dave and Nan. We talked for a while before they set off whilst I was still dinking around. The walk was spectacular, I could see the path cut into the rock way above me reached on a sealed path and another series of switchbacks, through a canyon and more switchbacks until we popped out at Scott’s Viewpoint. I sat and chatted to Steve, Helen and another couple John and ? (Oops I have forgotten her name already). I whiled away the time, I could have chatted for hours in the lovely sunshine and fantastic scenery. Here there were two routes, “Are you heading up Angel’s Landing?” they asked, “Yes, where does it go from here?” and they pointed it out to me, “You can’t walk up there surely, that’s far too dangerous” I stated, but I looked hard and sure enough there were people heading up “Oh shit!” I thought. So we went our separate ways, I was somewhat concerned knowing how slippery it is to walk in my cleated cycling shoes. There were chains to hang on to, I held on, I wasn’t going to let go, not even to let those coming down past, I still valued my life. In places the chains were used to pull yourself up where there were few foot holds. In places one wrong footing and there was a sheer drop of 1000ft, each year people make that little mistake. I found in nerve racking the entire time, but I was determined to reach the top, I had seen pictures taken from there, they were spectacular. Slowly but surely I made my way up, talking and joking with others to try and relieve the tension. “Only another 10 minutes” I was told at one point, but to me it was STILL another 10 minutes. But I made it there, then it just slipped out “Fuck me….that is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!”, I just couldn’t help it, but I was so annoyed, I was saving that for Grand Canyon. Thankfully an old lady with a zimmer frame who had passed me on the way up had one spare and gave it to me. Sadly my camera’s wide angle lens was not sufficient to capture the whole scene (photos), but I sat and enjoyed the surrounding for 30 minutes, or was it that I was just even more terrified of going down. It turned out to be far easier heading down due to the fact that I put my camera away so had an extra hand, and the use of my backside. I found it incredible that they let idiots like me go up there in completely the wrong attire, but what the heck, I survived. Back on the sealed path my legs were beginning to hurt my walking muscles were yelling at me “Oi, what the hell are you doing? Get back on your bike. You can’t expect us to just get up and take you up a blooming great mountain when we have been laying around with our feet up for the last 2 years”. I crouched down to take a photo, a voice from behind me called out “The ice-cream van is here”, some people are so cruel. I had lunch back at the bus stop, then Steve and Helen arrived and invited me to share their campsite pitch for the night. I couldn’t turn down a sociable evening and it also gave me more time to head to the end of the canyon and walk up the river to where it squeezes its way between the high cliffs, though to get the most out of the walk about 5 miles of river walking is involved. So I spent the evening with Steve, Dave and Nan, we chatted away the evening in front of a lovely camp fire. I’ll tell you what, life is SO good.

After a lie in I said farewell in the morning. We had been together for such a short time yet I felt so comfortable with them, all lovely people. I had to retrace my way back up the climb, I reached the tunnel and was greeted with “You can’t cycle through the tunnel, you will have to hitch a lift”. I again managed to get a lift from the first person I asked, a government vehicle, “I am not supposed to give anybody a lift” I was told by the friendly guy, “Don’t worry, I am nobody” I replied. Once cycling again I was amongst that fabulous scenery again. I was glad I hadn’t retraced last night as I now had much more time. I stopped around every corner, it was incredible, to each side was a different landscape and with each of those were thousands of little landscapes, different colours, textures, rock formations, vegetation growing in seemingly impossible places, I could have stayed for hours. I was sorry to leave Bryce Canyon, but I really struggled to leave Zion, probably the best scenery that I have seen on the entire trip. Once out of the park I was still in beautiful scenery, the eyes could see it but the mind couldn’t, it was still full of images of Zion and it took a long time to re calibrate the mind. I talked to so many people, some of which I would see further down the road and they would stop for another chat, people are so friendly here, though I guess it helps that we are all here for the same reason. I reached Kanab, it has a famous past known as Utah’s little Hollywood as many westerns were filmed here including some of John Wayne’s films. As I made my way into town I passed a sign saying “Welcome to Kanab, the greatest EARTH on show” and with a compass below pointing to Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Powell River and Grand Canyon, you could hardly argue with that.


Maria said...

WOW WOW WOW. We went through a couple of lots of gorges here in Croatia yesterday - stunning, but yours win!
Travel safely friend.

Christopher said...

hey john it's chris, fellow biker from the grocery store in eli, nevada. your blog looks great and i can see myself spending some hours reading about all that great cycling and the experiences you've had in the past few years. i made it to san francisco last week and sadly have already packed up the bike! i hope you enjoy the rest of your time here in the states. good luck!

aoiffe said...

It is not just a few bags full of wows and a fuck me that you have used but an entire dictionary full of adjectives must now empty and spilled out all through those awesome canyons.
Exciting reading.