June 5:  Rusty sculpture at Cedar Breaks and elsewhere

It was already over 80dF when I left Cedar City, Utah, (elev. 5800 feet) this morning around 10 am, with a projected high in the 90s.  Good thing I was headed up to the 10,000 foot (only 4000 feet lower than the top of Mt. Rainier) level today.  It was an incredibly pleasant 70dF at the top.

The distance from Cedar City to Cedar Breaks National Monument is only 24 miles, but it’s a whole other world up there.  This was another of those places I’d always wanted to go back to, because I was too young to remember the only other time I’ve been here.  When I told my mother this morning on my regular Sunday phone call before I left town, she reminded me that Cedar Breaks was where, at age five, I threw an absolute tantrum because she wouldn’t let go of me the whole time we were there for fear that I’d fall over the edge <g>.  Her memories of the place, understandably, weren’t so great.

Which is a shame.  Cedar Breaks (misnamed for the junipers that are all over the place there, and the “breaks” where the land falls away jaggedly for over 2000 feet) is absolutely dropdead gorgeous.  Something else I hadn’t realized was that you can see the breaks from below on the road to them, before it dodges around the back and winds its way to the rim.

Looking up at Cedar Breaks from the access road. Zoomed and cropped -- it looks a lot closer than it was.
Looking up at Cedar Breaks from the access road. Zoomed and cropped — it looks a lot closer than it was.
Looking back in the other direction towards the southwest.
Looking back in the other direction towards the southwest.

The color is caused by iron oxidizing in the soil, aka rust.  Most of southern Utah is rusty like this.  The pictures aren’t even as red as in person.  It’s incredibly vivid.

The view of Cedar Breaks from Point Sublime. Somebody back in the 19th century went a bit overboard with the name, but it *is* beautiful.
The view of Cedar Breaks from Point Sublime. Somebody back in the 19th century went a bit overboard with the name, but it *is* beautiful.

The six-mile-long road goes right along the rim of what they call an amphitheater, with half a dozen viewpoints.  I took a lot of pictures, and here are the best of them.

Another view from above.
Another view from above.
This was taken at the farthest north viewpoint.
This was taken at the farthest north viewpoint.

I also stopped in the visitor center, where I set my camera down while I was buying a magnet and forgot to pick it up again.  I didn’t realize I didn’t have the camera until I drove to the next viewpoint, went to take it with me, and realized I’d left it behind.  Fortunately, the people at the visitor center held onto it and put it in a safe place until I came back for it.  It’s not an expensive camera, but it would have been impossible to replace out here in the boonies <wry g>.

This is Brian Head, at the northern end of the Breaks. It's a ski area in the winter, but at 11,000+ feet, you'd better be in *good* shape to ski there.
This is Brian Head, at the northern end of the Breaks. It’s a ski area in the winter, but at 11,000+ feet, you’d better be in *good* shape to ski there.
One last view of the Breaks.
One last view of the Breaks.

The road back down from 10,000 feet to the oddly-named town of Panguitch (according to Google, an Indian word for big fish, which must be in the nearby lake) at 6000 feet wasn’t nearly as winding and steep, which was nice.  I passed tons of aspens, from still bare through just beginning to leaf out to the full lime-green beauty, the farther down I went.  I can just imagine how gorgeous that drive must be in the autumn, with all that blazing gold.  Speaking of which, Cedar Breaks is renowned for its wildflowers – in July.  Nothing blooming this early, alas.  And there was still snow on the ground (the road had just opened for the season a week or so ago).

On the way down from 10,000 feet. I bet those aspens are something in the fall.
On the way down from 10,000 feet. I bet those aspens are something in the fall.

From Panguitch I went east through more red rocks.  There’s a new visitor center in the canyon, built since the last time I was in this part of the world in February, 1997.  There’s also two tunnels, dug out by, you guessed it, the WPA, in the 1930s, which opened Bryce Canyon, my ultimate destination for the day, to automobile traffic.

Through the red rock canyon on the way to Bryce Canyon.
Through the red rock canyon on the way to Bryce Canyon.

I got to Bryce late enough in the day that I decided the most important thing was to snag a campsite (which I did), and to kick back for a while, which I also did.  Here at 6800 feet it was still in the 80s when I got here, but the sun has gone down now and the temperature, happily, is dropping rapidly.  I anticipate good sleeping weather tonight.

Tomorrow I am going to get up early and go see Bryce before the tourists overrun everything.