Published: May 30th 2012May 30th 2012
CAPITOL REEF NP THROUGH CEDAR BREAKS NATIONAL MONUMENT, UT TO NORTH RIM OF THE GRAND CANYON, AZ
Tuesday, May 15th
Fruita Campground. Blue skies and 60 degrees at 9:15 this morning. Starting mileage is 25,847.
Our plans for today’s travels are to follow several scenic byways around and through the Dixie National Forest. Leaving Capitol Reef on highway 24, we turned due south on highway 12 just east of the town of Torrey. Almost immediately, we started a long climb up Boulder Mountain through an aspen and pine forest. Many vacation homes are along this stretch of road. We climbed to 9,600 feet and saw several campgrounds that would be a nice place to camp, but they were not open yet and had closed gates across the entrance roads.
After the going through the town of Boulder [on the far side of the mountain], we dropped onto a narrow section of road going along a ridge/mesa top with sheer straight down drop-offs on both sides—a bit nerve wracking. Sort of the same feeling you get when driving on the bridges to Key West, Florida. On top of the scary drop-off on both sides, the road had
a 15% grade in spots.
At this point, from a couple of overlooks, we could look out onto parts of the vast stretch of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The Monument spans nearly 1.9 million acres of public land from its spectacular Grand Staircase of cliffs and terraces, across the rugged Kaiparowits Plateau, to the Escalante River Canyons. This monument is so remote and inaccessible, that the 73 miles we traveled only skirted the very, very top of it. No paved roads go through it but, highway 89 traverses a bit of it on the south end, out of the town of Kanab.
At the small community of Tropic, we stopped at an interestingly decorated restaurant/gas station/grocery store and had really good hamburgers with huge servings of sweet potato fries. The hamburgers were so good, or we were so hungry, that both of us finished our hamburgers, but took back to Rosie enough fries for another meal.
Left there, and skirted through Bryce Canyon National Park, but did not go into the main park as we had seen it with Dad on our trip in 1999. Buses and more buses, filled with tourists filled this section of
the road. We watched as one disgorged Asian tourists to take pictures—many using cell phones and I-pads. Using an I-pad to take a picture really looks funny. Valerie took a picture of the group taking pictures.
At the end of highway 12, we turned north to the town of Panguitch on highway 89. We had been aware, since we entered Utah, that the octane at the gas pumps had a different scale than we are used to in Georgia; 85, 88 and 91 instead of 87, 89, and 90+. Rosie, like most cars, needs an octane of 87 or higher, so we are forced to purchase the next grade up of gas, of course, for a higher cost per gallon!!! Sometimes we filled the tank with half 85 and half 88 octanes.
After getting a full tank of gas at $3.899 per gal, we turned onto the narrow scenic highway number 143, which continues into another section of the Dixie National Forest and to Cedar Breaks National Monument. We are now seeing lots of summer homes and sites for sale to be developed for summer homes, especially along Panguich Lake. Snow and more patches of snow as we
traveled this road until, it dead-ended into highway 145 the road through Cedar Breaks. The views of Cedar Breaks was particularly interesting with snow still in many of the crevices.
All campgrounds were closed even though posted to open May 15th
, as well as the entrance/visitors center in the park. Temperatures were 57 degrees and with the wind, it felt much colder. Highway 145 dead-ends into scenic highway 14 and as we turned east we noticed a sign saying that highway 14 west-bound was closed.
At Duck Creek, still in the pine and aspen forest, we finally found a campground that was open. Pulled in, found a shady spot, paid our fee, and settled in for the night. The camp host came around about 7:00 that night and told us that the water was not good to drink yet [good thing we hadn’t used it to cook the dinner we were just finishing], and that the road was closed because of a ½ mile landslide that would not be fixed until about the 4th
of July, and that the road we had just traveled had only been open for a week.
Wednesday, May 16th
is 55 degrees this morning with blue skies at Duck Creek Campground in the Dixie National Forest. Starting mileage today was 26042.
We anticipated a long drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, where we have a reservation for tonight, but still took the time to bird watch this morning at the reservoir formed by Duck Creek. A good size flock of avocets in breeding plumage, mallard ducks, and peeps could be seen.
We joined highway 89 at Long Valley Junction and continued our drive south. Several small communities are found in the river/creek/stream valleys along this road—looked like some irrigation is done for growing alfalfa. Lots and lots of horses on small ranches are seen through here. Spotted both wild elk and deer today and on one ranch we saw where they were raising elk.
We stopped to look over the picturesque town of Kanab, back now to more of a desert setting within steep red rock cliffs. This town was the setting for more than 100 movies and several TV shows like the Lawman and episodes of Gunsmoke. Most of the movies, of course, were old time western/cowboy films, but others, like Planet
of the Apes, were also filmed here.
Valerie took a picture of a bronze statue of the founder of this town and noted that “one of his wives” and 5 children were killed in a fire that was out of control due to high winds. The town has done a very nice job of making itself attractive with rock-like street lights and well-landscaped medians. We purchased a few groceries at a local market. Prices were a bit high but did get a rotisserie chicken and some potato salad that lasted for a couple nights of dinners without having to cook.
We drove out of town and continued south on 89A and crossed into Arizona and then began to climb up again into and through the Kaibab National Forest and then into the Grand Canyon National Park; a total of 82 miles from Kanab. By the time we got to Jacob’s Lake, turning onto highway 67, we were high enough to be back into pine and aspen forests.
We drove through miles and miles of burned trees from a huge forest fire. We learned that fire doesn’t destroy the roots of aspen trees and they start to grow
anew from those roots after fires. Really surprised to find huge meadows along the road to the North Rim, many of them had small herd of deer grazing in them and all had flocks of crows and ravens doing we don’t know what, but standing around.
We finally arrived at the North Rim and the campground that had only opened the day before was now completely full. We were lucky to have found one open spot on the reservation system when we had attempted to make reservations a week earlier. We checked in with the ranger on duty, got our campground spot assignment, and found the spot. The space to park Rosie had a real dip in it, but Valerie managed to get her fairly level, in spite of it.
There are more photos below