Friday, 9 September 2011

Day 6: Cortez, CO - Cedar City, UT

A fairly late start today, compounded by the inability of the TwatNav to find her way out of Cortez, instead choosing to direct me down side streets, round in small circles and through Wal-Mart's car park.  Srsly.  She finally got her act together and said goodbye to the mountains with an easy run into Utah.  The land along this stretch is either scrub or agricultural, depending on the availability of water for irrigation.  Turn left at Monticello, refuel in Blanding, and turn right on UT-89, where things suddenly turn deserty.  With rocks.  Lots of rocks.

Said rocks are mainly in the form of red sandstone cliffs, with assorted insanely-shaped standalone buttes.  There's one called Cheese Box Butte but alas this can only be photographed if you stop in the middle of the road.  Even on one as quiet as UT-89, this is not recommended.  Here instead is another rock, which I think is called Dennis:

Now, you'd think that someone with access to that Internet, that they have now, and a printout of the Halls Crossing ferry timetable, could have calculated a start time such that he would manage to catch the eleven o'clock sailing.  Guess what?  Even someone called Sebastian[1], or S├ębastien[2], could not have made it in time.  So I have to cross Lake Powell / the mighty Colorado by bridge.  My e-chum CrinklyLion likes bridges; indeed there is a twenty-page thread on yacf filled with pictures of bridges, so I am taking the opportunity to add a few more.

Lake Powell.  I'm quite sure John Wesley Powell would be turning in his grave at having this named after him.  It dates back to the completion of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963.  This made a lot of people very angry and is now widely regarded as a bad idea.  Lack of both water and silt has had a considerable effect on the river through the Grand Canyon, it's proved bad for the fishies and several groups, not all of them mad, are calling for its demolition.  Regular readers will know my feelings about this sort of thing...

A waste of a good canyon, yesterday
 Anyhoo, when I pulled into the overlook, I there espied four motorcycles.  While I was pondering how anyone could ride a motorbike while wearing a calf-length skirt,  one of them started up and rode off up a barely distinguishable sandy track.  I was so surprised that I failed to reach for the camera until bike and rider were out of sight.  I waited for the splash, but none came.  The reason for my surprise was this: the bike was not any kind of off-road machine, no, it was a Honda Goldwing, a full-on touring bike which weighs about half a ton and sports an 1800 cc six-cylinder engine.  Mad.  Then, as I was leaving, about thirty Harleys turned up, all flying at least one Brazilian flag.

Up another red sandstone canyon, emerging onto an area of scrub which was alleged to be "Open Range", which is to say unfenced cattle country.  If I had a pound for every beast spotted in the next forty miles, I'd be skint.  Left at Hanksville and alternate between the Fremont River valley, where there's enough water to support hay production, and detours into the rocks.  Grey, this time.  Then through Capitol Reef National Park and out the other side, where the rocks are of pinkish hue.

Then another left onto UT-12.  I think this is now my favourite road in the history of all things evvah.  It's got everything: fast bits, slow bits, mad climbs and equally bonkers descents, straight bits, twiddly bits, forests, Alpine pasture (with cows and deer), canyons, more rocks, a 9,600 foot summit, two dinky little tunnels in Red Canyon, hoodoos (the rock pinnacles for which Bryce Canyon National Park - which lies just off said road - is justly famous) and the stretch where the route passes along a ridge barely wider than the road itself, with scary big drops on both sides.  And a dead ground squirrel.  Sorry, Mr Squirl, but if you will throw yourself under my rear Michelin.  A hundred and twenty miles of fun.

Right onto US-89 for a brief squirt up to Panguitch, then left onto UT-143.  I liked the sign just outside the town reading "This is not 89".  Well, once I'd worked it out; if one is travelling south on 89, you have to turn left at a crossroads to stay on it - straight on leads you onto 143.  A long climb through the forests past Panguitch Lake and up to Cedar Breaks National Monument.  The high point here appears to be on 143, a hundred-odd yards before you enter the monument itself, but there's no sign to point out the 10,626 foot summit, so you'll have to make do with the one found inside the park instead.  More pictures from Cedar Breaks can be found in the "Travels 2010" set over on Flickr - link is on the top right of the page.

Sneak out the other side of the park without paying and descend the twenty miles of Cedar Canyon to Cedar City.  They're keen on their cedars round here, but I can't say I've seen anything that look like the ones that might have been hewn out of Lebanon.

This has been quite a long post, because tomorrow's will be pretty short.  Between here and Bishop, y'see, there is not very much.  At all.  Time to melt some more ice and settle down with Inspector Rebus on the Kindle.

1 - Vettel
2 - Loeb

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