From the Mojave to Utah-Get ready for colour!
Had to get out of the heat. Our path led up the I-15, out of California. We would pass Nevada, then briefly through the NW corner of Arizona and end up in Utah. It was a longer hop than we were used to as usually the old kitties dictated just how much they could take. They seemed somewhat quieter and happier in the Ram than in the Tundra, maybe less noise level with the diesel, or stress as the trailer would often wag the Tundra and it could get hairy over consecutive bumps…elevated driver stress as well!
We planned on an early escape from Calico while the temperatures were still only hot, not scorching;). It is long expanse of road with faraway mountains and lots and lots of scrub land between. The morning light brought the blue hues out in the distant hills. Just before the Nevada border the Ivanpah Thermal Solar plant fills the horizon to the North West…feels a wee bit science fictionish with it’s huge collectors and miles of panels. The World’s tallest thermometer in Baker, California was showing the heat:)
You nearly miss the Welcome to Nevada sign with all the Casino signs left and right..it is slightly surreal but Las Vegas quickly comes and goes and the casinos, towers and odd theme parks fade away, and you are back into the country again.
Going into Arizona you pass through a tiny portion of the North West corner on the I-15 that is home to the Virgin River Gorge, a beautiful section of the highway. We had some serious highway slowdowns due to construction going on but were soon on our way again. The gorge is a long canyon that has been carved out by the Virgin River. The Gorge connects the southwestern rim of the Colorado Plateau and the northeastern part of the Mojave Desert. The highway runs through the canyon and crosses the Virgin River several times. The Virgin River Gorge section of Interstate 15 is one of the most expensive parts of interstate highway ever constructed and I can see why!
The scenery is staggering through this canyon and when you come out on the high plateau above the river you are greeted with Joshua trees and green, green meadows as you approach Cedar City. The desert seems so far behind and all in a few hours time.
Cedar City is a lovely jumping off spot to Kolob Canyon, as well as Cedar Breaks National Monument and the Dixie National Forest. Kolob Canyons just South of Cedar City is the North Eastern most part of Zion National Park. There is no camping there but a scenic 5 mile road made of the red rock of the area winds you through a kaleidoscope of colour…welcome to Utah! The entrance price is steep, $30.00 the most we have seen for a National Park. We have an America the Beautiful Park Pass that gives us free entry into all National Parks and monuments for a devilishy low price of $80 for a year, it has saved us twice that much in the last year on entry fees! Great deal!
The roads ascends over 1100 feet to the Kolob Canyon Mountain overlook. The red coloured road must come from the red sandstone rock that is everywhere you look. You pass by Hurricane Fault on the way up, a 120 mile fracture in the earth’s crust. Dotted along the road you will see several Interpretive exhibits at various pullouts along the drive. At the end of the road there is a picnic area and a short half mile hike takes you out to a drop off and views to the South over the high plateaus and the mountains to the east. It was as if Spring had just arrived. I was not expecting the green with the red. There were dozens of wildflowers blooming and butterflies. At this elevation it felt as if Spring had just started! All along the road the Palmer’s Penstemons were blooming. I have yet to identify many. I am using a wonderful page called Utah Wildflowers to learn the names of the new flowers, the Sego lilies are stunning and to brush up on some better known wildflowers as well.
The hike takes you past a picnic area onto a long point, the mountains to the east and a drop-off in front of you. I can imagine in early Spring there are waterfalls along the cliffs. You can see the stains in the rock where the water has run and above them they call them hanging gardens, areas of vegetation that thrive on the run off. The pinyon pines on the hike are short and squat but across the canyon huge evergreens cling to small amounts of soil in the rock faces. The wind was howling at the top, a hang onto your hat wind! So lovely. Such colour! I think we have jut begun to be overwhelmed! The next blog takes us up to Cedar Break National monument and the alpine meadows of the Dixie National Forest. Hope you are enjoying the view as much as we have! Saludos mis amigos!