Correction: In the original version of this post, I wrote that there are no National Parks in North or South Dakota. That is obviously wrong, and if I wasn’t so tired when I wrote it, I would have known it was wrong – I’ve been to Rushmore on several occasions. I also incorrectly referred to Cedar Breaks as “Cedar Break.” I have now corrected the post. Mea culpa. 🙂
We woke up well rested after our night at The Abbey Inn in Cedar City. It was the nicest place we’ve stayed, and had the most comfortable bed. We even went for a late night swim. I wish we could pick the whole place up and take it with us.
So there we were, two footloose kids on a romp in southern Utah. Let’s face it: there’s a lot to do and see in this part of the state. Utah has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to state parks, especially considering that a number of states don’t have a single national park. The corridor in the middle of the country – Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma, for instance.
My miscalculation (if you saw the foreshadowing in the title of today’s blog) was twofold. One, I underestimated how long it would take to do things (an ongoing weakness of mine) and two, I relied on electronic GPS when I should have stuck to my old paper maps.
Things started off swimmingly. We left Cedar City and took a terrific drive up a twisty mountain road toward Cedar Break, which is not a National Park, but is instead a National Monument. You’ll have to query the US Parks Service if you really want to know the difference between the two. Or, wait until the complete book of A Lap Around America comes out. By then, I will have done all the requisite research and know all those pesky little details.
For the last few days, I’ve been noticing how often we’ve seen gorgeous landscapes that features the shadows of clouds on the ground. I’ve been trying to get a shot of it, but finally caught one today on the way to Cedar Breaks.
Standing there on that overlook, I watched the cloud-shadows as they moved across the landscape. It was mesmerizing.
When we got to Cedar Breaks, I realized how high up in the mountains we were – over 10,000 feet above sea level. My first clue was that we saw some tourists that appeared to be girding themselves for a long stay in Antarctica. The temps did dip down into the mid-fifties, but I managed to survive just fine in my jeans and t-shirt. I’m warm blooded.
Cedar Breaks is a huge natural amphitheater formed by water erosion over millions of years. It reminded me a bit of Crater Lake, without the lake. Being able to see all the eons of erosion visible in the cliffs more than made up for the fact that there’s no lake in Cedar Breaks. At our very first outlook, we got lucky and spotted a yellow bellied marmot. He looked at us like he was posing for a catalog.
How cute is he? Um, she? I really have no idea. I used the zoom to get that close, and the marmot wasn’t wearing any type of identifying ribbon. Here’s a shot without the zoom:
Right after we took the shot, he scrambled over the edge of the rock and disappeared.
Cedar Breaks was breathtaking. There are a number of outlooks where you can park and get different perspectives on the amphitheater. Here’s a couple of my favorites:
Here’s where my miscalculation came into play. Since we left home, I have been using paper maps to set our course each day. Today, for some unknown reason, I decided to give GPS a shot. I put our next destination into Google Maps, and off we went, my paper map tucked securely away.
Several hours later, we had hit some very cool places. For instance, the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. We even took a half mile hike that Dawn insisted was probably at least ten miles long. I’m a little sad that the amazing color of the dunes didn’t translate very well into the pictures we took. I’ve probably got some setting wrong on the camera I know nothing about. It’s too bad, because the dunes themselves were impressive.
That picture just kind of looks like sand, but in person, it looked like a very sandy creamsicle. The sand was very, very fine, which made walking on it quite a challenge. It was a bit like walking on dunes of talcum powder.
After we completed our walk, Dawn and I had the following conversation: Dawn: “The next time you get the hare-brained idea to take a two month trip that involves hiking, lets not sit on the couch and eat snacks for the previous year.” Shawn: “But, doesn’t a snack sound good right about now?” Dawn: “Throwing up sounds good right about now.”
We left the state park and continued following the GPS instructions, which led us to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Unfortunately, we got there too late to get any of the tours to see the animals, but we took our own driving tour of the facility, which is impressive beyond words. Best Friends is a huge no kill sanctuary that saves horses, pigs, dogs, cats, birds, whatever needs saving. If you spend five minutes with any of the volunteers, you’ll know that they do the work out of love for everything that walks on four legs. There is a pet cemetery on the property that is so moving, Dawn was moved to tears while we walked through it. I just had a little dust in my eye.
In addition to the thousand of graves, there are also thousands of windchimes spread throughout the cemetery, which gives it a calming, zen feel. In all, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary does incredible work.
About this time, we began to notice that we should have been reaching our destination – another state park, but it was no place in sight. Finally, we got the map out and checked where we were, which was nowhere near where we were supposed to be. In fact, we had been driving in the opposite direction of where we had a motel reservation, which we realized was about 300 miles away.
Since it was already 4:30 in the afternoon, we knew we had some serious driving to do just to get to our motel before midnight. So, at least for the moment, we had to blow off the other National Parks in southern Utah. Still, we have Arches National park about five miles away when we wake up, so life isn’t too bad.
I’ll leave you for now with this sideways shot I took of a little lizard in the Best Friends Sanctuary this afternoon.