Bicycle trip through the western regions of the USA

Part 4: Utah (2)




Wednesday July 26 , Denver-Cedar City (Greyhound bus)

It was easy to get to the bus station, located in down town Denver. From the Chatfield park an excellent bike path was leading all the way to down town! At the Greyhound bus station I purchased a bus ticket to Cedar City, Utah.
Departure 3.30 pm, arrival the next morning 4.40...ouch! I'd still some time to look for a bike box (bicycles needed to be boxed) and found a large one at a bicycle shop.
In the afternoon the bus headed west again, passing several places I've cycled through before (Idaho and Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction). After a stop in Grand Junction it was getting dark and I'd tried to get some sleep.

Thursday July 27, Cedar City -Panguitch (68mi/110 km)

I hardly had slept, when we arrived in a dark Cedar City. When I'd assembled the bike it was still dark. I decided to look for a supermarket or cafe and found a big Albertson's supermarket which was still open (even at this time). After getting some groceries I had a chat with a guy working at the supermarket. He turned out to be an avid mountain biker and recommended me to visit Brian Head, a ski resort near Cedar Breaks. After sunrise and having breakfast, I headed to Cedar Breaks, a park identical to Bryce Canyon. I underestimated the 40 km long climb. Rising from 1700 m until 3250 m with some steep sections between 8 and 13% without any sleep was not very easy ! The reward was great though. The red rock amphitheater of Cedar Breaks, contrasted with the green alpine meadows full of blooming wildflowers. There were even some patches of snow left.
After visiting the park I cycled to Brian Head, but didn't like the deserted ski resort very much. On my way down to Panguitch I passed some fields of lava. Bare black volcanic rocks without any vegetation. For a small price I camped at a small trailer park in Panguitch. Across the street I had an excellent meal for bicyclists, all you can eat for 7 bucks.

Friday July 28, Bryce canyon (60mi/97 km)

Leaving all my luggage on the campground, I headed for a leisurely day ride to Bryce Canyon. A large part of the National Park was closed due to reconstructions of the highway. The highway was too congested with tourists, and the solution was found by widening the road and building more parking lots.... I locked my bike to a tree and went for a fantastic hike down the canyon. The descent down the rim leaded through high red pillar rocks, which resembled walking in a cave. At the end of the hike I met three other cyclists at the visitor center. One American guy, riding from coast to coast and now heading for California and two Swiss guys, from Denver also going to San Francisco. The three guys must have been staying in Moab at about the same time I was there too! After a few hours changing experiences and chatting we all agreed this region was fantastic for bike touring. Despite all the horror stories of concerned parents, friends and relatives who'd warned us about murderers, dangerous traffic and wildlife...

Saturday July 29, Panguitch-Zion National Park (75mi/121 km)

A relatively boring ride from Panguitch down south over highway 89. Strong head wind and hot temperatures.

As soon as I entered the park I was impressed by the fantastic rock formations and colors. This park was even more beautiful than Bryce Canyon! A few miles further I got stranded by a one mile long unlit tunnel, forbidden for bicyclists. The park ranger who was controlling the traffic, advised me to hitch a ride with a pickup truck. Soon I got a ride through the tunnel and on the bike again I start the wonderful descent. That afternoon, the temperatures had risen to 45 C! I pitched my tent at one of the campgrounds and cooled down in the shade.

Zion national park had to cope with traffic congestions too. This time the solution was much better: the National Park service was developing plans to restrict car traffic along the scenic drive and the introduction of a shuttle bus system. One of the signs of the environmental awareness was already visible: a bicycle path from the campground to the beginning of the scenic highway! In the evening I cycled along the bike path through the Virgin valley and visited the hanging gardens of Emerald Pools. Around sunset the red lightened rocks reminded me of the rocky coast near Porto, Corsica.

Sunday July 30, Zion-St.George (60mi/96 km)

Early in the morning I woke up to avoid the huge crowds and the hot temperatures. I cycled to the end of the scenic drive, where I locked my bike and followed the Zion narrows hiking trail, along the narrow canyon. Soon the paved trail ended and a more difficult trail continued. Often I had to wade through the cold and refreshing stream. I didn't had to worry about wet shoes, since I used my Teva sandals, they were excellent! The current got stronger and stronger and without using a stick wading would have been almost impossible. At a certain point the stream became too deep and the currents too strong. I returned back to the parking lot and cycled to another scenic point: the hike to Hidden Canyon.

A narrow trail carved into the rocks, was leading high above the canyon floor to a panoramic viewpoint and a narrow 'hanging' canyon. Fantastic views over the valley!

Back to the campground, a huge line of cars already filled the scenic drive. I packed my gear and left the park, heading for St.George. Supposing it was only 40 miles all the way down, it became quite a strenuous ride.

With a strong head wind and temp's above 40 degrees Celsius I hardly made any progress. Every time I stopped to refill my water bottles with cold fresh water. Exhausted after the ride and all the hiking, I arrived in St. George and checked into a motel. I couldn't make it to the planned campground for that day, Snow Canyon, 10 miles further up hill.

Monday July 31, St. George-Los Angeles (bus)

The following morning I went looking for the greyhound bus station. It turned out to be located at McDonalds. Next goal was getting a bike box. Soon I got one for free at a bike shop in town. To carry the empty box with all my gear to the McDonalds was another story, not to mention disassembling the bike totally to get it into the small box.

Around 1 pm the bus departed for Las Vegas, where we stopped for one hour. Just enough time to check out the casinos. After another short break in Barstow, in the middle of the Mojave desert we approached around sunset the LA area. Too bad the notorious smog of the metropolis interfered with a beautiful sunset, even here in the desert.

It was already dark when the bus arrived at the bus station near down town Los Angeles. I assembled the bike again and headed around 9.30 pm to San Marino. This last part turned out to be the one and only unpleasant ride of all the 1,500 miles I had cycled. Riding through bad neighborhoods avoiding potholes, aggressive dogs and mad car drivers, I managed to get to my aunt's place safely.

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