October 6, 2020

Yet Another Road Trip


I just got back from my latest road trip, and thought I’d share some photos while the trip is still fresh in my mind.  It is still very warm here in Cedar City.  In fact we set a record high of 85° just a few days ago.  There will be a weather shift to cooler temps on the weekend, so I thought I’d do a drive to check out the fall colors while the weather was still pleasant. 

It seemed to me that the trip was much longer than it was; however, what I am describing here took only 4 hours and 105 miles.  I traveled a big loop that covered at least 4300’ feet in elevation change, several different ecosystems, and lots of beautiful geology. 

So I started out by driving south on our local highway 15 to Toquerville, east to La Verkin and then to Virgin.  Gotta love those Mormon names!  Just past the town of Virgin, named for the famous Virgin River, which flows through Zion National Park,  I turned north on the Kolob Terrace Road.  I stayed on this road until just a few miles before reaching Cedar City. 

I had never done this route before, and was just amazed at what I was seeing.  After turning north, I didn’t have to go too far before I had entered the western edge of Zion.  The road climbed steadily and went past many fantastic rock formations.

After winding through canyons and forest, I eventually came out of the park and took a side road to Lava Point.  Today was a very hazy day, undoubtedly because of smoke from far away wildfires that was blowing into the area. This overlook is at the edge of the Colorado plateau, so the drop off here is extremely steep.  Here is a photo looking down over the edge.
Unfortunately, because of the haze in the air, the view of the mountains of Zion National Park from the overlook is pretty obscured.  I've enhanced these photos a bit so you can see them in the distance.

On my way back to the main road, I photographed a beautiful pond and also some horses grazing in a field.

As you can see, I was now in a zone where the aspens were looking really colorful. Perhaps because of having more moisture at these high elevations, the trees were looking better than in other areas. 
My next destination was Kolob Reservoir.  As I got closer, I could see that there were more summer cabins and recreational activities here.  In a normal year with more rain, I would expect to still see more green fields and more color on the trees.  Here is the reservoir.

At this point, the paved road became a well maintained dirt and gravel one.  Very dusty!  Some lovely colors at local homesteads.

After driving past the large properties that were still in the aspen woods, the road came out into an area of broad high meadows with small aspen groves interspersed.  I could see sheep, although I did not know what they were eating, as everything was so dried up.  They will be herded into the lower pastures around Cedar City for the winter.  In the left of this first photo, you can see the road that I was traveling on.

This road goes through a very isolated area.  From the reservoir and the start of the dirt road, north and down to almost Cedar City, it is closed in the winter.  Thoughts of my car breaking down out here floated through my mind, but I knew I was getting close to home, so I pushed onward.  

After entering an area of very large aspens that had already lost their leaves because of the dryness and the high elevation, I started seeing more signs of life in the form of many more summer cabins and small houses.  They all looked like they were already shut down for the winter.  Then, the road became asphalt once again, and there were other cars passing me, too.  Relief!  

For this next stretch, I do not have any photos, as I was driving down a winding road with switchbacks and drop offs, and there were very few places to park along the side.  I estimate that the elevation change was about 2000' going down here.  I did get a photo about half way down to the bottom of the beautiful geology down below and just east of Cedar City.

The fall foliage here was very colorful, as I was now on the north facing and moister side of Cedar Mountain.  There are a lot of maple trees in the mountains that turn bright red in the fall.  Here is a photo of some of them.
A lot was covered in 4 hours.  I will definitely do this trip again, probably just the lower paved end in the spring when everything is green.  If we have more rain next year, a lot of this will look totally different!

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