May 11th, 2019 / (150km/93miles, 2300hm)
Since today is going to be a rather challenging day — expecting to take on a pass at 3000m elevation (10.000ft) — I wanted to start relatively early at 6am. As usual, packing things and getting out the door takes longer than expected (well, getting out of bed, too) and when I pass the motel lobby at 6:30am finally, there’s breakfast just opening. So, here we go. Another 10 minutes lost, but then I am already flying out the drive way towards Hwy 14 which immediately starts climbing once Cedar City city limit has been passed. After a few minutes I see Marcel and his dog Chester in front of me, walking up the hill. I stop, we chat a bit and then say “see you in Bryce later today”. And I continue my ride uphill. He continues to walk up.
What’s different today left and right of the road is the deep red-orange stone. Almost instantaneously there’s high cliffs left and right as the road ascends at a challening angle. This continues to be the case for almost the first 30 kilometers while the road winds it way up to the pass. Over the full distance up to the pass on 3000m/10.000ft the elevation gain is roughly 1600m. But the climb is well worth it. It’s nice forests lefts and right. Impressive stone formations. And once you’re almost up at the summit (which actually doesn’t provide any significant view anywhere), there’s a breathtaking view into a vast open plain to the south! This is the moment where for the first time you really get an idea what it means to be on 3000m above sea level. This view alone is worth the ride up here.
As I found out yesterday, Hwy 148 is still closed. That’s the scenic route that would have taken me past the Cedar Breaks, a massive cliff of stone. Unfotunately, the road and its pass are still closed due to winter conditions. This pass would have been at 3200m and I am sure the view to Cedar Breaks would have been spectacular. But it’s not meant to be, so I take the detour by continuing on Hwy 14 to Duck Creek Village. The road there and the views are just awesome. It’s snowy all over (road is free, no worries), the sky is blue and the trees against this backdrop are looking spectacular. Traffic is very few cars only, btw. And the road conditions are excellent, even though there’s no shoulder to ride on. But with the few cars that’s not really a problem.
Google Maps suggests switching over to FH 050 shortly after Duck Creek Village due to the fact that the Hwy 143 route was blocked. So I take that turn, following a nicely paved road for a few miles downhill. Then the proposal is to turn right and take a Forest Srv Road (!) to Hatch. This road is a mud road. There’s hundreds of potholes, filled with water. The whole road is a mess. Perhaps you can ride this with an MTB in summer when it’s dry, but you don’t want to do this in springtime when it’s wet and you’re on a road bike with a heavy trailer. So I turn around. An SUV driver coming up that Forest Driver Rd tells me that it’s a bad idea to take that road (yep, I thought so too) and recommends I continue on FH 050 up to the intersection of 148 (the closed road) and 143 which leads to Panguitch. He strongly discourages going back to where I came from and rather than turn onto FH050 continue on Hwy 14 to Hwy 89. There had been so many bike accidents on that Hwy 89. “Don’t do that!”. So he got me. I turn towards 143. Which turns out to be a massive detour and requiring me to significantly climb up that mountain side again that I just came down earlier after the pass. Google suggests it’s another 5 hours 40 minutes and 80kms extra to get to Bryce. Sigh. But I’ll do it.
When I arrive at the Hwy 148 / 143 intersection, I can’t believe my eyes: Hwy 143, the road over the pass along Cedar Breaks, has been opened in the meantime. I think I use the “F”-word a few times. Loud. Distinct. Agitated. But too late. So I turn right onto Hwy 143 which rolls up and down over and over again until it passes Panguitch Lake and finally drops towards Panguitch. I pass that town and switch over to Hwy 89 which turns out to have a perfectly wide shoulder (at least 3 meters wide) and I wonder how bikers have been hit on that road??? I should have gone back to 14 and from there directly to 89. I am sure it would not have been any worse than any road I’ve been riding before. So never listen to a guy in a car who looks like the last time he sat on a bike was at age 7. Learning for today.
The last 40km from Panguitch to Bryce Canyon are passing fast. I just want to arrive. Towards Bryce the route switches to a plain bike path which is nice as there’s a lot of tourist traffic on the road. Only disadvantage: there’s deep cuts in the pavement of the bike trail every 5 to 7 meters which always hit the bike and trailer — and my butt — badly. I’m relieved when I finally see my motel in the distance. Done!
Today was an unforeseen 150km and 2300m elevation gain. I was riding for 8 hours probably. Plus time for taking photos or breaks to rest. I’m so tired. Tomorrow I will spend a day in Bryce Canyon NP hiking.
Oh, I forgot: I almost hit a deer! I was shooting down some hill and coming around a bend of the road when suddenly there was a deer standing on the road. I had been looking to the side, and the deer happened to have done the same, so there was a short moment of surprise for both of us. Nothing happened (it wasn’t THAT close), but hey, has this ever been heard of — a bike hitting a deer?