"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Birthday Loop Around Cedar City, Utah

Our last stop in Utah was Cedar City, so we could try to see Cedar Breaks National Monument. The road into the park, Rt. 148, is usually closed until late May, but we thought we'd stop by the Visitor's Center in town to see if by some chance it was open. Success! The road had just opened.

For my birthday this year I planned a day that would make me happy - exploring the local area with Rick. I guess that's nothing too special - we do a lot of that. But I got to pick the whole day's itinerary.

Our first stop was for cinnamon rolls and a latte in town, then Cedar Breaks, then swing by Brian Head, through the little town of Parowan, on to Parowan Gap to see the petroglyphs and topped off with dinner at the Depot Grill in Cedar City. (We even had time for a little nap in the afternoon.) The loop started east on Rt. 14, cut north on 148, back west on 143 and then back roads out to the Gap and home.

Cedar Breaks was, as others have described it, a mini-Bryce. There was still some snow around, but it was verging on mud season. I'm glad the roads were all paved or it would have been a big mess. The few other people stopping at the observation areas with us seemed to be German tourists. I've got no explanation for that.

The view from Point Supreme. Brian Head in the distance.

Just north of Cedar Breaks is Brian Head, the southern most ski mountain in Utah. The whole place was closed up tight - no snow and no summer activities yet. Just mud season.

The back side of Brian Head

It looked like they were replacing one of the lifts, or putting in a new one. All the components of the lift were laid out in orderly lines in the parking lot.

After a quick necessary stop in the little town of Parowan we found our way to what was, for me, the high point of the day: Parowan Gap.  The gap itself is a natural geological formation that has been used as a roadway for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Although originally created by water running through a fissure in the Red Hills, the stream eventually dried up and now it is simply a "wind gap."

It is estimated that as long ago as 750 AD, Native Americans were using the gap as not only a passage, but a special place to record…uh...whatever it was they were recording there. No one knows for sure, but there are theories about the significance of the petroglyphs.  The prominent figure below is called "The Zipper" for obvious reasons, but the going hypothesis is that it is a recording of the location of the sun over time in relation to the sides of the gap.  Kind of like Stonehenge. If you're interested check out the link to Parawon Gap.

Even to a petroglyph amateur like me it's clear that these are atypical. The others I've seen are primarily pictures of animals and humanoids, with some wiggly lines and suns thrown in. The experts say these are all about counting, or keeping track with repetitive markings predominant throughout the site. 

On one side of the road the petroglyphs are protected by a fence, but on the other side visitors are free to scramble around and look for more. And there are plenty to find. This is by far the largest collection of petroglyphs I've ever seen. More even than Newspaper Rock near Canyonlands National Park. And they are really accessible. Just outside of Parowan, maybe 30 minutes from I-15. There's plenty of information on the internet to help you find and appreciate them.

Next a report on some more contemporary local color.

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