Bryce Canyon South and Cedar Breaks National Monument

Sorry for the photo intensive post…but it covers several days (3 I think) of pretty active Fun Stuff©. It’s Thursday evening now and we’ll be doing chores tomorrow and moving Saturday so my next post will probably Sunday or Monday from Virgin UT outside of Zion National Park.

Sunday after Mass…we drove over to Sunset Point to watch the sunset over the canyon…and for the life of me I can’t figure out why they call it Sunset Point. The sunset is perpendicular to the canyon walls so the Amphitheater gets gradually covered in shadow and there are enough trees up on the west rim of the Amphitheater that there isn’t any of that cool orangey glow one would expect to see. We also drove by Sunrise Point afterwards and the rising sun (which actually comes up at northeast at this time of year here) is across the ridges away fro the canyon and the rising sun light is mostly parallel to the canyon so hopefully the pictures there will be better. We were originally going to go there the morning of the 4th of July…but decided to put it off to Wednesday hoping that some of the crowds would be leaving to go home and hence there will be fewer people in the park.

Monday we set off for the rest of the drive down the road to Rainbow Point at the southern end of Bryce Canyon National Park…after we had given up before reaching it last Friday. Our original plan was to attend the ranger led geology talk down at Rainbow Point…but two things came up. First up was the ranger at the visitor center who said if we had heard Larry the staff geologist’s presentation we had heard the best and the remaining ones weren’t worth it. Second was the lack of any kind of schedule so we didn’t know when it would happen. Since that was the case…we just did the drive.

OK, on to the pictures.

These are all HDR version of multiple tripod mounted exposures…it’s still not the orangey thing Neil was hoping for but it is what it is.

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Here’s an single exposure of the one above…as you can see the sunlit areas are overexposed and the shadows underexposed…luckily HDR to the rescue gave us some shots worth posting…and hopefully sunrise will be better. 

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We spotted a doe mule deer on the way home…it was almost dark so this is the best shot Neil could get…sorry about the soft focus but it was high ISO and long shutter speed which results in less than tack sharp images.

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Shots from our drive on Monday morning down to Rainbow Point.

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Out at Rainbow Point, elevation 9,200…we took our only hike of the day…we would not have hiked at the elevation except it’s the only easily reachable place in the park where you can see Bristlecone Pine trees.

These trees only grow in a narrow range of altitudes (mostly high) in a specific kind of soil called dolomitic soil…that’s a fancy term for soil made up of calcium magnesium carbonate which is what the rock at Bryce is. They’re gnarly looking trees and frequently look dead even though they’re very much alive…and live a very long time with measured individuals ranging from 4,800 to 9.000 years old. They’re called Bristlecone because the cones female trees produce have prickles on them…here’s a shot Neil cribbed from wikicommons as he didn’t see any cones.

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These are all Great Basin Bristlecone Pines…the longest lived of the 3 species and the only one found in UT…this species is what most people think of when they use the term Bristlecone Pine. The other two…the Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine and the Foxtail Pine are both cultivated commercially whereas the Great Basin does poorly when cultivated…Rocky Mountain is the most populous of the three species and the Foxtail grows only in small areas in the Klamath and southern Sierra Nevada Mountains.

None of these are dead…they just look that way. 

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When they have needles…they’re in clumps of 3 (or maybe 5, I can’t remember what Larry told us) and at the ends of the branches…the branches look like bottle brushes. Most of the time they don’t have any needles though.

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Chipmunk we spotted while hiking Bristlecone Pine Loop Trail.

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View from Rainbow point.

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Non-breeding male Goldfinch.

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This looks suspiciously like a dead or extinct volcano cinder cone…but we don’t think it is as Larry didn’t mention any volcanic activity in the park…this shot is looking eastward from Rainbow Point where the canyon starts to expand out into plateau…it’s about 6 or 8 miles away.

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For the holiday…we were smarter than your average bear (and golden retriever) and just stayed home…Neil made pan grilled duck breast and pumpkin polenta with pecan maple sauce…and we drank a bottle of Merlot…it was all mighty good. Other than that…we just stayed away from the crowds.

Wednesday after the holiday we headed off to catch the sunrise at Sunrise Point overlooking the Bryce Amphitheater…and I gotta tell ya it was a lot better than the shots available at Sunset point sunset. Sunrise was due for 0613 so we got up at 0400 and set out at 0515 with arrival about 0530…and there were already probably a hundred of our closest friends there.

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Nonetheless…we found a good spot…just to the right of that guy in the blue shirt…couldn’t actually see the sunrise very well (at least not without people in the photo) but that wasn’t gonna be a very good photo anyway…but we were setup perfectly to see the light entering the canyon. I gotta tell you though…the asshole snowflake northeasterner was back…pushed right in front of Neil after Connie went back to Big Red and physically moved his tripod because it was blocking his access to the railing. Never mind that he got there 30 minutes later than we did and showed up just at sunrise…Neil and he had some words and he stomped off mad because Neil wouldn’t get out of his way. Some people.

Connie stayed around a few minutes until the sun came over the mountains in the distance in the shot above…the canyon is to the right…but she had a headache and despite taking drugs when we first got up still felt bad. She did get a nice doe mule deer shot on the way back down though…pretty good for an iPhone shot 10 minutes after sunrise.

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Here’s the rest of the photos Neil took…most of them are HDR processed so that the image has the same glow and feel that we saw in person…as Gunther has indicated before a single frame doesn’t have as much exposure recording capability as your eye does so by taking shots at the correct exposure as well as over and underexposed the software can extract the dynamics of the light and give you something pretty close to what your eye saw. Some people dismiss HDR and other exposure blending methods as a trick…but it’s not really…just a matter of using multiple shots at lower dynamic range to approximate better an eyeball to brain image.

These first couple it was still before dawn…well actually the sun was over the far away horizon but hadn’t gotten high enough to get over the mountains across the canyon. 

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This is an iPhone photo taken just about the same time as the shot above.

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And a Nikon photo taken a minute or so later

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The clouds on the left side just above the plateau appear to be raining…but it’s evaporating before it gets to the ground…we saw a whole bunch of this today.

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After the sun peeked over the mountains it really lit up the rusty orange rock on the canyon walls and hoodoos.

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By 0640 or so…the show was pretty much over so Neil headed back for Big Red to see how Connie was doing. He grabbed this one on the way back down from the viewpoint to the parking lot.

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We got back home about 0700…and immediately took a nap until about 1000. Neil got up and changed out our water filters…the sediment one was gray instead of white so it was time to be changed. By the time he was done Connie was up and we lazed about the rest of the day…we have evening plans to go to the Rodeo.

Connie wasn’t feeling well so we rescheduled the Rodeo for later and instead spent some time planning our visit to Zion National Park starting Saturday when we leave Bryce. We’ll go back to US-89 then north around the Brian Head fire zone to I-15 and then south to Hurricane UT before heading into Virgin UT to our park about 8-10 miles from the entrance.

Thursday we went to Cedar Breaks National Monument about 30 miles to our west-southwest. We took the slightly more miles but certainly faster route in UT-14 rather than UT-143 which has some utility and tree removal issues causing delays. It’s about 25 miles to the southwest as the crow files from Bryce and about 50 miles to drive there.

Cedar Breaks is another one of those places that is mostly misnamed. The Paiutes called it u-map-wich for “the place where the rocks are sliding all the time”. Later on…more of those Mormon settlers arrived and described the steep, heavily eroded terrain as breaks…and in addition they misidentified the juniper trees here as cedar trees…and they called it Cedar Breaks. Naturally…the paleface description won out…probably because…again…the Paiute name was too long to fit on the t-shirt. The monument is about 5 miles east/west and 6 north/south and is located right in the middle of the Dixie National Forest…which is still not in Dixie…and was established in 1933. The striking feature is a 3 mile wide amphitheater very similar to what is located at Bryce Canyon…but instead of having steep canyon-like walls on both sides the wall is only on the eastern side. Looking west the amphitheater leads out to valleys and plains. We actually thought the views are better than those in Bryce Canyon and hereby declare Cedar Breaks as a hidden gem in southwest UT. Geologically…Cedar Breaks is very similar to Bryce…it’s on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau that contains Bryce and is part of the greater Colorado Plateau geologic feature. Gradually raised over the millennia and eroded by the same freeze/thaw process that formed Bryce for the most part. The only drawback is the altitude…it’s even worse than Bryce which tops out at 9,700 feet or so where Cedar Breaks is up to 10,750.

We happened to visit during their annual wildflower and art festival…all around the park the flowers are in bloom and there are a dozen+ artists around the park painting art which will be displayed starting Saturday in Cedar City to the west on I-15 and probably sold as well. We’re going through Cedar City on the way to Zion NP Saturday and will see if we can stop by and maybe pick up some original art for the rig.

We drove the length of the park road and visited all 3 overlooks plus the visitor center/overlook. We passed on any hikes due to the 10,000+ altitude. After the drive we headed home with a stop in Duck Creek Village at Martin’s Deli and Restaurant before continuing home. We filled Big Red up with diesel since we happened to pass the cheapest place in SW UT…3.69 a gallon vs 3.75 over on I-15 and 3.99 in Bryce Canyon City.

Ok, on to the pictures.

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Connie took all the flower photos.

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This is a 270 degree iPhone pano from the viewpoint behind the visitor center. Left side is south and it sweeps through north to East on the right side.

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This is a Scarlet Paintbrush…it’s the only flower of these that I can identify…and I can only do that because the Park Service Brochure told me what it is.

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An Usie…looking westward from one of the viewpoints.

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Another pano from Chessman Ridge Overlook looking west…Bristlecone Canyon is in the center.

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Ponderosa pine cones.

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Brian Head Mountain…the fire we’ve been seeing the smoke from the past 10 days is just north and east of the mountain. It’s pretty much contained everywhere but on the northern edge…and presents no problem to either Bryce or our planned route out of here on Saturday…but we’ll verify with the fire status page just before we leave anyway.

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One of the huge meadows up on the east side of the breaks…we passed a bunch of these all in the 20-50 acre size range.

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This is just the leftovers from our lunch at Martin’s in Duck Creek Village…quite good and we have enough for lunch on Saturday.

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This made Neil bring it home for breakfast tomorrow.

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Neil just took this to show you the pole. That’s a snowplow “find the edge of the road” pole just in front of the white SUV…must be 10 feet off the ground…tells me that they get some serious amounts of that white stuff here.

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This is part of the Brian Head Fire firebreak just south of UT-14. We had never seen one so he had Connie take a shot out the window to show you. They use huge bulldozers that strip the flammable stuff down to the rock and push it aside. The rocky area used to look just like the wooded area in the background.

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Gunther is still on O2 in the ICU…but he did ask me to post a couple of interesting things he found on the net this week.

Since it’s Fourth of July week…this seems appropriate.


Just sayin’


And finally…meanwhile in Ireland.



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