Thursday, September 29, 2011

Monumental experience at Cedar Breaks

Cedar Breaks National Monument
I always thought a monument, was a statue, or a structure of some kind. But here in America, a National Monument is an area of land that is being protected. In many cases, it is a precursor for that same area becoming a National Park. You learn something new everyday!

We had a very pleasant overnight in Hurricane, and headed for Cedar Breaks National Monument the next morning. The Monument, which is a gigantic amphitheatre the size of a mountain, would be our first taste of what awaited us in Bryce Canyon National Park. The young Ranger intern who explained the geology of the vista in front of us, was very passionate about the place and it came through in his talk.

The road up to Cedar Breaks took us again to 10,000 ft, where the trees are stunted and the vegetation looked weathered and wizened. In addition to the geological information he passed on, the Ranger also told us the tale of the Bristlecone Pines here. They are suffering from some kind of beetle infestation, probably brought on by global warming and may not survive. We listened intently feeling quite attached to the Bristlecone Pines, after our visit to the Forest named in their honour. We also wondered why the place was called Cedar Breaks, when the trees were Bristlecone Pines (!). Probably a question we should have asked at the time …

Being up at 10,000 feet, the cooler temperatures mean the season is ready to change a bit earlier up there. The ride down from the Monument made that very apparent. We hit grove after grove of Birch trees with their white trunks and multicoloured leaves. Quite a sight.

But nothing like the sight awaiting us just a few minutes later.

There were many cyclists on the road, and we noticed, as we were quickly approaching them, that they all had their hands in the air alerting us to come to a full stop. They were laughing, so we knew there was no emergency, but we couldn’t see until we got a bit closer, what all the fuss was about.

Within moments we saw a herd of sheep clogging the highway for as far as the eye could see. And in the middle of it all, a grizzly looking cowboy right out of a John Wayne movie screaming at us (the people in cars on the highway) to get the hell out of the way. We were a bit confused as to why it was our fault that he and his thousands of sheep were on the highway, where we were supposed to be, but we all did as we were told and got the hell out of their way!

There was a lot of laughing and picture clicking, as the grumpy cowboy finally got his herd and his sheep dogs under control. With all of the excitement, the sheep decided that the highway was as good a place as any for a bathroom break, so by the time they had all mosied on by and the highway was ours once again, there were several miles of sheep poop for the cyclists and the rest of us to maneuver through.

The laughter — and the aroma of the unique experience was with us all the way to Bryce Canyon, and frankly — the air quality in our car/motel has never been quite the same!

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