Fleeter Log #139r
Cedar Canyon Highway (UT14)
Cedar Canyon Highway (UT14)
Day 24 - Friday
May 8, 2009
Hurricane to Alton and Hatch, then back to Cedar City, UT
Interactive Spotwalla map of this trip
Interactive Spotwalla map of this trip
I've zipped through Zion . . . time to go find another canyon to check out. The winds are blowing with serious intention as I make my way north on Interstate 15. I lean into one gust after another. But it's hard to guess from which direction and how hard the next gust will be. I just keep a steady throttle and a low profile. Even those with four wheels on the ground are having trouble staying true to their lane. High profile trailers seem to be confused as to which lane they belong in as they stray to the left and to the right with jerky motions. Just as I top over a rise, an especially angry gust of wind knocks at me and I see traffic ahead of me abandon all order. Brake lights all flash red and no one seems to be heeding the lane markings as the flow of traffic pulls abruptly to the left.
Just beyond the swerving red chaos of vehicle brake lights, I see a cloud of dust marking the location where somebody broke rank and swerved into the left ditch. A trailer-pulling SUV is jacked and twisted upside down when it finally comes to a stop. The dust is still marking the location as I pass by. At that second, I have both lanes to myself as the vehicles in front of me have cleared the area and kept moving on. Those behind me are slowing and pulling to the right to stop and render aid.
I pull far ahead and to the right shoulder, as I activate my emergency flashers. I get the kickstand down, grab my hi-viz vest out of my side case and start running back to the area where the cloud of dust has just blown clear. There are already a handful of folks surrounding the vehicle.
Looking down the freeway at the oncoming traffic, I see another threat as oncoming drivers are awakened to the fact that there's a traffic flow disruption in their immediate future. Some are swerving and hitting the brakes as they see a lane ahead is partially blocked. I don't stop to join those already offering help in the ditch, but keep running toward the oncoming traffic motioning them to slow down and clear the inside lane. I pull the red bandanna from my neck and use it as a visual flag to alert the drivers to slow down. I make it past the rise in the road where I hope to slow traffic before they come over the rise too fast to stop and too late to merge.
When I get my job under control, traffic is slowly merging into the outside lane and then creeping by me. Then I see a woman running from the scene with a phone to her ear and reading the signs facing the oncoming traffic. Seems that 911 dispatch is requesting a mile marker. She is out of luck since the sign she just ran to said, "Slow Traffic Keep Right." She took to running for the next sign which was almost out of sight. I called after to her to stop. Instead of running a 1/2 mile to see the business side of the next sign, I thought someone in the this slow moving stream of traffic was bound to know what mile marker we were near. Sure enough, the 3rd driver I asked gave me a mile marker and I relayed that info to the woman with 911 dispatch on the phone.
Eventually, emergency personnel start arriving. The first patrol car passes me with lights flashing as they make their way to the scene using the cleared inside lane. After about three more patrol cars and an ambulance arrive, I was approached by another hi-viz vested traffic controller. This one wore a badge. Relived of my duty, I headed back up the road to my still flashing and safe GS. After taking a couple photos, I saddle up and merge into traffic as the flow begins to return to a normal pace.
The high profile SUV and trailer failed to hold ground with high gusting winds blowing through the passage formed between Horse Ranch Mountain and Pine Valley. I park plenty forward on the outside lane's large shoulder, leaving the inside lane's small shoulder available for emergency traffic. I wanted to park far enough ahead of the scene that drivers will be past the attraction to the left and hopefully focusing on the road ahead.
Coming up out of the canyon, I find that I have gained considerable elevation and the views are fantastic. On a clear day and with good eyesight, you can even see the canyons of Zion National Park.
Continuing east and still gaining elevation, the temperatures drop and snow becomes a common sight. A nice change from the 90 degree heat yesterday in Zion NP. Here you see snow partially covering the lava beds left behind when lava flowed across here 1,000-5,000 years ago.
The lava oozed up from vents in the earth's surface rather than a central volcano.
A close-up look at a couple of the smaller lava rocks. Many of the lava rocks are as large as a house with only a small portion showing above the surface
Riding by the lava flows, I was thinking how uninviting this area must have been before the paved roads came through. Ox pulled wagon? Horseback? Hiking? Can't think of an appealing way to cross the lava flows except by smooth asphalt road.
Maybe in days of yore, the best way to cross the lava flows was in the winter across the snow. I think snowshoes or cross country skies would be the best way across the miles and miles of rough lava rock.
Arriving at the turnoff to Cedar Breaks National Park, I am disappointed to see the road closed. Too much snow still on the ground on this day in early May. Highway 148 has not yet been cleared of snow for the summer season.
Navajo Lake is still frozen and covered with snow.
Time for a potty stop, and right on cue I come upon the Duck Creek campground in the Dixie National Forest.
I see only one camp site in use at the Duck Creek campground. Nice to find the facilities open and available when I needed it.
I took a break at one of the camp site picnic tables and snacked on an energy bar.
Another 16 miles past Duck Creek, I turned south onto US89 at Long Valley Junction on the way to Alton, Utah and saw this fella. He was the only llama in a group of horses. He acted like he was the shepherd, placed there to police the horses. It was funny watching the horses being herded by a llama through a field and around a large water tank. Or maybe they were just trying to get away from the llama . . .
To the east of US 89, if you make a bit of an effort, you can find the small town of Alton, Utah.
I searched out Alton, Utah because of its unusual name. My connection to the town is in name only. Alton is a family name shared by my father and brother. For that reason, I searched out this photo op.
The U.S. Post Office of Alton is located in this old frame house on the east side of the sixteen square block town. The sixteen blocks of the town are laid out very neatly in a four by four square pattern taking up only .4 square miles total. The town was founded in 1908 and officially named when two year old Gwen Heaton drew the winning name of ALTON out of a hat. The Heatons have run the town ever since with four generations of Heatons serving as town mayors. The census recorded that 134 people lived in Alton in the year 2000.
Feeling the tug of hunger and no place to find a hot meal in Alton unless I started knocking on doors asking for handouts, I head back north on US89 to Hatch, Utah.
I find the Adobe Cafe doing a brisk business at 3pm -- either it's "that good" or the "only game in town" (or at least within 20 miles) with a menu to offer.
Heading back across the snow flanked UT14 toward Cedar City. The 40 miles of Hwy 14 is worthy of a back-route even if it means breaking the rule of "always ride new roads"!
Tonight, I lay my head at the Comfort Inn & Suites in Cedar City.
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