Thursday, January 13, 2000

Have you ever heard of Tropic, Utah?

Tonight I am in a small town called Tropic.  Some time ago, it is said that people from a town thirty miles from here remarked that it is usually warmer here, hence the name Tropic!  I read about it on a display down the road.  As for the name, it is cold tonight!  Tropic is located on Route 12 seven miles east of the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park.  There are four small local motels and restaurants, but only the pizza shop is open this time of year.  Guess what I had for dinner?  The pizza was good, but it was no match to my favorite, Applewood Pizza in Los Altos and Menlo Park, Ca.  

It was another great day, and I started off this morning by seeing another spectacular sunrise!  It was perfectly clear and cool so there were no obstructions to the view.  After stopping at the grocery store for supplies, I departed Ely, Nevada.

My fist goal today was to stop at Great Basin National Park, which is located south of Route 50 near the eastern boarder of Nevada.  I was hoping to be able to take a tour of the Lehman Caves in the park.  I pulled over a few times enroute, as there were several roadside signs describing the history of the areas, especially the mining.  There is no question why they call Nevada the Silver State!

I arrived at Great Basin National Park at 8:45 this morning and learned that a tour of Lehman Caves was to begin at 9:00.  Great timing!  And this tour was the full one and a half hour journey through all available areas.  What made it more enjoyable was that only one other person took the tour.  It was incredible.  I had not been on a cave tour for many years.  These were beautiful and Ranger Woody was able to describe in detail many facets of the caves and their history.  Since there were only two of us on the tour, we stopped at all the points of interest and he even took us further into the caves than is normally done.  Not having to walk with thirty people made a wonderful difference.  He was also able to answer my many questions (I know, I ask too many questions!)  

Descriptions during the tour included the details of how the caves were used by local Indian tribes as a burial place for several of their people and that the natural entrance is considered a sacred site.  Also, the only animals found in the caves were bats, a sloth, and packrats.  Packrats will use the same nest every generation, and archeologists have determined that some of the nests are 40,000 years old!  I was amazed!  The Ranger explained that by taking samples of these nests, they can look back through two ice ages and establish what plant life was around many years ago.  We went through a room called the "Dance Hall" used in the past as a speakeasy during prohibition, a meeting area for different clubs and organizations, and was also used as a set in the B movie about a mission to Mars!  One room we were not permitted into was as large as two football fields side by side.  It was closed since the room was still in the process of being formed, meaning rocks were falling down!  It may be quite a few years before it is added to the tour.

Much work was done in the caves in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, such as adding an entrance and exit so visitors would not have to use ropes and ladders to get in and out of the caves.  Also, on the original tours, people would have to crawl through parts of the caves.  The CCC made pathways and openings, trying not to disturb too much of the natural structure.

Before leaving the park, I spoke with some of the personnel about the Bristlecone trees in this park, as I had visited a Bristlecone forest in the Inyo National Forest in California (see pictures of my October 99 trip.)  Unfortunately, due to snow, I would not be able to hike to these.  This provides one of many good reason to come back for a visit!  While talking with the staff, I was also able to ask about parks in Utah and decided to change my route a bit. Instead of driving a northern route through Utah, I decided to go the southern route.  This is how I ended up by Bryce!  It will also allow me to go to several other parks in the area.

 Continuing my journey, I crossed into Utah on a very empty road.  It was my road for a long time!  Eventually, I started to get hungry, so as I approached the town of Milford, Utah, I spotted a place called R & R Diner.  I had a tasty lunch, and one of the best chocolate milkshakes ever!  

My route led me to the Dixie National Forest and a beautiful road over the mountains.  I had some incredible views!  This was followed by a drive through Red Canyon area of Dixie.  So many colors in the stones throughout the area and two natural rock arches over the road.  I am glad I decided to take this route.  This is a beautiful region.

Tonight, when I was checking into the hotel the Bryce Valley Inn, the owner and I were talking about the beautiful sunset.  Because of the rocks and the clouds, it almost looked like the sun had set in the east!  The reflection from that direction was incredible, but deceiving.  It was only when I walked outside to look the other direction that I realized this!  I am hoping to be in Bryce for the sunrise.  I am looking forward to it!

Routes traveled today: 50 - 487 - 488 - 487 - 21 - 130 - 14 - 89 - 12

Thank you for visiting, and please stop back again.  Send a note if you wish with comments or questions.  Until then...Sincerely, Igor

Hotel: Bryce Valley Inn, Tropic

Gas: $1.58

Click on picture to get enlarged view:

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The Great Basin National, Park Visitor center, and entrance to Lehman caves

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Seven cave interior pictures.

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Very interesting and fascinating views throughout the caves.

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Interesting disk formations.

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Underground pond

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This area (the front rim is ten feet tall) was recently cleaned of lint.  Amazing difference from the other areas.

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This area was a dance hall and was once used as a set in a movie.

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Many interesting side tunnels!

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My third state, UTAH!

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Lunch at the diner!

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The Dixie National Forest, East of Cedar City, Utah.

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A view from an overlook, looking southwest.

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Heading towards Bryce Canyon.

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But first, through the Red Canyon region.

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Sunset near Tropic, Utah

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