Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Goldwell Open Air Museum! ~ Rhyolite, Nevada

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     The Goldwell Open Air Museum
     The Goldwell Open Air Museum and Artist Residency is located near the entrance to Rhyolite Ghost Town.  This open air art museum has many fine examples of modern desert art that are one of a kind.  The tall building block figure of a nude blonde is world famous.  The ghostly white plaster cast cloaked figures of the Biblical Last Supper with the Funeral Mountains in the background is a great example of surrealistic modern desert art.  The rusty steel sculpture of Shorty Harris and his Whiskey Hallucination Penguin is one of the main attractions.
     While at the Rhyolite Ghost Town, wandering around the Goldwell Open Air Museum grounds is a must to do.  There is no comparable outdoor art museum anywhere else in the world! 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah ~ Part 2 - Sunset View & Chessmen Ridge Overlook!

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     Cedar Breaks National Monument - Sunset View & Chessmen Ridge Overlook!
     The Cedar Break National Monument - Part 1 article featured views from the Point Supreme Scenic Overlook.  From that vantage point, the entire panoramic view of Cedar Breaks, the snow capped mountains and the green lower elevations can be seen.  A description of Cedar Breaks and the location is mentioned in the first article too.
     It might seem odd seeing snow drifts and snow capped mountains in the Cedar Breaks photos, especially when considering the present day is late in the month of July.  The reason being is that after I graduated the 4 year college BA degree program in May, I took more than 2 weeks of vacation time to do some traveling in the Southwest.  During three separate travel excursions, I covered a lot of ground and I still have over 20 destinations to write about.  I visited just about every point of interest between Lake Tahoe, the Grand Canyon and southern Utah.
     After the vacation trips were over and I got my fill of fresh air, I published a few articles about travel destinations in the lower elevations through early June, before the outdoor temperatures climbed over the 100ºF mark.  The Hualapai Skywalk and the Kingman, Arizona, articles are two examples of lower elevation places that were written about, before the extreme heat of the Mojave Desert summer set in.
     Now that the outdoor temperatures are over 110ºF in the Mojave Desert region, trying to promote travelers to visit destinations in the low desert is kind of like pulling teeth.  Most travelers prefer places that offer comfortable temperatures this time of year.
     "Utah - Life Elevated!" is the state motto.  A prime example of life elevated is Cedar Breaks National Monument, which happens to be over 10,000 feet above sea level.  The temperatures at the 2 mile high elevation are usually 30ºF cooler than the low desert this time of year, so Cedar Breaks definitely is a prime summertime Southwestern travel destination!
     The photos of Cedar Breaks were taken in late May and there was still plenty of snow in the ground.  Obviously now that it is July, the snow drifts from last season are probably all gone.  Even so, looking at pictures of snow does provide some mental relief from the hot summer temperatures.  If there was snow at Cedar Breaks in late May, it is easy to imagine how cool and comfortable the temperatures must be right now.  So, pack it up and go!    
     Cedar Breaks is a vast geologic amphitheater formation that was created by frost erosion.  The views of the bright red cedar color splintered sandstone bluffs and hoodoos are spectacular.
     There are several scenic overlook areas along the rim of Cedar Breaks that offer ample parking, picnic tables and restroom facilities.  Views from Sunset View & Chessmen Ridge are featured in today's article.  The photos were taken in the early evening hours when the rays of sunlight shine on Cedar Breaks in a way that intensifies the colors and shadows.  The storm clouds were clearing up just as the photos were shot at these two scenic overlooks and the light rain made the sandstone colors even more vivid.  Moments like this are perfect for photographing a colorful landscape like Cedar Breaks!
     There is far more to do at Cedar Breaks than just take pictures with a camera.  There are plenty of hiking trails and campsites.  Most of the hiking trails are suitable for all skill levels.  Hikers should keep in mind that the air is thin at this high elevation and it does take time to adjust.  At the first sign of feeling dizzy, it is best to sit down and take a break.  Staying hydrated also helps to keep the dizzy spells away.
     There are primitive campsites along the crest of Cedar Breaks that overlook the mountain meadows.  There is a modern campground nearby that is suitable for Recreational Vehicles and travel trailer campers.  Camping out at this high elevation above the clouds offers crystal clear views of the stars at night.  The fresh mountain air sure does rejuvenate a city dweller's body and mind.
     The vast mountain meadows that surround Cedar Breaks are a prime feeding ground for Mule Deer and Elk.  Eagles and hawks can be seen hunting for field mice and rabbits nearly any time of day.  The meadows at Cedar Breaks definitely are a prime wildlife viewing area.  Packing some high power binoculars is a must!
     All it takes is looking at a few photos of Cedar Breaks National Monument to be convinced.  Cedar Breaks is one of the most unique natural wonders on earth and the memories of the panoramic views will last a lifetime!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah ~ Part 1 ... Point Supreme Overlook!

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     Cedar Breaks National Monument - Point Supreme Overlook!
     Cedar Breaks National Monument is a spectacular southwestern travel destination that is a must to see and experience.  The rim of the Cedar Breaks is over 10,000 feet above sea level.  At this elevation, the sky is crystal clear and visibility is nearly unlimited.  The vivid colors of the cedar red rock outcrops, tall hoodoos, green forests, cobalt blue skies and snow capped mountains create a truly unforgettably beautiful panoramic view!
     Cedar Breaks is often compared to Bryce Canyon.  Both of these monuments are natural geologic amphitheater shaped canyons.  Both sites were formed by frost erosion forces and there are thousands of hoodoos.  The difference is that Cedar Breaks faces the setting sun, while most of Bryce Canyon faces east.  The light from the setting sun has a way of intensifying the orangish red color of the Cedar Breaks landscape.  As a result, many folks say that the color of Cedar Breaks is far more vivid than Bryce Canyon during sunset hours.
     As one can see in the photo slide show, Cedar Breaks is a photographer's paradise.  When I got home from Cedar Breaks, I immediately posted a few pictures of this place on Twitter and Facebook for friends to see.  Apparently a few people that work for Utah Tourism and State Park organizations noticed the pictures too and they left some nice comments.  The Utah Tourism agencies shared the photos on their own social networks.  This made me feel good because the photos really did turn out nice.
     I visited Cedar Breaks in late May and there was still plenty of snow on the ground at that high elevation.  In fact, a storm front passed through and the cold strong winds were howling up through the Cedar Breaks Canyon.  The wind was icy cold and the light misty rain occasionally turned into snow flurries.  Standing on a rim of a tall canyon and trying not to shiver and shake from the cold while aiming a camera is no easy task.
     Fortunately the storm passed by in a short time.  The long rays of light from the setting sun started lighting up Cedar Breaks and the view grew more dramatic with each passing moment.  The contrasting shapes of the cedar red color sandstone and shadows created a unique visual effect.  At that time of day, the lower sections of Cedar Breaks literally look like splintered fragments of exploding red cedar.  I just stood there and stared at the spectacular view while saying "wow!"
     I was chatting with a National Park Ranger at the fee station and I asked a few questions about Cedar Breaks.  If I recall correctly, the ranger stated that he is a Chippewa Tribe member.  He started talking about some of the local Paiute Tribal lore concerning Cedar Breaks.  Apparently the Paiute claim that those who do bad things in real life are condemned to an eternity of living as a statuesque hoodoo on the walls of the Cedar Breaks Canyon in the spirit world afterlife.
     When thinking of the tribal lore, every hoodoo starts looking like a human statue.  Before long, one realizes that there are thousands of these odd looking animated hoodoos in this sacred Native American place.  Some of the hoodoos look scary, but fortunately there enough funny looking ones to keep viewers from getting creepy feelings!          
     Cedar Breaks is only a couple hour drive from Las Vegas.  Utah State Road 14 heads east from I-15 in Cedar City to the crest of Cedar Mountain.  The access road to Cedar Breaks and the Brian Head Ski Resort area is well marked.
     One look at the Cedar Breaks National Monument photos is all it takes to get the inspiration to make the trip happen.  No other place on earth looks like Cedar Breaks, especially during the hours before sunset.  All I can say is pack a picnic basket, bring a good camera, load up the car and go!  Like the State Motto says, "Utah is life elevated!"

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Duck Creek & Navaho Lake ~ Dixie National Forest, Utah!

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     Duck Creek & Navaho Lake ~ Dixie National Forest, Utah!
     This time of year in the Desert Southwest, a cool breeze can only be found by traveling north or by going straight uphill.  The Dixie National Forest has elevations that range from about 2,500 feet above sea level to nearly 2 miles high on Cedar Mountain.  The higher one goes, the cooler the temperatures get.  Destinations on Cedar Mountain can be more than 35ºF cooler than Las Vegas on any given summer day!
     The Dixie National Forest is only about a 3 hour drive northeast from Las Vegas.  The travel time moves fast when taking the Interstate Highway 15 route to Cedar City, Utah.  Choosing the optional scenic byway route through Zion National Park, then heading north on Utah State Road 89 to the Dixie National Forest offers far more breathtaking panoramic views.  This scenic route only takes a little while longer to navigate.
     Utah State Road 14 runs from Cedar City through the Dixie National Forest to State Road 89.  Utah SR 14 runs right by Navaho Lake and Duck Creek.  Navaho Lake is at the 9,000 foot elevation and Duck Creek is at just about the same elevation on the other side of the mountain crest.
     State Road 14 is not listed as an official Utah Scenic Byway, even though this road offers some of the most beautiful scenic views in the entire state.  I guess the reasons why SR 14 does not have Scenic Byway status is because of the very steep grade and because of winter snow storm road closures.
     Utah SR 14 from Cedar City to Cedar Mountain is steep enough to keep a mountain goat busy!  All I can say is that travelers should have their car brakes inspected before driving on Utah SR 14.  The downhill run from the top of the mountain back to Cedar City is a steep grade filled with hairpin turns and there are only a few guard rails.  The drive downhill is kind of like being on a hair raising roller coaster thrill ride, so making sure that the car brakes are in good condition is advisable.
     Navaho Lake is a natural lake that was formed by ancient lava flows.  The black lava rock boulders and volcanic ash flows can be seen all around Navaho Lake.  When combined with green tree covered mountainsides, snow drifts from the previous winter, cobalt blue skies and the turquoise color lake water, the contrast of this landscape is interesting beyond belief!
     There are many scenic overlooks that offer nice views of Navaho Lake.  Side roads lead to hiking trail heads, campgrounds and fly fishing charter businesses.  Navaho Lake is stocked with Rainbow Trout and Brook Trout every year, so this high altitude destination is a fisherman's paradise.
     Duck Creek is located just beyond where a side road leads to the Cedar Breaks National Monument.  Cedar Breaks is great destination in itself.  The views of Cedar Breaks and Brian Head simply must be experienced at least once in a lifetime.  I will be publishing a separate article about Cedar Breaks in a few days.  The Cedar Breaks photos are awesome looking and this will please viewers to no end!
     Anyway, over the big hill is where Duck Creek begins.  The mountain snow melt and natural spring water feeds Duck Creek.  Duck Creek is a narrow meandering brook in the higher elevations where the black lava rock flows can be seen.  As Duck Creek goes downhill, there are many sections that turn into ponds on flat mountain meadow ground.  As one can imagine, Duck Creek is a fly fisherman's paradise too.
     Duck Creek Village is a community that was made famous by the Hollywood movie industry and many stars have fond memories of this place.  Many classic movie scenes were filmed in this panoramic area.  Duck Creek Village offers lodging, camping, restaurants and comfortable amenities.
     Duck Creek definitely is a prime place to get away from it all.  The sight of a cobalt blue skies, bright sunshine reflecting on a creek meandering through aspen woods, black lava flows and vast green mountain meadows lined with a few snow drifts, truly is a spectacular sight to see and experience!
    Spending a day in the crisp cool mountain air at Duck Creek and Navaho Lake in the Dixie National Forest certainly is a good way to work up a mountain of an appetite.  There are dining options at Duck Creek Village and the Brian Head Ski Resort, but I chose to do the steep downhill run back to Cedar City on an empty stomach, if you know what I mean!  That road winds around so much on steep grades, that nausea and vertigo can easily set in.
     Waiting to look for dining options till the mountain road flattens out in the last stretch of canyon just before getting to Cedar City does have its rewards.  In the last stretch of canyon, there are a couple of really good classic western style steakhouse restaurants.  Milt's Stage Stop is as old west as a restaurant gets.  Rusty's Ranch House also has that classic old west restaurant look.  Basically, I had to flip the coin when deciding which restaurant to try.  Rusty's Ranch House ended up winning the coin toss!
      Rusty's Ranch House is my kind of place.  Classic old west steak house restaurants are my favorite dining destinations.  The atmosphere at this restaurant was relaxed and comfortable.  There was plenty of old west memorabilia and mountain hunting lodge decor.  Rusty's Ranch House offers a classic western steakhouse menu and the food portions are generous.
     I almost ordered a big steak, but all of a sudden, barbecue sounded good.  The BBQ Chicken & Ribs at Rusty's Ranch House tasted great and this meal was good way to end the week long vacation.  Rusty's Ranch House is very easy to recommend!
     There are a couple things to keep in mind when planning a trip to Duck Creek and Navaho Lake in the Dixie National Forest.  Many of the businesses and campgrounds are only open during the summer season.  Some of the roads are closed for the entire winter.  The weather can change without warning at high elevations, so it does pays to keep a set of snow chains in the trunk of the car.  Also, driving off road in late spring is not advisable, because the snow melt causes the ground to turn into soggy mud that is a couple feet deep.
     Navaho Lake and Duck Creek are two great scenic Southwest destinations.  That cool mountain air sure does feel good in the summertime, so pack the bags and go!  Just like what the state motto says, "Utah Is Life Elevated!"