June 23, 2005 GMT
Ely to Panguitch (Utah)

One of the places that I had wanted to visit was Bryce Canyon, in southern Utah. But I was beginning to have doubts. It seemed to be taking longer to cover the distances than I had expected, and after the previous day’s punishment I was wondering if we should ‘cut the corner’ and head for Salt Lake City, in northern Utah, rather than continue heading due east to Bryce. David and I talked about it, and decided to see how the day went.

About 50 miles into the journey we made the choice and decided to go for Bryce Canyon. As David said, it was one of the things that I had said all along that I wanted to see, so it would be a terrible shame to miss it out.

So we turned off Highway 6 onto a little bitty back road that headed south-east towards Bryce. If we thought Highway 6 was lonely, this really took the biscuit! At one point, when we needed to fill up with petrol, the only petrol station was unmanned—you had to pay with a credit card or you got no fuel, because there was no one to pay, no alternative!

The road took us through Great Basin National Park. A grand sounding name for an empty piece of land (about 200 km2) with no facilities or anything. Apparently, this patch is completely surrounded by hills and the streams from all the surrounding hills run down into the basin. There is no outflow, no lake, no standing water, it just all evaporates. We were quite happily barrelling along when I saw a mirage ahead (well, it was about 35°C and dry as a bone). I kept on going at about 50 miles per hour, assuming the mirage would disappear as we got closer. It didn’t. It wasn’t a mirage, it was a stream about 2 or 3 inches deep running across the road! We got absolutely soaked from head (well, neck) to toe in cold water—and it was cold, snow-melt water.

But within a few minutes we were dry again, as the heat took its toll and evaporated all the water.

We continued heading towards Bryce, but towards late afternoon, when we were about 20 miles from the park, we could see thunder clouds and lightening in the hills in the direction of the park. We and decided to call it a day and go to the park in the morning. We were in a little town called Panguitch.

We wandered around the town, trying to make up our minds where to eat. I saw what looked like a ‘Western’ restaurant, complete with live country and western music, so I decided we should eat there. Hmmm…

The live music turned out to be a live singer, singing along to recorded music tracks—a kind of ‘depressed karaoke’ as David called it. And he was right. The woman singing sang a song she had written when her sister had tried to commit suicide after some event that had cheesed her off. Melancholy isn’t in it!

Still, the steaks were large, Angus and excellently cooked, the surroundings fun and the music tolerable (actually, I think she had a nice voice, if you like country and western).

Posted by Paul Neate at June 23, 2005 05:17 PM GMT

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