Build it and They Will come

 

“Morning, Ed.  Hey, what are you doing this weekend?”  I inquired over the phone.

“Nothing, what’s up?”  Ed responded.

“You want to head to Cedar City to mountain bike?”

“Cedar City?  Mountain biking?  I didn’t know Cedar City had any riding. Mike, we live in Park City.  There’s a ton of biking here.”

“I know, but something new is always fun.”  I stated in a somewhat convincing voice.

Yes, the city famous for its Shakespeare Festival must have more to offer. We agreed that there was one way to find out: head south.  I asked friends Barb, Ed, and Sam to join me on this outing—an adventure into the unknown.  And, as we drove south on Interstate 15, I questioned my impulse.   I set the cruise on 80 and “fell asleep.”    The drive was monotonous, but within four hours I had exited the freeway to connect with Lani, who works for the Cedar City/Brian Head Tourism.  In her job, she promotes and showcases what the Cedar City and Brian Head area offers the visitor.   I was ready for the “promotion,” and my friends were ready to try anything adventuresome.

“How was the drive?”  Lani asked.

“Uneventful and not too long.”  I said.

Lani wondered.   “Although it’s late in the afternoon and somewhat warm, are you guys up for a hike?”

“Sure!”  We all responded.

Within no time, we found ourselves splashing through the refreshing, cool waters of Kanarraville Creek.  Kanarraville is a small town tucked against the red rock cliffs and located some eight miles south of Cedar City.  Its claim to fame is the slot canyon of Kanarraville Creek that lies just east of town.  The red rock walls, cottonwood trees, and cascading waterfalls make this canyon a walking/hiking wonderland.  I strained to look skyward as the shadows formed on the red and pink sandstone walls. Mother Nature’s work was evident all around me.

Sam and Barb approached the first waterfall and the ladder to ascend to the side of it.  The water originates high in the mountains and is used for irrigation in the fields below. Lani explained that:  “The one misconception people have is that this water is used for drinking water. It is not.  The city uses it strictly for irrigation.”  We carefully watched our foot placements on the rungs of the ladder and topped out.  Families and kids splashed their feet in the water ahead of us, so we patiently waited a few minutes to have the canyon to ourselves.  This is definitely cool, refreshing hike on a warm day.

“You guys want to slide into the pool of water?  Lani asked.

Each of us took turns and followed the natural watercourse as it cascaded over the slickrock.  The constantly flowing water created a slick, green algae surface over which we slid. Instant cooling!  Simultaneously, the cool water energized and refreshed us.  The evening light signified it was time to return to the vehicles.  The others hiked ahead.  As the light bounced off the canyon walls, I stood in amazement.  Yes, there are many slots canyons in Utah; but this one is just minutes from the hustle and bustle of 80mph traffic on I-15. The peacefulness, quietness, splendor, and adventure of canyon country reveals it’s finest.

We returned to our vehicles and found we were the last ones left in the area.  We quickly determined that we had all worked up an appetite.  Lani suggested Centro Pizzeria.   Fresh pizza and beer?   We all blurted out: “Sounds perfect!”

After a stellar dinner at Centro Pizzeria, it was time to call it a day. Mountain biking was on the docket for tomorrow, so a good night’s sleep was in order.  We retired to the hotel—eagerly anticipating tomorrow’s mountain biking adventure.

“I am NOT doing C Trail!”  Barb stated as she shook AJ’s hand.  AJ, with Dixie Mountain Bike Trails Association, and his friend KT were our guides for the day.  AJ’s job is to design and create trails for the Cedar City area, and we were about to ride some of “his work.”

“We won’t be doing C Trail (an expert-only 2,000 foot descent from the large C high on the mountainside down to town), but I would like to show you some new trails in the area.  Sound good?” AJ inquired.  We all finished our heavily laden protein and carbohydrate breakfast at the hotel’s breakfast nook and followed AJ and KT outside.

“This is our Iron Hills Trail system.  We’ll ascend Lichen It Trail and descend Lava Flow Trail, it’s a nice four mile loop.”  We clipped into our pedals, and off we went.  On the ascent, AJ informed me about the desire to make Cedar City a mountain biking destination.  “We are building trails at a feverish rate.  The efforts and work were evident as we gained elevation and views of Cedar City below.  The trail was a comfortable grade, well-marked, and smooth.  Within 30 minutes, we topped out and prepared for the down.

As we sipped water from our bottles, AJ informed us: “The descent of Lava Flow has rollers, banked turns, and features (jumps).  Enjoy the ride!” Immediately, the fun began.  I banked a turn to the left, to the right, and then pedaled a flowy traverse.  The trail design allowed for just the right amount of speed.  The flow continued as Sam launched off a feature and instinctively banked to the right.  With my dropper seat post and center of gravity lowered, the trail provided a thrill. The trail had just enough technical aspects to keep me mindful and countless bank turns and roller to make it an absolute blast!  We all returned to the trailhead with smiles plastered on our faces.

At our vehicles, we refueled with lunch.  AJ informed me about the Baseline Trail:   “When completed, it will add another four miles of riding in the area—intended for beginners.” AJ’s designs, plans, and builds bike trails; his passion is evident in any discussion about present and future Cedar City trails.  “Hey, let’s head out to the Three Peaks area for some desert riding.”  AJ suggested.  With our bikes stowed, we traveled west from town.

The western scenery of Cedar City wasn’t captivating, and I had my doubts.  We slowly gained elevation and pulled into the Three Peaks parking lot.  AJ informed us that this area just held the state high school mountain biking championship.   We filled our water bottles and stuffed a few energy gels into our pockets. The trail surface was smooth and flowy, and I clicked into a lower gear to follow AJ.  Within a few minutes, the trail weaved its way in and around granite boulders. Ed yelled, “Look at Cedar City!” The red rock mountainside east of Cedar City glowed in the afternoon light.  Yep, the riding was terrific.  Our bikes eased to stop at the Voodoo Tree, and AJ made a ceremoniously ritualistic offering. This tree, along the trail, adorned with many unusual objects was a sort of mountain bike shrine and nice break spot.

“Ready for the down?”  KT asked. Nodding and smiling in agreement, we pedaled off.  The Twilight Zone Trail was an absolute blast!  Each of us took turns whooping and hollering as we descended.  I pedaled across one man-made bridge, then another, then another…. The trail offered, “outs” if the rider wanted to avoid the more technical lines. However, on this day, all of us took the “ins.”  The bridges spanned the sandy washes; and so, our momentum wasn’t slowed.  Fast and flowy….

As we sipped a post-ride beer, conversation revolved around mountain biking and its future in the Cedar City area.  AJ and the BLM have formulated future plans to design and build trails.  We all expressed excitement to return and gratitude to AJ and KT for “showing us the goods.”   Cedar City, you are in good hands!

Get High, Get Cool

“Yep, Brian Head is still green” Mark said as I shook his hand.  Mark, Public Relations Coordinator for Brian Head Resort was proud to say that the resort remains green and open for business. Brian Head is an alpine environment located east of Cedar City, and an absolute cool reprieve during the summer.  As I scanned the landscape, I noticed no signs of fire damage from last year’s major Brian Head Fire.  “The fire fighters performed an outstanding job of preventing the fire from advancing up and over the resort’s northern boundary.”  They must have!  All that I noticed was quaking aspens, weather-beaten evergreens, and wild flowers.

We all wanted an alpine experience, so we traveled up Highway 14 to this alpine wonderland.  Brian Head, sitting at 10,000 feet, provides a cool, summer escape, which makes for ideal mountain biking conditions. Standing in the parking lot, it was a pleasant 64 degrees.

“Let me show you some of the new things we have done for the 2018 summer season” Ken, Summer Operations Director, said.  “We wanted to provide a mountain biking experience for all ages and abilities, so we constructed a new flow trail for beginners/intermediates.  Brian Head has been known for its advanced terrain, but that can be somewhat limiting for riders with developing abilities.  Our goal was to change that.”   Ken spoke as he pointed to the bottom half of the trail:  “We want Brian Head to be a mountain bike playground for all ages and abilities.”

Soon enough, we stood in Brian Head’s bike shop, located at the base of the mountain, to view all the shiny new bikes for the season.  Mark was gracious enough to shuttle us to the top in a van as the chairlifts were getting the new bike carriers attached.  Before we knew it, we stood atop Brian Head at the start of the new flow trail.  The push on the pedals propelled us downward.  The trail included everything—banked turns, fun rollers, jumps, and flowy single track.  I stopped numerous times to soak in the views.  Cedar Breaks National Monument, with its pink, red rock, lay to the south while the Tushar Mountains tower to the north.  Sometimes, especially on bikes, one has to stop to take some mental pictures of the landscape.  I’m glad I did.

What I realized is that Brian Head is its own little world.  It sits high atop the Colorado Plateau.  “I have the best job in the world.  I get to promote this place—Brian Head.”  Mark emphatically stated.  People think of Zion, Bryce, and St. George; but they rarely consider Brian Head. As I switched my shock into full-open mode and prepared to continue the descent, I was glad this little world was mine, even if only for an afternoon….

Build it, and they will come.  Yep!  It’s your turn to enjoy the dips, twists, and thrills of riding the Cedar City area.   Let the place surprise you.  Let the people showcase their warm and genuine hospitality.   Cedar City and Brian Head are places worth exploring and ripe for adventure.  See you there!

 Riding

The Cedar City trails are comprised of three main riding areas—Iron Hills, Three Peaks, and Thunderbird Canyons.  Check out www.visitcedarcity.comfor details. Their site has an overview of trails and is an outstanding tool to plan your Cedar City escape.

Dixie National Forest has many trails as well.  Ride the Navajo Lake Loop Trail for a relaxing, beautiful ride around a stunning mountain lake.

Brian Head is open for the summer season.  Check out

www.brianhead.comfor riding information, music festivals, etc.

Lodging/Camping

To spend a night in Cedar City, numerous hotels offer rooms. However, I recommend the Spring Hill Suites by Marriott.  Excellent location, healthy breakfast, and easy access to ride to the Iron Hills Trailhead, all make for an excellent stay!

I recommend pitching a tent in the Three Peaks Area just west of Cedar City.  Plenty of dispersed sites exist within the rocks and juniper trees.  If warm, travel high and camp in Dixie National Forest off of Highway 14.  Campgrounds and dispersed camping abound.

Restaurants

Centro Woodfired Pizzeria-Awesome! A reasonably priced eatery with scrumptious menu items. The restaurant is located in “old” Cedar City just off of Main Street.

Lupitas-Everything was yummy! Chimichangas, fajitas, tacos, and the margaritas were outstanding!    A very unassuming place with excellent food and service.

Grind Coffee House-Grab a coffee and breakfast sandwich before hitting the trails.  Enjoyable ambiance in the place.

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