Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wings and Mossy Cave

Who’da thunk it?

One of the pleasures of travel is finding the unexpected. Who knew that we’d find the best hummus in a small Middle Eastern deli in Lafayette, LA? Or that we’d find the best blueberry pie in Black Canyon, AZ? Or that we’d find the best pizza ever in a non-descript strip mall in Flagstaff, AZ? Well, we have another to add to the list.

It was a dreary day. The weather was not conducive to taking photos but not so bad to force us to stay home. So we decided to go out for lunch. Since we had already investigated most of the nearby restaurants with very mixed results (most of which were not worthy of my taking pen to paper), we chose to go back up the road to Tropic and have lunch at Clarke’s. We had two good breakfasts there, so we felt comfortable that this small restaurant would serve an adequate lunch.

Clarke’s is still working off the short “winter” menu, so our choices were limited to a half dozen burgers, a wrap (I am not a fan of wraps), a beef fajita, and club sandwich, and a half dozen appetizers. I can always eat a good mushroom swiss burger and was surprised to have the choice of plain, seasoned, or sweet potato fries. I am becoming very fond of sweet potato fries so these were my choice to accompany the burger. Chuck wanted a change and decided on the cheese quesadilla but was looking for something more. So I offered (at great personal sacrifice) to eat a few hot wings if he ordered them.

The burger and fries were very good but not exceptional. The quesadilla (and I am not a big quesadilla fan) was much better than average. But those wings!!! Who’da thunk that in Tropic, Utah (population 508 as of the 2000 census) we may have found some of the best wings ever. After his first two bites, Chuck exclaimed “They taste a little sweet!”

My first reaction was that they weren’t all that spicy. But the heat was one of those heats that builds slowly and soon my lips began to burn. And, yes they were a little sweet which made them extra good.

We asked our waitress if the cook would share his/her secret. The secret? The sauce is a mixture of Frank’s hot sauce and honey! And the kitchen knew not to drench the wings in sauce, so the fried wings underneath retained their crunch.

The lunch in total was one of the better we had had around Bryce Canyon. The wings? They were definitely 5.0 Addie wings.

But back to the great outdoors.

One of the last hikes we took was the half-mile trail to Mossy Cave. The Cave is found on the northern side of Bryce Canyon, just west of Tropic, UT.

The trail begins at a parking area right on Route 12. It runs along a shallowish ravine (Water Canyon), connecting with a bridge over the stream. Shortly after the river, the trail branches left and right.

Taking the left fork, we followed a short but steep climb through a patch of pine woodland to the cave, actually just a wide, mossy overhang in the Claron limestone, kept moist by water dripping from the ceiling. This freezes in winter, and the large ice pillars beneath do not fully melt until midsummer, partly as the cave faces northeast and hence receives no direct sunlight.

The right branch of the trail leads a little further upstream to the waterfall, where the stream tumbles 15 feet over a ledge into a circular pool. Above is a swirling channel and several quite deep potholes, formed by the water eroding into the soft, orange-colored limestone.

The waterfall is a wonderful place to stop and view the hoodoos of this section of Bryce Canyon. They are not as numerous or as majestic as those of the amphitheater of the Canyon, but their smaller number allows more intense study.

The windows above the fall tell part of the story for the smaller number of hoodoos. This section of Bryce is called Water Canyon, even though the water flow is not natural. (Purists argue that the waterfall is not a waterfall because it, too, is not natural.)

In the early 1890's the Mormon pioneers labored feverishly with primitive tools for 15 miles over three years to construct the irrigation ditch (the Tropic Ditch) from the East Fork of the Sevier River to Water Canyon.

This provided nearby communities with needed water, but it changed the geology of the canyon by washing away hoodoos. The result is a nice wide path to walk with the only remaining hoodoos high up on the canyon walls.

It is possible to follow the path along the stream above the falls for a longer hike, but we did not continue the walk.

The mere presence of the stream of water flowing through the canyon makes this a unique hike among Bryce Canyon's vast desert hoodoo landscape.

As we move from Bryce to our next national park, the images of the colorful Canyon will long reside in our minds. We do not expect any other destination to match the brilliance of the reds of the hoodoos.

And, to highlight the reds even more, layers of whites and pinks stand in contrast.

Even in its vastness, there was a certain delicate quality to the hoodoos of Bryce, such as these along a section called The Pink Cliffs, that make the beauty even more profound.

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