A Visit From Tom’s Son Nick, Part 1: Cedar Breaks, Brian Head Peak, Mammoth Creek, Duck Creek, and the Bristlecone Pine Trail

We were so excited when Tom’s son Nick said he’d be coming to visit on his way across the country. While he was here we went sightseeing, hiking (of course), took a lot of photos, sampled beer (shout out to the Nacho Bait, a habanero blonde from Country Boy Brewing that Nick had picked up in Lexington), shared dinners, watched the presidential debate, and just hung out. Oh, and he also showed me how to take panoramas on my phone (ahem).

We began with a hike in Cedar Breaks National Monument, a geological amphitheater filled with orange, white, yellow, and purple hoodoos. The limestone is part of the Claron Formation which is the same as Bryce Canyon but unlike Bryce the rim of Cedar Breaks lies above 10,000 feet providing a unique environment for subalpine forest and bristlecone pines. The exposed rock is also more heavily eroded and has different shapes and textures.

The three of us walked the Ramparts Trail along the rim to Spectra Point, a viewpoint on the south side of the bowl that juts into the canyon from which you can get a clear view of Brian Head Peak and the deepest sections of the bowl to Ashdown Creek. Tom and Nick had planned to finish the trail out to the Ramparts Overlook while I returned to walk Abby but some seriously deep mud turned them back before reaching the overlook; snow from a few days prior had been slow to melt in the shaded sections of the rim at this elevation and the trail was inundated. I almost lost a shoe on the return and both Tom and Nick returned to meet me far muddier than I would have expected.

Leaving Cedar Breaks we drove a few miles north up to the viewpoint on Brian Head Peak from which we had spectacular views of the yellow-dappled mountains and the eponymous ski resort at the base of the peak. As usual it was incredibly windy at the peak so we decided to continue our explorations to the east along Mammoth Creek – one of my favorite places in the mountains to see fall colors. Even though it was still September the aspen leaves here were already in decline – but the oranges and bronzing yellows were still quite spectacular. As a special treat we got to share our exploration with a flock of sheep grazing the meadows. Abby was particularly delighted about the sheep but not at all happy that we got out her leash preventing her from doing the herding that she very obviously needed to do.

After wandering around the creek we continued our driving tour of the mountains, stopping to take a few photos, but we didn’t all get out to really walk again until we reached the section of Duck Creek where it runs along highway 14. The aspen leaves here were primarily yellow, and while they were just slightly past their peak they were beautifully alight under the mid-afternoon sun. Just a few miles down the road was our next photo stop at Duck Creek Pond; here Nick took a fantastic photo of Tom and I with Abby in front of the glowing golden aspens.

Our final excursion was the short Bristlecone Loop Trail. Our original plan had been to take Nick to the Twisted Forest to see bristlecones but the road was too muddy and we wouldn’t have made it up the switchbacks without 4 wheel drive so we stopped here to show him a few more examples of the ancient trees. Unlike the scraggly, wind-beaten pines along the rim of Cedar Breaks these are healthier, fuller trees, more protected from the elements along the east side of a drainage.

It should be noted that there are multiple photos below which were taken by Nick – they would be the ones that I’m in, except the photo of both Nick and I at Spectra Point which was taken by Tom.