Bushwacking in the Desert. Or, What Happens When Tom Let’s Me Decide Where to Hike.

Our next hike Tom and I went alone since Terry had to work. It was (still) snowing in the mountains and while reviewing options Tom stated nothing was really a standout to him and that I should decide. Well, I said, there was that route to the top of the bowl in the Red Cliffs I wanted to try….

And so we started off from the forest road on the north side of the Red Cliffs, weaving our way around the sage, yucca, and juniper towards the slabs of red rock that comprised the ridge I’d had in mind to ascend. I had been thinking this hike would be largely a scrambling exercise up the rock but I had forgotten however how much sand lay between where we’d need to park and the slabs of the ridge – and totally discounted the somewhat annoying sandy uphill slog that we had to endure. Once we reached the cliffs, where the terrain changed from sandy bottom to sandstone boulders, I realized I’d again miscalculated as this area was quite brushy and prickly requiring some actual bushwacking. More of a problem was that there was no obvious route up from our vantage point. By this time it was getting quite warm and Abby was in no mood to route-find for us, preferring instead to stand in the shade under the overhangs, despite us pointing upwards and giving her the command to go. Tom and I thus spent a lot of time moving laterally, looking for ways up to the next level, getting a bit more banged up in the process than we anticipated.

Thankfully as we ascended there were a few sections where we had large surfaces of sandstone to cross without interruption and so we were able to continue making progress right up until the point where we were 50 feet below the south side of the bowl. My plan here was to ascend to this southern ridge – which I knew would provide a fantastic view over a larger and more-defined bowl on the other side – and then follow it up to the higher western cliffs. The only problems were the poor footing and steep gullies that made upwards progress a bit of a um, challenge. I did not take any photos of this part since my hands were otherwise occupied but it was quite dramatic the way the sandstone has fractured here.

When we finally did make our way up the southern side of the bowl we took a breather and soaked in the views for a few minutes before looking for our next route. Unfortunately it became apparent that my plan to follow this ridge up to the western side of the bowl was not going to work and so after scrambling up as far as we could in order to take more photos over both sides of the ridge we dropped back down a ways on north side and began moving laterally again so that we could eventually attack the higher cliffs directly. We had a nice snack stop after losing elevation and Abbs and took a pretty decent selfie (she was eyeing some rabbits in the distance I believe) before we made our final push up. This one turned our to be more of a steep walk than a scramble for which we were all thankful.

Once on top of the final ridge I realized it was a mesa, populated by juniper and the occasional blooming cactus. It begged further exploration so after regrouping we began following the rim overlooking the southern bowl and then turning west until we reached a rather abrupt end of the elevated land. Here we had a choice to either return the way we came or forge onwards, reconnect with the road, and walk back to the truck. We chose the latter… which ended up being a steep descent on loose rock: it was all we could do to keep from sliding into Spanish Dagger or cactus. This was probably miscalculation number 4 or 5 of the day on my part.

On the return walk along the road we decided we needed to visit the new brewery in Cedar City as compensation for fluid loss, and also maybe because I made us work a little too hard. Opening last year, Policy Kings Brewery is a collaboration between husband and wife brewers looking to build a community space where the could serve their beer. I do wish they had been able to open while we still lived there because we both enjoyed their brews, particularly the Lucky Strike Saison as well as the Dunkel and the 21 & Over Coffee Stout. We ended up visiting again during our time there, bringing Terry along, and I also discovered a love for the Bronzeville Black IPA. It was a very cool little place, and a real oasis in the mostly-dry southern Utah.