Tuesday March 22 marked the beginning of our return from Arizona to colder northern climates. Learning from our difficulties finding lodging during the spring break time period, Jane reserved a room at the Big Yellow Inn in Cedar City, UT for Tuesday night. The bed and breakfast was mentioned in Jane’s western national parks guide book.
Two experiences stand out in my memory from our eight hour trip from Phoenix to Cedar City on Tuesday. A cold front moved into Arizona and Utah, and the change in weather spawned high velocity gusting winds. We were listening to a spring training broadcast on the radio, and the announcers mentioned the drop in temperature and strong winds as far south as Phoenix. By the time the front crossed our paths, we advanced north on highway 89 between Flagstaff and the crossing of the Colorado River near Lee’s Ferry. Jane drove, and as I looked ahead in the distance, I stared in amazement at brown clouds sweeping across the dry landscape.
The blowing sand and dirt was similar to drifting snow except that it was brown and much more dense than snow. The force of the wind pushed against the side of the Santa Fe, and when we eventually passed through the brown cloud, we could hear the tiny particles glancing off the automobile. It sounded like we were being sand blasted, and sand and dirt swirled across the highway just like snow. Perhaps the most significant positive was that the sand was gritty and not slick like the ice and snow comparison.
Fortunately these conditions only persisted for a half hour, and eventually we were north of the dust storm area. We turned left onto highway 89A and traveled west and then north toward the border with Utah. During this leg of our trip we passed the entrance to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at Jacob Lake and then continued until we reached route 389 in a small town called Fredonia. As we motored along 389 we saw a sign for Pipe Spring National Monument, and we were in need of a rest area, so we stopped. We were on track for a timely arrival in Cedar City, so we decided to investigate the small national monument.
Jane and I have been checking off national parks and monuments at a rapid clip, and we discovered that many of the more obscure places are quite interesting. Pipe Spring proved to fall into the latter category. We watched a short film at the visitor center, and then we strolled around the small ranch and refuge featured on the park grounds. Pipe Spring was a valuable source of water in the vast high desert between the Grand Canyon and the Vermillion Cliffs of northern Arizona. As one might expect this attracted inhabitants, and the first known settlers were the Pueblan peoples who lived in pit house villages between 1000 and 1250. For some reason this culture moved on, and the next native Americans to call the location home were the Kaibab Paiutes. The Paiutes were mainly hunters, but they also cultivated maize and beans using the nearby water source.
The Paiutes were present when Mormon ranchers began settling the area in the 1860’s, and these settlers built the Winsor Castle at Pipe Spring ranch, and this structure covered the spring. Of course the native Americans objected to this confiscation of their key water source, and as one would expect, conflict ensued. Eventually in 1933 an agreement was reached whereby the water was shared among the tribe, the local cattlemen, and the National Park System.
Jane and I casually strolled down the path behind the visitor center to the ranch area where we observed examples of the Paiute huts, the livestock area next to Winsor Castle, the building itself, and the two ponds where the spring water bubbled to the surface in this arid area of northern Arizona. Pipe Spring was a surprise discovery on our path to Cedar City, and we greatly enjoyed our one hour visit.
After our brief sightseeing detour we returned to our travel itinerary and crossed into Utah and reached the Big Yellow Inn in Cedar City, UT near dinner time. Jane called Scott, the owner, and he greeted us and showed us our room and provided some dinner options. Once we lugged our suitcases to our room, we found a Thai restaurant near Interstate 15, and unlike the Saing Thai in Tucson, this establishment was open and ready to serve us. We savored an excellent Thai dinner and returned to our room where we crashed in the old fashioned king size bed. We rested in anticipation of a new adventure on Wednesday.