Monday, October 16, 2017

Leaf Peeping in Southern Utah

Denisa loves fall foliage almost as much as spring wildflowers. So we took a road trip to see some of Southern Utah's best leaf peeper sights along Highway 14. When we saw the sign for Aspen-Mirror Lake, we wheeled the car into the parking lot and took the short hike to the lake.

It was a chilly morning, and we were glad to have jackets on as we enjoyed the golden aspens along the lake.

The wind was blowing enough to ripple the water and blur the image of the golden trees reflected in the lake. The reflection picture in Aspen-Mirror Lake is still pretty, but not as crisp as if we were here on a still day.

We've had several windy days, and they have taken their toll on the trees along this high altitude highway. The leaves were at their peak a week ago, but have been blown off many of the trees now. Since we were in the neighborhood, we stopped in at Cedar Breaks National Monument. This is a small version of Bryce Canyon National Park, and is another of God's wonders.

The viewpoint we are standing at is near 10,000 feet in elevation, and it was 40 degrees and windy today. So we took a couple quick pictures and headed back to our warm car. We visited here on a warm autumn day two years ago, hiking all the trails.

All the aspen trees were bare until we got to lower elevations and made the turn on Mammoth Creek Road. Magically, the aspens here were glowing with their golden leaves still intact.

This stretch of road run besides miles of lava. The road curves around the lava flows, that are heaped into piles 20-30 feet high. Mark climbed into one of the flows, and we could see the golden aspen trees peeking over the tops.

In fact, the aspens seem to thrive among the lava. Those giant black rocks make dramatic backgrounds for these yellow trees in the fall.

With all this lava above ground, there must be lava tubes below ground. We followed the signs to Mammoth Cave to find the tunnels. Driving along dirt forest service roads, we also found more aspen.

A short hike from the Mammoth Cave parking lot brought us to the lava tube opening where Mark is standing. It is curious to see a large tunnel underground with full-grown pine trees directly over it.

Mark was disappointed to see a permanent fence over the most interesting tunnel. We found out that bats hibernate here, and so it is closed during the winter so explorers don't wake them up.

He was able to climb up into another tunnel with the help of a well-placed log.

But that tunnel was a little short and cramped.

We found another tunnel that was taller and obviously more traveled. But we didn't want to bother any bats that might be bedding down on a chilly day like today.

So we left the dark lava tube cave, and headed back into the daylight.

We followed a hiking trail, that looped us beside more aspen forests. We think it is interesting that most of the trees seem to turn a consistent golden color.

But occasionally we found a grove that is turning orange instead.

We drove over 150 miles, and we were a little disappointed in our leaf peeping tour. After seeing miles of bare aspen trees, we realized we should have taken this drive at the beginning of our week-long stay here in the southern edge of Utah. But after looking through the pictures we took today, we see that we were still blessed to see many of those golden leaves against a royal blue sky--another of His wonders.

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