Annual parks tour is a must ride


I'll go out on a limb here and doubt that anyone would argue that Utah has some of the most varied and breathtaking scenery on the planet.

And what better way to see and experience some of that beauty than from the saddle of a bicycle or from a hiking path.

Those wacky recreationalists at Bonneville Bicycle Touring Club brought back the Southern Parks Tour after a year's rest(?) to put on the Centennial Bicycle Tour for last year's state centennial celebration.

(A quick editor's note: I always refer to the BBTC as those wacky recreationalists.' This does NOT refer to any mental instability on their part, although they might admit that all the little details of some of their big events pushes them towards a rubber room. They're just a great bunch of fun seekers who like the bicycle.)

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

The Southern Parks Tour.

As part of our Season Pre-view issue, I hope this recount of the tour will whet your appetite for a fantastic experience.

The Southern Parks Tour is not a ride all day, set up camp, eat dinner, crash, get up, eat breakfast, break camp and ride all day kind of tour. Not that those tours aren't any fun.

But when you're riding through the spectacular scenery of southern Utah, you have to stop once in a while and walk around to see it up close. And that is the theme of this tour.

The Southern Parks Tour takes in two national parks and one state park and we stayed a day in each one to see the sights. The national parks are Zion and Bryce and the state park is Cedar Breaks. We're talking serious eye candy for the tourist in you.

Tour participants rendez-voused in Cedar City and spent the first day riding to Zion. There's plenty of opportunity to take side trips on this tour and the first day provided an opportunity to ride up Kolob Canyon.

For an extended bicycle tour such as this, you have to be prepared for the unexpected. There are sag wagons along the way but it's best to carry some emergency gear. Our first day provided an opportunity to use some rain gear. In other words you need more than a spare tube and tire irons in your jersey pocket.

Some of the things I carried in the handlebar bag mounted on my racing bike were: pocket camera, tubes, patch kit, tire irons, allen wrenches, Power-Bars, rain jacket and pants, long-finger gloves, cycling cap, handkerchief, sunscreen, lip balm and my wallet with a charge card. Anyway the bike wasn't light.

Our first night's stay was just outside of Zion National Park in the town of Springdale. This is a great little town with plenty of good restaurants, coffee shops, t-shirt and curio shops. And it had plenty of rain too.

Instead of seeking shelter from the rain, many participants donned their rain gear and hiked in the park anyway. And what a good move that turned out to be. As I hiked a trail I stopped to look across the canyon and could see three waterfalls several hundred feet tall formed by the runoff from the rain.

When we finally broke camp to leave Zion, everyone enjoyed the quiet ride up the canyon. The early morning departure was perfect timing before the RVs and cars started to stir. A quick shuttle through the tunnel from our mechanical support crew from Bingham Cyclery and we were near the top of the climb.

The second day of riding took us about half way to Bryce Canyon National Park. A tour buffet and some fireside Irish fiddling made for a perfect day.

If you've never hiked in Bryce Canyon, this is a must tour for you. There are extensive hiking trails throughout the park and all are visually breathtaking. Again Jon and Joel Bingham provided the hiking shuttle in their brand-new panel truck. Nice rig, guys.

The next riding day took us in the direction of Cedar Breaks. Camp was over 8,000 feet and tested our sleeping bags.

The final day of the tour brought us to Cedar Breaks and more opportunities to hike.

That's the tour in a nutshell. Obviously it's much better to experience it yourself. So why don't you jot down the dates on your ride calendar this year and do it. It's inexpensive and the return on your investment is immeasurable.