Utah Cycling Tour—Provo to Cedar City: Part 3

Cycling into an afternoon thunderstorm a few miles south of Panguitch

Day 4: Piute State Park to Panguitch Lake

We were glad to get away from the hot, desert-like reservoir area. We climbed back up the road to the highway, turned south and in about a half hour rolled into the small town of Junction. We stopped at a convenience store and filled all our bottles and bought some snacks. The old courthouse in town made a nice backdrop for our short break there.

Historic courthouse in Junction

Leaving Junction we rode through more farmland a few miles to the town of Circleville. My wife and I had stopped here a few years ago to look for the cabin where Butch Cassidy grew up. We talked to an older man in a convenience store who know “Uncle Butch” and directed us to the cabin a few miles outside town. We stopped at a small store in Circleville to buy some snacks before heading out.

Store in Circleville
Butch Cassidy cabin outside Circleville

The cabin is on private property and has not been well maintained. Really not much to see. We spent a few minutes here taking some pictures, then headed up the beautiful Circleville Canyon following the Sevier River. The climbing was steady and gradual but not steep. At the top of the canyon it opened up into a nice wide, green valley. Horses grazed in the pastures along the highway. At Bear Valley Junction where Highway 20 comes in from I-15 from the West, the weather turned threatening. Dark clouds appeared and it looked like it would rain. We pulled over and put on our rain gear and waited to see if it would blow over. It never really started raining hard, so we decided to continue on in a light drizzle. After a few miles it stopped and the sun came back out.

We arrived in Panguitch at about lunch time and were very hungry. We had ridden 41 miles so far that day. We stopped at a diner for lunch. We all ended up ordering breakfast food, like omelets and stacks of pancakes. We had a very nice lunch and enjoyed relaxing in the diner.

Lunch in Panguitch

After lunch the kids were wondering how far it was to Panguitch Lake where we planned to stay the night. We had driven to Panguitch Lake a few years earlier and stayed at a cabin for a family vacation. I told them I thought it was only about 8 or 9 miles farther up the highway. They didn’t believe me and insisted I ask someone. So I asked a Highway Patrolman how far it was to Panguitch Lake and he told me 18 miles. Ouch. The kids were not amused when I told them. Oh well, nothing we could do but get started.

The road out of Panguitch begins with a killer hill, much steeper than anything we had encountered so far. It was long and steep, and it was mid-afternoon and very hot again. Finn’s bike did not have a triple chainring and his gearing was not that low. In order to get up hills he had to keep his cadence pretty high or he could not pedal. So he really cruised up the hills faster than all of us. I was really impressed that he could power up these steep hills with a fully loaded bike. He simple said he had no choice. It was that or walk, and he sure was not going to walk. Once I was up the steepest part of this initial climb, I pulled over to wait for Natalie in the shade of some juniper trees. A few minutes later a car pulled up and an elderly couple tell me that there is a girl down below who tipped over on her bike. I immediately jumped on my bike and headed down the steep road. I was hoping Natalie was not hurt. When I pulled up, she asked what I was doing. I told her what the couple in the car said. She rolled her eyes and said she had just laid her bike down to change out of her shoes and put on her sandals. So I got to ride that steep part of the highway twice.

The higher we climbed the more forested it became and the cooler it got. It really was beautiful climbing up into the mountains. But the highway climbed and climbed without much let up go quite a few miles. Occasionally it would flatten out a bit, and maybe we would have a little downhill, but then it would climb again.

The road up to Panguitch Lake

The higher we got, the more rejuvenated we seemed to feel. We finally pulled up over the last rise and there was the lake before us. It was a great relief. We all decided that it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be and the scenery was wonderful. We rode around the lake and up to the National Forest Service campgrounds. We had a nice spot in the woods and enjoyed a nice evening together.

Camp at Panguitch Lake

The lake was actually not that close to our campsite and we were all too tired to ride the couple miles down there to go for a swim. We ended up just taking a wet wipe bath in the campground bathrooms and relaxing. That night in our tent we ended up laughing at some silly game and laughed until we all were out of breath and our stomachs hurt.

Before we started our tour, being inexperienced at this, I thought that as the days went by we would get more and more tired. But we actually felt stronger with each passing day. By the time we arrived at Panguitch Lake we were all feeling very strong and confident. It felt wonderful to be out of the heat and up in the cool mountains. Panguitch Lake is at 8,209 ft. We had a nice cool evening where we actually snuggled up in our sleeping bags.

Day 4 Totals: 63.8 miles; Time in saddle: 6:50; Total time: ~10 hours

TO BE CONTINUED

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