Thursday, September 26, 2013

RonnieAdventure #0067 - Cedar Breaks National Monument & Rattlesnake Creek Trail, Iron County, Utah

Cedar Breaks National Monument at 10,350 feet elevation is a great place to spend the weekend during the summer or in the early fall. The only problem is that it is about a three hour drive from Las Vegas.

Cedar Breaks Nation Monument was established in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to protect the great natural rock amphitheater at Cedar Breaks. The amphitheater is shaped like a huge coliseum that is over 2,000 feet deep and over three miles in diameter and was formed by many of the same natural forces that created the many spectacular and colorful canyons of southern Utah; e.g., Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon.

For millions of years wind and rain eroded the uplifted soil deposits and created the intricate formations that you see today. The vivid red, yellow, and purple colors in the formations are a  combination of iron and manganese found in the soil deposits, which are very similar to the formations found at Bryce Canyon National Park. 

There are a variety of flowers and trees in the area, with different species of flowers blooming from early spring until late fall. Although the area is called "Cedar Breaks," this is actually a misidentification of the trees found in the area. There are no "Cedar" trees, the single-seed Juniper trees just resemble Cedar trees.

My favorite hike in the area is Rattlesnake Creek Trail, which starts on the north boundary of the Monument and runs downhill for ten miles. (What is there not to like about a trail that is all downhill for ten miles!) The trail is divided into two very distinct and different segments. The fist five miles of the trail is forested with spectacular views of Cedar Breaks and the last five miles runs through a deep, narrow canyon similar to the Zion Narrows. There is even a natural bridge high on one of the canyon walls that most people do not even see because it is only visible from one spot in the canyon.

The advantage to this trail over the Zion Narrows is that the trail is primarily on Forest Service land; thus, no permits are required and there are very few people that actually use the trail. In some places it is hard to even find the upper part of the trail that runs though the forest, so you just have to keep walking down the hill until you reach the canyon.

I would highly recommend the hike, just do not go when there is a high potential for rain because there are few places to exit the canyon. Water shoes are a must for this hike, as the canyon is so narrow that you are constantly walking in and out of the water for the last five miles. (If you look closely, you can see people in five of the pictures. The size of the landscape just dwarfs the size of the people.)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

RonnieAdventure #0066 - Old Irontown, Iron County, Utah

Old Irontown and the accompanying iron works are now just ghosts of a time past, but the site is still worth a visit. At its peak there was a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, general store, butcher shop, post office, boarding house, charcoal furnaces, and a foundry. Today, the walls of an early rock house, a charcoal kiln, and foundry foundation are about all that remain on the site.

When Utah Territory was being settled, shipping iron products from eastern United States was very expensive; so a local sources of iron ore was needed. Mining was attempted at several locations in southern Utah, but the mines were not profitable.

Then, in 1868 the newly formed Union Iron Works started mining at Pinto Creek and produced an average of 5-to-7 tons of pig iron per day. Charcoal was the preferred fuel, so two charcoal kilns were built that converted wood to charcoal by smoldering the wood in a controlled environment. One of the beehive shaped charcoal kilns was destroyed, but the other kiln is still standing on the site.

In the foundry the iron ore was mixed with limestone that served as a catalyst ( flux) to remove the impurities. The heavier iron sank to the bottom and the impurities bound to the limestone and rose to the top as "slag." There are still "slag" piles located along the walking trails around the site.

The limestone was mined locally and pulverized using a Spanish style arrastra. An arrastra contains hard rocks in the bottom of a circular pit that are attached to a horizontal arm so that the rocks can be pulled around the perimeter of the pit by a mule to "grind" the limestone. There is still an arrastra on the site that reportedly contains the original stones used in the grinding process.

In the molding house the pig iron was further refined in a smaller puddle furnace and then the iron was hammered and worked into usable items, or cast into other needed objects.  The chimney from the puddle furnace is still standing.

After a few years Old Irontown could not compete with the larger mining companies, and it was not profitable selling small items to the early settlers, so the facilities were abandoned in 1876.

In 1923 Union Pacific agreed to constructed a spur line to from the Cedar City Area to Provo, Utah, where Columbia Steel Corporation had a blast furnace. For years more than 500 tons per day of iron ore that had been quarried from large open pit mines just to the north of Old Irontown were shipped to northern Utah for processing. Then, in 1960 foreign competition, and domestic tax issues, resulted in a substantial reduction of iron ore quarried from the large open pit mines in the area. And, by the mid-1980s, all mining operations in the area stopped. Although there is currently no mining activity in the area, this area still holds one of the nation's richest iron ore deposits.

As an added bonus, on the road to Old Irontown, we saw numerous wild turkeys along the road. They didn't look quite like the nice, plump turkeys that we have at Thanksgiving; but it was still exciting to see wild turkeys.

Although not part of the Old Irontown history, Rubber Rabbitbrush (Chrystothamnus nauseosa) is abundant in the area. The early settlers used the plant for chewing gum, tea, cough syrup, and a yellow dye. During World War II the US Government did extensive research on the plant to see if it could be used as a substitute for commercial rubber. As far as I know, no financially feasible commercial uses for the plant have ever been discovered. 

Ruins of an Old Rock House

 Charcoal Kiln (front view)
 Charcoal Kiln (real view)
Arrastra used to Grind Limestone
Foundry Foundation

Puddle Furnace Chimney
Open Pit Mine

Wild Turkey (Yummizes inthe tummies) 

Wild Turkeys

Rubber Rabbitbrush (Chrystothamnus nauseosa)
Mojave Aster (Xylorbiza tortifolia)



Friday, September 13, 2013

Ronnieadventure #0065 - Frontier Homestead State Park Musuem, Cedar City, Iron County, Utah

The Frontier Homestead State Park Museum in Cedar City does not look too impressive from the street, but it is much nicer and larger once you are inside of the main building and the display yard.

The outdoor exhibits contain an extensive display of horse-drawn farm implements that include mowers, reapers, scrapers, plows, and other early equipment. There are also two historic houses on display - the Hunter House (the oldest remaining Cedar City house) and the George Wood Cabin (the fifth oldest structure still standing in Utah). At the George Wood Cabin you can even experience washing clothes by hand with a wash board and then hanging the clothes out to dry on a clothes line. All of the school kids thought it was great! Wow! What a new concept!

The Gronway Parry Collection of rare and extensive set of wagons, buggies, sleighs, and stagecoaches can be found in the main museum building. One stagecoach still has bullet scars from a less peaceful time. There are also a number of automobiles and industrial vehicles such as a milk wagon, water sprinkling wagon, low-wheeled dray, and various dump belly and freight wagons.

The Museum also offers a variety of educational programs. Children's story time is held each month and children get to make a craft to take home. Also, one a month museum staff and volunteers engage visitors in pioneer skills and games.

Each November the museum celebrates the founding of Cedar City with the Iron Mission Days Festival. The week long celebration includes special programs, crafts, and walks of Cedar City's historic district. If you are passing through Cedar City in November, stop by and enjoy the festival.

Although the Old Stone Church is just down the street, but not located on the museum grounds - it is one of the historic structures found in Cedar City. Tours of the building are offered at various times during the week and on weekends.

Outdoor Displays
George Wood Cabin

Early Disc Brakes

Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa)

 Shovel From an Open Pit Mine
The Old Stone Church

Friday, September 6, 2013

RonnieAdventure #0064 - Utah Shakespeare Festival, Cedar City, Iron County, Utah

The Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, Utah, is nationally known for its summer theatre productions and is currently celebrating its fifty-second season. As a special bonus, this season they were able to obtain the first off-Broadway rights to produce "Peter and the Starcatcher" before it was released to any other regional theaters or traveling companies. Since it was cheaper to travel to Cedar City than New York City, this seemed like a great RonnieAdventure!

The Festival is held on the Southern Utah University campus, where they have two indoor theaters and an outdoor Shakespearean theater. There is also a new theater in the design stage that will open in 2016 to coincide with a world-wide Shakespeare celebration.

Photography is not allowed in the theaters, and I didn't have my camera with me in the evening, so I went by the campus in the morning to take pictures or the facilities. Unfortunately, there were no people dressed in period costumes roaming the area and the Greenshows (free live productions on the lawns) were not being performed.

Anyway, "Peter and the Starcatcher" is an awesome production and I would highly recommend it when it comes to a regional theater in your area. The story is somewhat hard to follow if you haven't read the book or know the story, so we were fortunate that before the performance we had the opportunity to attend a lecture about the production by Fred Adams, the Founder and Executive Producer Emeritus of the Festival.