July 10, 2022
As Mike was meticulously planning next year’s excursion to Portugal, I researched our (my) plans to escape the heat. Having visited Zion and Bryce National Parks previously, I decided to bypass them in favor of the Dixie National Forest on our way to Idaho Falls. I delegated hiking plans to Mike who, annoyingly, repeatedly reported few trails near Panguitch. Whatever. It’s a forest, there must be trails.
A few days prior embarking, Mike set up the card table in the study so that we could begin to collect items for this two-month runaway. We packed accounting for different stages beginning with four nights in two different hotels before settling into a VRBO for 18 days. We loaded small bags for the hotel stays to avoid the need to unpack and repack the entire car daily. I am so efficient!
Although often out of cell range, our drive through Arizona on Day 1 allowed me plenty of time to look more closely at our plans via Google. Hmmm. There seemed to be no Visitor’s Center in the Dixie National Forest. I could find a Duck Creek Visitor’s Center between Bryce and Zion but it had limited hours. After lunch in Kanab and with plenty of time to spare before reaching Panguitch, we detoured towards Duck Creek.
Duck Creek is actually an unincorporated village catering to vacationers, rather like a large Mormon Lake AZ. Lots of camping, a few cabins and seasonal houses, bar, restaurant, gift shops all contained in one parking lot. It looked like a happening place. And lots of 4-wheelers. In fact, 4-wheeling seemed to be the primary recreation. No creek was in sight but a couple of fishing lakes were nearby. The Visitor’s Center served as the rental office. Well, the forest is huge, there must be more to Dixie Forest than Duck Creek.
On through scenic southern Utah to Panguitch to check into the Purple Sage Motel. The room was spacious, clean, and comfortable with dated but well-maintained furniture. The owner compensated for the age of the room by providing several power strips to charge the many electronics essential to roughing it. Oops. No refrigerator. The owner offered a cooler if needed, and she was generous with the ice. We declined the cooler.
Google indicated that the Smokehouse restaurant nearby often had live entertainment, so into town we headed. By foot since it was only one block away. We were distracted for a few minutes when we came upon the much-touted Quilt Walk Park which was on my to-do list. Check.
The Smokehouse was packed and, not surprisingly, smelled smoky. Seeing and hearing no signs of live entertainment, I asked the young host about live music. “Live music?” he asked.
Ignoring his look of perplexity, I responded, “Yes, do you have live music here?”
He actually looked as if he didn’t know what live music was.
Suddenly a glass of wine sounded very good. But we were in Utah. Mike came to the rescue by locating, via Google, a state liquor store across the street. I purchased a bottle each of red and white. Gotta be prepared. Especially in Utah. Then we headed to Kenny Ray’s, advertised as one of the best restaurants in town. Lo and behold, there was wine on the menu!! I ordered the red and turned down the salad bar when I learned that iceberg lettuce comprised the greens.
Our friendly waitress hesitated when I ordered a glass of wine. Maybe she was Mormon? Or perhaps she was confused by the bottles lying next to me in the booth. She delivered our water immediately followed soon by Mike’s iced tea. Several minutes later, wondering what happened to my wine, Mike peeked over the wall next to our booth and reported members of the staff standing at the serving bar. After several more minutes passed, Mike became peculiarly nervous for me and walked over to request the wine.
A server responded, “Yes, he just came in. We will bring it over right away.”
Evidently someone of age had to be called in to serve the wine.
My wine came as our sandwiches were served. The sommelier was apologetic and friendly. No complaints about the quality. In fact, I kept half of my chicken wrap for lunch to come.
As we strolled back to the motel, we studied plaques reciting the history of the buildings on main street. My father’s house is more interesting, proving that history is personal.
At the motel, bistro tables and chairs were placed on the walkway in front of each room. Now on the western edge of the time zone, we were enjoying long evenings. I remained outside to enjoy the cool air for a few minutes; after all, escaping the heat was the reason for this trip.
I set up the 4-cup Mr. Coffee for my morning java before climbing into bed. Hats off to the owner of the Purple Sage. She provided great internet as well as access to Amazon Prime so we could watch our Midsomer Murders before falling asleep in the luxury of a king-sized bed dressed with bed linens and pillows more comfortable than what I have at home.
Awaking to the prospect of a fresh cup of coffee, I was disappointed to see what appeared to be dirty water filling the pot. The single pod brewed only one cup, not four. I Googled a McDonald’s for a senior coffee. The closest one was 30+ miles away.
Knowing that the hotels would not provide breakfast, I had packed yogurt and fruit in the cooler for myself, ignorant that a refrigerator would not be available. Unfortunately my breakfast supplies were in the cooler’s bottom. Not wanting to disturb the frozen casseroles, I opted for peanut butter on a heel of bread. Mike doesn’t eat breakfast.
Meanwhile, what would we do with a full day in Panguitch and no idea where the Dixie Forest was? Dressing for a day of exploring, I realized that, in packing for different destinations, I had left some personals in the VRBO box. Efficient, huh?
While leaving town, we found a charming coffee kiosk, Wanderlust Cowgirl Coffee, just down the road. Actually, in Panguitch, everything is just down the road. Mike doesn’t drink coffee.
We drove towards trails that Mike had found and soon realized that not only were the trailheads en route to Bryce but that the entire area is Dixie Forest. What the h***. Loving Bryce Canyon, one of the most astonishing land formations anywhere, we continued to the park where we spent a wonderful day hiking, driving the rim road, and taking in the beauty. We also realized that the binoculars were in the kitchen box. We headed back to the motel when I experienced the same sensation of beauty overload as I had on a previous visit to Bryce,
To be sure that we missed nothing in Panguitch, we drove from one end to the other in all directions before returning to the motel. Five minutes were enough to assure us that we had seen it all.
That evening we returned to the road to Bryce in the Dixie Forest to enjoy a satisfying dinner at Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant. Another night at the Purple Sage and we were ready to head toward Salt Lake City stopping first at the coffee kiosk where the friendly owner recognized my order from the previous day.