Last week, we went on an endurance ride starting in Red Canyon, Utah, west of Panguitch on Highway 12, and just a few miles east of Bryce Canyon National Park. Both Bryce and Red Canyon are on the Paunsaungunt ("Home of the Beaver" in Paiute) Plateau. Both Bryce and Red Canyons feature the orange-red limestone of the Claron formation and its fascinating spires, columns, and hoodoos.
The evening we arrived, it rained almost all night long. We thought for sure the next day would be cold and damp with slick trails.
As it turned out, the rain stopped before morning, leaving a mist that hung over the cliffs. The riding conditions were fine.
Here we are, trotting through Casto Canyon, about midway through our first day.
Our second day was sunny, and the main feature of the ride was the spectacular Thunder Mountain Trail. The trail is narrow and winding in places, and we shared it with a few mountain bikers. Fortunately, our horses have seen a lot of bikes, so that wasn't a problem.
All along the way, we went around and through the orange-red hoodoos.
Limber Pine and Ponderosa Pine grow throughout the area.
Bristlecone Pine grow above 8000 feet in dolomite soil, usually on windy ridges. These slow-growing trees are poor competitors and tend to survive best in difficult conditions where other trees don't do well. The needles can last up to 30 years before they are shed.
At the trail's high points, the views were spectacular.
Above, you can see about 20 miles to the long ridge of the Aquarius Plateau, the top of the Colorado Grand Staircase of southern Utah. Powell Point is at the end of the ridge to the right. A tall, scraggly Bristlecone Pine frames the photo on the left.
The vast expanse of open territory shows how much there is to explore. I don't think we'll run out of trails any time soon.