Many people only picture the Bryce Canyon National Park when Bryce Country, Utah is mentioned, but there is much more to explore in this region. The Dixie National Forest covers a large portion of Bryce Country and this vast wilderness is managed like a gigantic recreation area. There are hiking trails that go to surreal landscapes in Red Canyon and four wheeling enthusiast can find ATV trails just about everywhere in this vast expanse. The hiking and ATV trails also double as horseback trails and this old fashioned sustainably green transportation method is popular in these parts. Best Still, there are many good campgrounds in this wilderness area that range from full hookups to back country primitive campsites where few others go. The Dixie National Forest definitely is a good choice for a basecamp when doing a lengthy Bryce Country vacation!
The majestic Red Canyon section of the Dixie National Forest always draws big crowds, while the portion of the forest along SR 22 rarely has overcrowding problems. In fact, during the peak summer tourism season this part of the Dixie National Forest sees relatively few cars passing through, even though this area is located just across the highway from Bryce Canyon City, which is the gateway to the famous National Park. The reason why has to do with tunnel vision. Tourists are so focused upon the amazing Bryce Canyon that they barely notice the vast wilderness area across the street! Even the signage puts people off, because a high percentage of Bryce visitors do not know anything about the town of Antimony and nor do they care. All this is like music to the ears of those who simply seek some peace and quiet away from the big crowds, so it is easy to see why this part of the forest is an appealing place to be.
While working in Bryce Country, I snapped a few photos along Utah State Road 22 while doing a sightseeing trip to the town of Antimony. The Antimony experience was fun and a conversation that I had with one of the friendly locals lasted quite a spell, so by the time I headed back to Bryce Canyon City the sun was starting to set. Sunrise and sunset are the most active times for wildlife in the west, so during the trip back I took it slow, just to avoid any wild animal hazards on the road.
At that time, I was driving a bright red 392 cubic inch Dodge Scat Pack Challenger, which was the most powerful normally aspirated production car back then. That quick muscle car was fun to drive on the back roads of the west and the bright red color had a way of mesmerizing the wildlife that took a look. I have driven cars of many colors and a bright red tint does seem to captivate some wild animals in a way that has to be seen to be believed.
While slowly ambling down SR 22 through the Dixie National Forest at sunset, I was keeping an eye out for large herd animals on the road. This is when I noticed what looked like a deer a few hundred yards ahead walking along the roadside. I slowed down even more as I approached, then I noticed that the animal was actually a Pronghorn Antelope, which came as a pleasant surprise. As I slowly neared the antelope, the animal started loping along at the same pace as my car. When I slowed down, the antelope slowed down and when I sped up, the antelope went into a full gallop. I sped up and slowed down several times and the frisky antelope always equalled the same pace as my car on the grass shoulder of the road. Finally I gassed it and held it at the top speed for an antelope, which is about 60 mph and the antelope did the same while always staying just ahead of the car!
Finally I put the brakes on and came to an abrupt full stop and of course, the antelope did the same thing just ahead of the car on the side of the road. Then the antelope boldly walked onto the middle of the road and just stood there staring at me through the windshield with a funny look on its face. The stare down contest lasted nearly 30 seconds and the antelope actually raised its head victoriously before strolling over to the barbed wire fence on the opposite side of the road. The antelope took one last look at me and the fast red car, then jumped the fence and high tailed it for the setting sun across the valley. The antelope was moving so fast that it kicked up a dusty rooster tail and all that I could do was sit there in total amazement! There is nothing like driving a fast muscle car and getting totally smoked by the fastest animal in the west!
Yes, the Pronghorn Antelope do get frisky out west during the spring and summer seasons. These animals certainly know that they are the kings of speed in the wild west. Animal behavioral scientists do have a term for the way the frisky antelope acted that day and it has to do with exerting dominance over all slower animals, which includes human tourists in fast cars! The behavior also has to do with how wild animals play, because coyotes often do the same thing. One such coyote was having a fun time racing next to my red car on the side of the road near the Grand Canyon a few years back, so this is what some wild animals like to do.
Strange animal behavior incidents like this do happen when least expected out west, so this gives good reason for bringing a camera along for the ride. Because stepping out of the car to take snapshots would have scared the antelope away, I had to gingerly hang the camera out the window, so my apologies if some of the frisky antelope race photos are not up to snuff. The only goal was to capture the moment, so for those who are in doubt, this story was not a tall tale.
The fastest animal in the west certainly does love to show off its dominating blistering speed and from one muscle car driver to the next, there is nothing like getting smoked by a crazy fast antelope on a desolate back road in Utah! Things like this do happen and the weird wild animal incidents seem to happen most often when driving along real slow. When cruising on SR 22 through the Dixie National Forest, do not race the crazy fast antelope because you surely will get beat!
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